THE SINNER AT THE JUDGMENT
by B.H. Carroll
“And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” – 1 Pet. 4:18.
We are come to the last sermon of this series. In the first sermon we found the Scriptures teaching a future, final and general judgment of men and angels. In the second sermon were considered the philosophy and necessity of this judgment as a revelation and vindication of the divine administration. In the third sermon the fact of the Christian’s appearance at this judgment was established and the reasons of his appearance there set forth in order.
Our present theme is:
THE SINNER AT THE FINAL JUDGMENT.
As in the third sermon, so now, the matter for consideration will be submitted under several distinct heads or propositions:
Prop. 1. — Due notice of this judgment has been served on all sinners.
(1) This judgment has been revealed in the book of nature — open to all men — “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness: Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity: that they may be without excuse.” (Rom. 1:18-20.)
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge: There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psa. 19:1-4.)
“God in the generations gone by suffered all the nations to walk in their own ways. And yet he left not himself without witness, in that he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.” (Acts 14:16,17.)
It was the divine purpose that the light of nature should lead to nature’s God: “The God that made the world and all things therein, he being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is he served by men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and he made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; THAT THEY SHOULD SEEK GOD, if haply they might feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us; for in him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:24-28.)
Concerning this light the apostle adds: “Because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks: but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they be came fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
“Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves; for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen, For this cause God gave them up to vile passions.” (Rom. 1: 21-26.)
“And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting: being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, whisperers, back-biters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful, who, knowing the ordinances of God, that they that practice such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practice them.” (Rom. 1:28-32.).
“Wherefore thou art without excuse, Oman, whosoever thou art, that judgest ; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest dost practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against them that practice such things. And reckonest thou this, O man, who judgest them that practice such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and for bearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works.” (Rom . 2:1-6.)
(2) The responsibility disclosed in external nature is also written within on men’s hearts. “For when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them.” (Rom. 2:14,15.)
(3) Man’s establishment of civil government shows that he acknowledges that the notice of God’s judgment has been received and understood. He has rightly interpreted the law of responsibility written without and within himself. He is duly sensible of right and wrong, and knows well that there must be a lawgiver whose law prescribes the right and prescribes the wrong. He has never hesitated to hold other men responsible for wrongdoing towards himself.
(4) Responsibility to divine government has been revealed in all the providence of God. And throughout all human history it is evident that man has attributed the prosperity or adversity dispensed to individuals and nations as a token of either divine favor or disfavor. But clearer than the external light of nature, or the internal light of conscience, or the teachings of Providence, is
(5) The revelation of judgment in the Bible. The heart and conscience of man readily bow to the rightfulness of these announcements of the Holy Book: “Marvel not at this; for the hour cometh in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life ; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28,29.)
“The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent ; inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30,31.)
“At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, God will recompense vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: Who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.” (2 Thess. 1:7-9.)
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away ; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and 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 out of the things which were written in the book, according to their works.” (Rev. 21:11, 12.)
Thus external nature, conscience, providence and revelation have served due notice of the final judgment on all men, and their holding others responsible for wrongdoing in civil government is an acknowledgment of the service.
PROP. 2. – The sinner stands often in anticipation before the final judgment, both before and after death.
(1) Many times before death.
This anticipation is sometimes in dreams. In “The Pilgrim’s Progress” the Christian is led to a room where a man rising from bed and trembling in affright thus explains his terror:
“This night, as I was in my sleep, I dreamed, and behold, the heavens grew exceeding black; also it thundered and lightened in most fearful wise, that it put me into an agony. So I looked up in my dream, and saw the clouds rack, at an unusual rate; upon which I heard a great sound of a trumpet, and also saw a man sitting upon a cloud, attended with the thousands of heaven; they were all in flaming fire; also the heavens were in a burning flame. I heard then a great voice, saying, ‘Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment,’ and with that the rocks rent, the graves opened, and the dead that were therein came forth; some of them were exceeding glad, and looking upward; and some sought to hide themselves under the mountains. Then I saw the man that sat upon the cloud, open the book and bid the world draw near. Yet there was, by reason of a fierce flame which issued out and came before him, a convenient distance betwixt him and them, as betwixt the judge and prisoners at the bar. I heard it also proclaimed to them that attended on the man that sat on the cloud, ‘Gather together the tares, the chaff and stubble, and cast them into the burning lake.’ And with that the bottomless pit opened, just whereabouts I stood; out of the mouth of which there came, in an abundant manner, smoke and coals of fire, with hideous noises. It was also said to the same persons, ‘Gather my wheat into the garner,’ and with that I saw many catched up and carried away into the clouds; but I was left behind. I also sought to hide myself, but I could not; for the man that sat upon the cloud still kept his eye upon me; my sins also came into my mind; and my conscience did accuse me on every side. Upon this I awakened from my sleep.”
In his “Systematic Theology,” Dr. Strong thus cites the case of John Nelson: “A man who afterwards became a Methodist preacher was converted in Whitfield’s time by a vision of the judgment, in which he saw all men gathered before the throne and each one coming up to the Book of God’s Law, tearing open his heart before it ‘as one would tear open the bosom of his shirt,’ comparing his heart with the things written in the book, and according as they agreed or disagreed with that standard, either passing triumphant to the company of the blest, or going with howling to the company of the damned. No word was spoken; the judge sat silent; the judgment was one of self-revelation and self-condemnation.”
Sinners, convicted under faithful preaching, anticipate the final judgment and tremble. When Paul, before the wicked Felix and Drusilla, reasoned of righteousness, continence and the judgment to come, Felix was terrified and broke in with, Go thy way for this time ; and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me.”
Some who commit the unpardonable sin anticipate this judgment with most horrible forebodings. Having sinned wilfully and maliciously against all the grace manifested in the triune God – insulting the Father by treading under foot his only begotten Son – insulting the Son by counting his blood of the everlasting covenant an unholy thing — insulting the Holy Spirit by doing despite to his gracious wooing — “there remaineth for them no more sacrifice for sin, but a certain, fearful expectation of judgment and a fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-29.) These wretched souls never doubt the certainty, nearness and eternity of the final judgment.
(2) Many times after death.
Not only before death do men often in apprehension stand before this judgment bar, but even more fearfully after death in their disembodied state. They feel it coming not only as an explanation of present torment, but as a prelude to greater woes.
The fallen King of Babylon found hell’s greeting to be a foreboding of the judgment to which he was reserved: “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming; it stirreth up the dead for thee…. And they shall say unto thee, Art thou become like unto us?… How art thou fallen from heaven, O day star, son of the morning!… Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, THIS!” (Isa. 14.)
Heaven’s refusal to grant the rich man’s appeal for mercy announces the end of probation and heralds the coming judgment: “Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things… but now thou art in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, that they that would pass from hence to you may not be able, and that none may cross over from thence to us.” (Luke 16.)
Hell’s imprisonment and chains make lost souls sensible that they are being held over for trial at the great assize: Unlike the spirits of the made perfect (Heb. 12:23), who, as purified souls, under the altar confidently invoke the coming judgment for redress of grievances (Rev. 6:9-11) ; these, as “spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19), are with evil angels “reserved unto judgment” (2 Pet. 2:14), and illustrate the truth that “the Lord knoweth how to keep the unrighteous under punishment unto the day of judgment.” (2 Pet. 2:9.)
Moreover, all the attending circumstances of our Lord’s second advent dreadfully tend to fix their minds on the judgment now at hand.
The voice of the archangel and the sound of the trumpet smite them with terror. The discriminating ministry of the angels in taking one and leaving another is fearfully suggestive. The difference be tween their resurrection bodies and those of the righteous is sadly prophetic of other things. The separation before the throne of the wicked from the just is recognized as only a prelude of final destiny. But most terribly suggestive of all is the piercing look of the glorious One on the white throne. They recognize him as the crucified One, whom they despised and mocked on earth, but now crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. They shiver under the smiting of his silent glance and cry out, in agony, “Oh, rocks and mountains fall on us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne and from the wrath of the lamb.” (Rev. 6:16.)
Next to the eye of the Judge, the most dreadful anticipation of what awaits them is suggested by witnessing the beginnings of judgment in the house of God. They see all false professors, all deluded ones, all hypocrites eliminated from the body of the saints. And every time one of these is cast out, they do exceedingly quake and tremble for fear of the judgment about to fall on themselves. They witness the vain knocking of the foolish virgins who took no oil for their lamps, and hear their fruitless cry, “Open to us,” and the stern voice of the bridegroom: “Too late! too late! Ye cannot enter now.”
They see the rejection of prophets and miracle-workers like Balaam and Judas and hear the awful colloquy: “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works?” — “I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
They behold the Lord’s reckoning with the unfaithful servant who said in his heart, “My lord delayeth his coming,” and began to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with the drunken. They see him cut asunder and receiving his portion with hypocrites. Where is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 24:48-50.)
They witness the summary disposal of the man who buried his Lord’s talent and behold him cast into outer darkness as an unprofitable servant.
They witness the bridegroom’s inspection of his guests and hear his inquiry of one hapless man, “Friend, what doest thou here without the wedding garment? Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness, where is wailing and gnashing of teeth.” They see the bound man’s speechless lips and helpless hands and feet. No voice now to plead for mercy, or to make excuse. No hands now to uplift in prayer or to work belated righteousness. No foot now to run to mercy’s seat, or to flee from the wrath to come. Poor dumb lips; poor bound hands and feet!
Finally they witness the terrible ordeal of fire in which even the Christian’s unscriptural work perishes, himself barely escaping as it were. by fire. Now, indeed, do outbreaking sinners realize the awful import of the text: “If the righteous is scarcely saved, where, oh where, shall the ungodly and the sinners appear!” Thus both before and after death does the sinner stand in anticipation before the judgment seat of Christ.
PROP. 3. — The sinner at the judgment.
This judgment fulfills all anticipations. It is every way terrible.
Its publicity is awful. All the intelligences of the universe are there—heaven’s shining angels hell’s lowering demons — earth’s men, whether good or bad.
Its scope is awful. Every idle word, brutal oath or foul blasphemy. Every slimy thought, unclean imagination or undeveloped intent of envy or malice. Every deed of darkness.
The books are awful. What God has written is written. Written not alone in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, as was Pilate’s inscription on the cross, but in the Volapuk of men and angels. Fearful books. There is the winged book of God’s curses that swoops like a bird of prey on every thief and liar and adulterer and fixes beak and talon on his heart and lifts its shadows from his future NEVERMORE.
There is the book of tears. Every tear, O sinner, thy wickedness has caused to fall from a mother’s weeping eyes, every tear distilled from the sorrows of those whom thou hast wronged, and oh, in finitely more than all others, every tear shed by the Redeemer when his heart was broken by thy impenitence and incorrigible rebellion, all these will be as scalding drops of liquid fire on thy soul forever.
At this judgment, O sinner, three great laws have exceeding emphasis:
- THE LAW OF MEMORY — God’s memory and thine.
In time, thy memory is often treacherous. Thou hast put many things behind thee, and because thou didst not like to retain them in mind, thou hast held them as dead and quite forgotten. But God himself never forgets, and has the power to quicken thy memory. From the book of his recollection, all thy sins are set in order before thee and thy memory awakened to recognize them. As a palimpsest manuscript under the microscope reveals the earlier writing under the later writing, so shall thy memory be made to recall, reproduce and revivify all facts supposed long since to be sponged from the tablets of the mind. When God maketh inquisition for blood he remembereth, and thy memory is quickened to verify all that his memory witnesseth. There can be no dispute as to the facts. As the opposing attorneys for plaintiff and defendant submit to an appellate court a joint statement of facts, so shall thy memory and God’s memory subscribe to an agreed statement of facts.
- THE LAW OF CONSCIENCE.
But it is not enough to remember the facts. There must be recognition and confession of their moral quality. These deeds and thoughts and imaginations and words of thine were not idle things. They appear righteous or unrighteous, when quadrated with supreme law. Not the law of human custom or jurisprudence, but the infinitely holy law of God, prescribing all good and proscribing all evil.
Thy conscience in time, O sinner, becomes blunted in its moral perceptions. Thy sins debauch and corrupt it. But that day it will see clearly. There are no mists in the atmosphere of the last judgment and no illusions possible. That day thy spirit will be as the candle of the Lord. It will pronounce evil all that is evil. It will not put light for darkness and darkness for light. What God condemns thy conscience will condemn. As thy quickened memory will prevent any dispute as to the facts, so thy quickened conscience will prevent any dispute as to the moral quality of actions.
- THE LAW OF CHARACTER.
Thy habits of thought and conduct have produced fixity of character. If it be now true that what a man thinks that he is, more certainly it becomes true that what the trend of his thought and life has produced that will he remain forever. There is constant tendency to fixedness of type. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are ACCUSTOMED TO DO EVIL.” This long-continued habit becomes second nature. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. If, O sinner, thou art not now made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, thou couldest find no happiness in that light. If already thou preferrest to be buried under hills and mountains rather than look once on the radiance and holy face of the enthroned Messiah, how couldest thou endure to see his face forever? With thy nature evil to the core, how couldest thou enjoy the blessedness of those whom grace hath redeemed? On the portals of the heavenly city is written, Let no unclean thing enter here. The inscription on the seal which stamps the divine impress on Christians reads, Let him that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. And the six-winged Seraphim that stands in the presence of the immaculate One, with twain cover their face – with twain their feet — with twain they fly — while they cry continually, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!
That place would be hell to thee.
That music would harrow thy soul.
That light would be so inexpressibly painful to thee that any depth of hell would be preferable.
And when the supreme question is put to thy soul, O Soul, how didst thou treat God’s love in the gift of his Son’s grace? How didst thou treat the invitations of the gospel? How didst thou treat the messengers who tendered the divine love? How didst thou treat God’s love in the gift of his Son? How didst thou esteem the cleansing blood of the covenant? How didst thou treat the wooings of the Holy Spirit? Thy memory will recall the facts, thy conscience will declare their moral quality and thy lips will confess the equity of thy eternal sentence, Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
One Book will tell all the story — the Book of Life . The mere absence of thy name from that roll will be sufficient. How suggestive, yea, how fearful the song:
“When thou, my righteous Judge, shalt come
To take thy ransomed people home;
Oh, can I bear the piercing thought,
What if my name should be left out!”
PROP. 4. — There will be degrees in the sufferings of the lost.
Our Lord himself declared both the fact and the principle: “Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not. Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades; for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for thee.” (Matt. 11:20-24.)
According to the light, privileges and opportunities neglected or despised will be the grade of suffering. Some are greater sinners than others. Their guilt is more aggravated. They have played the part of demons. They have debauched and seduced others. They have shed innocent blood. They have fattened on the woes of others. Self-centered, they have selfishly lived and died.
And some have been openly and daringly impious. They have blasphemed God and trampled scornfully under foot the blood of Jesus. They have mocked and blasphemed the Holy Spirit. But whatever the doom, its righteousness is confessed on bended knee. So at last the Scripture is fulfilled: “Jesus being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross . Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:8-11.)