Living With the End in Mind – Program 1

By: Dr. Kenneth Barker, Dr. Don Wilkins, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Dr. James White, Dr. Samuel Gipp, Dr. Thomas Strouse, Dr. Joseph Chambers; ©2000
The way you live now will determine your eternal destiny. But just how long is eternity? What will we face when we stand before God?

How Long is Eternity?


According to the Bible there is one future event all Christians will attend. It is called the judgment seat of Christ. Today on The John Ankerberg Show, what does the Bible say is the purpose of this judgment? What will happen when each Christian stands before God? Are real rewards going to be given to those who have faithfully served Christ on earth? What are the rewards that will be given? Will some Christians be honored more than others? Will some experience a great loss of rewards that will affect their status in heaven for all eternity? How can you live today in order to do well at the judgment seat of Christ? We invite you to join us for this edition of The John Ankerberg Show for the topic “How to Live With the End in Mind.”

Dr. John Ankerberg: Welcome. Today, I’d like to begin with a question to help introduce the importance of our topic. Which of these two options would you choose if you had the chance? The first option is this: Let’s say that for 24 hours you could be a billionaire. You would be famous. But after 24 hours, you would be thrown into jail and have to stay there for the rest of your life. Or you could choose option number two, which is: For 24 hours, you will be in jail, and you will be penniless. But after 24 hours, you will be freed from jail and know that for the rest of your life, you will be a billionaire and live in a beautiful palace. Now, which of these two options do you think you would choose?
Well, obviously, we would all take option number 2. It would be foolish to take the first option as no one would want to be a billionaire for only one day and then spend the rest of their life in jail. But, you know, that’s exactly what many of you are doing right now. Some of you haven’t put your faith in Christ; you are living life the way you want to and you’ve left God out, and you’re forgetting that eternity is coming. In terms of time, our life is far less than a day compared to eternity. Yet you have foolishly chosen to ignore Christ and are living only for this life. Jesus said, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” [Mark 8:26]
On the other hand, some of you are Christians. You have put your faith in Christ and you are going to Heaven. But most of the time you are living for yourself and not for Christ. Now, you will not lose Heaven, but according to the Bible, those times you did not live for Christ will result in your losing eternal rewards. Where does the Bible teach this? The Bible says: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” [2 Cor. 5:10]
Now let’s stop and ask the question, “How long is eternity?” How long will I exist either with or without the eternal rewards God wants me to have? If you’re a non-Christian, how long will you exist in hell? Let me see if I can illustrate this for you. Many of you have a parakeet or you’ve seen one in the stores. Picture a parakeet in your backyard next to a sandbox. You take a pail, fill it full of sand, and then let some of the grains of sand fall through your hands. One bucket of sand has thousands of grains of sand. Let’s imagine that you could instruct that parakeet to pick up one of the grains of sand in its beak, fly to the moon and drop it off. Let’s say it takes one million years for the parakeet to get to the moon. He puts the grain of sand down and flies back to earth. It takes a million years for him to get back. He then picks up the next grain of sand and flies back to the moon. He drops off that grain and flies back to earth—a million years there, a million years back. One by one the parakeet takes each grain of sand in your sandbox to the moon. When he is finished, you take him down to Key West, Florida and there you show him the Atlantic Ocean and the beach that runs along the coast. You tell him, “I want you to start clearing off the sand on this beach one grain at a time.” He starts there, then works his way up to Miami, then to Jacksonville, Hilton Head, Charleston, New York City, Boston, and up toward Maine. He takes each grain of sand to the moon one at a time, a million years there, a million years back. When he’s done with all of that, you take him out to the West Coast and from Mexico all the way up to California and Oregon, you tell him to take one grain of sand at a time and fly it to the moon. When the parakeet finishes with all of that, you say, I’ve got this other little spot called the Sahara Desert. I want you to clear the sand off of that place one at a time.” When he finishes that, you say, “Three-fourths of the surface of the earth is water. Let me drain the oceans dry. At the bottom of the oceans you have a lot of sand. Take all of that sand to the moon, one grain of sand at a time, a million years there, and a million years back.” When he finishes, if you could add up all of the millions of years it had taken to remove all of the sand from all of those places, eternity would just be beginning.
Can you understand now why it would be foolish to live just for this life and ignore where we will be and how we will fare for all eternity? Before you die, if you haven’t placed your faith in Christ, the Bible says you won’t be in Heaven for eternity. You’ll exist in a terrible place God calls hell, separated from Him and all that is good.
Have you asked Christ to be your Savior and Lord? If not, why not ask Him to come into your life and to forgive you of your sins right now? He graciously offers to do so and to give you the gift of eternal life.
On the other hand, if you have already believed in Christ, yet you’re a Christian who is living life the way you want and not following the Lord, you need to know that you, too, are living very foolishly. Each day you live for yourself you are forfeiting eternal rewards, honors and privileges God wants you to have for all eternity.
Let’s look a little more specifically at what the Bible says will happen at the judgment seat of Christ. First, the apostle Paul says, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” The “we” he is talking about here is all Christians, all who have believed on Christ. We must be very clear about this. The judgment seat of Christ is only for Christians.
There are two major judgments mentioned in the Bible: first, the judgment seat of Christ, which we’ve already talked about. The purpose of this judgment will be to evaluate each Christian so that he or she can be properly rewarded for the way they have faithfully or unfaithfully served Christ on earth. All those who appear at the judgment seat of Christ will be in Heaven.
The second major judgment mentioned in the Bible is called the Great White Throne Judgment where all unbelievers will be judged. According to Revelation 20, those who appear at this Judgment will afterwards be cast into the lake of fire, what the Bible calls hell. [Rev. 20:15] The purpose of the Great White Throne Judgment will be to assess the degree of punishment in hell that each unbeliever will experience as a result of how he or she has lived.
You know, there’s a popular notion going around today, depicted in television commercials, that when everyone dies, they will all appear before God at His Judgment, and God will determine whether each person’s good works outweighed their bad works. If they do, the person will be rewarded with Heaven. If they have done too many bad things, God will send them to hell. But listen, in the Bible, there is no such judgment mentioned. Whether a person goes to Heaven or hell is determined in this life, not the next. It is during this life we are to choose whether or not we will place our faith in Christ. At death, those who know Christ as Savior go directly to Heaven where someday the judgment seat of Christ will take place. Those who have not believed in Christ will go directly to a place called Hades, where they will be held in constant punishment until the Great White Throne Judgment takes place. Either way, all men will stand before God. Nobody will get by or escape. The Bible says every one of us will give an account of himself to God. [Rom. 14:12]
Now, these are frightening statements. We should take them seriously. We should also cling to God’s promises in the Bible that everyone who believes in Christ will certainly be in Heaven, free from the eternal punishment of our sins. You say, “Where does the Bible teach that?”
In 1 John 5:13 we read: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God in order that you may know [not guess, or hope you’ll get there] that you have eternal life.” Jesus Himself said, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he hascrossed over from death to life.” [John 5:24] This means that once we put our trust solely in Jesus to save us and to be our Lord and Savior, He forgives all of our sins. From that very moment we stand eternally justified, free from any punishment due our sins. Jesus said, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.” [John 6:40] This is great news. And it is on the basis of these verses that I say, salvation is guaranteed to all those who accept Christ by faith. If you have trusted solely in Christ, you can be certain that you will be in Heaven.
But entering Heaven is one thing; having a possession there is another. According to the Bible, all believers have been given the gift of eternal life, but not all believers will inherit the same things, or receive the same rewards. The Bible is a realistic book. It does not assume that all believers will live faithfully all through their lives. In fact, the Bible gives many examples of believers who have lived unfaithfully. Does it make any difference whether or not we live faithfully for Christ? Yes, it does! The Bible says, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” [2 Cor. 5:10]
Now, the word appear here tells us why it is important for us to live for Christ. It comes from the Greek word phaneroo and literally means “turned inside out,” “to be laid bare.” It’s like taking a pocket in your pants and pulling it out, so that you expose whatever is in your pocket. At the judgment seat of Christ, our lives will be literally turned inside out, exposing all that we are.
Let me give you another illustration of what phaneroo means. Down in the South, in the springtime we have some very violent tornadoes. I’m sure you have seen what happens to a house when a tornado hits it. The roof is blown off; the walls are pushed down; furniture, clothes, personal belongings are all scattered around. Anyone who comes to that house afterwards can see all of the personal, secret articles in that home. They are exposed. When the Bible says we must all appear, it means our lives will literally be laid bare before Christ. All of our hypocrisies and concealments, all of our secret, intimate sins of thought and deed will be open to the scrutiny of Christ. Christ will be able to look through the rubble of our lives and pick out anything which is of value. When Christ looks at the innermost areas of your life, what will He find? Most of us shrink back at the thought of Christ closely examining our lives.
Is there any encouragement? Well, not one of us has ever lived perfectly or come close to that. When Christ evaluates our life, most of us will not be at one extreme or the other but somewhere toward the middle. Dr. Erwin Lutzer encourages us in his book, Your Eternal Reward, when he says, “Christians can take comfort in the fact that we will appear before Christ, the One who died for us and loves us in spite of ourselves. He is our Savior. But the One who died to save us, now stands to judge us. He wishes us well and He loves us. He is not anxious to condemn us. He is our Brother – we share the same Father. The judgment seat of Christ is ‘family business.’” Don’t you love that?
Well, next, the Bible says that at Christ’s judgment seat, each of us “will receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” [2 Cor. 5:10] What does the Bible mean when it says “good or bad”? We all want to be rewarded for the “good.” The “good” here refers to those times when we let Christ live out His life through us: we obeyed Him, served Him, and worked for Him. All that you have done for the Lord that no one else saw, Christ says He will remember. In Mark 9:41 Jesus talked about the smallest deeds we have done for Him when He says, “Even those who give a cup of water in My name will not lose their reward.” [Mark 9:41] Every deed you have ever done for Christ will be looked for, remembered and rewarded. And, as we will see, God is going to be more generous in His rewards than we could ever imagine.
Jesus says, whatever we do will be rewarded a hundred times as much. It will be fantastic. But then, the Bible also says we will also receive what is due us for the things done in the body that are “bad.” “Bad” refers to those deeds which are worthless, foul, wicked deeds. These will be brought up to show us the rewards we have forfeited. When we stand before Christ, we will realize the rewards God wanted us to have but are forever lost to us because of our sinful living.
Look at 1 Corinthians 3:13-15 where we read that this Judgment will be like a fire which “will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss.” Notice, he will not lose Heaven, but what he will lose is reward. Paul says in verse 10 that a Christian “should be careful how he builds.” He compares our daily Christian living to building a house. As we live for Christ, our deeds of service to Christ are likened to valuable materials, such as gold, silver and costly stones. When we live selfishly and commit sins, the Bible likens these deeds to shoddy materials, such as wood, hay and straw.
The apostle says someday our work “will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” [1 Cor. 3:13] Do you remember Ephesians 2:8-9? It says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”
But then, Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What does this mean? When God saved us, He created us in Christ Jesus to do good works. These works are opportunities and jobs He opens and brings to us and wants us to do. If we do them, God promises to reward us. If we live for Christ, take advantage of the opportunities that come our way, someday we can receive a full reward from God. But we don’t always live for Christ. We leave God out. We don’t read our Bible; we live selfishly, and commit sins. Such living will result in our forfeiting, losing, the rewards God intended for us to have. Again, please keep in mind, God is not speaking about your forfeiting salvation and Heaven. Those are totally gifts given by God. No one can earn them. But after we are saved, rewards are gained by our faithfully serving Christ.
Now, the next question people usually ask is, “What if I die with unconfessed sin? Will He be angry?” Well, again, we’re not going to lose Heaven. We are not going to be punished. Why? Because all of God’s anger and wrath was placed on Christ when He died on the cross and paid for our sins. But if we live with unconfessed sins, though Jesus paid for them on the cross and we stand forgiven, we run the risk of hearing His rebuke at the judgment seat. He disciplines Christians here on earth. I expect He will do so at His judgment seat. Such sins will cost us the loss of rewards we could have had. We will see our lives through the eyes of our loving Lord and He will know all. His judgment will take into account every circumstance, every motive, and He will judge fairly. At the judgment seat of Christ arguments, unresolved conflicts, unconfessed sins will be resolved by the Judge who knows everything. That’s why Paul advises in Colossians 3:23-25, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.” Our Lord’s judgment of our lives will be absolutely impartial. There will be no favorites.
As Erwin Lutzer has said, “This is one courtroom in which no one has an advantage. The Judge will fairly determine what we did with what He gave us.”

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