I was reading a post entitled “Don’t You Know God Gives Second Chances
After Death?” where you disagreed with your correspondent about the
possibility of mercy at the Judgment. I have a couple of comments
regarding that post.
I appreciate your reliance on the scriptures to provide authority for your
beliefs. You cite 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 your
conclusion. 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). With Christ’s
blood to satisfy His judicial wrath, God is able to likewise 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).
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. We see that happening to the Rich Man (Dives) 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 for 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 and their eternal desinties will be at stake (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).
The judgment scene in Mt 25:31ff shows the nations being judged according to their works. Many people enter into life that did not even know who Jesus was during their lifetime (Mt 25;37), but Jesus grants them eternal life because they showed love and compassion to their fellow man. Enoch 50:2 is also very clear that some will receive grace at the Judgment, even as Lk 12:48 implies.