The most popular misconception is that all mankind will find out their final status in eternity at one great last judgment. This popular misconception also teaches that at this judgment our good deeds will be weighted against our bad to decide whether we are worthy for eternal life with God. If not, we are either cast into a temporary place of torment called purgatory, where a person suffers to pay off the debt of his sins for a few hundred years, or in some extreme cases, a person is just sent straight to hell. This is not even close to what the Bible teaches. Here are the judgments in order.
The Cross, God's Judgment Against The Sins of the World - The first and most important judgment took place at the cross. It was there that God dealt with the sin problem, to remove it forever as a barrier between Him and mankind. This is why God, the second person, stepped in the person of Jesus. This unique man was born of a human mother, but God Himself was the Father of this child. This is why the man, Jesus of Nazareth, is called the Son of God in a sense no one else can ever be, because God alone is His Father.
If Jesus had been born of a human father, He would have had the sin of Adam passed down to him, because the legal culpability for the first sin is passed down through the man, not the woman. This is explained by the Apostle, "And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived fell into transgression". (1 Tim. 2 v.14) "So then as through one transgression [Adam] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [Jesus' sacrifice for our sins on the cross] there resulted justification of life to all men". (Romans 5 v.18)
This is why the virgin birth was absolutely necessary. Jesus had to be without inherited sin, as well as without personal sin, in order to qualify to die in our place and purchase a pardon for all mankind.
Judgment of the Believers to Determine Rewards - This is called the Judgment Seat of Christ. Only believers stand at this judgment. This takes place after the Rapture and resurrection of all believers from the Church Age. The Bible says about this, "Each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work remains, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but HE HIMSELF SHALL BE SAVED, yet so as through fire." (1 Cor. 3 v.13-15) All who stand at this judgment are saved, not one is lost or condemned. They simply learn whether the works they did as a Christian were done with the right motive through faith, or whether they lose rewards.
Judgment of the Survivors of the Tribulation - This takes place immediately at the Second Coming of the Messiah Jesus. Both believers and non believers are gathered together before the Lord Jesus and He separates the believers from the unbelievers. The illustration of a shepherd separating sheep (believers - Tribulation Saints) from goats (unbelievers) is used by Jesus. The believers are sent into the Messianic Kingdom as mortals to repopulate the earth and serve under Jesus, who will rule the world from the dynasty or throne of His royal lineage from King David. The nonbelievers are cast into the place known as Hades or Hell, to await the Last judgment.
Judgment of the Old Testament and Tribulation Believers - This also takes place at the time of the Second Coming. The prophet Daniel predicted this: " And at that time your people, everyone written in the book, will be rescued. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life" (Dan. 12 v.1-2)
Last Judgment called the Great White Throne Judgment - This is a judgment for unbelievers of all time at the end of the 1000 year millennium. The Second Resurrection is also called the Resurrection of Condemnation. It brings back unbelievers, both in body and soul form, who were contained in places called death and Hades. The horror of it all is that everyone who is raised from the dead by the Second Resurrection is condemned, without exception, to the most terrible condition and place imaginable. It is called the "Second Death", which is "the Lake of Fire" that burns forever. (Rev 2 v11; 20 verses 6 and 14 Second Death - Revelation 21 v.8) In this second resurrection, all mankind that did not accept the free gift of pardon provided by Jesus Christ must answer for their choice.
Why a Final Judgment? - The one sin for which Jesus could not pay is the sin of rejecting the free pardon for which He paid with His life. This one unpardonable sin that sends a person to eternal separation from God in the Lake of Fire is reported by the Apostle John from Jesus' own words, "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God". (John 3 v.18)
The only issue is whether a person has believed in Jesus as his pardon for sin, or not. It doesn't matter what denomination a person may be. That has nothing to do with the salvation of a person. So the unbeliever doesn't have to wait for Judgment to know whether he is one of the saved. He is already judged and lost. If he continues till death in this stance, there is no more chance to change his status. The one sin that is sending the unbeliever to hell is his rejection of the gift of pardon that Jesus died to make free to him.
This is what Jesus meant when He predicted the special work the Holy Spirit would do to make us effective evangelists. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the whole world "of sin, because they do not believe in Me." (John 16 v.9) You see, the Holy Spirit only convicts the unbeliever of the one sin that will send him to hell. Because it isn't his sins, (plural) that will send him there.
The greatest tragedy is to watch an unbeliever die, leaving unused and canceled, a full Pardon for all his sins that had his name on it. The realization of such a thing will torment the unbeliever for all eternity when he reviews time and time again that he could have believed but instead rejected it. In God's estimation, he has literally scoffed at the blood of the Son of God and counted it as unworthy of him.
The Holy Spirit imparts to you a new spiritual life that gives you the capacity to understand God's Word and His ways. The Holy Spirit also takes up permanent residence in you to guide and aid you through this life in a productive and fulfilling way that pleases God. He also develops the spiritual gifts that are given you at your spiritual birth so that you become uniquely equipped to fulfill His will for your life. Begin that great adventure today!
Judgment and Mercy - The Tribulation is a terrifying period of 7 years in which God pours out His Wrath on a rebellious and unbelieving mankind. It is also "the time of Jacob's trouble," in which the Lord will once again deal specifically with the nation of Israel, bringing the Jewish people to faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah they rejected almost 2000 years ago.
Yet while this period is primarily a time of wrath and judgment, it also features a very strong note of mercy and grace, a note that too often gets overlooked. Sometimes we think God gets a "bad rap" when people focus exclusively on the judgments and terrors to come. They see the Lord as some kind of angry monster, heaping up catastrophes and pouring them on the heads of defenseless, innocent men and women, like an obnoxious child might pour gasoline down a teaming anthill with one hand while getting ready to drop a lit match with the other.
But this is wrong! First, those who suffer the judgments of God in the Tribulation are NOT "innocent men and women." The rebels alive at that time will not only reject God and His offer of salvation but will run greedily toward every vile sin known to man, and that is including blasphemy of a kind beyond description. And second, despite their gross sin, God intends that these Tribulation judgments might lead even these wicked sinners to faith in His Son, Jesus Christ!
The Tribulation judgments of God serve a dual purpose; to punish hardened sinners and to move others to repentance and faith. The Tribulation will be God's ultimate illustration of the truths found in Romans 11 v.22: "Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God." It is true that the Tribulation will demonstrate God's severity, but it is equally true that it will showcase His goodness. The Old Testament prophet Joel clearly saw these two aspects of God's nature working side by side in the Tribulation. In Joel 2 v.28-32 the Lord said through him,
And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth; blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2 v.17 - 21)
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