I once heard a life-coach say we should all have a five-year plan for our lives. I agree that it is good to think wisely about the future, but a five-year plan is not thinking far enough ahead. Adolph Hitler had a one-thousand-year plan, but even that fell short because it did not take into consideration God’s righteous judgment and eternal life. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul warns us to think in the light of eternity, and this is extremely practical, for it changes the decisions we make every moment of every day.
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge
the living and the dead…”
Here Paul is writing the last chapter in the last of his letters recorded in the Word of God. In his words, we hear his realization he is not long for this world and will soon be facing eternity and the righteous judge, Jesus Christ. Several times in this chapter, Paul reminds us that all mankind will stand before a righteous judge. He admits he himself will be judged (vs. 7-8), and that Alexander will also be rewarded according to his evil deeds (v. 14).
In the teachings of Jesus, (John 5:26-27), in the sermons of the early church (Acts 17:30-31), in the letters to the churches (2 Cor. 5:10), and even in the Apostle’s Creed, we see the absolute and righteous judgment of Jesus Christ is a major and inescapable theme. And this is a good thing, for all of us have a built-in sense of justice that longs to see right rewarded and evil punished.
In most cases, evil deeds do generally have consequences in this world, but they definitely have consequences in the life to come. What we do day by day matters, for God remembers and judges righteously in the end.
As believers, we understand that our works do not play a part in whether or not we spend eternity in heaven. It is only the finished work of Jesus Christ that makes that possible. Ultimately every evil deed will be accounted for and paid for, either by the blood of Jesus or by everlasting punishment meted out by the final justice of God. We are not saved by works, but we are judged for the works that we do, good or evil.
But why would a loving God judge people? We often ask this question because we fail to understand God in the fullness of his nature. God is infinitely loving, but he is equally holy. So, final, absolute and righteous judgment serves the purpose of glorifying God by magnifying his holiness and righteousness and at the same time his grace and mercy. He judges sin but has mercy on us as well. In the end, all of the redeemed of God will stand in absolute awe that this infinitely righteous and merciful God has received us to himself and yet stayed true to his holy nature.
The truth of righteous judgment should challenge how we live our day-to-day lives.
- If we trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation, it shouldn’t cause us to fear eternal punishment, but it should cause us to be careful how we act. There should be a healthy fear because there will be a loss of reward for what we have done wrong(1 Cor. 3:12-15).
- We should be encouraged that God rewards us for the right things we have done.
- It allows us to forgive freely, for vengeance is the Lord’s, he will repay (Romans 12:19). For even when our Lord Jesus was reviled, did not revile in return, but entrusted himself to him who judges righteously (1 Peter 2:22-23).
So much more could be said about this great and awful doctrine. A scriptural study of this truth will certainly adjust our thinking and our actions. The point of Paul in this chapter is that we should live in the light of that day: preach the Word, live soberly, keep the faith, and be ready at all times. Have your five-year plan, but more importantly, live for eternity!