THE JUDGMENT OF BELIEVERS
By G. H. PEMBER, M.A.
The Millennial Age will be a time, not only of reward for those who will have overcome by the Blood of the Lamb, but also of chastisement for such believers as will be found to have failed in their walk - through indolence, or the minding of earthly things - and will, consequently, be sentenced to remain in abodes of the dead [i.e., in 'Hades', (Luke 16: 23)] until the Last Day. For it will then appear, that, through their lack of earnestness and prayer for the [Holy] Spirit's help, their sanctification was not perfected during their earth-life; and it must be so before they can dwell for ever with the Lord. They did evil in the body as well as good, and did not judge themselves and repent with bitter crying before the Lord: therefore, they must be judged by Him, and even as they did, so must they receive.
Hence the Judgment-seat of Christ will dispense temporary chastisement for trespass, as well as rewards. This is plainly indicated in the verses under our consideration, as well as in other striking passages of the First Gospel, which, as we study them in due course, will increase our knowledge of a solemn but disliked and much neglected truth. We shall, moreover, find it revealed, with equal clearness, in other parts of the New Testament.
For instance, what does Paul mean in the subjoined passage? In speaking exclusively to those who have accepted the only true foundation, he tells us, that it is possible [for regenerate believers] to build upon it either with gold, silver and costly stones, or with wood, hay and stubble, and then continues:
"Each man's work shall be made manifest: for the Day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire" (1Cor. 3: 13).
"Wherefore, also, we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing unto Him. For we must all be made manifest before the Judgment-seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but to God we have been made manifest: and I hope that we have been made manifest also in your consciences" (2 Cor. 5: 9).
And was not the sentiment expressed in the last verse, the fear of the Lord's terrible judgment of His Own House, powerfully affecting the Apostle when he wrote:-
"The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me - The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord at That Day - and in how many things he ministered at Ephesus, thou knowest very well."
Surely if Paul was moved to interpose this fervent ejaculatory prayer on behalf of one who was not only called, but had also shown himself faithful by fearlessly ministering to the Lord's servant while he was fighting with wild beasts at Ephesus, and, subsequently, at Rome, when he was in the clutches of the most unscrupulous and cruel of persecuting tyrants - surely, if the Apostle was impelled to pray for such a one, that the Lord would grant him mercy in the Day of His Judgment, there can be no [regenerate] believer who is not in need of the same mercy.
Hence the decisions issued from the Judgment-seat of Christ will have the following results:
Those servants of the Lord who shall be found to have been faithful will be judged worthy of the First Resurrection, and will be made Priests of God and of His Christ, and will reign with Him for a Thousand Years. They will thus enjoy the great Sabbath that remains for the people of God, and will themselves rest from their labours, even as He did from His.
But the unfaithful servants will be banished into the darkness without the pale of the Kingdom, where they will be detained, and dealt with according to the sentence of the Lord, until the Last Day. Then, when the time of reward has passed by, He will raise them up to everlasting life, even as He has promised to do in the case of all who have believed in Him.