Friedrich Nietzsche’s proclamation that “God is dead” at the end of the nineteenth century formally declared what was previously implicit in European intellectualism, namely, that there is no need for a Creator to sustain life. Along with this belief was an unprecedented optimism that society progresses inevitably toward universal peace and justice. Science, it was thought, would benefit all men and eliminate ignorance, illness, and war.
The horrors of two world wars all but snuffed out this optimism. Yet attempts to deal with the carnage in Europe did not end with a return to the truths of sin and the existence of God. Atheistic existentialists continued to deny the Lord’s existence, and thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus argued that the absurdity of life is manifest in those who attempt to find meaning in a meaningless world.
Today, we are reaping the fruits of this worldview. Among other ills, abortion, materialism, casual sex, and drug addiction are logical outcomes of a culture that no longer believes in a final judgment and has made man the measure of all things. But most men do not act consistently with their beliefs that the universe is a cosmic accident and that all is therefore meaningless. We all search for purpose, and every society has written laws; both of these make sense only if we were created with a purpose and will be judged by a Creator.
This witness of conscience is confirmed in today’s passage. There will indeed be a day when God will redress all wrongs and judge men by what they have done (Rom. 2:1–11). Now, we must be clear that we are not redeemed by our works, for we are justified on account of the faithful righteousness of Jesus imputed to us when we trust in His finished work (2 Cor. 5:21). Still, works do bring rewards to those in Christ. The Father purifies all those He chose in Christ (Eph 1:4), and those whose obedience to Him pass the test of fire will reap a greater reward than those whose works fail (1 Cor. 3:10–15).
Those who do not trust Christ will not make it through the test of fire at all. They will instead experience eternal, conscious punishment for their transgressions (Rev. 20:11–15).
The assurance of the coming final judgment should motivate us to share the Gospel with our loved ones who do not know Christ. Friends and family who do not follow Jesus will suffer for eternity because their sins have not been forgiven. What are you doing to prepare for those opportunities to present the Gospel? Are you looking for chances to serve others for the sake of Christ? Are you training yourself to answer the questions and objections of non-believers?