On the Justification of Believers at Judgment Day

“…the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Jn. 5:28-29

“…then shall He sit upon the throne of his glory…  Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you…  For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat…  Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren…’

Mt. 25:31, 34-35, 40

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”

Rev. 20:12



Order of Contents

Articles  5
Quotes  4
Will Believers’ Sins be Manifest?  2




Larger Catechism

“Q. 90. What shall be done to the righteous at the day of judgment?

A. At the day of judgment, the righteous, being caught up to Christ in the clouds,[e] shall be set on his right hand, and there openly acknowledged and acquitted,[f] shall join with him in the judging of reprobate angels and men,[g] and shall be received into heaven,[h] where they shall be fully and for ever freed from all sin and misery;[i] filled with inconceivable joys,[k]…

[e] 1 Thess. 4:17
[f] Matt. 25:33Matt. 10:32
[g] 1 Cor. 6:2,3
[h] Matt. 25:34,46
[i] Eph. 5:27Rev. 14:13
[k] Ps. 16:11





Ames, William – ch. 27, ‘Justification,’ sections 20-22 & 25-27, 29  in The Marrow of Theology  (Baker, 1997), pp. 215-16

Goodwin, Thomas – p. 182, point 4  of bk. 2, ch. 2, ‘Paul & the Apostle James are Consistent…’  of Gospel Holiness in the Heart & Life  in Works  (London: James Nichol, 1861), vol. 7

“…in what sense a man may be said to be judged by his works at the latter day, in the same sense, and that sense only, he [James] intends this his justification by works, and in no other; for all judging and passing of sentence must have either a justification or a condemnation as the sentence of it in the close.  So as there is no more danger to say, a man at the latter day shall be justified by his works, as evidences of his state and faith, than to say he shall be judged according thereto…

And in relation to this outward judgment at the latter day, our sentence of salvation is termed expressly a justification; and this very thing is asserted by Christ Himself: Mt. 12:36-37, ‘…for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.’  Neither is it anywhere said that God will judge men according to their faith only; nor will it be a sufficient plea at the latter day to say, ‘Lord, thou knowest I believed, and cast myself at thy grace.’  God will say, ‘I am to judge thee so as every one shall be able to judge my sentence righteous together with Me: 1 Cor. 4:5, ‘Therefore, show me thy faith by thy works;'”

Burgess, Anthony – Lecture 29  on Acts 3:19  in The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted & Vindicated…  (London, 1651), pp. 254-63

This is a full discussion, with grounds, “That a complete and full absolution from all sin is not enjoyed till the day of judgement.” (p. 256)  Burgess also surveys various protestant views on this subject (pp. 257-58).  Note that the two kinds of justification of Ludwig de Dieu are very similar to that of the Aberdeen doctor, William Forbes (d. 1634) in bk. 4, ch. 6 of his Fair & Calm Consideration of the Modern Controversy concerning Justification.  Burgess further critiques this position in True Doctrine of Justification, pt. 2, sermon 16, pp. 151-52, discussing also the views of Bucer, Calvin and Zanchi.

“The believers have not a full discharge till then: we are in this life continually subject to new sins, and so to new guilt, whereby arise new fears, so that the soul has not a full rest from all till that final absolution be pronounced at the Day of Judgment…

the Scripture do also call the Day of Judgment a time when sins shall be blotted out, because then is the public absolution of the godly, and according to philosophy, motions receive their names from the term to which they tend…

Thirdly, howsoever an absolution shall be completed at the Day of Judgment, yet our justification shall not abide in such a way, as it is in this life.  Now our justification is by pardon of sin, and a righteousness without us imputed to us, which is instrumentally applied by faith, but this way shall then cease; for having perfect righteousness inherent in ourselves, we shall need no covering…

This seems to be undoubted, that the way of justification by faith in Christ, arises because of our imperfection and sinfulness remaining in us, and therefore is justificatio viae, not patriae, a justification of us in our way, not when we come to our home.

Fourthly, although pardon of sin be completed at that great day, yet this is not to be understood, as if God’s pardon of any sin were imperfect, and something of sin did still remain to be done away…  But because we commit new sins daily, and so need pardon daily, Therefore it is that we are not completely pardoned till then.  As also because the perfect pardon we have here, shall then solemnly and publicly be declared to all the world.

Secondly, pardon of sin will at that day be perfected.  Because all the effects of pardon will then be accomplished, and not so much as any scars remain, the wound will be so fully healed…

Thirdly, then and not till then may we say remission of sins will be completed, because then shall no more iteration of pardon be.” – pp. 256-60

Owen, John – ‘On Sentential Justification at the Day of Judgment’  (†1683)  3 pp.  in The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, ch. 6, ‘Evangelical Personal Righteousness, the Nature & Use of it–Final Judgement, and its Respect unto Justification’  in Works  (d. 1683; London: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850), 5:160-162

Owen was an English, congregationalist puritan.  ‘Sentential’ means relating to a sentence.

“…that which is called sentential justification, at the day of Judgment. For of what nature soever it be, the person concerning whom that sentence is pronounced, was: (1) actually and completely justified before God in this world; (2) made partaker of all the benefits of that ju­stification, even unto a blessed resurrection in glory (‘it is raised in glory;’ 1 Cor. 15); (3) The souls of the most will long before have enjoyed a blessed rest with God, abso­lutely discharged and acquitted from all their labors, and all their sins;

There remains nothing but an actual admission of the whole person into eternal glory.  Wherefore this judg­ment can be no more but declaratory unto the glory of God, and the everlasting refreshment of them that have believed…

1. It is no where said that we shall be judged at the last day, ex operibus [‘out of works’]; but, only that God will render unto men secundum opera [‘according to works’].

2.  …the Judgment at the last day is said to be according unto works, without any mention of faith.

5. In our justification in this life by faith, Christ is con­sidered as our propitiation and advocate…  But at the last day, and in the last Judgment he is considered only as the Judge.

6. The end of God in our justification is the glory of his grace, Eph. 1:6.  But the end of God in the last Judgment is the glory of his remunerative righteousness, 2 Tim. 4:8.

7. The representation that is made of the final Judgment, Mt. 7 and ch. 25, is only of the visible Church.  And therein the plea of faith as to the profession of it is com­mon unto all, and is equally made by all. Upon that plea of faith it is put unto the trial whether it were sincere, true faith or no, or only that which was dead and barren.  And this trial is made solely by the fruits and effects of it; and otherwise in the public declaration of things unto all, it cannot be made.” – pp. 160-62



Girardeau, John – ‘The Office of Works of Charity in the Last Judgment’, a sermon on Mt. 25:40  in Sermons  (1907), pp. 68-89




Order of Quotes




John Ball

A Treatise of the Covenant of Grace…  (London: 1645), ch. 3, ‘Of the Covenant of Grace in General’, pp. 20-21

“Good works of all sorts are necessary to our continuance in the state of justification, and so to our final absolution, if God give opportunity: but they are not the cause of, but only a precedent qualification or condition to final forgiveness and eternal bliss.

If then, when we speak of the conditions of the Covenant of Grace, by condition we understand whatsoever is required on our part, as precedent, concomitant or subsequent to justification: repentance, faith and obedience are all conditions; but if by condition we understand what is required on our part as the cause of the good promised, though only instrumental, faith or belief in the promises of free mercy is the only condition…

Sincere, uniform and constant [obedience], though imperfect in measure and degree, and this is so necessary that without it there is no salvation to be expected.  The Covenant of Grace calls for perfection, accepts sincerity, God in mercy pardoning the imperfections of our best performances.  If perfection was rigidly exacted, no flesh could be saved: if not at all commanded, imperfection should not be sin, nor perfection to be labored after.  The faith that is lively to embrace mercy is ever conjoined with an unfeigned purpose to walk in all well-pleasing, and the sincere performance of all holy obedience, as opportunity is offered, does ever attend that faith whereby we continually lay hold upon the promises once embraced.

Actual good works of all sorts (though not perfect in degree) are necessary to the continuance of actual justification, because faith can no longer lay faithful claim to the promises of life, than it does virtually or actually lead us forward in the way to Heaven.  For:

‘If we say we have fellowship with God and walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another,’ 1 Jn. 1:6-7.

This walking in the light as He is in the light is that qualification whereby we become immediately capable of Christ’s righteousness, or actual participants of his propitiation, which is the sole immediate cause of our justification, taken for remission of sins, or actual approbation with God.  The truth of which doctrine St. John likewise ratifies in terms equivalent, in the words presently following: ‘and the blood of Christ cleanseth us’ (walking in the light as God is in the light) ‘from all sin.’ [v. 7]”


Thomas Goodwin

Gospel Holiness in the Heart & Life  in Works  (London: James Nichol, 1861), vol. 7, bk. 2, ch. 2, ‘Paul & the Apostle James are Consistent…’, p. 179

“…he [James] prosecutes to the end of the [second] chapter…  3. That every man’s faith (and so together therewith every man that professes himself to have true faith) must one day be put to an open trial, to justify the truth of itself, and of his profession, and this afore all the world.  And the believer also will be put upon the justification of his having had such a faith as God (ex consequenti, or ‘in the sequel’) professes only to justify man upon; for at the latter day it is faith [that] is the grace that must be tried and found unto honor and glory, 1 Peter 1:7.

And the man that shall plead justification by faith alone (which James contradicts not), and that he had a saving faith, must undergo this examination, whether his faith produced such works, yea or no, as the nature of true faith, with difference from false and unfeigned faith (which James disputes against), does note.”


Peter van Mastricht

Theoretical-Practical Theology  (RHB), vol. 5, bk. 6, ch. 6, ‘Justification,’ section 13  trans. Mark Jones, Antinomianism (2013)

“From this come three periods of justification that should be diligently observed here, namely:

3: The period of consummation in which the right unto eternal life, granted under the first period and continued under the second, is advanced even to the possession of eternal life: in this occasion not only is the presence of good works required [as in the continuation of justification], but also, in a certain sense, their efficacy, in so far as God, whose law we attain just now through the merit alone of Christ, does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless [it is] beyond faith with good works previously performed. We received once before the right unto eternal life through the merit of Christ alone.  But God does not want to grant possession of eternal life, unless there are, next to faith, also good works which precede this possession.”



James Fisher et al.

The Westminster Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained, by Way of Question & Answer, pt. 1 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1765), p. 160

“Q. 114.  Are not good works mentioned as the ground of the sentence, Mt. 25:35-36 — “I was a hungered, and ye gave Me meat…”?

A.  These good works are mentioned, not as grounds of their sentence, but as evidences of their union with Christ, and of their right and title to heaven in him, John 15:5,8; even as the apostle says in another case, of the unbelieving Jews, 1 Cor. 10:5 — “With many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness:” their overthrow in the wilderness, was not the ground of God’s displeasure with them, but the evidence of it.”



Will Believers’ Sins be Manifest?



Burgess, Anthony – pp. 261-62  of Lecture 29  on Acts 3:19  in The True Doctrine of Justification Asserted & Vindicated…  (London, 1651)

Burgess gives the arguments for both Yes and No and then concludes:  “Which of these opinions is truest is hard to say; neither of them have cogent arguments and the Scripture does not expressly decide the question; yet the negative seems to have more probability on its side.” (p. 262)



James Fisher et al.

The Westminster Assembly’s Shorter Catechism Explained, by Way of Question & Answer, Part 1 (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1765), Question 28, ‘Wherein consists Christ’s Exaltation?’, p. 161

“Q. 115.  Will there be any mention made of the sins of the righteous?

A.  It appears not; “In that time, the iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none: and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found,” Jer. 5:20. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth,” etc. Rom. 8:33-34.”




Related Pages


On the Continuation of Justification

Westminster Divines on Justification

Active Obedience of Christ

Eternal Justification

Works Against Bellarmine on Justification

The Necessity of Good Works



Order of Salvation

The Covenant of Grace

Union with Christ