My wife and I were out of town this weekend for a wedding when I got the news that an old colleague of mine passed away. To be honest, I feel like so many have passed lately that I’m becoming desensitized to death- but this one hit me a little differently. You see, this colleague I know from our conversations rejected a relationship with Jesus Christ. A self-proclaimed “Stoic”, he adopted a philosophy of personal ethics informed by a system of logic and views on the natural world from 3rd century Athens. Another colleague and I, as well as family members, begged him to look towards Jesus, especially after he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer- but he displayed no interest. He passed a few days ago, and while we have no idea what the conversation may have been between him and his Heavenly Father, the mere thought that he may not have known the Lord as his Savior is a crushing realization. I failed.
We are put on this earth for two reasons only, to worship God and to bring as many people as possible to Jesus Christ. So many times when someone dies we quickly spout off “Did they know Jesus??” and usually we’re reassured “Yes, they had an awesome relationship with Him”- and there’s a sigh of relief. We’re sad they’re gone, but we know where they went. But this man may not have known Jesus. Despite trying, it’s a very real possibility he died without Christ in his heart and so I had one job, and I failed. I failed David, but more importantly, I failed my God- and that hurts so bad.
I’m starting off in Hebrews, Chapter 9 verse 27: “And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” So what do we know about death, first of all, we’re all going to die, there’s no way out of it, and we’re going to be judged. And what will happen at judgment depends on what you did with Christ in your lifetime. Why is Jesus so important to your eternal destiny? Because our sin, and we are all sinners, we are born with a sinful nature. Our sin separates us from a holy God, but here’s the amazing good news, God so loved the world, so loved us, that He sent His only Son, Jesus, who was born of a virgin; therefore, not inheriting the sin nature, but lived the perfect and sinless life. And Jesus shed His innocent blood and died on a cross. but that’s not all, in fact here’s the awesome news- He didn’t stay dead. On the third day, He rose again, and because of His perfect sacrifice, by faith, when we believe in Him, we are called righteous by God and we are adopted into the family of God by our faith in Christ. In fact, scripture says that anyone, and that includes you, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how dark your life has been, no matter how messed up it is right now, anyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus will be saved. And so even though I failed, there’s still a chance that David, while breathing his last breath could have seen the face of Christ, professed his faith, and been saved. It’s entirely possible David is sitting at the table with Jesus right now. Maybe we didn’t fail after all.
The second thing we know is that the soul and the body, they separate. You are not your body. This is skin. This is flesh. This is not the real you. Your body is called a tent. It’s just an outer covering. When you die, your body dies, but you continue to live. Jesus said this in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” One day, when your physical body dies, you will be as alive as you ever have been, and you will certainly face judgement.
I believe there will be two different judgments, and the first one is known as the Great White Throne Judgment. In Revelation 20:11-12, 15, John had a vision under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and he said, “I saw a great white throne and Him who is seated on it. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.” Now, “The dead were judged according to what they had done.” They were judged according to their works, “as recorded in the books.” Verse 15, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the “Book of Life,” scripture said, “He was thrown into the lake of fire.” So scripturally, we know that no one is good enough to qualify for Heaven through works or deeds. The Bible says very clearly that we are only saved by grace through faith in Jesus, and that alone. Ephesians 2 goes on to say that we are not saved by our works. No one is, so that no one can boast. So, if your name is not written in the Lambs Book of Life, you are judged by your works, and everyone who is judged by their works, whose name is not in the Book of Life, will be thrown into what is called “limnos tou pyros”. It’s the Greek terminology for the lake of fire, everlasting destruction, hell, eternal damnation, and separation from God. The Great White Throne Judgment is a place you do not want to be. You would rather be in the Book of Life, so you are not judged by your works, because you will not qualify for Heaven, no matter how good you are.
The second judgment mentioned in scripture is known as the Judgment Seat of Christ. Apparently, the Judgment Seat of Christ is only for believers. Your eternal destination is not judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Your eternal destination was already determined when you were on earth, when you responded to the grace, the work, and the love of Jesus on earth. So, most people believe that your eternal destiny is not determined at the Judgment Seat of Christ; but instead at that place that your works are judged to see whether or not you are worthy of rewards in Heaven. Romans 14:10, speaking to believers, the Bible says, “For we will all stand before God’s Judgment Seat. 2 Corinthians 5:10 continues “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Here is the bottom line. One day, we all will be judged; our work or lack thereof will be judged. And many of you are going to be blown away. It’s going to take you a million years just to soak in what Jesus says to you. You are generous. You are Godly. You are self-less. You are Christ-like. You are unbelievable, and you will be rewarded. Believe me, you will. Others, you are believers, but you have done hardly anything but receive from Christ. You benefit from His salvation, but there is very little evidence of His love in your life. It, it’s almost an embarrassment to the Kingdom. Yeah, you prayed a prayer. You’ve received Christ, but you’ve done almost nothing with it, and on that day, you will be filled with regret because you will get into Heaven, but only as one escaping to the flames. And you would give anything to do it over when you see just how real and just how good He is. What you believe about eternity will determine how you live.
One day when you are here, your body is here, and you are still alive, at that moment, you will either receive the most warm and welcome and glorious embrace from Jesus that you could ever imagine, or if you are without Christ, you will face gloom and despair and hopelessness like you’ve never even dreamed before. But either way, at that moment, your eternal destination is eternally unchangeable. That’s why this moment is so important. Was my friend David saved at his last breath? I don’t know. But I DO know it’s possible, and I’m hoping one day I am sitting at the table with Jesus and David, and Jesus turns to me and says “You did it. You saved my sheep. Well done, my good and faithful servant.” and I will have no other posture but to bow before Him.
Heart check, David’s passing made it so real for me. He could right now be enjoying the rewards of Heaven or could be burning in the Lake of Fire for all eternity. Had I been more persistent, I might be able to say for certain he was saved- but I let my foot off the gas, why? Because life got busy, because I kept getting discouraged by his lack of acceptance, because I didn’t feel like I knew enough to argue on behalf of Jesus Christ, because somehow for some reason it wasn’t a priority to me anymore- and my excuses are sinful. Nothing else should have mattered to me. I should have been laser-focused to show him the love of Jesus. I should have trusted more in the Holy Spirit to lead our conversations and stayed steadfast when it got difficult or frustrating. Nothing. Else. Matters.
You’re here for two reasons only: to worship God, and to lead those around us to Jesus, and we don’t always have as much time as we think we have for either. Don’t stop. We can’t stop. There are souls at stake. Please God may I never feel like this again. Jesus, forgive me.