For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:10)
Paul tells us that that suffering is not a sign of God’s curse or disfavor. On the contrary, suffering was a sure sign of the Lord’s presence with the believer. The Lord uses suffering for His glory and to spread the gospel. Paul was blessed to suffer adversity for the benefit of God’s kingdom. So are we. He knew that even if he were to die, that would not mean that his work and been in vain for death was the entry into the Lord’s presence. He desired to do good works not to earn the Lord’s favor but because he wanted to be clothed properly when he appeared before the judgment seat of the Lord. He did not have to fear that he will be found unclothed at that point. No believer should fear that because everyone who has faith in Christ is clothed in Him.
But herein lies the motivation for ministry. Do you think God lets those people you like or love into heaven just because you want Him to? When you have gone to the funeral for a loved one, or hear of the death of some noteworthy person or famous celebrity do you ever tell yourself and the others who were grieving that that person went to heaven, that God showed mercy at the end just because of who they were or because you liked them? Naturally if we felt that way, then God must have too. He just had to let that one into heaven, no questions asked. We feel that way about celebrities and famous people. God lets them into heaven just because of who they were, their fame, their glory, their good and/or noteworthy deeds.
Of course no one at a funeral likes to think or say that the deceased went to hell. It is much more comfortable to think that everyone goes to heaven. They were not that bad and really, only the exceptionally wicked and perverse get sent to hell, people like Stalin, Ben Laden, and Hitler. And finally, many comfort themselves with the idea that the deceased got one last chance to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in the split second at the instant of death. And at that point faced with such a choice, who would say no? Yet in reality, that choice is given to millions every day who are alive and well, but most choose to say no. Do we really think that they will change their minds after death?
All these thoughts, ideas and alternatives give the surviving relatives and friends great hope and comfort. But are they true? Is this what the Bible teaches?
Paul knew as do we that those who have not trusted Jesus for salvation should be afraid. They are not clothed in Christ. When they appear before the judgment seat, they will be naked and bound for condemnation. Paul preached the truth out of concern and compassion and love for others in order to prevent them from suffering judgment and hell. That should be our motive as well. People in the world, for whatever reason, are under the mistaken impression that salvation depends on them. They work to reconcile themselves to God (or whatever god they profess) through their religious, spiritual, altruistic or charitable deeds and actions. It is our ministry to tell them about almighty God’s act of reconciliation that changed everything. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself on the cross. He did all the work so we do not have to.