Contrary to widespread ignorance, the Scriptures do not teach one great end-time judgment when all, rich and poor, small and great shall stand before God to be judged on the basis of their lives and works. Rather there are no less than seven separate judgments. Five of these are of major importance.
First of the judgments is one of great significance to every Christian. It is the judgment of the believer's sins on Calvary's cross. There in the person of the Christian's great Substitute, the sins of the believer were fully judged and put away forever. Sufficient to say, God is fully satisfied in the sacrifice of His dear Son (Rom. 3:24-25; Rom. 5:8-9; II Cor. 5:21).
Next in order is the judgment of the believer's life. The Christian who is a child of God is expected to sit in honest judgment upon his own life. Those things which are displeasing to his heavenly Father he is to judge and put away. The great ideal is the Lord Himself, and the aid to judgment is the wisdom of the indwelling Spirit of God. If the believer fails to judge sin in his own life, then God must step in and bring judgment, but never loss of salvation (I Cor. 11:31,32).
The next judgment follows immediately the rapture of the Church. This is the judgment of the life and service of the Christian. The place is in heaven, the issue at stake concerns how every Christian has lived and served the Lord. No one but believers will be present and the sins of the believer will not be the basis of judgment, having been previously judged and put away at Calvary's cross. The result of this judgment will be eternal rewards for some, and loss for others (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10; I Cor. 3:11-15).
The next two judgments are related to the coming of Christ in power and glory. He will first judge His ancient people Israel. The issue seems to be their degree of acceptance of the light which God has given them during the dark days of the Tribulation. Not every Israelite will be allowed to enter the Kingdom. Rather, only those whom the great Judge of all time deems worthy (Ezek. 20:37-44; Matt. 25:1-30).
The nations too are to be judged. Not every Gentile who is alive when Christ sets up His thousand-year kingdom is to be allowed to enter. All will be judged and the basis seems to be their treatment of the special Kingdom envoys and evangelists of the Tribulation period. This judgment will not be by nations as a whole, but rather the individuals in those nations (Matt. 25:31-46).
Another judgment of which we know little is that of the judgment of the fallen angels. Evidently, when Lucifer, God's anointed Cherub fell from his place of privilege, there followed him in rebellion a portion of the angelic host. Some of these have been reserved in chains of darkness. Others have been loose in the form of demons. All will be judged some day, possibly at the close of the millennial period (Jude 6; Rev. 12:4; Matt. 25:41).
The last judgment is that of the Great White Throne. This occurs at the close of the millennium, or at the end of time. From the very beginning of the world those who have died in wickedness and without forgiveness have entered a place of temporary torment. In the Old Testament this place is called Sheol; in the New Testament Hades. Here have remained all the unrighteous dead from the beginning of time (Luke 16:19-31).
Evidently just before the final conflagration our Lord will mount the Great White Throne. Before Him will be gathered all the unforgiven sinners. The Book of Life will be opened to show that the names of the sinners are not inscribed on its pages. Then the books of the deeds of men will be opened, and the wicked dead will be judged on the basis of their sins (Rev. 20:11-15).
It would seem that this judgment is not primarily a time to determine the guilt of the sinner. This has already been determined. Rather, this judgment is for the purpose of sentencing those who are guilty. No one goes from here to life, all to eternal death (John 5:28-29; Matt. 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28, 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5).
Copied for www.WholesomeWords.org from Believer's First Bible Course by William W. Orr. Wheaton, Ill.: Scripture Press, 1956.