For many years, I’ve interacted in circles where religion is important – and getting religion right is important.
A friend of mine – who traveled from Reformed to Eastern Orthodoxy to Anglicanism (and who is now an Anglican priest) posted this from someone I don’t know on Tweeter:
“The sun will burn your eyes to from 92 million miles, and you expect to casually stroll into the presence of its creator”
Quite frankly, I DO expect to “casually stroll” into the presence of the Creator. Hebrews 4:16 not only suggests we can do it; he practically commands Christians to do it. “Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace…” (Hebrews 4:16).
My Anglican friend, not seeing it that way, then posted the following challenge:
This is one of the things about Protestant soteriology that truly sticks in my craw. Whatever justification by faith alone means, the Bible is clear that we will all, Christians and non-Christians, “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.” II Cor. 5:10.
Consider texts such as Isa. 6, which indicate that there is no casual stroll into the presence of the living God, even for saints. To my mind, this means that there very well may be some kind of final purgation needed, even if we are justified by faith alone, before we can see God.
Assuming the truth of the Protestant doctrine, which says that we are justified positionally but not fully holy experientially, this arguably means that some sort of purgation occurs after our deaths. This, however, does not necessarily commit us to the specifics of the Roman doctrine of purgatory, but that doctrine nevertheless is on to something, I believe.
Change my mind.
Well, I certainly hope to change his mind. I responded with the following passage from 1 Corinthians: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1.30 NASB1995).
Another old friend jumped on and said, “This does not in any way obviate what Fr Chris said. And you have to actually deal with that passage he cited …”
I responded: “since you asked, look at the whole passage (in the original post, from 2 Corinthians, vv 6-21):”
Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— … we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
In the first place, “we all” must, and will stand, individually, before Christ. As Christians (who have done bad deeds), we STILL prefer to be “absent from the body” (according to Paul’s claim here). Why would we PREFER TO BE ABSENT, knowing that “each” “may be recompensated” (according to the NASB, or in Chris’s OP, “may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done”?)
To her point, none of this points to the Roman Catholic view that, perhaps, mortal sin could cast some, any of Paul’s readers into hell. That is not even a question in this passage. Nor is it a recipe for “temporal punishment” (or, “some sort of purgation”).
Nor is it even, as Chris says, “some sort of purgation that occurs after our deaths”. DEATH ITSELF is THE WAGE FOR OUR SIN (“the wage of sin is death”, Romans 5:12). There is no “purgation”. Our “purity” is not an ontological thing (as Rome teaches). It is a judicial thing.
So the question is, (having dealt with the passage), what IS “the judgment” that believers face?
It is the very thing that I mentioned in the 1 Cor 1:30 passage: “Christ Jesus IS” “righteousness and sanctification and redemption”. That is how Christians are judged.
In this later passage, to the same group of people, Paul explains this further. “God made Christ Jesus, who knew no sin, TO BE SIN ON OUR BEHALF”. What does this mean to you? When I stand before Jesus Christ, with my own sins, God himself is “NOT COUNTING THEIR (MY) TRESPASSES AGAINST THEM (ME)”. No doubt, those sins will be named at that moment, but I am not accountable for them. The “recompense” that I will receive at that moment IS the finished work of Christ.
The original post, in fact, is pretty silly. Paul himself says, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. Yes, even in this passage, “we are of good courage, and [we do] prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord”. Isaiah did not, at this point (Isaiah 6), know the promised Messiah.
As Christians, we will, yes, absolutely, casually stroll into the presence of the Lord. We are his children, and we rightly call on “Abba, Father”.
Roman Catholic doctrine evilly and hatefully (in a defense of its own supposed authority) obscures this clear doctrine of Scripture.