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Well, we have already made our proclamation so it only remains for me to bring the teaching. This is the tenth and final session of our series entitled “Laying the Foundation.” In previous sessions we’ve dealt with five of the six foundation doctrines mentioned in Hebrews 6:1–2. We dealt with repentance towards God, faith, the doctrine of baptisms, laying on of hands and resurrection of the dead. It remains in this final session to deal with the final foundation doctrine, eternal judgment.
Now, when we speak about judgment we need to realize that there are two main ways in which God brings judgment on people. The first is His judgments in history; the second, which is the kind of judgment we’re going to talk about, is His eternal judgments, those judgments which confront us as we step out of time into eternity. It’s important to be able to distinguish the two types of judgments, otherwise we might be confused by what seem to be conflicting statements.
The first judgment of God is in history and it involves bringing blessing or punishment on succeeding generations according to the way the first generation has responded to God. In Exodus 20:4–6 we have a very clear example of God’s historical judgments. Exodus 20:4–6, which is part of what we call the Ten Commandments. God says:
“You shall not make for yourself any carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, nor worship them. For I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing mercy to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
We see there that the sin of idolatry, which is the greatest of all sins, carries with it a judgment that extends to the succeeding three or four generations. That’s a judgment in history and there are countless examples of how that judgment has actually worked out in the history of Israel and of other nations that have been involved in idolatry.
And then in Jeremiah 32 Jeremiah also deals with this question of God’s judgment in history. And in a prayer that he prayed to the Lord, Jeremiah 32:18, he said:
“You show lovingkindness to thousands and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them. The great, the mighty God whose name is the Lord of hosts...”
So again, Jeremiah says God repays the iniquity of the fathers into the succeeding generations. This is again a judgment in history, in time.
This also applies to God’s blessing on the righteous. In Psalm 103 David says in verses 17–18:
“But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children, to such as keep His covenant and to those who remember His commandments, to do them.”
There is a promise of God’s blessing and righteousness to children’s children, to succeeding generations. So the way that we conduct ourselves and we relate to God not only affects us, but it probably affects successive generations. That’s a very significant and important thought that we need to bear in mind. We are in some way answerable for either the blessing or the suffering of succeeding generations.
I think this is an obvious fact of experience. For instance, a child born to alcoholic parents starts, as they say, with two strikes against him. It’s not his fault but the judgment of God on those parents will naturally filter down through succeeding generations.
Now, we need to say that but we need to add there’s a different kind of judgment of God which is what the writer of Hebrews calls eternal judgment, which is judgment that affects our destiny in eternity. And there the principles of judgment are completely different. These are stated by God to Ezekiel in chapter 18, verses 1–4, chapter 18, verses 1 through 4. Ezekiel is speaking, he says:
“The word of the Lord came to me again, saying, ‘What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?’”
You see, that’s saying the children are suffering for the sins of the father.
“‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine. The soul of the father, as well as the soul of the son is mine, the soul who sins shall die.’”
Now, we’re not talking about historical judgments, we’re talking about the judgment of every individual soul as it steps out of time into eternity. And there every soul bears responsibility only for the life that it has led. The soul that sins, it shall die.
And that is repeated again in verse 20. Here God is still more emphatic. Ezekiel 18:20:
“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
So when we step out of time into eternity we’re not any longer being judged for the sins or blessings of our parents, our forbears, we’re going to answer to God personally only for what we did in life. The righteousness of the righteous will be upon him, the wickedness of the wicked will be upon him. And it says in the book of Ecclesiastes, “Where the tree falls, there it will lie.” What condition you are in when you die will determine your condition throughout eternity. This is eternal judgment, a very, very solemn thought.
I’ve sometimes remembered with amusement my Foundation Series originally came out as seven, separate, small volumes. Then it was brought together in three volumes, then it was brought together in one volume. But in the days when we had seven volumes, the title of the last volume was Eternal Judgment. We would see these books displayed for people to buy them and people would pick them over and buy the first six and somehow they didn’t want to buy number seven. They didn’t like the title Eternal Judgment. But, dear friend, whether you like it or not, it’s true. You really need to face up to this reality of eternal judgment.
Now I want to deal with five principles of God’s judgment, all of which are stated in Romans 2. Romans the second chapter unfolds five principles of God’s judgment. Now I read the Bible, first of all, in Greek, in the New Testament, and then I read various translations. I appreciate the NIV, there’s a lot of good in it. But sometimes it moves away from the structure of the original and if you listen to me and you’re following the NIV, you won’t get the same result as if you listen and you’re following in the New King James. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m just saying each has its strong points, each has its weak points. There is no one perfect translation. Somebody said the NIV is the “Nearly Inspired Version,” I don’t know whether you’ve heard that!
So here are the five principles of God’s judgment, all unfolded in Romans 2. Romans 2:2:
“We know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.”
That’s the first principle. God’s judgment is based on real facts, it’s not based on hearsay. I remember when the Lord wanted to find out the truth about the condition of Sodom and Gomorrah, He’d heard terrible reports from the angels and from others but you remember He said to Abraham, “I’ve come down to see for myself.” That really impresses me. God doesn’t judge by hearsay, He judges according to truth.
The second principle of God’s judgment in verse 6 is:
“He will render to each one according to his deeds...”
We will be judged for what we have done. That is a basic principle that runs right throughout the Bible and it applies to believers as well as unbelievers. In 1 Peter 1:17, 1 Peter 1:17, Peter unfolds this principle, applying it specifically to believers. 1 Peter 1:17. He’s speaking to believers and he says:
“And if you call on the Father who, without partiality, judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear.”
That’s a kind of statement that isn’t publicly disseminated in most churches today. But Peter says to believers, bearing in mind that you’re going to be judged according to what you’ve done, live a reverent, godly life. Don’t be rash, don’t be proud, don’t be presumptuous—because everything you say and do, one day you’re going to have to answer to God for. And remember, that is addressed to believers, not to unbelievers.
And then in Revelation 20:12 it says all the people that were judged in the final judgment were judged according to what was written in the books. So, God keeps a record of every life.
Now, you know in the days of the New Testament, books were not like this but they were much more like tapes. They were scrolls rolled up. I think that’s a much more clear picture. I’m inclined to think that in the judgment—his is just an opinion—very one of us will be confronted by something like a video tape which stretches out the entire course of our life before us. I remember when God was dealing with me about four years ago when I was very sick. I was really seeking God as to why I wasn’t being healed. One night God woke me up about 2 a.m., which is the time He’s rather in the habit of speaking to me, and He gave me a little review of the life I’d been leading. I want to say I was a preacher, generally accepted, sometimes criticized. I was about the same level as a lot of other preachers who are comparatively well known. God showed me that in many ways I had been extremely carnal. Not committing any gross sins, I’ve never been involved, thank God, in sexual immorality, drunkenness or the misappropriation of funds. Nevertheless, God showed me there were things in my past that were displeasing to Him. He brought to me this Scripture in Malachi:
“Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated.”
That’s what God says. And Esau is a type of the carnal man. There are no gross sins recorded of Esau but he just was a carnally minded man. God said, “I hate that.”
God showed me, and I had been nearly fifty years in the ministry, there were things in my life that He hated. He showed me that I had in some respects been careless. Some of the scenes that he showed me were in restaurants. I don’t know whether you realize that God judges you in restaurants, too. Somebody said, “All you Americans can talk about is food.” Another person said, “If you want to find out where the best restaurants are, ask a preacher.” Now, there’s a certain truth in that, it’s not totally true. I’m only speaking from my own experience. I began to realize what it means to spend the time of our sojourning here in fear. Not slavish fear, but reverent awe as before God who will judge everything we say and everything we do. So that’s a word from 1 Peter.
Going back to Romans chapter 2, the next principle of God’s judgment is stated in verse 3. Do I mean verse 3? No, I don’t. Because the thing is that it’s not translated the way I want. Yes, it’s Romans 2:11. I’ll explain what I mean in a way, what I mean just briefly. It says:
“There is no partiality with God...”
Now all the modern translations say that because it’s a modern phrase. I sometimes ask the question: Can you really put the Bible in modern English without interjecting modern thinking? Because the language you use is very much an expression of the way you think. You see, the old King James said “There is no respect of persons.” It’s much more accurate because partiality can be to any kind of person. You can take some kind of weak, insignificant little person and be very partial to that person. So weak I really want to help them, I really want to do everything for them. But respect of persons means we’re not impressed by what people are in their natural selves. A man may be a general, a president, a bishop, but he doesn’t get any special judgment from God, he’s treated just like everybody else. That’s what it means when it says there is no respect of persons—particularly aimed at people who occupy positions of prominence in the world today.
All right. The next principle of God’s judgment, number four, is according to the measure of light. And Paul says in Romans 2:12:
“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law.”
If you have the law, you’ll be judged by it. If you don’t have the law, you won’t be judged by the law but you’ll still be judged for what you’ve done.
And this principle is illustrated by the words of Jesus in Matthew 11 when He speaks to some of the major cities of His day who had not responded to His preaching. Matthew 11:20–24:
“Then he began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.’”
Why? Because Tyre and Sidon had less light. Bethsaida and Chorazin had had the greatest light and they would be the most severely judged. You and I will be judged according to the light that is available to us.
I want to say generally speaking to people in the English-speaking world, there is a greater measure of light available to us today than I think has ever been available to any previous generation in history. We have Bibles en masse, we have endless books, we have tapes, we have cassettes, we have preachers, we’re going to be judged by the light that’s been made available to us. Let’s bear that in mind. God’s standards of judgment for this generation will be the most severe because we’ve had the most light.
And then Jesus goes on in the next verse:
“You, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
You see, judgment is according to light. The more light we have, the more strict will be our judgment. And as I said before, I say to each one of you, including myself, there probably never has been a generation of Christians that have had the measure of light available that we have today. Bear that in mind, that’s going to be the standard of our judgment.
And finally, the fifth principle of God’s judgment in Romans 2:16, it says:
“In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”
So God is not merely going to judge our open acts but He’s going to judge our secret innermost thoughts and motives and attitudes. I think it’s correct to say that God is very concerned about our motives. Two people may perform the same outward action but their motives may be entirely different. And when God judges them, He will take into account their motives.
We’re going to go on to the scenes of judgment. And as I understand it, there are going to be four major, successive scenes of judgment. The first will be before the judgment seat of Christ. The Greek word bema means a platform on which a Roman official sat to execute judgment. Pontius Pilate sat on his bema when Jesus appeared before Him for judgment. This will be a judgment only of Christians, only of believers. We go again to 1 Peter 1:17. I somehow feel that God wants me to read this verse twice. 1 Peter 1:17:
“And if you call on the Father who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear.”
That’s written to us. We call on the Father. And then in 1 Peter 4:17 it says:
“For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God. And if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel?”
Where does judgment begin? Always with the house of God. Always with the people who have the most truth. And so, when judgment starts, the first people to be judged will be the Christians. They’ll have a special judgment.
Romans 14:10–12 says this:
“But why do you judge your brother or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we [Christians] shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ [the bema], for it is written, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to me.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.”
And remember, there’s only one person that you have to give account of, that’s yourself. You don’t have to give account of me or your pastor, and you waste a lot of time judging others, some of you, when you should be judging yourself. The only person you’re going to have to give account for is yourself. And that you’re going to have to do.
So Paul says each of us shall give account of himself to God. That’s each of us Christians. And then in 2 Corinthians 5 he returns to the same theme. 2 Corinthians 5:10:
“For we [Christians] must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive the things done in his body according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
We must all appear, it says. But the Greek says we must all be made manifest. There will be no secrets. Everything will be totally exposed, nothing will be hidden. And, we will be before the judgment seat of Christ to receive according to the way we have lived in the body. And I pointed out already in this series but I’ll say it again, there are only two categories, whether good or bad. Nothing in between. Everything that is not good is bad. Jesus said very clearly, “He that is not with me is against me.” There is no neutrality. Jesus has excluded neutrality.
There are a lot of people in churches sitting on the fence. Do you know what that means, to sit on the fence? To be unwilling to make a commitment. They’re not on one side, they’re not on the other side. They’re not doing good but they wouldn’t admit that they’re doing bad. I make this comment sometimes, when the Holy Spirit comes to a church, one of the first things He does it to electrify the fence! You have to jump off on one side or the other. That’s why a lot of people don’t welcome the Holy Spirit because He abolishes their neutrality. There is no neutrality with the Holy Spirit.
Now, what we have to say is there are five main features of this judgment. I’ll just go through them very briefly.
It’s individual, each one will answer for himself.
It’s for the things done in the body, the way we have lived while we were in this body.
There are only two categories, good or bad. 1 John 5:17 says “All unrighteousness is sin.” Anything that is not righteous is sinful. You see, this third category has slipped into people’s thinking and it deceives so many. There is no neutrality.
The next principle is it is not for condemnation, that’s very, very important. We’re going to be judged, but we’re not going to be condemned, if we are true, sincere believers in Jesus. The principle of judgment is for assessment of service.
Let me give you three Scriptures which maybe will comfort you at this point. I see some of you looking a little concerned—which isn’t a bad thing to be, believe me. John 3:18, Jesus says:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned but he who does not believe is condemned already.”
So if we are truly believers in Jesus we will be judged but we will not be condemned. And then again He says again in John 5:24:
“Most assuredly I say to you...”
And that’s the most emphatic way that Jesus can express Himself.
“Most assuredly I say to you, ‘He who hears my word and believes in Him who sent me has everlasting life and shall not come into condemnation but has passed from death unto life.’”
And finally, Romans 8:1:
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So we’re not talking about a judgment of condemnation, we’re talking about judgment which will assess the service that you offer to Jesus during your life. The clearest place that this is described is 1 Corinthians 3:11 and following. Paul is speaking about building the church and he says:
“No other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
And the NIV says “Like one escaping from the flames.” So that’s the essence of the judgment of Christians. First of all, we have to be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, there is no other foundation. Then we have to determine what’s the value of the service that we’ve offered. And things that are easy to acquire can be offered in large quantities: wood, hay and stubble. But they’ll all be burnt up. The things that are valuable are not obtained in large quantities: gold, silver, precious stones. See, some people just assess the quantity of their service but that’s not the way God assesses it.
I examine myself continually. What am I producing? Is it just wood, hay, stubble that will be burned up? What a tragedy when you’ve worked all your life for something, you’ve piled it all up and in the day of judgment you see the fire sweep through it and finish it all off. There’s nothing left but you’re a naked soul that escapes like one escaping through the flames. What a solemn thought.
Now I want to offer you some suggestions as to how we can be sure that our service will stand the test of fire. I want to suggest to you three ways that you can assess your own service.
First of all, what is your motive? The only motive that’s acceptable to God is for God’s glory. And a whole lot of what is done in the church today is done by men for their own glory. I say personally, and this is simply a personal observation, I think the greatest problem in the church today is personal ambition on the part of ministers. The largest church, the longest mailing list, the most miracles. That all will be burned up because its motive is wrong. 1 Corinthians 10:31, Paul says:
“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
There’s only one acceptable motive for our service and that is the glory of God.
Somehow I feel the Lord wants me to pause there, just give you an opportunity to consider what has been motivating you in your services, in your service for Him. You see, Paul said we need to be renewed in our minds in Romans 12:1. I think the difference between the renewed mind and the unrenewed mind is this, the unrenewed mind comes to a situation and says, “What’s in this for me?” The renewed mind says, “Where will God get glory?” It’s a total change of motivation.
I think this very much applies to marriage. I think many marriages are unhappy because the people approach them with an unrenewed mind. The attitude of each is, “What will I get out of this? Will it make me happy?” That’s almost a certain recipe for an unhappy marriage. The right motive is what can I give, not what can I get but what can I give? And when two people meet together with the purpose of giving to one another they’ll have a happy and successful marriage. It’s the whole issue of motivation that’s really important.
Secondly, if your work is to stand the test of fire it must be done in obedience to the Word of God. That’s the only acceptable basis. In Matthew 7 Jesus spoke about two different kinds of persons, the one who built on the sand and the one who built on the rock. He said at the end, Matthew 7 (I’m in Mark, that’s why I’m having trouble, but I’ll be there) Matthew 7 verse 21 and following. These are the words of Jesus:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
So, the only acceptable motive is to do the will of God the Father. And then Jesus goes on with something that offends some people. He said:
“Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
I have, by the grace of God, been privileged to cast out many, many demons. I’ve seen a number of very definite miracles take place. I have frequently prophesied. I want to tell you I do not base my hope of heaven on any of that. And anybody who does is in danger. There’s only one essential requirement for heaven, it’s doing the will of the Father that is in heaven. Jesus says to these miracles workers, “Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.” Do you know, many of them are a law to themselves. They do basically whatever they feel like, take whatever they can get and ignore the great central principles of the Word of God. I could speak a lot about that but it’s probably not profitable.
But I have to say, I’ve just recently written a letter about Balaam. I was so impressed with the story of Balaam. Here was this man with these miraculous prophetic gifts, words of knowledge and words of wisdom. I mean, he gave forth prophesies in Numbers as beautiful as any that are uttered in the Bible concerning the destiny of Israel. And yet he perished, executed by the people of Israel. Do you know what his problem was? He’s mentioned three times in the New Testament and it states very clearly Balaam’s motivation was love of money. That cost him his soul. And really, in today’s church we need to ask ourselves are we motivated by the love of money.
Ruth and I have a Scripture we quote (I won’t ask her up) but it says:
“We are not as many who peddle the Word of God for profit.”
That’s a startling statement, isn’t it? That was in the days of Paul. Paul says there are a lot of people making profit out of the gospel. It’s our motives that God searches.
And the third requirement is the power that we operate in. In Romans 15:18–19 Paul says:
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me in word and deed to make the Gentiles obedient in mighty signs and wonders by the power of the Spirit of God.”
Paul says nothing that I’ve done is worth mentioning except that which the Holy Spirit has done through me. That’s the only acceptable power for ministry, is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
So let me give you those three requirements for your work to stand the test of fire. Your motive: for God’s glory. Are you doing it in obedience to the Word of God or are you doing your own thing or making your own rules? And number three, are you working in the power of the Holy Spirit or in your own fleshly ability?
Now we come to two patterns of judgment, two parables that Jesus related. And I’ve had a difficult time deciding how to deal with this, but I think I’m going to have to read them, take a little while. The first is the parable of the minas, M-I-N-A. Mina simply means a measurement. It was a measurement of money. And this parable is found in Luke 19. In the older versions it was called the Parable of the Pounds. A mina was a fairly small amount of money. We’re going to read Luke 19:11 and following:
“Now as they heard these things He spoke another parable, because it was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately. Therefore He said, ‘A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.’”
In other words, it’s going to be a long while before I get back.
“So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, one each, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’”
In other words, make a profit.
“But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ And so it was when he returned and received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.”
And God is going to require an account of our service from each one of us.
“Then came the first saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ He said to him, ‘Well done, good servant. Because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’”
So our faithfulness in service in this life will determine the position we occupy in eternity, the responsibility we’ll be able to carry in the kingdom of God.
“The second came saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’”
But he didn’t say well done, faithful servant. There was a lower level of commendation.
“Then the third came saying, ‘Master, here is your mina which I’ve kept put away in a handkerchief, for I feared you because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit and reap what you did not sow.’ And the lord said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank that in my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him and give it to him who has ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas already.’”
They really didn’t think that was right that the one who had ten already should get one more. Then Jesus goes on:
“For I say to you that to every one who has will be given, and from who does not have, even what he has, will be taken away from him.”
Now listen to this because most of us don’t think this way. But that’s not the end of the parable, there’s one more sentence.
“But bring here those enemies of mine who did not want me to reign over them and slay them before me.”
That’s Jesus the Judge. Not Jesus the Savior but Jesus the Judge. Remember, the same person who’s the Savior is also the Judge. Just as thorough and efficient as He is in saving, so He will be in judging.
Does your picture of Jesus include that? Or are you just one of those who say, “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild”? Praise God, that’s true but it’s not the whole truth, there’s another side to Jesus. He is the Judge with eyes like a flame of fire, a two-edged sword that goes out of His mouth, a voice like the sound of many waters, feet like bronze in a furnace. And when John the revelator met Him in that capacity he fell at His feet as dead. This impresses me. John, who had the closest relationship of all the disciples with Jesus. He’d lain on His bosom at the Last Supper, he’d been one of those who was there when Jesus had revealed Himself on the Sea of Galilee and made breakfast for them.
I like that, you know, just by the way. I like the fact that Jesus had breakfast ready for His disciples.
But anyhow, here’s this John who’s know Jesus so intimately, confronted by Jesus the Judge and he falls at His feet like one dead. You know, I think something like that needs to happen to the church. I think the church which has been living on a buddy-buddy relationship with Jesus needs to be confronted by Jesus the Judge. I think it wouldn’t do us any harm if we fell at His feet like someone dead. It would be something we need to learn.
Now let’s comment on this parable. First of all, the one who made the most got the extra. This is a principle. One time God gave me a supernatural gift of faith in a very strange way. I used to pray for people with unequal legs and the short leg grew out. It happened to literally hundreds of people and I told them, “Now, God has touched you. His supernatural power is working in your body, help yourself.” I saw lots of people supernaturally healed.
But, my good friends, my fellow ministers said, “You know, Derek, you have a reputation as a dignified Bible teacher. If you go around holding people’s feet and lengthening their legs, it may not fit in with your reputation.” So I thought maybe they’re saying the right thing. I went to the Lord and this is what I feel He said. He said, “I’ve given you a gift,” and I suddenly realized it was a gift, the gift of faith. “There are two things you can do. You can use it and get more or you can fail to use it and lose it.” I made up my mind at that point I was going to use it and get more. And I say to the glory of God, I got more. But remember, whatever gift you have, there are two things you can do. You can use it and get more or you can fail to use it and lose it.
And then bear in mind, as I think we’ve said already, your service in this life will determine your position in eternity. The one who had gained ten minas was over ten cities; the one who had gained five minas was over five cities. It was in exact proportion to their faithfulness in this life. And notice Jesus did not say, “Well done, good and successful servant,” He said, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” And some of us put much too much emphasis on success and much too little emphasis on faithfulness.
We are privileged today to see tremendous works of God in many what are called foreign mission fields. We could get a little puffed up and say, “Isn’t that wonderful! Thousands of people come to my seminars.” But God has shown me, “Don’t forget, there was a generation before you that saw very little fruit but they labored and you’ve entered into their labors. And don’t you give yourself too high an opinion of yourself.” I respect the pioneers, I respect those who labored and laid down their lives. When the first missionaries went to East Africa, four out of every five died before they’d been there many months. They didn’t see any results but they were seeds planted in the earth that brought forth fruit later.
I tell you sincerely, the greatest single danger that you and I face is pride. You know about the man—I shouldn’t tell this story but you know about the man in church who was given the badge for humility? And then they had to take it away from him because he wore it! So, don’t leave here wearing your badge for humility after all I’ve said.
Now, one more thing, the man who didn’t make anything, Jesus said to him, “Well, you maybe didn’t have the ability to make money yourself but you could have put it in the bank and I would have gotten my own with interest.” That proves to me that it’s not always wrong to receive interest. It may be wrong in some places but not all.
Now what would that be for you and me? What could we do? We might say, “Well, I don’t have a big ministry, I’m not a preacher, I’m not an administrator, I don’t have a lot of talent. What can I do?” Put it in the bank. What’s that? This is my understanding. Find a ministry that’s really bringing forth fruit, check it, test it and then invest in it. That’s putting the money in the bank. You’ll get your interest when the Lord comes. Amen.
Now let’s look at the next parable which is very similar but somewhat different, the parable of the talents. That’s in Matthew 25:14–30. Matthew 25:14 and following:
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two and to another one; to each according to his own ability, and immediately went on a journey.”
Now, notice in the minas each one got one mina but with the talents one got five, one got two and one got one. And he distributed them according to their ability. I want you to understand that God gives you talents according to what He knows you can do with them. If you can use five talents He’ll give you five. If you can only use two He’ll give you two and if you can only use one He’ll give you one. But it’s according to your ability that He measures what He gives.
And then it says:
“Then the one who received five talents went and traded with them and made another five talents. Likewise, he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them.”
And brothers and sisters, the Lord is going to come and settle accounts with you and me.
“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents. Look, I’ve gained five more talents beside them.’ The lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”
Notice the same principle, what you do in this world will determine what you do in eternity.
“He who also received two talents came and said, ‘Lord, you delivered to me two talents. Look, I’ve gained two more.’ His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’”
Now there’s a different principle there. Because one made five talents and the other made two but the words of commendation were exactly the same to each of them. In other words, it’s the percentage that God looks for. If you’ve received five, He expects a hundred percent. That’ll be fine. If you received two, He expects a hundred percent, that’s two. He knows what you’re capable of and He doesn’t ask more from you than He knows you can deliver.
Let’s go on:
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. I was afraid and went and hid your talent in the ground. There, you have what is yours.’ But his lord answered and said to him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant!’”
Let me point out to you that laziness is wickedness. Most of our churches wouldn’t accept drunkards, they’d say you can’t take a place in the congregation. Many of our churches accept lazy people. But in the sight of God I think laziness is a worse sin than drunkenness. That’s just the way I see Jesus measuring things. Please understand, I’m not endorsing drunkenness, it’s a sin. But I think in the eyes of God laziness is a worse sin. Jesus said:
“You wicked and lazy servant! You knew that I reaped where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered. Then you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest.’”
Again, the same principle. If you haven’t got the ability to make money yourself, invest it in a ministry that is bringing forth fruit.
“Therefore, take the talent from him and give it to him who has ten talents.”
Notice, it’s the one who has that receives.
“For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will have abundance. From him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
That’s a phrase that’s used several times in the New Testament, “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” I’ve studied where it’s used and I’ve come to the conclusion it’s only used about people who’ve been right close to the real thing. They’ve had every opportunity to get in. It’s not people who’ve been right out and never knew anything about God but it’s the people who’ve been right there all their lives and knew all about it and never entered in. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. There will be the tremendous bitterness of saying, “I could have been in this, I had the opportunity all the time but I never availed myself of it. Now I’m cast out forever into outer darkness.” Terrible.
Let me say one more thing. The people who were rejected were the people who had the least committed to them, the one talent person. I find that’s true in the church. Basically, the people who’ve got a lot of ability will do something with it. The people who’ve got a good measure of ability will do something. But the one talent people sit back and say, “Well, I don’t have much, there’s nothing much I can do so I won’t do anything.” They’ll be rejected, they’ll be cast out.
I want to speak to some of you. I don’t want to identify you but you are one talent persons. And you’ve underestimated your responsibilities and said, “I don’t have much, there’s not much I can do. God doesn’t require much of me.” God does. He requires faithfulness whether you have a little or whether you have much.
I preached this in our church in Fort Lauderdale on the one talent people and I asked for a response for people who felt they were one talent and hadn’t been using their talent. The response was shocking! It was about half the congregation. I came to see this is a major problem with many believers. “I’ve only got one talent so what can I do with it? I’ll do nothing.” Jesus will not accept that. He said, “You could have put it in the bank. Your one talent you could have invested in a ministry that was really bringing forth fruit.” And then, much of that fruit would have been credited to you.
One of our big problems, Ruth and I, is we need somebody to serve us. We’re not ambitious, we don’t want to lord it over people but if we’re to do our job, the one that God assigns, we have to have people who will serve. Just serve. And do you know what the hardest thing to find in the church today is people who are willing to serve. We’ve had some wonderful ones; we’ve met two or three of them here. In fact, we had a little gathering with three different people who had served us at different times. Each of them had been faithful. But we’ve had so many problems with people who want their own ministry. They’re not content to invest in another ministry. And they miss everything. They don’t get their own ministry, they don’t get the benefit of the investment that they made in another’s ministry.
Dear one talent people, look out! You’re in danger. You may hear the words, “Cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Now let me take some principles from these parables.
Number one, our service in this life determines our position in the next life.
Number two, not to use your talent is to lose it.
Number three, not to do good when you can is sin. James 4:17:
Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, it is sin.
We often talk about the sins of commission but the sins of omission are just as real.
And then I want to analyze for a moment Matthew 5. There are three classes of people there who were totally rejected by God. The foolish virgins who took no oil, the one talent servant who did nothing with it and the goat nations who did not help the brothers of Jesus. And they were all totally and finally rejected by God. I said to myself one day, “What did they all have in common that caused them to be rejected? What did they do?” I got a simple answer, “They did nothing.” That’s all you have to do to be rejected—just do nothing. It’s a solemn thought.
We’re going to go on very quickly to the other judgments. We’ve been dealing mainly with the judgments of believers because that’s the one that really concerns us. If we’re believers this is what we really need to know about.
Now I believe the next judgment will be the judgment of Israel, a special people set apart by God. And though they’ve been disobedient and unfaithful in many, many centuries, God has never finally rejected them. What is the Scripture we say?
“The Lord will not reject His people for His great name’s sake because it has pleased the Lord to make Israel His people.”
What God does for Israel is not because of Israel’s desserts, it’s because of the Lord’s name, that His name may be glorified. God is going to deal with Israel in a special way. Here’s a principle that I want to pass on to you about blessing and judgment. God blesses the Jews direct but He blesses the Gentiles through the Jews. Those of us who are Gentiles here need to remember that. Every spiritual blessing we have ever received we owe to the Jewish people. Jesus said in John 4:22:
“Salvation is from the Jews.”
It’s a very simple statement. Every single blessing that you’ve ever received in salvation you owe to one people, the Jewish people. God expects you to recognize that and act accordingly.
But when it comes to judgment God judges the Gentiles direct, He judges the Jews through the Gentiles. Let me repeat that. God blesses the Jews direct, He blesses the Gentiles through the Jews. God judges the Gentiles direct, He judges the Jews through the Gentiles. You go back through hundreds of years of Jewish history, persistently God has used Gentile nations to judge them for their disobedience and their unfaithfulness.
And so, the next judgment is going to be the judgment of Israel in the great tribulation. We’ll just look at one Scripture, Jeremiah 30:3–7.
“For thus says the Lord, ‘The days are coming that I will bring back from exile my people Israel and Judah,’ says the Lord. ‘I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers and they shall possess it.’”
No matter what any government or politician likes to think, it says they shall possess it. And everybody who knows the Bible knows what land that is, there’s only one land.
A preacher, a friend of mine once said, “Well, if the return of the Jews to their land were from God, there would be peace.” He didn’t know His Bible because this is what God says in connection with the return of the Jews:
“These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah, ‘For thus says the Lord, we have heard a voice of trembling, of fear and not of peace. Ask now and see whether a man is ever in labor with child. So why do I see every male with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor and all faces turned pale?’”
The greatest pressure that Israel has never experienced is immediately ahead, it’s after they’ve returned to the land.
“Alas, for that day is great so that none is like it. It is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.”
Notice not saved from it but saved out of it. And there God will deal in judgment with the Jewish people. At the end of the tribulation their judgment will have taken place. Then God will judge the other nations. Joel 3:1–2, time is running out, I’ll have to go quickly. Joel 3:1–2:
“For behold, in those days and at that time when I bring back the exiles of Judah and Jerusalem...”
Notice this refers to the same period, the return of the Jewish people to their own land, God says:
“I will also gather all nations [Gentile nations] and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of my people, my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations. They have also divided up my land.”
So God says when He’s finished dealing with the Jews then He will deal with the Gentiles. He will deal with them on one basis, the way they have treated Israel. That’s a remarkable fact but it’s there. God has got two accusations. One, they have oppressed the Jewish people. Number two, they have divided up or partitioned that land. God says, “That’s my land. I gave it to Israel.” And, no human authority or government has any right whatever to divide that land up. What is happening today? Exactly what God said should not happen. The land has been partitioned, is being partitioned and probably will be partitioned. But when God comes in judgment He’ll judge the nations that have partitioned that land.
Unfortunately, right at the top of the list He could put Britain. Because, Britain was responsible for the mandate at the end of World War I, was authorized to provide a national home for the Jewish people and in the year 1922 Britain by a single decision of Winston Churchill allocated seventy-six percent of that land to an Arab nation which is now called Jordan. And no Jew is permitted to live there. Of the remaining twenty-four percent, the United Nations divided it up. But all are going to have to answer to Jesus when He comes.
And if you look at Matthew 25, the judgment of the nations—the sheep nations that are invited into the kingdom, the goat nations that are dismissed from the kingdom, that are sent into everlasting punishment—the basic principle of division is the way they have treated the brothers of Jesus. I say this because it’s so important because Israel is a major factor in world affairs today and many of the nations are lining up on the wrong side. Israel cannot defend themselves but sooner or later, when the time comes, God will intervene.
So that’s the third judgment, the fourth we’ll only just mention, it’s the judgment before the great white throne referred to in Revelation 20:
“When heaven and earth have fled away from the face of the One who sits on the throne, and all the remaining dead are resurrected, stand before God and are judged according to the things written in the books.”
But there’s another book, thank God for that, which is the Book of Life. And, those whose names are written in the Book of Life will enter into eternity with God. The rest will be banished forever from the presence of God.
So those are the four main judgments.
Number one, the judgment seat of Christ, a judgment only of believers.
Number two, the judgment of Israel in the great tribulation.
Number three, the judgment of all other nations before Christ’s throne at the beginning of the millennium.
And number four, the final judgment of all the remaining dead before the great white throne.
So those are the principles of God’s judgment as I have been able to understand them. And each of us now needs to ask ourselves, “Am I prepared to face the judgment of God? Am I living the kind of life that will not cause me to be ashamed when I stand before Him?” Brothers and sisters, let’s pray together and pray about this vital issue of standing before the judgment of God.
“Almighty God, your Word is so clear. We have been ministering your Word to your people tonight. Now I want to pray for every person gathered here that these words that I’ve spoken that have been taken directly from the Bible will sink deep into the hearts and that there will be many who will be prompted seriously to examine their own lives. I pray especially for the one talent people. Lord, don’t let them hide that talent in the ground. Help them to deposit it with the bankers that they may not be ashamed before you when you come. Lord Jesus, you’ve spoken to us many times you’re coming quickly, you’re coming soon. You’ve warned us many times even in these meetings that we need to be ready for your coming. I pray for each one here, myself included, grant us by your grace to be ready for your return, to be ready to stand before the judgment seat of Jesus and give an answer to the things we’ve done in the body. Lord, we pray this mercy in your name, the name of Jesus. Amen.”
God bless you.