If our final destination is determined upon reaching Hades, why would salvation judgement not occur immediately following physical death? Why should it take place when Christ returns? When does the "works" judgement occur, as is implied in 2 Corinthians 5:10, Matthew 16:27, etc? -- Jack Reese (Nashville)

Although "salvation judgment" is not a specifically biblical phrase let us use it as a working term. I am not so sure salvation judgment doesn't take place at the point of death. Your destiny is for all intents and purposes fixed once you die. (There s no purgatory, no commutation of sentence!) That's why I think reward/punishment begins at that time.

Once Jesus returns, we are resurrected and stand before the judgment bar of God. This judgment is, I believe, declarative not investigative. In other words, the Lord is not carrying on some sort of investigation to determine whether we lived righteously enough to make it to heaven. Rather he will declare what we already know to be the case.

Yesterday I read 2 Corinthians and came across 5:10 (which you mention in your question) and pondered the situation further. Since Christians are saved through Christ, could it not be that when we appear before the judgment bar of Christ the Lord will in some sense review our lives and let us know about our "treasure in heaven"  -- a doctrine Jesus himself taught? If the notion of degrees of reward in heaven makes you at all uncomfortable, consider whether it isn't usually the case that the more you put in to something the more you get out of it? If you work hard with your sports team to achieve a victory the victory is even sweeter than if you only gave 80%. There is thus a little extra reward for those who truly went the distance. (Does this make sense?)

Of course, while Christians are to live a god-fearing life, we are not to live in dread of damnation, unsure whether we have measured up. (For more on this see Gordon Ferguson's excellent The Victory of Surrender. Or see my 2005 audio set What Happens After We Die?)

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