I recently got to play golf with my brother Chuck. We were talking about the aches and pains of getting older as he just turned 60 in August. I commented that these aches and pains are God’s reminders to us that we should look forward to eternity where in the new heavens and new earth we will no longer experience any pain “for the former things will have passed away.” (Rev. 21:4). He sadly commented, “I don’t know. I feel like I’ve been too bad.” I said, “Oh you have. And so have I. But that’s why it’s all God’s grace and nothing of us.” It got me to thinking about the verses which comment that we will be judged according to our works as well: Matt. 12:37; Acts 10:34,35; Rom. 14:12; Rev. 20:12,13 (and others).
2 Cor. 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is do for what he has done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or evil.”
If we are saved by God’s grace “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8,9), how do we reconcile this with the teaching from those other verses about being judged by our works?
I believe in the final judgment our works will be examined to determine the degree of our rewards. There are degrees of punishment for the lost according to Matt. 10:15; 11:22-24; and Luke 12:47,48 where we read about those who will receive a “light beating” vs. those who will receive a “severe beating.” So, I believe the corresponding truth is that our works will determine the degree of our rewards. Look at Matt. 5:19; 18:4; Luke 19:12-19. Also, 1 Cor. 3:12-15 tells us the fire of judgment “will test the quality of each man’s work>” Some will be rewarded and some will not.
The judgment we receive according to our works is only part of the final judgment. It will be the preliminary part of our judgment and will be followed by the second stage which determines where we will spend eternity. Take the time to read Rev. 20:11-15 which shows these two stages. The part of judgment that determines where we will spend eternity is whether or not our names are found in the book of life. The deeds have nothing to do with this except to demonstrate that we have saving faith in Jesus’ blood on the cross. Those who’ve trusted in Him and what He did on the cross will pass this final phase of judgment. We will pass it only because of trusting in Jesus.