If heaven begins when we turn to Christ for life, then how do we interpret the judgment of Christ?
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8
There have been several attempts to interpret the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ,
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
One interpretation is to see this judgment as a future event when we all get to heaven, so to speak. Everyone initially goes, even the unrighteous. Granted, they will stand before God for their judgment, but what kind of judgment is it? Obviously, it has to do with our actions here in this life. So, is the judgment punishment or is it the allowance of people to receive what they have chosen? The result is the same: Those who have chosen Christ will live with Him forever while those who have chosen NOT Christ are sent away–or, allowed to leave–to go where descriptions include weeping and gnashing of teeth, outer darkness, and even fire.
Another interpretation is to see this judgment as a current event for everyone as they live their lives. In our lives, Whom do we want to please? Those who know and love Christ want to please Him (John 14:15, Colossians 1:10). The fruit of their labor is the love, joy and peace that they experience in a close relationship with the Holy Spirit. As is stated in 2 Corinthians 5:9, “So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it,” this relationship carries over into eternity.
What about those who choose NOT Christ? They live their lives in darkness, not knowing what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:19). If heaven is being with Christ, then hell is not being with Christ. If Christ is in us, then our heaven has begun; likewise, if Christ is not in us, then our hell is upon us. They live without hope, without knowing His love, His joy, His peace, and they stumble through life as best they can. When they die, they must stand before Christ and give account. That accounting is between them and the Lord. I cannot venture an opinion on what is due them.
Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:11, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” That “fear” is, phobon, which means “panic flight, fear, the causing of fear, terror.” This is the fear of those who have not met the Lord Jesus Christ. What does Jesus say? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Is this Jesus different than the One who sits at the right hand of the Father? I refer you to our starting verse in Hebrews 13:8.
The Good News we share and try to persuade others is His mission to draw all people back to the Father through Himself (John 12:32) to begin their “heaven with Him” now! We need not fear God (Matthew 10:31, 1 John 4:18). He loves us dearly (John 3:16).
Abba, thank You for loving us so much that You came to earth in Jesus to show us Your love. May we give ourselves totally and completely to that mission of love and serve You with grateful hearts. Amen.