Getting Ready for the Judgment Day

 Question: What does the Bible say about Judgment Day or the Day of Judgment? How does this affect us as Christians?

Discussion: You'll find an overview in II Peter 3, but all three chapters of that short book offer insights on how Christians are to live prior to Judgment Day. Words of warning and words of assurance about the coming judgment can also be found in many other scriptures, such as I Thessalonians 5, Hebrews 10, the short book of I John, and the one-chapter book of Jude. To research additional references, just look up related words or phrases in a concordance. If your edition of the Bible does not provide that study help, most bookstores can order a Bible concordance in separate book form in various translations, including the Revised Standard Version (RSV) and New American Bible (NAB). Also, some Internet copies of the Bible allow you to do a word search online.

Obviously, we don't have the space to discuss all of the scriptures about Judgment Day, but if we focus on a few, we might glimpse a big picture. Let's look, for instance, at the most popular verse in the Bible, along with the next one, since, together, they address your question: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (John 3:16-17, KJV). Those two verses provide a clear statement of God's general thoughts on judgment as well as the divine plan of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Similarly, 679 of the Catechism explains, "Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He 'acquired' this right by his cross. The Father has given 'all judgment to the Son.' Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself."

The crucial point is that Jesus — Son of Mary, Son of God — totally gave himself to love, removing all barriers between us and God. Although wholly perfect, Jesus Christ took on sin that was not even His, but ours. Jesus also overcame death even though He had the power to soar into heaven without the discomfort of dying, much less enduring the excruciating pain of the Cross. Since He did all of this for us to overcome death and to show us the way to unending life, we might ask ourselves if His actions show that He wants to get rid of us or cast us into hell? Clearly not! Jesus Christ wants us with Him forever. So, even though He has the God-power and God-authority to judge us severely, His perfectly loving solution was to take onto Himself all of the judgment we deserve.

Now and forever, our hope resides in that One True and Holy Love. Therefore, we might want to see what Jesus Himself said for us to expect on Judgment Day. For example, in Matthew 12:36-37, He gave this vital warning: "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (NAB.) Those verses clarify our need to assess each remark that comes from our mouths as we become truer in knowing what we think, then saying what we mean and meaning what we say. As I Peter 4:8 says, "Love covers a multitude of sins." Conversely, a "careless word" has a potentially harmful effect, not unlike the wounding deliberately caused by hateful, cruel, or spiteful words.

Unfortunately, most of us have discovered that a word, a look, or even a bad thought about someone can come across as judgment, but the Bible cautions us against actually judging anyone. For example, Romans 14:7-13 (NAB) says: "None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. For if we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; so then, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's. For this is why Christ died and came to life, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why then do you judge your brother? Or you, why do you look down on your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So (then) each of us shall give an account of himself (to God). Then let us no longer judge one another, but rather resolve never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother." 

God the Father gave God the Son the final word on everyone, and so should we. In John 5:22-23, Jesus explains, "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him." In verses 24-27, Jesus Christ goes on to assure us, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man" (KJV).

The right and ability to judge people's motives and actions belongs to Christ alone. Also, the biblical admonitions against judging anything before its time warn us about placing a final verdict on ourselves. As the Apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 4:4-6 (NAB), "It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God." Wow! Those who remain true to our Lord Jesus Christ might receive God's praise on Judgment Day, and what a glorious day that would be!

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  • Guest

    We could spend a lifetime discussing this subject and still just scratch the surface.  Thank you for your insight.  The only person we should make any judgements on is ourselves.  Just prior to sacramental confession and preferrably daily before we go to sleep. 

     

    Judging others can be the result of giving in to all of the seven deadly sins.

  • Guest

    I may be reading it wrong, but Mary is incorrect to say in the closing paragraph that we are not to judge people's "actions".

    It is absolutely correct to say that we are not to  judge the state of a soul or a motive, but we are just as absolutely required to judge the rightness and wrongness of actions in themselves.  Don't fall into the dangerous trap of believing otherwise – if that were so we would profess that there either is no Truth or moral standard, or that we have no obligation to spread the Truth.  Christ has clearly told us He is the Way the Truth and the Life and that we are to spread that Good News.

  • Guest

    I may be reading it wrong too. Have to say, all through the new testament examples are given us of immoral people and to avoid that immoral behavior. Not to avoid the person or to judge the person but it is clear throughout the new testament that the behavior should be determined by us to be right or wrong (judged). Judgment is exacted by the Church (1Corinthians 5:"Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person") if they are in communion with the Church and are practicing immoral behavior, are confronted and still will not repent.

     

    We have to speak the truth about the saving Grace of Christ, that those lost can repent of their sins… the Good News. Can we do that without telling those who are in sin what the sin is (many do not even know they are in sin)… without judging the actions of a person? We have to judge the actions of a person to bring about the Truth of the light of Christ's forgiveness. Christ did this, the disciples did this and they told us as Christians (His Church) to do this. We do not judge the person, only God in His infinite Wisdom can do that, but we are expected to judge the actions.  (James 5:20 you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner's soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.)

  • Guest

    Thank you all for reading Bible Talk and for seeking God's word and God's will. RobertKH beautifully summarized my intent as did the quoted portion of the Catechism, so I hope you'll read the article again to get the full gist. Thanks. Meanwhile, I'm sorry if my choice of wording caused any concern or confusion. In hope of clarifying, perhaps I should add: Of course, we can judge actions, and we should certainly do so at appropriate times, such as when we're responsible for someone's moral growth. However, even non-Christians may understand the need for good behavior, so the point I attempted to make concerns our need to rely on Christ as we "judge." By being spiritually aware that "The right and ability to judge people's motives and actions belongs to Christ alone" and not anything we earned of our own merit, we're less apt to fall into the fallacy often associated with the privilege of judging — i.e., being judgmental. Instead, our emphasis ever recalls that only Jesus remained perfect during his stay on earth, and only Jesus Christ can save us or anyone else from sin. Only Jesus Christ can redeem, forgive, and make us wholly holy before God. That's the Gospel. That's the Good News.

  • Guest

    Mary

     I appreciate you clarifying your intent but I still suggest you take the "and actions" phrase out of that sentence as it leaves the false understanding wide open when it is included.  Unfortunately many I know, myself obviously included, have people tell us that we cannot judge at all, and that is patently FALSE and contrary to the Gospel as the Church Teaches it.  Your comments about Jesus are exact but do not support your leaving the phrase in the sentence.  What was the answer to "Who is your neighbor?"  It is "everyone", to include those we despise as the Jews despised Samaratans, not just immediate family and friends as your "responsible for someone's moral growth" implies.

    I do not intend to be picky, just accurate.  It is a critical difference.

  • Guest

    I agree with terhunej.

    There is a huge tendency not to distinguish between the person and the action.  We frequently see this applied to people who struggle with homosexual desires — we just call them homosexuals.

    Sinful actions can and must be judged as wrong.  Persons must be must be loved and given the dignity due to the image and likeness of Almighty God.

    It is not our sin that defines us as persons; it is our image and likeness that defines us as persons. 

  • Guest

    Thank you, PTR, for the best balance in the comments so far.

    To RobertKH, terhunej, and bekeebler: I think the Scripture you're looking for is Matthew 7:17, or perhaps John 15:2 (see context of each).  Jesus tells his followers–and us–not only to "judge" the fruit of another's life, but to actively look for it in order to know whether or not what the person says is worthy of belief.  Someone said (and I like it): It's a sin to judge one another, but we are called to be "fruit inspectors"!

  • Guest

    Well said, PTR!  This distinction is so important.  I feel like so often in my life I encounter people from opposite ends of the spectrum:  people like my mother, who are really into moral relativism and feel that you should never judge actions, and then people who are very judgmental toward other people as defined by their actions, rather than judging the actions themselves and not the person's moral state.

  • Guest

    For the past couple of days, I've been thinking and praying about this column and the reactions to "The right and ability to judge people's motives and actions belongs to Christ alone." Since researching, writing, and revising each Bible Talk column takes several days, the last thing I want to do is bring you incorrect information! That assessment bothered me greatly, so I've been tempted to recant or just hush, but I have to stand by my original statement — the truth of which hinges on Christ and the word "belongs." i.e., We do not own the right or ability to judge. Christ does. But because we're his people, he gives us his right, his ability to judge as appropriate. He delegates his authority to us. But, judging from your comments (pun intended), I can see that the topic of judgment concerns many of you a lot. That was not at all the focus of this particular Bible Talk, which was written to assure Christians they have nothing to fear on Judgment Day, but Lord willing, the next Bible Talk will take a close look at what the Bible says about the Christ-delegated responsibility of judging others and ourselves.

  • Guest

    Mary,

    If you  meant to convey that Christ has delegated His authority to us, then why did you write that the ability belongs to Christ alone?

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