What Will Be the Conditions During the Great White Throne Judgment Period? (Part 4)


In the previous installments of this series, we discussed the fact that those who will be raised in the Second Resurrection will have to give account for their deeds in their prior life, as well as for their actions throughout the Great White Throne Judgment period. We emphasized the fact that forgiveness of sins (upon genuine and sincere repentance) does not automatically and necessarily mean that there won’t be punishment for crimes and transgressions.

A classic example is David’s adultery with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. When David was brought to his senses, he bitterly repented and God forgave him his sins, but that did not mean that He left him without punishment. This gripping story is reported in 2 Samuel 12:7, 9-14:

“Nathan said to David… ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel… “Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall not depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”

“‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I will rise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.”‘ So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD has PUT AWAY your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.'”

Even though God forgave David’s sins, He still punished him for them. In God’s eyes, these sins were so egregious that David HAD to be punished for them so that he would never forget the gravity of his conduct and the resulting consequences. Subsequent events show that all the curses came true which God had pronounced against David.

Another episode in David’s life shows again that God, even though He forgives sins, does not necessarily leave sins unpunished. 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 convey the thought that Satan “moved” David to number Israel, with the express permission of God (obviously, God wanted to test David, and David failed the test). We read that God was displeased with this thing, and He struck Israel (1 Chronicles 21:7). This in turn had the following result: “And David’s heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly'” (2 Samuel 24:10).

God forgave David, but He still proceeded with inflicting punishment on the people through a serious plague. David clearly understood that this punishment occurred because of his sin (2 Samuel 24:17; 1 Chronicles 21:17). In numbering the people, David showed that he wanted to see how great his army was, so that he could attack his enemies or defend himself against them. He did not put his trust in God, but in his military. The people were guilty too in that they had the same attitude as David, and they had been acting sinfully anyhow. But the fact remains that David sinned, obtained forgiveness upon his genuine repentance, and was still inflicted with punishment for his sin.

Another incident involving forgiveness of sin and punishment can be seen in the life of Moses. As usual, the people murmured against him and Aaron in the wilderness, complaining that they had nothing to drink (Numbers 20:2-5). God told Moses to speak to the rock, and it would bring forth water (verse 8). However, Moses spoke rashly with his lips (Psalm 106:32-33), and he struck the rock twice with his rod (Numbers 20:11).  His conduct and God’s subsequent response show that he wanted to receive glory for himself. He claimed that HE would bring forth water for them. Apparently, he did not believe God that by merely speaking to the rock, it would yield water (verse 12). God called this rebellion (Numbers 27:12-14), and since the rock symbolized Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-4), Moses was viewed by God as actually hitting Christ. As a consequence, even though God forgave him his sin, He did not allow him to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:35-37; 3:25-26; 34:4).

Also, we read in Numbers 12 that Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman (apparently before his conversion). They brought up this incident because of envy, craving for the position which Moses had (Numbers 12:2). God was very angry with Miriam (who was apparently the main culprit) and struck her with leprosy. God forgave Miriam her sin, after Moses and Aaron had prayed for her, but He still decreed a seven-day shameful punishment for Miriam (Numbers 12:14).

All these examples show that even when God forgives sin which has been repented of, He might still inflict punishment, depending on the circumstances. How much more is this true for sins which have NOT been repented of!

Applying these principles to those who will be raised in the Second Resurrection, we can see that punishment for sins is in fact to be expected, and this is also clearly taught in Scripture.

Christ spoke numerous times about the Great White Throne Judgment period and those who would be in it.

In Matthew 10, He sent out His twelve apostles to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. God would be working with them and confirm their word through accompanying signs (compare Mark 16:20 and Matthew 10:8). Christ told His apostles: “‘And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, It will be MORE TOLERABLE for the land of SODOM and Gomorrah IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT than for that city’” (Matthew 10:14-15).

The New International Version says that it will be “more bearable,” and the Living Bible states that “they will be better off.”

In Matthew 11:20-24, Christ draws a similar comparison, stating:

“Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in TYRE and SIDON, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes! But I say to you, it will be MORE TOLERABLE for Tyre and Sidon in the DAY OF JUDGMENT than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven will be brought down to Hades [or: Will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades]; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in SODOM, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be MORE TOLERABLE for the land of Sodom IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT than for you.’”

In a similar account in Luke 10, further light is shed on the meaning of Christ’s statements. Here, He is sending out seventy disciples, two by two, to the cities where He was about to go, giving them the following commission: “And heal the sick there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you’’” (verse 9). He continued:

“‘But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, “The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.” But I say to you that it will be MORE TOLERABLE in THAT DAY for SODOM than for that city. Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in TYRE and SIDON, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be MORE TOLERABLE for Tyre and Sidon AT THE JUDGMENT than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades [or, see the alternative rendering, as mentioned above]. He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me’’” (Luke 10:10-16).

The Living Bible renders the words “it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon” as, “Tyre and Sidon will receive less punishment on the Judgment Day than you.”

In the above-quoted passages, Christ speaks about the Second Resurrection or the Great White Throne Judgment period, calling it “the Day of Judgment,” “the Judgment” or simply, “that day.” For some, it will be “more tolerable” than for others—they will receive “less punishment” than others.

Let us review a few more passages, which compare the conduct of the cities at the time of Christ with actions by others who had lived in previous times.

In Matthew 12:41-42, Christ says these revealing words:

“‘The men of NINIVEH will RISE UP in the JUDGMENT WITH THIS GENERATON and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The QUEEN OF THE SOUTH [the Queen of Sheba] will RISE UP in the JUDGMENT WITH THIS GENERATION and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.’”

When we read the parallel passage in Luke 11:31-32, we note that there, the order of the two examples is reversed, showing that one is not more important than the other, but that both are to emphasize the same truth. The word for “condemn” is used in James 5:9, where it is rendered in many translations as “judge.” That is the meaning which is also conveyed in Christ’s statements about the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South.

In the “Judgment,” the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South will not “condemn” the generation of Christ, nor will they even occupy the role of human “judges,” but it will be established by their prior conduct that they had acted in a better way than the people living at the time of Christ. The men of Nineveh might say to them: “How come that you did not respond to the preaching of Christ while we responded to Jonah’s message who was much inferior by comparison?” And the Queen of Sheba might say: “How come you did not listen to the wisdom of Christ while I came from afar to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, who was much inferior by comparison.”

We also note that all will “RISE UP” together in the “Judgment”—showing that they will be RAISED in the Second RESURRECTION—the Great White Throne JUDGMENT period.

In Mark 12:38-40, Christ shows us another important piece of the entire puzzle when He says:

“‘Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the market places, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts, who devour widows’ houses, and for pretense make long prayers. They will receive GREATER CONDEMNATION.’”

The New International Version gives the meaning more accurately: “Those men will be punished more severely.” The Living Bible says: “Their punishment will be the greater.”

In future installments, we will address more specifically the kind of severe “punishment” which some will receive for refusing to repent and for rejecting Christ and His messengers, while for others, the Day of Judgment will be “more tolerable.”

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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