WILL UNBELIEVERS BE RAISED FOR JUDGMENT?
The key to a Scriptural understanding of the question posed in the title of this paper is in understanding the judgment at the great white throne. Why? Because it is at the great white throne that the unbeliever will be judged. We must address the question: is the judgment at the great white throne for all unbelievers from every dispensation, or is it for a very limited group of unbelievers? I believe that it is the latter, i.e. for a very limited group of unbelievers.
We will study the following topics in this paper in our search for the truth:
The great white throne judgment
“The rest of the dead” and other considerations
Passages that tell us that unbelievers will not be raised for judgment
Passages that speak of resurrection unto judgment of unbelievers
Passages that seem to say that unbelievers will be raised unto judgment
An Old Testament prophecy of resurrection
Passages that speak of God’s wrath
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT
One of the things we must understand about Revelation is its extremely Jewish character. That is to say, it was written to and about Israel. Another truth we must understand is that the book of Revelation is the most extensive writing in the Bible about the tribulation. When we put these two truths together we will begin to understand who will be judged at the great white throne. Let us first examine the question of to whom Revelation was written.
We read in 1:5-6, “To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve His God and Father….”. Who is the “us” to whom John refers? It is those to whom He made to be a “kingdom of priests”. When we read Exodus 19:6 we will see that Israel will be a kingdom of priests. Ex. 19:3 reads, “Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called up to him and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel“. And Ex. 19:6 reads, “although the whole world is Mine you will be for Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Revelation is written to Israel.
Nowhere do we read of the Church being a kingdom of priests. The only New Testament reference to a kingdom of priests is in I Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…”. But we must note that Peter wrote his epistle to “the strangers scattered throughout…..”. (I Peter 1:1) i.e the dispersed of Israel. The Greek word “diaspora” translated here “scattered” occurs three times in the New Testament. In John 7:35 we read, “The Jews said to one another, ‘Where does this Man intend to go that we cannot find Him? Will He go where our people are scattered among the Greeks?” In this verse, it is obvious that “diaspora” refers to the scattered of Israel. The second occurrence of “diaspora” is found in James 1:1, “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”. The reference here is also obvious. The third occurrence is in I Peter 1:1. We find in this matter a perfection in the Word of God which one would expect. That is, that the Greek word “diaspora” refers to the scattered of Israel.
We read in Rev. 1:5-6 that the kingdom of priests is Israel. We cannot apply this phrase to the Church which is His Body (not a nation) without doing a great injustice to the written Word of God. John’s revelation was written to Israel, and more specifically, as we shall see, to Israel of the tribulation.
Revelation also has quite a bit to say about the day of the Lord. How do we know that? We read in Rev. 6:12-13, “And I beheld when He had opened the sixth seal, and lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth…….”. Let us compare that with Joel 2:3, “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come”.
The Old Testament also has quite a bit to say about the day of the Lord. The context will show that 12 of the Old Testament passages concerning the day of the Lord are prophesies given directly to Israel or are concerning Israel. These 12 are: Ezek 13:5, Joel 1:15, 2:1, 2:11, 2:31, 3:14, Amos 5:18, 5:20, Zeph. 1:7 and 1:14, Zech. 14:1 and Mal. 4:5. Two of the prophesies are addressed to Babylon, Is. 13:6 and 9. One to all the nations around Israel, Obadiah 6-10. (Verses 19-20 of Obadiah will show that the “all nations” refer to those nations surrounding Israel) Also of interest is the fact that those nations surrounding Israel will be punished for how they treated Israel. The fact that the Old Testament prophesies about the day of the Lord concern themselves predominantly with Israel, and that Revelation is in part, about the day of the Lord, is another indication of the Jewish character of Revelation.
One last thing that shows the Jewish character of Revelation is the number of Old Testament quotations and references found in it. In the Gospel of Matthew (The Hebrew Gospel) there are 92 references to the Old Testament. In Hebrews there are 102 and in Revelation there are 285.
We have seen that Revelation was written to and about Israel. But more than that, we must see that it is about Israel during the end times, which includes, of course the tribulation. Note for example Rev. 7:14, “…..These are they who have come out of the great tribulation….”. Note also the several references to three and one-half years (Rev. 12:6 and14, also13:5) and compare that to Daniel 9:27. It is clear that Dan. 9:26b-27 speaks of the tribulation where we are told that the covenant will be broken in the middle of the seven year treaty, i.e. after three and one-half years, after which time the tribulation will begin.
One other fact that goes to show that Israel is at the very center of the tribulation is that in Jeremiah 30:7 we read of the tribulation, but it is called there, “Jacob’s trouble”.
Revelation is the book in the Bible that has the most to say about the tribulation. The great white throne is mentioned by name only in Revelation. These facts connect the great white throne with the tribulation.
Because the Revelation is addressed to, and concerns Israel, I believe we must rightly divide the Word of truth and see this book in its correct dispensational setting. Therefore, I believe that only the unbelievers of the tribulation period will be raised for judgment at the great white throne. As we shall see as we continue in this study, all other unbelievers will not be raised. “But”, one might object, “there are no exceptions in God’s Word”. But there are exceptions. For example, every male Gentile that lived from the time of Abraham had to be circumcised in order to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and to participate in the promises given them, except for those of the Acts period (see Acts 15:22-29). We have no record of God speaking directly to anyone after Christ’s ascension except to Paul on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9:1-6). There is no record of an individual being promised paradise except the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43). I’m sure the reader can think of other exceptions in God’s dealings with His people in order to accomplish His plans and purposes.
“THE “REST OF THE DEAD” AND OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
As we go to Rev. 20: 4-6 we will discover more about who will be judged at the great white throne. “…. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands.” The fact that this concerns those who did not worship the beast tells us that John is speaking of those who went through the great tribulation, he is not speaking of every person that ever lived from the beginning of time. Let us go on with verse 4, “They (i.e. those who had not worshiped the beast during the great tribulation) came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”
Now let us go to verse 5, “(The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.)” To say that the “rest of the dead” in this verse applies to the dead of all ages is to take this phrase entirely out of context. The context is clearly contrasting those who did not receive the mark of the beast during the tribulation, with those who did. The former will reign with Christ in His millennial reign, the latter will be raised after the millennial reign to be judged. But in both cases, those who did and those who did not receive the mark of the beast, were obviously, those who lived during the tribulation.
It is clear that we must take the phrase “the rest of the dead” in its context in order to have a correct understanding of who “the rest of the dead” will be. Let me put this concept in terms of every day life. If we, for example, went to a dog show, we might see that after the first round of judging some dogs were allowed to leave, but others were being kept. One of the judges might dismiss some dogs, but ask the rest of the dogs to go to a different room for further testing. When the judge asks the rest of the dogs to go to a different room, he did not have in mind the rest of the dogs in the whole world, but the rest of the dogs that were in the competition.
So when John writes of the “rest of the dead”, he is not referring to the rest of the dead who ever lived, he is referring to the rest of the dead who lived through the tribulation. We must take things in their context.
Let us look again at Rev. 20:5 where we read, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended”. The word “loipos” is the Greek word translated here “rest”. It occurs 42 times and is translated “other(s)” 24 times; “rest” 12 times; “remnant” 4 times and “residue” and “remains” one time each.
One of the verses which translates “loipos” as “other” is II Cor. 12:13, “How were you inferior to the other churches, except that I was never a burden to you?” Did Paul mean all the churches of the world, including all the false religions of the world, or only Christian churches? The answer is obvious; we must consider “other” in its context.
Consider also Gal. 2:13, “The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy…”. The context will show that the hypocrisy was that believing Jews refused to eat with Gentiles. Unbelieving Jews would not even have considered such a thing as they considered it against the Mosaic tradition. So by not eating with Gentiles, unbelieving Jews would have been living in ignorance, not hypocrisy. Again, we must consider “other” in the context or we will certainly be led astray in our seeking for the truth. In this case “other” is limited to believing Jews, and does not include unbelieving Jews.
It is clear in these verses that the word “other” is the best translation. But an examination of all the verses in which “loipos” is translated “rest” will show that “other(s)” is what is intended. In each of the 42 occurrences of “loipos” the context tells us who the others are. That is to say, the word itself is limiting, and the context shows to whom the word is limited.
If “loipos” had been translated “others” in Rev. 20:5 there would have been no difficulty with the question of who would be judged at the great white throne. “…. I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The others did not come to life until the thousand years were ended).”
The translators chose “rest” instead of “others”, but “others” is certainly more accurate. That is to say, if Rev. 20:5 had been translated in the same way as the majority of the occurrences of “loipos”, we would have understood that the “others” referred to in verse 5 are those who did worship the beast during the tribulation.
We might ask ourselves why, out of all the times of history, will the unbelievers of the tribulation be raised to be judged. I believe that the tribulation will be a very special time when those who are to be tested will have to choose between remaining true to the God of heaven and earth, or worshiping Satan. Those who remain true to God and refuse to worship the antichrist or to receive the mark of the beast may lose their lives, but they will partake in the first resurrection and will live and reign with Christ. Those who do receive the mark of the beast and who do worship the antichrist may save their temporal lives but will be judged at the great white throne, and are in danger of suffering the second death, i.e. being cast into the lake of fire.
Some might object to the fairness that some unbelievers, i.e. those that live during the tribulation period, will be subject to judgment and to the punishment of the second death, while most unbelievers will not be. Let us examine that objection.
While it is true, in my opinion, that unbelievers of the end times are subject to punishment that unbelievers of other dispensations are not, it is also true that they will be the beneficiaries of many special signs and ministries of God. For example, Matthew 24:4-29 is a record of the signs of the end times given by our Lord to His disciples so that they might recognize them when the end comes. These signs are recorded for all who seek the truth concerning those days, and should prove to all who read it that God is the One true God. Note verse 5 where we are warned that false prophets will come and deceive many. Verse 15, “So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel-let the reader understand- then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains”. What further sign that the end times have arrived could anyone possibly want then an idol in God’s holy temple? And how could even the unbeliever not be convinced that God is Who He says He is when he is a witness to the fulfillment of prophecy in his own time?
As if that were not enough, we read in Rev. 11:3 of two witnesses, “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth”. We read in verse 5 of these two witnesses and the absolute proof of their being sent from God. “If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies”.
And as if that were not enough, let us consider Rev. 14:6-7, “Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth-to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come“. What could possibly be more convincing?
I believe that it is true that some unbelievers (those of the tribulation period) will be judged and punished whereas other unbelievers will not be. But those who will be judged and punished are given more advantages in hearing the truth than in other dispensations, and will therefore, be without excuse
Some might say that while it is true that most of the Revelation has to do with tribulation times, the scope of the book broadens when we get to the great white throne in chapter 20. Let us examine that thought. In Rev. 2:7 we read for the first time of overcoming. “…. To him who overcomes I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God”. The paradise of God is described towards the end of the book in Rev. 21 and we read in verse 7 of that chapter, “He who overcomes will inherit all this…”. Chapter two which is, of course, towards the beginning of the book, promises the over-comers of the tribulation life in the “paradise of God”, and chapter 21 which is towards the end of the book, describes that paradise and promises it once again to the over-comers. Over-comers of what we might ask? It is clear that it is the over-comers of the tribulation that John had in mind. Because the promise made in chapter 2 is made to the over-comers of the tribulation, and that same promise is referred to in chapter 21, it is obvious that the scope of Revelation does not change from chapter 2 to chapter 21. Most of the book centers on the tribulation and the reward or judgment of those who lived and/or died during it.
Going back again to chapter two of Revelation, we read in verse 11, “He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death”. The second death is explained in Rev. 20:14, “The second death is the lake of fire”. The same promise is made in chapter two concerning the second death as is made again in chapter 20. “Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them…” (Rev. 20:6). Again, the same promise is made to the same people (the over-comers of the tribulation) in chapter two as is made in chapter 20. This, once again, shows that the scope of Revelation does not change from the beginning of the book to the end of the book.
Let us continue with the misconception that the scope of Revelation changes (broadens) once we get to the New Heavens and New Earth of Rev. 21. We should note that the description John gives of the New Heaven and New Earth is still centered on Israel. Note for example the reference to the “bride” in 21:3, 9 and 13. The bride is, of course, Israel. Note also verse 12 and the reference to the 12 gates and the 12 tribes of Israel.
Verse 24 of chapter 21 is also significant. “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it”. And verse 26, “The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it”. The nations will bring glory and honor into the New Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, Israel. The book of Revelation centers on Israel from the first chapter to the last, the scope does not change. We may not, therefore, include all dispensations in Revelation without doing great injustice to the truth.
We have seen by comparing the earlier chapters of Revelation with the last chapters of Revelation that the scope of the book does not change at all. Most of the book has to do with the tribulation and the reward or punishment given to those who lived through it. Therefore, when we read in chapter 20 of the great white throne, we should not read into God’s Word that which is not intended. That is to say, we may not include all of humanity from every dispensation, when most of the book centers on a three and one-half year time period. In another paper on this web-site, I give the reasons for my belief that the tribulation is not world wide, this limits the Revelation not only in the length of time, but also its geographic area. (Please see The Tribulation Will Not Be Worldwide).
I am suggesting that because the great white throne appears in the context of the tribulation that it is limited to those who lived in that time period. I believe that only the unbelievers who went through the tribulation will be raised and judged at the great white throne, not all unbelievers from every dispensation.
PASSAGES THAT TEACH THAT ONLY BELIEVERS WILL BE RAISED FROM THE DEAD
As the reader studies the scriptures presented below he/she may think that some of the verses have to do, not with resurrection, but with resurrection life. That is to say, when one reads, for example in Job14:10 that “man …is no more” one might mistakenly think that Job is speaking of man not being raised for life, but he will be raised for judgment. However, when Job writes that man “is no more”, there is absolutely no Scriptural reason for not taking that very literally, that is, when a man dies he ceases to exist, and apart from resurrection will never exist again, with the exception of the unbelievers of the tribulation, as discussed above.
Many have assumed that the great white throne judgment is for all unbelievers of every dispensation. I hope I have given enough Scriptural evidence to show that only a very limited group of unbelievers will be resurrected for judgment. So if the reader can somehow disassociate himself/herself from the false assumption that the great white throne judgment is for all unbelievers, the passages below will take on the meaning that I believe God intended.
Let us consider those passages that teach that only believers, i.e. only those who have been redeemed, will be raised.
Job 8:12-13, “While still growing and uncut, they (papyrus and reeds of verse 11) wither more quickly than grass. Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless”.
Job 14:10, “But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more“. This verse and the verses quoted below from Job speak of man in general, and are, of course, true. But Job also wrote that he knew that his Redeemer lives. So when man dies, he is no more except for those who have a Redeemer, i.e. believers.
Job 14:12, “So man lies down and does not rise; till the heavens are no more, men will not awake or be roused from their sleep.”
Psalm 49:13-15, “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,….. Like sheep they are destined for the grave, and death will feed on them. The upright will rule over them in the morning; their forms will decay in the grave far from their princely mansions. But God will redeem my soul from the grave; He will surely take me to Himself”. Note the contrast in this verse. The forms will decay, but the writer of the Psalm will be redeemed. Without redemption, there is no resurrection.
Prov. 21:16, “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.”
Proverbs 24:20 tells us the same thing. “for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out“.
Ecc. 3:19-20, “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal.” Solomon is saying the same thing that Job said in the verses quoted above. Man dies and is no more, except that the believers are redeemed from the grave.
Isaiah 26:14, “They are dead, they shall not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise. therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish”. The Hebrew word translated “deceased” is “rephaim”. The note in the Companion Bible on this word reads, “deceased = Rephaim. This is a proper name, and should not be translated. Where it is translated it is always rendered ‘giants’ or ‘dead’;. ….why not so here? …..These Rephaim shall not rise. they are the progeny of the fallen angels……”. This note suggests that it is not men who will not rise, but progeny of fallen angels. I believe further comment is necessary on this important verse.
Let us consider Is. 26:14 in an effort to determine from the context how we are to understand who the rephaim in this passage are. “They are dead, they shall not live”. Who are these who shall not live? They are those of verse 13, “O Lord our God, other lords (Heb. “anon”) beside Thee have had dominion over us…..”. So the ones about whom Isaiah writes in verse 14 are those of verse 13, i.e. “other lords beside Thee”. There are two things that tell us that these “other lords” are not progeny of fallen angels. 1) The Hebrew word translated “lords” is “adon” and is almost always used in reference to God, but where it is not used of God, it is used in reference to man. “Adon” is never used in reference to progeny of fallen angels. 2) The phrase, “have had dominion over us” points to the definition of rephaim in Is. 14:9, i.e. “chief ones” and “kings of the nations”.
Let us continue with Is. 26:14. “they are rephaim, they shall not rise. therefore hast thou visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish”. The rephaim are the same ones that Isaiah said were “other lords” in the previous verse. If “other lords” refer to chief ones and kings, so too must “rephaim” refer to chief ones and kings.
In short, the context does not allow for the interpretation that these “rephaim” are progeny of fallen angels. (The paper on this web-site Were The Rephaim The Progeny Of Fallen Angles? will prove from Scripture that whereas the Rephaim were indeed giants, they were not progeny of fallen angels.)
Is. 26:19, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. ……but the earth shall cast out the rephaim”. The Hebrew word translated “cast out” is almost always translated “fallen” or perish”. We have in this verse the contrast between the believer who will be raised and the unbeliever, even the important ones. i.e. rephaim, who will perish. (Please see the above mentioned paper on the Rephaim for the Scriptural evidence that “rephaim” is sometimes used of important people.)
Jeremiah 51:39, “But while they are aroused, I will set out a feast for them and make them drunk, so that they shout with laughter-then sleep forever and not awake.
Jeremiah 51:57, “………they will sleep forever and not wake“.
PASSAGES THAT TEACH THAT UNBELIEVERS WILL BE RAISED FOR JUDGMENT
There are four passages (including Rev. 20) that speak of the resurrection of the unjust. As we study each one it will be clear that each and every one refers to the judgment of the unbeliever of the tribulation period at the great white throne.
Daniel 12:1-2 is a passage which speaks of the resurrection and judgment of the unjust. “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people, everyone whose name is written in the book of life, will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust will awake, some to everlasting life and others to shame and everlasting contempt.” How are we to understand this passage, who does it concern, when will this judgment take place?
These questions are answered in the passage itself. Note for example, the phrase “your people” appears twice. That tells us that this passage is about Daniel’s people, Israel.
What is the time that is spoken of in this passage? We are told that it concerns the time of the greatest distress, i.e. the great tribulation. This makes sense; the tribulation is to be centered on Israel, Daniel’s people. As to the question of when will this judgment take place, obviously, the judgment implied in this passage must take place after the tribulation, i.e. at the great white throne.
We read of those whose names are written in the book of life. While it is true that believers of the dispensation of the mystery will have their names written in the book of life, I believe that to make Daniel 12:1-2 apply to believers of all dispensations is to take the phrase “book of life” in Daniel out of context, and force a meaning that the context will not allow. The context is about Israel and the tribulation, not about everyone who ever lived in the whole world.
We should consider one more thing about verse 2. The note in the Companion Bible on the phrase “of them” (Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth”) should read, “many from among them that sleep in the dust of the earth”. The “many” are those who will be raised either to everlasting life or to shame and everlasting contempt. Those are the ones to be judged at the great white throne. But from among whom will they be raised? Believers had already been raised at His coming. Those who will be judged at the great white throne are raised “from among” all other unbelievers who will never be raised.
To summarize what we have learned of this passage: The resurrection of Daniel 12 includes the unjust, but the context limits that resurrection in time and scope. It limits the resurrection to the time of the tribulation and to the people of Israel. Again, we may not include all unbelievers in this passage, as the Holy Spirit was specific in the description of the time and the scope of this resurrection.
The phrase, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust will awake, some to everlasting life and others to shame…” is similar to the one in John 5 and will be discussed in the next section of this paper.
John 5:24-25 reads, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him Who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of Man, and those who hear will live.”
But then in verses 28-29 our Lord says, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”.
In verse 25 we read that those who hear His voice “will not be condemned”. But in verse 29 we are told that some who hear His voice will be condemned. (“Those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”). There seems to be a contradiction in this passage. It is true that the Greek “krisis” translated “condemned” is better translated “judged”, however, the seeming contradiction is still there. That is to say in verse 25 we read that those who hear His voice will not be judged and in verse 29 we read that some will be judged.
The key to understanding this passage is to note that both statements begin with the phrase, “a time is coming”. I believe that the only way we can understand this passage and to answer the seeming contradiction, is to recognize the fact that there are two resurrections mentioned, and they occur at two different times. The first one mentioned is for the believer who will not be judged, but has passed from death to life; the second resurrection mentioned is for those who will be judged. Let us examine each resurrection and that will tell us when these two resurrections will take place.
In verse 24 we read of those who “believe” and have therefore, “crossed over from death to life”. I believe that this resurrection points us to I Thess. 4:16 where we read of the second coming of our Lord when “the dead in Christ will rise …”. The resurrection of verses 24-26 then, refers to the resurrection at the second coming, i.e. at the beginning of the millennial reign.
When will the resurrection of verses 28-29 occur? We are not told explicitly when, but we are told something of the character of the judgment of those who are resurrected. We read in verse 29 that they will be judged according to what they have done. “those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned”. Nowhere but here in John 5, and in Revelation 20 do we read of the resurrection of the unbeliever in order to be judged according to what they had done.
The only record we have in the Bible as to when and where the raised unbeliever is to be judged is at the great white throne. And the only two passages that speak of a resurrection to judgment by what they had done are in John 5:28-29 and in Rev. 20 (the great white throne). Therefore, I believe that we may conclude both passages speak of the same event, the great white throne judgment. It is after the millennial reign, so the resurrection of John five verses 28-29 refers to the one after the millennial reign.
Just as the first resurrection mentioned in Rev. 20:4 is for those who were resurrected before the millennial reign, so the first mention of a resurrection in John 5 (i.e. verses 25-27) is before the millennial reign. So also, just as the second resurrection of Rev. 20:5 will be for those who will be raised for judgment after the millennial reign, so too those in John 5:28-29 will be raised for judgment after the millennial reign. The judgment that occurs after the millennial reign is at the great white throne.
Let me summarize what has been written here concerning John 5. John 5:24-27 speaks of the resurrection of believers; they will be raised before the millennial reign of Christ, and they will not be judged. The resurrection of verses 28-29, on the other hand, will be after the millennial reign of Christ and they will be judged. By comparing John 5:28-29 with Rev. 20:5 we see that the resurrection of John 5:28-29 will lead us to the judgment at the great white throne. Because the judgment at the great white throne is limited to those of the tribulation period and John 5:28-29 concerns those at the great white throne, we must conclude that the resurrection spoken of in John 5:28-29 is limited to the judgment of those of the tribulation period.
But how then are we to understand the phrase of verse 28 which reads, “all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out “? The Greek texts read, “all the ones in the grave”. The definite article “the” limits the subject.
We read in Acts 17:30-31, “And the times of this ignorance (of worshiping idols) God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world……”. Note the phrase “but now’. That tells us that things are going to change. Where God had winked at their idol worship, He is going to change that to judgment. At the time of the events of Acts 17 Israel was still expecting the end times to begin, so the “appointed day” in which God will judge the world is the day of His wrath which follows the tribulation. But the day of wrath will be meted out against those who are already alive, not the resurrected. Therefore, this passage has nothing to do with a resurrection of the unbeliever.
Another passage having to do with the resurrection of the unjust is found in Acts 24:14-15, “…. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that which is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” Note Paul’s reference to the Law and the Prophets. The only reference I can find by the Old Testament prophets to the resurrection of the wicked is Daniel 12:1-2. That passage has been discussed above. As we have seen it refers to a judgment of those who will go through the tribulation.
Passages that seem to say that unbelievers will be raised unto judgment
We read in Matt. 10:15, “Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment than for that city”.
There were three judgments that were yet future at the time these words were spoken, i.e. the judgment of the day of wrath, the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ, and the judgment at the great white throne. To which judgment did Christ refer in this verse? I believe there are two clues that will help us to answer that question. The first clue is in the fact that there is no hint of resurrection in this context. And the second clue lies in the fact that the judgment of verse 15 is one of cities. The great white throne judgment will be one of individuals, not of cities. But we know that cities will indeed be judged in the day of God’s wrath from such passages as Rev. 6:12-17 and chapter 18 of Revelation. I believe therefore, as we add these two clues together we are led to the conclusion that the judgment of Matt. 10:15 is the judgment of the day of God’s wrath. There is no resurrection until after the day of God’s wrath therefore this verse does not support the idea that unbelievers will be raised for judgment.
We read in Matt. 12:35-36, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment”.
Again, we must ask, to what judgment does this verse refer? Again, there is no hint of resurrection which leads one to discount the great white throne judgment. And this is a judgment of individuals as opposed to the cities that will be judged in the day of God’s wrath. I believe therefore, that Matt. 12:36 refers to the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. Let us consider the two passages that speak of the judgment seat of Christ.
Romans 14:10 reads, “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ“. And II Cor. 5:10 reads, “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”. Note the phrase in II Cor. 5:10 “the things done in his body”. Let us compare that with Matt. 12:35, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things”. I believe there is in these two passages a correlation in that both speak of the things, good and bad, done in the body. Therefore, I believe that Matt. 12:36 speaks of the judgment of the judgment seat of Christ.
As we consider the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ it will become quite clear that unbelievers will not appear in that judgment. Note that Paul includes himself in this judgment. That tells us that the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ is a judgment of believers. But we read in Jn. 5:24, “…He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him That sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation (Gr. “krisis”, i.e. judgment); but is passed from death unto life”. We learn from this that believers will not be judged. There are no contradictions in the Word of God, therefore we must conclude that John 5 speaks of judgment with respect to salvation, whereas the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ is one of rewards. Obviously, unbelievers will not be judged with respect to rewards. Therefore, this verse does not support the idea of unbelievers being raised for judgment.
Matthew 12:41 and 42
We read in Matt. 12:41, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonas…”.
The phrase “they repented at the preaching of Jonas” tells us that this verse contrasts believers with unbelievers, i.e. the men of Nineveh with those of the generation Christ was addressing. Let us first determine to which judgment this refers. Again, the three judgments that were yet future when these words were spoken were the judgment of the day of God’s wrath, the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ and the judgment of the great white throne.
Given that this verse speaks of a resurrection we may rule out the judgment of the day of God’s wrath. And given that unbelievers are included we may rule out the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ. That is to say, in both passages that speak of the judgment seat of Christ, i.e. Rom. 14:10 and II Cor.5:10, Paul includes himself. That tells us that the judgment at the judgment seat of Christ will be for believers with respect to rewards. Because believers will not be judged with respect to their salvation (see Jn. 5:24 quoted in the section above) the judgment of Matt. 12:41 cannot refer to the judgment seat of Christ. That leaves us with the judgment of the great white throne. But because believers, including, of course, the men of Nineveh, will be raised at the second coming of Christ, Matt. 12:41 cannot refer to the resurrection 1,000 years after His coming, because those believers will have already been raised.
That leaves us with the question of to which judgment does Matt. 12:41 refer. In order to answer that question we must consider the Greek preposition translated “with” in the phrase “shall rise in judgment with”. That Greek word is “meta”. “Meta’ is a very interesting word in that while it is generally translated “with” it is also translated, in a small portion of the times it is used, as “against”. Let us consider just a few of those occurrences. We read in Rev. 2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against (Gr. “meta”) them with the sword of My mouth”. Consider also Rev. 11:7 which reads, “….the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against (Gr, “meta”) them, and shall overcome them and kill them”. While it is true that “meta” is not generally translated “against”, I believe it is clear that the word does, at least at times, mean “against’.
We are now prepared to consider Matt. 12:41. I suggest that that verse should be translated, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment against this generation, and shall condemn it…..”. I believe that the judgment referred to in this verse is that while believers will be raised from the dead at the second coming of Christ, unbelievers will be left in the grave because, as we read in Jn. 3:18, “he that believeth not is condemned already”.
In short, the very fact that unbelievers will not be raised because “he that believeth not is condemned already” is the judgment referred to in Matt. 12:41. The same is true of verse 42 which also uses the Greek “meta”.
RESURRECTION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Other than the picture of the resurrection of our Lord given by the experience of Jonas in the belly of the leviathan, I can find only two scriptures in the Old Testament which refer to resurrection. (It is therefore perhaps understandable why some who lived while our Lord was on earth did not believe in resurrection.) One of those passages is in Daniel 12, which we have already discussed. The other is in Ezek. 37:12-14. This passage speaks of the resurrection of Israel. We read in verse 11, “Then he said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. …. Therefore prophesy and say to them: This is what the Sovereign Lord says: ‘O My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them”. If we take the phrase, the “whole house of Israel” out of context we may be drawn to the erroneous conclusion that it refers to the unfaithful as well as the faithful of Israel.
So let us continue with the very next phrase, where we read, “I will bring you back to the land of Israel“. This phrase is important in that it tells us that those who will be resurrected will be brought into the land promised by God to Israel. But as we shall see as we continue in our study, only believers will be allowed in the land for the millennial reign of Christ. That is to say, resurrection is promised to only those of Israel who will be allowed into the land for the millennium, i.e. only believers. Unbelievers will not be allowed entrance and they will not be resurrected. (The exception in terms of resurrection is, of course, those unbelievers of Israel who worship the beast during the tribulation, but that resurrection is after the millennium.) As we continue, we will see that God purges His people of unbelievers, they will not be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. This purging is of those of Israel who will be alive at His coming, there is no hint of resurrection in these passages.
We read in Matthew 8:11-12, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
The “subjects of the kingdom” of verse 12 refers to Israel. The phrase “kingdom of heaven” is limited in scope, and refers to Christ’s 1,000 year reign over Israel in the land. Those “thrown out” of the kingdom of heaven will be thrown out of the land of Israel to live in the Gentile nations. (For proof of these statements please see the paper on this web-site The Kingdom of Heaven.)
Matthew 13:37-43 includes the explanation of the parable of the weeds and the prophecy which completes it. Verse 38b, “the weeds are the sons of the evil one”. Verse 39b, “The harvest is at the end of the age”. Verse 41, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil”. What will happen to those being weeded out? Verse 42 tells us that they will be thrown into the fiery furnace…” (that is, outside the land of Israel, while those in the land will be enjoying millennial blessings).
The “weeding out” of this parable is what Ezekiel refers to in 20:35-38. “I will bring you into the desert of the nations and there, face to face I will execute judgment upon you. As I judged your fathers in the desert of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will take note of you as you pass under my staff, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel….“.
A word of clarification of Ezek. 20:40 is in order. The NIV has, “…..the entire house of Israel will serve me there”. That would suggest that all Israel, including unbelievers will be allowed into the land. But the Hebrew-English Interlinear has, “The entire house of Israel, all of them in the land will serve me there”. The KJV also includes this phrase. This is consistent with all the other scriptures that concern the gathering of Israel for the millennial blessings, i.e. only the faithful are allowed into the land and therefore, only the faithful will serve Him there.
In order not to create any confusion, we should consider Ezek 36 in this discussion of who is allowed entrance into the land. Ezek. 36:24-27, “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. ……..You will live in the land I gave your forefathers, you will be my people and I will be your God”. Here we read that Israel will be in the land, but in Ezek. 20 we read that some would not be allowed entrance into the land. Let us consider this apparent contradiction.
We have seen in two passages in Matthew (and there are several more) that some of Israel will be “thrown out” of the land; they will not be allowed entrance into the kingdom of Heaven. We have also seen in Ezek. 20 that the unfaithful will be brought out from where they had been scattered, but they will not be allowed entrance into the land. We must conclude therefore, that the promises of Ezek. 37 are not given to unfaithful Israel, they are given to faithful Israel only. If we do not recognize that truth we are faced with the unthinkable conclusion that there is a contradiction in God’s perfect Word. They are not all Israel that of Israel and the unfaithful will be cut off from their people and will not be counted as Israel. (See Rom. 11:17a and 23.)
Let us also consider the following scriptures that tell us that only the faithful of Israel will enter the land.
Psalms 37:9, “For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land”.
Ps. 37:22, “those the Lord blesses will inherit the land, but those He curses will be cut off”.
Ps. 37:34, “Wait for the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to possess the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”
Prov. 2:21-22, “but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.”
We are now ready to draw some conclusions about who will be included in the resurrection of Ezekiel 37. Because the resurrected of Ezek. 37 will live in the land for the millennial reign, we must conclude that they are believers, as unbelievers are not allowed entrance. That is to say, the unbeliever is not included in the resurrection of Ezek. 37.
PASSAGES THAT SPEAK OF GOD’S WRATH
There is no mention of resurrection in the day of wrath and, in my opinion, a resurrection should not be assumed. But I include the passages that speak of God’s wrath because many assume that when they read of the wrath of God that it is wrath which will be meted out at the great white throne judgment. I believe we must consider the context in order to determine at what point God’s wrath will be meted out.
Let us consider for example Rom. 2:5 which reads, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God”. Is “the day of wrath” the time of the great white throne judgment? I believe the reader will see as we consider other scriptures which speak of the “day of wrath” or terms similar to it, that “the day of wrath” is one of the terms used for the day of the Lord which will occur just before the second coming of Christ and will be meted out to those who are alive at the time, i.e. not upon those who may be resurrected.
We read in Rev. 6:13-17, “And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men…….said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him That sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?'”. The “great day of His wrath” is, in my opinion, the same as the day of wrath. Is there any significance to the addition of the pronoun “His”? In my opinion, it is a significant addition, i.e. it tells us that this wrath comes from God and none other.
Let us consider Joel 3:14-16, “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
Now let us consider Is. 13:9-13, “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity: and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and I will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible…..Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger”.
Is. 34:2-8, “For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and His fury upon all their armies: He hath utterly destroyed them, He hath delivered them to the slaughter. ….4) and all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. …….8) For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion”.
As we compare the cosmic signs of Rev. 6 which will occur in the day of His wrath, with the cosmic signs given in Joel and Isaiah which will occur in the day of the Lord, I believe it is clear that the day of His wrath will occur in the day of the Lord. These same cosmic signs are given in Matt. 24:29 and that verse tells us when these signs will be seen,. “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven….”.
In other words, the day of His wrath, i.e. the day of the Lord, will occur when Christ appears in the clouds. In short, the term used in Romans 2:5, “the day of wrath” is one of the many terms used of the day of the Lord which is before the millennium, and it is God’s judgment of those who are alive at the time (Scripture does not speak of any resurrection before the coming of the Lord), not those who are resurrected at the end of the millennium to appear before the great white throne judgment..
Romans 1:18 also speaks of God’s wrath but it does not mention a day of wrath. That verse reads, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”. In the paragraphs below I have quoted for the reader’s consideration all the occurrences of the Greek word “orgee” which is translated “wrath” in this verse. I believe a thorough understanding of the passages which speak of God’s wrath will help in answering the question of whether God’s wrath, as spoken of in Rom. 1:18 will be meted out in the day of the Lord, i.e. the day of His wrath, or after the millennium at the great white throne. (I have marked (***) the verses that impact our question so that the reader may give particular attention to those passages,).
***The first occurrence of the Greek word is “orgee” is in Matt. 3:7, “….O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come”. The note in the Companion Bible is not inspired, of course, but it is worth considering. It reads, “The reference is to Mal. 4:1. The coming of Messiah was always connected with judgment; which would have come to pass had the nation repented …..”. So Dr. Bullinger believed that this wrath is the wrath of the day of the Lord, not the great white throne judgment. I agree with this belief because the great white throne judgment is after the millennium whereas “the wrath to come” is the day of the Lord.
Mrk 3:5, “And when He had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, He saith unto the man, ‘Stretch forth thine hand.’ And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other”. “Orgee” is translated “anger” in this verse and in my opinion does not help us answer our question as to when God’s wrath will be meted out.
*****Luke 3:7 is the same conversation recorded in Matt. 3:7, so please see the note above on that verse.
Luke 21:23, “Woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people”. This is obviously a reference to the tribulation and it is the wrath of the antichrist that will come upon Israel, not God’s wrath. In any case, this wrath is obviously not in reference to the great white throne judgment.
***Jn. 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life but the wrath of God abideth on him”. I do not see that this verse refers to either the day of the Lord or to the great white throne judgment. I will say however, that the great white throne judgment will be based on works (see Rev. 20:13, “and they were judged every man according to their works“). whereas in Jn.3:26 it is belief that is in question. (Just to clarify, I believe that the works upon which those who will be judged at the great white throne are the receiving of the mark of the beast.) I believe that the contrast in Jn. 3:36 of life for believers and unbelievers who will “not see life”, suggests that it is the wrath or anger (as the word is sometimes translated) of God toward the unbeliever that is manifested by His not raising them.
But the note in the Companion Bible on the word “wrath” suggests that this is a permanent wrath, not a temporary one for which the Greek word “thumos” would be used. I do not believe that the word we are looking at, i.e. “orgee” is meant as a permanent wrath because it is used in Matt. 3:7, and according to Dr. Bullinger’s own note, of the wrath of God at the return of Christ. That is not a permanent wrath. The word is also used in Luke 21:23 of the wrath of the tribulation. The tribulation is certainly not permanent. Therefore, I do not agree that “orgee” is used of a permanent wrath.
Rom. 1:18 is under discussion.
Rom. 2:5 has been discussed above.
****Rom. 2:8, “But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousnes, indignation and wrath“. Given that this comes in the same context as verse 5, I believe the wrath in this verse is in reference to the day of wrath, the time of the second coming of Christ.
****Rom. 3:5, “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous Who taketh vengeance (Gr. “orgee”)?…”. Given that the day of wrath is also called the day of vengeance (see Is. 61:2-3), I believe this verse refers to that day of wrath at the second coming of Christ.
Rom. 4:15, “…the law worketh wrath….”. I do not see how this verse answers our question as to when God’s wrath will be meted out.
***Rom. 5:9, “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him”. First of all, the believer who is raised at the coming of Christ is promised that he will not be judged in terms of life, so the great white throne judgment has no impact for him. Secondly, note that Paul wrote, “we shall be saved from wrath”. We must bear in mind that Paul was expecting the return of Christ in his life time as he had not yet been given the mystery of the dispensation of the mystery. The wrath from which he expected to be saved was the day of wrath at the second coming of Christ.
Rom. 9:22, “What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction”. I do not see how this verse helps us with out question.
Rom. 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath” for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine…..”. I do not see how this verse helps us with out question.
Rom. 13:4-5 is in reference to the wrath of the leaders of Israel, not to God’s wrath so I will not quote this passage.
Eph. 2:3 and 4:31 is, again, not in reference to God’s wrath so I will not quote it.
****Eph. 5:6, “Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience”. This is not, in my opinion, in reference to the wrath of God at the second coming of Christ. Is it in reference to the great white throne judgment? For all the reasons given in the body of this paper, including the fact that the great white throne is spoken of in the most Israel centered book in the New Testament, I do not see unbelievers of the dispensation of the mystery at that judgment, i.e. I believe it is not the great white throne judgment that Paul had in mind. I believe that the wrath of Eph. 5 is the wrath or anger (as the word is sometimes translated) of God toward the children of disobedience that is manifested by His not raising them.
Col. 3:6 is the same as Eph. 5:6.
Col. 3:8 is in reference to man’s “anger” (Gr. “orgee”).
*****I Thess. 1:10, “And to wait for His Son from heaven, Whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus Which delivered us from the wrath to come”. Because the subject is waiting for the second coming of Christ, it seems to me that in this verse the wrath to come is the one that will be meted out at Christ’s coming in the day of wrath.
*****I Thess. 2:16, “….the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost”. The note in the Companion Bible on the word “uttermost” reads, “uttermost = end. Gr. telos”. “Telos is used, of course, for the end times. Therefore I believe that this verse speaks of the wrath at the end times, i.e. at the second coming of Christ.
****I Thess. 5:9, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”. Is the salvation spoken of in this verse salvation from the grave or salvation by the rapture from the day of wrath? Paul is speaking to believers. In my opinion, there would be absolutely no need to tell them that they would not suffer the second death at the great white throne judgment. But he would need to assure them of the recently revealed mystery of the rapture as the escape from the day of wrath.
I Tim. 2:8 is man’s wrath, not God’s.
Heb. 3:11 , “I sware in my wrath they shall not enter into My rest”. This is in reference to Israel who did not enter the land because of disobedience and lack of faith, so it does not shed any light on our question.
Heb. 4:3 is the same as 3:11.
James 1:19-20 is in reference to man’s wrath, not God’s.
Rev. 6:16-17 has been quoted above and the wrath spoken of is clearly the wrath of the Lord’s day.
***11:18, “And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great: and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth”. This verse includes the day of wrath, the judgment of Israel at Christ’s coming and the great white throne judgment. The phrase ” the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come” points to the day of wrath because God’s wrath will come upon nations. The phrase, “the time of the dead that they should be judged” points to the great white throne judgment because that is the only time that the dead will be raised for judgment. The phrase, “Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets” points to the judgment of Israel at Christ’s coming.
***14: 9-10, “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 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”. This is clearly the wrath to be meted out at the great white throne judgment against those who worshiped the beast.
***16:19, “….and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath“. This is clearly the wrath to be meted out in the day of His wrath, i.e. the Lord’s day.
***19:15, “And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should smite the nations: and He shall rule them with a rod of iron: and He treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God”. The fact that this verse speaks of the nations suggests that it is the day of the Lord that is the subject, not the great white throne judgment which is a judgment of individuals.
***We are now ready to consider Rom. 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of man, who hold the truth in unrighteousness”. I believe that the wrath spoken of in this verse is the wrath of the day of the Lord. Note that the wrath is “revealed from heaven“. We read in Rev. 16:17-19, “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the Temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done’……..And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath”. We learn from this passage that the wrath of God in the day of the Lord will come from heaven.
Now let us consider the scene at the great white throne. We read in Rev. 20:11-12, “And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it……..and I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God….”. Note that those who had been raised to stand for judgment were standing at the throne. We are not told where John saw the great white throne, but I cannot believe that God had all these unbelievers in heaven, I believe they were on earth. That means therefore, that the wrath was not “revealed from heaven”. Further, if we assume for the moment that the throne was in heaven, bearing in mind that the unbelievers were “standing at the throne” the wrath would have been revealed in heaven, not from heaven as it will be according to Rom. 1:18.
Given that there is no indication in Rom. 1:18 that the wrath was the wrath at the great white throne, I believe that it was revealed from heaven in the day of the Lord.
We have looked at several passages that say that unbelievers will not “awake”, they will not be “remembered”, that they have “no hope”, that they die as the animal dies, without hope of resurrection. It is only believers that will be redeemed from the grave, only believers that will be resurrected.
We have also seen passages that teach that the unjust will be raised for judgment. There is no contradiction here. There is an exception. The exception will be those unbelievers who worship the beast during the tribulation. They will be raised for judgment and judged according to what they had done.
There has been a great assumption that all unbelievers will be judged at the great white throne. This false assumption is made, in large part, because the great white throne has been taken out of the context of Revelation, which speaks of “Jacob’s trouble”, and it was made to apply to everyone who ever lived. In doing this, many have negated what Job, Solomon and others have written about the true nature of death; it is, for the unbeliever, the end of life and the end of hope.
After having completed this paper, I studied all the occurrences of the Hebrew and Greek words translated “judge”, “judged”, “judgeth”, “condemn” etc. I have put the results of that study in a paper on this web-site A Scriptural Study Of The Judgments Of God. That paper puts all the passages that have to do with God’s judgments into categories based on when those judgments will take place. It also proves that, except for the unbelievers of the tribulation, unbelievers will never be raised for judgment. May I respectfully encourage the reader to read that paper for further proof of the fact that there is no general resurrection of unbelievers.
Heb. 9:27-28, “Even as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many: and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin, unto salvation”. On the surface this verse does indeed seem to suggest that there will be a judgment after death and it does not come in the context of the judgment at the great white throne. But if we look only at the surface there are several difficulties with this verse. First of all, as Paul makes very clear in I Cor. 15:51-53, “we shall not all sleep”, i.e. not all will die, therefore it is not appointed unto all men to die. . Secondly, as we have already seen, throughout this study, with the exception of the unbelievers of the tribulation, there are no scriptures that say that the unbeliever will be raised for judgment. In fact, we are told just the opposite, i.e. “they will not awake, not be raised out of their sleep ” (Job 14:12). How are we to understand this passage in Hebrews 9?
In order to correctly understand this passage we must understand which judgment the writer of Hebrews has in mind in verse 27. A structure of verses 27-28 will give us that judgment.
A. men will die once
B. the judgment
A1 Christ was offered once for sins
B1 the second coming
Note members B and B1 draw the parallel of judgment with the second coming of Christ. In other words, I believe that this structure shows that the judgment referred to in verse 27 is the judgment at His second coming. That judgment is, of course, the judgment of Israel as recorded in Ezek. 20:28. There is no resurrection associated with this judgment.
What does this verse teach? Of great importance is the contrast evident in the word “but”. Men will die, but after this the judgment. That contrast is between man’s appointment with death and the judgment. When Christ returns believers will be clothed with immortality (I Cor. 15:51-53). Hence the contrast between death and judgment which leads, for many, to life in Him at His coming.
Let me put this another way. From the fall of Adam until the second coming of Christ men have been appointed unto death. At His coming, Christ does away with the appointment unto death. That is to say, there will be death outside the Land of Israel during the millennium (death is not destroyed until after the millennium) but believers are inside the Land, and they will be clothed with immortality at His coming, so they will obviously not die. Therefore, all men will not be appointed unto death. The judgment of Israel, the reader will recall, is to separate believers from unbelievers. The former to enter the Land, the latter to be excluded. It follows then, that the judgment will mean death to some but not to others.
Therefore, I believe that Heb. 9:27 is teaching the following: Death has been appointed unto all men. But when Christ returns and judges some worthy of avoiding this appointment with death because of their faith, they will enter the Land for millennial blessings and will not die. Let me paraphrase this verse. “Even as it is appointed unto men once to die but after this the judgment which will determine that some will never die, i.e. are not appointed to death….”. This is consistent with the teaching Scripture regarding the judgment of the unbeliever (they will not be raised for judgment) and answers the difficulty implied in the fact that not all men are appointed unto death.
This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org