When I was in school, I tried not to think about tests until I absolutely had to. After all, thinking about tests would have spoiled many an evening of watching television or playing with friends. Likewise, I have the feeling that most of us would rather not think about the final exam when we will stand before God. That would cramp our style, wouldn’t it? It would make us take life more seriously and be more conscious of wasted time. No, God’s judgment isn’t usually talked about at coffee breaks. We would rather discuss sports, the weather, or the new car models. But just because the topic makes us uncomfortable, and just because we would rather not think about it until we are forced to, does not mean it is wise to ignore it or to delay facing the facts. We will all be judged–believer and nonbeliever alike–but we will not all be judged alike. Although the two judgments are different, both are serious occasions. And the time to get ready for them is now. You do not want to be Naked Before God (please read page at the top headliner of this site).
Why Is judgment mecessary? If God is a God of perfect justice, then He must judge us after this life. The inequities and injustices of earth must be resolved. God will not let those people who have ignored His laws since they were children get away with it. And Christians, who have been entrusted with gifts to use for God’s glory, will give full account of their use and be rewarded accordingly.
Who will be the judge? God Himself will be our Judge (Hebrews 12:23). He will judge us through His Son. Jesus told us, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22)(see also Acts 17:31)
Who Will Be Judged? No one will be excused from God’s “final exam.” It will take place in two parts: (1) the judgment of believers, and (2) the judgment of unbelievers.
1. Believers: The Judgment (or Bema) Seat of Christ
Believers will be judged at “the judgment seat of Christ” (Romans 14:10). Paul referred to this judgment when he 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).
This is not a judgment to determine whether a person is going to heaven or hell. That issue was settled by the person’s acceptance or rejection of Christ during his earthly life (Romans 5:1-2).
He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).
At the judgment seat of Christ, believers will either suffer loss or be rewarded, depending on their faithfulness. Although we are saved by faith, our works will be tested (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 4:5; 9:16-27). Christ told three parables to illustrate our accountability to God for the use of all that He has given to us (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 16:1-13; 19:11-27). Some believers will enter heaven by the skin of their teeth. They may get there through a “deathbed conversion” (like the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43). And many will be there who never matured beyond spiritual infancy.
The New Testament mentions that rewards and crowns will be given to those believers who earn them. For example:
• The incorruptible or imperishable crown for those who build their lives with works that please God (1 Corinthians 3:12-14; 9:25-27).
• The crown of righteousness for all who long for His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).
• The crown of life for the person who perseveres in trials (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10; 3:11).
• The crown of glory for good shepherds of the church (1 Peter 5:4).
• The crown of rejoicing for those who lead others to Christ (Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19).
• In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
2. Unbelievers: The Great White Throne Judgment
All unbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne. This will occur after the 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth (Revelation 20:7-15). At that time, the unsaved dead of all the ages will stand before God’s throne. It will not be a time of rejoicing. Every person who stands before the Lord at the Great White Throne will be declared guilty.
“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.” (Revelation 20:11).
The unsaved will be judged on the basis of their relationship to Jesus Christ, and also on the basis of their deeds (Romans 2:5-11). Since these people have rejected the light they had about Christ, they will be excluded from heaven. Their names are not included in the book of life (Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27). On the basis of what they have done on earth, they will suffer varying degrees of judgment in hell (Luke 12:47-48; Revelation 20:12-13).
This discussion about judgment should be upsetting. Hebrews 10:31 tells us that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” We cannot afford to take that warning lightly. And we cannot live without caring about the eternal destiny of those whose lives we touch. Only a cold and calloused heart will hoard the life-giving news about salvation. And only a shortsighted person will refuse the love Christ displayed on the cross and pursue the passing pleasures of sin.
Thinking It Over. If a Christian no longer has to fear judgment for sin, why should he be concerned about facing the judgment seat of Christ? Should a person be content to get to heaven “by the skin of his teeth”? What “crowns” do you think you will receive? Could it be wrong to think too much about what you will get for serving Christ? Take a moment to thank God for providing a way of escape from the penalty of sin.