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DEATH AND THE JUDGMENT OF GOD


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THE FOUR JUDGMENTS OF GOD

There are four major judgments by God described in the Bible, and I explain them in order in this web page. These judgments are...

    1)  GOD'S JUDGMENT OF MANKIND IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN
    2)  GOD'S JUDGMENT OF EACH ONE OF US WHEN WE DIE
    3)  JUDGMENT BY JESUS CHRIST AT HIS SECOND COMING
    4)  THE FINAL 'GREAT WHITE THRONE' JUDGMENT OF REVELATION 20:11

#1 GOD'S JUDGMENT OF MANKIND IN EDEN

God's first judgment occurred in the Garden of Eden, when He pronounced a sentence of death upon Adam, Eve and all of humanity.

In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground. For out of it were you taken. For dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.

Genesis 3:19

This 'first death' that God imposed upon us was a simple destruction, body and soul, so that each of us would cease to exist forever. It would be the loss of life itself, with all of its joy and blessedness. Another word that is used to describe such a death is 'annihilation'.

When God created Adam, He commanded him not to learn the difference between right and wrong, warning Adam that if he disobeyed he would die (Genesis 2:16-17, and see 'Why God Requires Our Faith'). Adam understood the nature of death, because God had presented all of the land animals and birds of the earth to him for naming (Genesis 2:19-20). Adam had seen and understood the relationship between predatory animals and their prey, and understood how terrifying and undesirable death could be.

Some Christians believe that, prior to Adam's disobedience in Eden, death did not exist on the earth. But this is not true. When God created Adam, the universe was already engulfed in a great moral struggle between God and Satan, and God created a habitat for mankind that reflected that struggle. When Adam was introduced to the animals lions did not eat vegetables, eagles did not pounce upon fruit, and sharks did not eat seaweed. The relationships between predators and prey that Adam observed reflected a much greater truth about 'spiritual predators' and their 'prey' in the universe, and a possibility of human death that Adam needed to understand.

This 'first death' that God has imposed upon us is usually caused by one of three things:

    1) Traumatic Injury / Blood Loss
    2) Famine / Malnutrition / Starvation
    3) Infection / Disease / Pestilence

These three causes of death are especially prevalent during times of warfare, and are symbolized by a red horse, a black horse and a pale horse in Revelation 6:3-8. Death can happen to anyone at any time, and will happen to every one of us some day. It happens to young and old, rich and poor, great and small, without favoritism and often without warning.

WHY DO WE DIE?

In order to understand God's judgments, it is necessary to understand how one man's disobedience (Adam) could lead to the death of each member of the human race. The Bible's answer to this question is straightforward. It says that when Adam disobeyed God in Eden, every member of the human race sinned with him:

...for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

...by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, because all sinned.

Romans 5:12

In the Greek language, which the apostle Paul used to write his letter to the Romans, he wrote the word 'sinned' in the aorist tense. The aorist tense is the simple past tense, indicating an action that someone has performed in the past. If Paul's words are to be taken literally, he was saying that each member of the human race personally, individually and consciously committed the same sin that Adam did. Paul was saying that, for each one of us, death is the direct consequence of our own personal choice in Eden.

Many Christians either don't understand Paul's words, or choose to contradict them. They deny that death is the direct consequence of our own personal choices, and instead blame God for the imposition of Adam's punishment upon us. They teach that the power that sin gained over Adam has been communicated to us biologically (through 'hereditary depravity'), and that the penalty for Adam's sin has been arbitrarily imposed upon us by God (through 'imputation'). I discuss these false doctrines in my web pages on 'The True Nature of Original Sin', and 'Predestination vs. Freedom of Choice'.

HOW COULD WE ALL SIN?

How is it possible that every member of the human race could have been present within Adam, and could have sinned with him? The answer is found in the book of Genesis:

And God said "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness."

Genesis 1:26

Adam was made like the Trinity. Just as one God is a union of three Persons, so also one man was a union of many billions of persons. Every member of the human race existed within Adam, and was individiually, consciously and simultaneously committing the same act of sin that he did. This claim can be tested. God has given us the tools we need to prove it for ourselves. I explain this in Testing Christianity.

This idea of our 'oneness' with Adam is sometimes referred to as a 'real' or 'realistic' union of Adam and mankind. It is the idea that each and every member of the human race was 'really' present within Adam, and really sinned with him in Eden. Because it is like the union between the three Persons of the Trinity, this connection with Adam might also be called a 'Trinitarian union'.

Although my reader may scoff at this idea of the oneness of mankind in Adam, it is actually a theme found frequently in popular culture today. As people pursue national and international cooperation, there are frequent references to the 'oneness of mankind' and to 'world unity'. Here in the United States similar expressions are deeply rooted in our culture, such as E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) and 'United we stand, divided we fall'.

In circles where pagan mysticism and contact with 'familiar spirits' is increasingly prevalent (including within the so-called 'emerging Christian church'), we hear more and more often that God is everything and in everything; and that mankind is a part of this 'divine oneness'. God is supposedly a great unifying force bringing an 'evolving' mankind forward to a peaceful and prosperous future. There is a 'ring of truth' in these words, because they hearken back to something that really is true; mankind was created in the image of God, began as 'one' and rebelled as 'one'. Now Satan is using partial truth to seduce mankind in these last days, presenting spiritual ideas that have a 'familiar ring' to them, uniting mankind in its final and ultimate rebellion against the Creator.

CHRISTIAN MYSTICISM

This concept, of our real union with Adam, is genuine 'Christian mysticism'. This same 'mystical oneness' applies to the saving connection between a Christian and Christ, which happens when a sinner chooses to be honest and condemn himself to the death he deserves. This 'change of mind', from self-justification to self-condemation, is called repentance. The world hates biblical repentance because it requires honesty, does not glorify mankind (support a positive self-image), and because it contradicts the world's narrative that mankind is evolving, getting 'better and better'. Be that as it may, it is only such moral honesty that can bring a failing human being to see where the true glory and hope for mankind lies; in the cross of Christ (see God's Forgiveness).

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, and the oneness between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has much more significance than just defining Who and What God is. It is also foundational for understanding who and what we are as the offspring of Adam, and what each of us can become through union with the 'last Adam', Jesus Christ. When Christians abandon this mystical truth of a 'Trinitarian Union', they render themselves blind and powerless; inept in a world that is caught up like never before in the pursuit of a spirituality that is 'real' and that 'works'. Anything is preferable empty religious words that provide no 'traction' in life.

As the world looks at doctrinaire Christians who have no power, they cannot be blamed for interacting with 'familiar spirits' who are at least real. Anything seems better than the 'walking-dead zombie-ism' that is conservative, evangelical Christianity today; a Christianity that has an outward form of godliness, but that denies the power of God in its practical living (2 Timothy 3:5).

Jesus said that He is a living vine, and Christians are like branches that experience life by being connected to Himself. He warned that when Christians fail to appreciate and maintain their Trinitarian union with Himself, they can die spiritually and may end up being gathered and burned (John 15:6). He also spoke of a church in Sardis that claimed to be alive, but was dead (Revelation 3:1 - For more about the necessity of Christians abiding in Christ, see The Necessity of Christian Perseverance).

Today Christians are challenged on two fronts:

    1) To expose and reject a false spirituality that claims the power to perform signs, miracles and wonders, but which is not Christian at all and brings dishonor to Christ.

    2) To pursue a genuine spirituality that does reveal the power of God; a power that changes people within and manifests the handiwork of God.

Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit. So shall you be My disciples.

John 15:8

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:11

Now some are puffed up, as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills. And I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.

1 Corinthians 4:18-20

DEATH POSTPONED: THREE THINGS MADE POSSIBLE

Prior to his disobedience, God had warned Adam that he would die on the day that he sinned:

And the Lord God commanded the man, saying "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat; for in the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die."

Genesis 2:16-17

The death that God had warned Adam about was the end of his existence; the destruction of both his body and his soul. But Adam did not die on that day. God passed a sentence of death upon him, but Adam's death was postponed. Something else died on that day instead. God killed innocent animals, and used their skins (or hides) to clothe Adam and Eve, covering their nakedness.

Unto Adam also, and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them.

Genesis 3:21

This postponement of death made three things possible:

    1)  It made forgiveness and salvation possible for many people throughout human history, giving them the opportunity to repent of their sins and trust in a promised Savior. It also explained how God's forgiveness would work; that this Savior would come into the world to die for us, so that He might cover our 'moral nakedness'.

    2)  It enabled death not only to serve as a punishment, but to serve as a warning to us as well. As we see death ending the lives of people all around us, it shows us the tragic consequences of our sin in Eden and the certainty of God's punishments. It speaks to us about the importance of putting ourselves on good terms with our Creator while we still have the time and opportunity to do so.

    3)  It made greater wickedness possible, by allowing people to prolong their rebellion and warfare against God. It made it possible for people to despise God's warnings and His offer of forgiveness, to ignore the testimonies of death and our conscience, and to instead be 'over the top' in a lifetime of wicked opposition to God.

The Bible says that we all know that death represents God's judgment upon each of us (Romans 1:18). We recognize from childhood that death is dreadful, and represents God's anger toward us; that Someone who is immortal has imposed mortality upon us. But we deceive ourselves and ignore God's warning:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.

Romans 1:18

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But after your hardness and impenitent heart you treasure up unto yourself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds.

Romans 2:4-6

Blessed is the man that walks not in the advice of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he does meditate day and night.

Psalm 1:1-2

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by Me your days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased. If you are wise, you shall be wise for yourself; but if you scorn, you alone shall bear it.

Proverbs 9:10-12

Rather than ignore death or deny its significance, God advises us to give serious thought to its meaning, with the promise that if we will do so, we will be able to draw closer to Him and His salvation. He warns us that, given the seriousness and uncertainty of life, time spent joking, drinking and partying will be unprofitable:

It is better to go to the house of mourning (the funeral home), than to go to the house of feasting; for death is the end of all men, and the living will take it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter; for by sadness the heart is made better. The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth (merriment or partying).

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:4

But woe unto you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe unto that are full, for you shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers speak well of the false prophets.

Luke 6:24-26

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be afflicted and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.

James 4:7-10

#2 GOD'S JUDGMENT WHEN WE DIE

What happens to people when they die at this present time? Do they simply enter a state of suspended animation, waiting for a judgment that will come in the future? The answer is 'No, God does not postpone His judgments.' God passes judgment upon us immediately at the point of death. This is consistent with His word in the book of Hebrews:

It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.

Hebrews 9:27

There is a judgment that God makes about each of us at the point of death, and that determines where each of us will 'pass the time' until His final judgment takes place. At this present time, when our bodies die, our souls can go to one of three places:

    1)  To heaven, to be with God.
    2)  To a place called 'Death'.
    3)  To a place that is called 'Sheol' in Hebrew, 'Hades' in Greek and 'Hell' in English.

For the Christian who has continued or 'persevered' in Christ until death, abiding in Him and bringing forth the fruits of the Holy Spirit, to die is to be transported immediately into the presence of God in heaven; or as the apostle Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 5:8, 'Absent from the body and present with the Lord'. The other two places are described below.

A PLACE CALLED 'DEATH'

For people who have been conceived in the womb and have received physical bodies, but who die before sinning beyond their first rebellion in Eden, there is a waiting place that the Bible calls 'Death'. This place is exactly what its name implies; a place where one is simply dead. It is a place of 'soul-sleep', where one waits in a state of unconsciousness until the 'Great White Throne' judgment. This place is mentioned three times in the book of Revelation, where it is distinguished from Hell:

So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with hunger and with death, and by the beasts of the earth.

Revelation 6:8

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 20:13-15

Death is an event; the destruction of our physical bodies and the end of our life here upon this earth. For people who, either for lack of opportunity or capability, have not added to the sin of their original rebellion in Eden, their conscious existence ends in death. They will not live again until they are resurrected to stand before God's great white throne. This would include the millions of infants and little children who, throughout the several thousand years of human history since Eden, have died before they were capable of making moral decisions in this life. This group would also include those who have lived longer lives, but were never mentally capable of sinning due to brain injuries or other physical or mental handicaps. For all of these people there will be a direct passage from their initial rebellion against God in Eden, to God's final Great White Throne judgment, with no suffering experienced in between.

There will be people who object to what I am saying, arguing that God is not a 'baby killer'. But what needs to be remembered is that when we were in Eden, we were fully mature and capable persons, just as Adam was. And it will be as those same capable persons that those who are brought back from 'Death' will stand before God, to receive the punishment that was first pronounced upon them in Eden.

Infancy and childhood are stages in our physical development. They are descriptions of what we are at various times, but not of who we are. Yes, children are very beautiful and loveable, and precious in God's sight. In children we see all that God intended when He created mankind in the first place. And children are 'relatively' innocent in our present world; an innocence that must be appreciated. Parents should love them dearly. Indeed, God has made them loveable, just like puppies and other newborn creatures are loveable; to arouse affectionate, protective, parental instincts within us. But regardless of 'what' children are, nothing can change 'who' they are, or reverse God's first judgment upon us. The divine condemnation that rests upon all of us at birth was referred to by the apostle John:

He that believes on Him (Jesus) is not condemned. But he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed (come to believe) in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18

It would have been perfectly right and appropriate for God to destroy all of us in Eden, immediately after our rebellion. We were given every advantage there, and our rebellion was inexcusable. We all sinned with an adequate understanding of the implications and consequences of our choices. And so God immediately pronounced a just sentence upon all of us (Genesis 3:16-19). The fact that God then chose to introduce the possibility of forgiveness into our world does not mean that He is obligated to make every member of the human race aware of His grace. God did not introduce the possibility of mercy into the world because He did not adequately prepare us for temptation in Eden. The execution of His original sentence of death upon those who never experience life after Eden, or who may have never heard the gospel, is completely justified.

It is my belief that, when the inhabitants of 'Death' are cast into the Lake of Fire, they will not suffer. They will simply and instantaneously cease to exist. This alone, without any thought of further suffering, is a dreadful and terrifying prospect. Life is precious, and it is a terrible thing to lose it.

My response to those who might claim that I have a cold-hearted perspective on children, and that I misrepresent God's message about them, is this: 'Who cares more about children? A Christian who shares the message that the Savior died for guilty children, or...

    1) A nation that has systematically murdered 60 milllion unborn children in the womb?

    2) A human race that tells children that they are not created in the image of a God, but in the image of apes?

    3) A humanity that encourages sexual experimentation of all kinds at the youngest age?

    4) A humanity that immerses its young people in idle entertainment and violent video games?

    5) A Christianity that, rather than explain the true nature of their guilt and danger, instead teaches that children go to heaven when they die?

Many claim to love children, while they keep children from hearing the truth of God's word.

I believe that most children perceive the meaning and message of death early in their lives. But they do not know that God has explained it and provided a solution for it. They watch parents, friends, relatives and the public media to see how others deal with the subject. Ultimately they grow more and more insensitive to it as they see death, war and murder portrayed casually in movies, TV and video games. Most of us learn to ignore death until injury or illness forces us to confront it. And then we come to realize that medical technology cannot bring an end to death; it can only postpone it.

A PLACE CALLED 'HELL'

The third place that a person can go after death is Hell (also referred to in the Bible with the Greek word 'Hades', and the Hebrew word 'Sheol'). Most people have a very negative concept of 'Hades' or 'Hell', but Hell has not always been a completely unpleasant place. In His story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus described Hell as a place divided into two sections, where both the righteous and the unrighteous lived. The righteous dwelt in 'Paradise', and the unrighteous dwelt in 'Torments'. This was the state of affairs prior to Jesus' death upon the cross. When Jesus died, and completed the necessary atonement for the sins of man, He was able to transfer Abraham (and all of God's other people) out of Paradise and directly into the presence of His Father in heaven.

This is why Jesus told the repentant thief, who was on a cross next to Him, that they would both be together in Paradise later that same day (Luke 23:43). After His death on the cross Jesus entered Paradise; to announce salvation to God's faithful, and certain doom to the unrighteous. Since that time, God's people have entered directly into the presence of God when they die, and Hell has been exclusively a place of torment and punishment for those who have died in rebellion against God. There they await the 'Great White Throne' judgment, when Hell itself will be cast into the Lake of Fire (along with Death).

As I have pointed out in the beginning of this section, God makes a decision about every one of us at the point of death, when our bodies are destroyed. And He places each of our souls directly where we belong; in a place of joy, soul-sleep or torment. At that point we exist, whether sinner or saint, as a spiritual being only; in a disembodied, non-physical state. No one will have a physical body again until they take part in either the first or second resurrection (see 'Two Resurrections' below). It might seem strange that people in hell, who do not have physical bodies, experience physical torment. This, however, is how it is in hell. God is able to impose physical suffering upon non-physical beings.

TWO RESURRECTIONS

Before going any farther, it is important to point out that the final two judgments described in this web page are each associated with a separate resurrection of the dead. There will be a bodily resurrection of the righteous associated with Jesus' second coming and judgment of the world before the Millennium, and there will be a second bodily resurrection of the wicked which will occur 1000 years later, at the fourth and final 'Great White Throne' judgment. God is specific in His description of these two resurrections:

And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel 12:2

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power. But they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6

And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 20:12-15

Jesus taught that the Lake of Fire would be experienced in a physical body:

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna (the Lake of Fire).

Matthew 10:28

JUDGMENT #3: JUDGMENT BY JESUS CHRIST AT HIS SECOND COMING

The Bible tells us that when Jesus comes back, He will judge two separate groups of people. He will judge Christians, and He will judge those people who remain alive on the earth. These two judgments are symbolized in Revelation 14:14-20 by two harvest sicles; a first sicle that will 'harvest' Christians from the earth, and a second sicle that will 'harvest' the rebellious nations of the world for the 'winepress' of God's judgment. Jesus' judgment will apply to both groups of those who are 'reaped'.

Jesus has told us something about the time and order of these judgments in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew chapter 25). He began, in the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (verses 1-13), with a general warning about not wisely preparing for His coming. Then, in the parable of the 'Talents' (verses 14-30), Jesus described His judgment of Christians. Finally, in verses 31-46, Jesus described His judgment of the nations of the world when He will have returned to Jerusalem to restore the kingdom of His earthly father, David.

It is interesting to note that in each of these judgments that Jesus will carry out, there will be people who have not experienced death. They will go directly from their everyday lives here on earth to their eternal destinies. When God resurrects His people from the dead, there will be some Christians who will be alive on earth when Jesus comes, and who will be changed instantaneously into immortal beings without experiencing death:

Behold, I shew you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, 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, and we shall be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep. 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 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

And there will be people upon the earth who will not die before they are cast alive by Christ into the Lake of Fire:

When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all nations. And He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand "Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world".

And the King shall answer and say unto them "Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you have done it unto Me". Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand "Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels".

Matthew 25:31-34, 40-41

The book of Revelation describes these people, who will be cast alive into the Lake of Fire, as a unified humanity that will have taken the 'Mark of the Beast'. In their commitment to a Satanically inspired unity or 'oneness', they will actually comprise the Beast and the False Prophet:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice "If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture (without being diluted) into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever. And they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receives the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints. Here are they that keep the command of God and the faith of Jesus.

Revelation 14:9-12

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.

Revelation 19:20

These two descriptions, from both Matthew and Revelation, are depicting the same judgment; one where some people will have been so drastically evil that they will be cast immediately into the Lake of Fire, to then experience never-ending torment.

JUDGMENT #4: THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT

God's fourth and final judgment will occur at the end of the Millennium, when Satan will have deceived and led the nations of mankind to oppose God for the last time.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who 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, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hell delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hell were cast into the Lake of Fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 20:11-15

Jesus often referred to the Lake of Fire as 'Gehenna'. In Jesus' day Gehenna was Jerusalem's 'city dump'. It was found in the Valley of Hinnom, south of the city. Its fires consumed trash continuously, night and day. In addition, the Valley of Hinnom was a place where the people of Israel had burned their children alive as sacrifices to false Gods over 600 years before Jesus' time; before it became the city dump. Thus Gehenna not only presents a very real picture of continual burning, but is also a reminder of the fact that people are capable of committing sins that would justly put them in a place of such torment. Gehenna was the word that Jesus used when He wanted to refer to the Lake of Fire. It is not a term which He used in reference to Hell, and we need to understand the difference between the two.

Jesus Christ is coming to earth again, but not as He did the first time; as the gentle Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world. This time He will come as a conquering King, bringing God's final judgment upon the earth. The Bible tells us that He will first appear in the clouds, together with His sign, the cross. And when He comes, those on earth who had hoped to escape His judgment, will face the terrible realization that it is forever too late for them. They will realize that they have been foolish not to heed the warning of the first death; a warning that spoke faithfully to them every day of their lives.

Cross

THE SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Matthew 24:30

Behold, He comes with clouds. And every eye shall see Him, and they also who pierced Him. And all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen.

Revelation 1:7

TO BURN FOREVER?

Many have asked 'What kind of God could put anyone in a lake of fire to burn forever?' The justification for the Lake of Fire and Brimstone is seen in the events that lead up to the 'Great White Throne' judgment. These events are as follows:

    1) The gracious Gospel of Christ will have been proclaimed to the whole world (Matthew 24:14, Revelation 14:6)

    2) The entire planet will have been destroyed (Revelation 11:18) as a rebellious human race is deceived and led by Satan into war. God will use the destructive forces unleashed by man to bring about the Trumpet and Bowl judgments of Revelation chapters 8, 9 and 16.

    3) The Second Coming of Christ to bind Satan, rescue Israel and restore the earth to a blessed Millennium of peace will have occurred (Revelation chapter 19 through 20:6).

    4) A final, Satanically inspired human rebellion against Christ will occur at the end of the Millennium (Gog and Magog), just prior to the Great White Throne judgment. (Ezekiel chapters 38 & 39, Revelation 20:7-15).

The point here is that, after the entire planet will have been destroyed through Satan's deception of mankind, and after Jesus Christ will have come back to restrain Satan, undo the destruction, restore the planet and bring peace to the earth, Satan and mankind will once again team up to attack the "Prince of Peace". This is the backdrop for the Great White Throne judgment that will follow; a judgment that will fall upon angels and men who have been 'over the top' in their opposition to God. It is only in the light of Satan's relentless wickedness that we can understand why a 'relentless' Lake of Fire has been prepared for him and his angels (Matthew 25:41).

God never intended that men should end up in the Lake of Fire. The Bible says that 'God is unwilling that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance' (2 Peter 3:9). In the Old Testament book of Exodus we are shown a man, the Pharaoh of Egypt, who was a picture of Satan. Just as this Pharaoh would not let his captives go, but was even willing to plunge himself and his followers into death in the Red Sea, so also Satan is determined to lead as many people into the 'Red Sea' of God's judgment with himself as he can (Exodus 14).

How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer (Satan), son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, who did weaken the nations! For you have said in your heart "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High". Yet you shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see you shall narrowly look upon you, and consider you, saying "Is this the one that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?" All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. You shall not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, and slain your people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

Isaiah 14:12-20

While Satan will be tormented eternally, I do not believe that everyone who is cast into the Lake of Fire will suffer eternally with him. I believe that people will suffer in direct proportion to the sins they have committed. While the Bible says that the Lake of Fire will burn forever, it is only Satan, the Beast and the False Prophet who are specifically described as suffering eternally in that fire (Revelation 19:20, 20:10). It is my belief that the Beast and the False Prophet are not individual persons, but are comprised of all those who will 'unite as one' in the last days to impose the Mark of the Beast upon humanity, and to take that 'Mark' in their own bodies.

The Bible talks about degrees of punishment. Jesus warned some of the cities of Israel that it would be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for them (Matthew 10:15, 11:23-24). He also indicated that those who disobey God in relative ignorance will not be punished as severely as those who knew more and continued in their disobedience (Luke 12:48). It is my belief that many who have been cast into the Lake of Fire will, at some point, simply cease to exist. This is a terrible fate, to be sure, but God is just and right in all of His ways. The first death is exactly what it appears to be; the loss of our existence (extinction). When people stare this 'first death' in the face and persist in disobedience and rebellion throughout a lifetime, there is only one judgment possible for them; a prolonged second death directly proportional to their wickedness.

THE JUDGE SAYS "COME!"

God has given His only Son as a ransom for us all, and has been inviting the world constantly, since the original rebellion of mankind in Eden, to return and be reconciled to Himself. I have written on this page about how death represents God's warning to us. But God also speaks to us through His goodness. It is His everyday kindness and patience, seen in the sunshine and rain that grow our crops, as well as in the many other aspects of everyday life that we enjoy so much, that reveals just how worthy God is of our respect and affection.

You have heard it said 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy'. But I say to you 'Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those that hate you and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you'; that you may be the children of your Father Who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Be perfect therefore, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-45,48

We also are men like you, and preach unto you that you should turn from vain worship to the living God, Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all things that are in them. Who in times past allowed all nations to walk in their own ways. Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, giving us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 14:15-17

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Ever since mankind's fall in Eden, beginning with the first animal sacrifice that clothed Adam and Eve, God has been calling us to come back to Him and be saved:

Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Jesus says "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Matthew 11:28

And the Spirit and the bride say 'come'. And let him that hears say 'come'. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:17

THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF HUMAN SOULS

In this web page I have presented a basic message of God's word: that every individual member of the human race was present within Adam, and rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. This idea, that we all existed within Adam before being born later in human history, has sometimes been referred to as 'the pre-existence of human souls'. This is not a new concept. In fact, it was present in the minds of Jesus' disciples when they asked him about a man who had been born blind.

And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?"

John 9:1-2

Obviously the disciples were open to the idea that a person can sin before he is born, and that a person's unfortunate birth can result from his own actions, as well as from the actions of his parents. The Bible does not tell us where the disciples had gotten this concept; from Jesus Himself, or from someone else. Personally, I believe that the disciples' question reflects discussions that Jesus had been having with them about mankind's rebellion in Eden, as well as the potential impact of parental sins upon children.

It is important to observe that Jesus did not rebuke His disciples for asking Him this question. He did not say 'Where did you get a crazy idea like that', or deny the possibility that a person can sin before he is born. He simply told the disciples that, in this particular case, the man's blindness did not stem from anyone's sin, but from the eternal purposes of God; that Jesus Himself might be glorified through it. Here Jesus gives us a practical example of keeping both the sovereignty of God and the moral accountability of man in mind as we seek to understand our lives (see Predestination and Freedom of Choice).

Jesus answered "Neither has this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."

John 9:3

THE PRE-EXISTENCE OF THE SON OF GOD

For those who might scoff at the idea of the pre-existence of souls, I have two questions. First of all, have you researched this subject? Do you know how long this concept has been around in the Christian church, and of how widely it has been discussed and believed? I would suggest a web search on the subject. You might be surprised at the results.

Secondly, I have a simple question for Christians pertaining to the Trinity: 'If Jesus is the Son of God, then how can Christians claim that He is co-eternal (equally old and timeless) with the Father?' This is a question that has been thrown at Christians since the earliest days of the Church, by those who have argued that Jesus must be younger than the Father, and therefore not fully eternal and divine (a view known as Arianism).

The Biblical message is that Jesus has always existed, and truly is co-eternal with the Father; without a beginning or an end. He is the ageless Creator of the universe. But the Bible also tells us that Jesus was born (or begotten) of the Father before creation began. So how can Jesus be co-eternal with the Father, and be His Son at the same time? The only logical explanation is that He existed within the Father before He was begotten of Him. No other explanation is consistent with both the Bible and common sense. The Son of God must have 'pre-existed' within the Father, before coming out of Him to be His Son (see God is a Family Called the Trinity).

I would argue that the same thing is true of the human race. Every member of the human race existed consciously within Adam, before coming forth from him in subsequent human history. This relationship between God the Father and God the Son, and a corresponding relationship between Adam and his offspring, is an important part of what the Bible refers to when it says that mankind was made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Not only were we all one, as the members of the Trinity are One, but the 'unfolding' of the Trinity is also reflected in the 'unfolding' of mankind.

For many 'fundamentalist' Christians, the word 'mysticism' conjures up thoughts of dabbling in the occult, in 'Eastern' religions, or in the 'charismatic' movement. In their retreat from these 'irrational' and 'unreliable' things, they have rejected all mysticism. But there is a genuine, biblical mysticism that we all need to understand. Today Christians are surrounded by mysticism on all sides, both within the 'church' and outside of it, and the simple fact is that the only way to combat false mysticism is with true mysticism. Much that has passed for Christian orthodoxy since apostolic times has been grounded in 'rationalism' and human philosophy. There has been a longstanding denial, since the days of Augustine, of our real mystical union with Adam in his rebellion (see The True Nature of Original Sin), and the implications of that for our lives. It is my belief that the church will not know divine power again, especially in these profoundly mystical 'last days', until it returns to these great truths.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE?

People have understandably asked 'How it is possible that, if each of us had real individual freedom in Adam, billions of human beings all made the same identical choice to disobey God. Doesn't this suggest that either 1) we really didn't have individual freedom of choice, or 2) the temptation that confronted us was beyond the ability of anyone to resist'? My answer is twofold.

First of all, I cannot explain how the three Persons of the Trinity can be distinct and separate Persons, and yet be one God at the same time. For some, trying to 'picture the Trinity' might conjure up visions of 3 people tied together in a 3-legged race, tripping and stumbling over each other. It seems that such a union would interfere with Their individual identity and freedom of action, but it does not. This union is beyond my ability to understand; but I know that it is true nevertheless. I would suggest that a similar oneness between Adam and the rest of mankind is equally impossible to understand, and yet equally true. I do not have to understand a thing in order to appreciate its reality. God has provided proof for it (see Testing Christianity), and that is enough for me.

Secondly, as a possible explanation of how billions of people might have all made the same choice, I would suggest that when we were in Adam, we may have all been aware of one another to some degree. Ultimately, Adam's choice may have been a cooperative decision, where mankind said 'Let us rebel against God'; a choice very similar to the 'Let us' decisions that the Trinity made in Genesis 1:26 and 3:22. Each of us might have felt emboldened to rebel against God through the knowledge that the entire human race was joining us in that effort (strength in numbers). If Adam's choice was this kind of 'joint decision', then that would explain how one man's decision could be the unanimous choice of many individual people at the same time.

THE CITY OF MAN

There is one instance where we find the 'Let us...' decisions of man going head-to-head against the 'Let us...' decisions of God.

And they said one to another "Let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly". And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said "Let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth".

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men built. And the Lord said "Behold, the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do. And now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Let Us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." So the Lord scattered them abroad from there upon the face of all the earth: and they left off building the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from there did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Genesis 11:3-9

God's battle against 'the city of man' is an important theme of the Bible. At Pentecost we find God using supernatural power to reverse the confusion of human languages, as He begins to unite a repentant mankind under a second Adam, Jesus Christ (Acts 2:1-13). The conflict between the city of man (Babylon), and the city of God (Jerusalem) is found throughout the Bible. We find this conflict described in Psalm 2, and its end foretold in Isaiah and Revelation:

Why do the nations rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bands asunder, and cast away Their cords from us." He that sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His strong displeasure: "Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion (Jerusalem)."

Psalm 2:1-6

Prepare slaughter for his (Satan's) children, for the iniquity of their fathers, that they do not rise nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities. "For I will rise up against them," says the Lord of hosts, "and cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, son and nephew," says the Lord.

Isaiah 14:21-22

And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory. And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are grown rich through the abundance of her delicacies.

Revelation 18:1-3

And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and cast it into the sea, saying "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all".

Revelation 18:21

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God".

Revelation 21:2-3

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(Bible quotations are from the old King James version, with modifications by the author.)