I don’t generally watch courtroom shows, or tune in all that closely to trials that gain national attention. Yet, this past year has brought with it two trials that have been nearly impossible to avoid. Everywhere I looked, there was something about these people that stood before a jury of their peers and the judge who presided. So, this past year, I did something uncharacteristic. I watched the verdicts as they were read, live. Something was chilling about this, opinions aside on whether they should be found innocent or guilty, I had a weird feeling come over me as these two humans had their fates revealed. So often, when moments like these happen in a fabricated world, we don’t realize the gravity of the situation. But when it is real people standing before a real judge, with their future in the balance, suddenly, the implications of the moment set to begin to become realized. Innocent, guilty, regardless of the verdict, to be judged is chilling. To be held accountable is frightening, and something that all of us must eventually reckon with because we too will one day stand before a judge.
It is a chilling thought. One day we will be held accountable. We will stand before the judgment seat. But in this courtroom, there will be no jury of our peers. Only God the Father, who laid the foundations of the earth. He will call you to the stand and you will be required to give your account, your testimony. You will plead your case before the Author of Life. He will hear you. Then you will stand before Him and wait to receive the verdict as eternity hangs in the balance. The evidence against you is damning, the verdict is obvious. No one will be surprised when the Creator passes down the verdict, the very voice that spoke creation into existence now speaks to you: Guilty. It’s chilling. No more pleading, no more excuses, no more apologies. It’s done. This is our reality apart from Christ. Without Him, we stand before the judgment seat, and we are without a doubt guilty. The sentence is eternal hell, being separated from the Lord and giver of life itself. The sentence is eternal death.
The reality of judgment is something that ought to strike the fear of God into us. Our fate is in His hands, and He is right, and He is just. But He is also merciful. As we stand before the judgment seat, those who are in Christ will not bring forth their list of good deeds and misgivings, those in Christ will not be judged on account of their works but instead will be judged on account of Christ. Who was obedient to the father in all things, who knew no sin, yet bore the sins of the world in death? Who took the judgment of hell and bore it in his flesh? So that one day when we stand before that judgment seat, we will receive our verdict, but we will not hear the damning word “guilty.” Instead, we will be seen as righteous, and we will stand and hear our verdict “forgiven.”
It is a chilling thought. Standing before God, the ultimate Judge, knowing we are guilty, knowing our case is weak, knowing that we will be damned. Yet, Christ comes in and he rescues us. It is chilling to know that our verdict has flipped. It is chilling to know that while we are still sinners Christ dies. It is chilling to know that the verdict is in our favor. It is chilling in the sense that is magnificent, remarkable, and undeserved, yet Christ goes forward on our behalf knowing the verdict is guilty, and the punishment death. Yet, he enters into our place, an advocate before the Father, a sacrifice in our place. So, this verdict does not land upon us, but instead upon Him. Thanks be to God.