“You lye [lie], you are not sure; for I say, ‘Woman, ’tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes.'” So wrote the playwright, Christopher Bullock, back in 1716. Seven decades before Benjamin Franklin made this enduring idiom infamous. While this is commonly quoted, the Christian can make an addition to this list with absolute certainty: final Judgement. It’s impossible to be sure of anything but death, taxes and final judgment.
All of us are going to have to face judgment. So we all need to prepare for it.
The writer of the Hebrews says as much: “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). It’s clear that the day has been chosen (Acts 17:31). But, unusually, that day is only known to the Father (Mark 13:32). Nothing can stop all the events of the world that are hurtling towards this epoch-ending and certain day.
As Christians, we need to talk about this more. As preachers, we certainly need to preach about this more, if we’re to preach the whole counsel of God concerning the doctrine of salvation. And not just for the sake of those who have not yet come to faith – but for everyone’s sake. Why? Because it has implications for everyone!
Writing to the Corinthians, Paul was very clear: “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” (2 Corinthians 5:10). All of us are going to have to face judgment—both believers and unbelievers. So we all need to prepare for it.
Here are four points we should be preaching about judgment, to prepare people for that day.
1. Judgment Outside of Christ is Terrifying
Charles Spurgeon said, “Don’t you know…that from every town and every village and every hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London? So from every text of scripture, there is a road to Christ.” If we should be pointing to the hero of the Bible from every text, then we need to be clear on how people’s acceptance or rejection of him fits into this. For example, John 3:16 gives only two options: believe or perish.
Those who reject the gospel will justly have to pay the price for every sin.
If somebody rejects the gospel then they will justly have to pay the price for every ill thought, word, and deed. The more that people are aware of the terror of giving an account to Jesus on that fateful day apart from him, the more they are likely to consider alternative options. As D. A. Carson said, “nobody cries for life until they first realise they are under the threat of death.”
2. Take Comfort, for God Will Right All Wrongs
Miroslav Volf, the Croatian theologian who witnessed the horrors of genocide in the former Yugoslavia, argues that knowing God is perfectly just gives hope to those who’ve suffered injustice. He says that there is no need to exact revenge on a perpetrator, if perfect justice will occur on judgment day.
Knowing that God is perfectly just gives hope to those who’ve suffered injustice.
Volf writes this about the hope the gospel gives those who have suffered injustice: “On the cross, Christ both ‘identifies God with the victims of violence’ and identifies ‘the victims with God, so that they are put under God’s protection and with him are given the rights of which they have been deprived.’” We need to preach judgment to give hope to those who have suffered injustice.
3. Jesus Promises Rewards
As believers, we will also face judgment even though the punishment for all our wrongdoing has already been paid for (Hebrews 9:27–28). With our wrongs accounted for in Christ, all that remains is for our good deeds to be evaluated and for us to receive rewards for those deeds. Rewards? Sadly, this topic is not represented well in our preaching, though it occurs regularly throughout the New Testament.
We need to preach judgment to believers, spurring them on to obtain all that Jesus offers them.
For example, “When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:3-4; see also Matthew 5:11-12; 6:1-6, 16-18, 20; Luke 6:23; 1 Corinthians 3:13-15; 2 John 4-10).
Jesus saves us from ourselves, forgives us, empowers us to live a life that makes inroads for his kingdom, and then rewards us for doing so. Doesn’t that sound incredible? It’s the gospel. It really is good news. So, we need to preach judgment to believers, spurring them on to obtain all that Jesus offers them.
4. To warn believers of the real danger of suffering ‘loss’
As well as receiving rewards for good deeds, another alternative for believers is to suffer embarrassment and loss. Paul states that fire is going to ‘test’ our deeds and if those deeds don’t survive the fire, then we’ll enter eternity empty-handed. He writes, “each one’s work will become manifest, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15).
Jesus is indicates that positions of governance in his kingdom are part of the rewards he’ll give out.
We won’t receive the promise that Jesus made in the parable of the ten minas, if that happens. Jesus’ promise is this: the person who does well will be placed in charge of “ten cities” in God’s kingdom (Luke 19:17). It’s difficult to draw definitive outcomes from parables. But Jesus is certainly indicating that positions of governance in his kingdom are part of the rewards he will give out.
You Can Be Certain of These: Death, Taxes, and Judgment
There is a lot at stake on judgement day. More than determining our eternal destination.
As you can see, there is a lot at stake on judgement day. More than determining our eternal destination. To the preachers reading this, I exhort you to teach this often to your people. And we also need to get the news out to non-believers. Judgment means that eternal things are at stake. And this is not just a possibility. Judgment will happen. It’s as certain as death and taxes.