Ephesians 2:8-10 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, (Verse 9) not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Verse 10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
We are saved by grace for good works. We are not saved by our works. If that were the case, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die. When we got saved, we were created new in Christ Jesus for good works.
So, are we judged by our works? Ecclesiastes 12:14 – For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil. Revelation 20:13 – The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
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;
Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
All of these verses say that we are going to be judged by our works, lost or saved. Our deeds, what we do for others, is a big part of our lives. This is where people have to be totally honest with themselves: Do I live for me? or Do I graciously give to help others? Is what we do to others help benefit them, or harm them? However, if you are not a believer, it doesn’t matter how much good you do, you cannot earn favor with God.
Our “belief” will determine “where” we spend eternity, but our behavior, what God has given us to help others, will determine “how” we will spend eternity!
In heaven there will be rewards and different degrees of responsibilities, but both will be determined by what we do while on earth. These churches that teach that it doesn’t matter how we live because we are under grace, have not understood that “We were created for good works, in Christ Jesus!” So yes, it does matter what we do while on this earth!
There will also be degrees of punishment in hell. There will be two judgments: The Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne of Judgment. Every person at the Judgment Seat of Christ is a believer. Every person at the Great White Throne of Judgment, is an unbeliever. That was already determined long ago. Each individual will determine which judgment they will go to while living on this earth. Once a person dies, there is no more choice. We all will end up at one or the other. At each of these judgments, our works are going to be judged.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
This judgment is for the believers: 2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the Judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Romans 14:10 – But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (The Apostle Paul was talking to believers.)
In 1 Corinthians, Chapter 3, there had begun to be division in the church about whose teaching they had sat under. Paul tells them that they are acting “carnal.”
1 Corinthians 3:10 – According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. (Verse 11) For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (Verse 12) Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (Verse 13) 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. (Verse 14) If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. (Verse 15) If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
As believers, we can either do eternal works, works that carry into eternity, or works that are temporary, those that only benefit ourselves or with wrong motives, only last while on this earth.
Look what Jesus said at the sermon on the mount: Matthew 6:1 – “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Verse 2) Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (Verse 3) “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Verse 4) that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”
When I read these verses, I always think of the people who brag about all the charities that they help out so that others will pat them on the back. I’ve even heard Christians brag about every person that they witness to, as if to say, “If I hadn’t witnessed to them, they would not have been saved. Look how faithful I am!” Do what you do in secret and the Lord will reward you openly. Nobody likes a bragger!
1 John 2:28 – And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.
What? Why would a believer be ashamed when Jesus comes? Because maybe they wasted their life, never got around to really doing anything for the kingdom. They really believed, but they didn’t make their time count to benefit another.
The Great White Throne Judgment
This judgment is for the unbelievers: Revelation 20:11 – Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (Verse 12) And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
Do you see that it was already determined which judgment people will stand before? This is not to determine whether the person is a believer in Christ or not. That choice was made while the person was still living. This is the judgment of their deeds while they lived on the earth. Also, did you catch the word “books?” There will be books that have kept all our works and deeds.
Degrees of Punishment
Just as there will be rewards in heaven, there will be different degrees of punishment in hell. I honestly believe that more people would put their faith in Christ if they believed that there is going to be a time when they draw their last breath here on earth and wake up standing before a Mighty God, and know that they are going to spend an eternity in darkness with no way of escape.
Mathew 11:20 – Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: (Verse 21) “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. ( Tyre and Sidon were well-known for tormenting the prophets and idol worship.) (Verse 22) “But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. (Less suffering) (Verse 23) “And 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. (Sodom would not have been completely destroyed if those mighty works of Jesus had been done there, because they would have repented.) (Verse 24) “But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you!”
The people of Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum, had all been eye-witness to Jesus’ miracles and mighty works, yet they did not repent. Tyre, Sodom, and Sidon, were not going to suffer the same degree of punishment in hell that these cities He was speaking to now would. Bottom line: The more exposure to the gospel a person is, but yet does not repent, will be way worse than for the person who wasn’t exposed to the gospel as much.
Romans 2:5 – But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (Verse 6) who will render to each one according to his deeds.
People who reject Christ over and over, are building up God’s wrath on the day of judgment. Believers store up treasures in heaven; the unrepentant store up God’s wrath on the day of judgment.
For those who think they are saved by the grace of God, but because of what they have been taught think that after being saved they can continue to live any way they want, that old life-style, they are not saved! The Bible says “Repent” and “Believe.” The Bible says to repent and when we repent we change the way we think and when we change the way we think we will change the way we act, our behavior. If a person’s behavior has never changed, then they are not saved!
Pastors, those in leadership, and teachers, are all held to a stricter standard. Why? Because they are the ones teaching the word of God and leading by example.
James 3:1 – My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
The Heavenly Father is always watching and recording all of our work, to ether reward the believer or punish the unbeliever.