Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life

One Death Then Judgment

August, 1996
Leon L. Combs, Ph.D.

In this study, we are going to take one verse as a reference and then study some other verses that relate to that verse. The concepts being studied are fundamental to our existence: one physical death per person, and the individual judgment that follows that death.

Hebrews 9:27 reads: "And, inasmuch, as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment", and Hebrews 9:28 reads: "so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sins, to those who eagerly await Him." Verse 28 gives us the good news that we who wait for Christ will have salvation without reference to judgment, and that is great news that we need to keep in mind as we pursue this study.

I. One Life/One Death

We will return to verse 28 later, but now we need to focus on verse 27, and here we see this verse telling us two things. The first concept we study is reincarnation, which is a big part of many religions and a big part of a lot of people's philosophies who are not religious. This is a quick study! "..it is appointed for men to die once.." We see that there is no room for the concept of reincarnation in a Bible-based religion. Everyone will die once and only once so there will be no rebirth in this world for people to "get another chance". Life is only one time around the flagpole. That in itself is important news for us to understand. Many people think that they can just keep on living over and over until they get it right and then they can get their reward. This verse tells us that such a philosophy is not correct, we are appointed to die once. There is no debate possible about this concept. The study on reincarnation is over. It exists only in people's minds. It is not a part of reality.

< At this point you might ask, "Do you mean that all those people who believe in reincarnation are wrong?" Yes, that is exactly what I mean. "But they believe and base their whole life upon the concept of reincarnation. How can you say that they are wrong?" In the first place, believing something does not make it correct. Many people used to believe that the world was flat, but that did not make it so. In the second place, it is not I who say that reincarnation does not occur, it is the Bible which says so. The Bible is God's word given to us, so it is God who tells us that reincarnation does not occur. "But how do you know that the Bible is God's word and that it does not have any mistakes, like maybe that verse is wrong?" That is a good question, but it is a subject of another study. For now, we are examining these concepts assuming that the Bible is true. Maybe before we finish you will be able to answer that question yourself.

II. Judgment

The second concept we see in this verse is that after that one physical death that we are all promised, there will be judgment. There is no purgatory for us to wait around in, there will be judgment after we die. So what will be the verdict? Guilty. We are all guilty before almighty, holy God. There has never been anyone who earned his/her way into a not-guilty verdict. I used to think that there would be a weighing of the scales at judgment, and that if I had done enough good to outweigh the bad then I would be declared not guilty. But then as we have revealed to us a little understanding of how holy God is, we then begin to slowly understand that we can never produce the works to counterbalance the evil we have in our hearts. Now let us look at some Scripture to back up what I have been saying.

A. Our Human State

So what is our human state? I described it as pretty bleak above, but let's examine this issue. Answer this question right now, "Do you have a chance at all of going to heaven, bypassing judgment based upon your good works?" ______Yes, ______No. Well, since you were paying close attention to the words in our main Scripture verse, you know that you cannot bypass judgment: "... and after this comes judgment." (The "this", of course, is your one-time physical death.) So you know from this verse that you will face judgment after death. So let me rephrase the question, "Will your judgment result in your being allowed to go to heaven?" ______Yes, ______No,______I don't know. (I added that last choice to help you be honest on this test.) Well, now we will see what the Bible says about the human state, which will give you more information to enable you to answer the question better.

Isaiah 59:1,2 is a good news/bad news combination. The good news is given first followed by the bad news: "Behold, the Lord's hand is not so short that it cannot save; neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear." At this point you might say, "Wait a minute, he is not my god so this does not apply to me." You can say that if you wish, but whether or not you believe in God does not affect His existence. But don't get caught up in that diversion now, let's examine this from the Bible's standpoint.

This verse says that our iniquities have made a separation between us and God. We all as humans are separated from God, and it is our fault that the separation exists. We are responsible for our own state, and it is separation from God. Unless we can determine how to bridge that separation, if we die in separation then we remain in separation. So maybe our good works in life can bridge that separation. Let's see what the Bible says about that. Romans 3:23 reads "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". If we have all fallen short of the glory of God then we have not bridged that gap.

But maybe all have sinned can mean that there is still hope for our good works to get us to God. Or maybe our corporate good works will get a lot of us to God. Romans 14:12 reads "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God". This means that our judgment is an individual judgment, as I said above. So we will be alone before God to face judgment for our lives. So what works will we have to offer? Isaiah 64:6 reads: "For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away". Look closely at that part which says "..all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment...". This filthy garment refers to a leper's wrapping on his sores, and that is the state of our righteous deeds! It is beginning to look rather bad for us. So maybe if we study the Law of God and apply it to our lives then we can pass the judgment test? Romans 3:20 reads "because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin". Now it is looking even worse! Our own righteous works are filthy in God's sight and even obeying His Law will not get us justified.

B. God's State

The human state really looks bad. Not only are we all sinners, even our righteous acts are filthy before God. So what is God's state? God is Holy, in fact, God is Holy, Holy, Holy (Isaiah 6:3). Stating a trait three times emphasizes it and three times is the ultimate statement. So God's primary attribute is His Holiness. God's Holiness is so awesome that we really can't understand it. The Bible tells us that no one can see the face of God. Even Moses who had witnessed so many miracles and done so much for God was not allowed to see the face of God (Exodus 33:19-23). The ground is made holy by the presence of God (Exodus 3:2-5). There is an excellent book by R. C. Sproul, "The Holiness of God" which I recommend to you. The holiness nature of God is discussed in the 234 pages of his book, but we still can't really fully grasp the concept. Sproul says, "When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be "other", to be different in a special way." (Transcendentally means exceeding all limits.) So God is infinitely separated from us.

God is Holy. We are totally unclean, and our works or obeying God's law cannot clean us. Looks bad.

III. How Do We Get Right With God?

How do we become declared not guilty so that we can live forever with God instead of having to live forever out of the presence of God? Now comes some very good news! Roman's 6:23 says "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". And Romans 5:8 says "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us". So a new factor is introduced. This person Jesus Christ's death has provided us with eternal life. Now read Romans 3:24-26 and you see that Jesus is "...just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus". And in Romans 3:28 we read "For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law". So none of our works can justify us, but faith in Jesus Christ can. Further we read in Titus 3:5-7 more about how we are justified by the works of Jesus. And in Ephesians 2:8,9 we read "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast". In John 14:6 we read "Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me".

Then we come to some really good news, John 5:24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life". Remember that individual judgment that we were worried about? Since we cannot become justified, then we will fail the judgment test. This verse says that some people will not have to go through it. Why not? Because for those who believe in Jesus, He took the judgment. So when we die and come before the judgment seat of God, for those who have believed in Jesus, He will say "Father, I took the judgment for ______". If you have believed in Jesus then you may substitute your name there. If not, then you go into judgment and, as we have seen, you will fail the judgment test.

IV. Judgment or Pardon: Your Choice

Every human being has a choice, he/she can choose to take the judgment they deserve or they can choose to have that judgment transferred to Christ. It is really that simple. So right now, here is the question: "Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died for your sins so that you do not have to come into judgment?" ______ Yes ______No. You might ask "What do you mean the Son of God? Well, the payment of the sin of totally sinfully man had to be paid for by the shedding of blood (the death) of a sinless man. So God provided the sinless man in the person of Jesus Christ (Christ is a title meaning the Messiah, the savior). His death is the perfect payment by a sinless man for the sins of any who will believe in Him. If you are not sure about all this yet, then I beg you to read the book of John, which will answer many other questions about who Jesus is and what His death and resurrection mean for us. The resurrection proved that His death was the necessary and sufficient payment for the sins of those who will believe.

I hope that what has been shown here is that the Bible teaches that man is absolutely without hope before the Holy God, but that God has prepared a way for man to be right before Him. If this is correct then, without the belief in Jesus, all are doomed after the one promised death. It is not worth taking a chance on whether the Christians are right and all the others are wrong. If you don't believe yet, surely you must investigate this possibility. Think a minute about the ratio of your lifetime here and the time of eternity. Your lifetime here is negligible compared to all time. Therefore the only lasting significance you can make is what you do that affects the time of eternity, if life there really exists as Christianity says. You must admit that an open-minded study of the concepts of Christianity is the only reasonable approach for anyone to take.

Where do you start? First get the frame of mind that you will investigate this claim of Christianity with an open mind and pray that God (if He exists you might honestly add) will guide you in your study. Then buy a Bible. I recommend the New American Standard Bible which is probably the best interpretation and truer to the original languages in which the Bible was written. Then I recommend that you begin in Matthew and continue. It is also very important to have a mature Christian to help you with your study. Really study like your life depended upon it. Your eternity does.

This is either the end or the beginning. It is up to you.

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Web Author: Dr. Leon L. Combs
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