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
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
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.