In their book Is It Real When It Doesn’t Work? Doug Murren and Barb Shurin recount the story of Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Nobel awoke one morning to read his own obituary in the local newspaper. It said, “Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, who died yesterday, devised a way for more people to be killed in a war than ever before, and he died a very rich man.”
But the account had a profound effect on Nobel. He decided he wanted to be known for something other than developing the means to kill people efficiently and for amassing a fortune in the process. So he initiated the Nobel Prize, the award for scientists and writers who fostered peace.
Nobel said, “Every man ought to have the chance to correct his epitaph in midstream and write a new one.”
When he had a chance to look at life as though it were finished, Nobel understood that the direction of his life needed to change. And all of us should agree that few things will change us as much as looking at our life as though it were finished.
I believe that is why the Bible speaks so much about the end times. Most of us will not have the opportunity to read our own obituary, like Alfred Nobel. But when we read the Scriptures it forces us to look ahead so that we can get the right perspective on our present lives.
And no doubt that is true with regard to our passage this morning. Here in Romans 14 Paul throws our minds forward to the last great day: the Day of Judgment—the day when all people will be called forth to stand before the great tribunal of Jesus Christ. Paul gives us a glimpse into the events that will transpire in that courtroom in order to help us plot the present course of our lives now.
What will happen on that Day of Judgment? Well, when we look into the passage you see that the courtroom proceedings will being with a service of worship. Paul tells us that God’s glory will be universally professed.
I. God’s glory will be universally professed 
In verse 11 Paul quotes from the prophet Isaiah which says, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." We could also say, “Every tongue shall give praise to God.”
Every single person in the world—every single person who is living or who has lived—will acknowledge God for who He is. They will all pay homage to him as the King of kings and Lord of lords—believer and unbeliever alike.
All of us who are believers will fall down before him with great joy. The climax of our lives will finally come. We will rejoice to finally see our Savior face to face. We will be so overcome with joy that we will fall down before our Master and give homage to him as our God.
And those who have not put their faith in him will have a similar reaction. Their exaltation will not be from a heart of joy, but they will indeed fall before him. The presence of God will be so overwhelming to them that they will not be able to control how they react. Though their hearts have defied Him all their lives—and though they still have absolutely no desire for his majesty—control of their body will fail them. The mere presence of Christ will force them to bow their knees, as if an elephant had been laid on their backs. And though it would be the last thing they would every wish to speak, because of the awe that overcomes them, they will be constrained to confess, “Thou art God and King.”
The event will be awesome because Christ will be openly manifested as awesome. We tend to think so much of Christ in his first advent/humiliation—when he came to earth as a humble and lowly, meek and mild man. But his second advent Christ will come with such glory and splendor that all men everywhere will be overwhelmed. They will not be able to stand because of the magnificence of his presence. They will not be able to hold back the honor that is due him.
William Wilberforce fought virtually his whole political life for the abolition of the slave trade in England. And it wasn’t without its difficulties. He faced a great deal of opposition in the House of Commons in which he labored. So much was the opposition that that Wilberforce’s proposal didn’t get passed for 20 years. But Wilberforce labored long and tenaciously for the cause. He formed societies for the abolition of the slave trade, passed out pamphlets and tracts displaying its evils, and did many other things to advance the cause of the campaign despite the overwhelming opposition.
When the time finally came for the abolition to be made into law in 1807, Wilberforce was honored as a great man by many. Applause came from all different corners, including one of his fiercest opponents on the bill. Many questioned why this man stood to give his acknowledgment of Wilberforce’s achievements. But the answer was quite obvious: Wilberforce’s excellence as a politician and man had earned him the recognition.
If that is true of an earthly man, whose glory is comparable to that of a worm, what shall it be in comparison to Christ? The day when Christ assembles the earth before him, there will be a mass recognition of his absolute Lordship. No one will be able to do anything except give laud and honor to his supreme excellence.
That day will bring forth a universal profession of God’s greatness. But after the adoration will come service proper. And we know that God’s justice will be pronounced.
II. God’s justice will be faithfully pronounced 
This is apparent from the nature of the event. It is judgment day. Verse 10 says that everyone is going to appear at the judgment seat of God. And you should expect nothing else from a courtroom than the execution of perfect justice.
I do want you to recognize though, that this justice will only be performed on a certain segment of those gathered. For those of us who have put our faith in Christ as our Savior, the Bible says that we will not be condemned. We learn that in places like Romans 8:1, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Justice will not fall upon us because we have already been justified through Christ. His perfect righteousness is given to us when we believe upon him for salvation. And when we come to him all our misdeeds are blotted out. So on the Day of Judgment, there is nothing that can be held against us.
The justice that will be performed will be exacted upon the unrighteous. It will fall upon all those who have not come to Christ. The books will be opened and all their misdeeds will be laid before them, one by one. Every single sin in their life, along with all the aggravations that did accompany them will be recounted for all to see. And then the witnesses will be brought forward to give an accurate testimony to their guilt. Then, having the case fully uncovered, the Lord Jesus Christ will pronounce his just sentence.
While I was doing some research on this subject this week I happened to read Westminster Larger Catechism. Question 90 asks, “What shall be done to the wicked at the day of judgment? It answers,
“At the day of judgment the wicked shall be set on Christ’s left hand; and upon clear evidence, and full conviction of their own consciences, shall have the fearful, but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them; and thereupon shall be cast out from the favorable presence of God, and the glorious fellowship with Christ, his saints, and all his holy angels, into hell, to be punished with unspeakable torments both of body and soul, with the devil and his angels for ever.”
Such a description is terrifying. Just the words alone are enough to strike fear into a man’s heart. Who could begin to unravel what each of those dreadful concepts really will mean? But such is an accurate description.
But remember, those words regard the future judgment that is to come. And they are here so that we know how to direct our present course of life. If you are one such person who has not sought the Savior and his favor yet, then you must act to do so if you are going to avert such a fate. So long as it is the present day, the Lord holds out the offer of his salvation. In this present time you can come to him and experience the sweetness of his grace. If you do you will find mercy with the judge. But if you do not, then you will experience the severity of his judgment.
In Warren Wiersbe’s book, Meet Yourself in the Psalms, he tells about a frontier town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon.
The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years earlier, had saved his life. So he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience.
But the words from the bench silenced his plea, “Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged.”
One day Jesus will say to rebellious sinners, “During that long day of grace, I was the Savior and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your Judge. Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire.”
Knowing that he will faithfully perform his justice behooves you, if you have not already, to embrace him.
Our passage goes on to say that there will be one other item on the agenda for that day though. Not only will God’s glory be universally professed, not only will God’s justice be faithfully pronounced, His grace will be visibly presented.
III. God’s grace will be openly published 
That is to say it will be put on display for all to see. That is the intent of verse 12 when it says, “So we will all give an account to God.”
When you first read this it sounds very condemning. It sounds like we who are Christians will see all of our misdeeds brought out and we will have to face the shame of having every one of them paraded in front of the world. But as I said before, all our sins have already been blotted out. When we confessed our sins to God and came to Jesus Christ it was like one of the angels fumbled with the pen and spilled the ink bottle all over the page where our sins were entered.
It is true. God does not see our sins any more. And we will not be called to account for them.
When this passage says that we will give an account for what we have done it is not talking about our sins. It is talking about all the honorable things we have done. All of our righteous acts are going to be publicized. And that is why I said that God’s grace is going to be visibly presented. For the good works we have done in life are not from our own power or might. They come as a result of the Spirit’s enabling power.
One theologian put it this way, “The great Judge shall [evidence] that they are [just] by producing those graces which were wrought in them and inseparably linked to their justification.”
So when we are judged it is not going to be a parade of our sins. It is going to be a parade of the virtues God’s grace has enabled us to perform. The grace that God has given us to be able to do his will is going to be flaunted before the world. And all creation is going to have a chance to marvel at what God has done in you and through you.
That’s why this is so fitting with the context. Remember why Paul is saying that we will have to give an account. Paul’s intent is to get us to think about our own personal lives. He is focusing on the strong and the weak brothers who are judging one another and despising one another. He’s saying don’t do that. He doesn’t want us to be keeping tally of one another’s misdeeds, because God doesn’t even do that. He wants us to be more concerned with our own lives. He wants us to be thinking about how we can show love to one another, despite one another’s personal quirks. That’s what we are going to have to give account of in the day Christ comes.
Think of it. Think of that brother or sister in Christ with whom you have trouble getting along. Now think about how on the day when you are standing before Christ all your righteous acts are being listed. One of them comes up on the screen, “Loved brother Joe when it was not favorable to do so.” Then the applause goes up from the great multitude of people who are gathered their in the courtroom to watch the proceedings.
We are to make it our aim to love so that God’s grace might be lauded all the more. Isn’t that what you want? Isn’t that your heart’s desire? Paul wants you to begin to ask God for the grace to live in harmony with your fellow believers. He wants you to stop whatever you are doing and beg for the strength to overcome your sin, to go against your natural inclinations and to do what pleases God. He wants you to think about every event in your life as an opportunity to allow God’s grace to be flaunted before the world.
I was speaking yesterday with my wife on this subject yesterday, reviewing with her the essence of the sermon. She first said to me, “It’s on the Judgment Day, isn’t it? That’s sounds like a scary one.”
That’s a thought that a lot of people have when they consider the subject. That is a proper feeling for those who have not put their trust in Christ. But this passage shows us that for us who believe, the judgment is not a thing to be feared at all. It shall be wonderful for us; a time of worship and adoration.
When we adopted Paige, we had to go down to Columbus so that we could appear before a judge. We were a little nervous at first because we never had to enter a courtroom before.
But in the midst of the proceedings we were greatly comforted. We saw that the judge was not against us in the least regard. Then the evidence was brought out that we would make a suitable home for Paige, and the judge was pleased. And when it was all over he said we were free to go and enjoy our new lives together.
This is much how it will be for us who are in Christ. When the day comes for us to stand before the Judge, we will find that he will not be against us. And all the evidence that is brought out will only cause him to smile all the more. And we will be free to enjoy our new lives together.
Being that this is how it will be on that great and awesome day, let us let our lives be conformed all the more to his grace.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.