by Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Most people have heard about "Judgment Day." We often hear jokes bantered around about meeting "Saint Peter" at the "pearly gates" and about the different things that are required to convince him that he should let you into "heaven." People have written songs about the time when "the roll is called up yonder," "when we all get to heaven." Most people have a vague notion that someday, somehow, judgment will be meted out to everyone; the "good" will receive their reward and the "bad" will be punished.
But what does the Bible say about this? Will there be a "Judgment Day" when all people will be judged? Who will do the judging? Upon what criteria? What kind of reward and punishment will be meted out? Is there hope for those who have never heard of Jesus Christ or never practiced any kind of religion? These questions and others flood into the mind when this subject comes up. In this lesson, we will find the answers to these questions and what God, the great Judge of all the universe, says about eternal judgment.
1. Is eternal judgment one of the basic doctrines of the church of God? Hebrews 6:1-2.
Comment: Eternal judgment is equal in importance to repentance, faith, baptism, etc. Webster's New World Dictionary defines judgment as "a legal decision, order or sentence given by a judge." In eternal judgment, God decides a person's reward or punishment for all eternity.
2. Has judgment begun yet? I Peter 4:17.
Comment: Most people regard judgment as something that occurs only at the end of the age. However, the Bible shows that Christians are being judged today. As in human courts, judgment is a process. Judges do not render decisions without getting the facts and pondering all the evidence. Today, God is putting Christians through trials and tests to see if they will be faithful to Him and His way of life.
Comment: God the Father has appointed Jesus Christ to judge humanity. Only He has ever lived a perfect life. In addition, He knows what it is like to be a human being and what difficulties His people have while living in this present, evil world (Hebrews 2:14-18). Thus, He is eminently qualified to be the Judge of all mankind.
4. Will all humans ultimately be judged before the judgment seat of Christ? Romans 14:10-12.
Comment: Jesus will not judge according to appearances. He will not pay attention to anecdotal evidence or rumors. Jesus, filled with the Spirit of God, can judge on the basis of true knowledge, understanding and wisdom.
Comment: God says that individuals will have to account for all of their works, including our secret sins. Even the words we have spoken will be judged.
Comment: God will judge us by the things written in the "books," that is, His Word. The Bible contains God's laws, the standard of righteousness by which everyone is judged.
Comment: God's judgment is perfectly fair. In this life, some have better opportunities to develop God's character. Others have greater intelligence or natural abilities. God will apply the principle of "to whom much is given, much is required" with perfect fairness. Teachers of God's way will be held to an even higher standard.
Comment: Under the guidance and authority of Jesus Christ, the resurrected saints will help to judge the world. Just as we are being judged now, we will judge those who live and die throughout the Millennium. We will also judge the angels who rebelled against God under Lucifer (I Corinthians 6:3; II Peter 2:4; Jude 6; see Isaiah 14:12-15).
10. What about the millions who never had a chance to learn about God's plan of salvation? Revelation 20:4-5.
Comment: Those who never had an opportunity to learn God's way will be resurrected after the Millennium. "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished" is parenthetical and does not refer to the first resurrection, but to a second resurrection.
Comment: Those in the second resurrection will be raised to life as physical, flesh and blood human beings. They will live in a peaceful, prosperous world free from the demonic influence of Satan. Evidently, God will grant them a hundred years of life to learn and accept His way.
12. Will they be judged by the same criteria as those who preceded them? Revelation 20:11-12.
Comment: The Great White Throne Judgment will occur during this hundred-year period. At this time, those of the second resurrection will be judged by the same standard as everyone else—the Word of God.
13. Will the incorrigibly wicked be judged in yet a third resurrection? Revelation 20:13-15.
Comment: This third resurrection will comprise those who are unwilling to live by God's laws and refuse to repent. These incorrigible people will be cast into the Lake of Fire and completely burned up. They can never be resurrected again, having rejected God's wonderful offer of salvation and eternal life.