Full of Grace and Truth, Vol. 2, pp. 81-95, Watchman Nee (CFP)
Inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment. (Heb. 9.27)
This most solemn verse from the Bible is uncomfortable to read and unpleasant to hear. That which is appointed is twofold: that men will die, and that after death there is judgment. If you can escape God’s first appointment, you will be able to escape His second. If the first appointment, men’s death, is fulfilled, the second appointment, judgment, will also be fulfilled. Hence the question need not be asked first as to whether or not you will be judged; the first question should rather be whether or not you will die. Yet the subject before us for consideration is not death but judgment. This is a matter none of us likes hearing or takes pleasure in discussing. But there can be no escape from it, for if death is a sure thing, judgment too is certain. If you will die, then you will also be judged. Unless you can avoid the first appointment, you cannot avoid the second.

The Bible tells us certain facts. Whether or not you believe these to be true, they nevertheless are true. A fact will not become a fiction merely because of your unbelief. A fact is forever a fact.

Now the first fact which the Bible teaches is, that God is. You may or may not believe in Him, yet God is a fact. As with the sun in space, a blind man may or may not believe there is a sun; nonetheless, the fact of the sun still remains.

The second fact which the Bible teaches is, that there is sin. Once again, men may or may not believe that sin exists, yet the fact of its existence still remains.

The Bible teaches us not only that there is a God and that there is sin, it also instructs us concerning death. Death too is a fact. The Bible mentions this fact more frequently than people would ordinarily mention it themselves. Now whether or not you believe death is real, it is nonetheless appointed for all men.

The Bible informs us of still another fact—one which is related to the future. Because it pertains to the future, it is often neglected by people. Yet this is as factual as are the three other facts already mentioned. And this fact is that of judgment. Regardless whether you believe it or not, there
will be judgment. Be it a large or small sin, be it a refined or gross sin, be it a popular or infamous sin, it will be judged by God; for judgment is a fact of the Bible. I do not need to spend time to prove that there will be judgment.

The Bible simply says God is, it never tries to prove the point. Similarly, the Bible does not need to verify that you have sinned, because you
have sinned. Neither must it substantiate the fact that you will die, for you will die. Likewise, then, the Bible has no need to demonstrate to you that there will be judgment, since judgment is a fact.

Let me ask you one question, Has the problem of your sins been solved? Perhaps you have heard the gospel several times but you have still not solved your sin problem; you are therefore yet unsaved. And death being certain, judgment will most surely come. However, you do not know
when you will die, or when you will be judged. For this reason, it is urgent that you solve your sin problem today, otherwise you are in great danger. Many people pay little attention to judgment, but let me say that if you do not solve your sin problem today and clear up this matter of judgment, you will find no mercy when judgment finally does come upon you. I beg you to lay aside eating and sleeping so that your sin problem may be solved first. This is of utmost importance lest judgment come to you without advance notice.

What Is the Result of Judgment?

The Bible not only tells us there will be judgment, it informs us of the result of judgment as well. One day God will judge the sin of the world, "rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might" (2 Thess. 1.8,9). This punishment is eternal perdition, even hell. What the Bible tells us of "God so loving the world" is quite true. Yet what it tells us of the hell fire is equally true. We are in a most perilous state if we have not received the grace of forgiveness. For the unbelieving will depart from the face of the Lord and descend into hell which is eternal perdition.

Who Has Any Excuse As to Judgment?

Perhaps some will think that as they stand before the judgment throne of God, they can argue that He cannot put them in hell because they either did not understand when listening to the gospel or had not heard aright. You may prepare to reason with God at the time of judgment, but the Lord has already decided the way to answer you which leaves you with no excuse.

Listen to these sobering words of Jesus: "The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, a greater than Jonah is here" (Matt. 12.41). The Lord tells us what will happen at judgment. Will God himself condemn their sins at judgment? No. He will simply sit there and watch the men of Nineveh stand up to condemn them for their sins. How will this be?

Nineveh was a large and famous ancient city. Its inhabitants had sinned greatly. So God sent a prophet by the name of Jonah to proclaim to them that in forty days Nineveh would be overthrown. The men of that city heard what Jonah had announced. They proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth—from the greatest even to the least of them. They sought God with earnestness. He saw their works that they turned in repentance from their evil way, and thus He spared them the destruction. They accordingly received the grace of sins forgiven. Much later, the Lord Jesus used this fact from ancient history to prove that the men of Nineveh would condemn Jesus’ generation for the sins they had committed.

Now the men of Nineveh heard the word of
Jonah and had repented. Yet behold, here is One far greater than even Jonah! Today people hear the Son of God speaking. Today many have read the Bible, especially the Gospel according to John. Who then can make excuse that he has never heard the Son of God? If you have heard, how can you expect to escape the future judgment? For at the time of your judgment, the men of Nineveh will stand up and accuse, saying: "We ourselves heard Jonah and repented. How can you therefore escape, since you have heard the gospel of God’s Son but still did not repent?"

Perhaps someone will argue in this way: "The men of Nineveh had the opportunity to repent because Jonah actually went to Nineveh to preach. But I am one of the country folk. No one has preached the gospel in my district so that I might hear it. God will therefore probably not condemn a person such as I." In reply I will tell you what the Lord said about another incident, which will take away your excuse. "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here" (Matt. 12.42). At the time of judgment, "the queen of the south" will rise up to answer the argument of such people and condemn this generation for its sins.

This "queen of the south" was the Queen of Sheba. Sheba is the Abbysinia (or Ethiopia) of today. This land is much farther south than even Egypt. This Queen had heard of the fame of King Solomon—how full of wisdom he was; so she traveled thousands of miles to see this King. Yet "behold, a greater than Solomon is here." Our Lord Jesus is much greater than Solomon of old! And what
He says is far wiser than Solomon’s words. What He speaks has far greater consequence, since it pertains to eternal life and eternal death. A queen of the south was willing to travel thousands of miles to hear the wisdom of King Solomon; could you who live only twenty or so miles from the city not travel to the city and hear the truth in a gospel hall? Even if you live a hundred miles from the city, you can still find some place nearby in which to hear and then to believe the gospel. If not, the queen of the south will rise up and condemn you for your sins. She could come "from the ends of the earth!" Why can you not merely go from your house to a nearby gospel hall? Consequently, none of the unsaved today has any excuse to present at the time of judgment.

Is There Any Way of Escaping Judgment?

Some may try to conceive a way to escape judgment. It is a rather foolish thought, but some may try. Why not hide in hades, after death, to avoid judgment? "They that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment" (John 5.29). If, by hiding in hades, one is not resurrected, will he not escape judgment? But this is altogether useless. Listen to the word of God: "Though they dig into Sheol, thence shall my hand take them" (Amos 9.2a; cf. Ps. 139.8). Do you think you can hide in hades and seal up its entrance, thus escaping judgment? The hand of God will take you out of it. No matter how deep you dig into Sheol, His hand will remove you.

There is another group of people, possibly modem scientists or aviators, who fancy they can fly into space and escape the judgment. But this is also futile. Listen: "Though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down" (Amos 9.2b). You may climb up, but God will bring you down. It is hard for you to climb up, but it is easy for Him to bring you down.

Perhaps some will consider fleeing to the mountains and the forests where they cannot be found. Yet the word of God says: "Though they hide themselves in the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out thence" (Amos 9.3a). You speculate that by hiding in the depth of the mountains or among the many trees you may escape judgment, but God will search and take you out.

Others might say that if neither hades nor heaven nor the mountains can hide them, why not try the bottom of the sea? Here, too, the word of God warns: "Though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, thence will I command the serpent, and it shall bite them" (Amos 9.3b). As you hide in the bottom of the sea, you will be bitten by a serpent and find no escape.

The above are various pictorial representations of your futile efforts. In hades, in heaven, in the mountains, or at the bottom of the sea you may escape the hand of men, but you cannot escape the hand of God. According to the Bible, there is absolutely no way of escape.

What Else at the Time of Judgment?

"Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down unto Hades: for if the mighty works had been done in Sodom which were done in thee, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee" (Matt. 11.21-24). Oh, the more you hear the gospel, the less you will be able to say in the hour of judgment. I advise you to pay attention to this ultimate matter if you are still occupied with sins, the world, and self pleasure. You cannot avoid death, and therefore you will not escape judgment. Judgment is appointed just as is death.

Let me address myself to the people in Shanghai but equally as much to the people of any other city: you will be like Tyre and Sidon. These magnificent cities of old have now become places where fishermen dry their nets. You will also be like two other cities. Due to the fullness of their sins, the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by brimstone and fire. Two years ago an American archaeologist visited the old sites of Sodom and Gomorrah and found only traces of sulfur. Alas, in the day of judgment, Tyre and Sidon and Sodom and Gomorrah will be more tolerable than today’s Shanghai.

In olden days before Christ was born and before the Son of God died for the sin of the world, people might have made excuses for not knowing about sin and judgment. Today, however, you have already heard that the Son of God has died for you. If you still have not solved the problem of sin, my tears as well as the tears of all the preachers of the gospel will be shed for you. For the judgment to come is so solemn! The world will pass away, the pleasures of the world will also pass away, but judgment will never pass away until it be fulfilled.

How Can One Escape Judgment?

Now I will tell you how you can escape judgment. For us to escape we must first ask why we must be judged in the future. Since all have sinned, all will be judged. If you can escape sin, you will be able to escape judgment.

"Judgment" in Greek is the same word as "condemnation." Hence "after death cometh judgment" may be read with equal accuracy as: "after death cometh condemnation." No one can escape from sin. If there were no sin, we could tear down this house of meeting because there would be no need for it. Then, too, I would not have to be a Christian. I could burn the Bible and dare to do anything I wish. But sin is real, it is a fact; and therefore, I need a Savior. I know there is the Son of God who has borne my sins and has shed His blood to atone for us. I also know that if the sin question is solved, the judgment problem will also be solved. Precisely here is the way of salvation.

In what way does God save us from our sins? I have sinned, and for sinning I deserve to be judged and condemned to hell. But the word of God tells me that the Son of God has died for our sins. How sweet is the name of Jesus in my mouth. It sounds more pleasant than music in my ears, and it is the most poetic of all themes in my imagination.

The Son of God came to die for me. He has borne my sins on the cross and suffered for me the penalty of sin. Thus am I saved and freed. This is the gospel! My purpose is not to bring the voice of woe to you, saying that you must die and be judged. I only show you judgment in order to make you realize your need—you need a Savior, you need a Sin-Bearer.

Let me tell you a story: During the American Civil War, there were two brothers. One lived in the North and one lived in the South. They were both conscripted into military service. At one battle the Confederate army of the South was defeated and many soldiers were captured. Among the Northern guards was one of these two brothers. He saw his own brother among the captives. He dared not approach his brother in the day time, but at night he took off his uniform, put it on his brother, and urged the latter to flee (for the captives were going to be shot the very next day). He put his Confederate brother’s uniform on himself and substituted for his brother as a captive. The following morning, he was shot to death. Although it was discovered later that the man was mistakenly shot, the law did not permit the seizure and execution of his brother because someone had already died for him. A person could not "die" twice. So the Confederate brother was allowed to go free. This is but a small demonstration of the meaning of the cross.

Do not incorrectly imagine that Jesus came to serve society by preaching fraternity and equality as well as by setting an example for mankind. I have read the New Testament at least a hundred times, and I have never found such a concept to be in the Bible. For such an idea would not be the gospel, it would rather be the voice of woe from Satan and hell. The Bible tells us that Jesus came to suffer judgment
for me. I should die, but Jesus died for me. When He was on the cross, He cried out: "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27.46b) God had to desert His Son Jesus because at that moment Jesus bore our sins. Jesus came from heaven in order to bring us to heaven. He left His Father to come to this world so as to bring us near to God. He became poor that we might be enriched. He came to earth that we might be freed from earthly bondage. He bore our sins that we may be delivered from sins. He suffered judgment for us that all who believe in Him might be spared from being judged. I am sure you have often heard the mentioning of the cross in the presentation of the gospel. The cross simply means that the Lord Jesus has borne our judgment and suffered its penalty for us.

Permit me to relate another story: Before America was fully developed, the colonists lived mainly in the Eastern part of the continent. Much later, people discovered gold in California. The news spread along the Eastern shore, and people rushed to the West for gold. A couple decided to sell their property and traveled West to gain riches. The husband went first. For over a year there was no communication. Suddenly one day the wife received a telegram from her husband which said quite simply: "Gold; come." It meant that gold had been found, and that she was to come immediately. The wife was so happy.

She took her son and journeyed to the West by steamer. At the time, the Panama Canal was not yet built and there was no train connection to the West Coast. Hence it took a long while to journey from East to West. One day, there was a commotion on the steamer. She thought they probably had encountered pirates, so she closed her cabin door tightly. Later she smelled smoke. She thought probably the steamer was on fire. She opened the door and quickly brought her son to the deck. The lifeboats had all been lowered, and even the last lifeboat was already filled.

Usually when there was an accident at sea, the women and children would be saved first. But because she and her son came so late, the others had already descended into the lifeboats. As she begged to be rescued, the sailors could only promise to take on one of them. What a dilemma for this mother! At that moment, they could not both live, yet neither did they both need to die. Either the mother or the son must die for the other to live. Finally, the mother wrote down the name and address of her husband. Then she told her boy, "My son, when you see your father, tell him that your mother died in fire and in water for you so that you might see his face."

Oh, this is but a very dim shadow of the truth of how Christ Jesus has died for us. May we hear Him saying to us: "Sinner, I have died on the cross for you so that you may see the face of the heavenly Father. I die that you may live. Believe with all your heart!"

What I am trying to impress upon you is the necessity of your seeing on the one hand that it is appointed for men to die and after death comes judgment, but on the other hand that God so loved us as to prepare a way of salvation for us—even that His Son has died for us. As a result, may you accept Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior now.

Heed this Bible verse: "He that believeth on him is not judged: he that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3.18). Remember that the words "judge" and "condemn" are the same in the Greek original. So that this can equally read: "He that believeth on him is not condemned: he that believeth not bath been condemned already." And this is not my word but the word of the Lord Jesus.

Heed another verse from the Bible: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life" (John 5.24). This passage tells us that if a person hears the word of the Lord Jesus and believes in God who has sent Him, that person (1) has eternal life, (2) does not come into judgment or condemnation, and (3) has passed out of death into life.

I want to ask you today if you have believed in the Son of God. If you have not, I invite you to accept Him to be your Savior now. On a number of occasions I have sat beside dying people. And once when I was preaching at a certain place, someone came to ask me to share the gospel to a physician who was dying. He knew a little concerning Christianity, but now he was dying of tuberculosis. As I arrived at his place, he said to me that he had heard of Jesus but that he had always refused to believe. I asked him to rest awhile, but he said, "I am a physician. I know I am sick to death. I have been an army doctor and have committed many sins with local people wherever I have been stationed. I have repented of my sins, but I have no way to wipe out the sins I have committed. I feel unrest in my heart; I cannot face God after death." So I read the words of John 5.24 to him. As he listened to the words—being assured by them that whoever believes in the Lord Jesus has eternal life and does not come into judgment but is passed out of death into life—he entered into peace. How different he was now from the time when I first arrived on the scene. For when I came, he was crying; but as I left, he shook hands with me and thanked me. I know in the eternal future I shall meet him again in heaven.

Oh, do not wait until the day of dying to believe, do not linger until the very last opportunity comes. Pray to God now, saying: "O God, I now receive Your Son." Yes, indeed, the Son of God has already been judged for you and has died for you. Therefore, sinners, come!