On the Day of Judgment

Romans 2:11-16

As a human being who one day will stand before the Creator to be judged, I want to know in advance the measurements He will employ for and against me. What will happen ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT?

Chapter 2 of Romans tells how God will judge man on this day. In the first eleven verse, we are told that every unsaved person on the DAY OF JUDGMENT will have NO EXCUSE—NO ESCAPE—NO SECOND CHANCE—NO ETERNAL LIFE for God shows NO FAVORITISM to those who have NO APPRECIATION of His kindness demonstrated in Christ Jesus.

The Holy Spirit also spells out the criteria—the measurements—the righteous Judge will bring to bear on each individual standing before Him. Five measurements of God’s judgment are set forth in the first sixteen verses:

Verse 1 God’s judgment is according to man’s own judgments.
Verses 2-5 God’s judgment is according to truth.
Verses 6-10 God’s judgment is according to works.
Verses 11-15 God’s judgment is according to discrimination, not favoritism.
Verse 16 God’s judgment is according to the Gospel.


For God does not show favoritism.

Men have always sought to cover any inferiority or condemnation within themselves by creating another class beneath them either of sex, age, race, nationality, education, or the like. To the Grecians, everyone who didn’t speak Greek was a barbarian. To the Jews, the Gentiles were dogs. Nevertheless, God judges people quite differently.

All men are alike before Him. Justice is blindfolded, not because she is blind, but that she may not see men in either silk or rags; all must appear alike.

God does not judge people either by their race or by their country, either to receive them or to cast them away. It will not come into consideration, at THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, of what nation people are; or from what parents they are descended; nor of what age and sex persons be; nor in what state and condition they have lived in this world; nor will it be asked to what sect they have belonged, and by what denomination they have been called; or whether they have conformed to such and such externals and rituals in religion; but only whether they are RIGHTEOUS or WICKED; and accordingly as they appear under these two characters, judgment will proceed.

On the one hand, verse 12 says, “God does not show favoritism” in judgment, yet on the other hand, verses 13-15 tell us that He does DISCRIMINATE. Verse 13 sets forth the initial measure of God’s discrimination—

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.

One of the questions that a Bible teacher hears most often concerns the ultimate destiny of those who have never heard or read the Law or Gospel. This passage asserts that those without the advantage of the Scriptures will perish apart from the Bible! And those with the Scriptures will be judged by it. At first glance, it would seem that God does not discriminate nor show favoritism—yet verse 12 declares that everyone will be judged based on the light they have received. God’s standards of judgment are different—that is discrimination. Yet, no favoritism is shown!

Jesus declares there will be DISCRIMINATION on the DAY OF JUDGMENT when He announces in Matthew 11:23-24—

And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

NO FAVORITISM—the people of both Capernaum and Sodom will be judged on the Day of Judgment. Yet, DISCRIMINATION—for the judgments received will be more bearable for Sodom than Capernaum! Why? Because Capernaum had rejected the Miracles and the miracle worker Jesus Christ. They had more light!

Another passage show that those who have greater light will have the greater condemnation is Matthew 12:41-42—

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.

Simply stated, when people turn from the light of the Gospel, they will receive severe judgment. God is absolutely righteous in His judgments!

Ignorance of the Law will not save the Gentiles, and possession of the Law will not save the Jews. And that is true today as it was in Paul’s day. Just because we read the Bible, go to church and engage in religious activities does not mean we are automatically saved from condemnation— nor is one who does not do these things automatically condemned.

That Paul’s use of the term LAW in this chapter refers to the Ten Commandments is clear from verses 20-23. The Gentiles did not receive the Ten Commandments—the Law—in written form. But in some remarkable way God has written it on their hearts. The law of conscience will be the method of measuring their works when they come for the final judgment. Failing to live up to what they know will be an adequate case against them.

Those who have the law of God have much more light than those without it. The Bible greatly increases our ability to know God’s will. But light is light regardless of how dim or how bright it might happen to be. If a person were lost in a dark forest at night, the least glimmer would attract him; and if he desired deliverance from the darkness, he would move toward the light and hail it with joy.

However, if he had some guilt to hide, he would not respond to the light, except to hide or flee from it, regardless of its dimness or brilliance. Doom awaits all who reject the light; but for those who have had a greater advantage, there is less excuse and consequently greater guilt!

The big problem is that no one lives up to the light they have! All people are dead in transgressions and sins, so from a spiritual standpoint no one can honestly live up tot he light he has. Each person is condemned in his own heart, because he does not do what he knows he should, even though he has a little light.

Verse 13—

For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.

Almost 200 times in the OT, God gives the direct command to His people to HEAR. The Hebrew word SHEMA for HEAR involves both listening and obeying. Listening with one’s ears and mind does not result in righteousness. It is the doing of the Law that is counted for righteousness in God’s sight.

At this juncture, the apostle Paul is not drawing a contrast between JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH and JUSTIFICATION BY WORKS. Those who would so interpret what he is saying would be making Paul contradict himself, for the very purpose of this letter is to show that a person is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Christ.

James 2:26 puts it this way—

As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Faith that does not love is dead! Without faith and love, there is no hope. Yahweh linked love with obedience in the Second Commandment, when He said, “Those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6). Jesus echoed this truth in John 14:21—

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.

Therefore, Paul can say, “THOSE WHO OBEY THE LAW WHO WILL BE DECLARED RIGHTEOUS” since faith, hope and love are the inseparable signs of salvation. We who have faith in Christ manifest our love for Him by our deeds—obeying the Law—the Ten Commandments! Because our faith is confirmed by our love, we have the assurance of salvation, which is hope!

Because we have been delivered from the curse of the Law, we are all the more deeply obligated not only to hear but also to obey the Gospel. By our good deeds, resulting from our love of Christ, we show that by God’s Grace and power we have given our hearts to Him.

It is said that the heathen are lost because they haven’t heard of Christ and have accepted Him. NO! They are lost because they are sinners. That’s the condition of all mankind. Men are not SAVED by the light they have; they are JUDGED by the light they have according to verses 14-15 —

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.)

These two verses answer the objection that might be raised, “But is this fair to the Gentiles, who have not heard the Law? After all, they do not have the faintest notion about God’s Law.”

In Paul’s day, BE A LAW TO ONESELF was a stereotyped expression used by Greek writers with reference to the man of superior virtue who was regarded as not needing the guidance or sanctions of external law. This philosophy was adopted by the Jews a thousand years before. The Book of Judges closes with this evaluation—

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.

And that’s the prevailing philosophy at the end of the 20th Century. Authority to cognizance sin, restrain, or punish according to God’s Law is rapidly vanishing! Truth is relative and is in the eye of the beholder!

But even a person without the Truth will do certain things required by God’s Law. For example, a man is kind to his wife and children, has a heart for the poor, promotes honesty in government, shows courage in fighting crime, etc. Why? Because God has equipped Jew and Gentile with a sense of right and wrong— called the CONSCIENCE.

Let’s consider the CONSCIENCE for a few moments. In modern terms, we often think of a good conscience, clear conscience and a bad conscience. Paul’s use of conscience includes an internal law or law-giver.

The conscience is the mental faculty by which man judges his actions and passes sentence thereon. It bears witness to the fact that man lives in a moral universe and is ultimately answerable to God.

It registers in exact detail what we have done and thought. It accuses us when we are guilty. It defends us when we are innocent. It gives witness for or against us. And it executes us by smiting with grief when our guilt is discovered.

That’s the work of a good conscience! It’s God’s watchdog in the soul. However, many have a bad conscience.

For the conscience can be silenced and even seared. It is quite possible to obtain the approval of a conscience on a wrong act. The Scripture speaks of the conscience being good, weak, convicting, defiled, or seared.

Study the conscience of Herod Antipas. First he had a STRIVING conscience, for he listened readily to John the Baptist. Next, he had a SILENCED conscience—he shut John up in prison. Finally, he had a SEARED conscience—he murdered John.

In order for the conscience to be good, it must be educated and monitored by the Word of God.

Those who have the Word of God to guide their conscience are a great deal more culpable than those who, not having the advantage of the Bible to reveal to them God’s will, nevertheless behave in a moral and righteous manner. So then, God’s judgment is DISCRIMINATING, taking into account a person’s advantages and attitudes.

Every person will receive a penalty or a reward commensurate with his deeds. This does not cancel the fact that the measure of light one has received will be taken into account.

Next were told that measure of GOD’S JUDGMENT IS ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL. Verse 16—

This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

It is remarkable that precisely these four principles of judgment may be seen operating in every human court room worthy of the name, and in exactly the order in which Paul states them in Romans. The court will ask:

What is the law bearing on the case?
What did the accused do?
How much did he know about the law?
What was the motive in doing what he did?

On Judgment Day, God will examine people at the very center of their being. He will judge not only their action, but their motives also. Human courts try desperately to get at these unseen motives, but only God is really able to get at the invisible cause of sin.

MEN’S SECRETS will be revealed and judged. No thought, word, or deed will be left unexposed. Every attitude and action will come under judgment. Everyone will be exposed and shown to be who they really are!

Do you want the secrets of your heart brought out—not the lovely things you have said, but the dirty little thoughts that come to you? This should cause all of us to flee to Jesus to save us!

What a fearful day that will be when God begins to call to light the hidden works of darkness. All men have guilty secrets, things they have done, and things they have left undone which they ought to have done. They have not been overlooked nor forgotten by God.

The AMPLIFIED VERSION translates verse 16—

On that day when, as my Gospel proclaims, God by Jesus Christ will judge men in regard to the things which they conceal—their hidden thoughts.

Twelve times in the Book of Romans Paul refers his writing as the Gospel. Here he calls it MY GOSPEL. The Gospel Paul preaches announces that our beloved Jesus is the Judge.

God will judge men’s secrets through Christ. It is Christ who sits on THE JUDGMENT SEAT to judge the saints and it is Christ who sits on THE GREAT WHITE THRONE to judge the ungodly and wicked. Jesus Himself declared in John 5:22—

Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son.

The Gospel—THE GOOD NEWS—that Paul unfolds in the Book of Romans is the marvelous truth that the one who trusts Christ cannot come into judgment because Christ has taken his condemnation according to Romans 8:1-2—

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

That’s the Good News that Paul is reserving for later. At this point, in his gospel, he is trying to bring all people to their knees before God so they would be ready to receive the Gospel when it is presented later in the letter.

It’s the ADVENT SEASON. As we celebrate the First Coming of Christ, we ought to focus our attention on the true meaning of the Second Person of the Triune God taking on human nature.

Last Christmas I tried to get you to think of Jesus, not as a baby lying in the manger but as our KING and HIGH PRIEST. This advent season I would like you to think about Jesus as THE JUDGE!

Jesus in no longer a BABY! Babies are cuddled and not very threatening! Today, the crucified, resurrected and ascended Lord is . . .

Dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash round his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance (Revelation 1:13-16).

That’s a revelation of Christ the JUDGE. He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. One of the primary reasons of His first advent was for judgment!

Jesus disclosed that He came for a number of the reasons and two related reasons were to UPHOLD God’s Law and to ESTABLISH JUDGMENT. He said in Matthew 5:17—

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Jesus in His humanity did not sin. He fulfilled every point of the Law so He is qualified to JUDGE all transgressors of the Law.

He announced in John 9:39—

For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.

Jesus explained what He meant in John 3:16-21—

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

The blind who live by the Truth see and come into the Light. Those who see but refuse to obey the Truth are blinded by Light because they love the darkness. An unbeliever STANDS CONDEMNED ALREADY declares Jesus.

Who is an UNBELIEVER? One of privilege who has heard the Law, yet does not do God’s perfect and holy standards. One who has not heard, but goes against conscience and does not live the Truth.

That’s BAD NEWS since all human beings ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT would stand condemned and receive God’s wrath. But thank God for the GOOD NEWS that there is NO MORE CONDEMNATION in Christ Jesus.

Jesus came to established the criteria of judgment. He will judge a person based upon what they have done with Him and upon how they live their life. Nothing could be plainer than the words Jesus will speak to the condemned on the Day of Judgment recorded in Matthew 7:23—

I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

Notice that these terrifying words contain two measurements:

1. Of personal relationship—I NEVER KNEW YOU!
2. Of personal lifestyle—AWAY FROM ME, YOU EVILDOERS—literally, TRANSGRESSORS OF THE LAW.

I am a preacher of THE DOCTRINE OF GRACE, sheer grace, nothing but grace. However, it is necessary to add to that preaching an increasing emphasis on the necessity of giving diligence to make our calling and election sure by a constant walking the path of righteousness. If the love of Christ does not constrain us to a life of yieldedness to Him, it is certain that we have not entered into that love.

Does Jesus know you? Do you love Him?

You cannot say you love Him if you do not keep His commandments and if you do not keep His commandments, He doesn’t know you!

Jesus came into the world for judgment!

ON THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, He will part the saints and sinners. Are you ready?

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