This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
1. Matthew 12:36–37
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Read More
Eternal judgment awaits any who attempt to turn the people against Jesus by slanderous accusations of blasphemy. By your words you will be justified means people’s words will be outward evidence of their inward character. “Justified” here means “shown to be righteous.” This verse does not use “justified” in the Pauline sense of “declared righteous by God.” Similarly, evil people’s evil words will be evidence by which they will be condemned.
2. John 5:21–25
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. Read More
The Father shows to Jesus all that he himself is doing—i.e., Jesus perceives God’s hand and purpose in every event in this world. The greater works are initially the raising of the dead (John 11:1–45). Even more, they include Jesus’ own death and resurrection (John 18–20), then the voice of this same Jesus summoning all mankind to final resurrection and judgment (John 5:27–30).
Jesus’ statement that the Son also gives life to whom he will is another claim to deity, showing that Jesus does what only God can do, for the Old Testament makes clear that raising the dead and giving life are the sole prerogatives of God (cf. Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7). This “life” is both the new “life” now given to believers (John 5:24; 11:25–26; 2 Cor. 5:17) and the resurrection of the body at Christ’s second coming (1 Cor. 15:42–57; 1 Thess. 4:13–18; see Dan. 12:2).
Jesus’ assertion that the Father . . . has given all judgment to the Son is yet another claim to deity, since judgment is the exclusive prerogative of God (e.g., Gen. 18:25; Judg. 11:27). The Father has delegated the work of final judgment to the Son.
The statement that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father in effect establishes Jesus’ right to be worshiped and also amounts to a claim to deity. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him shows that religions such as Judaism and Islam that consider Jesus merely a great prophet do not represent the truth about God, because they fail to worship and honor Jesus.
Has eternal life is one of the most striking statements in John regarding the present possession of eternal life. Eternal life begins immediately, in a partially realized but significant way, when one believes in Jesus. Those who believe can face the last judgment with confidence (cf. 1 John 5:11–13).
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3. Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Read More
“Therefore” indicates that Paul is stating an important summary and conclusion related to his preceding argument. The “therefore” is based first on the exclamation of victory that comes “through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:23–25), which in turn is linked back to Romans 7:6, where the idea of the “new life of the Spirit” is first mentioned. But more broadly Paul seems to be recalling his whole argument about salvation in Christ from Romans 3:21–5:21. The now in Romans 8:1 matches the “now” in Romans 7:6, showing that the new era of redemptive history has “now” been inaugurated by Christ Jesus for those who are “now” in right standing before God because they are united with Christ. But the summary relates further to the whole argument presented in Romans 3–5. No condemnation echoes the conclusion stated in Romans 5:1 (“Therefore . . . we have peace with God”) and underscores the stunning implications of the gospel first introduced in Romans 1:16–17. As Paul immediately goes on to explain, there is “no condemnation” for the Christian because God has condemned sin in the flesh by sending his own Son (Rom. 8:3) to pay the penalty for sin through his death on the cross. The following verses then show that indwelling sin is overcome through the power of the indwelling Spirit, with ten references to the Spirit in Romans 8: 4–11.
4. 1 Corinthians 3:11–15
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Read More
Although those who have believed in Jesus have already been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1) and will not face condemnation on the final day (John 5:24; Rom. 8:1, 33), God will still judge their works (Rom. 14:10–12; 2 Cor. 5:10) and reward them accordingly (Matt. 6:1–6, 16, 18; 10:41–42). Paul’s point applies not just to church leaders but to anyone who contributes in any way to building up the church (1 Cor. 12:7, 12–31; 14:12).
5. 2 Corinthians 5:10
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. Read More
The “judgment seat” (Gk. bēma) was the tribunal bench in the Roman courtroom, where the governor sat while rendering judicial verdicts. Remains of such a bēma exist in the Corinthian forum today (see Acts 18:12–17 and Introduction to 1 Corinthians: The Ancient City of Corinth). In the coming age, Christ will judge as God the Father’s representative, ruling the kingdom the Father has given him (see Rom. 14:10–12; etc.). so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done … whether good or evil. This underscores the principle that present-day actions have eternal consequences. All Christians will appear before the eternal judgment seat of Christ, to receive “what is due” to them for the deeds that they have done in their earthly life. It is debated, however, (1) whether the aim of this judgment is to determine the measure of reward that the Christian will receive in the age to come; or (2) whether the aim is to provide demonstrative evidence regarding who is lost and who is saved. Because the context of Paul’s statement refers back to both the believer’s hope for the resurrection (see 2 Cor. 5:1, 4) and to the reward of “glory beyond all comparison” (see 2. Cor. 4:16–18), it would seem that both aims are in view.
Thus, with regard to the first case, many interpreters hold that the believer’s deeds will provide public evidence to indicate the measure of rewards that the believer will receive, corresponding to the believer’s “obedience of faith” (acts of service, love, and righteousness; cf. Rom. 1:5; 16:26). In the second case, some interpreters hold that the believer’s deeds will also provide public evidence brought forth before the judgment seat of Christ to demonstrate that one’s faith is real—that is, public evidence, not as the basis for salvation, but as a demonstration of the genuineness of one’s faith. Paul therefore makes it his aim to “please” Christ (2 Cor. 5:5–9), because the extent to which one does this corresponds to the measure of rewards that one will receive (see Matt. 6:20; Luke 19:17, 19; 1 Cor. 3:12–15; 1 Tim. 6:19; Rev. 22:12), likewise giving evidence for the genuineness of one’s faith. Paul is confident that genuine believers will pass Christ’s judgment, since the new covenant ministry of reconciliation has brought them under the life-transforming power of the Spirit—based on the forgiveness of their sins through faith in Christ alone, all of which is the result of God’s grace alone (see 2 Cor. 1:12, 22; 3:6, 8–9, 18; 4:4–6, 15; 5:5, 14–15, 16–21; 8:19; 9:8, 14; etc.).
6. Hebrews 9:27–28
And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Read More
Every person has but a single life before eternal judgment. This repudiates reincarnation and any idea that there will be a second chance to believe after death, since immediately after the reference to the fact of death comes the phrase “and after that comes judgment,” with no hint of any intervening opportunity for change of status. The final judgment will take place when Christ comes again—he died once as an offering for the sins of many, and he will appear a second time in judgment, when he will save his followers. This clear anticipation of Christ’s return (see Heb. 10:25; cf. Rom. 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Cor. 1:7; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20) calls all who hope for salvation to expectant perseverance.
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7. Revelation 20:12–15
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Read More.
All the dead will be raised from the grave and the sea, to be judged either by their deeds recorded in “the books” (Rev. 20:12) or by God’s gracious registration of their names in the Lamb’s “book of life” (Rev. 20:12). This judgment was announced in Revelation 11:18.
The dead, great and small, include both God’s saints (Rev. 11:18; Rev. 19:5) and the beast’s worshipers (Rev. 13:16; Rev. 9:18). Books recording their deeds will be opened (Dan. 7:10), providing the grounds on which each is judged (Rom. 2:6–11). God keeps an accurate record of every human deed, and will reward and punish with perfect justice. another book, the book of life. See note on Rev. 20:13; cf. Rev. 3:5; Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8; Rev. 20:15; Rev. 21:27.
The sea, Death, and Hades (the realm of the dead, cf. Rev. 6:8) will give up their dead as all people return to bodily existence to be judged (2 Cor. 5:10) by Jesus (Matt. 16:27; John 5:28–29; Acts 17:31). Unbelievers will be rightly condemned for their sins (cf. Rom. 3:23; Rev. 20:15). Believers, whose names are in the “book of life” (Rev. 20:12, 15), will enter into “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1) because the names in that book are of those who have been redeemed by “the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8; cf. Rev. 21:27) for their sins (Rev. 1:5). Their recorded deeds attest to their trust in Christ and are also the basis for determining their rewards (cf. notes on 1 Cor. 3:14–15; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 22:12–16).
Death, the last enemy, will be destroyed when Christ returns and raises believers (1 Cor. 15:23–26). Therefore Death and Hades will be the last to be thrown into the lake of fire, the second death, where they will join the beast and the false prophet (Rev. 19:20) and the devil (Rev. 20:10).
All whose names are not found written in the book of life will be condemned for the record of their deeds (cf. note on Rev. 20:11–15) and thrown into the lake of fire. Those enrolled in the Lamb’s book of life enter the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27).
8. 1 John 2:1–2
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. Read More
Propitiation (Gk. hilasmos) here means “a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath and turns it to favor,” and that is also the meaning of the English word “propitiation.” As the perfect sacrifice for sin, Jesus turns away God’s wrath (see also 1 John 4:10). For the sins of the whole world does not mean that every person will be saved, for John is clear that forgiveness of sins comes only to those who repent and believe the gospel (see 1 John 2:4, 23; 3:10; 5:12; cf. John 3:18; 5:24). But Jesus’ sacrifice is offered and made available to everyone in “the whole world,” not just to John and his current readers.
9. Matthew 7:1–5
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Read More
Judge not forbids pronouncing another person guilty before God. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged. Undue harshness and a judgmental attitude toward others will result in being treated in much the same way by God.
Jesus may have drawn on his background as a carpenter (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) for his metaphor of a log in your own eye, which of course was hyperbole (intentional overstatement; cf. Matt. 5:29–30). then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Jesus does not forbid all evaluation or even judgment of others, for ultimately the one who feels grieved and humbled over his own sin can help remove the “speck” from others. What Jesus does rule out is pride that views oneself as better than others (cf. Gal. 6:1).
10. 2 Peter 3:10–13
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Read More
God’s judgment will not be delayed forever. When Christ returns it will be sudden, without warning, like the strike of a thief. The heavens (the sky) will pass away (cf. Ps. 102:25–26; Heb. 1:10–12; Rev. 6:14) and the heavenly bodies (stars, etc.) will be burned up and dissolved. There will be no place to hide (cf. Rev. 6:15–16), for the earth and every person’s works on the earth will be exposed (Gk. heurethēsetai, lit., “will be found,” a divine passive meaning “found by God”) to God’s judgment. Some translations read “will be burned up” (Gk. katakaēsetai) because some Greek manuscripts have this wording (instead of Gk. heurethēsetai). But the earliest and most reliable manuscripts have “will be found” (Gk. heurethēsetai, indicating with this reading that the annihilation of the earth is not taught in this passage.
Scholars have debated whether the New Testament speaks of an annihilation of the present cosmos and the creation of a new universe, or whether it indicates the transformation of the present cosmos, including the earth. The latter seems more likely in light of: (1) the preferred reading of this passage (see above); (2) Rom. 8:18–25; (3) many Old Testament prophecies about the renewal of the earth; (4) Christ’s resurrection body being in continuity with his earthly body; and (5) the fact that Christ’s resurrection body is a pattern for the resurrection bodies of Christians (1 Cor. 15:12–58). God seems always to renew, not destroy and recreate, parts of his creation that are marred by sin.
Hastening (Gk. speudō, “hurry [by extra effort]”) the coming of the day of God suggests that, by living holy lives, Christians can actually affect the time of the Lord’s return. That does not mean, of course, that the Lord has not foreknown and foreordained when Jesus will return (cf. Matt. 24:36; Acts 17:31). But when God set that day, he also ordained that it would happen after all of his purposes for saving believers and building his kingdom in this present age had been accomplished, and those purposes are accomplished when he works through his human agents to bring them about. Therefore, from a human perspective, when Christians share the gospel with others, and pray (cf. Matt. 6:10), and advance the kingdom of God in other ways, they do “hasten” the fulfillment of God’s purposes, including Christ’s return.
The hope of Christians ultimately depends, though, not on their works but on God’s promise. Their hope is not in the destruction of the wicked and their works, even though that is a necessary part of God’s final judgment. Their hope is in the promise that God will bring about a new heavens and a new earth (see Isa. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 21:1–22:5), which will be the eternal abode of the righteous. “New” could mean “newly created” but probably means “renewed, made new.”
All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
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