Sasha* had been struggling for quite some time with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty. He sought help from, Alex,* a counsellor. As they talked, it didn’t take long for Alex to realize that, although Sasha said that he believed in Jesus for salvation, he was lacking a solid biblical foundation with which to navigate through his trials.
Alex prayerfully began guiding Sasha through The Stranger on the Road to Emmaus because he thought it would be helpful for Sasha to have a better understanding of the Bible’s message from creation to the cross.
Everything was going well until one day, near the end of the study, on page 274 of Chapter 15, Sasha read these words aloud:
“God in his grace will tolerate sin for awhile, but in his justice he will judge it. Judgment may come in this life or it may be withheld until after death, but it will happen. Herod died and faced an eternity in the Lake of Fire…”
The words stuck in Sasha’s throat as a wave of guilt overcame him. Despite having trusted in Christ, he became convinced that God would judge him for his sin and that when he died, he would be sent out of God’s holy presence to hell for eternity. Sasha had just begun to glimpse the light of real hope when this one thought plunged him back into darkness.
Desperate to help his hurting friend understand the good news, Alex wrote the author of The Stranger, John Cross, to ask for advice:
Dear Sir,…On page 274, in the second paragraph, you state that “Judgment may come in this life or…”Could you please elaborate? [Sasha]… believes the gospel but unfortunately that is overruled by the way he feels, which is now confirmed by those words. Could you please help me explain what “Judgment may come in this life or…” means?
John Cross wrote this reply:
You have asked an important question and your believing friend needs to have a good answer. The discussion of “judgments” is a relatively complex theological issue with differences among major theologians. However there are areas on which most agree. The issue has to be divided between eternal and temporal judgment. First the eternal:Please have your friend read pages 261 and 262 once more. According to the Bible, when we put our trust in Jesus for salvation, our…“sins and lawless acts I [God] will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17 (NIV)
The Bible is saying here that all of a believer’s sin (past and future) will be forgiven by God because of what Jesus did on the cross. No longer will a believer have to stand before God to be judged for his sin. Jesus has taken the judgment and punishment in our place.
The judgment on page 274 is referring to unbelievers. Because they have not accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour, unbelievers are held accountable for their sin. God will judge them after death, where their final punishment will be eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire. Your friend, who has put his trust in Jesus for salvation, will not be judged by God in this way. He will not face the Lake of Fire.
Secondly, it is important to note that sin also has natural, temporal consequences. For example, killing a person means that the killer will have to face punishment as mandated by the laws of the country. Not only that, the murdered person remains dead. These are natural consequences of sin. Whether believers or unbelievers, all can and may face the natural, earthly consequences of sin. But the duration of those consequences only last while here on earth. They are temporal (temporary).
In some cases, people may escape the temporal judgments for their sin. If the person is an unbeliever, then that escape is only temporary because, after death, he will face punishment for that sin in the Lake of Fire.
On the other hand, if that person is a believer, then they should confess to the sin. If earthly consequences are appropriate (e.g., as in murder or theft), then those consequences must be carried by the believer in this life. However, such consequences will not extend beyond the grave. This is because of God’s undeserved love and mercy—his grace. For example, when God has forgiven a murderer who puts his trust in Jesus, that believing murderer may be put in jail here on earth, but will not face eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. Why? Because his personal Saviour, Jesus Christ, has taken the eternal punishment for him.
I hope that helps to clarify matters.
If you have any further questions, just let me know. I’ll be happy to help.
(*Names changed as per GoodSeed policy.)