Judgment: judgment of the Church, white throne and nations
The Bible speaks of various judgments, which occur at different times and places. Furthermore, the parties being judged vary. In this chapter, we will examine three different judgments by Jesus Christ and when they take place. The judgment of the nations is particularly crucial for part two, as it occurs shortly after His Second Coming.
The Judgment of the Church
The Church is shielded from God's wrath and judgments on Earth. However, Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and be evaluated. One significant difference between the judgment of the Church and other judgments is that those appearing before this judgment cannot be lost. Rather than judgment, I prefer to call it evaluation. The Lord Jesus examines what we have done on Earth, distinguishing between good and bad deeds. This does not pertain to the sins for which we have sought forgiveness; those sins have been forgiven by the Lord Jesus, and He no longer holds them against us.
"He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:9-12)
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
When the Bible speaks of forgiveness, it uses the Greek word ‘ap-hiēmi’, which literally means to send away or let go. When God forgives us, He has sent our sins away. The Lord Jesus will not bring them up again. Nevertheless, we will stand before His judgment seat.
"Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 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 5:9-10)
Paul wrote this passage to the believers in Corinth. He stated that believers would appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and thus, Paul desired to be well pleasing to the Lord Jesus during his life. If Paul was well pleasing to Jesus, it means the Lord Jesus looked at Paul and said, 'I am pleased with Paul.' Let's explore a few examples of how we can be well pleasing to Jesus.
"Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret." (Ephesians 5:6-13)
Paul urges us to walk in the light and not in darkness. Darkness is filled with hatred, unfruitful works, and deeds so terrible they are shameful to mention. We must determine what is acceptable to the Lord. This involves continually seeking what God wants in a situation and putting it into practice. The greatest commandment is to love God and one another. Walk in the light, in love, and in accordance with God's will. Then you will be pleasing to Jesus. In the following passage, Paul provides more exhortations, primarily concerning relationships among people. He talks about women, men, children, fathers, and servants (equivalent to employees today). Paul calls for everything to be done for the Lord Jesus.
"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them. Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality." (Colossians 3:18-25)
Being well pleasing to the Lord Jesus does not involve competition. It's not as if God keeps a scorecard, tallying how many people we've led to faith or how much money we've given to the poor, and then judges our favor with Him based on these criteria.
"Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13:20-21)
We should do what God's will is. We find God's will in the Bible, but God can also personally reveal His will to someone. This book does not delve into that aspect. Let's return to 2 Corinthians 5.
"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 5:9-10)
Everyone will receive something from God, and what we receive depends on what we have done. It is not possible to lose eternity in this evaluation. Every believer enters heaven, and everyone is in the presence of God. However, there are differences in heaven. Some receive greater wealth and treasure than others. How exactly this appears, I do not know, but it is a biblical concept.
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly." (Matthew 6:1-4)
When we give our tithes or offerings, we should do so in secret. We should not broadcast how much we have given or whether we contribute to charitable causes. Often, when someone wins a large sum of money and someone asks, "What will you do with it?" many people say, "A portion will go to charity." Jesus says, "Do not do this; do not let anyone know, and do not trumpet it to others." We should not do this because we have already received our reward from other people. By keeping it secret, we receive a reward from God. This reward can be received (in part) on Earth, but will be most evident during the evaluation at the judgment seat of Christ. Matthew 6 discusses various instances where God rewards us.
"For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:11-15)
Paul explains that Jesus is our foundation, and it is our responsibility to build upon this foundation. Some build with wood, hay, or straw, such as in the example from Matthew where someone gives money to a charitable cause and boasts about it. Or consider someone who performs deeds without love. Others build with gold, silver, or precious stones. Such individuals may give to charity but keep it secret and perform actions with love for the Lord Jesus. Every believer is saved, but some may suffer loss during this evaluation, while others receive a reward.
"However, what do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way." (Romans 14:10-13)
Paul explains that we should not judge other brothers and sisters. Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. We should look at our own lives and live in purity because everyone will be accountable to the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is the Judge of all, and we should not meddle in the affairs of other brothers and sisters. Of course, it is good to lovingly admonish and warn fellow believers about sin.
The judgment seat of Christ likely takes place when He comes to gather the believers, which is the rapture of the church. In Revelation, Jesus said:
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work." (Revelation 22:12)
The Judgment of the Nations
In Chapter 4, we read about God judging the earth and its inhabitants with plagues during the Great Tribulation. After the Great Tribulation, Jesus returns and will judge those who have survived it. Many engage in war against the Lord Jesus and perish during this war. This war is part of the judgment of the nations. Those who do not engage in war will be judged later on Earth, and the Lord Jesus will decide whether they may enter the Millennial Kingdom or be cast into hell. The judgment of the nations is one of the most challenging topics in this book, and there is much debate about it. I want to present this paragraph for your consideration because it is an important part of God's Word. Let's study the first text.
"For behold, in those days and at that time, when I bring back the captives of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; and I will enter into judgment with them there on account of My people, My heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations; they have also divided up My land." (Joel 3:1-2)
Joel is speaking about a time when God will bring an end to the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem. During the Great Tribulation, Jerusalem will be trampled by the Gentiles. God decides that the time of the Gentile trampling of Jerusalem is over and intervenes on behalf of His people, resulting in a great war. Jesus wins this war. During that time, God will gather all the nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat means "The Lord Judges" or "The Lord Decides." It is not known where this valley is, but God will gather all the nations there. The accusation during this trial is how the nations treated the people of Israel. Did they participate in the scattering of the Jews, or did they assist the Jews during their difficult times?
God calls the nations together, summoning them with weapons to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This is likely referring to the same war as described in Revelation 19.
"Proclaim this among the nations: "Prepare for war! Stir up the mighty men! Let all the men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am strong.'" Assemble and come, all you nations, and gather together all around. Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O LORD!" (Joel 4:9-11)
After this proclamation, we expect a great war, as we can read in Revelation 19. However, the tone changes in this chapter. Instead of speaking about war, it shifts back to the imagery of a trial.
"Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations." (Joel 4:12)
God gathers the nations in the Valley of Jehoshaphat to judge them. God stands for Israel's defense, and the nations receive God's wrath and judgment. This judgment begins with the Lord Jesus overcoming the armies of the enemy. Subsequently, the surviving nations are judged. Revelation 19 speaks of the war led by the Lord Jesus against the nations. Revelation 20 discusses a judgment that occurs immediately after this war and His return.
"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. (…)" (Revelation 20:4)
Could this refer to the judgment of the nations? It's possible. The imagery in Revelation 20:4 is similar to that in Daniel.
"I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened." (Daniel 7:9-10)
The Lord Jesus begins His trial, and the books are opened. The court pronounces judgment upon the Antichrist and his earthly kingdom, as described in the following verse:
"But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his (the Antichrist's) dominion, to consume and destroy it forever." (Daniel 7:26)
The dominion of the Antichrist is taken away through the war led by the Lord Jesus in Revelation 19. Afterward, Jesus returns and a new trial takes place on Earth, with the same purpose as the trials in Joel and Daniel. In Daniel, we see that the trial comes first, followed by the judgment of the Antichrist's kingdom. It's possible that the judgment of the nations spans multiple trials or extends beyond a single day, beginning before the war and concluding after it. Let's read the prophecy in Zephaniah to see who is part of the judgment of the nations.
"I have cut off nations, their fortresses are devastated; I have made their streets desolate, with none passing by. Their cities are destroyed; there is no one, no inhabitant. I said, 'Surely you will fear Me, you will receive instruction'—so that her dwelling would not be cut off, despite everything for which I punished her. But they rose early and corrupted all their deeds. Therefore wait for Me,' says the LORD, 'Until the day I rise up for plunder; My determination is to gather the nations to My assembly of kingdoms, to pour on them My indignation, all My fierce anger; all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of My jealousy." (Zephaniah 3:6-8)
In the book of Zephaniah, it appears that the judgment of the nations punishes entire nations. No one from a nation is spared; everyone is judged based on their actions toward the Israelites, both good and evil. Now, let's examine the text where Jesus spoke in a parable in the New Testament regarding the judgment of the nations.
"When the son of man comes in his Glory, and all the Holy Angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of Glory” (Matthew 25:31)
The Lord Jesus states that He is the one who will judge the nations. God the Father has given the authority to the Son to judge all people. This occurs when He returns, accompanied by His angels, to sit on the throne of David on Earth.
"All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matthew 25:32-33)
All the nations on Earth are gathered together. Jesus will divide them into two groups, just as a shepherd separates sheep from goats. There is no middle ground; the sheep are the righteous nations, and the goats are the unrighteous nations. I believe that Jesus judges entire nations in this context. Here, Jesus is not judging believers; they have been raptured into heaven, martyred during the Great Tribulation, or gathered by angels at His return.
"And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matthew 24:31)
This judgment is pronounced upon non-believers who are alive at the time of the Second Coming. The Lord Jesus does not examine the individual life of each person; rather, He assesses the actions of nations or lands. The righteous nations are placed at His right hand, while the unrighteous nations are placed at His left hand.
"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me." (Matthew 25:34-36)
The righteous nations are invited to enter the Millennial Kingdom, as described in Chapter 13. They will enjoy an earthly existence with the Lord Jesus as their king because of their kind treatment of Him.
"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?"" (Matthew 25:37-39)
The righteous nations express surprise. They recognize the great King seated on His throne in all His glory. If they had done a favor for Him, it surely would have been noticed. It's not about just any person, beggar, prisoner, sick person, or stranger; it's about the great King!
"And the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." (Matthew 25:40)
The Lord Jesus explains to the righteous nations that whatever they did for the least of His brethren, they did it for Him. I believe this refers to the people of Israel because Joel prophesied this. How the nations treated Israel is the standard for this judgment. It's possible that Jesus, in addition to Israel, is speaking about believers, and nations that treated Christians well may also be spared. Which countries would be considered righteous nations today?
"Then He will also say to those on the left hand, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me." Then they also will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?" Then He will answer them, saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me."' (Matthew 25:41-45)
After Jesus promises that the righteous nations may enter the Millennial Kingdom, it is now the turn of the unrighteous nations. They are not allowed to enter this kingdom; instead, they are cast into the eternal fire. This means they will be killed and will await the Great White Throne Judgment, where their final punishment will be decided, and they will be cast into the lake of fire. What a dreadful state! The reason for this is that they did not care for the least of Jesus' brethren, which might refer to the Israelites and perhaps the Christians.
"And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:46)
In verse 46, the Lord Jesus summarizes the judgment of the nations. The righteous nations may enter the Millennial Kingdom and eternal life, while the unrighteous will face eternal punishment. I find this text challenging. Does Jesus mean that the righteous nations already possess eternal life? Is it not possible for them to lose this eternal life during the Millennial Kingdom? After all, the judgment of the nations is about people who have not died and have not received glorified bodies. Maybe the Lord Jesus is so pleased with the nations that cared for His followers and the Israelites during the Great Tribulation that this is equivalent to choosing Him. It remains remarkable that entire nations are either saved or condemned. In any case, no one in these nations will have taken the mark of the beast. They are under God's judgment and wrath, with no way back to God. Perhaps they have all died during the Great Tribulation or are among the goats (Revelation 14:9-11 and 16:2). The judgment of the nations is a complex subject, but I hope this paragraph has provided a good understanding of it.
The Great White Throne
The final judgment of God is the judgment pronounced at the Great White Throne. This is described in Revelation 20.
"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)
Many Christians fear this white throne judgment. They believe it's the moment when it's determined whether someone is saved or not. They hope that Jesus' sacrifice and their faith were sufficient for them to hear at this judgment that they are saved. Fortunately, no believers appear before this white throne. They have already ruled with Christ for a thousand years during the Millennium and have been taken to heaven before the Great Tribulation. It would be odd for someone who has experienced these events to be condemned at this point. Jesus said that we do not come under this judgment and do not come into condemnation.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:1)
"Most assuredly, I say to you, 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)
When someone comes to faith, they have passed from being spiritually dead to spiritually alive. This doesn't refer to a dead or living body, but to a dead or living spirit. Someone who is spiritually alive has a relationship with God, while someone who is spiritually dead does not.
The Great White Throne is meant for unbelievers. When this throne appears, the earth and the heaven flee away, and they are no longer found. All the old has passed away, and our current earth and heaven have disappeared. After this moment, God creates a new heaven and a new earth.
"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:12-15)
John saw the dead standing before God. This does not refer to the believers because they are alive. Unbelievers have no relationship with God, and thus, during their earthly life, they did not come to a living faith but remained spiritually dead. Believers participate in the first resurrection, which takes place before the thousand-year reign. During that time, the dead must wait for a thousand years for the Great White Throne judgment.
"(...) and they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4-6)
Believers take part in the first resurrection, making them immune to the second death. The first death is physical death, which has power over everyone; all will experience physical death. The second death is spiritual death, which entails eternal separation from God. This fate awaits the spiritually dead, including the great and the small, kings and servants, the rich and the poor, employers and employees.
John saw the dead standing before God. This is remarkable because how can a deceased person stand? This occurs because God allows everyone to rise from the dead. John speaks of the dead, but they are, in reality, alive. Their spirit and relationship with God are dead, but they have received new bodies.
"Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation." (John 5:28-29)
Believers rise to the resurrection of life, which is the first resurrection. Unbelievers rise to the resurrection of condemnation, which is the second death. This applies to all the dead; no one is exempt. Whether someone died at sea or on land, whether they were buried or cremated, all the dead stand before the Great White Throne. Then, a book is opened, the Book of Life, containing the names of living individuals like Moses, Abraham, David, Daniel, and hopefully many more. I hope this is the thickest book I will ever see. The Book of Life lists those who belong to Jesus and are allowed to enter heaven, escaping condemnation.
"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." (Revelation 3:5)
The dead will realize that their names are not written in this book. This is the most dreadful moment in human history, and it is our duty to reach people with God's gospel to make the Book thicker and reduce the number standing before the Great White Throne. Then, their works are examined, and new books are opened. It will become apparent that no one is good enough, by their own merit, to enter heaven. The evidence is complete; everyone has received a fair (albeit a rough) trial, and all have been justly judged. Jesus carries out the sentence, casting death and the realm of death into the lake of fire. Everyone waiting in the realm of the dead for the Great White Throne judgment is found guilty and transferred from the realm of the dead to hell. The realm of the dead serves no purpose anymore and ceases to exist. The realm of the dead is essentially a waiting room where the dead await Jesus' judgment. Only those whose names are in the Book of Life are not cast into this lake. The dead are cast into it, proving that no one's works are deemed completely good and righteous by Jesus.
The Bible speaks of various judgments. The Church of Christ is not condemned, but is evaluated at the judgment seat of Christ. Jesus assesses who is well-pleasing in His eyes. Those who do good works are saved and rewarded, while those who perform wrong deeds are saved but suffer loss. This judgment likely occurs at the Rapture of the Church. During and after Jesus' Second Coming, the judgment of the nations takes place. The nations that treated Israel and perhaps Jesus' followers well are allowed to participate in the thousand-year reign, while those who didn't are condemned. This judgment occurs on Earth in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Finally, the last judgment takes place at the Great White Throne. All the dead are judged according to their works, and everyone is cast into the lake of fire, except for Christians. This judgment does not take place on Earth, as the Earth and the heavens flee just before it, and afterward, God creates a new heaven and a new Earth.
This chapter is in the book A Revelation of the End Times. Read this book right now, so that you don't miss anything about the end times, live in expectation and your faith is increased. The rapture of the church is a special prophecy from the Word of God. Due to the many theories and ideas about this event, many no longer know what is and what is not Biblical. Timo Groot takes you through the Biblical data about the rapture and why the rapture is more relevant today than ever before. The rapture is the hope of escaping the terrible things that are going to happen on earth and is the moment when the church will see the Lord Jesus face to face in the father's house of God.