2008-07-24 - Beyond Reasonable Doubt
Originally Published 1998-12-10
Rev 20:12-15 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NAS)
I remember when I was a teenager, I walked over to a friend's house. I ran into his Dad who was always up on current events. I asked him, "What do you think about all this going on in Washington, D.C.?" He looked and me and said he didn't know. He hadn't read the paper. I was a little surprised and just looked at him. He explained that he was currently on a jury trying a murder case. I thought about what that meant. It meant that someone's life was literally in the hands of 12 of his peers - and I was talking to one of them. This man had taken his responsibilities very seriously. He hadn't even glanced at the sports page, to avoid the possibility of accidentally reading anything that might affect his opinion in the case.
He had to determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, if the defendant had planned and executed the killing of another human being. That phrase played on my mind for days after that encounter. Even in this day and age of DNA testing and ballistics tests and hidden cameras, there are times when it is the word of one individual against another, with severe consequences. Even when things all point in one direction, the actual events may differ from what appears to be true.
We will all be the defendant at a trial at least once. In the latter verses of Matthew 25, there is a trial described. Before the Lord Jesus, all humanity will stand in one of two lines. Either with the sheep or the goats. The sheep will be accepted into God's eternal kingdom. The goats will stand trial before Jesus, judged by their works, good and bad, before the inflexible law. None will stand before the law which demands perfection of humanity. The sheep will stand before the Father, their sins covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, on trial for their works as Christians. This trial is not for their eternal destiny. That was decided the day Jesus Christ became their Savior. The trial will determine if any rewards might be given for their works for their Lord. Some will have nothing left but their salvation after they are judged. Others will receive crowns, which they will probably throw at Jesus' feet.
Both groups are judged by their works, but there is a difference in the severity of the two trials. Those who never accepted Jesus' saving grace will be on trial for their eternity. The outcome is not in doubt. There are records of every action, every sin. It will only take one imperfection to come up short of the required perfection. I know that I sin before my feet hit the floor, almost every day. Who could possibly stand up to the law and be acquitted? Only Jesus.
Col 3:3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. (NAS)
The sheep, those who accepted Jesus' free gift of salvation, are not on trial against the law. They are given Jesus' perfect life, to stand in against the law. You see, Jesus did live a perfect, sinless life. Those who are willing to admit that they are not and can not be perfect, that they have sinned, can accept Jesus' sacrifice. He died as the perfect sacrifice for our sins, to cover our imperfections before the law. They ask Jesus to be their Savior from their sins, which will otherwise condemn them. Without that mitigating point, we are all guilty beyond any doubt at all. Why does sin have such a terrible cost? It shows how gravely the Father looks at sin. Because Jesus was sinless, death could not hold Him. The resurrection, that morning, when the angel rolled away the stone from the tomb in the garden, shattered the power that death had held over us all since Adam and Eve fell from perfection.
Jesus loved us enough to come and live that perfect life. He lived among us, feeling our pain, sorrow, joy and temptations. He knows our trials and our happiness. He is not some distant, unfeeling God who decides fates with the brush of His hand. The Creator of the Universe and everything in it, down to the quarks and atoms, was born into this world the same way we all are. He set aside the splendor of Heaven, where He is worshiped day and night, to come and live here. He came to be mocked, ridiculed and die for us. He was born in a stable to poor parents, probably socially outcast - Mary being pregnant out of wedlock. Jesus took no advantage when He came. And I am sure, beyond a reasonable doubt, that if you or I were the only ones who ever lived, He would come and die for us to save us.
The greatest Christmas gift ever given - eternal life in Heaven. It cost the precious, sinless blood of Jesus. It is given from Him to you and me. Hallelujah.
Lord Jesus, reach out to those who are questioning, or afraid to trust You. Give them the courage to trust with humble hearts, so that the gift may be given to them. Grace and mercy beyond our knowing is simply waiting for them to ask You to help them, to forgiven them of the failings. Amen.
Grace & Peace,