What will Final Judgment be like? What standard will the Lord use in evaluating my life? Will my good deeds be weighed against my bad deeds? Must I have 100 more good deeds than bad? 50? 25? 5? 1?

Anyone familiar with the New Testament, and especially Paul’s contributions to the sacred canon, knows that the standard to be used at the final judgment is not a performance standard at all–Christianity is not merely another form of legalism. No human being can do enough to “earn” salvation. That is a given.

Rather, the standard that will be applied is whether I had enough faith in life to obey Christ and get “into” Him where there is safety, rest, and salvation. In short, we are saved by “grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). According to the fellowship to which I belong, non-instrumental Churches of Christ, the faith that saves me is the faith that leads me to obey him by repenting, confessing, and being baptized into him. And, since “once saved always saved” is not something taught by the New Testament, the initial faith that led me to the baptistery must also lead me to live out the faithful life of a disciple.

The challenge becomes knowing precisely what a faithful life looks like in practice. It includes “going to church” but surely it involves more than that. The New Testament declares that a life filled with faith takes on certain predictable characteristics. What are those characteristics? Stated simply, they are the characteristics of Christ Himself. He took our place in death–he now invites us to take his place in life: to love as He loved, to serve as he served, to live as He lived, all to the glory of God our Father and to the redemption of lost humanity.

What, then, is the standard to be applied at the final judgment? Will it be my doctrinal position on MDR? The name on the building where I attend worship? The version of the Bible I use?

Jesus gives us a clear picture of the standard he will use at the Final Judgment: “for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (Matthew 25:35-36, emphasis mine).

This image of judgment day gives me plenty of activities in which to involve myself during life: feeding the homeless, clothing the poor, visiting hospitals. The church to which I belong has programs designed to accomplish all of these things. But, what about that last part? The part about the people in prison.

On December 31, 2009, there were 2,292,133 prisoners being held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails in the United States. How many of them have I visited? How many of them have I prayed for? How many of them have I ever even thought about?

Perhaps it is time I began to think about those in prison. What an awesome responsibility! What a tremendous opportunity!

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