Suggested Pre-Reading: Eternal Judgment: 1
Let us remind ourselves of the predicament.
One day there will be an Eternal Judgment. God will send people to eternal bliss or eternal torment. If this future judgment is based on one’s ability to keep God’s law, all will be sent to eternal torment, for the Bible clearly teaches all have sinned against God and earned death:
…the wages of sin is death…(Romans 6: 23)
Yet the Bible, just as clearly as it states all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, acknowledges there will be those judged righteous and granted eternal life.
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25: 31 – 34)
A great paradox, then, has been presented to the reader of Scripture: how does a sinner who has earned death become righteous in God’s sight and inherit eternal life?
Before answering this question as the Bible answers it, we must first dispel the notion that the answer is “by keeping the law”. Let us use a courtroom analogy to demonstrate the point. Imagine that a man who robbed a bank is being tried for bank robbery. Will his defense be, “Yes, I robbed the bank, but I didn’t murder or rape anyone, so because I kept those laws, I should be declared innocent of bank robbery”? That type of defense, in an earthly court, is absurd. Whether or not he kept some laws has no legal impact on the law that he broke. In the heavenly court it is the same – no amount of law keeping can erase the sins we have committed. Why would my not having murdered someone legally erase my sin of hateful thoughts toward that person?
The conclusion then is this – righteousness must come apart from the law. This Biblical idea is in opposition to what is commonly taught in false religions. Many false religions send sinners to the law to earn righteousness and deal with sins previously committed. Think of the doctrine of karma in eastern religions or the rite of penance in Catholicism. But the Bible is clear on the matter – the law does not save. Here is what the Bible says about salvation on the day of judgment:
This argument also appears in the letter to Galatia:
Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “the righteous man shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3: 11)
Jesus Himself stated the same argument clearly and succinctly:
These verses of Scripture make it clear: those whom God will judge as righteous are not the law-keepers, but those whose faith is in Jesus Christ.
This idea is really quite scandalous. If someone lives for seventy years and only commits one sin a day, that equates to 25,550 sins over the course of a lifetime. Will God really declare someone righteous at the Eternal Judgment who has sinned over 25,000 times? Yes, God will – if the person trusts in Christ.
To understand more how this can be, we must discuss the Biblical teaching of atonement. This we will do in the next article.