First published 13 March 2011
When we think about dying and meeting God we should be afraid, afraid enough to think how we can prepare for that day. We will all die one day, and when we do we will meet our Maker! An atheist may say they don’t believe they will have any conscious experience after death, and therefore they have nothing to be afraid of. But God has told us that we will all face Him after the end of our life in this world. We can choose whether we believe that or not, but that will not affect the truth of the situation. And the prospect of meeting the Creator, the Lawmaker, the Judge, the All-Powerful, the Ruler of Everything, should make us nervous.
I had an experience recently that made me think about this. It’s not an experience I really wanted to talk about. I would rather forget about it, to be honest. But for the sake of a helpful illustration I will share! If someone finds this helpful then perhaps it will make a bad experience a bit more bearable!!
I had a claim for “Jobseekers Allowance” (a UK state benefit for the unemployed) turned down in 2009 when I had been out of work for eight months. I thought that was jolly unfair and so I appealed against the decision. I thought nothing more of it, since I finally found an interim management contract, and then fell ill. It was not worth chasing. But then a few of months ago I got a letter acknowledging my appeal and inviting me to a tribunal to hear the case. The hearing was several weeks ago, at the end of 2010.
I went along to the hearing having done a little preparation, but not armed with enough evidence to back up my case. I completely underestimated the formality and seriousness of the occasion. And I was utterly humiliated!
The case was heard by a “judge”. Ok, not a real judge, but an independent lawyer with authority to judge in the tribunal. I walked into the room alone and sat at a desk facing the judge’s bench, which was raised up on a platform. He spoke with a confident, posh accent – like the judges in the TV courtroom dramas.
He chided me for not bringing enough evidence, made me feel very small and reduced all my arguments to mumbling. I had set up my affairs in a particular way, and had not ordered them correctly in a way that would allow me to claim benefits. The fact that I had reached the point of selling a car, cashing in mortgage endowment policies and maxing out credit cards was of no interest. The fact that I had not asked advice from someone who could have given me good advice was of no consequence (even though I had asked advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau!). I had tripped over the letter of the law, I should have known better and my appeal was a waste of everyone’s time. And since I had earned a fair amount of money before my lengthy spell out of work I was made to feel bad for even applying for benefits in the first place.
I wished I had taken the whole thing more seriously, but it was too late. I wished I had been better prepared, but it was too late. I wished I had brought an advisor or a representative with me, but it was too late. (Actually, to be perfectly honest, I wished that I had just given up on the claim in 2009 and not bothered with the appeal!)
Without Christ, when we face God, the Judge of all People, we too would go before Him alone. We would feel exposed. We would realise how unprepared we are. We would kick ourselves because it would be too late to do anything about it. We would kick ourselves for not taking this court more seriously. All our arguments and complaints against Him would be reduced to mumbling. We would not be able to exonerate ourselves. God’s courtroom would be infinitely more forbidding and scary than the mini-courtroom I sat in. God would not have to say very much before our arguments would crumble, and we would realise that we should have known. And instead of being free to walk out of the hearing into the bleak streets of Reading, with only an ear-bashing and a failed appeal, we would go straight to face eternal punishment.
Many of us know this deep within ourselves, and we fear it. How will God, who sees everything, look upon our impurities, our selfishness, our greed, our sins? Can we really comfort ourselves with not being as bad as the worst? We’re not Myra Hindley, Saddam Hussain or Adolf Hitler, but is that good enough? Everyone does things that are wrong, but is that a good enough excuse? Who will help us after we die to make our case before God, the Creator, the Judge?
If we dwell long enough on the subject of our death, we realise that it will be a lonely journey. Can we really believe it will be a journey into darkness and nothing? Or will it be a lonely journey into the presence of the One whom we have spent our lives trying to avoid? And if we have spent our lives trying to avoid Him, how angry will He be? Who will help us then?
There is only one person who can help us. And only one way we can avoid this humiliation. That is Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 1:8-2:2) (NB. “Propitiation” is where God’s judgment upon us because of our sin is turned aside by Jesus standing in our place, taking our punishment upon himself.)
Jesus is our advocate with God the Father. Jesus stands for us in the courtroom of God if we have faith in Him and repent of our sins. He speaks in our defence. God could justly punish every human being with eternal damnation for our rejection of His rule in our lives. And yet because Jesus, the perfect Son of God, came as a human being on earth, and took the punishment that should have been handed to His people, by dying on the cross and suffering separation from His Father, God can look at us in that courtroom and acquit us. And we will be acquitted, not because God simply sweeps our sins and wrongdoing under the carpet, but because His justice has already been satisfied by Jesus’ death. All the wrath of God that we deserve was brought down on the head of the Son of God.
And God, through Christ, offers that forgiveness, to everyone if they will only turn, acknowledging their sin against Him, trusting in Jesus.
The bad news of life without Christ is death without Christ – a lonely journey to a courtroom where wrath with be full, wrath will be forever and wrath will be just.
The good news of life with Christ is eternal life after death with Christ – a life accompanied by the best friend and advocate anyone ever had, freedom to enjoy the new perfect creation that God will bring in to replace this passing universe at the end of time, a life never having to come in to the courtroom of God because Jesus has been there on our behalf.
Some more verses:
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)
If you are not a Christian, understand that this is serious and true, and this is the reason why your Christian friends want to convert you so much!! Your urgent attention will not be wasted for all eternity.
For Christians these thoughts should fill us again with gratitude and worship, that we should be forgiven and redeemed even though we deserve wrath. And we should be filled with compassion and concern for our friends and family members who don’t yet believe the good news, leading us to urgent prayer and taking every opportunity, with humility and grace, to share this salvation with them.
May none of us have to face the courtroom of God, but instead, through Jesus Christ the Saviour of the world, may we look forward to eternal life and friendship with God.