I was reading an article entitled “Don’t You Know God Gives Second Chances After Death?” where Ralph disagreed with his correspondent about the possibility of mercy at the Judgment.
I appreciate the author’s reliance on the scriptures to provide authority for his beliefs. He cites Heb 9:27 that proves man is to be judged, and that of course is a certainty (Rom 14:10). I do wonder, however, at his conclusion that God can have no mercy at the judgment. Since we must all stand before the Judgment seat of God, there obviously is to be a determination of punishment or atonement at that time. Because it really is a Judgment and not just a sentencing, what prevents God from extending mercy at the Judgment? He has Christ’s blood at His disposal. Christians get mercy because they are purified by Christ’s blood (Mt 10:32, Rev 3:5, I Cor 6:11, Heb 10:22), but it is God who set the conditions for applying the purifying blood. With Christ’s blood at His disposal to satisfy His judicial wrath, God is able to mete grace out to whomever he chooses on whatever basis He chooses. Christ died for all (II Cor 5:14-15), and God is not constrained about how He uses the grace that Christ affords other than what He has specifically said. He affords Himself the opportunity to extend grace by His statement, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy” (Rom 9:15). How can we argue with that? God is able to make His servants to stand (Rom 14:4). We also find that the non-canonical writings make the fact of mercy at the judgment very clear (En 50:2-5), but we can find clear support for mercy at the judgment from the core scriptures themselves.
One verse that very plainly argues against a merciless judgment is Lk 12:48. In that verse it says that some people will be punished with few stripes. This verse plainly teaches the possibility of punishment in a temporary state, for “few stripes” cannot describe eternal punishment, no matter how trivial the punishment might be. We see the Rich Man (Dives) in this place of torment in Lk 16:23-24. He was torment in Hades in the flames. As your correspondent pointed out, that is not Gehenna hell. Gehenna is the lake of fire that is the fate of the wicked following the Judgment (Rev 20:15). Gehenna is the final destiny of the unrepentant and from a banishment to it, there is no recourse (Mt 25:46, Rev 14:11). At the Judgment God makes a determination as to who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Lk 12:48 requires that some people who suffered their few stripes in Hades will not go to Gehenna. Lk 12:48 shows that some will be punished with many stripes in Gehenna, but some will only be punished with a few stripes. Who receives the few stripes? Those who were ignorant.
Christians do not receive stripes when they die. They go to heaven (II Cor 5:8-9, Php 1:23-24). Lk 12:48 cannot therefore be talking about Christians. Also Christians cannot be ignorant of God’s will because you have to hear about God to come to Him (Rom 10:14). The ignorant ones who receive few stripes will have suffered in Hades, but will receive mercy at the Judgment. No punishment, even if done with a wet noodle, if it is administered eternity, can be described as “few stripes”. Some people receive clemency at the Judgment, else it is not really a Judgment. As you would have it, everybody out of Hades goes to Hell, and the Bible says everybody who is a Christian has already gone to heaven. There is therefore really no Judgment if men do not actually receive a final determination of their destiny at Judgment.
Christians stand before the Judgment seat of Christ, but our judgment will be a determination of what we will get for eternity (Lk 19:15-17). Our Judgment is not one of life or death. The faithful are already passed from death unto life (Jn 5:24, I Jn 3:14). The people from Hades, however, will be judged (Rev 20:12, Mt 25:31). They will face eternal death or eternal life (Mt 25:46, Rev 20:15). Some of them will depart into everlasting fire (Mt 25:41). Some others of them will go to everlasting life as the nations (Mt 25:34). Those who are accepted as the nations will reside on the new earth in eternity (Rev 2:26, 3:21, Isa 61:4-6, Isa 45:11-14, Isa 14:1-2). They will not have access to heaven when it comes down so that God can dwell with men (Rev 21:1-3). They will be outside of heaven (Rev 21:27), but on the new earth (Isa 14:1-2, 54:3, 61:6, Ps 47:3, Zech 2:8).