The last judgment is the great watershed between history and eternity. The second coming marks the end of history. The final judgment marks the beginning of eternity. Each person will be judged on the basis of all that they have done while living on earth, and will receive their reward in eternity. There is a picture of the last judgment in Revelation 20:11-13.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.

Every person will stand before the judgment throne of Christ. All that they have ever done will be revealed to them from the records that have been kept. The books are probably not literal, but each person will see their whole life pass before their eyes. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will be saved.

All people will rise and face Jesus. Those who have been in Hades will be brought before his throne. Even the sea will give up its dead. This is the general resurrection that was spoken of by Jesus in John 5:28,29.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.

All people will share in this resurrection. But only those whose names are in the book of life will rise to true life. The rest will rise to condemnation (Acts 24:15; John 11:24).

The Bible makes a number of important points about the last judgment.

  1. The judgment is a definite future event. Each person will appear before God, where their eternal destiny will be determined and manifested (Rom 2:5).

    He has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he appointed Acts 17:31).

  2. The man appointed to be judge is Jesus (Acts 10:42).

    The Father judges no one, but has trusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father (John 5:22,23).

    Jesus is the right person to be the judge of all mankind. He is a man, so he understands all the trials and temptations that we face. No one will be able to say that Jesus does not understand the reason why they have sinned. He knows all things, so he will be able to judge perfectly. Jesus will be absolutely fair, and because he is full of mercy, he will treat everyone with compassion. He is the best person we could possibly have as our judge. His personality, character and experience make him ideal for this role.

  3. The last judgment takes place at the general resurrection, immediately after the second coming. It does not take place when we die, so it is not going on now. Jesus will return and the last judgment will follow (1 Cor 4:5; Acts 17:31).

    The Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done (Matt 16:27).

  4. All humans must face judgment. No person who has lived on earth will be immune (Matt 25:31-46; Matt 13:37-43; Romans 14:10,12; 2 Tim 4:1). Jesus will judge both the living and the dead.

    We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10).

    The angels will also appear for judgment (2 Pet 2:4). Satan will also be judged (Rev 20:10).

  5. People will be judged according to their works while on the earth. Judgment will not be based on what people may claim to have done, but on their actual deeds as God sees them. The good deeds or sins of parents will not count; each person will be judged on the basis of their own life (Rev 22:12; 1 Tim 5:24,25).

    God will give to each person according to what he has done (Rom 2:6).

  6. The exception is that unbelieving wives and husbands will be saved by the faith of their spouse.

    And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. (1 Cor 7:13-14).
    The unbelieving husband or wife will get through on the basis of the faith of their spouse. They will just scrape through and be highly embarrassed. Non-adult children of believing parents will be saved. Family unity is incredibly important to God. That is why desertion and adultery are such serious sins.

  7. Both the character and deeds of each person will be revealed to God. Each person will have their whole life revealed in a moment of time. They will see themselves as God sees them. Every word, deed, and thought, and all secrets will be revealed (Rom 2:16). No one will feel unfairly treated, because Jesus will see them as they really are. They will know that their fate is deserved.

    Men will have to give an account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken (Matt 12:36).

    Allowance will be made for the degree of privilege, opportunity, and responsibility that a person has had. Jesus said it would be worse for the towns of Judea than for Sodom on the day of judgment. Sodom had committed worse sins, but the people of Judah had the advantage and opportunity of Jesus' ministry (Matt 11:20-24).

    From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48).

  8. There will be two classes of people at the last judgment.

    • People who have heard the gospel of Jesus Christ will be judged on whether they have accepted or rejected him. Those who have placed their trust in Jesus will go to eternal life. They are the ones whose names are written in the book of life (Rev 20:12,15). Those who have rejected Jesus will be condemned (Matt 10:32,33; John 12:48; 2 Thes 1:6-10).

    • Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son (John 3:18).
    • Those who have not heard the gospel will be judged on the basis of what they have known of God's ways. Every person has some knowledge of God. His power and divine nature are made plain in creation, and his requirements are revealed to each one by his conscience (Rom 1:20; 2:14,15).

      All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law (Rom 2:12).

      In the same way, those who have not heard the gospel will be judged apart from the gospel, on the basis of the truth they have known. (This applies especially to children.)

  9. The judgment is final. The eternal destiny of each person will be set. There will be no second chance.

    Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matt 25:46).

  10. Punishment and reward will be proportional. Jesus said it will be worse for the towns of Israel on the judgment day. The same is true of Christians.

    If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames (1 Cor 3:12-15).

    Even those whose names are written in the book of life will have their work judged. Their reward will be in proportion to what they have built on the foundation the Lord has laid. There will be some Christians who have done almost nothing for the Lord. They will still be saved, by the blood of Jesus, but only just. Their reward will be far less than that of those who really build for the Lord. There will be degrees of blessedness in heaven too.

  11. We will be surprised at the way rewards are distributed. Some people that have led insignificant lives will receive great reward. Some important Christians will receive a lesser reward.

    Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward (Matt 10:41).

    Those who have been obedient to a word from a prophet may get the same reward as the prophet. The widow who gave two coins may get a greater than someone who has given away millions (Mark 12:41-43).

  12. We will be judged on the basis of our love.

    Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (Matt 25:37-40).

    What the righteous had done is to show agape love to anyone in need. They were not expecting anything in return, because they were doing it for Jesus. We will not be judged on the size of the ministry that we have established, but on the depth of our love.

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