Will There Be a Judgment for The Believers?

Published on 15 June 2024 at 20:38

Will there be a judgment for God’s chosen people and the church in general? What does the Bible say about it? Discussing this topic might be difficult to digest sometimes, but it is good to be studied and comprehended well by those who are converted. They are also capable of understanding it properly.

We will discuss it by giving some practical and biblical examples.

We all know there will be a judgment day in which God will judge everyone according to his deeds. The Bible generally suggests that the believers, who have been washed by the blood of Christ, will not be judged in the same way as the unbelievers. Their condemnation has been passed on Christ’s behalf on the cross. Romans 14:10 states that we all will face the “judgment seat” where their works will be judged. For the people who have refused to accept Christ, the judgment will be different as their names will not be written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:11-15). Still, the Bible talks of a particular judgment that the believers will go through.

”For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it  begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

This verse refers to the house of God as the church and the believers in general. What did Peter want to say with the statement that the judgment begins with the house of God? This passage has to do with a judgment that believers will experience here in this life. While everyone will have to face judgment for the wrong he has done when this life ends, God wants to preserve His beloved from that moment, and they, in a way, are judged and corrected here for their wrongdoings, mistakes, or anything else that needs to be treated in their lives. Even if they are new creations in Christ and don’t follow the same lifestyle, they still might sin and commit mistakes that are wrong in front of God. Notice that the passage states, ”For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God” (emphasis added). The phrase “for the time has come” suggests that the time we believers will receive that judgment is in the present time while we live. This judgment is expressed in the corrections we might receive or certain trials we are going through and has as a purpose to help us grow in our faith, sanctify us, and perfect us. This is the fiery trial we need to go through (1 Peter 4:12). The unbelievers don’t go through this process. We believe we have a loving Father who sometimes corrects us for our good (Hebrews 12:3-11). This is why we often see people living ungodly lives, doing whatever they want without any scruples, and not receiving reproach and retribution for their sins. This is because their judgment is reserved for one day if they don’t repent.

“then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2 Peter 2:9)

This is one of the passages saying that the unjust will be judged on the day of judgment. This means that most of the time, they will not receive now their retribution.

”But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled; My steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.” (Psalms 73:2-5)

In this passage, the psalmist expressed his discontent about the wicked living in any way they want and practicing wickedness without retribution. This is what we see happening in today’s days, and it has been happening almost all the time since the beginning. Except in certain particular cases, we will see the wicked prospering and continuing to practice iniquity and sin. This happens also because God made things in such a way that He doesn’t want to force people to believe because of fear or because they know they will be punished. This is also the reason why people today question God. Because they don’t see Him interfering now and punishing people at the moment they do evil. They question Him without knowing that the Bible explains clearly why He withholds His judgment. Because He is patient and wants to give them an opportunity (2 Peter 3:9). Of course, there will be retribution and a judgment one day, but people are being just warned about it. God wants them to accept the truth by faith, not because they are forced by fear. He wants people to believe willingly in Him because they have comprehended something and because they love Him. That’s why, except for some cases in the Old and the New Testament, He doesn’t give retribution now to people in the very moment someone does something wrong. Otherwise, they would have obeyed Him by fear and not by faith. Only faith in Him saves, and He wants us to have it. Therefore, these are some reasons why He works in such a way.

Still, according to 1 Peter 4:17, we see that He talks of a judgment beginning with the house of God. This means that it will be before the general judgment, which will await all the other people. As the previous verses in that passage talk of trials and things that believers need to go through (1 Peter 4:12-16), we also conclude that this kind of judgment is something that happens in this life. Why? Because God loves us and wants to teach us lessons throughout this life so that we can partake of His glory. Of course, salvation is brought by His blood, but He wants to let us avoid mistakes that we commit, and this is through His correction and chastisement. This is also why judgment is brought to the believers in this life – because of mistakes or sins they commit. Believers will never fully have to pay for their sins as that would have been something much greater than what they can bear, and Christ paid it all. More than paying for their sins, the judgment and the correction they experience is to teach them something. They might experience this correction for sins and mistakes they know or maybe even for issues they don’t know they have or errors they might experience in the future, but still, the Father who knows and scrutinizes the hearts wants to preserve them from falling into that.

“Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.” (Psalm 19:12)

Here, the psalmist expressed the desire to be cleansed from his secret faults, from the ones that he didn’t even know well about. At times, God works in our lives to preserve us from falling into certain sins that we might fall into or to let us acknowledge our secret and hidden sins. Here, we are not talking of sins that the believer deliberately hides but of the ones that he doesn’t know to have. One example of such a sin in my life is pride. There were times when God had to show me clearly that I was acting with pride.

God also allows us to go through trials to strengthen our faith, not just because we have specific sins He deals with at that moment. This way, He prepares us to face future situations or use us in a particular way. So, we conclude that not all trials or hard moments happen in the life of the believer because of an error he has committed. We also live in a corrupt world. This is a mystery that only God knows about. Looking at Job's life, for example, we see that he went through many trials, and evidently, we cannot see in the scripture that he had sinned or done something wrong. Was this part of the mysterious ways in which God works in the life of the believer, as we see that in the end, Job’s eyes were opened to know more about God (Job 42:1-6)? Yes, it was. These are moments that we are not in control of, and they have to do with the world in which we live and with things that only God knows about. He is able to turn something wrong into something profitable and good. We are not in control of this, but we need to be aware of the things we know about and place our part in them.

Let us see some biblical examples of how the Lord brings judgment on the believers in their lifetime if they sin.

We have the example of Salomon, who became an idolater and sinned, and one of the consequences was that His kingdom became divided (1 Kings 11:9-11). The division of the kingdom occurred after his death, but still, there is another passage indicating that he was judged in his lifetime.

”Now the Lord  raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was a descendant of the king in Edom.” (1 Kings 11:14)

This passage comes after the passages talking of his sins.

We need to remember that this wasn’t for a condemnation but to teach him a lesson. I acknowledge that something similar happens in my life when I fall into sin.

Other passages similar to that are found in the book of Judges, where we see enemies attacking God’s nation and enslaving it after their sinning and idolatry (Judges 3:7, 8, 3:12, 4:1, 2, 6:1, 2, 10:6, 7).

In these passages, we see that in a way, when Israel was sinning, the Lord was taking away His protecting hand from them. He was delivering them into the hands of their enemies. In this way, they could see how wrong it is to abandon the Lord and serve other Gods. This is the way He used to correct them so that they could become aware that they needed Him. In today’s days, He might act in a similar way toward believers because He doesn’t want them to get away from Him. He wants them to live forever with Him.

“And the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord strengthened Eglon king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the Lord.” (Judges 3:12)

This is what happened, too, when the Babylonians brought Israel into exile.

“Moreover I will deliver all the wealth of this city, all its produce, and all its precious things; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give into the hand of their enemies, who will plunder them, seize them, and carry them to Babylon.” (Jeremiah 20:5)

This is a prophecy said by the prophet Jeremiah regarding what was about to happen to the nation of Israel. It all was a result of their stubbornness, rebellion, and disobedience toward God. That was the moment when they had to accept God’s chastisement and submit to the king of Babylonia. At other times, they had to fight their enemies, and God blessed them with victory. This time, however, was different. It is important for us to acknowledge the time in which we live and the condition in which we are and know well the way God works by correcting us. This will help us accept his chastisement, comprehend certain tough situations we live in, and learn the most from them. We need to know as well that when the Lord corrects us today, it will not happen in the exact way it happened in the Old Testament. We are not the nation of Israel, and we will not be taken into exile. This might occur in a spiritual way, and if we perceive things spiritually, we will understand when it happens.

God brings judgment into a believer’s life to show him something and to correct his life for good. Sometimes, what God does is to take away His protecting hand or restrain His blessings from the believer. God’s intent, in this case, is not to abandon the believer but to teach him a lesson so that he can also come back to Him as quickly as possible. God will do anything possible to bring the believer back to Him. When the believer sins, God takes His hand away from him, but it is also with the purpose that he can comprehend how bad it is living away from the Lord.

In this way, it is true that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). After a failure and a process of restoration, the believer always learns something new in most cases. He learns from his mistakes and comprehends how good the Lord is. The bitter experience turns out to be a blessing to him. This fact doesn’t suggest that sinning is fine; it just shows how the Lord works at times through His mercies. Remember the time when King David sinned by committing adultery with Bathsheba? Indeed, the Lord’s blessings departed from him at that moment, and there were consequences (2 Samuel 12:7-15), but in the end, of that union with her was born Salomon, who later became his heir to the throne and was blessed by the Lord. What was wrong turned out into something good. This is a mystery that only God knows. It doesn't mean that we need to sin; on the contrary, we need to strive to live in holiness, get away from sin, and not persevere in it when it happens. Persevering has to do with hardening, and there are more severe consequences there. These consequences happen because God loves us. If He left us without any repercussions, then we would easily get far away from Him, which would make us suffer. He doesn’t want that. The reason why He doesn’t chasten most of the unbelievers is because they wouldn’t understand that and wouldn’t bear it. It is also said in His word:

“Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.” (Proverbs 9:8)

This verse refers to the scoffer as the unbeliever and the wise man as the believer. We, believers, should be wiser and more understanding of the spiritual times we live in and know if we are going through a time of godly correction. This should help us accept the correction and be humble. All this gets us closer to the Father and the image He wants to create in us. Still, there might be difficulty sometimes for a believer to comprehend the correction he receives.

We need to know as well that there might be cases when bad things happen to us that do not have to do with a straight correction we receive from God. Those situations can still work for something good, but it is unknown why they happen. It might be just because we live in a corrupt and fallen world. Still, God, in His good will, uses them to purify the life of the believer and to strengthen his faith. When I talk of the Lord’s correction, I mostly refer to the deliberate sins we commit and the consequences that follow.  

How does God correct us, and how is His judgment manifested?

God corrects us first through a word of admonishment. If we are believers seeking to hear His voice, we will find that admonishment in His word, which is the Bible. What happens sometimes is that we already know that, and this time, God will use certain situations to work on our lives and to show what is wrong. As we mentioned already, He might withhold His hand from us momentarily, and things might not go as smoothly as they used to. He is, though, always in control, and He will not allow us to go through a trial or a situation that is too heavy for us to bear. Some of the examples above show that He, in a way, allowed His nation to be attacked and subdued by their enemies. He used people who were completely unaware that God was using them as an instrument to correct His nation. This is what happened with the King of Babylonia, who attacked and subdued Israel. He was a pagan King, and even though God later manifested Himself to him, he was ignorant of the fact that God used him as a weapon to chasten His people. We need to know that in all these trials and hardships, God didn’t allow them to go through trials they couldn’t bear. Only those who rebelled to the correction perished; those who understood and submitted to it, as the prophet Jeremiah told them, survived and even lived peacefully (Jeremiah 29:7). We are always at a sure place in God’s hand; we just need to know that sometimes He uses correction to work in our lives. In this way there is another very famous verse saying:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

We need to know that God told this through His prophet Jeremiah to His nation when they were just carried away captive to Babylon. They didn’t receive this message when everything was going fine. No. They had made mistakes in their past and sinned, and now there was God’s correction and judgment upon them, taking them to Babylon. Still, God tells them that this is for something good. He indeed kept His promises and brought them back to their land, but it is not a matter of this only. It is a matter that all the trials and chastisements we might be going through are for the good of those who love God. This is something that only the believers benefit from. Sometimes, we are used to thinking that all will always be fine and that we will always be blessed. It is true, but often, God’s idea of what is fine for us is different than ours. Or better said, the ways He uses to get us to the stage of being fine and blessed are not what we imagine. We just want to get to that stage. This shows that when we receive chastisement, we need to be sure and confident that it is for something good.

Sometimes, God uses people to treat and chastise our lives, which, as we said, is for good. If we know this and maybe understand that it happens for a purpose, we will not fight those people as we might think of doing, but we will see what God wants to teach us through that situation. God will not send people like the king of Babylonia to deport us to another country, but it might use situations in which we might be having difficulties with some people. These people, in general, will not be believers, but still, if we act in the right way in those situations, they might see the glory of God, the same as it happened to King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:28, 29, Daniel 4:34-37). This is what I saw happening in my life at times when God wanted to correct me. There were moments when I suddenly found myself in a difficult situation with certain people and having discussions with them. With time, I realized this mostly happened whenever I failed God in a certain aspect or sinned. Then, I perceived that what I was living was coming from God. That made me not fight those people but see the situation from a different perspective, knowing that it was a correction from the Lord for my wrongdoings or attitudes.

God’s chastisement and judgment are not easy topics to discuss, as many people prefer only to know that Jesus died for them, paid for their sins, and saved them. This is true if they believe in Him, but there are many other aspects of salvation and grace that need to be known. What Jesus said to some of the people He healed was that they shouldn’t continue sinning (John 5:14, John 8:11).

Obviously, we mustn’t think that everything happens because of God’s correction. He, who is a spiritual person, would be able to acknowledge what is from God and what is not.

There is another passage that deals with the topic, and this situation occurred on one of the occasions when David sinned in front of the Lord. This time, what happened was slightly different because a prophet was sent to him to offer him a chance to choose his judgment.

 

10 And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”

11 Now when David arose in the morning, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying, 12 “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the Lord: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.” ’ ” 13 So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.”

14 And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”

15 So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. 16 And when the angel stretched out His hand over Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the destruction, and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “It is enough; now restrain your hand.” And the angel of the Lord was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

17 Then David spoke to the Lord when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.” (2 Samuel 24:10-17)

Here, we see that David sinned by numbering the people. We are not going to examine now how sinful or wrong it is. Surely, there was a reason, and that was that maybe he would trust in his capability or boast because of the increment of his nation. What is important, however, is that the Lord considered it as a sin. This time, David was offered three ways of judgment to choose from. He humbly acknowledges that was wrong and that he indeed deserves judgment. We see that He chooses the third one, which consisted of plague in his land, saying that it is better to fall into the Lord's hand than falling into the hand of man. When the plague began, the people started to perish. After that, he felt guilty for that and began begging God to stop the plague upon the people and to turn it upon himself, saying: … “Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, be against me and against my father’s house.” (2 Samuel 24:17)

We see another aspect of the judgment of God here. This is that sometimes people might suffer because of our cause. He called those people sheep. He was their King and shepherd. He cared for them. We might be thinking that if we are not pastors or leaders, this part of the scripture is not for us, but if we care for people and love them, and God has entrusted us with responsibility for them, as I believe He entrusts all believers even if we talk of one person only, we are kind of their guides, and pastors in that case. We will not want them to suffer because of our sins and mistakes. At times, I saw that the people I was trying to lead to Christ were heavily hurt and attacked by the enemy whenever I sinned in something. Still, I was the one deserving correction in my life for what I have done. This happens to let us show that when we are away from God, we are vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy, and the protecting hand of God is not with us. This may affect us and also our surroundings. It happens to show us that there is no blessing away from Him. We might still be saved, but we could be unfruitful and lose the blessings and the fruit of our hands. This is about us, the people we try to help (lead to Christ), or our families. They are all vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks. There are people whose security and protection will depend on our relationship with God. As they are not yet spiritually strong enough, they will depend on us. We could be the spiritual figures in our families, communities, church, or workplace.

When I talk of God’s protection, I am not talking about His physical protection in most cases but of the spiritual one. This is also what is most important. We speak of spiritual protection and spiritual blessings. This is what all the rest depends on as well. David was honorable enough, in this case, to prefer that plague to fall upon himself and not upon the “sheep.” This shows his responsibility, realization of having done wrong, and love for the people. Whenever it happened that I wanted to bring people to Christ, I saw that I was losing in that area after sinning, and those people were attacked by the enemy. That is the blessing I am talking about – knowing Christ.

So, we conclude that the judgment or correction we receive could happen because, first, we have done something wrong, and second, something unknown to us but well known to God needs to be treated and transformed. The consequence that comes from what we have done could affect us and others around us.  

The correction we receive from God, even though not always pleasant (Hebrews 12:11), is what identifies us as sons of God. If a person doesn’t feel any repercussions because of sin, correction, or admonishment from God, or at least guilt, he can doubt his salvation (Hebrews 12:8) and needs to examine himself. We are not to feel shame only when a member of the church finds out we have done something wrong.

Knowing and understanding the topic of the Father’s judgment and chastisement for His sons will help us know Him better and go through trials and tough situations in a good way. We would know, even though, in part, the purpose of why things happen. Most importantly, we would know the Father’s heart who does all of this for our good and who loves us too much. That’s why He doesn’t want to leave us going astray. He wants us to be safe with Him.


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