When judgment day is mentioned, the first thoughts that comes to mind are often apocalyptic scenes and the end of the world scenario, but is this really what judgment day is? Hollywood inundates us with apocalyptic movies with varied end time scenarios (e.g. Terminator, I Am Legend, Independence Day, Children of Men, Deep Impact, and many more). It would not be surprising if people were confused about judgment day with a huge variety of perspectives being subtly fed to us. The Bible teaches that there are two main judgment days, each occurring at different times. We will cover both of these detailing the consequences of each one and the decisions we can make to prepare for them.
We do not live in an infinite universe and this world will come to an end one day. By observing events in the world we see a gradual decline in society that shows no sign of improving, other issues in world politics, economics and climate all point to a global climax on earth. There appears to be an increasing trend toward various forms of ungodliness with no sign of this slowing down.
By looking at the awesome design of the universe and even our own human consciousness, free will and personal individuality there is much more to our existence than some unguided accidental origin. All the evidence shouts out that there is a creator, someone who brought the existence of the universe and our earth into being – our Creator God! If we can accept that there is more to our existence than just our lives here on earth then it is vital to understand what happens to us when we die. The Bible teaches that every soul has an eternal destiny, but does everyone go to the same destination? Do we have any choices after we die? Would you be happy if you led a “good life” and yet ended up in the same place as people who did not live “good” lives? We need to recognise that we are all accountable to God and being a perfectly just and fair God the same criteria will be applied to each person when deciding their eternal destination. Whether we believe it or not, there will be a time when we have to give an account of our lives to our Creator God:
So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12)
We all have a choice to make and this choice will determine where and when our judgment will take place. The choice is simple, if you believe that you are a sinner, that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again, and begin a relationship with Jesus Christ, then you are saved and part of the body of Christ. Believers will be judged at the Bema Seat. If, however, you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your saviour before you die you will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment Seat.
Therefore, there is a judgment day for BOTH believers and unbelievers:
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)
Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. (Ecclesiastes 11:9)
Every action, thought and motive, both good or bad, will be looked at:
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)
It is important to understand the two judgment days – which one would you prefer?
The Bema Seat
The word “Bema” is the Greek word that is translated “judgment seat”. In early times this meant a raised area from where speeches and awards were given. This judgment is for believers only so it does not determine salvation but rewards. Believers will be rewarded for the good work they do for God and all their actions that were of eternal value:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. (2 Corinthians 5:10-11)
This judgment will happen after the rapture where believers (both alive and deceased) will be caught up to meet Jesus Christ our judge. He will award what is right and just but He will not ignore any disobedience. Every part of our lives will be considered and taken into account, anything not of any value will be burnt away:
For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15)
All our works will be tested to see which ones were of “heavenly” value, in other words, which ones contribute to the kingdom of God. The analogy is used of testing the works with fire. It appears that any acts that do not contribute to furthering God’s Kingdom will be burned away (like wood, hay, stubble) but those that survive the testing (gold, silver, precious stones) we will be rewarded for. All believers that appear before the Bema seat will be saved to enjoy the Marriage Supper of the lamb, the Millenium and an eternity with God.
The Great White Throne Judgment Seat
If you die without accepting Jesus as your Saviour, your fate will be sealed at the Great White Throne Judgment – this is not a place you want to be! This vision the apostle John received concerning the great white throne judgment is recorded in the book of Revelation:
And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. (Revelation 20:11-12)
This judgment occurs after a period of time known as the Millennial Kingdom, which lasts one thousand years. If you die without believing in Jesus you are kept in a place of torment until resurrected at this time to appear before God for judgment. Again, Jesus Christ will be the judge and will judge those according to their works. The books that record everyones lives are opened and every deed, thought and act is reviewed. It seems there will be degrees of punishment in hell so all facts about the person will be taken into consideration.
Every word we have spoken:
But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:36 emphasis added)
Every thought we have had:
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. (1 Corinthians 4:5 emphasis added)
Every secret thing we have done:
In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. (Romans 2:16 emphasis added)
Can you imagine everything you have said and done available for everyone to see? Would there be anything you are embarrassed about? This should be enough to horrify anyone!
For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. (Luke 8:17)
Some people will be surprised to be there and will think a mistake has been made. This could include those who trusted in the rituals of church instead of faith in Christ or those who relied on their own “good works” to go to heaven. This verse shows there will be people who did speak about the Lord and thought they were saved but in their heart were obviously not:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 7:21)
What a terribly sad situation for those who falsely think they are saved? It is possible and likely that their churches could be partly to blame, but ultimately the scriptures themselves are very clear when it comes to heaven and hell. Only God knows the truth of our hearts and whether we have truly repented and accepted Christ.
This judgment is certainly something that should feared – those present will fall into the hands of the living and holy God and cannot change anything at this stage – what could be more serious than this?
Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:29-31 emphasis added)
You may have heard the saying that “every knee shall bow”, well, this is the time. You may not think so now but being there you will be pleading for forgiveness:
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)
There appears to be no escaping this simple fact that if you have not accepted Jesus Christ your name is not written in the “book of life” so there is only one destination – lake of fire:
And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15)
The Bible is very clear about this time and the destination of unbelievers, it should cause you to think about your life and to look into Jesus’ claims. If you are at this judgment, it is already too late.
Heaven or Hell
Two judgment days, two destinations, one choice!
We live in a society where many do not believe in heaven or hell. TV programs and films have turned this into a form of entertainment, something not to be taken seriously by jokingly portraying the devil as a comical character with a pitchfork. Heaven is portrayed full of choir-singing, cloud-sitting angels. Heaven would be pretty boring if that were true and gladly it is not, it is far, far better. Lets look at how the Bible describes these.
Apostle Paul says that for believers “to die is to gain” and to be with Christ is “far better” and being in this world:
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (Philippians 1:21-23 emphasis added)
In our current world full of pain and despair no-one would disagree that heaven to be will be better. What do we know about this place? We are not given too many details as it is clear we cannot really grasp how great heaven will be:
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
But we are given some descriptions:
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:1-4)
We can see here the new home will be called “new Jerusalem” which is the “city of peace”. There will be no more pain or suffering and no more death! New Jerusalem will be very big, verses 16 and 17 say it will be about 1,500 miles wide, 1,500 miles long, and 1,500 miles high (roughly the size of the moon!). Further descriptions include: the entire city will be made of pure gold and jewels, walls will be made of pure diamond, and precious stones will fill the foundation. It sounds unimaginable!
Just as heaven is described as a real place, we have to take an honest look and recognise hell is also described as a real place – the Bible provides clear details about it:
So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 13:49-50 emphasis added)
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 8:12 emphasis added)
Jesus makes it clear it is a place you do not want be, preferring to cuts of limbs to avoid it:
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. (Matthew 18:8)
These are symbolic references, Jesus is stressing you want to avoid it at all costs.
It describes a place where even worms do not die and the fire is not quenched:
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:43-48)
Hell is not described as a temporary location, it appears to last forever:
Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thessalonians 1:9 emphasis added)
Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7 emphasis added)
It is what the Bible describes as the “second death”:
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. (Revelation 21:8 emphasis added)
This is eternal separation from God, it is not a temporary place – it is forever! It is the final place of torment and punishment for rejecting Christ.
It seems like a simple decision, who would even consider choosing hell?
Why the need for hell?
The idea of hell touches a raw nerve in many people, in our culture we go to great lengths to avoid offending people. Unfortunately, this is often true of churches too, where the reality of hell is hardly mentioned and congregations prefer to hear uplifting and pleasant moral stories and ignore what the Bible actually says concerning heaven and hell. The reality of hell is supposed to instill a profound sense of terror and cause us to turn TO God, but understanding hell is impossible without first understanding the nature of God, man, and sin.
God is infinitely loving and merciful, but above all He is holy and righteous. His attribute of supreme holiness means that He cannot tolerate sin, we cannot even be in His presence with uncleanness of any kind in us – Why is “sin” such a big deal? God’s attribute of righteousness means there is a necessity to administer justice for wrongdoing and therefore God should not and cannot simply ignore sin. Unfortunately for us, humanity is corrupted by sin which means none of us are righteous and surely we all have to admit we are far from perfect?
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: (Romans 3:10)
God does not want to send anyone to hell, He takes no pleasure in it and wants everyone to live:
For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye. (Ezekiel 18:32)
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Hell was originally created for Satan and his angels:
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41)
Satan would have you believe there is no judgment (Genesis 3:4) and will do all he can to confuse the thinking of mankind with distractions such as religion, secularism and other ideas. Theories like universalism (everyone will eventually get into heaven) and annihilationism (hell is not eternal) are created by Satan but do not hold true when looking at scripture. Satan has blinded the minds of unbelievers:
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
Satan knows his destination is hell along with unbelievers and he will stop at nothing to prevent people getting saved. Even more, he is desperate to prevent just one of God’s prophecies from being fulfilled to prove God does not keep His Word – can you prove the Bible?
By understanding God’s nature there should be no problem then with understanding hell. Throughout history mankind has fallen short of His standards, but God has never stopped loving us and giving us prove of His existence. He has chosen a whole nation of people, the Jews, through the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and made a covenant with them. He has blessed those that blessed the Jews and cursed those that cursed them and this carries on to this very day. God also gave the Jews a chosen land to live – Israel, which is where they would experience these blessings and curses depending on their obedience to God. Israel will be a witness to Him to the unbelieving world – why Israel? He gave his chosen people ten rules to follow – the Ten Commandments. But even this turned into a corrupt religious systems and the Israelites kept falling into idolatry. Even then, God gave us an easier way have a relationship with Him – He sent His Son, Jesus. Jesus died a painful death on the cross but was raised again to defeat the power of death and to prove He was who He said He was. God says that all we have to do is believe the blood of Christ has wash away our sins and begin a new relationship with Him and we can live in eternity:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The existence of hell is a reality because God is just and keeps His word, but He has given us the easiest way out possible! God has to judge sin and will put an final end to it as described in great detail, but before He does He will remove His believers from a unique time of judgment – the rapture. The signs we have been told about all point to this happening soon – are we in the last days?
Jesus is the ONLY way
We have a choice, God created mankind so that we can choose Him! God has a purpose for us and knows every detail about this, we do not understand everything about the world around us, but God our Creator and sustainer does:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
But as with any choices there are options, God created mankind to prove His justice and save those that wanted it.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
Judgment day is something you need to prepare for! You need to make a choice which judgment day and therefore which form of judgment you take before it is too late.
Eternal torment in hell or eternal joy in heaven…choose life!
I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: (Deuteronomy 30:19 emphasis added)
Choose Jesus – How to be Saved.