(Photo: Reuters / Alessandro Bianchi)
After spending four years behind bars, Amanda Knox’s murder conviction has been overturned by an Italian appeals court. In a way, every courtroom verdict announced in the world today is a reminder of the ultimate verdict that each person will receive in God's courtroom on Judgment Day. The courtrooms seen today with our eyes point to the one out in the future seen by faith.
A few days ago I attended the sentencing of a 18-year-old who has been participating in a Bible class I teach at the county jail. He pled guilty to second-degree murder in the killing of another teenager. Johnny stood there as the judge handed down the sentence. He was given 90 years in prison. Johnny will not be eligible for parole for 45 years. As they whisked Johnny from the courtroom, he turned and looked at his mother. Horror was written all over his face.
What about you? What sentence do you deserve to receive for your sins? The Bible says, “Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” (James 2:10) In other words, our sin against God is enough to send each of us away to be punished forever in hell.
Make no mistake about it - you will get your day in court! It will be unlike anything you have ever experienced. The Bible says “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) Every second that ticks away brings you one second closer to your day in God’s courtroom. Are you ready to meet your Maker?
Many people are working hard to pile up “good works” in preparation for Judgment Day. Many of them do not realize that your works do not even begin to be “good” in God's eyes until you receive Jesus as your Savior. Up until that point, all your “righteous acts are like filthy rags” to God. (Isaiah 64:6) In other words, it’s all bad on the ledger sheet of your spiritual life. Your laundry list of deeds will not even amount to one good work in God’s eyes.
On the other hand, “it’s all good” for the believer in Jesus on Judgment Day. Everything you did as a Christian with the right motive will receive a reward. Perhaps that reward will be getting to experience the joy of seeing others enter heaven that you helped lead to Jesus. Imagine the joy of spending eternity with people who came to know the Savior through your Christian witness on earth. What an awesome reward!
Whatever the rewards, they will only be given to those who trusted Christ for salvation. Getting into heaven is a free gift and cannot be merited by our actions. The rewards are like a “bonus” given to believers for the things done while in the body. No one in heaven will be jealous of the rewards given to another. Everyone in heaven will be ecstatic!
Likewise, there will be various degrees of punishment in hell. (see Matthew 11:22-24) Men like Hitler and those who abuse children will be punished more severely than others who are also cast into the lake of fire. They will each receive what is due them for the things done while in the body. It’s all bad for the unbeliever. Their morality will tragically fall far short of God’s holy standard for perfection. As Charles Spurgeon said: “Morality will keep you out of jail, but only the blood of Jesus will keep you out of hell.” Faith in Christ connects you to His blood which washes your sin away.
We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Your parents cannot take your place before the Judge. You will go before Jesus Christ, your Judge, either as a Christian who accepted God’s gift of eternal life through faith; or as a religious person who attempted to earn heaven by your efforts; or as an atheist standing in stunned silence as the panic begins. It’s not too late my friend for you to receive God's free gift of everlasting life. “Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Amanda Knox and Johnny both had their day in the courtrooms of this world. One day, they will stand before God just like you and me. If you are still living under the delusion that your checklist of accomplishments is going to earn your entrance into heaven, it is time to snap out of your spiritual slumber. “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” (Ephesians 5:14) Believers need not fear their appointment in God's courtroom. Jesus paid it all at Calvary!