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Galatians 5:16-23 teaches that at any moment we are either walking by the Holy Spirit or according to the sin nature. Walking by the Spirit, enjoying fellowship with God, walking in the light are virtually synonymous. During these times, the Holy Spirit is working in us to illuminate our minds to the truth of Scripture and to challenge us to apply what we learn. But when we sin, we begin to live based on the sin nature. Our works do not count for eternity. The only way to recover is to confess (admit, acknowledge) our sin to God the Father and we are instantly forgiven, cleansed, and recover our spiritual walk (1 John 1:9). Please make sure you are walking by the Spirit before you begin your Bible study, so it will be spiritually profitable.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

71 - Degrees of Punishment [B]

Matthew 11:20-24 by Robert Dean
Are there degrees of punishment for unbelievers in the Lake of Fire just as there are degrees of rewards for believers? Listen to this lesson to see that no one is sent to the Lake of Fire for their sins but rather on the basis of whether or not they accepted Christ’s death in their place on the Cross. Find out the meaning of Jesus’s words when He mentioned Tyre and Sidon in Matthew 11 and when He condemned the hypocritical Pharisees. Realize that as believers we need to grow to spiritual maturity and obey God’s Word so we will glorify the Lord in time and receive maximum rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:49 mins 53 secs

Degrees of Punishment
Matthew 11:20–24
Matthew Lesson #071
March 22, 2015

The word “gospel” is from the Greek word EUANGELION, and it means good news. Of course if you have good news, you have bad news. Last week we looked at the bad news, and the bad news is that there is eternal punishment, eternal condemnation. The Bible talks about the Lake of Fire and the fact that there is eternal condemnation and eternal punishment for those who have rejected the gospel. This is a doctrine that a lot of people today aren’t comfortable with. Even among evangelicals and conservatives who believe this is true, it is often not taught because it is not thought to be very popular.

One of the articles I read last week was written by a pastor who was initially going to react to one of these books written to say there was no Lake of Fire. He began to realize as he studied the Scripture, that not only was he more affirmed in his own position that the Bible clearly teaches an eternal conscious punishment, fiery torment for those who are not saved, he realized how much he in his own teaching had been impacted by the negative response to this in our culture, and had unwittingly downplayed this; or he just didn’t teach it very much. He was convicted because of how frequently and how significantly it is taught in Scripture as a warning to human beings, and especially to believers, not that they could lose their salvation, but in terms of their understanding of the importance of communicating the gospel to those who are lost.

As I’m concluding this study at the end of Matthew 11, we have talked about these verses from verse 20 to 24 where Jesus announces this judgment on these three towns in Galilee—Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum—and He makes this comment for example in verse 21, “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon …” (the center of Baal worship, the center of paganism, the religious enemy of Israel in the Old Testament) “…which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes… [22] it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in {the} day of judgment than for you.”

That term “day of judgment” focuses on that final judgment at the Great White Throne which is described at the end of Revelation 20. But Jesus uses that comparative term “more tolerable”. It is not talking about the cities being judged: it is talking about the inhabitants of those cities, because it is the inhabitants who have rejected the revelation that God has given them. And it teaches that more revelation has been given to Capernaum than was given to Tyre and Sidon, and because of that, there is a greater level of accountability; and therefore for those who have rejected that revelation, there is a greater degree of punishment. And this idea that there are degrees of punishment in the Lake of Fire is not often taught. It is also not understood. In fact, when I taught this a couple of weeks ago, I got two or three different questions from different people related to both the topic I covered last week—does the Bible really teach eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire?—because there are those who don’t want to believe that. It is not that God takes joy in that; He doesn’t. But they have rejected God’s gracious offer of salvation, and therefore there is a consequence to sin, a consequence to spiritual death, a consequence to this free offer of salvation. Because people are spiritually dead and have been corrupted by sin, there are consequences for that, and these consequences are not pleasant.

Why these consequences are so extreme is because sin is so extreme. We minimize sin in our culture, the culture of relativism, in which we minimize wrongdoing. The Bible teaches that there are serious consequences because sin is serious, and an act of rebellion against the infinite God, the eternal God, the infinitely righteous God; and therefore because it is an act against infinite righteousness, it has an infinite dimension to its existence, to its reality. And therefore the punishment does fit the crime because it is a crime of infinite dimensions, because it is committed against an infinite God, and therefore it has infinite consequences.

But not only is there eternal punishment, but apparently from these passages, there are degrees of punishment. And I was asked also, if there are degrees of punishment, what is the basis for determining the degrees of punishment? I’ll fine-tune that question a little bit as we go forward. As pointed out last time in Matthew 25:41, which is at the judgment of the sheep and the goats at the end of the Tribulation period, i.e. those Gentiles who survive the Tribulation and are going to be judged; at the end of that judgment, those who are believers are on the right hand and will go into the kingdom; and those who are on the left hand of Jesus are told by Him, “Depart from me you cursed into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” So God did not devise the Lake of Fire originally for the punishment of human beings, but for angels because of their rebellion.

The judgment is based upon God’s righteousness. We look at His character, which is so important to understand. Specifically the four attributes are God’s righteousness, justice, love and truth. These are compatible in the character of God. When modern man comes along and says, “I don’t understand how a loving God can send His creatures to the Lake of Fire,” he has presupposed a weak view of love. When you have a wrong definition of love and a wrong definition of righteousness, you end up creating a contradiction within the character of God. But if you understand the love of God as it is taught in Scripture, and you understand the righteousness of God as it is taught in Scripture, you understand the punishment for that which violates the standard of God is consistent with God’s love and with His character. So there is no inconsistency here.

As we look at the Scripture, we see that there is a judgment that is coming at the end of human history, at the end of the Millennium. And it is described in Revelation 20:12, 13NASB “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is {the book} of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one {of them} according to their deeds.”

The “dead” are the resurrected unbelievers. There are others who have already been judged—the sheep and the goats, the Antichrist, and the false prophet at the end of the Tribulation period. Believers were resurrected and rewarded at the end of the Church

Age. So the judgment at the Great White Throne is for all of the unbelieving dead from the Old Testament period, the Church Age, and the Tribulation. There is a record kept in Heaven. Those who trust in Christ as savior have their name recorded in the book of life; those who do not have their names recorded in the book of life, the dead, are judged according to their works by the things which are written in the books. So this is an accounting image that there is a ledger in Heaven that lists works.

Notice: When it says that the dead were judged according to their works/deeds, it doesn’t say the dead were judged according to their good works. Don’t put that word “good” in there; it doesn’t belong there. And it doesn’t say they were judged according to their evil works. It just says they were judged according to their works, and we have to figure out what these works are. Why does it have this phrase “according to their works/deeds”?

At the Great White Throne, they are judged by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is peer judgment. They are judged by the Lord Jesus Christ who is both God and man; they are judged by a perfect human being who was tested in all points as we are, yet without sin. John 5:22 NASB “…He has given all judgment to the Son.” Those whose name is recorded in the book of life have eternal life. That is not included here at the Great White Throne judgment. (There is the book of man’s works, the Lamb’s book of life, and the book of works. The first two are basically the same thing. It is called the Lamb’s book of life in Revelation 21:27.) Those who do not measure up go to the Lake of Fire.

I’m going to say this about five different ways, but I want to make sure you understand this. At the Great White Throne judgment, the issue is, are you righteous enough to measure up to God’s righteousness? What is evaluated is the production of your life. When everything is added up, some things are going to be in the plus column, some things are going to be in the minus column. Some things are good (moral deeds); some things are sin. When everything is added up, you have a sum total. If that sum total isn’t perfect righteousness you can’t get into Heaven; you have to have perfect righteousness. So what I am telling you is that the word “works” doesn’t relate at all to good or bad, it relates to everything in your life—the sin you have committed—it’s not spelled out, it is just that the works are added up, and the sum total has to equal perfect righteousness or you don’t get into Heaven. The focal point here isn’t on sin per se or good works per se, it is on the totality of your production.

So we have to be reminded: Why do people go to the Lake of Fire? What is going on here? First of all, there are passages that indicate that you are not sent to the Lake of Fire for personal sin. That is not why you are sent to the Lake of Fire. You are not sent to the Lake of Fire for Adam’s original sin. Sin is not the issue. When people stand before the Great White Throne judgment, God the Father has delegated judgment to God the Son. Jesus isn’t saying, “Let me see. You have committed this sin, you’ve committed that sin, you’ve committed this sin, and because you have committed these sins you are going to the Lake of Fire.” Why isn’t He saying that? Because He paid the penalty for sin. They are sent to the Lake of Fire because they haven’t availed themselves of the solution, which is to believe in Christ.

John 3:18NASB “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Pay attention to the phrase “has been judged [condemned] already”. That means from the moment you are born you are already condemned. So are you condemned for your sin? Are you condemned for the lies you’ve told, for your slander, etc.? No, you are not condemned for your personal sin; you are born condemned. That means we are condemned because we are spiritually dead. We were born spiritually dead because of Adam’s sin. Does John 3:18 say, “… has been condemned already because he has sinned”? No, it is “because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God”.

And then a few verses later John 3:36 says, NASB “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey [believe] the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” In those two verses, one word is used four times: believe. The only condition for getting into Heaven is to believe. If you don’t believe, then you are not going to get into Heaven. It doesn’t mention sin at all. In about 96 times in the Gospel of John there is the word “believe”.

John 5:24 NASB “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” We are born condemned (John 3:18); we are born dead (John 5:24).

Now, that condemnation isn’t on the basis of anything that you or I have done. Here is the point: Getting into Heaven is not based on anything that you have done, good or bad. Getting into the Lake of Fire is not based on anything that you have done, good or bad. It is based on what Adam did. 1 Corinthians 15:22 NASB “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.” Romans 5:12ff NASB “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—”

We all sinned when Adam sinned. The Puritans had this great little primer that they would use to teach their kids. They had a little two-line poem for every letter in the alphabet. The first letter was Adam: “In Adam’s fall, We sinned all”. The first thing little kids were to learn: understanding that it is not my sin. I’m not a sinner because I sinned; I sin because I am a sinner, because I am born corrupt.

Romans 5:15 NASB “But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died [Adam’s sin was the cause of spiritual death], much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. [16] The gift is not like {that which came} through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment {arose} from one {transgression} resulting in condemnation…” That is why we are born condemned (John 3:18) “… but on the other hand the free gift {arose} from many transgressions resulting in justification.”

As a result of Adam’s sin, we basically have three problems, and this is the basis for our condemnation. The first problem is that we are born under this forensic [judicial] penalty that was enacted by God the instant that Adam sinned. He said to Adam and Eve: “The day you eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in that day you will certainly die”—spiritual death. We are all under that penalty. The second problem that we have is we are born spiritually dead. And the third problem that we have is that we are unrighteous. Romans 3:10 NASB “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one’.” Isaiah 64:6 NASB “… And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment…” So we are born spiritually dead, and we don’t have any righteousness. These are the big three problems. So what happens?

What happens is, Jesus went to the cross to solve the first problem. The first problem was the forensic penalty of spiritual death that condemns everybody. Jesus pays that penalty.

Colossians 2:13, 14: Here is how that should be translated. The Greek has a lot of participles, and they need to be understood in terms of whether they are a temporal participle, which would be translated “when” or “after”. Sometimes they are causal, so I’ve inserted the proper nuance for those participles: “When you were dead in your trespasses and sins God made you alive…” When you were dead; that’s how you were born—in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). “… He has made us alive together with Him …” You had to be dead before you were alive. “…having forgiven all trespasses…” That is a causal statement. He made you alive, how? Because He forgave you (past tense) of all trespasses. All of your personal sins have been forgiven. The sin of Adam was paid for. This is why Ephesians 1:7 says, “… we have redemption through His blood …” Redemption is an economic term that means to pay the price for something. “…the forgiveness”, APHIEMI, is also an economic term; it means to eradicate a debt. You have redemption; your debt is eradicated. So people say, “Okay, when did this happen? When I trusted in Jesus?” Look at Colossians 2:14 NASB “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…” When did He cancel/wipe that out? That is that erasure of the debt. When “… He has taken it out of the way [past tense], having nailed it to the cross.” So when did He take it out of the way? In AD 33 when Christ was on the cross.

That first problem, Adam’s original sin and the forensic penalty that was the basis for our condemnation, is eradicated at the cross. Well how do we all go to Heaven, because we are spiritually dead and are unrighteous? We have three problems. We are under forensic condemnation. Jesus solved that, but we are still spiritually dead and are still unrighteous. The way those get solved is when we trust in Jesus. At the instant we trust in Jesus we are born again, we are given new life, we are no longer spiritually dead; we are spiritually alive— “When we were dead He has made us alive together with Him.” That is regeneration. That is the second problem, but we only get regeneration when we believe in Jesus. What about the righteousness problem? Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, and God looks at us now not in light of our unrighteousness, but that we have put on the clothes, which are Christ’s righteousness. He looks at us, and He sees the right kind of righteousness in our bank account, as it were, and He says, “I declare you judicially righteous”. But we only get that through faith in Christ. We are saved (justified) by faith in Him.

Because Christ paid the penalty for sins, Paul can say in 2 Corinthians 5:19 NASB “… God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” What does that mean? It means that sin is not the problem. You are not going to go to hell because you have committed the nasty nine or the fearful five or the fearful two. You are condemned because you are still spiritually dead and unrighteous. You are only saved by faith. That is why “he who hasn’t believed is condemned already”. When you believe, you are born again, and you have received perfect righteousness.

So that is understanding what the problem is and what happens at salvation. Our eternal destiny therefore is not determined by how good we are, or how sinful we are. Our eternal destiny is determined by faith in Jesus or no faith in Jesus.

For those who have received God’s free gift of eternal life, there is going to be an evaluation judgment in the future. When the Rapture occurs, the dead in Christ will rise first, and we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with Him in the clouds, and thus we’ll be forever with the Lord. But there is an evaluation judgment called the Bema Seat or the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:10 and 1 Corinthians 3:10ff. The last statement Jesus makes in Revelation 22:12 to the church is NASB “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward {is} with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”

Eternal life is a gift, but what happens at the Judgment Seat of Christ is that we are rewarded. What are we rewarded for? We are rewarded according to our works. So here is the paradigm. Our destiny in Heaven is not determined by what we do, but by faith in Christ. Where we are and our responsibility in Heaven is determined by what we do. There is an evaluation judgment to determine what our role and responsibility is going to be when we get there.

The flip side is that your destiny (as an unbeliever) in the Lake of Fire is not determined by what you do—by sin, morality or anything else—but by lack of faith in Christ. Once you get there, where you are in the Lake of Fire is going to be determined by what you did—judgment by works.

What does it mean to talk about judged according to works? The word for works is the Greek word ERGON, which means works. It has a variety of definitions. It can be an act, it can refer to your accomplishments, deeds or an action, achievement, work; it can refer to a thing, matter, task or mission. It basically is what you produce. The word ERGON in and of itself simply means what you produce, and it can be good or bad.

Matthew 5:16 NASB “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” How do we know it is talking about good works? It says so. There is an adjective modifying the noun. If it just said works, you wouldn’t know whether they were good or bad because good or bad are not included in the meaning of the word ERGON. It is a neuter term.

John 3:19 NASB “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” There we know it is talking about sinful works because it uses the word “evil”. Evil is a word that often is used to describe sin. For example, 1 Kings 16:19 NASB “because of his sins which he sinned, doing evil in the sight of the Lord, walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did, making Israel sin.” 2 Kings 13:2 NASB “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin; he did not turn from them.” Psalm 51:4 NASB “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight…” Evil is a synonym for sin in a lot of places. So what we see is that “works” is a neutral term, and we have to look at the context to determine whether it is talking about that which is good or that which is bad.

There are other adjectives to define this. Work is also used to describe faith. In a general sense it is something that you do. You believed; you did something. You believed. That is a broad, loose sense is a word “work”, but it is a different sense of “work” than the way the word “work” is used in passages like Ephesians 2:8, 9 where “works” are contrasted to faith. John 6:28 NASB “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ [29] Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent’.” In this passage, work is related to faith. In Romans 3:20 it says, “By the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified”. Galatians 2:16 says the same thing. Galatians 5:19 says, “Now the works of the flesh”, and this is talking about sin. So here is a passage where works can’t mean something like human good or something moral that is not righteous; it clearly refers to sin. So the term “works” can be defined as sin, depending on the modifiers. Ephesians 2:8–10, “… not of works.” Faith is not of works, so you have to understand the nuances of the word and the range of meaning.

Then we are told, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Then we know that works are the basis of evaluation. Romans 2:6NASB “who will render to each person according to his deeds”.

2 Corinthians 11:15 NASB “Therefore it is not surprising if his [Satan’s] servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” Their end judgment is based on their rejection of God in eternity past that sent them to the Lake of Fire. But then there is additional judgment according to what they do.

2 Timothy 4:14 NASB “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.” Is that going to be the judgment seat of Christ? Or is that judgment in time? We also have people who are judged in time because of their sin. Divine discipline. If you sin, if you live in carnality as a believer, you go through divine discipline. So when we say that sin isn’t the issue anymore, what we really mean is it isn’t the reason a person is sent to the Lake of Fire. But God still brings judgment upon people for their sin according to their works. We also see that this work is a basis for evaluation at the judgment seat of Christ, and that is the context of 1 Peter 1:17 NASB “If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work… “That is the foundation of the judgment seat of Christ. Also Revelation 2:23; 18:6—“pay double”, which indicates there are different levels of judgment for sin and disobedience.

Whether you end up in the Lake of Fire or in Heaven is determined not by what you do; it is determined by what Christ did and what you do in relation to that. Where you end up in Heaven or the Lake of Fire is determined by what you do. That is why we can say things like: Well Adolf Hitler would be in a different level of the Lake of Fire than maybe someone like Mother Teresa. They are both going to be in eternal conscious fiery judgment, but there are going to be different degrees of intensity. I don’t understand that, but they will be evaluated on their various responses to various things. Sin isn’t the issue in why they are in the Lake of Fire, but their works are the issue in where they are when they are there.

Another word that we have to define in all of this is that word judgment. We often say, well we are not judged for our sins; they are no longer the issue. But there are different ways judgment is used. I am not going to go into all of them, just three are important. First of all, we use the word judgment to describe God’s eternal final judgment with reference to our eternal destiny.

We have passages like Matthew 10:15 NASB “Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for {the} land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.” John 5:24 NASB “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment …” That is talking about the Great White Throne judgment at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.

Then there is judgment is the sense of evaluation. This is the evaluation of the individual believer’s life with reference to eternal rewards (1 Peter 1:17). Revelation 2:23 NASB “… I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”

There is also a third use: that is, divine discipline in time. Romans 1:32 NASB “and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” This is talking about God’s judgment in time, in history. Romans 2:1, 2 NASB “Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.” 1 Corinthians 11:29 NASB “For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks [at the Lord’s Table] judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.” This is in reference to self-judgment. Their sins are already paid for. If they are sinning when they come to the Lord’s Table, there is going to be divine discipline. [30] “For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.” See, what we have there is degrees of punishment. Some are simply spiritually weak; some are spiritually sick; and some have died the sin unto death and sleep. But Paul says, [31] “But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged.” That is talking about in time; it is divine disciple. [32] “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord.” See how that comes together?

The conclusion we reach is that judgment at the Great White Throne is on the basis of works. Do we have enough to be perfectly righteous? No. And if you don’t, then you are still spiritually dead, and you haven’t received the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, so you are still condemned. Believers and unbelievers are also judged in the sense of divine discipline and the wrath of God in time for sin and disobedience to Him.

When we look at the Scriptures, we also see that there are various passages that talk about different degrees of things. Comparative terms are used. For example, we have the phrase “the greatest commandment”: in Matthew 22:36–38. There are obviously some commandments in terms of the Lord’s language that aren’t as great as others. Love is called the greatest virtue—“the greatest of these is love” in 1 Corinthians 13:13. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus talks about the “weightier matters of the Law.” There are some sins that in some ways have greater impact and more consequences than others. The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Matthew 12:32 seems to be in that category. Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 that he was the chief sinner. So there are these gradations, these degrees of difference that appear in some passages.

In Luke 12:42, the servant and the master depicts the relationship of God to Israel, who is to serve God. In this parable the servant pictures Israel as a disobedient servant who was called to serve God but failed. And so he is going to be beaten with many stripes. In Luke 12:48, there was another servant who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes; and he was to be beaten with few stripes. The difference is the degree of revelation that they had, and their response to it. Luke 12:47, 48 clearly make the point of different degrees of punishment that exist.

Matthew 25:14-20 is the parable of the talents. Again, there are different degrees of rewards. We should be aware of that as believers. We have these passages that show up. For example, Luke 10:14 NASB “But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the judgment than for you.”

Then we have a passage in Luke 20:46, 47 NASB “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers. These will receive greater condemnation.” So the Bible clearly talks about the fact that for the unbeliever, there are degrees of punishment. His destiny is not determined by his sin, but what he did with various things will determine that outcome.

Question: Well, how does God make that evaluation? He makes that evaluation on the basis of His divine omniscience. We know from Romans 1:32 and 2:2 that His judgment is always going to be consistent with His righteousness. It is based on His righteousness, and it is based on His truth. From the passage that we have seen in Matthew 11:20–24 as well as Romans 2:12–15, it is based on the degree of revelation that people reject. Everybody is given a minimal amount of revelation through non-verbal general revelation. Everyone has been given enough revelation through the creation to know that God exists, and they are held accountable to that. Some people have more, some not so much, but everybody has enough to be held accountable. If you are given a tremendous amount, then you are accountable. That is part of the data that goes into this judgment algorithm that God has that determines the final standing. It is going to be according to one’s works.

Romans 2:16 says it is also according to the secrets of men’s hearts. These will be exposed and evaluated. The bottom line is that we know that God is a righteous judge. We can’t comprehend all the data that goes into the final decision, either for our judgment or our rewards. God in His omniscience knows all of the knowable, and we can only say what Abraham said in Genesis 18:25: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” He will always do the right thing. He is perfect, His plan is perfect, and His plan of salvation is perfect.

His plan of salvation, which determines our eternal destiny, is not based on anything that we do. It is based on what Christ did on the Cross, and the only issue for us is whether we are going to believe or not believe. But once we believe, we need to recognize that there is an obligation upon us to grow to spiritual maturity and to serve the Lord. How well we do that is the basis for our rewards. On the flip side, for the unbeliever, those who yield to their sin nature and are disobedient to God in extreme ways will receive greater judgment and punishment in the Lake of Fire than others. But they are all going to be in eternal conscious torment.

But the focus for us is on the gospel and on explaining the good news. That is why it is such good news. We don’t have to worry about eternal condemnation, and when we grasp that, it ought to stimulate us to greater evangelism for those around us who do not understand the gospel.