Our Works and the Final Judgment

Discussion in 'Federal Vision/New Perspectives' started by brandonadams, Nov 2, 2009.

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  1. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm trying to wrap my head around the final judgment and I'm having a hard time. I'm getting different answers. It seems there are two options in Reformed tradition:

    1. Our life is judged in order to determine if we are going to heaven or hell
    2. Our life is judged to determine our level of rewards

    Defenders of #1 say that our lives, our deeds, are judged on the last day in order to determine if we are united with Christ. Here are some examples:

    Defending the second view are the following:
    Five Arguments Against Future Justification According to Works - Reformation21
    Five Arguments Against Future Justification According to Works (Part II) - Reformation21
    Judgment of Believers in the Westminster Standards - Reformation21 Blog
    45. The Necessity of Good Works Unto Salvation Considered.


    I simply cannot understand how #1 is consistent with justification through faith alone. I do not understand how we can be united with Christ through faith alone if our works are necessary to connect us to Christ as well. I find Gill's essay very helpful (though he doesn't specifically address the final judgment). Can anyone help me understand?
  2. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    There can be too much "theologicalizing" out there.

    Faith in Jesus Christs' perfect life and perfect sacrifice on the cross alone justifies us at the final judgment.

    Jesus never sinned, and that alone meets God's perfect standard of holiness. There is nothing we could even possibly add to that, and nothing we have done, or could do, as sinners could possibly compare with that.

    That means we are pardoned for sin by Christ's righteousness as if it were our own. The penalty for sin being eternal death.

    Though pardoned for their sin from eternal death and torment, believers do give account of their lives while lived in the flesh. Rewards (e.g. possibly crowns) are given out. This is NOT salvation but some other sorts of rewards and some "loss" of those rewards.

    We don't have a great deal of specificity as to those rewards and losses because Scripture does not give us much to go on. So we don't have a basis to speculate exactly what those might be.

    (By the way, this has been discussed before on Puritan Board, you may find helpful doing a search, upper right)

  3. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    Thanks Scott. I know similar discussions have been had on here, and I did search before posting (and read your posts). But they did not seem to specifically address the two divergent views I put forward here.

    I would still love for some clarity from those who agree with #1 as articulated in the quotes provided.
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Not really.

    Christ alone meets the standard, salvation is not on the basis of our works. But really it is, on the basis of Christ's perfect works.

    Our life will reflect something of God's grace because He has changed the constituent nature of a human being when God redeems a sinner.

    So, works will reflect that as a general pattern. Not perfection, because a remaining portion of the Fall remains in us all, so our works can never be perfect.

    I think we can say that the review and accounting of our sin when our life in the flesh is done will serve justice in judgment for those who die without Christ, and as just reminder of the incredible grace of God in saving those in Christ.

    And because of Christ, and because of Christ alone, what God does in election will persevere in us to the end.:graduate:
  5. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    There is no way to harmonize point #1 with sola fide. However, that does not mean that confused ministers will cease their attempts to do so.

    I have heard Rob Rayburn of Faith PCA in Tacoma publicly teach this (during a church family camp, which made it even more heinous) by using what he called a "dialectical hermeneutic". I last heard him suggest it from the floor of presbytery during his Oct. 2008 defense of Leithart, during the examination of the latter's theology.

    Both the defense, and the motives for making a defense of such a teaching, made no sense at all from an Evangelical Protestant perspective. The basic idea is that of "justified by grace alone, through faith alone" followed by a second (final) justification by works at the judgment seat. It is not really any different than the "get in by grace, stay in by works" paradigm of the FV writers, and is in no way recognizably evangelical.
  6. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    Here is one more quote in support of #1

  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    What's lacking (in talk of "future justification") is precision in theological speech.

    Nobody talks in a vacuum. We are all historically situated, therefore we have an obligation to speak clearly in our own place and time, our Providential locus.

    The language of "future justification" is a FAILURE to speak with appropriate acknowledgment of our relationship to the whole history of the church, but especially the Reformation and its aftermath. There is good reason to avoid that language, namely the confusion stirred up by such treatment of the language.

    What is WRONG with using the word "vindication," which is exactly the nature of the Last-Day declaration? Nothing, of course, is wrong with it. It is BETTER. And (!) it avoids--no, it eliminates confusion over WHAT Justification is. Is there some relationship between what happened in our situational Justification, and what will happen at the final Judgment? Yes, this isn't that controversial.

    So, why should the Gospel-church be driven to distraction over this sort of word-play? Isn't it perverse? What ends are served by driving together the forensic declaration of our righteousness and the open acknowledgment of our righteousness, especially when the effort seems to be motivated by the deliberate effort to ENHANCE the place of WORKS in the schema?

    There is an agenda in these matters, and it isn't friendly to Reformed Confessional attitudes. Sad to say, but true.
  8. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior


    I am not certain what you are driving at by continuing to post these quotes. The materials you linked to by the guys at Ref21 are clear enough in explaining why a final justification by works is antithetical to the gospel of grace.

    Look at the above quote carefully. There is a term inserted into the discussion that makes it unorthodox (Well, there is more than that, since the writer omits any discussion of a legal transaction which would make the act of justification final, but that is another issue). There is no problem with him saying that believers will be declared righteous in Christ on the last day. There is no problem even in saying that whatever works we have in Christ are a vindication of sorts of our standing. The problem comes with his inserting the little word "confirmation". Our works will not confirm anything. All that has ever needed to be confirmed regarding our standing before the Father has been confirmed when we were first justified. Confirmation means that our justification was not yet certain, but at the last day it will (hopefully) be made certain.

    It's nothing other than a false gospel, my friend, and that is why I have no sympathy for it's advocates. I have spoken to a seminarian whose faith was absolutely obliterated by having sat under Rayburn's teaching for a number of years, and who was so confused about justification and assurance, and so adamant about final justification and other related issues that he might as well have been a Roman Catholic priest. I spoke with him for three hours on the issue, and he refused to say that he was justified by faith alone. He had no gospel understanding, and he learned it from a supposedly confessional minister. That is why the issue is so serious, and why Reformed denominations must continue to take it seriously. There only has to be one soul lost to a false view of the Gospel to make it an issue worth fighting over.

    -----Added 11/2/2009 at 04:01:11 EST-----

    Thanks, Bruce. You picked up on the issue of word play and vindication before I got this posted.
  9. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    I added that quote to clarify that the person affirms Christ's imputed righteousness alone as the grounds for our justification. (The response I have had from others, and it seems from Scott above, ignore this part). The question is over the instrumental means of justification (it seems to me).

    Yes, Phillips' post at Ref21 is very clear and very helpful. But his confessionalism was called into question for writing those articles:
    Twenty-First Century Tabletalk: Final Judgment According to Works: Reformed?
    Protected Blog Login

    And I also continue to prod because the book Phillips recommends at the end of his article explicitly contradicts his whole argument. And the entire Reformed community continues to hold up that book as an excellent response to Wright. Thus my confusion and search for precision and clarity.


    I think particularly helpful in seeking precision is to ask how one interprets Hebrews 12:14 and Romans 2:6-7. I have not appreciated much of what I have read on those verses. How do you interpret them?
  10. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Perhaps it is worth pointing out that the works which are judged on the final day are merely works which evidence a true and lively faith or a reprobate mind. Hence reformed theology has always taught that good works are a consequent condition of justification, that is, good works must and will follow them that savingly believe in Christ.
  11. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Our justification and therefore entitlement to Heaven are on the basis of Christ's death and righteousness. We receive that by faith alone. How can God reward us for that since we did not do it but Christ did it for us.

    On the other hand our sanctification involves us doing good works. Although we trace them to God's grace in regenerating and sanctifying us, we are involved in doing them. Therefore God rewards us for them.

    Why does God reward us for these good works that we are only doing by his grace?

    Actually there could be no rewards for any human being in this life for any thing done if rewards were not given for things done by God's Common and/or Saving Grace.

    An employee saved or unsaved only does eight hours work in a day by God's grace. Does that mean his employer should not pay him/her his salary at the end of the week, because the employee did it all by God's grace?

    God is more just than unsaved or saved employers.

    We do not look to our imperfect (yet to be rewarded) works for (in order to) our justification or for our sanctification, but to Christ.

    We will be no more justified or adopted in Heaven than we are at the moment we first exercise faith, and justification covers past, present and future sins.

    In this life we have to approach God for forgiveness, not because our justification fails when we sin, but because God is displeased with his continuously justified children when they sin (e.g. II Sam. 11:27). We also, as eternally justified children of God, need cleansing and renewed faith, repentance and obedience when we sin, as part of progressive sanctification.

    Our deeds, even after conversion, are filthy rags. And only God in his graciousness and condescension and wisdom, will be able to discern any gold that he has placed amidst the dross, and give an addiitional and appropriate reward for it. Even our best deeds after regeneration are shot through with sin and uncleanness, and in respect to them all we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing so that we can pat ourselves on the back.

    We can't contribute a finger to the work that Christ has done to ensure we enter Heaven, nor should we try, but we should continue to look to Christ for justification and sanctification, and give all the glory to God for every aspect of our salvation.

    On the Last Day our justification and entitlement to Glory will be on the same basis of Christ's Work and Blood, as it was the moment we believed. And that will be our Confession to Christ's glory and He won't contradict it and say "Oh no. You're wrong! You're getting into the Heavenly Kingdom because you did X,Y and Z !"

    Christ will also graciously reward the good works which He wrought in and through us. Calvin, Luther, Spurgeon, Rutherford, MacCheyne, etc, etc, will deservedly shine in a way others won't. We will be happy for them all, and happy to be with our blessed Lord and Saviour.
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2009
  12. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Over the past few years, the argumentation from "federal vision" has become known for double meaning and going in circles, and hence for creating confusion.

    While saying on one hand they believe salvation is by grace through faith alone, and that Christ's righteousness is counted as our own, to justify us before God...

    On the other they say, not really, it is subject to "future justification" or a "full and final verdict of justification."

    The confusion they have created, or in some cases the denial of justification (now) misses many of the key points that several of us have been making here.

    Good works (but not perfection) necessarily flow from a regenerated person because the nature of that person has been changed by God forever. But those works, in NO SENSE, justify the person in God's sight (because they otherwise fall short of the perfect standard of God).

    Nor is a persons "union with Christ" in any sense dependent on them (because it is by grace, through faith in Christ's righteousness alone).

    I really don't think that is that complicated. It requires faith. It is amazing, but I don't think God intended it to be confusing.
  13. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    Yes, absolutely, good works will follow as a fruit of saving faith. But here is my trouble with saying our good works have any relevance to the final judgment: Justification is the declaration of the final judgment. If I am justified upon the moment of believing, without having done any good works, then how can good works play a part in determining that judgment?

    Furthermore, if Christ is the judge, and there is not a jury of peers, why does Christ need evidence? Does He not judge the secret hearts of men?

    (I also don't know what you mean when you say "consequent condition." That seems to be an oxymoron.)
  14. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior


    The author cannot affirm the imputed righteousness of Christ in our justification with any integrity and also affirm that works play a role in our final justification. If I am reading you right, that must be stated as a contradiction on the part of that author, unless of course one wants to state that Christ's sacrifice was not a full and sufficient atonement. If our works must be taken into account, then Christ's works did not suffice.

    I don't think that it can be shifted to a discussion of the instrumental means, since the only instrument in appropriating the benefits of Christ's redemptive work that has ever been recognized by evangelicals is the instrument of faith, which even of itself cannot be described as a work. Works are not instruments by which grace may be received, but can only be instruments for the achievement of justification, which goes against the whole tenor of Scripture. Below is a little snippet from the Westminster Larger Catechism that lines out the evangelical postion.

    WLC 1:73 "Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, not as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification; but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness."

    As far as the Scriptures you mentioned that raise some questions for you, don't just camp on those few verses in Romans (nor 2:13, which is another favorite of that camp), but read with detail and mental focus Paul's argument from the beginning of chapter 2, straight through to 3:26. Paul is presenting an argument that must be taken as a whole. The questions raised for you in the beginning of chapter two should be completely erased by the time you finish chapter three. Romans was not redacted by several authors; Paul was not a schizophrenic thinker, you cannot follow his argument through to the end, and come to the conclusion held by those who would posit that 2:5-6 and 2:13 prove some form of works based justification. I have heard this argument year after year, and am always amazed when I hear it coming from men who have taken seminary level hermeneutics courses, which happens to be most of the time.

    Regarding the passage in Hebrews, rather than reading it as meaning that the holiness we manifest in the outworking of our sanctification is a requirement for us entering into heaven (to see the Lord), try connecting it with the instructions given in the rest of the NT in which we are told that our lives as believers, and our examples as leaders, are to reflect Christ to the world, and to those in the Church. Without holiness in our leadership, in our parishioners, and in our various transactions and relations both in and outside the church no one will see the Lord. As Christ spoke in the similitudes, if we cover our light under a basket (of sin), or if we become tainted with the world, and fail to be separate to God and "other" from the world around us (which is an integral aspect of the meaning of holiness), how will they see the power of Christ in us? And is not Christ "the Lord" of whom the Scriptures speak?

    I have only briefly read the comments about Phillips, but I'm not sure what the big deal is. His statements do not contradict the confessions, nor does his view of the matter seem to conflict with that of Guy Waters (if that was the author whom you were referencing). I think it is a case of people who are a bit against confessionalists attempting to find a place in the WCF that they think has been contradicted by an admittedly confessional minister. Sort of a "two can play at that game" approach. It fails by my reading, although that probably won't stop them from making like claims in the future.
  15. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    In the case of the believer there is nothing else left to be judged except his/her good works and a particular place in the Heavenly Kingdom.

    The fact that he/she is going to Heaven is sealed by Christ's works and not the believer's works. The believer's Justification will be bodily standing before him/her on the Day of judgment. He is the LORD Our Righteousness.

    For the unbeliever, the Lord is also just, and will judge him/her perfectly by their works alone.

    The sense that the judgment Day is more of a public vindication of believers than anything else is confirmed when we remember that most believers will have already been in Heaven for a long time before then, so it's not an entrance exam.

    That maybe just pushes the Qs back to the time of death, which is the real judgment Day/Glory Day for most believers.
  16. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    As noted, the good works are only ever judged as evidence of a saving faith. This is likewise true in the final judgment. In reality our present justification by faith alone is our future justification brought into the present "in Christ Jesus." We are "in Christ Jesus" by faith alone. Because we are in Christ Jesus by faith we are able to do good works. The good works evidence that we really are in Christ Jesus. If our present justification is our future justification brought into the present "in Christ Jesus," then it is obvious that faith and works stand in precisely the same relation in our future justification as they do in our present justification.
  17. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    To be clear Adam, I agree with you. What I am confused by is how Reformed Christians can defend #1. That is what I am trying to understand. Practically no one that I have talked to, besides Phillips, is willing to say it is wrong. (Furthermore, the ESV and Reformation Study Bible and John Calvin interpret Rom 2:6-7 as referring to Christians/evangelical obedience. And John Owen interprets Heb 12:14 the same way. - look at Gill's linked essay for what I think is a proper understanding of 12:14, which is miscopied as Heb 7:14 in the link)

    I understand that evangelicals have never recognized our works as being instrumental, but I suppose the question is if #1 is evangelical. I'm not trying to shift the discussion, I'm simply saying that I do not understand how someone can say our works play a role in connecting us to Christ at the Final Judgment, and yet say that it is faith ALONE that connects us to Christ. It does not help to create a chain and say that our works link to our faith which links to Christ. That means that it is not faith alone.

    -----Added 11/2/2009 at 08:25:29 EST-----

    I agree. But that means that IF the final judgment is a matter of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell, then our works are entirely irrelevant. Right? There is no place for "evidences" in the courtroom of Christ because Christ needs no evidence. He's not Matlock looking for clues. He's a judge with all the information making a declaration. Right?
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Please see Romans 2. In condemning sinners and acquitting believers the Righteous Judge procures the complete acquiescence of the conscience.
  19. Archlute

    Archlute Puritan Board Senior

    Ah, I see, Brandon. Thank you for mentioning those things. I am not certain why Reformed believers are defending the first interpretation, and would agree with Rick Phillips in saying that it is incompatible with a Reformed understanding of justification.

    I haven't read the ESV notes, or Calvin/Owen recently, so will have to look into that and see what they have to say. I must have overlooked the link on Gill.

    Glad you are interested in getting these things worked out; hope you find some help here.
  20. brandonadams

    brandonadams Puritan Board Freshman

    My apologies brother Matthew, but I don't know what that means.

    -----Added 11/2/2009 at 10:03:01 EST-----

    I just read an article that articulates my difficulty rather well. His conclusion:

  21. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritan Board Doctor

    Not sure I can make this more clear than has been posted previously.

    Justification is right now, it has absolutely nothing to do with us getting it by our works- God alone gives it to us.

    At the final judgment, God will account all our sins which would be sufficient to condemn any one of us, believer or nonbeliever.

    But for the elect, the believer, Christ's righteousness has been counted as if our own. The final judgment will make God's justice and mercy explicit for the whole world.

    In addition there will be rewards and "losses" of some sort at the final judgment (NOT a loss of salvation for believers), but we do not have much basis in Scripture to speculate upon what those might be.
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