We often view the Day of Judgment as anything but pleasant. The thought of standing before the Lord with the Book of Life opened is nothing short of terrifying. Will He let us into heaven? Will He scold us before pulling a lever that releases a trap door to hell? Judgment scares us, and for good reason. Most of the sermons we’ve heard concerning the judgment have focused on the negative. Everything associated with the Day of Judgment seems to be painted with a brush of doom and gloom. A lot of sermons have been preached on the Day of Judgment in an effort to scare people into submission. Oftentimes, when we talk about the judgment, we go to scriptures like Revelation 20:12-15 or Hebrews 10:26-27; scary scriptures for sure. I’m certainly not suggesting that we should avoid these scriptures for fear of being too negative. Rather than avoiding them, maybe we need to look at the differently.
What I think happens, all too often, is we assume that Jesus is talking to me–the Christian. And He is, but I think these words are scary for us because we’re reading them as if we stand condemned. Why? You’re a child of God. You don’t practice lawlessness. You’ve been washed in the blood of Christ. You’re a new creature in Christ. If you are outside of Christ, if you are lost, then you should be scared and you have every reason to be concerned, but there is still hope. You haven’t been thrown out into the outer darkness; not yet. As long as you’re alive, you have the opportunity to become a disciple. Still, many Christians remain terrified at the prospect of the Judgment because they assume that they are the object of God’s wrath. As a result, the Day of Judgment is not something they anticipate. They don’t get all that excited about it. But what if? What if the Day of Judgment wasn’t thought of as doom and gloom? What if we could be more confident? What if we actually looked forward to Judgment Day?
God doesn’t want us to be afraid. All those scary passages about the Day of Judgment don’t have to be scary for us. Notice what is written in 1 John 4, beginning in verse 15:
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love (1 Jn. 4:15-18).
Fear is an emotion that is born out of an expectation of punishment. You fear because you’re afraid of being punished. But why would you, a Christian, be punished? Are you not forgiven? The difference-maker in all of this is LOVE. I know that sounds a little too warm and fuzzy, especially when we’re talking about the Day of Judgment, but notice again what John writes:
17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment;
Perfect love casts out fear. John even says that, if you fear, then you’re not perfected in love. You can have confidence on the Day of Judgment because God loves you. Believe it or not, it’s as simple as that. When love comes in, fear departs (vs. 17-18). God and His wrath may seem scary to us, but we can take solace in the fact that He loves us so immensely; that love swallows up fear. The only fear we should have is letting Him down, but we don’t dread punishment. We look forward to eternal fellowship with the Father. We face the day of Jesus’ return with confidence, knowing that there will be no surprises, because we abide in God’s love.
It should be noted that John is not suggesting a Beatles-type of salvation. You may remember that The Beatles sang the song All You Need is Love. John isn’t saying that love is all you need when it comes to facing the Day of Judgment with confidence. John’s words here in Chapter 4 were, obviously, meant to build on his previous writings.
- John 14:15—“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”
- John Chapter 3 when Jesus told Nicodemus that He must be born again of the water and the Spirit. Just loving Jesus and others was, obviously, not enough.
- 1 John 1:7—“But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”
John isn’t advocating love with no responsibility. Love is an action word. It does something. In reference to our salvation, it was love that brought Jesus to the cross, and it’s love that motivates our desire to live faithfully.
I find it interesting that John’s focus on the Day of Judgment is love. We might expect him to talk about Bible study, prayer, worship, service, etc., when talking about confidence on the Day of Judgment. Notice that John doesn’t tie confidence to the particulars that we often think of. He doesn’t mention spiritual disciplines. He doesn’t talk about what Bible version you use, or what you wear to worship. He doesn’t make any mention of being at church every time the doors are open. John says that the confidence factor comes down to one thing—LOVE. Does that mean that church attendance, Bible study, prayer, etc., are unimportant? Of course not. In fact, it’s through these things that we learn who God is and what Christian love is all about. If the love of God abides in you, then those are things you do willingly and naturally. When you abide in the love of God, it changes everything. It changes how you think, how you speak, how you act, and how you interact with other people. It dominates your life and sets your priorities. This is life-changing love.
You want confidence on the Day of Judgment? Dwell in the love of God and let the love of God dwell in you. Let the love of God reign in your heart, and let the love of God rule your life. Be confident as you look forward to the Day of Judgment.