The fact that every man, whether saved or unsaved, is accountable to God is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Because man is accountable to a holy God for his actions he will stand before God. All men, whether saved or unsaved, at one time or another will stand before God and give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds. Most people entertain the false notion that at the end of the world all men will stand before God in a general judgment to determine whether they will go to Heaven or Hell. These theorists falsely suppose that those whose good works outweigh their bad will be granted entrance into Heaven, whereas those whose bad works outweigh their good will be consigned to Hell. This idea of judgment is nowhere found in the Scriptures. These unscriptural notions have arisen out of the unscriptural teaching of a general judgment promoted in the main by amillenialists. To refute this error we have deemed it necessary to conclude our study of eschatology with an entire chapter devoted to the various judgments that are revealed in the Sacred Scriptures.
The Bible makes it very clear that there are several judgments in relation to God's plan for the ages. These judgments may be distinguished from one another in a variety of ways. They occur in different places, at different times, for different purposes, and concern different classes of people. These judgments may be classified as taking place in three distinct time periods: the judgments prior to the Second Advent; the judgments associated with the Second Advent; and the judgments that occur after the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.
JUDGMENTS PRIOR TO THE SECOND ADVENT
The first significant judgment prior to the Second Advent took place on the cross of Calvary where the Lord Jesus Christ was put to death for the sins of His people. The entire focus of Christ's incarnation, miraculous ministry, and spotless life pointed to the time when He would go to the cross to bear the sin debt of His people. Christ's judgment of sin on the cross was appointed by the Father before the world began as the only means of redeeming His elect. I Peter 1:18-20 declares: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from you vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." In the counsel hall of eternity past God devised a redemptive plan that involved the sending forth of His only begotten Son to be born of a virgin, to live a spotless life by rendering perfect obedience to the law of God, and to die a sacrificial death in the stead of His people.
When Jesus Christ went to the cross to shed His precious blood He was acting as a substitute for all those who the Father gave Him in the Covenant of Grace. Christ satisfied all the claims of justice by living an immaculate life, and then paid the penalty for the elect's sins by dying in their stead. When Jesus was dying He was bearing His people's sins and enduring the judgment and wrath they deserved. He drank the cup of damnation dry for all His people as He suffered body and soul on the cross. II Corinthians 5:21 records: "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." I Peter 2:24 declares: "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed." I Peter 3:18 states: "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." When Jesus died on the cross He was acting as my substitute. He took upon Himself my sins and the wrath that I justly deserved. He was judged for my sins. All of my evil thoughts, the blasphemies I had uttered, and my wicked deeds were placed upon the body of Jesus Christ on the cross where the wrath of a Holy God consumed the sacrifice.
The sword of God's Divine justice and judgment fell upon the head of Jesus Christ when He died on the cross. All sin must be punished and the penalty of the law must be paid in full. Jesus paid the full penalty of the law and was punished in the stead of all who would ultimately believe on Him. He blotted out the sin debt that His people owed when He died upon the cross. Christ voluntarily laid down His life, bore His people's sins, and suffered the wrath of God so that the elect would be redeemed from the curse of the law. Jesus condemned sin in His flesh, He was judged by God, so that I would never experience final condemnation. By virtue of the Christ's judgment of sin upon the cross for His people we can say with Paul: "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ... (Rom. 8:33-35).
If Christ did not die in your stead to put away your sins and reconcile you to God then you will die in your sins. If Jesus did not bear your sins on the cross then you will have to bear the weight of them in an eternity of torment in the Lake of Fire. All sin must be judged. Either your sin was judged in the person of Christ upon the cross or you will bear your sins and be judged for them in the Lake of Fire. The only way in which you can know that Jesus died to take your punishment is if you repent of your sins, renounce all your vain hopes and self righteousness, and come to saving faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Then you will experience the forgiveness of sins, and be freed from the condemnation that you deserve.
THE JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST
The next judgment in God's economy is the Judgment Seat of Christ which will take place prior to the Second Advent. Jesus will come again for His saints in the Rapture and take them to Heaven to stand before the Bema Seat. While the Tribulation Period is taking place on the earth, the Judgment Seat of Christ will be taking place in Heaven. We know that the location of this judgment is in Heaven according to Matthew 5:12 which states: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven..." Matthew 6:20 declares: "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal." Thus the location of the Judgment Seat of Christ distinguishes it from the Judgment of the Nations which occurs on the earth, and the Great White Throne Judgment, the location of which is unknown because when it happens the heaven and earth will have fled away.
The subjects of the Judgment Seat of Christ are only those who have been saved by the grace of God. They will not be judged for their sins because their sins were already judged on Calvary and "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. 8:1). Rather the purpose of the Judgment Seat of Christ is to examine the believer's works and motives in his service to Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 5:8-10 declares: "We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." Believers will stand before the Lord to be judged for their sincerity, service, and faithfulness to the work of God. No believer will be exempt from this judgment: "...for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ...So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:10;12). Not only will we give an account for service rendered, but our motives for service will also be judged. If we served the Lord to gain the praise and admiration of men then our reward will have already been received on the earth from men, and we will receive nothing from the Lord. Matthew 6:1 & 4 state: "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven...That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly." How carefully we should judge our motives in serving the Lord! Oh, that God would purify our motives so that everything we do is done solely for his honor and glory rather than our own. How we ought to serve the Lord in godly fear and reverence as we consider that all of our motives and deeds will be judged by the Lord in that day for all to see. I Corinthians 4:4-5 declares: "For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."
Believers will be rewarded for faithfulness, perseverance, and consistency in serving the Lord. Our service to God is likened to an athletic competition in which those who faithfully participate and finish will receive a reward. I Corinthians 9:24-27 declares: "Know ye not that they which ruin in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Athletes must train vigorously, practice daily disciplines, and deny themselves, in order to compete for a prize. Likewise as believers we must discipline ourselves in the daily practice of godliness, denying ourselves, following the Lord without reservation, obeying His commands, and persevering in holiness. Athletes compete to receive earthly rewards that are corruptible. Believers serve the Lord to receive heavenly rewards that are incorruptible and everlasting. What a motivation for us to be faithful and persevering in our service to God! All of the difficulties and afflictions encountered while serving the Lord will all be worth it when we hear our Lord say: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...enter thou into the joy of thy lord" (Matt. 25:21).
The rewards for service that we receive at the Judgment Seat of Christ will determine our place in the Millennial Kingdom. This is illustrated by the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-23 and the Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19:11-19. Though all Christians are saved and justified in the same degree, there are levels of rewards for faithful service that will be handed out at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Salvation is a free gift that is given based solely on Christ's righteousness, whereas rewards are earned through faithful service and the righteous deeds of the saints. Some will receive greater rewards and more authority to reign with Christ in the Kingdom. This truth is illustrated by Luke 19:17-19 which states: "And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities." For example, those who faithfully serve the Lord in His church will be rewarded by being part of the Bride of Christ who will reign with Christ as His queen during the Millennial Kingdom. Not all the saved will be in the Bride of Jesus Christ. Salvation makes an individual part of the Family of God, but faithful service in the Lord's church is what qualifies one to be in the Bride of Christ. Those who are in rebellion to the most fundamental ordinance of the New Testament (Scriptural baptism) are not in the Lord's Church and therefore do not qualify for the reward of being part of the Bride of Jesus Christ. Only those who have faithfully served the Lord in a New Testament Baptist Church will be part of His bride. Jesus said to His church: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev. 3:21). Since no Catholic, Protestant, or Charismatic sects were in existence when these verses were written, we may safely assume that the church that will be seated as a queen reigning with Christ during the Millennium is what is today identified as a New Testament Baptist Church.
Dear child of God are you living a life that is pleasing to the Lord? Are you faithful to study, obey, and apply the truths of Scripture to your daily life? Do you pray and commune with God on a daily basis? Are you faithful to your family by being the right kind of example? Are you concerned enough for the unsaved to tell them of the Gospel of Christ and warn them of judgment? Are you faithful and loyal to your church? Do you tithe, faithfully attend the services of your church, and strive to be a blessing to the other members of your church? Unless we are striving to faithfully serve the Lord in the little things we should never expect to receive many rewards at the judgment seat of Christ.
The time to serve the Lord is growing shorter with each passing day. Soon Jesus will come and the saints will have to stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. Are you ready for that day dear believer? Are you ready to stand before the One who loved you and gave Himself for you to be judged for your service to Him? Did He not give His all for us? Do we not owe Him every fiber our being? Should not our every waking moment be spent to the glory and honor of our Lord? I fear that many professing Christians are living for themselves rather than the glory of the Lord. I fear that a deep sense of shame and a loss of rewards will be the portion of many who name the name of Christ in our day. I John 2:28 declares: "And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming." May God stir us up to faithfully serve the Lord while there is yet time. May we live each day in light of eternity and the Judgment Seat of Christ. How differently would each of us live our lives if we knew that very soon we must all stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ and give an account of all our deeds! My friend, the time is drawing near. Serve the Lord with all your heart. Only one life, and soon is past, only what's done for Christ will last!
JUDGMENTS ASSOCIATED WITH
THE SECOND ADVENT
THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS
We now come the judgments that are associated with the Second Advent of Jesus Christ. In the Second Advent Christ will come back from Heaven, accompanied by glorified saints and elect angels, to judge the wicked and set up His Millennial Kingdom. The purpose of the Judgment of the Nations will be one of purification, as no unsaved person will be permitted to enter into the Kingdom. The Judgment of the Nations is definitely distinguished from the Great White Throne of Judgment. Most amillenialists try and make these two judgments to be synonymous, or one in the same. However, the differences are so marked by comparing Matthew twenty-five with Revelation twenty that even the most casual reader would have to agree that they are separate judgments.
The Judgment of the Nations is found recorded in Matthew 25:31-46. The time of the Judgment of the Nations is clearly set forth as being in conjunction with the Second Advent of Christ: "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (Matt. 25:31). Christ will not come back to earth in glory until after the Tribulation Period as Matthew 24:29-30 states: "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And THEN shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." Revelation 19:11-21 make it clear that when Christ comes back to the earth He will come as Lord of lords and King of kings to judge and to make war. Those surviving the battle recorded in these verses will be the subjects of the Judgment of the Nations. It is significant to note that the Judgment of the Nations will occur at the beginning of the Millennium, whereas the Great White Throne Judgment will occur at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ.
It is significant to note that Christ will be accompanied by glorified saints and angels in the Second Advent to witness and participate in the Judgment of the Nations. II Thessalonians 1:7-9 declares: "And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." The elect angels will be employed by Christ to bind the wicked as tares and cast them into the fires of Hell: "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear" (Matt. 13:41-43). The glorified saints of God who had been previously raptured prior to the Tribulation period will also accompany Christ in the Second Advent and will assist in the Judgment of the Nations. Zechariah 14:1 & 5 declare: "Behold the day of the LORD cometh...and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee..." (See also Jude 14-15 and Rev. 19:13-15). The Bible clearly reveals that the glorified saints will not only accompany Christ in the Second Advent but will also have a part in the Judgment of the Nations. I Corinthians 6:2 declares: "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" Though we do not know to what extent the saints shall judge the world they will definitely concur and applaud the righteous judgments of their great King. This coming judgeship of the saints is associated with the destruction of the Antichrist and the possession of the Millennial Kingdom as Daniel 7:21-22 states: "I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom." The reason why the companions of Christ are so important is because this aspect of the Judgment of the Nations distinguishes it from the Great White Throne of Judgment. In the Great White Throne Judgment it appears that Christ alone will judge the wicked.
The location of the Judgment of the Nations will be on the earth. When Christ comes back to earth one of the first things that He will do is to establish His righteous rule by purging the earthly Kingdom from all those who are unsaved in the Judgment of the Nations. Psalms 67:4 declares: "O let the nations by glad and sing for joy: for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations UPON EARTH. Selah." Jeremiah 23:5 proves that Christ will judge the nations upon the earth: "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth." The specific location of the judgment of the Nations is set forth by the prophet Joel: "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshophat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land...Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O LORD. Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about" (Joel 3:2; 11-12). Since the valley of Jehoshaphat was not in existence when Joel wrote his prophecy, many believe this valley will be created when Christ comes back to the Mount of Olives and the mount cleaves in two as prophesied by Zechariah: "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives (cf. Acts 1:11), which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south" (Zech. 14:4). Since the location of the Judgment of the Nations is definitely upon the earth, it cannot be the same as the Great White Throne Judgment because Revelation 20:11 records: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them."
The subjects of the Judgment of the Nations will be the survivors of the Tribulation period divided into two classes, namely elect sheep and reprobate goats. Matthew 25:32-34 records: "And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Since nations are made up of individuals the people involved in this judgment will be individuals. There has never been an entire sheep nation. The sheep that are placed on the right hand of Christ, which signifies the place of blessing, are those the Father elected and prepared the kingdom for from before the foundation of the world. Their election is evidenced by the acts of kindness shown to those united to Christ (Matt. 25:35-40). Their acts of kindness are not the root of salvation, but rather the fruit of salvation. They enter the kingdom based upon God's electing love and Christ's sacrifice. Christ will commend them for their simple acts of kindness and welcome them into His Kingdom where they will reign with Him. It is significant to note that the Kingdom that Christ was referring to could not be entered until after He came back in His glory in the Second Advent. This makes the Millennial Kingdom to be not only a future reality, but a literal one as well. The goats are the other class of people who will be judged. They will be divided from the sheep and placed on the left hand of the King which is the place of disfavor and condemnation. The goats are those who willfully rejected the message and messengers of the King. They were apathetic, unconcerned and unbelieving. They showed no compassion to Christ's brethren. They will be condemned by Christ and cast into Hell: "Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels...And these shall go away into everlasting punishment..." (Matt. 25:41 & 46). The fact that the subjects involved in the Judgment of the Nations will be the saved and unsaved survivors of the Tribulation Period further distinguishes this judgment from the Great White Throne Judgment. In the Great White Throne Judgment the unjust dead will be resurrected to stand before the tribunal of Christ. Their judgment will not be to determine whether or not they enter into the Kingdom, rather their judgment will be for the purpose of confining them to their place and degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire.
The purpose of the Judgment of the Nations will be to rid the earth of all the unsaved. No one will enter into the Millennial Kingdom who has not been saved by the sovereign grace of God. This judgment will be one of purification as well as separation. The Lord's sheep will inter into Millennial glory where there will live and reign with Christ for one thousand years. The reprobate goats on the other hand, will be consigned to Hell where they will await their final sentencing in the resurrection of the unjust dead. After the Millennium they will be raised to stand before Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment to determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire. Thus, because of the purifying Judgment of the Nations, the earth will be without an unregenerate person for a time. Psalms 37:9 declares: "For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth." Psalms 101:6-8 states: "Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me: he that walketh in a perfect way, he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all the wicked doers from the city of the LORD." Proverbs. 2:21-22 declares: "For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it." These verses will have a literal fulfillment as a result of the Judgment of the Nations. This judgment will mark the beginning of a new age of righteousness, peace, spirituality, and harmony upon the earth. The glory of King Jesus will fill the land as the waters that cover the sea.
THE JUDGMENT OF ISRAEL
Another judgment associated with the Second Advent of Christ will be the judgment of Israel. The apostles of Christ will assist in this judgment at the beginning of the Millennium according to the prophecy of Christ in Matthew 19:28 which states: "And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The Israelites who survived the Tribulation Period will be summoned before the King to determine who is saved and who is lost because the Scripture declares: "they are not all Israel which are of Israel" (Rom. 9:6). This means that there are physical Israelites who have never been saved by the grace of God and thus will not be permitted to enter into the Millennial Kingdom. The purpose of this judgment will be much the same as the Judgment of the Nations, namely to allow saved Israelites to enter into the Kingdom and to banish unsaved Israelites to Hell.
This judgment of Israel was foretold by the prophet Ezekiel: "And I will bring you out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with a stretched out arm, and with fury poured out. And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant: And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me: I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall not enter into the land of Israel: and ye shall know that I am the Lord" (Ezek. 20:34-38). Like the Judgment of the Nations, the judgment of Israel will be for purification, so that no unsaved Israelite enters into the Kingdom under false pretenses. Malachi 3:2-3 & 5 also allude to this judgment and gives the time frame as the Second Advent of Christ: "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap: And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness...And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts."
THE JUDGMENT OF TRIBULATION MARTYRS
Those saints who are martyred during the Tribulation Period for their faith and loyalty to Jesus Christ will be judged in much the same way the saints of God in Heaven were judged at the Judgment Seat of Christ. They will be judged for their motives and service to the Lord. Since the time in which they will live will be a most difficult and hazardous time, in all probability they will receive an abundance of rewards for faithfully standing for Jesus during the darkest days of earth's history. Since all believers must stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Tribulation martyrs will in all probability stand before the Lord at the time of their resurrection which occurs at the beginning of the Millennium.
The resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs at the beginning of the Millennium will complete the first or better resurrection to life. The first resurrection includes the resurrection of Christ which occurred almost two thousand years ago, the resurrection of the righteous dead at the Rapture, as well as the resurrection of the Tribulation saints. The first resurrection will thus include the resurrection of all the righteous in three stages, one stage already having been completed, the other two stages are yet to come. That there is an order to the first resurrection is clearly implied in I Corinthians 15:20 & 23 which states: "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept...But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming." The resurrection of Christ out from among the dead is called the firstfruits because it was the first resurrection of its kind and carried with it a promise of future resurrection for the righteous dead.
Since the Judgment Seat of Christ will be going on during the Tribulation Period the judgment of Tribulation martyrs must take place at the time of their resurrection at the beginning of the Millennium. This judgment will determine their position in the Kingdom. The time of their resurrection is recorded in Revelation 20:4 & 6: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." The resurrection of the Tribulation martyrs will complete the first resurrection and is contrasted with the resurrection of the unjust dead. The first resurrection is to life and glory, as all the participants will share in the glory of the Millennial reign of Christ. The second resurrection, or the resurrection of the unjust dead is one of condemnation. It will take place after the thousand-year reign of Christ. This resurrection is for the express purpose of being judged by Christ at the Great White Throne. All must agree that there is quite a contrast between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.
JUDGMENTS OCCURRING AFTER
THE SECOND ADVENT
THE JUDGMENT OF SATAN AND REPROBATE ANGELS
When Christ comes back to earth to reign for one thousand years one of the first steps to purging the earth of ungodliness will be to bind Satan for the duration of the Millennium. Revelation 20:2-3 records this event: "And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season." At the end of the Millennium, Satan will be loosed to assemble an army of unregenerate men (unsaved children of the saved who entered the Kingdom in their natural bodies, i.e. righteous Gentiles and Israelites) to make his final stand against Jesus Christ. He will be soundly defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:10 declares: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." The most wicked and abominable enemy of Christ will finally meet his doom just prior to the Great White Throne Judgment. It is only fitting that the unholy trinity of evil, the Antichrist, False Prophet, and Satan, will be the first inhabitants of the Lake of Fire.
The reprobate angels have been chained for thousands of years awaiting this judgment as Jude 6 reveals: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day" (cf. II Pet. 2:4). This judgment will be in conjunction with the Great White Throne Judgment as revealed by the context of Revelation twenty. Immediately after the judgment of Satan and his angels, the Great White Throne Judgment comes into view.
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 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. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20:11-15).
The scene that is set before us in this passage of sacred Scripture will be one of the most important and awesome events ever to take place in the annals of human history. It is referred to as The Great White Throne Judgment and it will be the final judgment of Almighty God upon the wicked. The unbending sword of Divine justice will be unsheathed on that day to strike every impenitent sinner for their deeds of wickedness. Everyone brought before this throne will be judged according to the standard of perfect justice. This is not a judgment to determine whether or not the individual goes to Heaven or to the Lake of Fire to spend eternity. On the contrary, all that come before this throne are condemned already for their rejection of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The purpose of the Great White Throne Judgment will be to assign the impenitent their portion in the Lake of Fire for eternity.
Though the subject of the Great White Throne Judgment is unpopular in our day of loose and liberal theology, every minister who has been entrusted with the sacred responsibility of preaching the whole counsel of God must warn the wicked to "flee from the wrath to come" if he is to be faithful to God. Dear reader, if you are unsaved and remain impenitent and unbelieving you will have to stand before this throne and meet Jesus Christ as the righteous Judge who will pronounce your eternal condemnation. The very One you despised and rejected during your life will have you cast into the Lake of Fire for an eternity of torment and unutterable woe. While you still have breath your only hope is to cast yourself upon the mercy of God, turn from your sins, renounce all of your false hopes, deluded opinions, and self-righteousness and take refuge in the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
THE TIME OF THE GREAT WHITE
1. God's final judgment of the wicked will take place right after the thousand year reign of Christ with His saints upon the earth. When the thousand years are expired God will release Satan from the bondage of the bottomless pit to meet his final doom and be cast into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 20:7-10). Then all of the unjust dead will be resurrected to stand before Jesus Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment as a fulfillment of Revelation 20:5 which states: "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished."
2. Because of the timing of the Great White Throne Judgment it must be distinguished as a separate and distinct judgment from the Judgment Seat of Christ which will be only for the saved and take place in Heaven during the Tribulation Period. The Great White Throne Judgment is also revealed as distinct and separate from the Judgment of the Nations which will occur at the beginning of the Millennium when Christ comes back to the earth with the armies of Heaven to occupy the throne of His glory (Matt. 25:31-46). Thus, the Great White Throne Judgment is the last of all of God's judgments recorded in Scripture. As a result of this judgment, all sin and wickedness will be purged from the universe, and the eternal ages will begin as Revelation 21:1 declares: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea." The old world must be purged of all sin in order for God to make all things new on earth and in the heavens. Peter describes the purgation of the universe as being associated with the great day of judgment thusly: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with a fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up...Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (II Pet. 3:10; 12-13).
THE SETTING OF THE GREAT WHITE
1. The setting of the Great White Throne Judgment is revealed in Revelation 20:11 which states: "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them." Somewhere in the immensity of time and space, in an uninhabited realm of the universe, the unrighteous dead will be resurrected to stand before the Great White Throne. This judgment will not take place on the earth, because the "earth and the heaven fled away." The exact place of this judgment is not clearly revealed. We know only that the wicked of all ages will be summoned from Hell to some black and foreboding spot in the Universe to stand before the Great White Throne to be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ and be cast into the Lake of Fire.
2. One by one the wicked of all ages will be summoned to stand before Christ who will be seated upon a Great White Throne. The throne is described as great because of the One who sits upon it. It is also considered great because this throne far exceeds the standards of any earthly thrones or courts. The Great White Throne is one of perfect justice and equity. It is also called great because of its immensity. To the eye of a condemned sinner this throne will be ominous and foreboding. It is also referred to as great because of the terrible judgments that will issue from this throne.
3. The throne is also described as being white denoting its purity, justice and holiness. It is not a throne stained with injustice or bribes, rather it is spotless white, free from sin and iniquity. Though it is not revealed in Scripture , there could perhaps be an inscription upon this throne with the following words: "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). The judgments that will issue from the Great White Throne will be absolutely fair and righteous. In fact, every condemned sinner will have to say Amen to his own condemnation after being judged by the Just One.
4. The setting of this throne is very different from the throne in Revelation four. In Revelation four the throne is surrounded by a rainbow signifying God's covenant of grace and mercy with the inhabitants of Heaven. The Great White Throne is surrounded only by stern justice that will be meted out upon the wicked. The throne in Revelation four has a sea of glass clear as a crystal which serves as a solid foundation for the saints to stand upon. The Great White Throne has nothing for sinners to stand upon, they will be suspended somewhere in the universe. The throne in Revelation four is a scene of praise, adoration, worship, and great rejoicing. However, there is no joy attending the Great White Throne Judgment. The throne in Revelation four is surrounded by the blood washed saints of God dressed in spotless white enjoying the glories of Heaven. The Great White Throne is attended only by naked, trembling sinners who have nothing to look forward too but an eternity of torment in the Lake of Fire.
5. What an awesome and terrible sight the Great White Throne will be for the multitudes of condemned sinners who must stand before it. The sounds of judgment will pierce the ears of every sinner that must stand before this tribunal. Each sinner will hear the most awful words of condemnation ever uttered when the King says: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
THE OCCUPANT OF THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
1. The sole occupant of the Great White Throne will be the One who issued the law, fulfilled it completely as a man, magnified it, and suffered its stern penalty for His elect. Jesus Christ alone fulfills all the requirements of a righteous judge. Jesus Christ is the only one qualified to judge the world in righteousness because He is the only person who has no mote to remove from His eye.
2. The One who sits upon the Throne is the essence of holiness, justice, and truth. He is called the "Just one", "the Truth", and "THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS" in the Holy Scriptures. The throne will be great because on it will sit the Great God of the Universe, the King, eternal, immortal who will judge His enemies in perfect righteousness and equity. The judgments that issue from the Great White Throne will be eternal and infinite because the One who sits upon it and hands out the sentences of condemnation is eternal and infinite in nature.
3. It is only fitting that the One who offered Himself as a Lamb without spot or blemish for all those who would believe, would be seated upon the Great White Throne as the Judge of all unbelievers and Christ rejecters. All judgment has been committed into the hands of Jesus Christ. John 5:22 declares: "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son." Because Jesus Christ is God's standard of perfect righteousness, all the unsaved will be weighed against him and be found wanting. Acts 17:31 declares: "Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." Romans 2:16 further illustrates this grand truth: "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel."
4. The presence of Jesus Christ upon the Great White Throne will be so powerful and awesome the earth and the heaven will flee from His face. If the earth and heaven will flee away from the presence of the Judge, imagine the terror that will fill the hearts of all the unjust as they await their final sentencing in the presence of the Great King.
THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE GREAT WHITE
1. The blood-washed saints of God, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and were saved from the wrath to come will be absent at the Great White Throne Judgment. Those who are saved had their sins judged and blotted out at Calvary by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Therefore they will never have to stand before the throne of condemnation. Rather they will have already stood before the Judgment Seat of Christ where their deeds and motives were judged to determine their heavenly rewards. Those who have been given spiritual life in Jesus Christ will not stand before the Great White Throne Judgment because Revelation 20:12 declares the subjects of judgment to be: "...the DEAD, small and great stand before God..."
2. All the unsaved throughout human history will participate in the "resurrection of damnation" (John 5:29), to stand before the Great White Throne. Imagine if you will every unsaved man of time and eternity making their way to this awesome throne. See the endless stream of unjust souls, naked, shivering, clinging to their filthy rags of self righteousness, cursing the day they were born, with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
3. Included among the multitudes will be men and women of small estate. Those who were never famous for anything, yet who rejected Jesus Christ will be judged. The drunkard who lived for booze, the prostitute who lived for lust, the poor who were too proud to come to Christ will all be judged. Your neighbors, fellow workers, and fellow citizens whom the world knew nothing about will be resurrected to stand before the King in judgment because they loved their sins and rejected the Gospel of Christ.
4. The great among men will also be judged. Those whom the world has lauded with praise, prestige, and power will be among those judged. Kings, princes, queens, priests, popes, presidents, sports heroes, Hollywood stars, rock and roll performers, and wealthy businessmen will be judged for their sins. They thought they were great and important while they lived, but they will stand side by side with the insignificant sinners of the world to be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ. They all must stand before the Almightiness of a sovereign God to be judged for their sins.
5. How this great multitude of unjust sinners are brought before the throne is recorded in Revelation 20:13 which states: "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them..." The bodies of the unjust of all ages will be united to their souls to stand before the Great White Throne. Those who perished in the flood of Noah, the wreck of the Titanic, and all others who perished in the sea will be raised. The bodies of the unjust dead that were placed in graves will be raised from the dead. And all the souls that were suffering the torments of Hell will be raised from that awful place to be united with their corrupt bodies to stand in judgment before the King.
5. The character of those judged is described in Revelation 21:8 which states: "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." The fearful are those who were afraid of what men would think of them if they would come to Christ. They were afraid of losing friends, prestige, and social status if they would trust Jesus. The unbelieving includes all sinners who through their unbelief call God a liar by refusing to believe the record that God gave of His Son (I John 5:10). The abominable are those who openly and shamelessly sinned against God. They blasphemed His holy name and committed crimes against God and man without fear of retribution. The murderers are those who were guilty of unjustly killing others either by deed or thought. The whoremongers are those whose eyes and hearts burned with insatiable and unlawful lusts. The sorcerers are those who abused drugs and alcohol as well as those who were involved in the occult and black magic. The idolaters are those who put anything before God or pay homage to false gods. Every unsaved Catholic, and every pagan who bowed down to a statue or totem pole will be included among the idolaters. The liars are those who delighted in falsehood and iniquity, whose mouths and hearts were filled with deceit. What strikes me about all those who will be judged is that they are still unchanged and self-willed when they stand before the Great White Throne. They will have the same lusts and scarlet passions with no way to fulfill them as they spend an eternity of torment and woe in the Lake of Fire. Revelation 22:11 declares: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still..."
THE BASIS OF THE GREAT WHITE
1. The basis and manner in which the wicked will be judged by Jesus Christ is recorded in Revelation 20:12-13: "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. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." Thus the Word of God, the book of Life, and the book wherein all the deeds of the wicked are recorded will form the basis of the Great White Throne Judgment.
2. We know the Bible will be one of the Books that are opened on that day because Jesus said: "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48). Peter preached that all who refused to hear the Lord Jesus Christ would suffer the judgment of God in Acts 3:20&23 which state: "And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you...And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet (Christ), shall be destroyed from among the people." The vast multitude of unsaved sinners will be reminded of their rebellion against and rejection of the Word of God at the Great White Throne Judgment. Perhaps the Lord will quote John 3:36 which declares: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." So many reject the Word of the Living God to their own peril and destruction. Every time a sinner refuses to hearken to the warnings of Scripture and the proclamation of the Gospel they are sealing their own damnation. Think of the multitudes of sinners who have had the privilege and opportunity to either read the Word or hear it preached! Think of how many sinners have had someone knock on their door to share the Gospel with them, only to tell the ambassador of Christ that they didn't have time or that they weren't interested in listening. They will wish they had hearkened when they stand trembling before the Great White Throne when Jesus Christ opens the Word of God to them for the last time before they are cast into the Lake of Fire.
3. The next book to be opened, which forms a basis for the Great White Throne Judgment, is the Lamb's Book of Life wherein all the names of God's elect were recorded before the foundation of the world. As far as I know this Book has not been opened since the names were recorded before the world began. But it will be opened at the Great White Throne Judgment to display the sovereignty of God in salvation. All those who fought against the sovereignty of God will have their mouths shut at the last judgment. There will not be one word spoken against the doctrine of God's sovereignty in that day. Many no doubt will say: "But my name was on the church roll, I sang in the choir, I was a good person, etc." All these things are to no avail if your name is not written in the Lamb's Book of Life, if you are not regenerated by the Spirit of Life, and you are not washed in the precious blood of the Lamb. Someone may ask: "How do I know if my name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life?" Do you desire Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour more than anything else in all the world? Are you now willing to renounce all your false hopes, self righteousness, deluded opinions, your sins, the world and all its pleasures? Do you desire the holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ more than life itself? If these things are true of you it is evident that your name has been written there. However, if you do not desire these things, but would rather hold on to your sins, then God is not unjust in condemning you to the Lake of Fire!
4. The final book that will be opened to seal the condemnation of the wicked will be a book of remembrance of all their works. God has a record of all the thoughts, deeds, and actions of men. I agree with J.A. Seiss who wrote:
"An unerring hand has recorded every item, with every secret thing. There is not an ill thought, a mean act, a scene of wrong in all your history, a dirty transaction, a filthiness of speech, or a base feeling that ever found entertainment in your heart, but is there described in bold hand, by its true name, and set down to your account, to be then brought forth for final settlement, if not clean blotted out through faith in Christ's blood before this present life of yours is ended. And if no other books are to be thought of, the book of your own conscience, and the book of God's remembrance, will then and there attest your every misdeed and ill-desert. Think, ye that fear not God, and make nothing of trampling his laws, how your case will stand when those books are opened!" (1)
Men are foolish to think that their wicked motives, deeds, and words are hidden from God. Hebrews 4:13 declares: "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Matthew 12:36 declares: "But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." Every secret sin and wicked desire will be brought to light at the Great White Throne Judgment.
As sinners are permitted to review all of their dead works they will have to admit that all the works that they thought were good and noble were nothing but filthy rags of righteousness in comparison to Jesus Christ. As they review all their wicked deeds and sinful thoughts they will have to agree with Christ's sentence of condemnation.
5. It will be a soul wrenching experience to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment for all sinners. But imagine the terror and fright that will strike the hearts of those who sincerely thought they were saved by the works that they had performed. While on earth they deluded themselves into thinking that religious sincerity, church attendance, charitable giving, and their own righteousness were enough to grant them entrance into Heaven. Matthew 7:21-23 declares: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." These words will be the most awful sound self righteous, religious sinners will ever hear!
6. The purpose of Christ in judging the unsaved by the Word of God and their works will determine their degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire. For example, those men and women who greatly influenced others to work wickedness will receive a more severe punishment. W.A. Criswell made a good point when he wrote:
"It is most evident why these judgments are at the end of time. A man does not die when he dies. His life continues. His influence continues. The deeds of this life continue. God only is able to unravel out of all the skeins of human history the influences of a life. Those who refuse the Lord, who reject His overtures of grace and mercy, all of their deeds are written the Book of Judgment. At the end of time, at the final judgment day of God, the Lord unravels the skein of their influence and life, and these iniquitous records become the basis of their eternal damnation... When the lost, the damned, the doomed, the unbelieving, the Christ-rejecting get to the end of the way, to that White Throne Judgment, Oh, what an appalling thing when God sums up the wickedness of a man's life! What a somber, what a fearful summation!" (2)
Those with greater light and opportunity to hear the preached Word of God will be judged more severely than those who didn't have as many of these privileges. Jesus taught this truth in Matthew 11:23-24 which states: "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."
1. After the books are opened and the unsaved are judged by their works, the sentence of condemnation will be pronounced upon them by Jesus Christ and will be swiftly executed. All of the men and women summoned before this throne will not escape the awful torments of the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14-15 graphically states what the sentence of the wicked will be: "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
2. The Lake of Fire is a place of eternal torment where the wrath of God is continually poured out upon the doomed inhabitants. We know this because the beast and the false prophet were cast into the Lake of Fire prior to the thousand-year reign of Christ, and at the end of those thousand years the Scripture records: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). What fear should strike the sinner who will spend an eternity of woe and make his final abode with the damned of all the ages in the Lake of Fire! It will be a place of intense heat and fire that is kept alive by the inflexible justice of Almighty God. Jesus described the final abode of the damned in Mark 9:46 thusly: "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Those who are cast into the Lake of Fire will join in with the tortured wails of multitudes who eternally say with the rich man: "I am tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24). The Lake of Fire is likened to a furnace of fire that never dies in Matthew 13:42: "And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Throughout eternity the wicked will experience the unabated wrath of God being poured out upon them as Psalms 11:6 describes: "Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup."
3. The final abode of the damned is described as the second death. This will not be a cessation of being or an annihilation of existence. Rather it will be eternal separation from the goodness and grace of God, eternally confined to a place where only wrath and torment are experienced. Those who would not come to Christ will hear Him say: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. 25:41).
FINAL THOUGHTS CONCERNING THIS JUDGMENT
1. The Great White Throne Judgment revealed in this passage of Scripture is very real and literal. It cannot be spiritualized or allegorized away. There is coming a definite day of judgment for all the wicked when they will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Dear reader don't deceive yourself into thinking that you will somehow escape the righteous judgment of God apart from faith in Jesus Christ. You will not be spared the terrors, tortures, eternal punishment of the Lake of Fire.
2. Those who go to the Lake of Fire will spend an eternity of physical and mental torments. Not only will their bodies suffer pain, but their minds will continually torment them. As they suffer they will curse their existence. They will mourn all the missed opportunities. The voice of the Gospel preacher will haunt them. Their sinful lusts, unlawful desires, and evil passions will continue to burn within them, but they will have no way to satisfy their urges. Throughout eternity the damned will curse themselves for sinning against God and rejecting Jesus Christ.
3. The Great White Throne Judgment has not occurred yet. It is an event that will take place yet in the future. While you still have breath, turn from your sins and trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. Please turn to Jesus Christ before it is eternally too late. Your only hope is that the mercy of God will be granted to you, enabling you to believe the Gospel of Christ "...for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:16-17).
4. Those who are saved from the wrath of God should bow before God and offer up praise and thanksgiving for the fact that they will never have to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment. The awfulness of the judgment and the plight of the wicked should burden our hearts to preach the Gospel with more fervency and urgency to the unsaved.