Jesus spent a lot of time talking about a final judgment. Through His parables, Jesus indicated the next life will be inaugurated by a universal judgment. In the parables of the Wheat and Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30), the Good Fish and Bad Fish (Matthew 13:47-50), the Wise and Foolish Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), and the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus presented a judgment scene in which a separation between two groups occurred, resulting in one being saved and the other being destroyed. Based on Jesus’ teaching and the rest of Scripture, what do we learn about the Day of Judgment?
- Everybody will be judged.
Regarding the Day of Judgment, Paul wrote, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10, emphasis added).
What Paul is saying is that every human being has a court date in the future. There will be no excused absences, and there will be no postponements. Judgment awaits everyone, and every person who has ever lived will receive either “eternal punishment” or “eternal life” like the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:46).
- Anybody who accepts Jesus can be welcomed into heaven.
On the Day of Judgement, it will not matter how much good you did to offset the bad nor will it matter how little you sinned in comparison to others. Those factors will not matter because we cannot earn our way into heaven as Paul clearly taught in Ephesians 2:8 when he said salvation “is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” What will matter is whether or not you accepted God’s solution for your sin problem, and the Bible teaches that those who believe in and, as a result, obey Jesus will go to heaven.
In John 3:16, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” In John 6:40, He said, “this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life.” These passages indicate that God loves the whole world but only those who believe Jesus is the Son of God will go to heaven.
However, it should be noted that belief is more than just a mental acceptance of truth. Belief manifests itself through obedience. Jesus said the one who “enter[s] the kingdom of heaven” will be “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Thus, in order to be welcomed into heaven, one must be obedient to God. Such obedience includes doing those things Jesus instructed us to do in order to receive salvation, such as confessing your belief in Him (Romans 10:9-10), repenting of your sins (Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 7:10), and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16).
Belief, confession, repentance, and baptism are the essential requirements of receiving salvation and, therefore, constitute the preparation that is necessary in order to be welcomed into the eternal wedding feast like the wise virgins of Matthew 25:1-13.
- Nobody who rejects Jesus will escape punishment in hell.
In the aforementioned parables of Jesus, when the separation between two groups occurred, one group was always punished. For example, the weeds were separated from the wheat and burned, the bad fish was separated from the good fish and thrown away, the foolish virgins were separated from the wise virgins and shut out, and the goats were separated from the sheep and sent away to eternal punishment. Such punishments remind us that the Day of Judgment will not only inaugurate the believer’s eternity in heaven, but it will also inaugurate the unbeliever’s eternity in hell.
Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus described hell using three primary metaphors. First, He described hell as a place of darkness (Matthew 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). This metaphor implies that hell is going to be a place of total isolation and eternal loneliness of the soul because it is lacking “the light of the world” (John 8:12). Second, Jesus described hell as possessing fire (Matthew 13:40, 42, 50; 18:8-9; 25:41). This metaphor implies that hell will be a place of discomfort and pain. Finally, Jesus described hell as a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50; 2:13; 24:51; 25:30, 41). This metaphor implies that hell will be a place of self-reproach and remorse.
However, the most important thing Jesus ever said about hell is who will be going there. He indicated that hell is reserved for those who reject Him either by refusing to believe in His identity (Mark 16:16; John 3:16-18; 8:24; Matthew 10:32-33) or by refusing to do His will (Matthew 7:21-27; 25:41-46).
- Somebody will be surprised by the outcome.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
In other words, Jesus indicated that on the Day of Judgment, some will be surprised when they are not saved. Such was the case for the goats, who were sent to eternal punishment in the Parable of the Sheep And Goats. They were surprised when Jesus said “Depart from me” as evidenced by their immediate response, which was to ask “when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?” (Matthew 25:44). This response reveals that the “goats” were not expecting to be condemned. In like manner, some who will incur eternal punishment will be surprised because they assumed they would be receiving eternal life.
There is a statue of Christopher Columbus in Valladolid, Spain, the city where he died. At the bottom of the statue is the Latin phrase “Non Plus Ultra,” which means “No More Beyond.” This phrase was adopted from the mythological Pillars of Hercules, which were allegedly constructed by Hercules at the Straits of Gibraltar on the southern coast of Spain. These pillars bore the warning “No more beyond” to discourage sailors from traveling beyond the straits because the world believed that Spain was the western edge of landmass on Earth. However, Columbus disproved this belief in 1492 and showed that there was more beyond. So, the statue of Columbus in Valladolid not only has the phrase “No More Beyond,” but it also features a lion devouring the word “No” in order to symbolize that there is in fact more beyond. The same is true for the spiritual realm. There is more beyond this life, so let’s be prepared rather than surprised.