“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but, after this the judgment.” Hebrews 9:27–28

One of the most nagging and gnawing fears for each and every man is being called to account before God. Solomon closed his book of Ecclesiastes with these words, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:13f).

I have observed that we generally tend to subtly whitewash the more painful realities of our fallen existence. We say that someone “died.” Died is an active verb as if dying was a chosen time and a volitional act. Dying is something that happens to you.

Also, we are much more apt to say of someone who has been taken from us that they have passed away, have gone to a better place, that they are at peace, at rest, or that their suffering is over. In fact, we go out of our way to avoid saying anything remotely like what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10f: “For 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. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….” The reality is that when someone is summoned into the presence of the Lord of all the earth on the day of his death, he is called to give account for himself. He has an appointment made by God and perhaps that is how believers ought to refer to the event as both a reminder to our hearer as well as to ourselves.

Biblically speaking, there is a stark difference between those “who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:14) and those who die and are “in torments in Hell” (Luke 16:23). The kindest thing we can do is not to sugar-coat reality by passively referencing someone’s earthly demise, but to lovingly promote awareness of God’s holiness and eternal truth, especially for the living who yet may repent. For the departed believer, every day, as we mark time, is another glorious day fellowshipping among the redeemed. For the departed unbeliever, every day is another day of darkness, fiery torment of mind and body, obtaining no quarter or relief, and unending hopelessness all the way out to eternity.

Why is every man required to give account to God for his life? Several reasons spring to mind. The first is that God is the One who gave life to every man in the first place. Genesis 1:26–28 teaches that God made man in His image and commissioned him with a job to do, to have dominion over the earth and all its creatures. Genesis 2:7 explains this connection further by saying, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” God did nothing remotely like this with any other part of His creation. Human life, in any form, is a bearer of His image, is borrowed, and has an eternal soul. As anyone who creates will readily affirm, being the sole maker of anything means that you have the right to determine your creation’s destiny; it is your property. Every human life is therefore ultimately subject to the sovereignty of God.

The second is that God “keeps the books” on sin and salvation. Revelation 20:11–15 plainly teaches that at the resurrection of the unsaved at the end of the age, the unbelievers will be required to stand at the Great White Throne judgment and God’s books of records will be opened. Account will be given based on what spiritual light they knew and how they individually lived accordingly (Deuteronomy 24:16; Jeremiah 31:30; Ezekiel 18:4, 20). They will then be sentenced to varying degrees of punishment in the Lake of Fire for all eternity. It really will be an awful thing to be a sinner “in the hands of an angry God,” unshielded from His just wrath.

The reason for giving account is especially significant for the saint. In the believer’s case, he has been doubly created (2 Corinthians 5:17f). Not only has he been given breath from the Creator, but he has been given the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:19f states, “You are not your own. For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (Ephesians 6:7f).

Not only are we made alive twice, but we are doubly blessed. We are given the opportunities of life common to all men, but we are also granted spiritual fruit and a foretaste of heaven to come (1 Peter 4:10, Luke 12:48). This is known as being a good steward of the grace of life which God has given in word (Matthew 12:36), in giftedness (Matthew 18:23), in money decisions (Luke 12:20), in dealings with others (1 Peter 4:4f), in faithfulness (1 Corinthians 4:2), and in the Gospel (Colossians 1:25).

1 John 2:28f admonishes us, “Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him.” A healthy view of genuine love and regard for others requires that we be prepared to give account. It also requires that we encourage others to be prepared to give account. Answer we all will. Trust and obey.