The Great White Throne Judgment
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens 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 they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
There seems to be two school of thought about the Great White Throne Judgment. One is that all people—believers and nonbelievers will be judged at the Great White Throne. The other is that only nonbelievers will be judged here.
To get a better understanding, we need to look at other Bible passages that discuss the topic of judgment. This is a best practice for any Bible study, even though I haven’t done too much of it in this particular study. Studying the book of Daniel and Ezekiel along with Revelation is a wonderful idea.
Let’s take a deeper look at the two schools of thought.
Some Christians believe that the Bible reveals three different judgments. The first is the judgment of the sheep and the goats, which is symbolic of the judgment of nations.
Matthew 25: 31-36
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
According the first school of thought, this judgment will take place after the tribulation period but prior to the thousand-year reign.
The second judgment is of believers and their works. It’s also referred to as the Judgment Seat of Christ. This is where Christians will receive their reward based on their service to God.
2nd Corinthians 5: 10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Then the Great White Throne Judgment is the third and final judgment. Nonbelievers will be judged according to their works and sentenced to everlasting punishment.
Some Christians believe that all three judgments will occur at the same time at the Great White Throne. Let’s look back at Matthew 25 again, verses 41-46:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
This seems to be exactly what will happen at the Great White Throne judgment, which is why that school of thought believes all three judgments happen at the same time.
No matter which view you agree with, it’s important to remember that believers are going to heaven. They will not be punished for their sins. Jesus took our punishment on the cross. A second important point is that yes, all believers are going to heaven, but our works here on earth will determine our reward in heaven.
A side note to that, I don’t believe that just means the works we perform at church or for our church. I believe our works are about every kindness and good deed that we performed for others, whether they are believers or not.
That is Jesus’s one command to us—Love one another.