The Coming Judgments and Resurrections (Part 1)
And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom he wants. The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him… And he has granted him the right to pass judgment, because he is the Son of Man (John 5:21-23, 27).
This passage clearly teaches that the Judge will be the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Christ declared that His judgment will be just and fair and in accordance with the will of the Father; I can do nothing on my own. I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of him who sent me (5:30). He is not a respecter of persons, so the things that the world would normally regard as something special or important, will mean nothing to the judge (cf. Isaiah 11:4-5). Since He sees and knows everything (cf. Revelation 1:14; 2:18), He cannot be fooled, and He will not overlook any facts or issues. His holiness (Revelation 3:7) guarantees that He will judge according to God’s moral absolutes. At one time or another, everybody will stand before the Judge and nobody will be able to manipulate, bribe, trick, or deceive Him. Although He is a merciful, gracious, and loving God, He will be a just Judge who will judge in righteousness.
It is important to note that when a person comes before the Judge, it will not be to determine his or her eternal destiny, that destiny was already determined by the person here on earth. No one will be saved after dead; salvation comes to those who at some point during their lifetime here on earth, placed their trust in Him as Lord and Savior. We will then explore the purpose of the future judgments. The future judgments can be broken into three main groups:
At the Rapture
But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10).
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Since the redeemed will appear before “the judgment seat of Christ,” several questions come to mind.
Question 1. What is the judgment seat of Christ? When Paul speaks of the “judgment seat of Christ,” he is referring to it as the “bema.” Paul Benware explains that,
“The Greek word bema is used by the apostle Paul to describe this judgment. A bema was a seat or raised platform where a judge sat as he made his decision regarding a case (e.g., Matt. 27:19; John 19:13; Acts 18:12). This word was also used in connection with the platform on which the umpire or referee sat during the Olympic games or the Isthmain games at Corinth. This was the place where the winners of the various events received their rewards. The apostle Paul seems to have this idea of reward in mind as he speaks of the “judgment seat of Christ.” This, then, is actually a place of rewarding, not punishing.”1
The “judgment seat of Christ” is that place where the believers’ Savior and Lord will sit and evaluate their lives for the purpose that will be explained shortly.
Question 2. When will this judgment occur? It will occur in heaven immediately after Christ raptures the church.
So don’t judge anything prematurely, before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work (Revelation 22:12).
In Luke 14:14, the Lord taught that Christians will be rewarded at the time of the resurrection, which is an important part of the Rapture.
And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
By the time believers return to earth with Christ at the Second Coming, Revelation 19:8 teaches that the bride of Christ will have already been rewarded, an event which will take place in the heavenlies.
She was given fine linen to wear, bright and pure. For the fine linen represents the righteous acts of the saints.
Question 3. Where will this judgment occur? The judgment seat of Christ is the place in heaven where Christ will reward those who were faithful and obedient and will withhold reward from those who were not.
Question 4. Who are those being judged? All church age believers who were raptured prior to the start of the Tribulation. When one considers the various passages that discuss the judgment seat of Christ, one will find that it is believers of this church age who are being encouraged and exhorted (Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10). Only those redeemed during the church age will appear before the Lord. None of those who appear before the Lord will be condemned, for they have trusted Jesus Christ for their salvation. Paul wrote,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
Every single church age believer will appear before Jesus Christ. Old Testament saints will not participate in this judgement.
Question 5. What is the purpose of the judgement? The believer’s works will be examined and tested by the Lord to determine if they merit rewards. In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul stated that every single Christian would build something upon the foundation he had laid. That which we build is that which will be judged. The materials that we use to build the edifice represent that which both pleased and honored God or did not.
According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one is to be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious. For the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will experience loss, but he himself will be saved—but only as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
The following five things will be reviewed:
- Our conduct. But you, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God (Roman 14:10-12). For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil (2 Corinthians 5:10).
- Our service. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value (1 Corinthians 3:13 NLT).
- Our words. I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak (Matthew 12:36).
- Out motives. Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. Truly I tell you, they have their reward (Matthew 6:1-2). So don’t judge anything prematurely, before the Lord comes, who will both bring to light what is hidden in darkness and reveal the intentions of the hearts. And then praise will come to each one from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
- Our thoughts. No creature is hidden from him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account (Hebrews 4:13).
Question 6. What is the result of the rewarding? There are both negative and positive results to be experienced by believers: First, negatively, there will be a sense of shame because of the loss of rewards (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:15; 1 John 2:28), not of salvation (1 Corinthians 3:15).
Second, positively, those rewarded will have opportunity to serve Christ in greater ways during His literal millennium kingdom on earth (cf. Matthew 25:19-23; Luke 19:16-19), experience a special joy and fellowship (Matthew 25:21, 23; 1 Peter 4:12-13), receive divine commendation (Matthew 25:21), and obtain a variety of “crowns” (e.g. 1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4).
Our sin was dealt with once for all at the cross, so it does not factor into this judgment.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).
He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The redeemed will never face judgment for their sin. The Lord Jesus Christ took our sin on the cross and the Father judged it, and Christ paid the penalty upon His death. God’s righteous judgment was satisfied, for Christ rose from the dead. However, sin will influence what transpires at the judgment seat of Christ in terms of whether we lose or gain rewards.
1 Benware, Understanding End Times Prophecy: A Comprehensive Approach, Op. cit., p. 271.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.
Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at KnowingChristianity.blogspot.com.
Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D. and published by Reasons for Faith International Ministries, Inc. by permission. No part may be altered or edited in any way. Permission is granted to use in digital or printed form so long as it is circulated without charge, and in its entirety. This document may not be repackaged in any form for sale or resale. All reproductions must contain the copyright notice (i.e., Copyright © 2006-2021 Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.) and this Copyright/Limitations notice.