This is the last post in a seven-part series. The rest of the series can be reached from this post.
After Armageddon, the Millennium, and the final defeat of Satan, all of history is now complete. Everyone’s choice has been made, and no possibility of change remains. It’s time for those choices to be revealed, and the results made known. It’s Judgment Day.
The Bible tells of two separate kinds of judgment, one for those who have trusted in Jesus and another for those who have not.
Judgment Seat of Christ
Christians will be held accountable for their actions (Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10). At issue is not whether anyone has earned the right to be in Heaven. That right is not earned; it is given as a result of trusting in what Jesus has earned. But there will be different results acknowledging faithfulness and service to Christ. Some are described as crowns, such as a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:7-8), a crown of life (James 1:12), or a crown of glory (1 Peter 5:1-4).
These crowns will probably not be held long, though. Revelation 4:10-11 describes “twenty-four elders” casting their crowns before God’s throne in worship. All who receive crowns will agree with them that “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power“.
Great White Throne Judgment
Now it’s time for everyone to face God individually, standing before His throne as the record of all their deeds is examined. The passages below are hard words! But remember, they apply only to those who did not accept Jesus’ gift, His sacrifice so that they could be judged on His righteousness instead of their own.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled 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 if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:11-12,15
But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 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. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’.Matthew 25:31-34, 41
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.Matthew 13:47-50
I have always wondered about that “book of life”. It is mentioned several other times in Revelation (3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 21:27) and even in the Old Testament (Psalm 69:28). I notice that the passage has first “books”, and then the “book of life”. My interpretation is that the books contain records of each individual’s deeds, which can never be good enough to earn life with God. But those deeds are overruled by the person’s name being in the book of life. Existence in that book comes not from merit, but from relationship. If their relationship with God is based on humility, trust, and dependence on His grace, that person will be recorded; otherwise, they will not.
This interpretation answers the question “What about those who haven’t heard of Jesus, so they haven’t become Christians?” God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7), so He recognizes those who follow Him as best they can based on the light that they’ve been given. 1
The depictions of Hell in popular culture show demons with pitchforks tormenting screaming people in the midst of flames. Some of that is definitely wrong: The demons will be residents, not rulers, in Hell! The Bible’s descriptions do regularly include fire and torment, though, as seen in the Judgment passages above 2. Jesus told a story of a specific man in Hell: “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and *saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus so that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool off my tongue, for I am in agony in this flame.’” (Luke 16:19-31).
Several of Jesus’ stories in Matthew (8:12, 22:13, 25:30) also describe the “outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth“. The point conveyed is complete rejection. The message was especially stinging since it was talking about those who expected to be accepted because they thought they were good enough; they were shocked and dismayed to learn otherwise.
Note, by the way, that the lake of fire was not intended for people. It is “the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels“. God does NOT want anyone there (John 3:16-19, 2 Peter 3:8-9). But justice demands it when they reject all His offers of rescue.
After the Judgment, Revelation 21 tells the climax of the story:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”Revelation 21:1-4
The rest of Revelation (21:10 through 22:5) describes the beauty and perfection of this new Jerusalem on a fully renewed Earth that will last forever. As the song says:
When we’ve been there ten thousand years,Amazing Grace
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we first begun.
And Jesus says:
And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”Revelation 22:7
Footnotes and Scripture References
- Note that if you are reading this post, you already don’t have the “didn’t know about Him” excuse, though!
- I wish that I could honestly interpret these verses as being metaphorical instead of literal. That is possible I suppose; I’m certainly not an authority on whether or not God is choosing to repeatedly use a metaphor. But all that I am justified in doing is to put the actual words into this post. If I believe that the Bible is God’s word, then these words are from God also.