Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, February 12, 2023
Is There Proof That You Love Both God and Neighbors?
Your Divine Judge Will Determine How Well You Have Done – Part 1
By Dr. Raymond Finney
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS RR SERIES: I begin a three-part RR series that I recommend you read. Accepting Yeshua as Savior and overcoming sins are the most important activities in your eternal life. These acts are the “ticket” for your admission to Heaven. Possibly the next most important activity is discussed in RRs today and the next two Sundays.
If you go to, say, a birthday party, you will likely take a gift for the honoree. Should you not also take with you to Paradise a gift to God, for His merciful and loving grace, and to Yeshua, for His vicarious sacrifice to wash your sins away? When you die and are immediately transported to Paradise, all of your possessions will be left on Earth. Only the record of suitable deeds (works) on Earth, which show your love for God and your neighbors, will follow you. Such acts are the only gifts God wants and will accept. Do not appear before Yeshua, your Divine Judge, empty-handed!
INTRODUCTION: This RR series touches on one of the most important topics I may write for Rabbi’s newsletters. Please read carefully and heed what is written. Judgment is surely coming. Good persons will receive rewards for good works they accomplished on Earth, even if unknown to or not acknowledged by fellow humans. Bad persons will receive punishment for acts they committed on Earth, even if kept hidden from fellow humans.
Judgment is a time for recognition of both good and bad works, for exposure of humankind’s actions, and for giving out appropriate rewards or punishments. God’s standards– not humans’ standards– apply, much to the horror of “many” persons (Matthew 7:21-23): [Yeshua said] “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, and drive out demons in Your name, and perform many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’”
There is no Purgatory. There is no second chance to rectify the sins and failures of life. There is no chance to say, “I’m sorry.” We must earn our rewards for good work or suffer the consequences for bad works while we live the one short life allotted to us (John 9:4): [Yeshua said] “We must do the work of the One who sent Me, so long as it is day! Night is coming when no one can work.”
DEFINITION: I write today about the Judgment Seat of the Messiah, best explained in Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10. In the Greek text, this seat is βήματος (bēmatos) from βῆμα (bēma). A bema was a raised platform, usually mounted by steps. A bema was placed at the finish line of the ever-popular races in the Middle East in the first century. A judge sat on the bema to determine the order of finish of the athletes, as they crossed the finish line. The order of finish could determine what prizes would be awarded or not awarded to the runners. The order of finish did not determine whether the athlete was credited with running the race, but only what prize would be awarded. A last-place finisher was credited with running the race, but he received no prize.
Therefore, works (rewards) and salvation (admittance to Heaven) are two separate issues. The Apostle Paul used racing competition to explain that not all athletes in a race (not all Believers who live on Earth) receive prizes (1 Corinthians 9:24): Don’t you know that in a stadium the runners all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win!
COMMANDMENTS TO LOVE: Works stem from love. There are only three commandments about love in the B’rit Chadashah. These commandments are:
● (Mark 12:28-31): One of the Torah scholars came and heard them debating. Seeing that Yeshua had answered them well, he asked Him, “Which commandment is first of all?” Yeshua answered, “The first is, ‘Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
● (John 13:34-35): [Yeshua said] “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
For your information: For the first commandment (love God), Yeshua quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5. For the second commandment (love neighbor), Yeshua quoted Leviticus 19:18b. For the third commandment (love one another), Yeshua created a new commandment not found elsewhere in the Bible.
How simple– almost childlike– are these commandments. Yet, they are profound. They sum up the entirety of God’s Word for us. Simple, yes, but no Believer keeps these commandments flawlessly (Romans 3:23): … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Apostle Paul continued this alarming verse that all persons sin and disappoint God in the next three verses with the good news of God’s redemptive plan (Romans 3:24-26): They [sinners] are set right as a gift of His grace, through the redemption that is in Messiah Yeshua. God set forth Yeshua as an atonement, through faith in His blood, to show His righteousness in passing over sins already committed. Through God’s forbearance, He demonstrates His righteousness at the present time– that He Himself is just and also the justifier of the one who puts his trust in Yeshua. The Apostle John continues Paul’s thoughts by assuring us that God remains faithful to us, even when we are unfaithful to Him (1 John 1:9): If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Love God… love neighbors… love fellow Believers. You probably are like me in having violated all of these “simple” commandments. These “simple commandments” are probably the yardstick by which we Believers will be judged. These “simple commandments” form the background for this RR series.
SIDELIGHT: English-speaking people use “love” casually. I love my wife, chocolate pie, a certain movie, the autumn season, and so forth. The B’rit Chadashah was written in Greek, and the Greeks had four words for ”love.”
● Eros (ἔρως) – eros is sexual love. This word does not appear in the Bible.
● Philia (φιλία) – philia is love for close friends (“brotherly love”). Example: John 11:3 and 20:2.
● Agape (ἀγάπη) – agape (pronounced, ah-GAH-pay) is selfless love a person should have for friends and enemies alike. It is the unconditional love we should have for Adonai. Example: Matthew 5:44 (for a verb formed from agape).
● Storge (στοργή) – storge (pronounced, store-GAY) is love for family (parents, children, siblings, etc.). Paul used negative storge (ἄστοργος, or astorgos– that is, “no love”), when he warned against not having “natural affection” (Romans 1:31). END sidelight.
JUDGMENT AWAITS EVERY PERSON: Every person will be judged at the end of time (Hebrews 9:27): And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this judgment,…. There are two judgments, but a person will only face one judgment. He/ she chooses before death whether he/ she will appear at the Bema Judgment or the Great White Throne Judgment. God has given each person free will and allows him/ her to decide whether to choose eternal life in Heaven or in Hell. The two judgments are:
● The Judgment Seat of the Messiah (Bema Judgment): A summary of this judgment is:
… What is the primary Scriptural foundation for this judgment? Romans 14:10, 12 and 2 Corinthians 5:10.
… When does this judgment occur? Immediately after the Rapture/ Resurrection, before the Second Coming of Yeshua, before the Battle of Armageddon, and before the Millennial Kingdom of Yeshua.
… Where does this judgment occur? In Paradise.
… Who will appear at this judgment? Only obedient persons who have accepted Yeshua as Savior and who will ultimately be admitted to Heaven for eternity.
… What is the purpose of this judgment? To announce awards (called “crowns” in Scripture) to persons for righteous, meritorious life while on Earth.
… What is the verdict of this judgment? Each person is declared innocent of sin because of his/ her acceptance through faith of God’s grace and Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice at Golgotha (that is, he/ she has his/ her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life); he/ she will be admitted to eternal life in New Jerusalem (Heaven).
… Will persons argue with the verdict? The Bible is silent on this matter, but why would anyone argue with a verdict of entering Heaven for eternity?
● The Great White Throne Judgment: A summary of this judgment is:
… What is the primary Scriptural foundation for this judgment? Revelation 20:11-13.
… When does this judgment occur? After the Millennial Kingdom of Yeshua (approximately one-thousand years after the Rapture/ Resurrection and the Bema Judgment).
… Where does this judgment occur? Unknown. It cannot occur in Heaven, because sinful men and women cannot enter that holy place. It cannot occur on Earth, because a New Earth is being created.
… Who will appear at this judgment? Only defiant or rebellious persons who have rejected Yeshua as Savior and who will ultimately enter Hell for eternity.
… What is the purpose of this judgment? To show the condemned sinner (non-believer) why he/ she cannot enter Heaven through opening of books (including, perhaps, a search for a name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?). Different degrees of punishment will be meted out (Hitler may receive greater punishment than a morally good person who just ignored the Gospel).
… What is the verdict of this judgment? Each person is declared guilty of sin because of his/ her refusal to accept through faith God’s grace and Yeshua’s atoning sacrifice at Golgotha (that is, he/ she does not have his/ her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life). He/ she will be consigned to eternal life in Hell.
… Will persons argue with the verdict? Probably so, because “books will be opened” (Revelation 20:12) presumably to settle disputes. The Lamb’s Book of Life may be opened to search for the person’s name. “Sorry, you rejected Yeshua as your Savior and have not accepted God’s gift of salvation.” Other books may be opened to show the unfortunate person his/ her sinful deeds and why punishment is so severe.
LET PAUL EXPLAIN: The Apostle Paul, who is always a leading teacher of B’rit Chadashah doctrine, explained the Bema Judgment most clearly. Paul confirmed the previously quoted Hebrews 9:27 verse by writing:
● (Romans 14:10, 12): … For we all will stand before the judgment seat of God…. || So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. NOTE: The Tree of Life Version (TLV), quoted here, is carelessly translated. The TLV quotes Romans 14:10 as “judgment seat of God.” The Greek text is βήματι τοῦ Χριστοῦ (bēmati tou Christou, or “judgment seat of Christ”).
● (2 Corinthians 5:10): For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Messiah, so that each one may receive what is due for the things he did while in the body– whether good or bad.
Paul likened a Believer’s works for God to be similar to building a house (1 Corinthians 3:10-15): According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another builds on it. But let each consider carefully how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what is already laid– which is Yeshua the Messiah. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear. For the Day will show it, because it is to be revealed by fire; and the fire itself will test each one’s work– what sort it is. If anyone’s work built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss– he himself will be saved, but as through fire.
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NOTES FOR 1 CORINTHIANS 3:10-15:
● Workmen who build a house lay the foundation first. That is, they start with a firm foundation and build up. The foundation supports the entire weight of the house built upon it. Workmen do not start with the roof and build down.
● Yeshua HaMashiach is the foundation upon which any Believer or Congregation must build good works for God. Several Scriptures identify Yeshua as our foundation. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:46-49, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Peter 2:4-8, Isaiah 28:16, and Psalm 118:22.) Some of these verses touch on the stone upon which Yeshua’s church (congregation of the called out ones, or Yeshua’s body) is built.
● Some denominations (such as, the Roman Catholic Church) teach this “stone” was Simon Bar-Jonah (the Apostle Peter). Simon’s nickname was the Aramaic Kefa or the Greek Petros, both of which are translated “Rock” or “Stone.” I believe the Stone upon which our faith is built is Yeshua Himself. To make the Apostle Peter the “Stone” upon which our faith is built is, in my opinion, re-writing Scriptures to fit man’s doctrines– an offense strictly forbidden by God.
● Paul taught that we workmen may bring different materials to the foundation to start building our “house.” In building houses today, carpenters bring lumber, electricians bring copper wire, plumbers bring pipes, and so forth. In building good works for the Kingdom, we may bring different materials (different works). In Paul’s example, if a workman brings gold, silver, or precious stones (good works), he constructs a good building– one for which the workman and the Master, Yeshua, may be proud. But, if a workman brings wood, hay, or straw (unworthy works) or no materials at all, he constructs a bad building– one for which the workman and the Master, Yeshua, may be ashamed.
● “The Day” refers to the day of the Bema Judgment.
● “The fire” will burn up bad works (wood, hay, or straw, leaving behind only a pitiful pile of ashes. A crown cannot be made from ashes.
● “The fire” will not burn up good works (gold, silver, or precious stones). In fact, metal workers use fire to melt precious metal to make the metal purer. Impurities (the dross) float to the surface of the molten metal and can be skimmed off by the metal worker. All good works by Believers may have some impurities (pride, desire for recognition, etc.). These impurities will be removed at the Bema Judgment, leaving only pure intentions and pure results. The pure precious metal can, then, be made into a crown.
● The Bible is silent on what this purifying “fire” might be. Could the Apostle John have given us a hint? When John envisioned Yeshua in Paradise, he made an interesting observation (Revelation 19:12a): His [Yeshua’s] eyes are like a flame of fire,…. Could Yeshua’s eyes “burn” as a flame to test works at the Bema Judgment, purifying good works and burning bad works?
● The bad, lazy workman will suffer loss, but will be “saved as through fire.” The Bema Judgment does not determine whether a person enters Heaven. That decision was made before death and is confirmed by that person’s name being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Salvation is through faith, not works. (See Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves– it is the gift of God. It is not based on deeds, so that no one may boast. See also Jacob [James] 2:17, 26: So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead by itself. |…| For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.)
● The lazy Believer who makes it into Heaven without any rewards reminds me of families local news stations like to show. The family has just lost a home and possessions to a fire. Huddled under a blanket, wet, cold, and saddened, they usually have the same response: “We have lost everything we own, but, thank God, we are all alive [we are safe].” The lazy Believer may sadly think, “I have little to show God for my life on Earth, but, thank God, I still have eternal life in Heaven.”
● The Bible is silent how long any remorse for being a lazy worker on Earth may last, but it likely will not last for an eternity because of an assurance of God’s kindness and mercy (Revelation 21:4): [A loud voice from the throne said] “[God] shall wipe away every tear from their [those entering Heaven] eyes, and death shall be no more. Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer, for the former things have passed away.” END notes.
CONCLUSION: It is Biblical truth that you will be judged after death. Then, you will face either the Bema Judgment (if your ultimate destination is Heaven) or the Great White Throne Judgment (if your ultimate destination is Hell).
You decide during your life which judgment you will face and where you will spend eternity.
Assuming you have been wise enough to opt to go to Heaven, your Bema Judgment (Judgment Seat of the Messiah) will determine what rewards you will receive or not receive. Such rewards will be based on your service to God and fellow humans (neighbors) as a manifestation of love, during your earthly life.
Yeshua preached against greed and excessive devotion for “things,” except in one instance. In this instance, He urged His followers to be as greedy as possible and grab as much of this one thing as possible (Matthew 6:19-21): [Yeshua said] “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
Judgment will be intense and exhaustive, even judging what we have said (Matthew 12:36): [Yeshua said] “But I tell you that on the Day of Judgment, men will give account for every careless word they speak.”
In the next two RRs, I will discuss some of the treasures we all need to store up. Yeshua is returning soon, and an early task for Him will be to judge all of us. How well did each follower show love to God and to neighbors by serving them? Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarsson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 12-Feb-2023 21st of Sh’vat, 5783
Ex 21:1-19 2 Ki 7 Ps 130-131 Jn 8:31-59 (1 Ti 5)