Final Judgment is Not a Matter of “Faith Alone” At All

In the biblical and Catholic view, works are not separated from faith and salvation.

Giotto, “The Last Judgment”, Cappella Scrovegni in Padua (1306)
Giotto, “The Last Judgment”, Cappella Scrovegni in Padua (1306) (photo: Public Domain)

A Presbyterian pastor once asked me: “If you were to die tonight and God were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would you tell Him?”

The problem here is that I don't see anywhere in the Bible, in any passages we can find concerning judgment, where God talks like a good Protestant Evangelical. They never refer to the “faith alone” that we are told is the sole criterion of salvation.

The Catholic Church, however, does not teach “works-salvation.” Works do not save anyone. Salvation is a free gift of grace and mercy from God. In the biblical and Catholic view, works are not separated from faith and salvation.

Spurred on by this challenge and my own curiosity, I actually found fifty biblical passages about judgment where works are mentioned as the criterion but not faith alone.

I managed to find two that at least mention faith in the context of judgment (but alas, not faith alone): Revelation 21:8 includes the “faithless” among those who will be damned. In context, it's surrounded by many bad works characterizing the reprobate. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-12 mentions those who have “believed” while featuring the “work of faith” and other works in the same context.

Matthew 7:19, 21 (RSV) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. . . . [21] “Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (cf. 7:22-27)

Matthew 16:27 For the Son of man . . . will repay every man for what he has done.

Matthew 25:34-36 “Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; [35] for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'” (cf. 25:31-33, 37-46)

Luke 3:9 . . . every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

John 5:29 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice [29] and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.

Romans 2:5-13 But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.[9] There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, [10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. [11] For God shows no partiality. [12] All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. [13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.

2 Thessalonians 1:8-11 inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. [9] They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, [10] when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. [11] To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfil every good resolve and work of faith by his power,

1 Peter 1:17 . . . who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, . . .

Revelation 2:23 . . . I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.

Revelation 20:12 . . . And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. (cf. 20:11-13)

Revelation 21:8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, as for murderers, fornicators, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.

Revelation 22:12 Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.

(cf. 1 Sam 28:15-19; 2 Ki 22:13; 2 Chr 34:21; Ps 7:8-10; 58:11;   Ecc 12:14; Is 59:18; Jer 4:4; 21:12; Ezek 7:3, 8; 33:20; 36:19; Mic 5:15; Zeph 2:3; Mt 3:10; 5:22; 7:19; 10:22; 18:8-9; 24:13; 25:14-30; Mk 13:13; Lk 14:13-14; 21:34-36; Rom 1:18; 8:17; 1 Cor 3:8-9; 1 Thess 3:12-13; 5:23; Heb 6:7-8; 1 Pet 4:13; 2 Pet 3:10-14; Jude 6-16, 20-21; Rev 2:5)

Therefore, if God did ask us the hypothetical question above, the proper answer wouldn't be, “I had faith alone,” but rather, “I have (by your grace, with faith) done good works, obeyed your will, produced good fruits, fed the hungry . . . “ etc.

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