Monday, 5 May 2014
If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Corinthians 3:15
Paul, speaking of the quality of work which is built upon the foundation of Christ, gives us direct and exacting insights into what will happen when we face Jesus. To understand the timing, one needs to understand the sequence of events concerning church-age believers as the Bible lays them out. First, we are saved at some point in our lives and sealed with the Holy Spirit – our guarantee of eternal life from that moment on. We can never lose this status. From the moment of our salvation, everything we do will be a part of our judgment before Jesus. It is our choice how we build upon the foundation.
Eventually, we die and await our call to glory. Or, if we are those left alive at the coming of the Lord (the moment known as the rapture), we will be translated to be with Him forever. After our translation from the earthly to the spiritual, we must then face our trial for the things we have done in our lives since coming to Christ. This is known as the judgment seat of Christ and it is detailed for us in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11 –
“Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.”
This is the biblical sequence of events for the saved believer. There is no such concept as “purgatory” as taught by the Roman Catholic Church. It is a made-up lie which was inculcated into their teachings for financial profit and as a tool to keep congregants in bondage. There is also no such thing as “loss of salvation” as taught by those who follow the doctrine of Arminius or other such teachers. There is eternal security in the Lord, but there is the sure coming judgment for the life we lived in Him. And this judgment is explained clearly here. Remembering that Paul has already described our works as gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw will help us to understand our judgment before Christ. He says, “if anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss.” Fire merely refines (or has no effect) on the first three types of work. However, it will consume the last three depending on its amount of heat and duration. Wood may make it through a temporary fire, but it will be marred. The final two will certainly be burned up.
Paul’s words then are a metaphor not for condemnation, but for purification. The term mulct is a good description of what will occur at this judgment. To mulct means “to penalize by fining or demanding forfeiture.” The things we could have enjoyed in our eternal state will be lessened if our works don’t pass muster. If they do, we will receive our reward for them. In the end, all will be completely satisfied with the results because they will be based on the choices we made. There will be no impartiality nor unfairness in what occurs.
Whatever cannot withstand the judgment will certainly be burned away. However, despite this scary sentiment, Paul next gives words of a most blessed assurance. Each person will be judged and face whatever loss is due, “but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” The meaning of this is perfectly clear and only someone with a perverse agenda could come to any other conclusion than that this is a judgment solely for rewards and losses, but not condemnation – “he himself will be saved.” The immense grace and mercy of Christ means that even a person who has done absolutely nothing for Him after salvation will continue on in his saved state forever.
However, he will bear the sadness of having lived a life which could have done so much more. He will be save “as through fire.” When one is pulled alive from a burning house, they may bear the pains of the ordeal, the smell of the ordeal, and the sad memories of it as well, but they will be saved.
Life application: The wise soul will take 1 Corinthians 3:15 to heart and will endeavor to work for eternal rewards, putting aside that which is earthly, temporary, and destined to perish. The smell of the smoke at the judgment for such an ill-used life may linger for all eternity.
Lord, Your word makes it clear that there is a judgment coming for all who are in Christ, not one of condemnation, but one for rewards and loss. Help me each day to ponder this and to put aside that which is temporary and useless and to work diligently as a productive member of Your church. I desire that my judgment will be one of rewards and a smile, not loss accompanied by a frown. Help me to consider this always. Amen.