What Will It Be Like at the Judgment?
Supplement to August 1 Sermon
What about the New Covenant promise that God will not remember the sins of his people? Will they be remembered at the judgment day? Hebrews 10:16-17 says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them … their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
What does it mean for an infinite all-knowing God to choose not to remember something? Philippians 3:13-14 points to an answer. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies behind…I press toward the goal.” Paul chose not to remember his past. But what about Ephesians 2:12? Here Paul says that Christians should remember the terrible past: “Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ … having no hope and without God in the world.”
I think what Paul means is that the sins and lostness of the past should be forgotten in the sense that we should never bring them to mind in a way that hinders growth and obedience. If remembering can cause a deeper dependence on grace and a deeper love for Christ and a greater trust in his power, then let there be periodic remembering of the hopeless past. But the norm is “forgetting the past” lest it drag us down.
Similarly God promises to forget our sins. That is, he will never bring them up before us or others if it diminishes our love for him or delight in his grace or our zeal for the glory of God. But if there is an occasion when he knows it would be good for us and for the glory of his grace, then he will bring our sins before us for a season.
So what about the last judgment? Will our sins be remembered? Will they be revealed? Anthony Hoekema puts it wisely like this: “The failures and shortcomings of … believers … will enter into the picture on the Day of Judgment. But—and this is the important point—the sins and shortcomings of believers will be revealed in the judgment as forgiven sins, whose guilt has been totally covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Picture it like this. God has a file on every person (the books of Revelation 20:12). All you’ve ever done or said (Matthew 12:36) is recorded there with a grade (from “A” to “F”). When you stand before the “judgment seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:1) to be judged “according to what you have done, whether good or bad,” God will open the file and lay out the tests with their grades. He will pull out all the “F’s” and put them in a pile. Then he will take all the “D’s” and “C’s” and pull the good parts of the test out and place them with the “A’s”, then put the bad with the “F’s”. Then he will take all the “B’s” and “A’s” and pull the bad parts out of them and put them in the “F” pile, and put all the good parts in the “A” pile.
Then he will open another file (“the book of life”) and find your name. Behind your name will be a wood-stick match made from the cross of Jesus. He will take the match, light it and set the “F” pile, with all your failures and deficiencies, on fire and burn them up. They will not condemn you, and they will not reward you.
Then he will take from your “book of life” file a sealed envelope marked “free and gracious bonus” and put it on the “A” pile (see Mark 4:24 and Luke 6:38). Then he will hold up the entire pile and declare: “By this your life bears witness to the grace of my Father, the worth of my blood and the fruit of my Spirit. Enter into the joy of your Master.”
Grateful for Grace and going for Gold,