If Christians are forgiven, why are we going to be judged?

Question:  It says in the Bible that those who are in Christ are free from condemnation. If this is so, why then willLast Judgement, Triptych we face judgment? And child molesters, rapists, and murderers, are they also free from condemnation when they accept Christ and repent? What sort of judgment might they receive? We will be judged according to our deeds? What does that mean? Christians say we should be free from guilt and shame and accept the free gift of grace and salvation. Then they say we will be judged. This is confusing to me. Should I fear for my salvation or just believe all is well? And honestly, where’s the justice? For those who lived a life of abuse and neglect, hurt, and shame caused by another, God says He will make things right for us. But if the perpetrator is forgiven completely, where’s justice for the victim?

Answer:  There are several judgments mentioned in the Bible.  The final judgment is mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15 and is often referred to as The Great White Throne Judgment because if depicts Jesus sitting on a white throne as he carries out this judgment.  But only unbelievers are present at this judgment, only those whose names are not found written in the Lamb’s book of life.  They are thus judged for not having believed in Christ and they are also judged on their works.  This suggests that there are degrees of punishment in hell (see my article on this).  Dante, in his book Inferno, sought to describe what these different degrees of punishment looked like but there are no specific descriptions given in Scripture.

Believers, on the other hand, will appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10):

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

Though it may sound as if this determines whether we are saved or not, Paul makes it clear in all his writings, and especially in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, that this judgment is really about determining our reward in heaven.  Just as there are degrees of punishment in hell, there are degrees of reward in heaven.  There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1).  When we believe we “pass from death to life” (John 5:24).

But your question suggests that for those who have been abused the presence of their perpetrator or any perpetrator in heaven because they repented and were forgiven may compromise your sense of reward.  This assumes that the sin of the perpetrator is different in kind than your sin and less worthy of forgiveness.  And truly, the sin of the perpetrator is egregious and heinous, having devastated and tortured the life of the victim in extraordinary ways.  But we are also rebels against God’s kingdom and rule.  We too have rejected the love and grace of God until He visited us in grace and forgave us.  We are equally undeserving of heaven.

Besides, when we are fully enveloped in the love of heaven, we will be able to love the perpetrator the way God loves the perpetrator and the way He loves us.  We will be able to say as Christ did, “Father, forgive them.”  The perpetrator will be able to acknowledge how deeply and gravely he injured those he abused and seek reconciliation.  We have seen a bit of this miraculous transformation in the aftermath of the end of apartheid in South Africa and in the forgiveness offered after the slaughter of Tutsis and Hutus.

There is a need in human beings, generated by the uncompromising love and justice of God, to see justice done and to see hatred quashed.  God has figured out a way to do both.  If there is not justice for the least infraction, there is no justice.  If there is not forgiveness for the worst infraction, there is no forgiveness.

 

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Is There No Forgiveness For Intentional Sin?

Question:  Hebrews 10:26 says that if we sin willfully knowing better there is no more sacrifice for our sins.
Well I have been taught that if you keep sinning over again knowing you’re going to do it, like premeditated sinning I guess you could call it, that’s what the scripture is talking about.  Others say that its talking about rejecting Christ as savior after knowing the truth.   So which is it?

Answer:  Let me let you decide.  Here is the full passage:

Hebrews 10:26, If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?

Does it seem clear to you that the deliberate sinning being talked about here is equivalent to having “trampled the Son of God underfoot”?  And if you view the letter as a whole it is written to a church with many Jewish believers who are considering returning to Judaism.  Context clearly answers your question.

But the other question here is one of choosing to deliberately keep sinning.  How does that affect you?  I think the answer is it hardens your heart and your conscience to sin.  It makes it harder and harder to really come to a place of repentance.  You are damaging your soul and certainly hurting the heart of God.  A true believer cannot lose his or her salvation.  But God will certainly, out of love for you, discipline you until you come to a place of righteousness (Hebrews 12:4-11).  That is not an enviable place to be.

See also:

Before Christ, Did God Expect Gentiles to Become Jews in order to be Saved?

Question:  Cornelius was a God-fearing Roman.  One commentary says,”These were Gentiles who loved the God of Israel and were sympathetic to and supportive of the Jewish faith. Yet they stopped short of becoming full Jews in lifestyle and in circumcision.”  How did God feel about Gentiles who came to love Him but would not “fully commit” in terms of observing the Law?  Did He desire believing Gentiles to adhere to Jewish Law, or did He not expect that of them because they were Gentiles?  Cornelius was post-Jesus, but what about before Christ came?  When a Gentile became a believer in the God of Israel, did God want them to observe Jewish Law, or was that just for the nation of Israel?

Answer:  This is a very interesting question.  We are not given any specific answer to it that I am aware of in either the Old or New Testaments.  However, we might be given some clues.

We may suppose that Melchizedek (Genesis 14) was approved by God as priest, since he received tithes from Abraham, and we may presume that he was not required by God to adhere to the same standards Abraham was.  On the other hand Jacob’s sons told the men of Shechem that they could not ally with them unless they were all circumcized (Genesis 34).  But they were lying to them in order to avenge their sister.  So we might not believe that their statement was a valid one in any point.

When Naaman the Aramite was healed by dipping in the waters of Jordan (2 Kings 5), Elisha did not also preach to him that he needed to become a Jew as well, even though he presented Elisha with a request that when he had to go into the pagan temple and bow it be forgiven.  This indicates that he had converted to worship of Yahweh.  Elisha told him to go in peace.

The message in Acts 10 that comes from Peter’s mouth is, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right” (verses 34,35).  I’m leaning toward the view that it didn’t matter in any generation, before or after Christ’s coming, that Gentiles did not follow Jewish legal codes.

On the other hand, Paul continued at times to observe Jewish law (hence, his arrest, Acts 21:20-33).  He did not keep it in order to be saved, but simply because he was a Jew and it was permissable for Jews to keep the Law God had given them to set them apart from Gentiles.  Gentiles are not meant, it seems, to keep the Law, only Jews.

Randall Johnson

See also:

Do Gentiles Need To Convert To Messianic Judaism?

Why Didn’t Jesus Have to Suffer the Way Unbelievers Will?

Question:  Why was it such a difficult thing for Jesus to die on the cross and pay for our sins? I know that he took the full force of God’s wrath for our sin, but what did that do to Jesus? I know Jesus went through hell, but it was only temporary. All of us die, some very horrible deaths. And then some of us receive payment for our sins forevermore to be separated from God. This is terrible to say, but honestly it seems like a small price to pay considering humans and demons continue paying for their sin forever. I know Jesus was innocent of any sins. How can I see this from a more realistic and Godly viewpoint?

Answer:   I think you’re asking why Jesus didn’t have to pay more of a price equal to the punishment humans receive for rebelling against God.  He only died physically (and though torturous it was fairly limited compared to how some have been made to suffer) and then he was only separated from God for a short time and then entered Paradise upon death.  In other words, Jesus’ penalty seems way less than what others have exacted from them by God.

I have just had some of my own assumptions challenged in this area.  Are we correct in assuming that Jesus’ death has to be equal to the suffering of death that anyone else experiences to adequately pay the price for their sin?  Is the price for sin related to how horribly we die or just that we die physically?  It would seem it could only be related to the fact that we die, not the extent of our suffering.

And was Jesus’ statement that God had forsaken him a statement of the Father’s actually  abandoning him spiritually (so that he experienced a taste of hell)?  What is the actual penalty of rebellion against God?  It might only be physical death and that physical death for the unbeliever leads to eternal separation from God as a consequence, not so much as a penalty.

I don’t know yet how to answer each of those questions I raised, but I think it is important to recognize that Jesus was the only human being who ever lived a completely righteous life in the power of the Holy Spirit, and the value of his life is of infinite value and capable of paying for every human being who believes.  The fact that he would choose to die in our place when he did not deserve to die at all lends even greater weight to his sacrifice.

So we don’t have to see some kind of one-to-one correspondence between how Jesus died and how everyone else dies.  It is more a matter of what God accepts.  God values Jesus’ death as equal to what we would have had to pay corporately.  He feels it is a just payment in our place.  We may not fully understand how that is so, but we know His balance scales are always honestly weighted.  He didn’t give himself an easy way out.

Can Brain Damage Make Me Lose My Salvation?

Question:  I have a question concerning senility in older believers, or amnesia in any other age. I suppose the root of this question pertains to the nature of the soul, but what is the state of a believer who begins to lose his or her mind because of his or her age, that is when memories begin to fade and recollections do not exist anymore? Along the same lines, what would be the state of a person who professed true faith but, due to some accident, has lost that memory and, in essence, has become another person?

Answer:  There are three ways to answer this question.

(1) I am assuming that by “state of a believer” and “state of a person who professed true faith” that you are ultimately asking whether this would affect the person’s salvation.  Could a person’s personality be so changed that they might deny the truth of the gospel and of their relationship with God?  It is possible, I suppose, that they could so change, but it is not possible that this would cause them to lose a salvation they already possessed.  Jesus says of his sheep, believers, in John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  The phrase “no one” seems to mean no one, including the believer.  I’ll refer you to several articles on this blog about the impossibility of losing one’s salvation (backsliding, fall from grace, suicide, breaking promise not to sin).

(2) It is very possible, given the nature of human beings as both spirit and body, that the body can affect the spirit and the spirit can affect the body.  If someone was paralyzed we would not expect them to kneel in prayer, stand in worship, or walk door to door in evangelism.  They’re not accountable for those things given their physical limitations.  Why would we expect someone to exhibit strong mental and spiritual capacity if their brain is injured or diseased?  If we can’t do  something, we are not responsible for doing it.  This is why in God’s new covenant message Jeremiah quotes the proverb, ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,’ but then reverses it.  The children cannot be responsible for their parents’ actions.

(3) There will be many situations in our lives when we will be called upon to love those who cannot seem to give anything back.  This might be especially true of those who suffer Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.  Like the man who was paralyzed we may need to carry them to Jesus because they cannot get to him themselves.  The state of their soul is that they are still precious in the eyes of the Lord.  Unconditional love cannot be more effectively demonstrated than when someone cannot give us anything back.  As Jesus taught, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:13, 14)

Randall Johnson

Would Jesus Forsake a Believer Who Worships Other Gods?

Question:  According to Hosea 5:6, 9-11, and 14 God withdraws, removes protection, pours out wrath, tears to pieces because He is ticked off at Israel’s spirit of prostitution.  Is it fair to say, even in light of the cross, that God still does all those things to believers who are operating out of a spirit of prostitution?

Answer:  Hosea is prophesying against idolatrous Israel.  His own marriage becomes a parable of how Israel has been unfaithful to Yahweh, her husband.  He (Yahweh and Hosea) must “wall in” (3:6) his wife (Israel and Gomer) until she can be faithful again.  She is caught up in a spirit of prostitution (4:12; 5:4).

The specific actions described in chapter 5 are consistent with God’s covenant agreement with Israel as found in Leviticus 26, a series of punishments for covenant unfaithfulness ranging from disease, crop failure, wild animal infestations, plague, sieges by other nations and eventually exile from the land.  Hosea’s prophecy reflects this last stage where God is ready to abandon the nation to exile from the land.  This is the final warning, so to speak.

Now we must understand that Israel stands in a covenant relationship with Yahweh and there is both a conditional and unconditional aspect to it.  When God made the covenant with Abraham it was in response to Abraham’s believing God’s promise that He would give Abraham a son and make him a great nation.  Abraham believed God and He credited that to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  Abraham was saved by faith.  Then He instructed Abraham to cut several animals in half and arrange them on the ground so they could be walked between.  This was a common way for two parties to make an agreement, in essence saying, this is what will happen to you if you fail the agreement.  But Yahweh then put Abraham to sleep and in the form of a smoking firepot and flaming torch He alone walked between the pieces.  He alone held Himself responsible for fulfilling the promise of the covenant.

Nevertheless, successive generations must be in compliance with the covenant requirements (the laws God gives them) in order to gain the promises.  In various generations it may be that nearly the whole nation consists of unbelievers.  God always maintains a remnant of believers (Isaiah 1:9, this is part of God’s way of unconditionally maintaining the nation’s existence for Abraham’s sake), but when the majority are unbelievers there is a needed response of judgment.  Yet, one day, God will restore the nation as a whole to faith (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 37; Romans 11:25-32).  He will “circumcise” the hearts of His people to enable them to keep the covenant and thus receive the promise (Deuteronomy 30:6).

Consequently, when we see these judgments against the nation of Israel, we cannot make a one-to-one correlation with them and individual believers today.  No believer can ever be forsaken by the Lord (Hebrews 13:5; John 10:27-30; Romans 8, etc.).  A believer might develop a spirit of prostitution, but God will discipline us (Hebrews 12) to bring us back to a proper relationship with Him.  Believers will persevere in faith.

Randall Johnson

Why Did Caiaphas Say It Was Good for Jesus to Die?

Matthias Stom's depiction of Jesus before Caia...

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Question:  Why in verse John 18:14 does Caiaphas advise the Jews that it would be good if one man died for the people?

Answer:  Caiaphas believed that Jesus was a threat to the commonwealth of Israel because he was claiming to be the Messiah.  Several others had made similar claims in recent years and tried to start rebellions against Rome.  He felt that Jesus might stir up the Romans to clamp down even tighter on Israel and this would be a threat to the high priest’s authority and a challenge to the effectiveness of his influence. 

From God’s perspective it was good for one man, the God-Man Jesus, to die for (the sins of) the people that they might be redeemed from divine retribution.  God’s wrath rests on all who follow their own ways and the only means of forgiveness is for someone to pay the penalty for our disobedience.  That is what Jesus’ death accomplished.

Randall Johnson