I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: The World's Understanding of the Future and God's
For many people in our 21st century culture, if they think about the future and the afterlife at all, it tends to be a belief that no matter what one's religion or how one view's God, all are heading for heaven and a wonderful eternity.
"In a book, written nearly 50 years ago now, we can see that popular understanding that is still alive and well today. Richard Abanes, in an article in Christianity Today some years ago, wrote this about the book. He said:
The biblical idea of hell and judgment are nowhere to be found in Betty Eadie's bestseller, Embraced By The Light, which was on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 40 weeks, including 5 weeks as #1.
In November 1973, Eadie allegedly died after undergoing a hysterectomy, and returned five hours later with the secrets of heaven revealed by Jesus. Eadie says that Jesus "never wanted to do or say anything that would offend me" while she visited heaven.
Indeed, Jesus seems to be relegated to the role of a happy tour guide in heaven, not the Savior of the world who died on the cross."
Unlike our modern culture, the Bible has a lot to say about sin and judgment in the future. Scripture sees mankind as sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23). And the wages of sin is death, both physically and spiritually. Physical death is separation of body and spirit. Spiritual death is separation from a holy God which, if not remedied, will be throughout eternity.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1 that God's holy and righteous wrath is revealed against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Romans 1:18).
Sin is a rebellion against the God who created and sustains the universe and it is a refusal to have Him rule over you. So, as a righteous God He must judge that rebellion.
Further, for those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin, there is an ultimate judgment day coming that will result in a permanent and final separation from God and all that is good and holy in a place called Hell, and later the Lake of Fire.
Also, the truth is that all men and women, believers in Christ and non-believers alike, will one day stand before a Holy God to be judged by Him. The Scriptures tell of more than one judgment that is yet to come. And we need to explore these judgments in order to know which of them pertains to us specifically so that we may understand what we must do to prepare for them.
I. The Judgment or Bema Seat of Christ (II Corinthians 5:10)
The first judgment that is to take place is what is known as the Judgment or Bema Seat of Christ. Paul tell the Corinthians:
"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 we have done whether good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10).
The word for judgment used here in the Greek is the word bema. The word bema means judgment seat, judicial court or judicial bench. In the first century, the bema was an elevated platform from which political speeches or judicial decisions were made.
But more likely here what the Apostle was alluding to were the Isthmian Games for which the city of Corinth was famous. It was a festival of athletic contests and events similar to the Olympic games. At the end of each contest or event, the athletes would appear before this large, ornately decorated platform or Bema in order to be rewarded.
If you can picture the imagery as it relates to Christ in this verse, Christ is seated on his elevated throne and one day we will stand before him. At that point, Jesus will deliver his judicial decision to all who are believers regarding the rewards that the Christian will receive for service performed for Him during our lifetime on the earth.
In I Corinthians 3:10-15 Paul compares himself to a wise master builder who has laid down the foundation of Jesus Christ for the believers. And once Jesus is the foundation of their life, the Christian builds upon it good deeds that are pleasing to the Lord. He tells the Corinthians here:
According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master
builder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let every man take heed how he builds there.
For no other foundation can any man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
Every man's work shall be revealed: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is.
If any man's work abide which he has built there, he shall receive a reward.
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
Gold, silver and precious stones, when they go through the fire, are not destroyed but refined by the heat of the flames. They are the works done for the glory of God, according to His will. It is those works that will be rewarded.
Wood, hay and stubble gets burned up in the fire of judgment. That will be time spent on this earth that will be lost to eternity, for it wasn't done for Christ but for self and for earthly rewards. It will not be rewarded at the Bema Seat of our Lord.
This is not a judgment for sin. Jesus Christ took our sins upon Himself on the cross of Calvary (II Corinthians 5:17). The believer no longer has to suffer God's wrath for their sins. Jesus did it for us by dying in our place.
The Bema judgment will take place immediately following the next great event in end-time history, the Rapture of the Church. The Church is made up of all believers, living and dead, who have accepted Jesus Christ in this age in which we are now living called the Dispensation of the Grace of God.
I Thessalonians 4:13-18 tells us that the dead believers in Christ will rise first. Then all of us, if we are alive then, will immediately be caught up or raptured together with them to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. And then we will forever be with Him.
It is then that Christ will reward us for what we've done for Him.
II. Judgment and Separation Between the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)
Right after the catching-up of the Church will come a prophesied event called the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:14; Matthew 24:21-29). It is a time of God's wrath and judgment upon this earth for sin and a time that the Lord will use to bring His people Israel back to Him so that He can fulfill all of His promises to them and their Fathers.
During this Tribulation there will arise two characters known as the Beast or anti-Christ and the false prophet who will lead a one-world government and a false religion that is energized by Satan Himself. It will be a horrible time that has never been seen since the creation of the world and never will be again.
During that 7 year period there will be many who are converted to Christ from around the world. But also there will be many who won't turn and be saved. Then Jesus will come back to set up His Kingdom. This will begin a time called the Millennium or thousand year reign of Christ.
It is at the beginning of this thousand years that Jesus will perform another judgment known as the separation of the sheep and the goats. When Jesus returns to earth he will fight with the forces of Anti-Christ in the Battle of Armageddon and will win. Then the judgment begins.
The sheep are Christ's followers who came out of the Great Tribulation from all the nations of the world. The goats are those who didn't follow Christ but the Anti-Christ. The judgment described here is sometimes referred to as the judgment of the nations. However, the verdicts are addressing individuals within the nations and not the nations themselves.
Matthew 25:31-46 describes the sheep and goat judgment. Here is part of it:
"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left." (Matthew 25:31-33).
The sheep enter the Millennial Kingdom that later becomes Christ's eternal Kingdom. The goats are cast into eternal punishment, which is hell, and then the Lake of Fire (Matthew 25:46).
We see later in this passage that the major way that the sheep demonstrate that they have faith in Christ and truly follow Him is the way that they have treated God's people Israel during the Tribulation. Here is the King's conversation with the sheep and the goats:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (25:34-46).
Connected to this separation and punishment of the sheep and goats is another judgment. It is that of the Beast and the false prophet.
III. The Judgment of the Beast and False Prophet (Revelation 19:20-21)
This judgment and the next that I am going to relay to you are not actually called judgments in the Scripture but they are nonetheless. The judgment of the beast and the false prophet is spoken of in Revelation 19. Here is what the book of Revelation has to say about them:
"And the Beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the Beast and those who worshipped his image; these two were thrown alive into the Lake of Fire which burns with fire and brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came out of the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh (Revelation 19:20,21).
This all takes place shortly after the battle of Armageddon, and before the thousand year reign of Christ. Jesus wages war with these evil men and their forces who are backed by Satan's power. Satan isn't completely dealt with at this time, although he is chained and placed into what Revelation 20:1-3 calls the abyss for 1000 years.
But Satan is the next to be judged.
IV. The Judgment and Doom of Satan (Revelation 20:7-10)
After the thousand years are complete, Satan will be loosed again for a short period and will immediately begin where he left off to try to take over the kingdom of Christ. He will lead an army of rebels known as Gog and Magog against the the Lord and His forces but will quickly be overtaken. Here, in Revelation 20:7-10, is the account:
"When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the Lake of Fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever."
With the defeat and final doom of these evil beings, the time then comes for the last judgment on sinful humanity who don't follow the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. That is the Great White Throne Judgment.
V. The Judgment of the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15)
The Great White Throne judgment is for all who haven't been saved by grace through faith and is a judging according to deeds. Jesus is the judge, as he has been for the other judgments as well. Sadly, since no one can be saved by works because it means you have to be perfect, all who are here at this judgment seat will be condemned. Revelation 20:11-15 tells us what happens:
"Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven flee away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death, the Lake of Fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the Lake of Fire."
These are probably the most sad verses in all of Scripture. For those who are at this time of judgment are eternally separated from all that is good and will not share in the hope of the future planned for those whom our Lord has redeemed.
The good news is that no one has to be at that last judgment. All who accept the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for their sins can know the joys of Revelation 21 which immediately follows the terror of that Great White Throne.
There will be a New Heaven and a New Earth where righteousness and joy dwells. There will be no more mourning or crying or pain and our Lord will wipe away every tear from our eyes. Disease, and death will be no more. It will indeed be paradise regained!
And we will reign with Christ forever. Paul tells us that God the Father will place all things under Jesus' feet and Christ will then be subject to God the Father so that the Father may be all in all (I Corinthians 15:27,28). The apostle also refers to this as the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times in Ephesians 1:10.
If you are one who has placed your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, then thank God every day that he has taken the wrath and judgment of your sins upon Himself and you no longer have to be terrified of the last days.
If you haven't accepted Jesus. then fall on your knees today and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord. There is no decision that you can make in your life that is of any more consequence than the one to come to Jesus Christ and be saved. May we spend the rest of our lives and into eternity thanking Him for what He has done for us!
© 2021 Jeff Shirley