The Different Judgments In Scripture
Just as our legal system has many courts, so in God’s word we see many different courts, or judgments. We have our federal courts, state courts, and even local county or city courts. Not all cases and not all people face justice in each court. So when it comes to understanding the Bible, we are not to jump to conclusions and assume that all the mentions of judgment are referring to one single future judgment.
In looking at Matthew 25:31-46, S. Lewis Johnson points this out, and briefly lists the different judgments set forth in scripture:
1. The Judgment that Christ bore, paying for our sins at Calvary
2. The Believer’s Self-Judgment, spoken of by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 (see also 1 John 5:16-17)
3. The “Bema Seat” judgment of all believers, for our rewards — reference 1 Cor. 3:12-15
Good resources concerning this topic: John MacArthur’s Believer’s Rewards and S. Lewis Johnson’s The Believer’s Judgment
4. Judgment of Living Israelites, for going into the Messianic Kingdom (Isaiah 65:8-16, Zephaniah 1, Zechariah 13)
5. Judgment of Living Gentiles, for going into the Kingdom (Matt. 25:31-46)
6. Judgment of the Fallen Angels (Rev. 20)
7. Judgment of the Unbelieving Dead — The “Great White Throne” of Revelation 20:11-15
I was aware of some of these, but had never heard them listed out. From some googling, though, I found additional information including a Walvoord book, “Major Bible Prophecies: 37 Crucial Prophecies That Affect You Today” which also describes the many different judgments found in the Bible.
Many believers (especially amillennialists and postmillennialists) have concluded that the Sheep and Goats judgment is the same event as the Great White Throne, a single general judgment of all believers. A recent blog from Michael Vlach especially compares these two judgments, noting nine important differences between these accounts.
S. Lewis Johnson likewise noted that the historical church position was to view the account in Matthew 25 as describing a single general judgment, a parallel to the Great White Throne judgment in Revelation 20. But as with many things in this overall category of doctrine, more thorough study shows the differences. Just as the resurrection will take place in phases, first the resurrection of the just followed by a time gap of 1000 years before the resurrection of the wicked, so too God’s word reveals many phases in God’s judgments upon His creation: the great judgment put upon His son, and the many judgments to the living and the dead, of both the just and the wicked.