“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.”
Imbedded in most men’s psyche, regardless of their religious beliefs, is the notion this life on earth is temporary and there probably awaits for us an eternity; either a “heaven” for good people or a “hell” for bad people. Where many differ in their opinions is what ultimately determines who goes to what eternal habitat and what is good or bad. The Bible alone tells us! As a Christian, I of course put ALL of my faith in Jesus Christ and I accept He died for my sins. We know “All men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” and “The wages of sin are death.” So, what then determines the difference for us for all of eternity?
I have often heard the old adage that says “The Unbeliever will be judged BUT the Believer will be rewarded.” Near the end of Biblical history and the prophesied future; AFTER the Second Coming of Christ to this earth; and, AFTER His 1,000 year Millennium Reign on earth, Jesus will sit on His Great White Throne to judge the unrighteous, unbelieving people whose names ARE NOT found in the Book of Life (those who believe in Jesus). Regardless of how “good” they may have been while alive on earth, if they failed to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and ask for forgiveness of their sins, they will be judged “…according to their works.” NO earthly works can erase sin! NONE!!! But, we also know this:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever BELIEVETH IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE (capitals mine).”
God judges the unbelievers based on their earthly works. Nowhere however, does it say the believers will be JUDGED for what they did on earth. Rather, they will be REWARDED in Heaven for what they did while on earth, so long as they accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and His sacrifice for their sins.
I believe we have a very clear picture of some of the major differences in the temporary “resting place” (Hades) for the dead preceding eternity BEFORE God’s Great White Throne Judgement happens. This gives us a very good clue as to what life like will be for all for eternity depending on their acceptance of Jesus, not their “works”. If you recall the story in Luke 16:19-25:
“There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (Hades): the rich man also died, and was buried. And in hell (Hades) he lift up his eyes, BEING IN TORMENTS (capitals mine), and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I AM TORMENTED IN THIS FLAME (capitals mine). But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things , and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.”
There are two Greek words in the New Testament which refer to “hell”, Hades and Gehenna. Hades is a temporary holding place for ALL who have died (the evil to be tormented and the righteous to be comforted) while Gehenna is the eternal, final place of damnation for all unbelievers. The Lake of Fire (hell) is associated with Gehenna, not Hades.
This story tells us a number of things. First, immediately after our earthly death (this applies to all who die before the coming Rapture), we go straight to Hades, either to be tormented or comforted depending on the earthly lives we lived. This will be BEFORE the Rapture and before the Great White Throne Judgement of God. Secondly, we will be separated from each other with a “…great gulf” between us. Did you notice the crying out by the rich man was answered by Abraham? This tells me Lazarus may not have even been aware of what was going on “below” with those being tormented. The fact Abraham told the rich man he REMEMBERED all the treasures he had received while living tells me he still had memory of his earthly life! Finally, it tells us after our earthly death there is no further ability for us to be saved!
“For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they ANY MORE A REWARD (capitals mine); for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion forever in any thing done under the sun.”
Another example. This one refers to the bodily resurrection after our death OR if we are still alive at the time is what happens to us at the Rapture PRIOR to the 7 year Tribulation period (for more on this please review my earlier posts, The Rapture – God’s Promise or The Rapture – UPDATED). Of course, this will occur before God’s Wrath is unleashed upon an unbelieving world and will result in ALL Believers, dead or alive, being taken directly to Heaven (not Hades) to spend eternity in the presence of Jesus.
“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ (believers) shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so SHALL WE EVER BE WITH THE LORD (capitals mine).”
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
Perhaps even clearer:
“Behold, I shew you a mystery (secret): We shall not all sleep (die), but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible (no longer sinful), and we shall be changed. For this corruptible (sinful) must put on incorruption, and this mortal (capable of dying) must put on immortality (everlasting life).”
I Corinthians 15:51-53
Hopefully, you now see just a very few of the Scriptures outlining the Judgement of God on the Unbelievers and the Rewards to Believers. We know there is a temporary place called Hades where the good and bad people will separately exist, the good being comforted while the bad are tormented. THIS IS NOT FOREVER! The good, both dead and alive, will rise to meet Christ in the air at the Rapture. If they lived through the Tribulation as mortals at the end of the 1,000 year Millennium reign of Jesus on earth AND BELIEVE in Him, they also will be saved. If they died unbelieving in Him during human history, they will NOT finally be raised until the Great White Throne Judgement. At that time, as I have said, they will be solely judged on their works which can never pay for their sins. Revelation 15:14-15 then tell us, “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. THIS IS THE SECOND DEATH (capitals mine). And whosoever was not found written in the book of life (Believers) was cast into the lake of fire.”
God has made it so easy for us to go to Heaven forever. You might ask, “What awaits me forever in Heaven? I know hell is a REALLY bad place but what do I have to look forward to in Heaven?”
“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
I Corinthians 2:9-10
It is this easy. Trust in God, who made and intended this world AND us to be sin free. Accept that he sent His only Begotten Son Jesus to live and teach us His Holy ways. Accept that He died for YOU so you won’t have to endure the eternal pain, suffering and shame awaiting those who have accepted Satan’s deceptions and believe they can make it to Heaven based only on earthly “works, giving money to charity or living a good life. They can’t! Accept Jesus’s Death and Resurrection and repent of your sins and Heaven awaits forever. I live my life very comforted by His Holy Words which clarify what I must do and believe to ensure one day I will be with Him. If you also feel comforted by this, remember we are ALL asked to tell others, to “…therefore comfort one another with these words.” Do this and you won’t be judged, but you will be rewarded!
May God Bless you as we celebrate Jesus’s birth this Christmas!