Conduct and Final Judgment

Before Jesus came to earth to preach the Kingdom of God, we see that God always forgave sin if the person repented.  This is seen throughout the Old Testament (ex. Jonah 3).  If a wicked person repented, God remembered their former sins no more (Ezk. 18:21).  God always gave room for mercy, repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  God did not hold a legalistic account of good deeds vs. bad deeds.  God looked at the entirety of a person’s character and conduct.  He looks at the intent of the heart which has visible expression in one’s life.   In other words, not only will our deeds be judged, but the motive behind the deeds.  Some people may think that just because they did some good deed that it will score points with God.  They will use deeds as fire insurance rather than a heart that is sold out for God.  These ‘good deeds’ without the right motive is like a stench in God’s nostrils, just at the sacrifice rituals in the Old Testament were a stench to God when there was no true repentance in the person’s heart.

However, conduct with the right motive does matter with God.  The following verses show that Jesus made it clear that conduct matters.  I will quote the first verse, and you may look up the other passages.

“The hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out  – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  (John 5:28-29)

The other verses are:

Matt. 25:31-46 (What we do to others);

Matt. 7:21-23; cf. Luke 13:27; Matt. 12:33-37; (Words and deeds reflect our inner goodness or evilness, and that God will judge us based on them.)

Matt. 19:17-19 (In talking with the rich man, Jesus shows that the man should live in a certain way in order to receive a positive final judgment.)

Matt. 16:27  (It is clear that moral conduct forms the criterion for eternal life.  People will be repaid according to how they have lived and behaved.)

Luke 6:37-38 (see also Matt. 7:2.  People will receive the consequences of their behavior.)

Matt. 6:12-15, 18:21-35; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:37, 11:4 (God forgives our sins on the condition we forgive others.)

Rom. 2:6-8 (Paul also shows that God will judge according to our character and lives.)

Rom. 2:15-16 (People’s own consciences will also bear witness to the righteousness of their deeds.  God will judge the secret thoughts of all.)

1 Cor. 6:9-10; Col. 3:25; 2 Cor. 11:14-15  (God will punish all the wicked and immoral.)

Col. 3:5-6 (Paul says to cease doing the things God hates so that we will not be condemned.  “Put to death”)

Rom. 8:13 (How we can live in order to pass judgment)

Rom. 6:23 (Paul warned to cease sinning for the wages of sin is death.)

1 Cor. 11:32 (We are disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.)

Gal. 6:8-9 (Receiving eternal life depends on whether we continue to do what is right.)

2 Cor. 5:10 (We will be judged based on our conduct.)

Peter also has the same attitude.

1 Pet. 1:17 (Judged according to deeds.)

Acts 10:34-35 (Peter moves away from the belief that God only loves and rewards the Jews.  God shows no partiality.)

1 Pet. 3:9-12; Psa. 34:12-16 (Peter believed as well that final judgment is based on one’s conduct and advises and warns others to be careful how they live.)

2 Pet. 3:1-14 (Turn from evil and do good.  We are to live lives in holiness and godliness.)

2 Pet. 2:6-13 (God will punish the wicked and aid those who do good, both now and ultimately at the Day of Judgment.)

Rev. 20:12; Rev. 22:12; Rev. 2:23; Rev. 21:8  (Final judgment according to works.)

The New Testament clearly shows that God will judge ALL people according to their deeds at the final judgment.  God will reward the good and condemn the evil.  Matt. 12:33-37; Rom. 2:14-16; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:8-9; Col. 3:24-25; 1 Tim. 5:24-25; 1 Pet. 3:10-12; 2 Pet. 2:9)

God will judge according to character and behavior. (1 Cor. 4:5; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:12)

God will favorably judge those who do good deeds (Matt. 19:17; Luke 6:37-38; 1 John 4:17), but condemn the wicked. (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 12:47-48; 13:27; Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 1:18; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; 2 Cor. 11:14-15; Eph. 5:3-5; Col. 3:5-6; 2 Pet. 2:12-13; 2 Pet. 3:7; Jude 1:14-15; Rev. 3:15-16, 21:8)

Judgment will apply equally to all nations and Jews will be judged no differently from the Gentiles.(Matt. 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6-11, 2:14-16, 14:10-12; Acts 10:34-35; Col. 3:24-25; 1 Pet. 1:17)

The Scriptures are clear that one will be judged according to their deeds (works).  This truth is spoken of as heresy today in mainline Christianity.

The early Christians continued to affirm this truth about one’s conduct.  Here is a sample where it agrees with Scripture:

The Epistle of Barnabas (written around 100 AD)

“The Lord will judge the world, playing no favorites.  Each will receive according to what he has done.  If he is good, his righteousness will precede him; if evil, the reward for his wickedness will be before him.” (Barnabas 4)

First Clement (written around 100 AD)

“Take heed beloved [for there will be] condemnation of us all unless we walk worthy of Him, and with one mind do those things which are good and well-pleasing in His sight.”  (1 Clement 21)

“Since then all things are seen and heard [by God], let us fear Him, and forsake those wicked works which proceed from evil desires; so that…we may be protected from the judgments to come.” (1 Clement 28)

Ignatius (written around 110 AD)

“All things have an end, there is set before us life upon our observance of God’s precepts, but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place.” (Magnesians 5)

“Whoever follows [self-restraint] will be fortunate in his life, because he will abandon all his evil deeds, believing that if he abandons every evil desire, he will inherit eternal life.” (The Shepherd of Hermas 16:4)

“Do no evil in your life, but serve as the Lord’s slave with a pure heart, keeping his commandments and proceeding in his injunctions; and let no evil desire rise up in your heart…if you do those things and fear [God] and are self-restrained from every evil deed, you will live to God.” (The Shepherd of Hermas 54:5; Similitude 5.1.5)

Second Clement (written around 150 AD)

“[God will] redeem each of us, according to our deeds.” (2 Clement 17)

“Therefore, brethren, by doing the will of the Father, and keeping the flesh holy, and observing the commandments of the Lord, will we obtain eternal life.”  (2 Clement 13)

Justin Martyr

“[Christians] hold this view, that it is alike impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtous, to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions.” (Justin Martyr, First Apology XII.  This is a recurring theme throughout both of Justin’s Apologies)

Irenaeus (written around 165 AD)

“Knowing, my beloved Marcianus, your desire to walk in godliness, which alone leads man to life eternal, I rejoice with you…” (Irenaeus, Proof of Apostolic Preaching 1)

Theiphius of Antioch (Apology to Autolycus, written around 170 AD)

“Obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting.  For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and everyone who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption.” (Theophilus Autolychus 2.27)

“He who acts righteously shall escape the eternal punishments, and be thought worthy of the eternal life from God.” (Theophilus Autolychus, XIV)

As we can see, these early Christians agree with Scripture were our conduct does matter when we face the final judgment.  Jesus made this very clear as well as the apostles after the death of Christ on the cross.  The message did not change.  At the final judgment God will reward the righteous and punish the wicked.

More later….

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