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Question #423

How can Judgment Follow Forgiveness?

In Rev.20:12 we read the books were opened and all were judged according to deeds that were found in the books. Psalm 103:12 says He has removed our sins from as far as the East is from the West. 1st John 1:9 says if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins. We are told in the Bible if He forgives our sins He remembers them no more. My question is the following: If we repent and confess our sins and God forgives them from as far as the East is from the West and He remembers them no more, how can we still be judged by the deeds we are supposed to have been forgiven and which are remembered no more?

The Answer:

There are several passages in the New Testament that speak of judgment based on man’s deeds. 2 Cor. 5:10-11 is one of those passages: “For 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. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” It is this passage that this answer will address. (Both Rev. 20:14 and 2 Cor. 5:10 speak of judgment based on deeds. However, both do not speak of the same judgment. See Lesson 24 on Revelation on this website. There is no doubt that 2 Cor. 5:10 speaks of final judgment, and it is final judgment concerning which this question inquires.)

An incorrect assumption gives rise to the enquiry – “how can we still be judged by the deeds [that] are supposed to have been forgiven and which are remembered no more?” God’s children will not be judged on that which has been forgiven. That is the case because one of the deeds done in the body was obedience to the will of God (Matt. 7:21-27; Acts 2:38). Jesus describes final judgment in Matt. 25:25:31-46. It is clearly based on deeds, but Jesus sees only the good deeds of the redeemed who have walked in the light. 1 John 1:5-10. The sins of the redeemed have indeed been removed, never again to be charged against them.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)