“It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27) The Bible contains a number of references to coming times of Divine judgment. The references are scattered between the Old and New Testaments, prophetic literature and letters to the churches. Because there is no single passage which lists all the judgments, many wonder how many judgments there are going to be.
The Bible describes one judgment that takes place at the return of Jesus and two judgments that people will face after death. When Jesus returns, there will be a judgment dividing “sheep from the goats.” (Matthew 25:31-46) At this judgment those who survived the Tribulation will be separated into two groups. Those who trusted Jesus for salvation are the sheep that will be brought into His kingdom. Those who rejected Jesus are the goats that will be cast into eternal punishment.
After death, Christians will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10) At that judgment believers will be given rewards based upon what they have done in this life. Each Christian will be examined for how he has lived for Jesus. The Judgment seat of Christ is not a judgment of sin. If we were to be judged for our sin, then we would all be condemned. All of the believer’s sin is covered by the blood of Jesus.
The judgment seat of Christ is an examination of service. The works of believers will be tested to see how they stand up in the light of eternity. If we have wasted our time, served wrongly or selfishly then our rewards will be lost. If we have served in obedience, with faithfulness and for the glory of God then we will have great reward in heaven. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)
The last judgment will take place at the end of all human history. The unsaved will be judged at the Great White Throne. (Revelation 20:11-15) All who are judged there will be condemned by God because they have not obeyed the gospel. The criteria of this judgment is simple. Have you believed Jesus is God who died on the cross for your sin? Have you cried out to Him to take away all your guilt? Have placed all your hope of forgiveness, heaven and eternal life in Jesus alone? If not, you are not saved. Your name is not written in the Lamb’s Book of LIfe. You will stand before the Great White Throne of Judgment and be condemned. I plead with you today to turn to Jesus and cry out to Him to take away your sin.
All who stand before the Great White Throne will be punished according to their deeds in life. Jesus’ words to the cities of Bethsaida and Chorazin indicate that rejection of the knowledge of Christ is treated more severely than gross sin. Those who have heard the gospel and have heard the Word of God will suffer a greater penalty. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrha were wicked, violent and immoral. They were destroyed by God for their wickedness, yet they will be treated less severely in the day of judgment than the cities that were eyewitnesses of Jesus and rejected Him. Those who hear the gospel and reject it will face a harsher punishment at the Great White Throne than even a murderer who never heard the Word of God.