Everyone loves surprises, right? As long as they are good surprises, I think most people would be okay with a surprise. Most people. Some people do not like being surprised at all; they like to know exactly what is about to happen; they plan meticulously; and they are irritated by those who either go unprepared or are the ones who ‘surprise’ them with unexpected changes or needs. For those people, any surprise is likely to not be viewed as a good surprise because they will be caught unprepared, their guard will be down, or they will be vulnerable — nothing good.

Sometimes, surprises come in the form of newly-revealed information or unexpected confrontations. In such cases, most of us would be apprehensive, at best, and some of us would be outright terrified in such situations because we almost always expect the worst. [Why else wouldn’t they have told us, right?] We don’t like surprises that make us look foolish, that put us at a disadvantage, or endanger us. And that is not being paranoid; that is simply being wise. Especially in situations where others depend on us and our preparation, we may very well be a source of disappointment or discouragement if we are ‘surprised.’

In spiritual matters, I hope we all understand the absolute necessity of not being surprised — especially when it matters most. None of us wants to be ‘surprised’ when we stand before Christ in the final Judgment, but I know there will be many who will, indeed, be surprised — and not in a good way. I know this because the Scriptures point to that very fact. Consider:

When Obedience Really Wasn’t Obedience. Jesus, in closing the Sermon on the Mount, said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matt. 7:21-23). This revelation, made known when they stood before Him, was that the things some had been doing — thinking they were honoring Jesus and doing great things ‘in His name’ — were really not honoring Him and was not His will at all.

I would hazard to say this was an unexpected revelation that could have been avoided, however. Though they expressed their adoration of Jesus — they called Him “Lord,” after all — the reality was they were not doing His will; Jesus said as much when He said they “practice lawlessness.” Lawlessness simply means ‘the state of acting contrary to or without regard for the law.’ [Random House Unabridged Dictionary] Whatever it was — regardless of what they said or even believed — was done contrary to what Jesus had said or without regard for what Jesus said.

Unfortunately, many will, indeed, be in this position when they stand before Christ in Judgment, having died thinking their lives were spent in service and obedience to the Lord when, in fact, they were not doing His will at all, but had followed the traditions of their forefathers, the creeds of men, or simply their own desires. It will be ‘news’ to them on Judgment Day when Jesus says, “I never knew you; depart from Me,” but it did not have to be the case; it does not have to be the case for you, either.

Paul wrote, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17), but that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want and just say we are doing it ‘in the name of Jesus’ and it is suddenly approved by Him; that is completely backwards of how we should act in spiritual matters. To do something “in the name of the Lord Jesus” means we do it by His authority — before we act or teach. We do not have the right to presume He will approve when He has not said so, and presumption is nothing more than another form of disobedience. Don’t wait until you stand before Christ in the Final Judgment before it is ‘revealed’ that what you have done and believed and taught all your life was not really His will. Open your Bibles and study it and apply like your eternal life depends on a proper understanding and application. Because it does. Jesus Himself said, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Now that you know that, you will not be ‘surprised’ to learn you should have followed those words while you lived here on Earth.

He Knows Everything. Man has long lived with the false concept that he can hide some things from God, or that He will simply ‘overlook’ some sins. The psalmist write many years ago of those who did evil and told themselves, “He will never see” (Psa. 10:11), or told God, “You will not require an account” (Psa. 10:13). For those who think similarly, they falsely believe either God doesn’t see it or will simply ‘overlook’ their sins in the Final Judgment.

Unfortunately, that Judgment will be filled with revelations of their disliking, for God’s word says plainly, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10), and, “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10, 12). The wise writer further noted, “God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:14). Not only does God know all, but everything for which no forgiveness has been granted will be brought into Judgment for accounting; like it or not or accept it or not, we will have to answer for everything we have done.

And it won’t be just the deeds, either. Paul noted, in his letter to those in Corinth, “the Lord…will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s heart” (1 Cor. 4:5, NASB). Yes, not only will God call us into account for what we have done, but He will also consider why we did what we did. Actions most certainly matter, but our intentions matter, too. This, too, will be a shocking ‘revelation’ for some when they stand before God and Christ, but it need not be the case. He has warned us!

Salvation Is Available For All. Some now teach that salvation is limited to those predestined by God for salvation, with no consideration of their deeds [contrary to what we have already seen]; others say God will ultimately save everyone, regardless of what they have done or believed. Neither concept is true because neither concept is what God”s word actually teaches.

What God’s word [specifically, the gospel message] actually teaches is that “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs [with the Jews—SH], of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). Salvation is offered to all, and Paul said this message “by revelation He made known” to him (Eph. 3:3), “now…revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph. 3:5). Don’t be ‘surprised’ in Judgment, as if this was news to anyone. Now you know! Steven Harper