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As By Fire

In majestic splendor, with gold and silver hues surrounding the throne, the Lord sat in judgment of this heavenly host of believers.

I was surprised at the attitudes of those around me. Most were unconcerned as the tone of the fellow who approached me would indicate.

"Hey, how's it going?"

"Fine, I guess."

"This is something else, isn't it?"

"Well, I..."

"I mean, look at all the fantastic sights, will ya'?"

"Aren't you concerned about the judgment?"

"What's to be concerned about. We're Christians so it's going to be all right. There's nothing to fear."

"But what about your deeds..."

"What's with you, fellow? This is heaven. All that's behind us now."


"No buts, we're in glory and there's nothing to fear so enjoy it."

"Still, there's the judgment."

"Just a formal ceremony for passing out rewards, that's all. Nothing to worry about."

"But I've seen the masterworks..."

"So you've seen it. What's the big deal? This is simply the beginning to our bright and glorious future in heaven. So relax, kid. Take it easy. I'll see you around."

Relax, he said. That's probably why this judgment is necessary. Guys like him who feel that everything's a gravy train. Surely everyone didn't feel that way, yet there was so little concern on the faces of each of the ones who were present, that I had to wonder if I was overwrought and overly concerned.

Then I saw clearly what was taking place. Fear grabbed my mind and held it in a vice-like grip. I knew now that I wasn't wrong. I was sure of it and because of that sureness I was afraid of what was to come.

At the head of the line each individual was handed a bundle which contained the sum of all that his life had accomplished for his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.

The record of his life was played and all that had occurred before he was a Christian was naturally missing, and all that he had done while out of fellowship with the Lord was also gone from the record. All that was left was the time that individual had spent while in fellowship and under the control of the Holy Spirit.

What he had done out of fellowship counted only toward rewards in his earthly life. What he thought he accomplished for his Master often produced only wood, hay, stubble and other building materials. However, the times the individual lived under the control of the Holy Spirit were reflected in the gold, silver, gems and other precious metals contained in the bundles.

No one knew what his bundle contained. Now I knew how its contents were determined and knew the length that God had gone to clearly to determine the worth of each individual life.

The fairness and totality of His evaluation was amply displayed to me in the masterworks and every life was completely known. All that was left was this day of reckoning.

In reality, that's what this day was. It was a day of reckoning where each life, each Christian life, was placed in the balance and every thought, action, deed, and motive was known for what it actually was and not for what it may have seemed on earth.

Judgment by a fair and righteous Judge, but judgment also in a fair and righteous manner. For there was no margin for error, no human frailty or partiality on the part of the Judge. No favoritism. All was clearly known and seen. The results had already been determined on earth by each of us as we lived each day. What we lived was what we got. How we lived determined our fate. Even as Christians we were accountable for what we had done on earth.

Tragic as that seemed, I knew that it was only right that I be accountable for my life. After all, there had been a world to win. There had been treasures in heaven to be gained. There was eternity hanging in the balance and I again had chosen my direction and my future destiny.

Oh, I was already a Christian. I already knew the Lord, but each day I had a new choice to make, even each hour. I either followed my Lord to His glory or my own self to my own frustration. Each day I had chosen and now I would receive my just reward and pay the toll for what I had sown. The reaping and the Reaper were at hand.

When a bundle was received one couldn't see what it contained. With weary, trembling hands, a man or a woman would carry that package into the fire of His great power. Some bundles were large, others small, some nearly non-existent, but all could be carried.

With slow deliberate steps, the bundle was carried toward the steps of the throne and into the truth of His almighty flame.

The fire proceeded out of the mouth of judgment and the flames engulfed the life and the package of life's accomplishments. All were consumed by the flame, but the person was always unharmed. Only the bundle changed.

The wood and hay would be burned forever, the stubble would dissolve in the fervent heat. They were no more.

The gold and silver, however, were forged into precious crowns covered with what gems were available. Each crown was individualistic in its style and design, for it comprised the net worth of a life lived for Christ. All that was left was all that mattered.

Forged by the flames, there was now an eternal soul, clothed in His righteousness. There was now an eternal soul cleansed forever by His perfect sacrifice on the cross. There was now an eternal soul standing before His throne and holding the sum total of his earthly life for presentation to his Lord.

Each life and each reward were different, but all were placed before the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. All entered into His love and rest forever. Eternity awaited them and with their gifts to Him came their eternal reward.

None knew what to expect from this time on, but each realized the difference that came over one who had stepped through the fire into the eternal beyond. It was a solemn occasion. As I came closer to receiving the results of my own life, I began to hear conversations from within the fire. Conversations between God and man, between the Master and the servant, between the Lord and the one who stood before Him.

"But, Lord, I have served you. I've always tried to do what you required."

"And what did I require?"

"I didn't drink or smoke or swear. I didn't run with the wrong crowd. I never attended wild parties or sexual orgies."

"Yes, but those are things you did to ease your own conscience. Things you said you gave up in order to please Me. Yet I required none of that. My Spirit lived within you and would have guided you along the proper way had you only allowed Him control. Your desires would have changed, your wants would have been different.

"You should have sought Me and My power to help others around you. Your life could have been used to bring others to Me that they might have been spared the horrors of hell. Instead you were too concerned with what you gave up and with your sacrifice, to realize that what I offered you was a gain and not a millstone.

"You see, I came to give you peace and joy, not to make you miserable. Your concern over what you gave up, over your sacrifice and your duties blinded you to the real issues involved. Didn't I purchase you with a price?"


"Was not my blood sufficient sacrifice to purchase your soul?"


"Then why didn't you freely give to Me that which I paid for on the cross? Why didn't you believe and trust and give Me all? Why only token service and false sacrifice?"

"I don't know, Lord. I felt that I was doing the right thing."

"So many who come here, stand as you do now. They come feeling they have done well because they gave up so much. Don't you remember the words of Paul?"

"Which words?"

"That to truly live is to live for Me, in My strength and power, and that even death is a gain."

"Yes, I remember those words."

"Then why didn't you apply them to your own life. Nothing you gave up compared to what you had within you had you only applied the power. Nothing would have been a loss, but you would have gained all.

"Do you remember when you asked me to come into your life and cleanse you from your sin?"


"And do you remember sharing with your mother that which happened to change your life and the total joy and peace that was yours when she, too, called on Me to forgive her sins and make her whole?"

"Yes, Lord. I remember."

"Then why didn't you continue to share that new-found faith and continue in My joy and peace? Why did you heed the words of the evil one who told you that you had done enough, that you had given up so much and done your part?

"You were Mine, but you refused to allow Me to work in your life. How I ached for you and craved to be your Master that I might have given you the desires of your heart. That I might have given you the joy and peace you wanted and showed you beyond a shadow of a doubt that I came to give, not to take. For you see, I knew your heart and your desires, wants and needs. I wanted to give you all, but you stood in the way. Your attitude of self-sacrifice kept you from receiving that which I longed to give you.

"You could have done much for you had much to offer, but you have made it into the kingdom of eternity and you are welcome. I accept what you have to offer, the sum of your life of service.

"Come now and enter - eternity awaits you. You are truly welcome. Come and enter as a child of My Father's."

"Thank you, Lord. I'm sorry."

"Enter and find peace."

It is true that we had made it and were bound for eternity here with our Lord in heaven. The next event would be the grand feast where the Bride and the Bridegroom unite in joy and happiness forever. That would be later. The time before us was hard and as I've said, I was totally unprepared for what was taking place. From what I heard from the fire, the others were unprepared as well.

"Lord, I have served you well."

"Yes, but there is one thing that you lack."

"What is it, Lord?"

"That one besetting sin which has hindered your service and kept you from Me all these years."

"What sin is that, Lord?"

"You know what it is. I don't need to say it."

"But, Lord, I've kept it under control."

"True, but you kept it in and that is the problem. I promised to take all your sins to the depths of the deepest ocean, to separate them from you as far as the east is from the west, but you kept this sin. You've held on to it and played with it and it has separated you from My love."

"But, Lord, it was such a small thing. Look what I have done for You in Your name."

"You have done much, and much glory would I give if I could, but that small sin you talk about has eaten away your reward, for you love that one sin more than you love Me.

"Your insistence at harboring that one sin and caressing it and bringing it out in the open when you were alone and felt it was safe, only shows your lack of total trust and belief in Me. Thus, it negates much of what you have done and has separated us on many occasions. For I see the heart and know your thoughts and even when no man knows, I know. That has been your downfall."

"Yet I have confessed that sin to you, Lord. I have turned it over to you many times."

"Yes, but you openly and flagrantly sinned, knowing it was wrong and knowing you would confess. You had your pleasure deliberately and then tried to appease your conscience by asking forgiveness knowing full well that you would continue to sin. In fact, in some cases you were planning your next lustful episode at the same time you were confessing your guilt.

"Didn't you realize that your motives, even in confession, were known to Me and I could see that your heart wasn't pure? That this sin meant more to you than the cleansing of your eternal soul?"

"Yes, Lord. I see that now."

"It's sad that you failed to recognize the fact that the pleasure of sin lasts only for a season, but the contentment of eternal satisfaction lasts forever."

"Nevertheless, you have accepted the grace of My Father and there is a place prepared for you in His glory. Enter and find His peace."

Again, this life, this soul that had tried so hard, failed to recognize the folly of sin. I too, had my hidden sins and was aware that the same fate awaited me.

There were still other voices from the fire, other lives to be evaluated by the eternal Lamb of God.

"All this I have done in your name, Lord. I have held great meetings and preached Thy Word that others might know who You are."

"Yes, and you have preached well. Many have come because of the strength of your message."

"Then why is my bundle so small? Why the hay and stubble? I'm a preacher. Your servant."

"Yes, you are a preacher and a successful one. Successful in the sight of men but in My sight you have failed the test."

"But where Lord? Where did I fail?"

"You failed to apply that which you preached to your own life. You preached because you liked to preach, as if the sound of your own voice gave meaning to your life. You preached with strong conviction in your voice but your heart was weak and empty.

"Knowing what to say and how to say it is not enough. Being able to stand apart from the crowd and point out the flaws and weaknesses of men and point them to God is of no value to your immortal soul unless you apply to yourself that which you proclaim. For preachers also are men and as men they, too, need the Word of God etched into their lives.

"The mere words of truth you proclaimed have reaped much fruit, for your words were sound and your message pure, but you yourself were afraid that I might fail if you put Me to the test. To you, being a preacher was more important than being a servant of God. You put your position ahead of your faith. I alone can heal. I alone can perform miracles and save lives. I have all power, but I gave you a full measure of it and you were afraid. Afraid to try, afraid to use it least you fail.

"For the preacher that you are, you were afraid to put Me to the test. To you it was words, a holy book, an ancient message and a God who was too small.

"You preached well and for that I am glad, but you heeded not the reality of that which you proclaimed and you neglected to apply the truth that came out of your mouth.

"You have accomplished much, but you could have done so much more. For the world has yet to see all My power and to experience all that there is. I have searched for a man who will accept all I have and proclaim believing that which I would have him preach and you could have been that man had you fully believed yourself.

"My heart goes out to you and yet you have brought even this upon yourself. If only you had been willing to put Me to the test - to trust in Me and to lean not on your own understanding."

"Lord, I..."

"Enough has been said. Your tears indicate your sorrow and your choked voice your grief, but there is no second chance. I wish there were, for you could have been My joy.

"Enter now and find My rest. There is room for you. You will find many whom you have led here. Enter and have peace."

The consoling words of the Lord in judgment may have eased the pain. I know not for sure as my time had not yet come. Still, I could feel the horror of a Christian life torn apart by the piercing eyes of the almighty Judge, tested by the flames of truth.

Yet I know that each of us had brought this upon himself. I had always heard that my sins would find me out, but I felt that I might be able to get away with them. Of course, when my time on earth was over I felt I was free. After all, death meant eternal life, which is a joy, peace, and happiness in heaven. After all, I was a Christian.

I hadn't reckoned on this accounting. Sin unconfessed is the devil's tool which, like a cancer, voids the benefits of the Spirit and quenches His effectiveness. The real tragedy lies in the fact that we allow it and rationalize it and even harbor it and enjoy it. Yet sin is sin.

It can be brazen or it can be subtle, but every sin destroys and leads away from God. If I could only try again, I know my life could be different. Everyone's life could be, but for now they all seemed the same. Their lives were tried by the fire and found wanting. Soon I would join them. For now I waited and listened.

"Lord, You know my heart. I've always wanted to serve You."

"Yes, but there is more to do than just merely wanting. There's more than just getting ready."

"But I've been preparing to serve you ever since I was a Christian."

"True, but what have you actually done? What have you accomplished?"



"Well, I studied a lot and attended church and went to Bible studies twice a week and prayer meetings. I've read almost every book on living the Christian life that's ever been written. Why, I've read..."

"Yes, you have and it is good to read, but have you ever applied what you learned in all those books."

"Well, I've evaluated them and studied the Scriptures and the principles involved, and I've compared the statements in each and can argue the do's and the don'ts of them. I tell everyone to read this and to read that. I'm always bringing books for friends and telling them what they need."

"But have you ever thought about your own needs?"

"Well, of course. Why do you think I read all those books?"

"Why did you?"

"To be prepared, of course. Why, I have to get rid of the old sin nature and to be filled with the Spirit and know my Bible so I can witness to others. Boy, the job of witnessing I'm going to do!"

"But it's too late now."

"Well, it wouldn't have been. I was almost ready."

"So you almost accomplished something. My dear woman, your desires were fine, but you never fulfilled them. There was always some new book or some new problem to solve, some hang-up that you felt you had to master or gain control over. There was always something.

"Had you only realized that dependence on Me and My Spirit was the answer, you could have been such a witness to your friends and neighbors, not to mention your own family.

"But instead, you looked at their faults and bought them a book and told them this would solve their problems."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Nothing, if they hadn't been able to see the same problems in you. For you hadn't learned and the books didn't help because you depended on them rather than on Me.

"Books are good and serve a great purpose, but they only point to the solution which is total dependence on Me and My Spirit.

Each author may have found a way to help you see that truth, but you need not read every book and argue every difference and debate every issue. You need instead to yield yourself to Me and be available to My service. This constant soul searching and inward looking glass that you have used to make yourself ready has been your crutch and thus you never were ready, never were available to serve or to be of service.

"Since people watched your life and saw no change, since they knew of your craving for these good worthwhile books, but recognized the fact that you weren't helped, they weren't helped. That's the tragedy of all tragedies, for you knew the truth but failed to use it.

"Your knowledge is commendable but your use of it absurd, for you never used it. You must depend on Me and be yielded to Me. You must. What you learn from Me and glean from books must also be used for some purpose. You must apply it, but you must also depend on My Spirit and be available to my service.

"In this you have failed, but still you are welcome for you did accept Me as your Saviour. I know My words are harsh, but you could have done so much. Instead you have done very little."

Here was another life examined and found lacking. There was so much study and so much training, but with few results. Here truly was another tragedy.

Obviously, there was nothing wrong with study, but even this could become an obsession which kept one from serving the Lord. I knew from my own life that often I felt inadequate and would read, study, brood, worry, feel inadequate and helpless. Yet, had I turned that problem over to the Lord, He would have solved it. This was especially true in my marriage. I can think of all kinds of problems this new-found truth would have solved. Had I only turned it over to the Lord, things would have been different. Books alone weren't the answer, nor were the gimmicks or special programs. Only the Lord, He alone was the answer.

If only I could have my life to live over it would be different. I knew now what I lacked, and I had seen enough to know what was in store for me. That, of course, is impossible for I'm next in line, only one to go.

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