It is clear from Scripture that every human being that has ever lived will be judged, both Christian and non-Christian.
The "Great White Throne Judgment" is a judgment for unbelievers only and takes place after the "Second Coming" at the end of the Millennium.
Believers will be judged in heaven after the Rapture at the Bema Seat judgment (1 Cor. 3:10-15) This judgment will not concern our salvation and is not about sin. It concerns the quality of the works we performed during our life on Earth and will result in various crowns being distributed to those deemed worthy. That's the only judgment we'll ever face because as you say the Lord already paid the penalty that was due us for our sins (Colossians 2:13-15).
2 Corinthians 5:6-11 states, "Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience." (emphasis mine)
There is debate to how many judgments there will be. First of all, we are judged in a sense, when we die. Those who have been converted and are truly Christians go to heaven when they die. We saw this in the previous verses (2 Corinthians 5:6-11) and there are other Scriptures which substantiate this (e.g. Philippians 1:23). There is no such thing as "soul sleep," we do not simply sleep or rest before the Judgment. It is interesting to note that Christians and non-Christians both go to temporary places (in a sense) when they die. Christians go to heaven but we see from Scripture that they come down out of heaven with "The New Jerusalem" (Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 11:10, 12:22-24, and 13:14, and in particular, Revelation 21:1-27) after God creates the New Earth. So in a sense, heaven (the New Jerusalem) comes down out of heaven to the New Earth, which becomes our eternal home (heaven). And when the unconvered (non-Christians) die, they go to a temporary place called Sheol in Hebrew (Genesis 37:35, Psalm 16:10/Acts 16:10) and Hades in Greek (Revelation 20:13) before the Judgment, after which, they are thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20 and 20:10, 14-15).THE BOOKS
It is also clear from Scripture that there are books that will be opened. One is names specifically, "The book of Life." If anyone's name is not found written in the book of life, he will be thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:12-15 states, "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 he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
The judgment of God and the victory of the saints are the two major themes of Revelation. The theme runs throughout the book. It is in Revelation that John reminds us that the judgment of God begins with the house of God. To each of the seven churches of Asia, Jesus says, "I know your works . . ." and then he gives the proper commendation or rebuke.
Peter wrote, as he was preparing Christians for the suffering ahead: "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, "If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good." (1 Peter 4:16-19)
© Todd Tyszka
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