I’m thankful to say that I’ve never been the subject of courtroom proceedings, though I was called to testify once and, specifically, to answer questions upon a subject on which I had some knowledge. The hope was that my answers would help the court settle a conflict between two people.
Each party had an attorney, and the intent of each was evident in the way they framed their queries. One asked me questions whose answers she hoped would confirm the suspicions of the man bringing the case that his opponent owed him damages for a wrong done to him. The other attorney, who was defending the person against whom the case was brought, asked me questions of quite a different tone: his were framed to get answers that would demonstrate that the defendant was guiltless of the charge against her.
Please understand that I wasn’t on trial. I was merely a witness—one of several. Yet even in my minor role I felt the great weight of these proceedings. This wasn’t a game. It wasn’t a television drama. One person would win, and the other would lose. One would go home happy—the other disappointed. One would be relieved of financial responsibility, the other would suffer a financial loss.
And who would decide? A judge, who heard both sides of the case, evaluated the arguments, and chose among them.
The Great Courtroom
Life isn’t just a game or a fictional drama either. The Bible’s view is that we human beings are held responsible for the choices we make during our allotted span of life. There’s a right way and a wrong way to live. There are good actions and bad ones. And eventually we’ll all have to answer to God, the righteous Judge, for the choices we’ve made.
The Bible describes heaven’s courtroom in Daniel 7:9, 10: “As I looked, ‘thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. . . . Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened’ ” (Daniel 7: 9, 10). Those adjudged righteous will receive eternal life, while the others will be destroyed (see verses 22, 26).
In an earthly courtroom there’s always someone who’s making an accusation, someone who says, “This person deserves to be punished.” And so it is in this heavenly courtroom. His name is Satan, and he’s called “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
We know, of course, that God hates sin. He has since the beginning, when He made this world without a trace of sin in it. “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity,” He says in Isaiah 61:8. To be sure we understood the stakes, He decreed that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
But God isn’t our accuser. God hates sin, but He loves sinners. The Bible’s most famous passage begins with the words “God so loved the world” (John 3:16, italics added). Satan is the plaintiff, “The accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10). Inasmuch as Satan is always trying to get human beings to sin, why would he condemn us for doing so? The answer is simple: He’s wholly untrustworthy. “He is a liar,” said Jesus, “and the father of lies” (John 8:44). Satan loves sin, and he hates sinners.
This is serious business, and it’s essential that we understand it. Fortunately, the picture needn’t be quite as frightening as it sounds. There are good reasons why a Christian can stand before the Judge in the last courtroom with confidence.
A few years ago, a prisoner appealed his case on the basis that in his original trial, his court-appointed attorney dozed through the proceedings! If I were in trouble, I’d want a good attorney, one who was both attentive and skillful. Yet attorneys in human courts are in a difficult position. They don’t always have good material to work with. Witnesses remember events imperfectly, and a few will lie, so it’s impossible to know for sure what really happened. We also hear of court trials where the evidence is overwhelmingly against the accused, yet he wins because his attorney tweaks the truth and takes advantage of legal loopholes.
Some have pictured Jesus as an attorney in the heavenly court. But that’s not quite accurate. Can you imagine Jesus trying to find not-quite-honest loopholes to get a good verdict for his client? And as for the evidence against us, there’s no doubt that you and I are sinners. The Bible says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is no one righteous, not even one” (verse 10). It would be dishonest for Jesus, as my Mediator, to say, “My client is not guilty of sin!” because He knows that I am guilty.
The Bible calls Jesus, not our attorney, but our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). A mediator’s role is to bring peace between the opposing parties by any means. And to accomplish this, Jesus, our Mediator, has two advantages over any other attorney or mediator.
The first is that He already paid the price for our sins. The apostle Peter—a man who, after denying his Savior, knew the importance of forgiveness—wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). An old gospel song says this so powerfully:
“Lo! The Incarnate God, ascended;
Pleads the merit of His blood.
Venture on Him; venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.”
When Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, stands before His Father as my Mediator, His plea is not that His client is innocent but that His client’s debt has been paid by His (Jesus’) own blood. All Jesus has to say is, “I was crucified for this one, and he accepted My sacrifice on his behalf.” Then my punishment—which I certainly deserve—is suspended.
A Family Affair
The second advantage Jesus has as my Mediator is His relationship with the Judge. If your lawyer were the judge’s son, and his son believed in your innocence, wouldn’t you expect sympathy from the court?
Through God’s Son we have become part of the Judge’s family. Ephesians 1:5 says that the destiny of a Christian is “adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ.” Hebrews 2:11 adds, “Jesus is not ashamed to call them [those who have accepted him] brothers.” If I’m adopted into God’s family, I’m a child of God! “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” says Paul (Galatians 3:26).
God forgives our sinful past in order to bring us into His family. Jesus illustrated this beautifully in the story of a son who ran away from home, wasted his father’s money, and lived a dissolute life. The prodigal himself recognized that he had no right to be a family member, because he said, “Make me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:19). But his father wouldn’t settle for that impersonal arrangement. “This son of mine was dead and is alive again!” he said. “He was lost and is found” (verse 24).
Though the courtroom is a metaphor for judgment, it isn’t a perfect one. This Judge has already decided not to give us a fair trial! If he did, we’d all burn in the lake of fire, for the evidence is that we’re all sinners and deserve the law’s punishment for sin. In this courtroom the Judge is biased toward us. God’s relationship to us through His Son Jesus tips the scale in favor of a complete pardon.
I’ve already assured you that Jesus, our Mediator, is unequivocally on our side. But our situation is even better than that. According to Paul, Jesus silences our accuser before he can even bring his case. “Who is he that condemns?” No one. “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Because Jesus has been in heaven since the first century, He’s had 2,000 years at His Father’s right hand to explain our situation.
That’s why Paul could write, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (verse 1). Please note that word now. It doesn’t say “someday you won’t be condemned.” It says that if at this moment you love Jesus, you are already beyond the reach of Satan’s accusations! Satan can attack you and denounce you all he likes, but his accusations mean nothing, because your pardon is already decided the moment you accept Jesus.
This means that when you step before the Judge in heaven’s great courtroom, He’ll be smiling at you. This isn’t a prosecution. It’s merely a formal presentation of your pardon. And He’s happy to welcome you into His family.