Introduction to the Judgment
This study includes:
A review of our death and resurrection,
All of this indicates that death is not the end of it all. A person does not cease to exist when their body dies.
So many people think we are in the land of the living, on our way to the land of the dying. But the reality is that we who belong to Christ are currently in the land of the dying on our way to the land of the living. Let me say it again this way: The Bible knows nothing of a concept of death that means the person ceases to exist.
Let's look at a diagram I have created to help us understand the time between when a person dies and their resurrection. Earlier in our series (about one year ago), we studied in much greater detail the subject of death and the resurrection. At that time I showed you this chart. I believe it would do well to show it again to refresh our memory. Some of the things on this chart depict some of the events we have already discussed today. Let me review those and continue through the chart.
First, let me say that I have put the "cross" on the chart to indicate, that this chart depicts how things are since the resurrection of Christ. Prior to His resurrection, Hades, (or Sheol in the Old Testament), had two compartments. Before Christ's own resurrection, all spirits, godly or ungodly, when to Sheol (Hades). The second place was not a place of torment, but was called "paradise." These are both mentioned in Luke 16.
Let's begin one the chart with the line called "LIFE". The first thing we need to know about death is that it is not a random event. As we saw earlier, the Bible says, "It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment." (Heb. 9:27).
Unless Christ returns during your lifetime, this is one appointment you will keep. Death is a 100% certainty for all of us - except those taken in the Rapture. The only uncertainty from our standpoint is when it (death) is going to happen. This adds to some people's anxiety about death because people tend to have greater fear of the unknown. And, by the way, anyone who does not know Jesus Christ as their Savior, ought to be uncomfortable about facing death.
A few minutes ago, I asked you what happens to a person when they die. At that point, we said that the only part of a person that dies is the body. The body of all people, whether saved or unsaved, go to the grave. That grave can be in a formal cemetery, or out in the open desert, where vultures can pick at the bones, or at the bottom of the sea, surrounded by water and sand.
Unlike the body, the spirits of the saved and unsaved do not take the same road. According to Luke 16:23, the spiritual part of an unsaved person goes to a place of torment. But the spirits of those washed in the blood of Jesus, go immediately to heaven (2 Cor 5:8).
Eventually, the Rapture is going to happen. We do not know the day or the hour when it will happen, but our Heavenly Father does. When the Rapture occurs, we are told in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17:
1. The bodies of the saved person will be resurrected first and are reunited with their spirit.
This leaves us three areas for which to account.
1. Living people who are unbelievers at the time of the Rapture
All of these await the Great White Throne Judgment. If any unbeliever dies after the rapture, they will follow the same process as already depicted. Their bodies go to the grave. Their spirits go to the waiting place of torment. According to Revelation 20, all of these will eventually be resurrected. This is called the second resurrection. And subsequent to their appointment with the Great White Throne Judgment, their ultimate destiny is the Lake of Fire.
When you discuss the resurrection and subsequent judgment, the question that naturally arises is:
WILL ALL OF THE DEAD, IN FACT, BE RESURRECTED AT THE SAME TIME?
I believe we can show from Scripture that there will be more than one resurrection, and there will be more than one judgment.
In John 5:28-29 (NKJV), Jesus clearly taught that there would be more than one resurrection.
28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice
The apostle Paul confirmed this concept in his defense before Felix. He stated that he believed the teaching of the prophets "that there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked." (Acts 24:15)
If these were the only biblical passages that separate the two groups, it could be argued that the two resurrections referred to could still occur at the same time. The separation between these two groups might occurs after a common resurrection. Fortunately, these are not the only Scriptures speaking about this concept. The Bible established the fact that the resurrection of the godly and the wicked occur at different times. It also teaches that the resurrection of the just occurs in stages.
I do not believe the Bible teaches of a GENERAL RESURRECTION, where everyone is resurrected and all stand before the judge at the same time. The Bible does not teach one resurrection or even two resurrections in number. Rather, it teaches that there will be two resurrections in type, which will occur in stages. One passage that makes this easy to see is in Revelation 20
Revelation 20:4-6 (NIV), reads
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Verses 4 and 5 speak of two different resurrection. And the second one occurs at least 1,000 years after the first one. So, there should be no question that there is no general resurrection where all people are resurrected simultaneously.
Let us first look at the resurrection of the Just. The idea that the resurrection of the righteous will occur in stages is, in my judgment, clearly taught in 1 Cor. 15.
1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NKJV
20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
From this Passage, we learn not only that the resurrection of the just will be occur in stages, but also that the first stage has already occurred. Verse 20 says that "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the first stage of the resurrection of the righteous. Verse 23 goes on to explain that all who have died in Christ will be made alive, "but each in his own order: Christ, the firstfruits, and after that those who are Christ's at his coming." The NIV renders the first phrase, "but each in his own turn .." This phrase is speaking of a sequence of events - or, as I called it earlier, stages. And the last phrase of this verse indicates that the stages, addressed by Paul here, involves only people belonging to Christ. Paul, in this passage, is only talking about the resurrection of the righteous.
The imagery that is being used in this Passage is the imagery of the harvest. In Bible times the harvest was conducted in three primary phases - phases that were actually commanded by God.
It began with the gathering of the firstfruits. This was at the very beginning of the harvest season, where the Jews would take some of the initial fruit that had ripened, and offer them to God as a sacrifice of thanksgiving.
The harvest season then proceeded on to the general harvest. But not all the crop was harvested. Some of the crop was left in the field, primarily around the edges. Crops were left in the field to be gathered by the poor and needy. This was called gleanings.
Leviticus 19:9-10 (NKJV)
9 When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest.
Using the imagery of the harvest with regard to the resurrection, the Bible, as we have seen in 1 Cor. 15:20 & 23, presents the resurrection of Jesus as the "first fruit" of the righteous. The gathering of the church-age saints, both living and dead, at the Rapture would be the general harvest stage. (John 14:1-3, 1 Thess 4:13-18).
But there is a third and final stage to this image of the harvest, relating to the resurrection of the righteous. It is the gleanings - and it occurs at the end of the 7-year Tribulation period. This is when the Lord comes to earth, at which time two final groups of the righteous will be resurrected.
1. The Tribulation martyrs. (Revelation 20:4)
As we see on our chart, we have depicted these 3 stages as all being a part of the first resurrection. Together, these stages represent the first of 2 types of resurrections. This is the resurrection of the righteous.
The second type of resurrection - the resurrection of the unrighteous will take place all at one time at the end of the millennial reign of Christ on earth. Perhaps it would be better to say that those resurrected here are ushered to the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
Every person who ever failed to relate to God in faith will be resurrected at this time, regardless of when he or she may have lived and died. This resurrection will include the unjust of all ages.
Lest there be any that might think I am stretching the idea of linking the laws of the Harvest with the resurrection and judgment, let me make you aware a several other verses.
Jeremiah 51:33 NIV
33 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "The Daughter of Babylon is like a threshing floor at the time it is trampled; the time to harvest her will soon come."God, through Jeremiah, is referring to his eventual judgment of Babylon.
Joel 3:12-14 (NIV) is speaking of the Judgment of Gentile Nations, following Christ's second coming.
12 Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side.
We find similar language used in the New Testament.
Matt 13:38-40 NKJV
38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.
Revelation 14:14-20 (NIV) speaks of God's judgment at Armageddon.
14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man" with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
While the verses, in both the Old and New Testaments, speak of the judgment of God using harvest terms, Christ also uses this metaphor to speak of the gathering together of believer to Himself.
Matthew 9:37-38 NIV
37 Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Christ also mentions that the harvest actually began at His first coming.
John 4:35 NKJV
35 Do you not say, 'There are still four months and then comes the harvest'? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
If it wasn't before, it should now be clear, that the Bible links the laws of harvest with our resurrection and ultimate judgment.
So, what we have learned thus far is that just as there are going to be several resurrections, there are also going to be several judgments. The resurrections and the judgment of the righteous occur in stages. The resurrection and judgment of the unrighteous occur at a different time from all the rest.
Understanding the concept of separate judgments should not be too difficult for us to understand, since these two groups of people are not even traveling the same road. Some have chosen the wide or broad path leading to destruction. Others have taken the narrow road leading to life everlasting.
HOW MANY JUDGMENTS DO YOU THINK THE BIBLE SPEAKS ABOUT?
Actually, the Bible speaks in detail about seven separate judgments of God. Each of these judgments have a different purpose. And some of these judgments have already taken place.
1. The Judgment of a Believer's Sin
The first judgment concerns the believer's sins.
2. The Judgment of the Believer's Walk
The second judgment mentioned in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32.For if we would JUDGE ourselves, we would not be judged.
3. The Judgment of Israel
The Bible repeatedly says that the nation of Israel will face the judgments of God because of their centuries of rebellion.
4. The Judgment of the Gentile Nations
The Sheep and Goat Judgment.
WHERE DO WE FIND THE DETAILS OF THIS JUDGMENT MENTIONED?
It is also mentioned in a number of Old Testament prophecies as well. Joel 3:2 says God will bring the nations to the Valley of Jehoshaphat to judge them for conspiring to destroy Israel and divide the land. This valley is right in Jerusalem. Today, it is known as the Kidron Valley.
DO YOU KNOW WHEN THIS JUDGMENT TAKES PLACE?
It follows the Second Coming and brings an end to the Battle of Armageddon.
WHAT WILL BE THE BASIS OF THEIR JUDGMENT?
They will be judged on the basis of how they treated the nation of Israel.
5. The Judgment of Fallen Angels
All the angels that joined Lucifer in his rebellion against God, will stand before God in judgment.
6. The Judgment Seat of Christ
The BEMA judgment.
WHERE DOES THIS JUDGMENT OCCUR?
It will occur in Heaven.
WHEN DOES THIS JUDGMENT TAKE PLACE
Shortly after the Rapture of the Church.
1 Corinthians 4:5 NIV
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.
7. The Great White Throne Judgment
Following the Millennial reign of Christ - immediately following the judgment of Satan. It is mentioned in Revelation 20:11-15.
WHERE IS THE LOCATION OF THIS JUDGMENT?
Revelation 20:11 says it occurs at a place from where the earth and sky has fled away.
Again, each of us will one day stand before God, when things will be brought to light. The most terrible day since God created man will come when the unbeliever faces a holy God for their sins. Imagination cannot capture nor words convey the horror and anguish of soul that will grip every lost man, woman, boy and girl on that day.
The Bible is filled with many examples of the judgment of God. Sometimes if affects the whole earth such as the flood in the days of Noah. Sometimes it is a national judgment, as in the case of Babylon and the Midianites. At other times, the judgment of God came upon entire families or households, such as Achan and his family following Israel's defeat at AI (Joshua 7).
Last of all, God judges single individuals. There were times when God's judgment actually fell not only on the wicked unbeliever, but on his own people also. Regardless of whom or how severe the judgment is, it is always "according to truth" (Romans 2:2).
When it comes to the final two judgments - the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne - every individual who has ever lived will be personally judged by Christ.
Solomon says, in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 (NKJV), ..
13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's whole duty.
The apostle Paul also emphasized the urgency surrounding the judgment.
Rom 2:16 NKJV
16 God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, ..
Thank God, the blood has been shed and the sin debt has been paid for all those who put their trust in Christ.
John 3:36 (NIV) says,
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."
Don't be among those who experience the eternal wrath of God.
We often refer to people who have died and been buried, as "having gone to their resting place." That statement is untrue on two accounts.
1. Firstly, the earthly grave is not a final resting place for either the saved or unsaved. It is a transient one. There is going to be a "great getting' up morning."
There is no need for anyone to be eternally separated from God. He has made an avenue of escape from the flames of torment. I don't want anyone here this morning going to the place where the fire is not quenched. Let the Lord Jesus Christ apply his blood to your life.
|Questions, comments & suggestions to John Hoole||
Last Updated: Thursday September 08 2011