In Revelation, what is the Great White Throne Judgment and how does it apply to Christians?
In Revelation, there is a judgment at the end of the book called the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15). Many people have questions about who will be judged and what this judgment is all about.
There is also another judgment for believers only, called the “Judgment Seat of Christ” (bema in Greek). Before I deal with the judgment in Revelation, I want to deal with the Bema Judgment. Clarification will help us understand what to expect in the end.
Judgment for Believers (Bema Judgment)
First, everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior and serves him is saved from eternal condemnation (John 5:24; Romans 8:1). There will never be a judgment where believers must worry about their eternal destination.
Instead, the Bible speaks about judgment for believers in a different sense, in a sense of rewards. The Bema seat judgment concerns an evaluation of believers and how they have stewarded their walk with Jesus while on the earth.
Many scholars teach that this judgment happens at the rapture. When those who are dead in Christ are raised and then those who are still alive at the rapture go to be with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-16), the Bema seat judgment happens.
Judgment for rewards is mentioned in the New Testament. Just a smattering of examples will prove helpful:
- The judgment seat of Christ is mentioned in Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10.
- Judged for rewards: Matthew 16:27; Ephesians 6:8
- Judgment for mismanagement: 1 Corinthians 3:12-13, 15; 1 John 2:28
- Rewards as crowns that we give back to Jesus: James 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Revelation 3:11; 4:10-11
The parable of the talents (Luke 19:11-27) may be an example of the rewards believers will receive at the Bema judgment.
The Lamb’s Book of Life is a book that is mentioned at the great white throne judgment but it is also mentioned elsewhere. It first appears in Daniel 12:1-3 with the same concept as Revelation. This Book of Life that Daniel mentions holds the names of those who have been faithful to God. If the name is not in it, the person will be condemned for eternity.
This is important because at the Great White Throne Judgment, the books will be opened. The Lamb’s Book of Life is one of the books, but there are books for those who will be eternally condemned as well (Revelation 20:12)..
Judgment for Everyone (Great White Throne Judgment)
As I understand it, the Great White Throne Judgment is a place where everyone will be judged. The Lamb’s Book of Life is opened as well as other books to evaluate the eternal state of every person.
I could be wrong about this because it only mentions “the dead” being judged. Believers will be alive because they have just celebrated the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-10).
It seems to me that the Lamb’s Book of Life is opened to show that each person who is judged is not in this book. It could be that there are believers who will be part of this judgment. I don’t know for certain even after studying the matter.
Jesus may refer to this end times final judgment when he talks about the separation of the sheep and the goats in the end (Matthew 25:31-46). This seems closely related to the same judgment in the end of Revelation.
But what I do know is that the dead will be judged. We must realize that the Scriptures tell us it is appointed once for us to die and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Believers in Jesus need not fear judgment because it will only be for rewards. Our eternal destiny has already been confirmed.
In conclusion, when we begin to talk about the end times, called eschatology by theologians, nobody really knows exactly what’s going to happen. We can study the Scriptures about these matters but until they happen, no one will be completely correct about the end times. We must approach the subject with humility and grace. As much as possible, we must not knowingly lead others astray about these matters.