I am not so sure justification is the best word to use for the final judgment … but since judgment and justification are both legal terms, it is not the absolute worst word. For every time the final judgment is talked about in the Bible it is according to works. It seems the Westminster even understands this, when speaking of the final judgment says all men will receive “according’ to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.” (Westminster Confession 33:1) So in order to be able to completely and one hundred percent enjoy final salvation (there are different tenses to salvation) we have to go through the final judgment. Yes, in a sense we are already seated in heavenly places now, though we have to wake up every day and put our boots on.
Same with justification. We are already fully justified now, but also have to wake up every day, and even one day appear before the judgment seat of Christ. To fully and finally here the verdict that was already declared when we first believed, we have to appear before the judgment seat, where it will be consummated and fully declared before all, publicly. So, again the Westminster when speaking of the final judgment says all men will receive “according’ to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.” Not ‘based’ on but ‘according to’. This is huge because this is the Bible’s way of talking about the final judgment. You can’t get away from it. You can’t swap justification by faith verse with final judgment verses. Or vice a versa. And you can’t pit them against each other. You have to figure out how they go together. The easy way to say it for me is that you can bet your bottom dollar, is that if you are justified by faith in Christ, you can stand at the final judgment and hear, well done thou good and faithful servant, enter into my rest. If we are a Christian, in someway, somehow our works will accord with our profession. Even the thief on the cross had something for God to display. He rebuked the one criminal and then turned to Jesus with hope and faith (Luke 23:40-42) If you are believer in Christ, you count on the fact that God will have works according to your faith to put on display and reward you for. Yes, ultimately it is because of Christ and the Holy Spirit in you, besides the fact you were chosen before the foundation of the world. But nevertheless you will be judged and rewarded and will not be found wanting. And you can also count on the fact that many of your works will be burned up, yet you will suffer no loss. In fact, the worthless dross being stripped away will probably even be freeing. Like remnants of sin being gone forever. Friends don’t ever forget, seeing Jesus face to face is the pinnacle of all our existence. As the old song goes, a glorious day. “What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see
When I look upon His face the one who saved my by His grace
When He takes me by the hand and leads me to the promised land
What a day, glorious day that will be” There will be a final judgement, sheep on the right and goats on the left. But the one who will be judging you is the one who died for you. Don’t forget that. “Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:33-34) No one can bring any charge against God’s elect. And at the final judgement God will stop everyones mouth, even the accuser of the brethren will not have anything to say. No more will Satan being running to and fro’ seeking whom he will devour. He will be silenced, once and for all, for good. (Revelation 12:10, 1 Peter 5:8) When we wonder why will we be judged according to our works, we can wonder why, but ultimately we must trust it is for our good. It is what the Bible says will happen. We can contemplate why, but the point is, it what will happen. But we also know God is for us, and his truly working everything together for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28). All people who have been justified by faith on the merits of Christ righteousness and propitiatory death will not in anyway whatsoever lose their justification or have to be re-justified. But you can also count on the fact, you will have works that accord to your saving faith (Galatians 2:16, Romans 2:6-10, James 2:18-24) If you are in anyway questioning whether you are trusting in Christ, that in fact is good evidence that you are. Just be who you are. No worries. It’s not people who are wanting Christ who have to worry about the final judgment, its people who don’t really want Christ that have to worry. It’s people who are just hoping to get the benefits of not going to hell, but don’t really want anything to do with the things of God that have to worry. I have heard R.C Sproul say, that mere profession of faith saves no one, a person must have possession of faith. Possession of Holy Spirit inspired faith, coming from a born again heart, will just have Holy Spirit fruit. It cannot not have it. If you are a Christian, you can try not following Christ all you want, or try following Christ all you want, but in the end, you just are who you are. To the sheep, just be sheep, you have no worries. You are free, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. But those who are only looking to themselves, trying to earn salvation or trying to use their profession of salvation as a way to live any way they naturally want to already, there will be trouble. I would even go so far as to say that some of the works that God will display at the final judgment for the basis of proving that we were his, will even be for us. I get this from Matthew 25:37 where it says, “Lord, when did we do these things?” When we are truly serving the Lord in the truest way, it’s not to earn rewards, or prove we are saved or any such thing, it’s out of wanting to and desiring to live for him because it brings us great joy. It’s out of working out the love that God is working in us. In a lot of ways, people that are truly his, couldn’t not, not live for him if they wanted to. Now, this is not always the case. Sometimes it takes great fighting and effort on our part, but it is enough of the case, that to those who are Christ, the final judgement will be a great joy. All our shame will be burnt up (1 Corinthians 3:15) and all our joyous serving of Christ will be put on display. Not only that, but there are probably tons of times, when we really minister to people and we didn’t even realize we were. I could even hear Jesus saying, not that I am saying he will, but I could hear him saying, “no, no my child, you really were following me, the Holy Spirit really was working in you. No need to be troubled, you were a good and faithful servant”. Probably more like a 4 yr. old helping their Father fix the car, but the still the commendation will be real and the time spent to together is worth it. ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’‘….. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:23, 40)