By any assessment the Day of Judgement will be an awesome event. Imagine the gathering on that day – every human who ever lived and every angelic being in existence will be there before the throne of God. His omniscient eye knows every detail of each life; his omnipotent arm can enact any sentence that his justice pronounces; and is omnipresence means that none can escape him. You and I will be there.
John asks this question of his readers: ‘Will you be afraid?’ He then says that those in whom the Spirit is perfecting the love of God will not be afraid. We should not be surprised at his claim because he has just described the assurance of divine love that fills the hearts of faithful Christians.
What do we need in our souls as we draw nearer to the Day of Judgement? We need increasing love for the Judge. This love will be produced within us by the Holy Spirit. As we are led through the various circumstances of life, the Holy Spirit is preparing us for our appearance before the judgement seat. And his method of preparation is that he teaches us to love God. The more that we love him, the less we will have of fear of the Judgement Day.
Why are we afraid of God the Judge? The answer to this question is that we are guilty of our sins. Our consciences condemn us long before we reach the Judgement Seat. When I lose my temper, it is not only my common sense that says it was a silly thing to do. My conscience also will remind me that I will give an account for my sin when I appear at God’s throne.
Perhaps we have a problem here. We know that we will sin until we draw our last breath. So how can we reduce our fear of the judgement seat when we know that we will yet sin many times? The solution is to increase in our understanding and experience of the love of God. Matthew Henry pointed out: ‘Those who perfectly love God are, from his nature, and counsel, and covenant, perfectly assured of his love, and consequently are perfectly free from any dismal dreadful suspicions of his punitive power and justice, as armed against them; they well know that God loves them, and they thereupon triumph in his love.’
A Christian can say, ‘Jesus paid my punishment on the cross. This was the proof of God’s great love for me. Therefore, he will not punish me, although I deserve it.’ That is not presumption. Instead it is evidence of the work of the Spirit in preparing us for our appearance before the Judgement Seat.