One word less popular than repentance in the modern church is the word judgment.
Not judgment in the sense of people looking down on you for getting a tattoo or spanking your children. Not, “Stop judging me while I live like a pagan,” or, “You’re one of those judgmental Pharisees, aren’t you?” Judgments of this sort are alive and well, both among those who dispense them and those who deserve them. But the one Judgment we should be most concerned with is the one we most often neglect. Perhaps that’s because it is too terrible to consider. The Day of Judgment.
It’s the Day when each one of us will give a full accounting of our lifetime to God. It’s the Day that comes at the end of the End. The Day when, in naked silence, we kneel before the White Throne of Christ—the sheep and the goats, the wheat and the tares, the righteous and the unrighteous. It’s the Day the books will be opened, the Day that many who thought they would go to heaven find out that they won’t.
Secrets will be exposed. Blessings and curses will be proclaimed, with eternal finality. Justice will be done.
It is the Day toward which all others are marching. If I don’t happen to meet you in this life, I’ll see you there. But you’ll have to excuse me for not introducing myself in that moment. I’ll only be focused on one Person. He will be the focus of all creation, as He rightfully should have been all along. He will judge.
Preparing for Judgment Day ought to be the highest priority of our lives. If all of what we are and all of what we do culminates then and there, you and I had better think this through. We don’t want to be among the “many” self-deceived good-works-doers whose relationship with Christ was one-sided. For them, Judgment Day holds in store a devastating surprise (Matthew 7:21-24).
Curiously, when the apostle Paul stood among the wise men of Athens and proclaimed the gospel, He didn’t pontificate on the nature of grace, or even the great salvation that comes by faith. He didn’t offer assurances of renewed hope or helpful wisdom. He didn’t even mercifully offer the principles of a happier marriage to the Stoics or Platonics, who undoubtedly could have used such Christian advice. Paul stood up, told them of the mighty unseen Creator as contrasted with the many idols of the city, and then offered this invitation:
In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish” (Luke 13:5).
Or think of Peter, emerging from a fiery prayer meeting to boldly confront the crowds in Jerusalem about their cold-blooded murder of God’s Messiah. When the wide-eyed and fear-struck masses saw the catastrophic nature of their wickedness, they asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).
Repentance isn’t something to be saved for later, to be added to my Christian résumé at some future date when I choose to enter the “deeper life.” Repentance is the very core of any true response to the gospel. Turning from evil to wholeheartedly serve my living God is exactly what the Bible says I must do to be ready for the Day of Judgment. Not just academically believing in Jesus. Not just agreeing with God or joining a church. But turning. And surrendering. And offering. In one word: repentance! Even more, for the fallen or backslidden or lukewarm or loveless, the prescription is the same. Repentance is the absolute prerequisite and post-requisite of revival!
Every time I read the book of Revelation, I am captivated by the simple message of such a “complicated and symbolic” book. People have their theories about the End, their charts and graphs, their interpretations, their sequences of various bowls or trumpets or beasts or horsemen. All of that makes for worthy study. But don’t lose sight of the one Day that matters most. The Day when heaven and earth will flee from His presence, when all the world will stand helpless and hopeful before His all-powerful, all-seeing majesty.
Unspeakable glory, rolling thunder, penetrating brightness, absolute truth, terrifying awe. The Day of Judgment.
It is coming. Repent, or perish.
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Key Words in Becoming a Christian
If you have never given your life to Christ and said, “Yes, Lord!” to His merciful and patient call to your heart, will you do so today? Consider these “key words” and the Scriptures noted by each. Then, voice your decision to God in prayer.
Repent — “God, I agree with You about my sins, and today I turn away from them, desiring instead to offer my life to You.” Read 1 John 1:9; Isaiah 55:7; and Psalm 51.
Believe — “Jesus, I choose to trust You, with my soul, with my future, with everything. Based on what You accomplished on the cross and in Your resurrection, I put my faith in You as the only way for me to be saved.” Read John 3:16; Romans 3:21-26; and Ephesians 2:8-9.
Follow — “Lord, I recognize Your right to rule in my life, and I gladly accept it. I am excited to study the Bible and begin a life of obedience to and love for You.” Read Luke 9:23-25, 57-62; Romans 12:1-2; and Ephesians 4:17-32.
> I first published this article in Revive Magazine. The issue entitled “Turn” is entirely devoted to helping people turn away from evil and seek God. Check it out here.