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Three Phases of the Last Judgment

To better understand the last judgment of sin, let's consider the process of judgment a little more closely. In connection with the study of the millennium, we want to understand why and in what sense the saints would be judging the world during the millennium. In fact, it will be instructive to look at everyone's role in the last judgment and so we will on this page consider the roles in this judgment process of God, of the saved and of the lost.

The Three Phases of Judgment

There are three phases of any judgment process:

  1. the investigative phase to learn the facts of the case
  2. the judicial phase in which, considering all the evidence, a decision is made regarding the guilt or innocence of the one who is charged
  3. the executive phase where the sentence is carried out

The stages must happen in that order. Even the hanging judge wouldn't come into town and say "let's hang the prisoner first and then start hearing the evidence as to whether he is guilty or not."

Since the saved and lost are separated at the Second Coming, a decision must have been made in each case, at least for those living at that time. This is before the millennium when the saints become involved in judgment so this must be a judgment by God.

Everyone, God, the saved and the lost will take part in the last judgment. God does everything openly

The Investigative Phase of the Last Judgment

Investigation by God
This has been referred to as the pre-advent investigative judgment because it is an investigative of the evidence (the life records, especially each person's acceptance or rejection of salvation) and because it happens before the Second Coming.

Investigation by the Saved
A proper courtroom has witnesses to the proceedings of the court to judge if justice is being properly carried out. The millennium, after the resurrection of the saved, is their opportunity to examine the evidence and see if God's judgments have been just.

Here are verses even before the millennium suggesting that people are acknowledging the judgments of God to be fair.

"And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." (Rev 15:3)

"And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments." (Rev 16:7)

"For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand." (Rev 19:2)

God does not want to leave any room for doubt about what He has done.

Investigation by the Lost
Each person knows what they have done in their lives. However, for their benefit, events are brought into mind again as their lives flash before their eyes. Many people who have faced imminent death (and were spared) have said that this did in fact happen to them. Just imagine how much more this might happen when a person has seen death, been raised to life again, is facing the second (eternal) death, the books of heaven have been opened and they are in the last judgment scene.

The Judicial Phase of the Last Judgment

The Decision of God
When the evidence has been examined a decision can be made in each case. Basically, God is saying (as in the verse below) "they have made their choice, I am not going to force them to change."

"He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still." (Rev 22:11)

The "let him" is not "he must now and forever remain in this condition but, rather, "he has made his final decision, I will allow him to have his free will and will not force a change." The verse above indicates the point in time when this happens. It is quickly followed by a verse stating the imminence of the Second Coming:

"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." (Rev 22:12)

They have made up their minds. God says they have made their choice, let them be that way. There is no mention of a second chance here. Rather, it is a statement of the finality of each person's settled position.

The Decision of the Saved
The saved will verify the decisions already made in each case by God. We are told that:

"For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." (Eccl 12:14)

If God will bring every work into judgment and His judgments are made manifest

"Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest." (Rev 15:4)

then it makes sense that the saved will get to evaluate the judgments of God.

"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God." (1 Cor 4:5)

The Decision of the Lost
It seems that God has determined to reveal His character so that, in the end, everyone will acknowledge that He has been just in all of His dealings with fallen man.

"... for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God." (Rom 14:10-11)

Even the lost will understand enough of the workings of God throughout history (His story) to see that God is worthy.

The Executive Phase of the Last Judgment

The Actions of God
There is much misunderstanding here. The penalty (wages) of sin will be paid by those who have not had their sins covered by the blood of the Lamb and will consist of them suffering the second death.

"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom 6:23)

The second death that ends the existence of the lost is distinguished from the first death. It is not the first death because the saved also suffer that. The executive judgment and the second death come at the end of Revelation 20.

The death of Jesus is illustrative of how this will happen. Jesus, who suffered the penalty of sin (the second death) did not suffer any punishment directly from God. Read about what the Father did to Jesus on the cross to cause Him to die the second death. He died that we who have accepted that payment for our sins don't have to. Those who do not accept it will pay that penalty themselves.

The Actions of the Saved
The saved are witnesses to the end of the lost and will see that nothing but ashes remain.

"Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked." (Psa 91:8) "And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts." (Mal 4:3)

The Actions of the Lost
The lost, when all is made clear to them in the last judgment, finally acknowledge the justice and judgment of God. Then they suffer the same fate as Satan whose end is described:

"Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee." (Eze 28:18)

Ultimately, the Last Judgment is About God

Actually, it is God who is on trial:

"God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged." (Rom 3:4)

He is allowing His actions in this great controversy with sin to be judged. His desire is to have everyone convinced that He has dealt with all in a fair and loving manner so that for all eternity there will be no more questions.

"What do ye imagine against the LORD? he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time." (Nah 1:9)

What He is making an utter end of is imaginings or questions about Himself and His character. The demonstration of the results of Satan's rebellion will be so clear and convincing and the last judgment will be so open that God's actions will be judged favourably and there will never be another rebellion.


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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