Does the Bible Teach More Than One Final Judgment?
Does the Bible teach more than one final judgment? In other words, how many days of judgment will there be?
Scripture mentions several different judgments, such as the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Judgment of the Nations, and the Great White Throne Judgment. Are these three separate judgments occurring at different times for different groups of people, as some claim? And is it true that believers and unbelievers will never appear at the same judgment? What does the Bible teach? From Scripture, I wish to show that the three judgments mentioned are three descriptions of the same judgment, that they each occur at the single return of Christ, and they each include both believers and unbelievers.
To begin with, when will “the judgment seat of Christ” take place? What does the Bible say? By comparing 2 Corinthians 5:10 with verse 4, we see that Paul spoke of this day of reckoning in the context of the resurrection of the saints. Therefore, we know that the Judgment Seat of Christ occurs on the Last Day (John 6:40), not before.
Is “the judgment seat of Christ” exclusively for believers, as many believe? While this teaching is common among some groups, nothing in 2 Corinthians 5:10 indicates that this judgment is exclusively for believers. It says, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” “All” includes Jew and Gentile, the living and the dead, the great and the small, believers and unbelievers. Verse eleven also implies that unbelievers will be present.
Paul proclaimed, “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” Because of this awful judgment, Paul felt compelled to persuade men to repent.
Also, by comparing 2 Corinthians 5:10 with Romans 14:10-14, there can be no doubt that the Judgment Seat of Christ is for all. It reads, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” The words “all,” “every knee,” “every tongue” and “every one of us” surely speak of both believers and unbelievers.
This truth is confirmed in Isaiah 45:23 and 24. Part of Romans 14:11 is a quotation from verse 23, which reads, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Now, please notice the next verse, verse 24, it specifically shows that “every knee” and “every tongue” includes both the Lord’s people and all who are incensed against him: “Surely, shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.”
Clearly, then, the teaching that the Judgment Seat of Christ is for believers only is not supported by Scripture.
Is there any difference between the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:9-11), the Judgment of the Nations (Matt. 25:31-46), and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15)?
By comparing scripture with scripture, we will see that there is no difference. They are three descriptions of the same final judgment. It is important to understand that the Great White Throne Judgment occurs at the single return of Christ, not a thousand years later, as some suppose. It is John’s description of the general resurrection and judgment of all mankind and the end of the world.
The following five similarities between the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Judgment of the Nations, and the Great White Throne Judgment give clear evidence that they refer to the same event:
1. They each occur at the same time, at Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
It has already been shown that the Judgment Seat of Christ occurs at the resurrection, which, according to the plain words of Jesus, occurs when He returns on the Last Day, not before.
The Judgment of the Nations is also in the context of the coming of Christ “after the tribulation,” which He described as being the end of the world. This truth is seen by comparing Matthew 25:31 with chapter 24:29-31.
The Great White Throne Judgment is also depicted as occurring when Jesus returns at the end of the world. John recorded, “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” (Rev. 20:11).
2. They each depict a throne.
Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:10 both speak of “the judgment seat of Christ.”
In Matthew 25:31, Jesus stated that when He comes in His glory, “then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory.”
According to Revelation 20:11, John “saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it.”
3. They each show that all mankind will stand before our Lord, both believers and unbelievers.
Second Corinthians 5:10 records, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.”
Matthew 25:32 reads, “And before him shall be gathered all nations: . . . his sheep . . . the goats.”
Revelation 20:12 records, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.”
4. They each show that every man will be judged according to his works.
Concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ, we read, “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).
Concerning the Judgment of the Nations, as recorded in Matthew 25:31-46, it will occur when Jesus will “come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.” According to Matthew 16:27, it is then that “He shall reward every man according to his works.”
Concerning the Great White Throne Judgment, we also read, “And they were judged every man according to their works” (Rev. 20:13).
5. They each show the righteous rewarded and the ungodly condemned.
Concerning the Judgment Seat of Christ, we read, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
At the Judgment of the Nations, Jesus shall “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: . . . 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” (Matt. 25:34,41).
As a result of the Great White Throne Judgment, “he that
overcometh shall inherit all things
. . . 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” (Rev. 21:7,8).
Clearly, then, we know that the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Judgment of the Nations, and the Great White Throne Judgment refer to the same event because of five striking similarities between the three accounts. They each occur at the Second Coming, they each depict a throne, and they each show three things—that both believers and unbelievers will be present, that every man will be judged according to his works, and that the righteous will be justified and the ungodly condemned.
These and many other passages of Scripture clearly teach that both believers and unbelievers will be present at the same judgment and be judged together—some to everlasting life and some to everlasting punishment.
Does the Bible, then, teach one judgment for both the just and the unjust?
Yes. As we have already seen, the Bible always speaks of the Day of Judgment as a single event. It speaks about the Day of Judgment, not the days. In the same way that there will be only one resurrection of the just and the unjust (Acts 24:15), so there will be only one judgment. Jesus said, “Marvel not at this: for 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” (John 5:28,29).
The Bible further says that God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). “A day” speaks of one judgment day; “the world” encompasses the just and the unjust.
On that day Jesus shall “sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep [the just] from the goats [the unjust]” (Matt. 25:31,32). Jesus plainly taught that both they who will be justified and they who will be condemned will give account in that day. He warned, “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36,37).
The parable of the net also shows one judgment for the just and the unjust. Hear the words of Jesus: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:47-50). See also Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27; Rev. 21:7,8.
The only possible conclusion one can draw from these passages is that when Jesus returns, both believers and unbelievers will appear at one judgment to receive their just due. There can be no avoiding this coming judgment; it is as certain as death (Heb. 9:27).
Why will believers be present at the judgment?
Contrary to what many are teaching, the following scriptures, which are all addressed to believers, make it unmistakably clear that Christians have not been given an “exempt status” from being present at the judgment. Consider these four reasons:
First, our accountability to God is inescapable. Jesus declared, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Rev. 22:12). At that time, He will require us to give an account of our stewardship, that is, how we used our time, our talents, our treasures, and our opportunities here in this life. He Himself said, “Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants” (Matt. 18:23) and again, “The lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them” (Matt. 25:19). See also Matt. 20:1-16; 25:31-46; Luke 12:35-48; 19:12-27.
Second, the apostles warned believers that God will judge our works because “there is no respect of persons with God” (Rom. 2:11). Please note the following admonitions:
“Be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (1 Pet. 1:15-17).
“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” (Col. 3:23-25).
God “will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality [believers], eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness [unbelievers], indignation and wrath. . . . to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile. For there is no respect of persons with God” ( Rom. 2:6-8,11).
Third, Scripture gives many exhortations to believers in light of the judgment. Each of these would be meaningless if we will not be required to give an account of ourselves to God. As believers, we are exhorted:
• To not judge a brother—“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10).
• To not hold a grudge—“Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door” (James 5:9).
• To abide in Christ—“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” (1 John 2:28).
• To have our love made perfect—“Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17).
• To labor to be accepted of Christ—“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” (2 Cor. 5:9,10).
• To guard our speech—“But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:36,37).
Fourth, Paul himself expected to be judged of the Lord when He comes. He said, “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” (1 Cor. 4:4,5).
We see, then, that the Bible clearly teaches that believers will stand before the judgment (the divine tribunal) to be rewarded according to their works. On that final day, overcomers will “inherit all things” and sinners will be condemned and have their part in the lake of fire (Rev. 21:7,8).
What reward will be given to the faithful?
There are many aspects of the reward Jesus will give on that day. Since God’s promises are conditional, note the requirements for receiving them. Some of them are as follows:
To appear with Christ in glory— “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:2-4). “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). See also 2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 3:20,21; 2 Thess. 1:10; Heb. 10:32-35; 11:35; 1 John 3:2.
To be spared in the day of wrath and to have victory over our enemies—“And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. . . . For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:17; 4:1-3).
“The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. So that a man shall say, verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Psa. 58:10,11). See also Isa. 25:8; 51:7,8; Rev. 19:14-21.
To be glad with exceeding joy—“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Pet. 4:13). See also Psa. 16:11; Isa. 35:10; 51:11; 65:17-19; Matt. 25:21; Rev. 7:17.
To have the Lord confess us before His Father—“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32,33). See also Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-26.
To receive crowns—An incorruptible crown for those who practice self-denial (1 Cor. 9:25-27); a crown of rejoicing for soul winners (1 Thess. 2:19,20); a crown of righteousness for those who fight the good fight of faith and who love “his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7,8); a crown of life for those who endure temptation and are “faithful unto death” (James 1:12; Rev. 2:10); and a crown of glory for faithful elders who are not “lords over God’s heritage,” but are examples to the people (1 Pet. 5:4).
To reap what we have sown in the Lord—“He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:8,9). See also Matt. 13:43; 2 Cor. 1:14; 9:6.
To inherit an eternal kingdom and to enter the city whose builder and maker is God—“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” (Matt. 25:34). “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city” (Rev. 22:14). See also Matt. 8:11; Luke 14:12-15; 22:29,30; Heb. 6:10-12; 9:15; 11:10; 12:28; James 2:5; 1 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 21:7.
To see God—“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). “Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty” (Isa. 33:17). See also Psa. 17:15; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 22:4.
To reign with Christ forever and ever—“If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us” (2 Tim. 2:12). “And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5).
It has been shown that the Bible teaches one general judgment of all men and that it will occur at the Second Coming of Christ at the Last Day. Therefore, there’s no difference between the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Judgment of the Nations, and the Great White Throne Judgment. They are synonymous terms for the same judgment. Believers are included in that judgment to give an account of themselves and to receive their eternal reward.
This message is available by tape. For your free copy, write to Agnes Macdonald, 2948 Creekwood Drive, Salem, Virginia 24153.
Be sure to tune in tomorrow evening at this same time. God willing, I will be answering the big question—Does the Bible teach a that there will be a thousand-year reign of Christ after His return, but before the Great White Throne Judgment and the end of the world? Invite a friend to listen with you. Until tomorrow, may God bless you and be with you.