Resources to aid your Understanding
TITLE: GOD'S TWO JUDGMENTS
Subtitle: Will You Stand Before God As A Beloved Child Or A Bound Criminal?
Notice the subtitle affords only two possibilities. According to the Word of God there are no legal "loopholes" and a smart lawyer cannot help you to beat the rap. It is one or the other, period! All men who have ever lived, or will ever live, have that inescapable court date to face and make no mistake about it--perfect justice will prevail.
Some Christian brethren have erred in teaching there is only one general judgment, because the Bible teaches otherwise. Others are confused about the various resurrections and chronology of it all, so in an effort to help bring the subject more into focus and hopefully clear up misunderstandings, we offer the following comments.
For any position to be valid, it must agree with the whole of Scripture and not contradict that which is clearly stated--because the Word of God will not contradict itself, if properly "divided" (2 Tim.2:15). Unfortunately, many hold to beliefs that violate this principle. The one general judgment of all mankind is a case in point. The following reference clearly states that believers of the Church Age--Christians--will be judged at "The Judgment Seat of Christ":
"For we must all appear and be revealed as we are before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive [his pay] according to what he has done in the body, whether good or evil, [considering what his purpose and motive have been, and what he has achieved, been busy with and given himself and his attention to accomplishing]" (2 Corinthians 5:10, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
To whom is the apostle Paul referring here? Notice he says "....we must all appear...." Does this mean all men everywhere, without distinction? Absolutely not! The rules of grammar--specifically context--require that we analyze this statement before we jump to unwarranted conclusions. Who is the "we" referred to here? Well, if we take the time to consider the fact that this verse, or statement, is a part of Paul's epistle to the believers in Corinth, the question answers itself! "We" includes Paul too and, along with the "all," restricts the statement to believers--not everyone in the whole world, as would be the case for a general judgment. Then when we couple this with the fact that "the judgment seat" is "bema" in the Greek, we discover an entirely different slant on things. What is a "bema"? Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible tells us the following:
bema, Greek 968, Strong’s
bema, bay'-ma; from the base of Greek 939 (basis); a step, i.e. foot-breath; by implication a rostrum, i.e. tribunal :- judgment-seat, set [foot] on, throne. (emphasis mine).
The mental image Paul is projecting for us concerns one of his favorite methods of illustration--the sports of his day--the Greco-Roman games. The bema was a raised platform upon which the judges for the various athletic competetions stood when they awarded the winners. Does this sound like the awesome bench of a judge--one who holds the power of life and death in his hands? By no means! It is an image of great comfort for the believer, because it combines the solemn aspect of judgment with that of potential reward. Our great and merciful and gracious God has promised that faithful service will not go unrewarded! Notice what Paul had to say in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:
"For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is [already] laid, which is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. (12) But if any one builds upon the Foundation, whether it be with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, (13) The work of each [one] wil become (plainly, openly) known--shown for what it is; for the day (of Christ) will disclose and declare it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test and critically appraise the character and worth of the work each person has done. (14) If the work which any person has built on this Foundation--any product of his efforts whatever--survives (this test), he will get his reward. (15) But if any person's work is burned up [under the test], he will suffer the loss (of it all, losing his reward), though he himself will be saved, but only as [one who has passed] through fire"(Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary, emphasis mine).
Jesus Christ will sit in judgment upon the works of the members of His Body and Bride, the Church, by testing them with fire. Note the discending order of their relative worth: "Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, and straw." Gold, silver, and precious stones will withstand the heat, but wood, hay, and straw will be burned. The Lord determines the degree of worth and fire will reveal the result. If a believer's works are totally consumed by the process and thus shown to be worthless, he/she will suffer the loss of not being the "winner of the race," but their salvation never comes into question. That point was forever settled on the cross at Calvary.
The Church is a separate entity from Israel, the unfaithful Old Testament wife of Jehovah, and we must not blur the distinction between them. None of the Old Testament prophets ever "saw" the Church, because it was a divine mystery--not revealed as Scripture until Paul had the priviledge of doing so. They looked over the Church, like it was a valley between two mountain-tops, and saw only the Millennial reign of their Messiah. The Old Testament saints have no part in the Church because they lived and died under an entirely different covenant--Law instead of Grace. Therefore, another judgment will obviously be required for them, not to mention those saved during the Tribulation Period after the Church is removed and then those of the Millennium itself!.
At this point it will probably be helpful to discuss the resurrections associated with judgment. Based on Revelation 20:4-6, most (with the exception of those who insist upon one general judgment), will argue that there will only be two--one prior to the Millennium and one immediately after--the "Great White Throne" judgment of Revelation 20:11.
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years" Rev. 20:4-6 (KJV, emphasis mine).
"They lived" obviously denotes a resurrection, because they had been "beheaded.". This resurrection and not that of verse 5 has to be the "first resurrection," because the resurrection of the lost is certainly not for those "blessed and holy" (vs.6). The sentence structure is confusing, but common sense straightens it out. So this "first" resurrection is emphasized as being distinct from that in which the lost will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium. But will the "first" resurrection be comprised of just a single event? We insist that this cannot be the case, because there was a resurrection of the saints concurrent with the death of Christ (Matt.27:52). How, then, must this be viewed, if there are only two? Obviously this throws a "monkey-wrench" into the cogs of that position--one that is usually "resurrected" (pun intended) to argue against the Rapture of the Church. To say that an event is "first" does not necessarily preclude it from containing several parts, because "first" is a relative term. World War II preceded the Korean War and thus we say it came "first". But examination will show that WWII consisted of at least two separate wars--one in Europe against Germany and one in the Pacific against Japan--with the war in Europe concluded before the one against Japan. The same is true of the resurrections. The "first" resurrection has already seen one element completed, with more to come in the future.
Note that Paul tells the believers in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 that the Lord is coming "with all His saints". This means that at the Rapture, those Old Testament saints resurrected with Christ will come with Him to greet the Church! We find this resurrection in Matthew 27:
"And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many" Matthew 27:51-53 (KJV)
Technically speaking, Christ was resurrected first--because He is "the firstborn from among the dead" (Col.1:18), but the Old Testament saints were resurrected concurrently. The Old Testament type for Christ's resurrection was the wave sheaf (shock, or bundle of grain) (Lev.23:10-12) and the use of this symbol definitely indicates plurality.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" John 12:24 (KJV)
The grain of wheat (Christ) was buried and came forth as a sheaf of many kernels. The inference is that this resurrection "de-populated" Paradise of its inhabitants. (The grave, the abode of the dead--sheol in Hebrew and hades in Greek--apparently consisted of two "compartments": Paradise, the place for God's elect--and hades itself, the place of torment. This we infer from the Lord's teaching concerning the "rich man and Lazarus" in Luke 16:19-31).
Then in Ephesians chapter four, the apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 68:18 and says:
"Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" Ephes. 4:8 (KJV)
The illustration is that of a conquering general leading a triumphal parade into his home city to show off the "spoils of war"--the people taken captive and their possessions. This speaks of Jesus Christ's triumph over sin and death--that which makes captives of men--and thus He took captivity itself captive, releasing the redeemed from its clutches. And too, we need to notice it says "...and gave gifts unto men." The triumphant general would often display his generosity by throwing money to the adoring crowd and even to those who were his captives--thereby allowing them to share in his wealth. The Lord not only carried His saints into heaven, but graciously rewarded them as well.
So as we come back to our text in 1 Thessalonians, we find that a few verses later in chapter four Paul explains the Rapture. The context of these two passages defines what he meant by "coming with all His saints"--that is, he is speaking of the Old Testament believers. The Rapture, which involves the resurrection of "the dead in Christ," will take place next, with the dead Tribulation saints being raised later to complete "the first resurrection". The Millennial saints pose a separate problem for which we can offer no definitive answer from Scripture. It appears that either (1) none of God's elect will die during the Millinneum, or (2) if they do, their resurrection will, of necessity, have to be the "final installment" on the first resurrection. Longevity of life, enjoyed by man prior to the flood, will be restored during that time (Isaiah 65:20), so living the entire1000 years is not out of the question. (Lord willing, we will have another article which will deal with the Millennium in more detail).
But getting back to our subject at hand--Revelation 20:4 raises an interesting question, so let us look again at what it says and then comment:
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (KJV, emphasis mine).
Now John sees them as having been resurrected and reigning with Christ during the Millennium. Some of you are probably saying, "But I always thought the Church was supposed to reign with Christ! What is going on here?" Well, "reigning" is somewhat a matter of semantics, because we must bear in mind that the 12 Apostles will judge the 12 Tribes of Israel during the Millennium.(Matt.19:28 and Luke 22:30). They will act as rulers--as will those mentioned in the verse above--and that is the meaning of the Greek word translated "reign"--
basileuo, Greek 936, Strong’s
basileuo, bas-il-yoo'-o; from Greek 935 (basileus); to rule (literal or figurative) :- king, reign.(emphasis mine).
The Church, however, is exalted to a much higher status! Remember that
we were chosen "in" Christ from before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4).
That phrase "in Christ" is repeated over and over throughout the
New Testament and when we consider the fact that the Church is the Bride
of Christ and marriage makes "two become one flesh" (Matthew 19:5-6), the
following verse takes on much greater meaning:
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne" Rev. 3:21, (KJV, emphasis mine).
We are joint-heirs with Christ, according to the following:
"And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together" Romans 8:17 (KJV, emphasis mine)
To be a joint-heir with Christ obviously puts the Church far above those who merely rule and that thought should humble us greatly.
So now that we have explored the Judgment Seat of Christ, what about judgment due the Old Testament, Tribulation Period, and Millennial saints? In Matt.25:32 we find that when Christ separates the "sheep from the goats" at the Second Coming, the context of the chapter indicates judgment takes place. It is clear from Rev.20:4, previously quoted, that the martyred saints of the Tribulation Period are resurrected at that time and will have to be judged after they receive their glorified bodies (1 Cor.15:35-54, **explanation to follow) to reign with Christ during the Millennium. The saints who survive the Tribulation Period will enter the Kingdom in their earthly bodies--but what about the Old Testament saints? Throughout their history they were promised they would share in the Millennial reign of their Messiah, so logic demands they must be given glorified bodies and judged at some point prior to inheriting the Kingdom. Remember Job said that "in my flesh shall I see God" (Job 19:26), so it seems reasonable to conclude that the Old Testament saints were either given their glorified bodies and judged at the time of their resurrection in Matthew 27:52, or will be at the "sheep and goat" judgment prior to the Millennium. I tend to lean to the latter.
**Glorified bodies--In the reference from 1 Corinthians above, Paul states very plainly that "flesh and blood" will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.(vs.50). In direct context, he is speaking to Christians and in verse 51 immediately launches into revealing the divine secret--"mystery"--about the Rapture of the Church. In Philippians 3:21, Paul had this to say about what the Lord was going to do for us:
"Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (KJV, emphasis mine).
This where the term "glorified body" originates. As long as we are in this "vile body"--this depraved, fallen, and sinful body--we cannot stand in God's presence! His holiness will not allow it. That is why we must be "changed in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor.15:52) and given a perfect glorified body just like the one our Savior now occupies. And although the Bible does not specifically state this being done for anyone other than the Church, it seems reasonable to conclude that the rest of God's saints will have to undergo the same process before being allowed to stand before Him..
Hebrews 9:27 says:
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (KJV)
So with this point in mind--that is, men have to die before they are judged--what about the men, women, boys and girls who survive the Tribulation Period and enter the Millennium? All will be saved--100% of them, because the rest will have been judged and consigned to hell--and it is possible that many, if not all, will live the entire 1000 years because long life will be restored. But there are those who insist the Kingdom will be spiritual and no sinful humans will enter it. To those who hold this view, I must ask the obvious question: from what group will Satan raise his army after the 1000 years are completed? Rev. 20:8 says of Satan, after he is loosed:
"And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea" (KJV, emphasis mine).
The Greek word translated "nations" is ethnos and refers to race, or ethnicity. And we must note that it is nations--plural. Satan convinced an innumerable company of angels to follow him into rebellion prior to creation, but this time around it is clearly humans who are in view.
Multiplied millions of children will doubtless be born during that thousand-year span and it stands to reason great numbers will believe in Christ and receive Him as their Savior (but millions of others, born during this time, will not and it is these who will follow the devil and ultimately be devoured by fire--Rev.20:9). When will the Millennial saints die and be judged? According to the verse in Hebrews (9:27), death must precede judgment, so this is definitely a legitimate question. Again, we must "read between the lines" to arrive at a conclusion. After the rebellion, Satan will be finally and forever thrown into the lake of fire "where the beast and false prophet are." Remember the "beast and false prophet" were thrown into the fire prior to the Millinneum and now the unholy trinity will all be together for the first time since the Tribulation Period! Verse 11 then tells of the "Great White Throne" where Christ will sit in judgment. Continuing with verse 12 we read:
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.  And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.  And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" Rev. 20:12-15 (KJV, emphasis mine)
My personal opinion is that the primary application of this passage deals with the lost of all ages, because of the repeated emphasis upon the word "dead". This interpretation has been believed and taught by conservative pastors for centuries, but we are left with the problem of the Millennial saints! What happens to them? May I suggest that another instantaneous "translation"--another Rapture--may take place at that point with the righteous elect being given their glorified bodies and judged concurrently? Note the construction of verse 15--how that it leaves open the possibility of someone's name being found in the book of life. Since the verse is negatively stated ("not found"), let's look at how the Amplified Bible renders it:
"And if any one's [name] was not found recorded in the Book of Life, he was hurled into the lake of fire."
The "if" is important, because it would seem likely the Holy Spirit would have stated "since no one's name was found"--if 100% of those being judged were lost.
And lest we overlook it, notice that verse 12 mentions two types of books: "...the books were opened and another book was opened...." The other book is identified as being the book of life--containing the names of each and every individual chosen (elected) by God to eternal life. But what are the books, plural? Apparently they contain the complete record of each idividual's life, according to the Lord's statement in the following passage:
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" Matthew 12:36 (KJV)
Of necessity this refers to those who are lost, because of the Lord's Words in John 5:24:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (KJV, emphasis mine).
God will judge the believer's works and bestow reward(s) if they have been earned, but the unbeliever's life will be judged and punishment administered immediately. In which group will you be found?
If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.
Return to Pastoral Articles index
Finally, we would love to hear from you. You can write us at:
Cutting Edge Ministries, C/O Pastor Ron Riffe
P.O. Box 26
Gordo, AL 35466
You can also E-Mail Pastor Ronald Riffe regarding questions or comments about this article.
God bless you.