“Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king” (Daniel 1:18-19).
Throughout the world, and throughout most of recorded history, examinations have played a major part in determining the future of young people. In South Asia preparing for exams is an extremely important activity as the continuation of one’s education or the beginning of a career depends upon making acceptable marks. In many cases those who fail do not get another opportunity.
I have observed that the interview with King Nebuchadnezzar which Daniel and the other young Hebrew nobles were subjected to is the earliest recorded examination in the Bible. These four young men had been taken captive from their homeland, removed to a distant and strange country, and enrolled in a three-year program of study and training. Upon completion of their training they went before the king for an oral examination (Daniel 1:20). What might have happened to them had they not passed that exam is not revealed, but we may be fairly confident that it would not have been good. That was not an issue however; they made the highest marks in their class.
Some students seem to thrive on exams. Others become nervous and even frightened and cannot demonstrate the degree of knowledge which they have obtained. With a few exceptions however, the best way to be calm and unworried in the face of a test is to be well prepared for it – to have thoroughly studied the subject.
The Bible teaches that all of us will one day face the real “Final Examination.” Paul wrote,
“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
In the Revelation of John, we read,
“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
In the great day of Judgment all of the risen dead will be tested from the books. But they will not be graded on the basis of what they know. Rather the exam will deal with whom they know, or more properly by who knows them. “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
At the Judgment all that will matter is if we have come to obedient faith in Jesus the Son of God. Perfect knowledge of and obedience to all of the commands of the Bible will not be required; in fact it is not possible. But all guilt and shame will be erased by the testimony of Jesus our Savior.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit” (Romans 8:1).
As in any earthly exam, preparation is everything.
“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:43).
Exam day will come. Let us be prepared.