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What is meant by the phrase that Jesus will judge the living and the dead? If I were to die now, would I be judged now, or do I lie in wait somewhere until the final judgement to find out my fate?
Thank you for a most interesting and thoughtful question about the judgement.
The phrase you chose comes from Paul’s second letter to Timothy, in which Paul tells us I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2). Paul is reminding us that there is a day to come on which all of us must appear before God's throne: a day of final and ultimate judgement. So the first answer I have for you is that God will judge the dead as well as the living on the day when He returns in His glory. The living will be on earth when he returns, while the dead will be raised from their graves.
Your second question, about whether judgement happens when we die or when we are raised is a good one. Jesus said to the thief on the cross: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). Some people think the explanation is that we remain spiritually asleep until we are raised to judgement, so that 'today' describes our consciousness rather than a length of time; when I go to sleep I awake refreshed without any true awareness of any time lapsed in the interim.
Others think that we remain spiritually conscious after death and either have full fellowship with God or we are cut off from Him, and then when Jesus comes our bodies will be raised so that as complete beings we will be physically and spiritually either saved or rejected.
However what can be seen in the question and which is of great significance is this: “Do we have to wait until that day to know our fate?” I would want anyone reading this item to know that we can know with certainty.
The good news of Jesus Christ is that hell will be the consequence of the sinful lifestyle of man; and the only thing in life that has eternal significance is the saving grace of the Cross, the sacrifice and resurrection that is for us in Christ Jesus. I wonder if you are not yet certain about the simplicity of this wonderful redemption? It is offered to those who will repent of life’s follies and throw themselves upon the mercy of God, accepting Jesus as our Lord as well as our Saviour. Then we can know this: therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17). We immediately become co-heirs with Christ in the eternal kingdom of God. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17)
So what is required to have that assurance of eternal salvation?
Salvation is the gift of God that is not based upon our goodness or our efforts to gain salvation by our own effort, but is gained by God’s grace to us. It is our acceptance of God’s grace that allows us to spend eternity with God in Heaven.
In order to receive that free gift of grace we need to do three things:
- Recognise that Jesus is who he said he was, God’s only Son, sent into the World to be the promised Saviour of all people. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
- Believe that Jesus allowed himself to be hung on the cross at Calvary, where he bore upon himself our sin, the Bible says that For our sake he [God] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (1 Corinthians 5:21) in order that we may be restored and redeemed into a relationship with our heavenly Father and on the third day was raised from the death to life eternal. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5)
- Respond to Jesus by saying sorry for living your life this far without God in your life. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19) and commit yourself to live a life as a follower of Jesus from this time through into eternity. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37)
If we follow the way of the Cross, then when that final day arrives you will meet that day knowing that your future is secure, not because of any good works but because of your decision to trust and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
You can have an assurance of faith and the security of Salvation by responding to Jesus by praying the simple prayer recorded on our website, that can ensure that you know today that your name is written in what is called in the Bible “The book of life” (Philippians 4:3).
So to return to your question, if you are truly a Christian trusting in Jesus, He has already been judged in your place, and so although you will appear before Him at the final judgement where He is the judge, you will be recognised as one of Jesus' redeemed people, already declared innocent through your faith in His atoning death, resurrection and ascension. Hence you will not individually be judged, but received into eternal life in the resurrected body.
I hope this answer helps you to find peace with God through Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site: Watch the video
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*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise
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