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This Was Your Life: The Great White Throne Judgment

this was your life

Note: I am quite familiar with the various eschatological schemes believed by Evangelical Christians. I speak generally in this article.

Most Evangelical Christians believe that their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return to Earth’s atmosphere (the clouds), and catch away (rapture) all the Christians. Unbelievers, including babies, children, and developmentally disabled people, will be left behind to suffer the wrath and judgment of the Almighty. For seven years, God will savagely and violently torture the inhabitants of earth, killing most of them. God will also ravage the planet, destroying most plant life and killing most animals. While God is busy maiming and slaughtering everyone, Christians will be gathered together in Heaven so they can judged and rewarded for their works by Jesus. This judgment is called the judgment seat of Christ (or BEMA seat).

Got Questions states:

Romans 14:10–12 says, “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. . . . So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (ESV). Second Corinthians 5:10 tells us, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” In context, it is clear that both passages refer to Christians, not unbelievers. The judgment seat of Christ, therefore, involves believers giving an account of their lives to Christ.

The judgment seat of Christ does not determine salvation; that was determined by Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf (1 John 2:2) and our faith in Him (John 3:16). All of our sins are forgiven, and we will never be condemned for them (Romans 8:1). We should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives. Yes, as the Bible says, we will have to give an account of ourselves. Part of this is surely answering for the sins we committed. However, that is not going to be the primary focus of the judgment seat of Christ.

At the judgment seat of Christ, believers are rewarded based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). Some of the things we might be judged on are how well we obeyed the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), how victorious we were over sin (Romans 6:1-4), and how well we controlled our tongues (James 3:1-9). The Bible speaks of believers receiving crowns for different things based on how faithfully they served Christ (1 Corinthians 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5). The various crowns are described in 2 Timothy 2:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, James 1:12, 1 Peter 5:4, and Revelation 2:10. James 1:12 is a good summary of how we should think about the judgment seat of Christ: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

After the Rapture, there will be a thousand-year period (the millennium) when Jesus will rule with a rod of iron. Satan and his demons will not be present on earth. He has been bound with chains and cast in the Lake of Fire. At the end of the millennium, Satan and his followers will be loosed for a time so he can deceive the masses (those who survived the Tribulation). Finally, Jesus has enough, comes to earth on a white horse with the hosts of Heaven (angels and Christians) to wage a final battle with Satan. After Satan is vanquished, all the unsaved people who have ever lived — billions and billions of people — will stand before God at the Great White Throne Judgment and be judged.

God Questions says:

The great white throne judgment is described in Revelation 20:11-15 and is the final judgment prior to the lost being cast into the lake of fire. We know from Revelation 20:7-15 that this judgment will take place after the millennium and after Satan is thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are (Revelation 19:19-20; 20:7-10). The books that are opened (Revelation 20:12) contain records of everyone’s deeds, whether they are good or evil, because God knows everything that has ever been said, done, or even thought, and He will reward or punish each one accordingly (Psalm 28:4; 62:12; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23; 18:6; 22:12).

Also at this time, another book is opened, called the “book of life” (Revelation 20:12). It is this book that determines whether a person will inherit eternal life with God or receive everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. Although Christians are held accountable for their actions, they are forgiven in Christ and their names were written in the “book of life from the creation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). We also know from Scripture that it is at this judgment when the dead will be “judged according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12) and that “anyone’s name” that is not “found written in the book of life” will be “thrown into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the 1960s and 1970s. Prophecy, especially the “imminent” return of Christ and the Tribulation, was a big deal. I attended an IFB college in the 1970s. While the return of Christ was part of the teaching and preaching mix, it was typically used as a motivator to encourage (demand) students to evangelize the lost.

While I knew there were at least two judgments, typically preachers comingled the Judgment Seat of Christ and the Great White Judgment, turning them into one final judgment where the dead small and great would stand before God and be judged, with the saved entering into the joy of the Lord and the unsaved being cast into the Lake of Fire, a place of fire, brimstone, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Jack Chick polarized this view in his bestselling tract, This Was Your Life.

For all the talk about every human being facing judgment from God for their works, the only thing that will matter is whether a person was saved. Christians will be granted entrance into Heaven (eternal Kingdom of Heaven), not because of their works, but because they “believed” a certain set of propositional facts. Unbelievers will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, not because of their works, but because they didn’t “believe” a certain set of propositional facts.

Keep these things in mind when you see Evangelicals doing abominable things. Nothing they say and do in this life will keep them out of Heaven. Sure, God will smack their hands on Judgment Day and assign them a room without a view, but they will enjoy all the benefits of Heaven. On the other hand, the Lake of Fire will be populated with billions and billions of good people; people whose only “sin” was worshiping the wrong God or no god at all. Child molester preachers will end up singing with the angels in Heaven, whereas moral and ethical unbelievers will spend eternity being tortured by God. Why? They believed the wrong things.

Remember, according to 1 John 1:9, forgiveness for Christians is but a prayer away. No sin is so bad that God won’t forgive. Ponder that for a moment.

Please see This Is Your Life! Judgment Day, a guest post by ObstacleChick and Jack Chick: This Was Your Life by The N.I.B.

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Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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10 Comments

  1. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    It really does sound ridiculous. Laying it out like this, I have questions.

    Even if you believe the earth is only 6,000 years old, 7 years of tribulation is a tiny amount overall. 1,000 years is only 14% of the total number of years. For an eternal deity, why the short timeliness?

    The bigger question is, why did God create evil, sin, suffering in the first place? He could have bypassed all the destruction by creating a perfect world – with no death, heaven, or hell! And don’t give me that free will crap – why give us something and then punish us for having it?

    If our sins are washed away, why rehash them? So they’re not really gone? How does that work?

    At the fundamentalist Christian school I attended, our Bob Jones University Bible curriculum taught us that before Jesus, people were saved by believing in a savior to come. That seems easier, actually. Any culture could hope for a savior. Afterward, it became oddly specific, and given lack of travel and communication options, it seems God chose a bad time to do the savior thing. Why not wait fir the invention of radio, or television, or the internet? You would really increase your exposure and more would be saved. It almost seems like limited admission is the point….

    • Avatar
      Karuna Gal

      OC, your comments brought to mind Tim Rice’s lyrics in the final song of “Jesus Christ Superstar”:
      [JUDAS, CHOIR]
      Every time I look at you, I don’t understand
      Why you let the things you did get so out of hand
      You’d have managed better if you’d had it planned
      Why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land?
      If you’d come today, you would have reached a whole nation
      Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication

      • Avatar
        ObstacleChick

        Karuna Gal, that’s one show I have yet to see, and I’ve seen a lot of shows! Those lyrics sum it up well, don’t they!

    • Avatar
      Augustus

      Quote: “why did God create evil, sin, suffering in the first place?”
      Reminds me of a book by Bart Ehrman I just read, “Gods Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer”. It was interesting to read about how the Bible answers that question in multiple and sometimes contrary ways.

  2. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Obstacle—Your last paragraph makes Heaven seem like one of those clubs you can get into only if you know the right people. (No one is born knowing about Christ or salvation; we learn about them only through people who know about them.) Jesus is the bouncer, and if your name isn’t on the list, you can’t get in—never mind that you’re smarter, wittier, kinder, more creative or simply truly cool than anyone on that list.

    Now you know why I write under a nom de plume: Some Christian psycho could label me a blaspheme and I could suffer the fate of Salman Rushdie, or worse!

    • Avatar
      ObstacleChick

      MJ, fundamentalist religions really are like exclusive clubs! There’s usually a dress code, a hierarchy, special terminology that makes no sense to outsiders. Heck, people like Rep. Lauren Boebert want a Biblical literacy test to determine who’s worthy of being a “Real American”. What’s funny is that I, the atheist, would outscore her – and I am sure most of the readers of this blog would outscore her as well.

  3. Avatar
    Dave

    Back in my Christian days I may not have subscribed to all of this but I did buy into a lot of it. That didn’t stop me from considering other religions to be foolish. Now that I’m on the outside I’m amazed that I could have ever believed such nonsense.

  4. Avatar
    W.W. Jacobs

    “This Was Your Life” was my first exposure to Jack Chick tracts. The problem is, each one I encountered after that became increasingly more laughable.

  5. Avatar
    Lacy

    The entire premise sounds silly, today. I always questioned why it didn’t make sense, but, I was also terrified to believe any different. Why would a deity go through all that trouble? If he/she/them really wanted to be worshipped, why not create beings who only existed to worship him/her/them? Why all the drama? None of it makes any sense, looking at it without fearing reprisal by some mean-spirited deity that doesn’t really exist. If any of this was real: (which it isn’t) that god is a complete asshole and I wouldn’t want to worship some murderous jerk who creates feeling beings only to torture them. Luckily, this story is a fairy tale made to scare children into behaving and keeping women submissive.

  6. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    Maybe I missed that part of the Bible that describes the Judgement Seat of Christ. The only one I remember is the separation of the sheep from the goats. In that, Christ didn’t ask what you thought about him, or how often you prayed, or how many converts you made. If I remember correctly, he asked how you treated other people. How do today’s True Believers intend to answer that?

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Bruce Gerencser