What does the Bible say about God's judgment of us in the afterlife?
Two major judgments in the afterlife are described in the Bible. The first judgment concerns those who are believers in Christ. Romans 14:10-12 is addressed to believers and notes, "For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.' So then each of us will give an account of himself to God."
This judgment will not be a judgment of salvation, but of one's works and rewards for these works. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9). However, Scripture does speak about various rewards and crowns given to believers based on their service to the Lord.
Five specific crowns are mentioned in the Bible. They include the crown of righteousness for those who love the Lord's appearing (2 Timothy 4:8), the imperishable crown for discipline (1 Corinthians 9:25-27), the crown of life for patient endurance (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10), the crown of glory for godly leaders (1 Peter 5:2-4), and the crown of rejoicing for those who win souls to Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19; also Daniel 12:3). Other rewards are described in Philippians 3:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 9:24-27. Philippians 3:14 specifically encourages believers, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
The second judgment in the afterlife includes those who will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15: "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."
Several details are noted in this judgment of unbelievers: 1) Unbelievers are judged based on what they had done, 2) God knows everything, including every hidden activity in life, and 3) apart from salvation in Christ a person is doomed to eternity apart from Him in the lake of fire.
These two judgments are critical to understand. Those who experience the second judgment and are condemned to eternity apart from Christ are those who reject the gospel of Jesus. John 3:16 notes that the Lord's desire is to give eternal life to all who will believe: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
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