The Final Exam
Note: Please understand that the following is not intended to represent the way the final judgment will actually take place, but is intended to make us think seriously about our attitude toward the Bible in preparation for the day when all “will appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
All the nations have been gathered before the great throne of God and it is announced that everyone will be tested on their understanding of the Bible. No, the test will not require you to list in order all the kings of the divided kingdom or even the twelve sons of Jacob; instead, this will be a test of how you understand certain passages. With your eternal fate hanging in the balance, how would you explain the following?
1) “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). With an angel peering over your shoulder, would you understand that being saved required believing and being baptized or would you decide the phrase “and is baptized” is really not important to the meaning of the passage?
2) “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24, 25). With eternity riding on your answer, would you explain that Sunday nights and Wednesday nights are not under consideration in the assembling of this passage? Would you answer this question with an essay on why occasional fishing trips or visits to family that cause one to be absent from the assemblies are not really a forsaking of the required assembling together?
3) “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23, 24). With your eternal destiny hinging on your answer, would you explain that Paul was not saying what he might have appeared to be saying, but was simply reflecting the cultural biases of his age? Or would you see in this and other passages a divinely ordered distinction between the roles of husbands and wives?
4) “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9). You haven’t had any problems with the questions so far, but will you fail the test now? If you knew your answer to this question was critical to your eternal grade, what would you think about divorce? With the “final grade” about to be given, would you conclude that the divorced and remarried are allowed to continue in their second (or third or fourth) marriages? Or with the judgment looming, would you understand Matthew 19:9 to forbid divorce and remarriage with just one exception?
Of course, the judgment will not consist of a written exam, but we must realize that we are going to be tested on our understanding of Scripture. How have I understood Mark 16:16; Hebrews 10:25; Ephesians 5:22, 23; Matthew 19:9 and other passages that speak of my obligations to God and man while on this earth? The answers to such questions are found in my life and I must be answering them today as though eternity is riding on my answers, for it is.
“He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 12:48
“For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:10, 12
While there are some passages of Scripture that challenge us in our ability to understand them, in most cases our difficulty results not from the wording of the text, but from our lack of urgency. If we would live with a greater awareness of judgment and realization that our understanding of and response to God’s word will be the difference between heaven and hell, we would not only understand better, but we would be “doers of the word” (James 1:22).
“Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” Acts 17:30, 31
John R. Gibson
(All quotations from New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishing Company)
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