The biblical doctrine of a future day of judgment is one of the most misunderstood subjects among Christians. The idea of one general judgment, when all the people of all ages will stand before God, has always been erroneously prevalent.
All people who have ever lived—both saints and sinners—will be judged, but not at the same time. The judgments differ as to subjects, time, place, and results. This discussion will deal only with the aspects of the future judgments which the helper will most likely need to address.
There are three judgments for the believer in Christ:
1. The believer has already been judged for his or her sins, by the death of Christ at Calvary:
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
“. . . who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
When He died on the cross, Jesus bore the full thrust of God’s righteous judgment against sin. The believer receives Christ as his or her sin-bearer, meaning that he or she trusts fully in the redemption accomplished at Calvary and is freed from sin and guilt. Believers will never again be judged for their sins.
2. The believer will someday stand before the judgment seat of Christ to be judged for how he or she lived as a Christian:
“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 5:10).
This judgment will bring rewards to some and loss to others. Some will have no profitable works to lay at the Master’s feet, while others will be called “good and profitable servants” and will be asked to enter into the joy of their Lord. This judgment will immediately follow the “rapture” of believers, both alive and dead, as recorded in 1 Thessalonians 4:15–17 (see “Scripture” on the following pages).
3. There is also the daily self-judgment of the believer:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23–24).
“Keeping short accounts” with God is the only way to spiritual maturity. This judgment of self results in confession and forgiveness:
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
“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).
There will be a judgment of unbelievers, known as the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11–15—see “Scripture” on the following pages):
All people who find themselves in hell will be there because they have rejected God’s salvation and have chosen instead to serve Satan. Scripture indicates clearly that all such people must appear before the Great White Throne Judgment and that they will be judged on the basis of the light they had and rejected while on earth.
This judgment follows God’s final judgment of the devil (Revelation 20:10) and the rebellious angels (Jude 6), and comes after the millennial reign. The lost of all ages will stand before God for this most terrible of all judgments (Matthew 12:36).
For Those Fearful of the Coming Judgment and Its Consequences:
1. Assure the person that God is reaching out in love and is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).
2. Invite him or her to receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, sharing the gospel – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD
3. Challenge him or her to take a firm stand for Jesus Christ, to stand up and be counted. He or she should begin reading and studying the Bible on a daily basis. Start with – Your New Life In Christ Bible Study
4. Advise seeking fellowship, worship, and opportunities for service in a local Bible-teaching church.
5. Pray that the inquirer might know the reality of Christ in his or her life.
For Those Unaware of Biblical Teaching on Judgment:
1. Explain the material in the “Background.” Note: Most cults have unbiblical views of this subject.
2. Invite him or her to receive Christ, if this is indicated in the conversation.
3. Follow the suggestions on the previous page in numbers 3, 4, and 5.
“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).
“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 manifest; 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).
“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. 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” (Revelation 20:11–13).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996