“The Lord Jesus Christ will descend from Heaven in the last day to judge all people. The righteous will receive eternal life while the wicked will be eternally condemned.”
Jesus Will Descend From Heaven To Judge All People
(adapted from a sermon by Pr Peter Shee, Year 2010)
This is the 10th article of faith in the True Jesus Church and concerns two topics, the coming of the Lord and Judgment day, which are seldom discussed because it can be frightening and can create a false sense of urgency. For example, by the end of 1999, there were many rumors about the coming of Jesus prior to the millennium. This is because many believed that the millennium bug and malfunctioning computers will cause chaos in the world. There were scares about planes that may fail to fly, and power generators that may fail, leading to deaths of people who need machines to stay alive. There were also people who shared visions revealing that Jesus would be coming in year 199-… but who failed to see the last digit. All these rumors and scares create a false sense of urgency. But was this what Jesus intended?
No. Jesus wants us to lead our daily life while eagerly anticipating His coming. Does He want us to live lives filled with fear? How should Christians face the coming of our Lord? How should we face Judgment day, the last day of earth? Let me share more about how this article of faith came to be written by covering three main points.
1) There will be a last day of the world
Things we see all start out new, but after a while, they start to deteriorate. All light bulbs will burn out eventually and stop giving light. What about the sun? Have we ever considered the day it no longer shines? Our planet, Earth, is always orbiting. Have you thought about the day it stops spinning? In fact, earth rotation has slowed a little. One day, the entire world will cease. That would be the last day of the world.
2 Pet 3:7, 10, 12 – But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men… But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up… looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?
Here, the bible clearly tells us that the world as we know and see is kept thus because of the word of God. God created both the heavens and the earth, so it is only by the command of God that this entire universe continues to exist. But there shall come a day when it will cease to exist by God’s word.
Verse 7 tells us that on the Day of Judgment, the entire universe shall be burned up by fire. It is clearly stated that all elements with a physical form shall be melted; only the spiritual will not. Our physical body, our house, everything we own will become nothing but our soul cannot be burned up by fire.
You may think this is not possible. Yet, we recognise that the things we see now – the light bulbs, machinery, cars, houses, all things physical – will one day wear out. Even our physical body will spoil. So there is no reason to believe that the entire universe will exist forever. Yet, there are people who choose to disbelieve.
2 Pet 3:3-4 – knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Those who disbelieve argue that since the creation of the universe, the sun has continued to rise from the east and set in the west. We still have air to breathe, and there is still rain and sunlight. In fact, we are leading better lives than those in the past. Nothing has changed.
Yes, nothing has changed. What does this mean? It means that things are still as peaceful as before but at the same time, it means that we are still as sinful as before. If some argue that our lives are more peaceful, more comfortable, I would argue that similarly, we are leading more sinful lives than before.
But, have there really been no changes to the earth we live in? Think back of the many incidents of earthquake occurring. We have had an unprecedented increase in the number of earthquakes happening within a short span. Yet, we choose to act as if we cannot see.
2 Pet 3:5 – For this they wilfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water.
These people wilfully forget that it was God who created the heavens and the earth. And they also wilfully forget that God once flooded the earth as judgment. If God can destroy the entire earth with water, all the more He can use fire to burn up the earth as it was described in verse 7.
Although God may grant us signs to know when the day is coming (v.10), the exact day when our Lord arrives is not known. So when someone sees a vision and claims that the Lord shall come on such a day, we ought to know that it is a false revelation.
Peter clearly said in the bible that no one knows the day. Paul describes in 2 Thessalonica that the day of the Lord will come as a thief. A thief will not warn you when he is coming. Jesus may have given us warnings about the last day but He shall still come like a thief. Paul said to the Thessalonians, our Lord will come while people say. “Peace! Peace! Everything is fine!”
As humans, we tend to look toward the brighter side of things. While this may be a quality, it can also be the cause of our deaths. Perhaps there will be a day when the world turns peaceful and we cease to have earthquakes. Perhaps the world will then say, “Peace! Peace! Everything is fine!” One thing we know for sure is, Jesus Christ will definitely come and He will come like a thief in the night. When that happens there is nothing we can take away with us, nothing to save.
Nonetheless, we ought not to be anxious. Although our Lord will come like a thief in the night, He will ambush us and strike us suddenly. The bible tells us that He comes especially for us. So it is a good thing when Jesus comes. He gave us these words of comfort, “Do not fear! For I go to prepare a place for you and when I’ve prepared it, I will come for you.” Even though the heavens and earth shall be destroyed, we have no need to be anxious.
You might ask, why not? Because 2 Peter 3:13 tells us that when Heaven and Earth passes away, we are looking forward to a new heaven and earth in which righteousness dwells. Which one of us feels anxious about changing into new garments? Who feels afraid about moving to a new home? Most of us would feel excited about these changes. This tells us that the coming of our Lord is a promise and it is also a hope. There is no need for you to be anxious because it is something that you are hoping for. We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth that comes after the old heaven and earth is destroyed.
Before we rejoice, read again at the words, “in which righteousness dwells.” What does this mean? It means a place where righteous men dwell. In the new heavens and earth, there are only righteous men. Should we start feeling anxious now?
The question is whether we are righteous or not. If we were asked to take our clothes out right now, would we feel anxious? If we have clothes that are made for us, we will not feel so. However, if everyone except you has clothes prepared for them, you should be frightened.
What sort of preparations then, should we make, as we anticipate the coming of the Last Day?
2 Pet 3:11 tells us that we should be Holy, we should be Godly. I think we know all of these because they are textbook answers. We have to pray more, read the bible, and keep the word of God. Sometimes after hearing multiple teachings of the same kind, we may get a bit sick and tired of them. We know all these, but yet we are unable to live according to these teachings. Why are we not able to be diligent and to prepare? We know that we must have holy conduct, we must be godly, but often, we cannot bring ourselves to be diligent.
Yet, being diligent is the key. When you are expecting an important person, the other party doesn’t want you to be too anxious but at the same time, he would not want you to be unprepared. Then how is it that we cannot be diligent and look forward to meeting our Lord? It is because we do not treat the coming of the Lord Jesus as a fact. We may think it is real, but in our hearts, we do not treat it as though it is real, because we lead such peaceful lives.
Although we may not say out loud that the end of the world will not come or deny that there is even such a thing, our actions are similar to what is written in 2 Peter 3:3 – there is nothing, absolutely nothing happening. Is Jesus really coming? I doubt it will happen in my time… He didn’t punish me when I was gambling. I am still smoking and drinking but my body’s still fine. Everything’s still the same since the day I was born, much like the earth is still the same as when it was created… It is because we think this way that we do not look forward to the coming of the Lord and lose vigilance.
The bible tells us that we not only must have holy conduct and godliness, look forward to the day and be diligent, 2 Pet 3:17 tells us that we have to beware for we are trying to swim against the tide. We must be watchful for it is very difficult to go against the tide. If we do not put in any effort, whatever holiness or godliness we have will eventually get washed away. This is especially pertinent in this generation. It is even more evil now than in the times of the apostles. Before we are quick to point our fingers at the West, we ought to know that things in the East are also the same. In the past, Singaporeans used to pursue the five ‘C’s – Cash, Car, Credit card, Condominium and Country club membership. Now there is a sixth to pursue – Casino. There is another ‘C’ that worries me. The Chingay parade, a display of all kinds of art performances, is no longer the same as before. There is a different emphasis now and the trend is towards gays. Our society seems to have come to accept them. Shouldn’t we be wary?
While we need not go on strike, start a petition, or make a scene over this, we do need to be aware of this issue at home. We must teach our children well. We ourselves need to be wary. We must be careful about the evil influences at our workplace. These are the sort of preparation we need to make in the last days. If we ourselves do not flee from sin, we will be destroyed together with the sinners.
2) Jesus will descend from heaven
Acts 1:9-11 – Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
Here, it is clear that when our Lord Jesus died, He died in the flesh. But when He resurrected, He had this resurrected body that can be seen and can be felt. It is a body that enables Him to feed on food too. Jesus was raised up to heaven in this special and miraculous body. The passage here also tells us that Jesus will come from heaven in a manner like the way He was taken up into heaven. He will not suddenly appear in the wilderness walk out from the sea, or suddenly appear in my house. Jesus will come down from heaven. He was seen taken up, and shall be seen by every single eye on earth when He comes. Even the blind will be able to see Jesus coming down from heaven. Why do I say so? Because for us who have died in the Lord, even if we were blind while we were alive, when we are raised, we will be able to see. We will see Jesus coming down from heaven.
Rev 1:7 – Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.
Elder John also described Jesus’ coming as such; Jesus shall come from heaven with clouds, seen by all eyes, in the same way He was taken up to heaven. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have their premillennial ideas about Jesus’ second coming. They promoted their belief that in 1914, Jesus had already returned but no one saw him then. They said that Jesus has already received the heavenly crown, and they made use of the phrase, the Lord’s presence. They claim that when Lord Jesus comes again, it will be a sort of presence.
However, in at least seven times in the bible, Jesus’s coming is referred to as His appearing, not just His presence. Titus 2:13 tell us of His glorious appearing. It is something that not only can be seen, it can also be heard. 1 Thess 4:16 tells us when the Lord comes, there will be a trumpet sounded; there will be a shout, the voice of the archangel. His appearing will be something that can be seen and can be heard because it is such a great event. Contrary to the belief that He is present spiritually and no one can see or hear His coming, Jesus will be seen and heard by all when He descends from Heaven.
Why is the word “appearing” used? It not only informs us of His coming. 1 John 3:2 tells us that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. This is another reason why Jesus will come again.
If Jesus’ coming will be such a big event, what sort of preparations should we make? In fact, what sort of reaction should we have?
Titus 2:13-14 tell us that we have to wait and hope for His coming. What does it mean to wait? We wait because we already have a goal in mind. It is like a bride waiting for her bridegroom to come receive her. Not only must we wait for His presence, it also says we have to hope. 2 Timothy 4:8 tells us that there is laid up for us the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to us on that Day, to all who have loved His appearing. Must like Paul will receive his crown of righteousness, we can expect to receive ours too, unless we did not complete the race, failed to fight a good fight, and did not keep the faith we are supposed to keep.
Why do we endure to keep the faith? Why should we not desert when things get rough? Because Paul tells us that we are among those who love His appearing. It is because of our love and our longing for His coming, that unless we see Him, we will not depart. Only with the power of love can we have strength. We will keep our faith till the end if we love His appearing.
3) All the people of the world will be judged
2 Timothy 4:1 tells us that Lord Jesus will appear among all of us and He will judge the living and the dead. It doesn’t matter how long we have lived, what sort of life we had led, and how we died. We will all face the judgment of God, whether living or dead.
Revelation 20:12-13 tells us that all the dead will be delivered up, no matter how they die. Those who died in the sea will be given up, the young and the old, male and female, will all stand before God. So it doesn’t matter how long you lived. How you led your life and how you die is not important. Every single being will be brought before the Lord Jesus, where both the living and the dead will be judged by God.
The living refers to those who are alive physically and those who are alive spiritually. The dead also refers to those who are dead physically and those who are dead spiritually. This explains what Jesus once said; let the dead bury the dead.
What would it be like when Jesus comes?
John 5:28-29 – Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.
2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 – in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
These three passages tell us that when Lord Jesus comes, He shall judge the entire world. Those who have died physically, even evil men, will be resurrected. Those who are good will rise to the resurrection of eternal life and the evil will rise to the resurrection of condemnation where fiery vengeance awaits them.
There are essentially four groups of people. Those who are spiritually and physically alive will be transformed and taken up to heaven. There are those who are spiritually alive but physically dead. These people will be resurrected and transformed. Those who are both spiritually and physically dead will be resurrected to face judgment. Those who are spiritually dead but physically alive at the coming of Jesus will witness a frightening sight. They will see Jesus come and be burnt up physically, after which their spiritual bodies will continue to burn in the lake of fire.
Jesus will be the judge of everyone, whether living or dead. 1 Peter 4:5 tells us that we have to account to Him and Romans 14:10-12 says that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. As Christians, we must love one another, not oppress one another because our Lord Jesus will be judging us as well. He will question why we have not shown love to our brethren. Not only do we not love our brethren, we even harm them. Not only will Jesus judge us for our actions, even the evil intent in our hearts and the words that we speak idly will be taken into account.
Once, a group of youths cleaning up in church while talking and laughing found that their conversation had been recorded. They were curious and played the tape back to listen. They were embarrassed when they heard the words they spoke. This is not unusual; we don’t feel anything when we speak, but when we hear it again, we may be shocked by what we said.
When we are brought before God’s judgment throne, everything will be exposed and brought to the table.
Hebrews 4:13 – And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
This is how we account to God; we are naked and open before Him and nothing can be hidden. It is like Adam and Eve when they were naked in the Garden of Eden; God knew them through and through. How did Adam and Eve feel before God? Were they frightened? The answer to this question depends on whether we are talking about the time before they sinned or after. Similarly, we have to ask ourselves today: When we stand before God’s judgment, and everything is naked and open before Him, will we be frightened? Are we like Adam before he sinned or like Adam after he had sinned?
Let us conclude with the following passages:
1 Pet 4:7-8 tells us that the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”
Rev 22:11-15 tell us of a few things we have to take note of. He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still. Behold I am coming quickly. I am coming quickly, I will not delay. My reward is with me to give to everyone according to his work. Reward and punishment is in the hands of God and He will come quickly because the end of all things is at hand. Have we prepared ourselves?