Judgment Day: The ocean liner, the Californian, was within 1500 miles of Boston Harbour when a crewmember noticed flashes of light from a distant steamer. Repeated attempts to contact it failed. In fact, it appeared to be sailing away. By 1:40am its lights had vanished. It wasn’t until later the captain learned what had actually happened. Neither he nor his second officer considered the flashing lights alarming, or that it was coincidental that they had ever seen them. Earlier the Californian had parked because of oceanic ice and the unscheduled stop gave her a ringside seat to an unimaginable event. The crew didn’t realise the flares were distress signals or they would have come to her aid because they were only nine miles away. The floundering ship also sent radio distress calls that were within the answering range except for one important detail. The Californian’s radio operator, fresh from training school, was fast asleep! So on April 12th, 1912, from his vantage point on the bridge, the liner’s second officer unwittingly watched the Titanic sink!

Jesus said, ‘People were eating… drinking, marrying… to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing… until the flood came and took them. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man… keep watch… you do not know… what day your Lord will come’ (cf. Matthew 24:38-42).

Source: The UCB Word For Today devotional, 14/3/2008

God’s punishment of sin is never unjust. Quite the opposite in fact: God’s judgment is always just and His punishment of sin reveals His faithfulness to His own righteous character.

We can have absolute assurance that on the Day of Judgment God will judge justly; He will judge depending on what people know, not on what people don’t know. So those who live in deepest, darkest Africa; people who have never heard about Jesus; or the mentally handicapped; people who don’t have the ability to understand the gospel message; or babies who have tragically died without ever hearing about Jesus… God will judge people on what they know, not on what they don’t know. – In Genesis 18:25 we read: ‘Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’

Pastor Tony Evans tells the story of a young woman was caught going one hundred miles an hour in a fifty-mile-per-hour zone outside a small town. The policeman brought her to court where the judge fined her one hundred dollars. “But I don’t have one hundred dollars,” she wailed.

“I’m sorry, but you will have to spend the weekend in jail,” the judge told her. “You owe the court one hundred dollars. You may not have the money, but the law is the law.”

She began to cry. “Please, your honour, I don’t have one hundred dollars, but I don’t want to spend the weekend in jail.”

The judge said, “I can’t change the law.” But the young woman begged for mercy again and to the surprise of the bailiff and the policeman, the judge did something very interesting. He pushed his chair back from the bench, took off his robe, walked around to where the woman was standing, pulled out his wallet, and gave the bailiff a one-hundred-dollar bill, went back to the bench, put his robe back on, and sat down. Then the judge picked us his gavel and said, “Young lady, I see someone has paid your fine. Case dismissed. You are free to go.”

That’s what God did for you and me. We stood before the bench of His justice, and He said, “You’ve been found guilty of sinning against my holy character. You’ve either got to pay the price of perfection or spend eternity in the prison called hell.”

But God the Judge also heard us cry out for mercy. He knew we had nothing to pay our debt with. So in the person of Jesus Christ He stepped out of heaven, “zipped down” His deity, put on the robe of humanity, and paid the price Himself on the cross. Three days later, He put His robe of deity back on and ascended back to the bench of heaven.

Now He looks down and says to anyone who comes to Him and begs for mercy, “I can’t change the law, but I can pay the price.” You will never have to worry about heaven again if you know Jesus Christ.

Tony Evans, Time To Get Serious, 1995, Wheaton Illinois: Crossway Books, p.36

One day we will all be held to account; we will all face God’s judgment. Some people fool themselves thinking they will be all right: They think they will get in to heaven because they have been good enough but the Bible teaches differently: the Bible says that there is no one is good enough, not even one single person. It’s a bit like this: everyone’s life starts out like a clean sheet of paper, but as soon as you get a blotch on it, as soon as you sin, it’s no longer clean. – It is impossible for us to live a perfect life and to perfectly keep all of God’s standards all of the time. – Again, it’s like having a sheet of glass. Break it once and you’ve broken it all and there is no hope of putting it back together again! The thing is, to get to heaven you have to be absolutely 100% perfect in every way, or… you have to have someone who is perfect stand in for you, and pay your dues: You have to accept God’s perfect sacrifice offered on your behalf – the innocent blood of his Son, Jesus, shed on the cross for our sins.

God, please do not give us what we deserve – judgment. Instead, please do give us what we do not deserve – mercy. (The best definition of ‘mercy’ I’ve ever come across is this: Mercy is an unearned blessing bestowed by God on an unworthy recipient.)

At the end of the day – on judgment day – all sin has to be paid for. But God in His wonderful grace and mercy has provided us with a way out; a choice: We can accept Jesus’ offer and He pays for our sin for us, for free, or people can reject Jesus and pay for their sin themselves… but then they’ll have hell to pay for it!

The gospel of salvation only makes sense when we remember and realise what we are being saved from: we are saved from God’s judgment. On judgment day – which will be the day when we die or the day Jesus returns, whichever comes first; on the Day of Judgment God will see that we are covered with the blood of the Lamb. We have accepted Jesus who took our sin upon himself at the cross. We have been forgiven and God’s judgment will pass-over us. We are saved from God’s judgment.

The resurrection of Christ proves that there is going to be a Judgment Day. Acts 17:31 says: “[God] has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead.” This promise of future judgment helps us, as Christians, to live in this fallen world where evil pervades, and it assures us that one day justice will be done. – Think about it, if there was no Judgment Day some people would literally get away with murder.

John Dickson writes: If someone commits a crime in our society, they can’t say to the judge in a courtroom, “But Your Honour, just before I mugged that person I helped an old lady cross the road.” The judge may think to himself, “Yes, that’s nice”, but he wouldn’t let the crime go unpunished. To do so would betray his position as judge. Likewise, God sees our sin, our disobedience and He has to act accordingly. And so Jesus stands in our place and takes the punishment we deserve, so that we can be set free.

John Dickson, Hanging in There, p.12

The story is told of a young woman was arrested for breaking the law. She knew she’d been caught red-handed and she couldn’t deny her guilt. Later stood in front of the judge’s bench she admitted what she had done. The man wearing the robe was a kind man, but he was also a just judge, and knew he couldn’t let her off the hook. She had broken the law. So he gave her the penalty prescribed by the law, which meant the girl was required to pay a steep fine – one that she couldn’t afford – or else end up in jail.

But then the man did an amazing thing. He stood up, took off his judge’s robe, walked around to the front of the bench where the girl was standing, pulled out his wallet, and lovingly looked in her eyes as he handed her all the money she needed to pay her fine.

Why did he do this? Because the woman was his own daughter! Being a good judge, he had to honour the law and impose the penalty. But being a loving father, he was willing to come to her side, to pay the price on her behalf.

But now the woman had a choice to make. Would she let go of her pride, and humbly reach out to receive her father’s generous offer? Or would she insist on trying to prove she didn’t need help from him or anyone else, and end up going to jail?

This story illustrates the situation between God and us. God is the holy and just judge who said, “You’ve broken my laws and sinned against me, and the penalty is death.” But he is also the loving father, who said, “I love you and will come down and pay the penalty myself,” and so He took off his heavenly robe, came to earth in the person of Christ, and paid for our sins by dying on the cross.

Now we, too, have a choice to make: to humbly receive his payment – forgiveness and restoration – or reject this sacrifice and spend the rest of our lives, and eternities, trying to pay a debt we can never fully repay.

Source: Mark Mittelberg, Lee Strobel & Bill Hybels, Becoming A Contagious Christian: Participant’s Guide, 2007, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p.74-75

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:27-28 NIV

When my daughter, Kimberley, was a student she worked part-time as a cashier in the local Co-op store. One day a very excited lady came into the shop waving her lottery ticket in the air and exclaiming that she had won the lottery big time! Apparently she had picked 5 or 6 of the numbers correctly and knew she had won a substantial amount – the jackpot was £9.2 million, as I recall – and she came into the store to check out how much she had won and see if there was any other winners. Everyone crowded around as Kim took the winning ticket and processed it in the Lottery Machine to register the win and see how much the winnings actually were… What happened next can only be described as the biggest look of shock on someone’s face that you have ever seen in your life! It transpired that the woman had indeed picked the winning numbers… but for the wrong day of the week: she had picked to play the Lotto on the Wednesday, instead of Saturday’s draw! She came into the shop absolutely convinced that she had won the prize but when the truth was revealed she left humiliated, completely lost and distraught. Terribly sad!

Jesus said that’s how it will be for some people on the last day, on judgment day. They’ll say, ‘Lord, Lord, it’s me, don’t you recognise me?’ And He will say to them, “Away from me, you evildoers! I never knew you” (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

We all like to think we are good and deserve a happy ending. As N.T. Wright says, “We want to hear a nice story about God throwing the party open to everyone. We want (as people now fashionable say) to be ‘inclusive’, to let everyone in. We don’t want to know about judgment on the wicked, or demanding standards of holiness, or about weeping and gnashing of teeth.” But, like it or not, that is exactly what we do hear in the Bible.