One of the most basic truths that the Bible teaches is this: Man is in the hand of God. That means that he is answerable to God for all that he is, thinks, and does. And God will take men and women up into His hands for judgment.
Today, men believe that God is in their hands. What God can do and what place God will have in a person’s life, many say, is determined by that person himself. Many say that God will have a place in their life that they want to or are ready to give to Him.
This thinking is foolishness, deception, and rebellion. The Bible declares that man is a fool if he does not reckon with the reality of God: the God who is; the only true God; the God of the Bible; the Creator of the heavens and the earth; and the Judge, Owner, and Lord of all souls of men and women.
There are two realities which show the lie of thinking that man is in the driver’s seat and determines what God will be and what God will do and the part that God has in their lives. I say, there are two realities that put the lie to that false, deceitful, and arrogant conception. Those two realities are: death and the judgment. Of these two realities the apostle speaks in the Word of God in Hebrews 9:27, 28: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” This Word of God speaks of the two things men and women want to avoid; want at all costs to push out of their minds: the reality of death and judgment. We read: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Very plainly the Word of God is teaching the fact that God has appointed a moment when you, when all men, must die. And He has further appointed that after this death there shall be an appearance that you must make in the judgment-to come before the very face of God in judgment. These are the two things that men and women, apart from the grace of God, push out of their mind at all cost and refuse ever to reckon with.
Yet, they are unavoidable. They are absolutely certain for you and for me. For the Word of God says: “It is appointed…,” and the idea there is that God has appointed it. God has marked down on His calendar the moment that you shall die and the moment that you must stand before Him in judgment. You are not independent. You are not your own. But you must reckon with God.
There are many things in your life over which you could place the word “if,” “perhaps.” If the future holds for you health, wealth, success, happiness, sorrow-you do not know. But there is no “if” with regard to these two fixed realities for every human person. There are some things that you might manage to steer around in your life, or at least pride yourself that you have avoided them: financial collapse, covering your own tracks with your lies, a near miss. All of these things you might think you are clever enough to avoid. But this you shall not avoid, none shall avoid: death and the judgment. For they are appointed of God as fixed realities for every human person.
In the context the Word of God emphasizes that God fixed a moment when a sacrifice would be given for the sins of His church and people. In the context it is emphasized that Christ laid down His life as a sacrifice once for sin. “For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he (Jesus) appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (v. 26). Understand the clear teaching of that Word of God. That Word of God is teaching, first of all, that there was a historical fact in the history of this world. The Son of God appeared. Secondly, it is teaching the purpose for His appearance: to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Thirdly, it is teaching the very clear, blessed, and foundational truth that it was by the one act of Jesus Christ, which God appointed, upon Calvary’s cross which has put away sin. Once. There is no other sacrifice for sin. There is absolutely nothing in the universe, no deed of man, no ceremony, nothing that can put away sin except the cross of Christ which once occurred historically on the hill of Calvary.
Now, as it was once appointed of God, says the apostle, that Christ will return in the last day for the final judgment; so also it is once appointed for you to die and for you to stand in the judgment. Certainly God has marked on His calendar from all eternity when His Son would die and when His Son would return. So also, as certainly, and just as firmly and unavoidably, He has marked down the moment when you must die and when you must stand before Him in the judgment. You have an appointment, an appointment that you will keep, an appointment that you must keep, an appointment that you cannot avoid. There is absolutely no ability that you or anyone else has to permit you to escape these appointments. You shall die. And you must stand before God in judgment.
You may say, “I don’t want to believe that.” You may say, “I will live my life irrespective of that.” You may scoff at that. It makes no difference. God, the true and living God, has declared to you now that you shall die-not simply as a result of natural process-but as His appointment. And then you are appointed to stand before Him.
These are frightening realities as far as we are concerned of ourselves. Death and the judgment, of course, by nature we want to avoid. We want to avoid them because of sin, and because of the fact that God, the true God of the Bible, is a holy God who will not dwell with sin.
Death! That is frightening. As I said a moment ago, death is not simply the natural result of evolution or whatever other theory that men may try to spin. That is not the truth. Death is the result of sin. Romans 5:12 tells us that by one man sin entered the world and death by sin. Death is the result of sin. Adam was created by God to live. God told Adam as He placed him in the Garden of Paradise that there was a tree from which he could not eat: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that the day he would eat thereof, he would surely die. That is, He said to Adam, “Adam, you have been created to know love and glorify Me. You have been created good. But should you ever, by your own will, decide that you will take up issues in your own hand and determine for yourself what you shall be or do; should you, Adam, ever rise up in arrogance before the true and the good God and disobey His Word and seek your life outside of this God, you shall die.
So death passed upon all men, say the Scriptures in I Corinthians 5. For that all have sinned in Adam, all who have come forth from Adam, therefore, death is in their bodies. There is no cure for death. We are mortal. In this present earthly body we shall die.
We feel the finality of death. Death will separate us from this world. We cannot come back. All theories of reincarnation are pipe-dreams, false, delusions. It is not true. That is not what God’s Word says. After we die we stand before God in the judgment, the God of all souls to whom we must give account. Death marks the period to our life, the sentence of our life. What our life expressed has been written. Death is the period. Each day is given of God. What does your life say?
Not only is there the fearsome reality of death but there is the reality of judgment. And the reference here, “as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” is a reference to the personal appearance that every human being must make before God at the moment of death. This, too, is universal. There is absolutely no exception.
And this, too, is personal. It applies to you. This is not merely a theory. This is God’s Word. Deny it, fail to believe it, at your peril. You shall then be exposed, for you will never be able to say that you did not know. You have heard the word.
The fact of judgment, that God will judge all men, declares the truth that we are not independent. We are not accountable to ourselves for what we think or what we do. We do not have the right of self-determination. No one has the right of self-determination. The great, good, moral maxim of mankind is a falsity. That great moral good supposedly is this: you have the right to do whatever you want, so long as it does not hurt anyone. That is the lie of Satan. That is bondage. That puts you into a bondage of a fool and a tyrant, namely, yourself. You do not have the right to do whatsoever you want. Your only right is to obey God who made you. That is the Word of God. We are created by God. We have been created for God, to obey and to serve Him. You and I are answerable to God.
And the fact that God will judge us means that He has given to us a law which is revealed in His Word. It is His entire Word. It is a law which is good and holy. And it is a law which is expressed in His ten commandments. When you appear before the judgment, you shall stand before God who is the Judge of all men. You will be judged over against that law. The standard of the law of God will be held up before you. God Himself shall be the judge of all men. And God will issue the sentence.
If you stand before Him of yourself, without an advocate (Christ Jesus, the righteous and holy); if you stand in your own sin as you are fallen in Adam and as you have sinned; and if you stand apart from Jesus Christ, revealed in the holy gospel, you shall receive the sentence of what you deserve, which is full and eternal punishment. For the most heinous of all offenses, rebellion against the good and the only God, failure to glorify Him, arrogance before the good God, you shall receive exactly what sin deserves.
And, understand, there is absolutely no human being of any race or color; there is absolutely no human being of any social standing, rich or poor; there is no human being of any intellectual understanding, wise and brilliant or not wise and brilliant; there is none who can stand before God’s judgment blameless. We read in Psalm 143:2: “Enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.”
These are the two appointments. The frightening reality: you shall die and you must have no uncertainty of what will happen at that moment. That is not a great unknown. You shall die and then the judgment.
Is there no hope? Yes, there is one hope-a sure hope. Christ is the sure hope. We read in Hebrews 9:28, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Christ, we read in this Scripture, was offered once to bear the sins of many. Oh how the Scriptures delight to tell us that it is the cross of Jesus Christ which is the only, but the sure, way of salvation.
The apostle is really saying again what he said in verse 26. I pointed that out to you a moment ago. The way of salvation is the way of the cross. Christ once was offered to bear the sins of many. What does that mean? That means that the cross of Calvary was not a mistake. It was not simply that men misunderstood Jesus, that if they had simply understood what His intentions were (to shed some light upon the human condition), they would never have done this. They certainly would not do it today, would they? With our intellectual understandings we would not take a teacher and nail him to a cross. But no, the cross was not a mistake. Men hated Him. And they hate Him today, because Christ is the only way of salvation.
You see, Christ did not go to the cross merely as a result of a tragic circumstance or train of events. But God gave His Son at that point to bear the sins of the many-the many of the chosen, the ones who were the sheep, said Jesus, entrusted to His hands. The ones, Jesus said in John 10, whom the Father gave to Him. He actually went to the cross to bear upon His own soul the sins of all those whom the Father had given. We read in I Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” The cross was sin-bearing. The cross is God’s cross in which He gave His Son to bear upon Himself all the sins, that is, to endure all the punishment which those sins deserved, in order that His people who had committed those sins would never bear that punishment but be made righteous in Him.
That cross is the hope. That cross is the victory over death. That cross is the assurance that in the judgment I will hear the verdict: “Righteous and forgiven in the blood of Jesus Christ.” So the apostle says: “Unto them who look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” The idea of looking for Jesus when He returns at the end of the world is the idea of expectation, loving expectation, as a child alone in a house, dark at night during a storm with thunder, awaits his parents to come home. And when the parents enter through the door, the little child who was afraid leaps into their arms. So the church of Jesus Christ is expecting Jesus to come.
Are you looking for Him? Is your life regulated by Him? What are you looking for when you wake up in the morning? What are you placing your trust in? Are you looking forward to retirement, to the pleasures of sin? Or is your great expectation, your great desire, to be with Christ fully, and you live your life now in obedience to Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation. The first time He appeared with sin-not His own, He was sinless. He appeared the first time covered with our sin in the manger. Do you see it? His mother wrapped Him in rags. That was a sign of our sin and depravity. He was born in a manger with all of the smell of filth and cattle manure. It was a sign of your sins and mine.
But Jesus Christ shall appear the second time without sin, unto salvation. Complete salvation. At that time Jesus shall enter into the presence of God with all those for whom He has died and they shall not have any spot or wrinkle of sin. And at that time the judgment shall come. But all those who, by grace, are in Jesus Christ, shall hear these words spoken from the Judge of all the earth, “I see you in Jesus. Come ye blessed. Enter into the kingdom which is prepared for you.”
What about you? Do you live your life attempting to avoid the realities of death and the judgment of God? Have you convinced yourselves that it is not so? Really? You’ve convinced yourself now that you are not going to die? You do not live in the light of that great reality that one day you will be placed in the grave, you will die? Do you try to comfort yourself thinking that it is only the end? That is not true. God has spoken.
What is your life today? The reality of death and judgment are there. They have been appointed for you. You will not miss these appointments.
What is your response? Do you respond of yourself and quickly get away from the word of God? Do you scoff? Do you say, “Hah, who needs to listen to that? It is only a book. The Bible, after all, is only a book.” Is that what you say? And do you go back, quickly back, into a life which swirls around you with its vanities and pleasures, trying to suck out of this present world something of meaning, saying, “I am my own man. The great liberty is for me to think what I want to think and to be what I want to be.” That is the lie of the tyrant, Satan. The truth of the gospel is that the only life is to be found in Jesus Christ, brought in loving submission to Him.
By the grace of God, do you stand before the realities of death and judgment by faith and hope in Jesus Christ, not turning aside, but facing those realities and expecting that in death and in the judgment you shall see your Savior who bore your sins upon His own body? Then your life today will leave that testimony. And your hope will never make you ashamed. For that appointment of death and judgment are not frightening anymore, child of God. Do not be afraid. Those appointments are glorious! For in death, and as you stand before the judgment seat, you will see Him face to face-the One who died for you and whom you love, both now and forevermore.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word and we pray that it may enter with freshness and conviction into our hearts. Amen.