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What Shall Be Done To The Wicked At The Day Of Judgment?, Baptist Catechism 43, Revelation 20:11–15

Baptist Catechism 43

Q. 43. What shall be done to the wicked, at the Day of Judgment?

A. At the Day of Judgment, the bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves, shall be sentenced, together with their souls, to unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels forever. (Dan. 12:2; John 5:28,29; 2 Thess. 1:9; Matt. 25:41)

Scripture Reading: Revelation 20:11–15

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11–15, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

Introduction

Talk of hell is weighty. It is a very heavy and serious subject. Every Christian does feel this heaviness within their soul when they think of someone being sentenced to hell, and it is right that they do. It is similar to the heaviness that fills a courtroom when a criminal is tried, convicted, and finally sentenced. Everyone in the room can feel the weightiness of the moment. Everyone knows that something serious is happening. And even if all agree that the man is guilty and the penalty is just, those who have love in their hearts will feel a sense of sorrow even for the condemned, knowing that a life has been ruined by sin. And how much more is the weightiness of the final judgment, and eternal damnation?

It is certainly right to say that the Christian should never rejoice at the thought of someone going to hell. The Christian should feel sorrow at the thought of even their worst enemy coming under God’s condemnation. Just as it would be concerning if a courtroom erupted in jubilant celebration when the sentence of death is pronounced upon the condemned, so too it would be concerning if someone rejoiced in their heart concerning the thought of a man going to eternal punishment. Only one who is consumed with anger and a desire for vengeance could feel such a thing in their heart. As I have said, it is right that we feel a sense of sorrow for those condemned, for this is a weighty matter.

But let us be sure to not err in another direction, and that is, to consider the judgments of God to be somehow unnecessary or unjust. While it is true that the thought of men coming under the judgment of God is weighty and ought to produce a sense of sorrow, it is also true that we ought to say this is right and even good.

If we go back to the courtroom you’ll see what I mean. If when the guilty murderer is sentenced to death the courtroom erupts in jubilant and cheerful celebration, that shows that men are very angry and vengeful — this cannot be the disposition of the Christian. But will anyone dare to say that it is wrong for them to rejoice in the fact that justice has been served? Will anyone dare to say that those who have lost a loved one at the hands of the murder are wrong to consider the judgment to be fitting, right, and even good? And so you see that justice will always produce a mixture of thoughts and emotions. It is right for us to grieve over the destruction that sin brings, but it is also right for us to rejoice when justice is served. 

If we rejoice in this way over the just judgments of men, how much more should we rejoice over the just judgments of God? And brothers and sisters, rest assured God’s judgments are always perfect.

God is not driven by a passion for vengeance as we sometimes are so he is moved to overdo it.  In fact, the scriptures reveal that he takes no pleasure at all in the death of the wicked. Listen to Ezekiel 33:11: “ As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11, ESV).

And when God judges, he does not judge with limited knowledge as we do, for he is all-knowing. Human judges and juries do their best to judge according to what they know. They rely upon evidence and testimonies. But they do not see for themselves whether or not the crime was committed. Not so with God. The Judge of all the earth sees everything with perfect clarity. He even knows the thoughts of man and the intentions of his heart. He does not struggle with the issue of limited knowledge when he administers justice. 

And when God judges he will get it perfectly right, for he is just. The punishment will fit the sin, and perfectly so. Psalm 96:10 speaks to this: “Say among the nations, ‘The LORD reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity” (Psalm 96:10, ESV). Equity means rightness or fairness. God’s judgments will be perfectly right and fair. And this is why Paul says in Romans, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Romans 3:19, ESV). At the judgment, every mouth will be stopped. No one will say, God, you got it wrong. 

In our prisons, there are men and women who insist that they are innocent. Some of them probably are! For we are flawed in our judgments. But many of them are guilty. They know it, but they lie. There will be none of that at the judgment on the last day, for God will judge with perfect equity, and all will see it. 

This truth should bring a kind of comfort to the people of God. This world is filled with sin, wickedness, and injustice. We long for justice because we are made in the image of God who is just. And so it is comforting to know that on the last day God will right every wrong. 

And isn’t it interesting how even those who do not believe in God or in the Christ whom he sent will comfort themselves with the idea of justice in the afterlife when faced with some great evil? “This predator will get what is coming to him”, they say. Or “this terrorist who killed thousands of innocents will pay in the life to come.” These same people may deny that hell exists for the common folk, but they hope that it exists for those who are particularly heinous. They assume that hell is sparsely populated, I guess. They assume that it is for Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and other characters like these. But when it comes to the common man, hell is a myth to them. Those who think in this way are right to take some comfort in the fact that wrongs will be made right in the end and that justice will be served. But they are terribly wrong to minimize their own sin and the sin of others.  

The scriptures teach that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, ESV), and “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, ESV). Yes, there are particularly heinous sins. But all sin is truly heinous and will be punished on the last day, unless we are found in Christ, washed in his blood. 

Do not believe the lie that your sin is not serious. It is truly terrible for humans to live in the world that God has made, to enjoy his blessings in this life, and to partake of his mercy, but fail to give him honor and glory. How ungrateful we are by nature. And not only do we fail to honor our Creator, we worship the creature instead. We rob him of the glory due to his name. This is a heinous sin deserving of God’s just condemnation. And add to this the disrespect we have shown to mother and father and to others with authority over us, the hatred we have shown to our fellow man, our sexual immorality, our thievery, and dishonesty. We are ungrateful sinners by nature. Do I really need to convince you of this!? It is strange how we read the news and say, look at all the wickedness in the world! But we are unable to see the wickedness in our own hearts. We see it in the lives of others while convincing ourselves that we and those who are close to us are basically good. 

Brothers and sisters, God would be just to send us to hell for all eternity for our sin against him –  for failing to love him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves –  But he is merciful and kind, as you know. He has provided a Savior, Christ Jesus the Lord.    

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Catechism Explained

Question 43 of our catechism helps us to understand these things. It asks, “What shall be done to the wicked, at the Day of Judgment?” Answer: 

“At the Day of Judgment” 

“At the Day of Judgment…” When will this day be? It will be on the last day when Christ returns. Christ came the first time to pay for sins and to accomplish our salvation. And the scriptures teach that he “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28, ESV), and to judge. Christ himself taught this when he said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left… Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”(Matthew 25:31–33, 41 ESV).

“The bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves” 

“At the Day of Judgment the bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves…” Notice that the resurrection day is the Day of Judgment. On the last day when Christ returns, the dead in Christ will be raised, and so too will the dead who are not in Christ. Question 41 of our Catechism taught us that on that day those in Christ, “being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in full enjoyment of God to all eternity.” Here we learn that those not in Christ will be raised bodily too.  

John was shown a vision of this as recorded for us in Revelation 20:12-13: ​​“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened…. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12–13, ESV).

“Shall be sentenced, together with their souls” 

So then, or catechism is right to say that the wicked will be raised and “shall be sentenced, together with their souls”. Just as the righteous will be openly acknowledged and acquitted in the Day of Judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in full enjoyment of God to all eternity”, so too the wicked will be judged in body and soul, that is to say, as whole persons. 

 “To unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels forever.”

Lastly, our catechism says, “to unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels forever.” Three things should be noted. One, hell is described as a place of torment. And this is clearly the teaching of scripture. Two, hell is also a place of torment for the devil and his angels. It will be a place of punishment for all who have rebelled against their maker, the exception being those to whom God has shown mercy in Christ Jesus (see Revelation 20:10). Three,  our catechism is right to say that this punishment is forever. The Matthew 25:41 passage that was cited earlier teaches this. There Jesus says to the goats, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”(Matthew 25:31–33, 41 ESV, emphasis added).

Some have questioned if eternal punishment fits the crime of a lifetime of sin and rebellion. Though there is some mystery concerning what heaven and hell will be like, we must believe and confess what the scriptures teach. Hell is eternal, and God is perfectly just. Perhaps we need to adjust our view concerning the severity of sin instead of standing in judgment over God’s justice. 

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Conclusion

Let me conclude with three suggestions for application. They will sound familiar to you because they are similar to the points of application that were made last week.

One, this teaching should move you to ask the question, where will I go when Christ returns to judge? Will I be openly acknowledged and acquitted by him and invited to experience the glories of heaven, or will I fall under his just condemnation and be cast into the torments of hell? What makes the difference? Answer: faith in Christ! We are all born in sin. We all violate God’s law in thought word in thought, word, and deed. We all deserve the torments of hell. But God has provided a Savior for us, Christ the Lord. We must be found in him, and so I urge you to turn from your sins, trust in Christ as Savior, and confess him to be your Lord.  

Two, this teaching should move us to pray for those who do not believe in Christ and also to tell them about Jesus. These are the means that God uses to bring his people to salvation: the proclamation of the gospel and prayer. 

Three, this teaching should increase our gratitude for the mercy and grace that God has shown to us in Christ Jesus. In questions 35 through 41 of our catechism, we were taught about what Christ has saved us to. There we learned about the benefits that come to those who have faith in Christ in this life –  justification, adoption, sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them, namely, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Spirit, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end. There we also learned about the blessings that come to believers at the moment of death and at the resurrection. But here in questions 42 and 43, we have learned what Christ has saved us from, namely, eternal judgment in hell. 

Thanks be to God for his mercy and grace shown to us in Christ Jesus.

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