You’ve been served. You have a court date.
Such words bring either fear or relief depending on the circumstances. For those seeking justice, they offer long-awaited and hopeful consolation. But for the accused, they prompt fear and a scramble of legal due process.
However, how would we react if these words were intended for the courts of heaven?
Let’s suppose, at the beginning of our lives, an official summons arrived with regal lettering that read:
You Have an Eternal Court Date. Your lifetime decisions, actions, and behaviors will be the evidence determining your destined appearance and subsequent judgment in one of two court rooms.
How would that change the way we live?
The truth is, we’ve already received that summons. In His loving favor, God has already warned us about our inevitable court date in His Word. “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Death’s inevitability exists. God’s courtroom summons is real. This present reality called life is where we create our evidence.
With the free will God grants, each person may choose how to live, but there is no escaping the option of only one of two courtrooms. That may seem a bit narrow-minded and unfair. However, in His grace, God leaves the ultimate choice to us. No matter how much we fuss, ignore, deny, or even declare such an arrangement unfair, time steadily moves us closer to our appointed court dates.
For those who believe they have all the time in the world before facing such eventuality, God’s court documents provide a warning. “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Very few people face their later years without wondering how fast time raced into eternity past.
The official summons describes the name, setting, and proceedings of each heavenly courtroom.
The Judgment Seat of Christ
This is where every believer in Christ will give account for his or her decisions, actions, behaviors, and lifestyle since accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior. Now, this isn’t the usual courtroom we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in person or on television shows. No, this courtroom is far superior and majestic. There are no mahogany tables for Plaintiffs and Defendants, no jury seats staged behind a low wall, or padded seats for onlookers.
A furled banner, hung from nothing, announces the place and occasion:
All Shall Stand Before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Each Shall Give Account of Himself to God.
This spectacular courtroom is ringed with galaxies and perfumed with heaven. Myriad colors prism the atmosphere. Instead of a judicial bench, there is a glittering throne, high and lifted up, beaming with splendor. In endless rows of cloudy, cushiony, stadium seating sit heavenly beings and people from all ages since the Creation. Each spectator has an unrestricted view and hearing of the proceedings—a structural miracle considering the millions upon millions in attendance. Muted whispers cascade like a gushing waterfall.
Before the throne stands one small podium—accommodating one person at a time.
As the Righteous Judge ascends His throne, every living being falls prostrate to worship Him. A reverent hush settles in as each person takes his or her turn to stand before Him.
With an assertive yet compassionate voice, the risen, exalted, and glorified Christ will ask:
- What did you do with My Word?
- Did you accept My Gospel of salvation?
- What did you do with the talents and gifts I gave you?
- How did you interact with My Holy Spirit by which I indwelt and empowered you?
- What did you do with the opportunities I presented you?
- How did you spend the life I gave you?
As all-knowing and ever-existent, He already knows the answers. This is more of a personal accountability promised long ago.
Our lives will be reviewed by the standards of “wood, hay, stubble” or “gold, silver, precious stones,” then tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). Based on what survives God’s purifying blast, rebukes or rewards will be given—and positions of authority in the Heavenly kingdom.
Not all will reign equally. A carnal, worldly believer is foolish to believe he will rule and reign in the same capacity as believers who surrendered all—even their lives—and lived victoriously, faithfully, and obediently to Christ. How tragic to be saved eternally, yet suffer loss due to a selfish, unfulfilled, carnal life. This is the judgment seat, not the mercy seat.
Oh, but how great the joy of the believer who humbly and gratefully bows when he is recognized for the treasures he has laid up in Heaven.
The Great White Throne
Across a celestial expanse is another courtroom with a similar layout. However, this is the Great White Throne judgment.
And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. (Revelation 20:11 / NLT)
Unfortunately, those summoned to this ominous stadium of justice are those who never accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. Though they procrastinated, mocked, or outrightly rejected Him, the time of salvation is past. Now is the time of eternal judgment.
I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. The dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. All were judged according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:12-13 / NLT)
Sorrow and love tinge His voice as Jesus asks each person only one question: “Why didn’t you personally accept My sacrifice on the cross of Calvary?” He already knows the answer. The question is more of a personal indictment.
God will then remind each person of the universal warning in His Word:
Anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 / NLT)
There’s Still Time!
Since you’re reading this, you still have time to choose your personalized eternal summons. Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal Savior guarantees the avoidance of the Great White Throne judgment. But don’t procrastinate! God urges, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
As a follower of Christ, we too can choose the eternal verdict from the Judgment Seat of Christ. We do this by aligning our lives with God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. By fulfilling our individual purposes with the gifts, talents, and opportunities He gives. By living and sharing our faith. God promises this will ensure His eternal favor and reward when we stand before Him.
Which court room awaits you?