The Judgment Seat and Works
Protestants agree that Christians are saved by the grace of God through belief in God the Son, Jesus Christ, and his redemptive work on the cross.
Look at Rev. 20:11-15:
11 ¶ And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
You will notice that twice in that paragraph from Scripture describing the judgment day we read that they are judged according to their works. What this means is that no man is condemned to the lake of fire because of Adams sin, or being a member of a fallen race for the children do not taste the sour grapes in their father's mouth (cf. Ezek. 18:2). Every man will be judged by the light he had and their response to this light.
The Word says, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." We may well shudder and wish those words where not there; but they are. So what is the Book of Life? It is a book of all human life from beginning to end of human history. It is not a the book of only the redeemed in Christ, as many would teach. Nope, according to it's name it is a book of all human life. Every person has an entry, but there are those whose names have been blotted out through wickedness, impenitence, unbelief and the rejection of God the Spirit.
Observe carefully that not all in that vast non Christian multitude are relegated to the same penalty within the lake of fire. Jesus made it clear that Gehenna, the lake of fire, is the extreme penalty for not responding to God's grace by faith. As there are degrees of reward for faithful service, so there is degrees of punishment for degrees of guilt. Will God treat a honorable man or many an upright mother and a blaspheming mass murderer without making any distinction? Nay, says Scripture: "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? (Gen. 18:25).
Paul clearly taught that salvation was by divine grace alone and not by the works of man. James taught that living faith, as a by-product, would have works--but whose works was James talking about? It is written in Jeremiah 17:9-10, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Romans 3:10-11 says, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God." Finally, in Romans 8:8 Paul writes, "So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God." All these verses show that man is wicked to the core that the works of the flesh will never please the Lord in heaven. So, if we are saved by faith and not of works lest any man boast as Ephesians 2:8-9 attests, then why are we judged of works? To really begin to understand that judgment is by works, we ought to look at other verses on the subject. Compare the following:
Proverbs 21:2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.
Proverbs 24:12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?
Psalm 62:12 Also unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy: for thou renderest to every man according to his work.
Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.
The real answer is in the understanding that any righteousness that a faithful believer possesses is not of himself, but of God working through Him. The believer in submission onto God allows the righteous God to work through themselves. In this way does a person have spiritual works and not works of the flesh. Spiritual works are what is counted onto God because they are not of ourselves -but of a holy and righteous God, the fruit of the person of God the Spirit working within our lives.
May we all seek to know the truth and walk in Christ.
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