At church last Sunday, the pastor offered an interesting interpretation of the Book of Revelation.
The pastor’s text actually was not from the Book of Revelation, but
it was from the Epistle to James. James 5:9 warns the recipients of the
letter not to grumble against each other or they will be judged. The
text then says that the Judge stands at the door.
That led the pastor to talk about the judgment of believers. Will
God judge believers? Does not John 5:24 say that whoever believes
Jesus’ word will not be judged but has eternal life, having passed from
death into life?
The pastor acknowledged that, yes, faith alone is required for
salvation. Believers will not experience the Great White Throne
Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15, when God will judge the dead of the
second resurrection according to their works and will throw them into
the Lake of Fire if their names are not found in the Book of Life. For
the pastor, whether believers will go to heaven or hell is not in
question: they believe, so they have eternal life, period. And they can
be certain right now that they have eternal life: they fulfill the
requirement of belief, and they have eternal life. There is no “might”
or “maybe” about it.
Still, the pastor said that believers will experience some form of
judgment. This judgment will not be to determine whether they go to
heaven or to hell, for that has already been settled: they have eternal
life, since they believe. Rather, the judgment of believers will be to
determine what kind of reward they will receive. The pastor referred to
II Corinthians 5:10, which states: “For we must all appear before the
judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (KJV).
This sort of message is not new to me. It was not exactly the
Christianity with which I grew up, but I have encountered this idea
quite a bit. This church that I have been attending for some time is
Baptist, and many Baptist churches convey this kind of message.
What was new to me was when the pastor got into Revelation 21:4.
Revelation 21:4 states: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their
eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying,
neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed
The pastor said that a lot of time passes in the Book of Revelation
before we get to Revelation 21:4. And his point here is
understandable. Revelation 21:4 talks about what will happen in the new
heavens and the new earth. The new heavens and the new earth take
place over a thousand years after Christ returns to earth (assuming one
takes the millennium in Revelation 20 in a futuristic, literal sense,
which not all Christians do). So we have a thousand years after Christ
returns when God will finally wipe all tears from people’s eyes.
The pastor was saying that his impression is that a lot of believers
will be crying, for a long time, before God finally wipes tears from
their eyes. Why would they be crying? For the pastor, it will be
because so many of them failed to use their spiritual gifts and to serve
God in this life, and God will be expressing disapproval of them for
that and will deprive them of certain rewards at the judgment of
believers. God will let them into heaven, since they believe, but God’s
attitude towards them at the judgment of believers will be a frustrated
“Oh all right, come on it.”
My guess, and I could be wrong on this, is that the pastor believes
in the pretribulational rapture, which would mean that believers would
go to heaven and be judged prior to the Great Tribulation, the second
coming of Christ, and Christ’s millennial reign on earth. That will be a
lot of time for them to weep!
The pastor goes into this spiel about using spiritual gifts quite a
bit. The reason that his interpretation of Revelation stood out to me
is that I have struggled, somewhat, with Revelation 21:4. Some people
interpret that to mean that God will erase people’s memory in the new
heavens and the new earth. I have wondered how that could be. It makes
sense to me that there would be some connection between the next life
and this life, otherwise why are we here, building character for the
next life? What would be the point of that if we would forget this
life, anyway? But suppose that a lot of time passed between believers’
resurrection and the time that God will wipe tears from their eyes?
What would make a little more sense.