The Judgment of All Believers of this Age of Grace
i) Past judgment (Jn 5.24; Rom 8.1).
ii) Present judgment of their sins as chastisement (1 Cor 11; Heb 12; 1 Pet 4).
iii) Future review at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom 14; 1 Cor 3; 2 Cor 5).
Believers who have been justified before God by faith are now beyond Gods condemnatory judgment. Christ bore their judgment as sinners on the cross, so that we are no longer answerable to God for it. However, we are now being disciplined by God our Father as sons, having our old natures curbed so that we may become more like Christ in His holiness. Also, we will be reviewed by Christ at His Judgment Seat after the Rapture as servants with a view to receiving rewards for our service since we trusted Him on earth. This will be a very searching review, not only of our service, but also of our motives and relationships with our fellow-believers. It will not merely be like a pleasant summer flower show, but there is the possibility of being ashamed before our Lord and suffering loss of reward (though not of salvation) for unfaithfulness in using our time, talents, and opportunities to serve the Saviour. However, we should remember that our Lord is not "an hard man" (Mt 25.24), as one unfaithful servant so wrongly thought, but a loving Saviour and an absolutely righteous and understanding Judge. It will give Him the greatest delight to say to us, if He can, "Well done, good and faithful servant enter thou into the joy of thy Lord". May this encourage us to remain faithful in the "few things" He has given each of us to do here on earth for His glory!
The Judgment of Gods Earthly People Israel
i) Under Gods discipline for their national sins in the two Old Testament exiles (Dan 9; Lk 19.41-44).
ii) The fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in AD 70, followed by the Dispersion (1 Thess 2.15-16).
iii) The future "Time of Jacobs Trouble", the Great Tribulation (Jer 30.7).
iv) The future judgment of Israel at Christs appearing in glory (Ezek 20.33-38; Zech 13.8-9; Mal 3.3).
Although Israels ultimate possession of their Promised Land was granted to them by Gods unconditional covenant with Abraham, their actual continuing occupancy of it depended on their obedience to the later conditional covenant of the Mosaic Law. Because they persistently disobeyed this Law, the Lord disciplined them within the Land for several centuries, and then allowed their enemies, the Assyrians and the Babylonians, to carry them away captive into exile. Scripture says that both of these Gentile nations were the Lords appointed instruments of judgment against His people (Is 10.5 and Jer 21.7). From Nebuchadnezzars time onwards the Gentile nations have been granted the sovereignty of the earth in place of Israel, who have forfeited it for a time. The so-called "times of the Gentiles" will continue until the second coming of Christ. Although some of the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile by Cyruss permission under Gods direction, and were free from idolatry, they later rejected and crucified Christ, their Messiah. Therefore, the Romans were permitted to destroy their second Temple and disperse the Jews of Jerusalem amongst all nations. They were allowed to return to their Land last century, largely in unbelief, but will soon have to face their severest time of discipline ever, the seven-year Tribulation already mentioned. At its conclusion, when Christ intervenes to save them from destruction by their besieging enemies from all nations, Christ will judge the surviving Israelites in the wilderness, and all the rebellious unbelievers among them will be put to death. Only the believing remnant will enter the millennial Kingdom and reign with Christ.
The Judgment of All Gentile Nations
i) In the Great Tribulation, especially at the final battle of Armageddon (Rev 6-19).
ii) At Christs appearing in glory to rule on earth (Mt 25.31-46).
Although the Gentile nations were allowed to punish Israel for their sins, they did so too severely, and also failed to give God the glory for their conquests. Therefore, God will one day punish them in their turn by the Tribulation judgments. These will include wars, many natural disasters, diseases, supernatural demonic plagues, disturbances in the heavenly bodies, and great worldwide earthquakes. Apart from the intervention of Christ at Armageddon, no one on earth would survive. At Christs judgment of the living nations individual Gentiles will be judged according to their treatment of Christs "brethren", the 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will preach the gospel of the kingdom worldwide during the Tribulation (Rev 7). Acceptance of the evangelists will be tantamount to exercising intelligent faith in Christ Himself, although many Gentiles will not be fully aware of the issues involved in receiving and helping them.
The Final Judgment of the Unbelieving Dead
The Great White Throne judgment will occur in space following the second resurrection after the final rebellion, and the destruction of the present heavens and earth (Rev 20). The judgment will be by Christ as the Son of Man and according to individual unbelievers works. Perfect righteousness will be exercised and due account taken of each persons degree of responsibility. There will be no appeal from this court, but all without exception will be condemned to the second death in the lake of fire for eternal punishment and torment. This is the true final/last judgment, but by no means the only one spoken about in Scripture.
The Righteous "Judge of all the Earth"
Jesus Christ Himself will be the only judge of all men and angels, although Church saints will have a delegated role in this work, according to 1 Corinthians 6.2, and the apostles will assist Christ in judging the nations during the millennial Kingdom (Mt 19.28). He is perfectly qualified to judge righteously, because He died as the Lamb of God to procure salvation for all who believe in Him. He has perfect experience of manhood and will judge all rightly and with absolute impartiality (Is 11.1-5). He would have saved those who are assigned their fate with the devil and his angels, if they had been willing to accept His offer of mercy in salvation by faith during their lifetimes. Christs work of propitiation on the cross was sufficient to meet their need, but they would not allow Him into their lives. His resurrection by God His Father makes the Day of Judgment a certainty (Acts 17.31).
The Doctrine of Eternal Punishment
The doctrine of the eternal punishment of the impenitent unbelievers among mankind in the lake of fire has been doubted, or denied, or weakened to the point of meaninglessness even by some who are genuine believers. They feel that God is too loving to allow anyone to endure such a fate. But several Scriptures are quite clear on this point, and cannot be made to mean anything less than this. If eternal life means eternal fellowship with God in heaven and eternal bliss, then the opposite must also be accepted literally. Scripture must mean what it literally says when it speaks of eternal judgment, eternal torment, and eternal punishment for sins not repented of. When it describes the lost souls in hell as wailing and gnashing their teeth, it must mean just that. There will be inconsolable sorrow and remorse, and the gnashing of their teeth may mean that the lost will still be angry and defiant against God, who actually once longed to save them and sent His Son into the world to die for their sins. It is misplaced pious sentiment to deny the literal meaning of such words of Scripture. The eternal punishment of impenitent unbelievers is a cardinal doctrine of Scripture. To deny it is to undermine the foundations of the faith and the necessity of the vicarious sacrifice of Christ to save us. Without this truth there is little real point in preaching the gospel.
The fact of judgment is not a popular truth, either in the world at large, or even in the Church of true believers. We have become so used to sin and failure in ourselves that we fail to appreciate how God must feel about it. Sin is abhorrent to Him. We need to gain a truly balanced view of our God and Father. He delights to bless His creatures in every way He can do so consistently with His full-orbed character, and is very reluctant to judge those who refuse to respond to His longsuffering and love expressed in the gift of His Son. As Isaiah asserted, God is both "a just God and a Saviour" (45.21). Let us worship Him for this wonderful truth!