Take the 2-minute tour ×
Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. It's 100% free, no registration required.

The Bible speaks of the "Judgment Seat of Christ" as well as the "Great White Throne" judgment. What is the difference between these two judgments and who will be at each?

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. 2 Corinthians 5:10 ESV

"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. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire". Revelation 20:11-15 ESV

share|improve this question
1  
I asked a similar question a few weeks ago, and got a pretty good answer. I'm not going to answer anything here, as it's already been said, but take a look at this answer. It should help you to understand the two judgments more clearly: christianity.stackexchange.com/a/5612/967 –  motoxer4533 Feb 13 '12 at 18:51

5 Answers 5

up vote 3 down vote accepted
+50

The Judgment Seat of Christ is for the saved, while the Great White Throne judgement is for unsaved. However, that doesn't necessarily mean these are two separate events.

Judgment Seat of Christ

2 Corinthians is written to believers; Paul opens the letter with "Paul...Unto the church of God which is at Corinth". In chapter 5 Paul exhorts the Corinthians to labor for Christ, telling them that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." Paul goes on to say that the judged will receive what is due them, depending on the works they did on earth. The Judgement Seat of Christ is also referenced in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 3:10-15 (KJV) ...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.

These passages reveal that the Judgement Seat of Christ is when Christians will be judged for the works they did after they accepted salvation.

Great White Throne Judgment

Revelation 20:12 (KJV) 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.

Here the dead are judged "according to their works," like the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Revelation 20:13, 15 (KJV) And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works...And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

So the unsaved are definitely judged at the Great White Throne Judgment.

Conclusion

The saved are present at the Judgement Seat of Christ, and the unsaved are present at the Great White Throne Judgment. Is it possible that they take place at the same time? Yes. Both judgments are a judgment of earthly works. It could be that Paul and John just chose to focus on different aspects of the same event.

It is also possible that these judgments take place at different times. Nothing in scripture prevents them from occurring separately, and they are certainly referred to in different manners.

Ultimately, whether they take place together or not, the salient point is that both the saved and the unsaved will be judged for how they lived their lives.

share|improve this answer
    
Very good answer! –  Narnian Feb 15 '12 at 13:01
    
It's not clear to me that the Rev. 20 judgment is for the unsaved only, because the "whosoever was not found..." part tells me it could include both. –  Steve Sep 19 '13 at 13:40
    
@Steve I know what you mean. It is certainly possible that the saved will be present, but it would be just a formality. –  Brian Koser Sep 20 '13 at 0:03
    
@Brian The resurrection of the just and the unjust is not analogous to the resurrection of the saved and unsaved. Acts 24:15-16 and other verses show us that Paul strove to live a just life to make the first res. It's about character. If we make the 2nd res., it won't be pretty, nor formal. –  Steve Sep 24 '13 at 1:06
    
@Steve You should write an answer; I'm interested in hearing more details about your view. –  Brian Koser Sep 24 '13 at 22:49

They are both speaking of the same thing, it is just that the "Judgment Seat of Christ" is how Paul refers to it while the "Great White Throne" is how John the Revelator refers to it!

NT scholar Craig Keener says of 2 Corinthians 5:10:

Paul's allusion here is directly to the standard OT and Jewish image of the day of judgment, in which GOD's throne became the ultimate judgment seat.

And of Revelation 20:11:

Although many writers also stressed a judgment of souls at death, Judaism had much to say about the day of judgment before GOD's throne at the end of the age.

Thus meaning that both Paul and John the Revelator were heavily influenced by their own Jewish understanding of the throne of GOD being where judgment would happen but also influenced by their belief in Christ being that GOD AND KING who sits on the throne!

share|improve this answer
    
[Obsolete comments removed] –  Richard Oct 18 '11 at 21:45

I disagree that the Great White Judgment is only for the unsaved. But I was a long time arriving at that conclusion. Let me explain.

Revelation shows two resurrections, one in 20:4, and the other in 20:12. I believe these are the resurrections of the just (righteous) and the unjust (wicked), separated by 1000 years, a concept mentioned several times in the Bible (such as Daniel 12:2 and John 5:29). Since I did not understand the concept, it was easy to rephrase it in my mind as the resurrection of the saved and unsaved. This is the same as a child not understanding “holy” in the Our Father prayer, so he changes it so it makes sense: “Our Father, which art in heaven, Harold be thy name.”

"Just" does not mean saved or believer; "unjust" does not mean unsaved or unbeliever. The correct terminology is righteous and wicked, and any Christian can fall into either of these camps. Paul the apostle knew this, and cautioned us strongly about it:

Act 24:15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. Act 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men.

Here, Paul saw two resurrections, and his response to the doctrine was to live with a clear conscience. Why do this if all the saved will make res #1 anyway? Because it was the res. of the just, not the saved, so he wanted to make sure he lived righteously, and he saw that God gave us a conscience to help us to this end. We reject the conscience or make excuses about it to our sorrow.

1Co 3:13 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. 1Co 3:14 If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 1Co 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. 1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 1Co 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.

Here, we learn that we will be judged according to our works. We will be rewarded by our works, not our thoughts or correctness of faith and doctrine. Note the promise of a Christian (the person in whom the Spirit of God indwells) being destroyed, yet the person is still saved. I suspect this person is rejected as res #1 and rises again in res #2. Of those who make it through res #1, “the second death has no power” --no being cast into the Lake of Fire. No wonder Paul strove to make res #1!

1Co 9:24 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. 1Co 9:25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. 1Co 9:26 I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: 1Co 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

Paul wanted to get the incorruptible crown, which we see is awarded for those making res #1. It’s possible for him to be cast away if he is not temperate in all things. The thought does not end here, but continues in chapter 10, which tells the sad story of the Israelites who were cast away from a chance of entering the rest, the Promised Land which was only given to the two who continued to the end in faith, and the children of those who did not believe. Paul applies this lesson to all Christians: if we continue in the flesh, we shall not make it to res #1.

2Co 5:9 Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 2Co 5:10 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. 2Co 5:11 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.

Paul knew the “terror of the Lord” at the judgment. God will not show favoritism in His judgments (Rom. 2:11), as we see in His willingness to judge King David harshly, a man of God, when he sinned. So Paul “labored” to accepted by God. It was not enough that he was positionally righteous with imputed righteousness by faith (Rom. 3:22, 4:5), for at the judgment, works and character will matter.

Php 3:11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Php 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Php 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul did not account himself as already having obtained res #1, such as when he first trusted Christ. According to Philippians 3:3-10, he abandoned his former religious works so that his faith would be solely on Christ and not in himself. There is no path to righteousness when we are trusting in ourselves. It was not enough that he trusted in Christ some years ago; it was imperative that he continue trusting Him. The high calling of God is, in Paul’s view, res #1.

1Pe 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1Pe 2:25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

We were saved from our sins that we may live righteously. Living righteously is not automatic; it means following the example of the Lord as He bore the cross. One mark of righteousness is following the Lord, the Shepherd. First Peter is full of exhortations to holy living, which makes little sense if we are all merely getting a free pass to heaven!

2Pe 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: 2Pe 1:11 For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We will either have an abundant entrance into the kingdom, which is res #1, among those who reign with Christ a thousand years, or miss that part of the kingdom. Through the diligence of good works and maturing character (2 Peter 1:5-9) we show that we are indeed of those are responding to God’s call to die to ourselves and live for Him. If we do not deal with sin, we are “shortsighted” (2 Peter 1:9).

1Jn 2:28 And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. 1Jn 2:29 If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

It’s possible to appear before God in confidence or in shame; it’s not automatic that all Christians will appear before God righteous. We see here also that righteousness is of works, not just faith or doctrinal correctness.

Rev 2:26 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: Rev 2:27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. Rev 2:28 And I will give him the morning star. Rev 2:29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

“he that overcometh.” Christ here makes a difference between those who overcome the issues He raises in the churches in the letters to the 7 churches and those who don’t. The spiritually alert will see their character deficiencies and seek the Lord to overcome them by His grace. They will feel the chastisement of the Lord in trials and bear the fruit of righteousness (Heb. 12:10-11).

The first resurrection is characterized in Revelation as reigning with Christ. We see in Matt. 24:45-51 and several other passages (like Matt. 25:14-30), that those who are faithful will rule according their faithfulness in laboring for the Lord to the end. I believe that res #1 will include these people; res #2 will not. As we die, so shall we appear before the Lord. If we die unfaithful with our works, then we’ll appear before God unfaithful. Death and resurrection may change our bodies, but it doesn’t alter our character. Character matters.

Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

This seems to imply that some will have their names in the book of life and some will not (“whosoever”). This is the res Paul sought with all his life to avoid. It appears to me that if we will not live this one lifetime for the Lord Jesus, then we will forfeit 10 lifetimes between resurrections, then be raised to the kingdom. But it will be without rewards or honor.

The main difficulty that kept me from accepting these concepts was that of confusing rejection for a reward with losing our salvation. We can’t lose our salvation, but we can lose our rewards through careless living.

Some of the books that helped me understand these concepts were:

The Reign of the Servant Kings, by Joseph Dillow. The Rod: Will God Spare It? by J. D. Faust. The Believer’s Payday, by Paul N. Benware.

share|improve this answer
    
"The main difficulty that kept me from accepting these concepts was that of confusing rejection for a reward with losing our salvation." e.g. some of the above scriptures about judgment are said by some to mean loss of our salvation when they are concerned with loss of rewards. –  Steve Sep 26 '13 at 13:22

I totally agree with the first answer on here. The Judgment Seat of Christ is definitely only for the believer and the Great White Throne Judgement is for all unsaved.

Although i can say according to scripture i do believe that the Great White Throne Judgement and the Judgement Seat of Christ Judgement will definitively be at 2 different times. In Revelations 20:12 it shows multiple books being opened. If your name is written in the book of life then you get kinda a pass on this judgement due to you've already been judged. See we are all sinners destination HELL, that is without the Saving Blood of Jesus to cover us of course, (Romans 3:23).

I can say that the Church will be raptured up before the complete end, Great White Judgement, and all the believers will also be slain before this judgement as well. During the time between all the saints being delivered out of the Wrath of God and the Great White Judgement i can definitively say that's when the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will take place and this is also the Judgement Seat of Christ. Where the believer only gets judged and awarded for his work.

share|improve this answer
1  
FYI, answers change their positions, so you may need to be more clear as to which one you are referencing. –  Affable Geek Sep 19 '13 at 16:37

The deciding factor at the Great White Throne judgment is whether one's name is written in the LAMB'S Book of Life. Actually if a person's name had been inscribed there, he would have already been a part of the first resurrection. So this verse applies only to those who stand before the Great White Throne.

share|improve this answer
    
Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. This is an okay answer, but it would be helpful to still distinguish more about the separateness of the Judgement seat of Christ. –  Affable Geek Nov 12 '13 at 15:13

protected by Community Sep 11 at 17:07

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.