Judgment Day and Afterward
1. What is a common view of Judgment Day?
WHAT PICTURE does Judgment Day call to your mind? Some imagine a great throne, and in front of it a long line of persons who have been resurrected from the dead. As each person passes before the throne, he is judged by his past deeds, all of which are written down in the Judge’s book. Based on the things he did, the person is sent either to heaven or to a fiery hell.
2. (a) Who has arranged for Judgment Day? (b) Whom did he appoint as judge?
2 The Bible, however, gives a much different picture of Judgment Day. It is not a day to be dreaded or feared. Note what the Bible says of God: “He has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17:31) This judge appointed by God is, of course, Jesus Christ.
3. (a) Why can we be sure Christ will be fair in his judgment? (b) On what basis will people be judged?
3 We can be sure that Christ will be fair and just in his judgment. A prophecy regarding him at Isaiah 11:3, 4 assures us of this. So, contrary to popular opinion, he will not judge persons on the basis of their past sins, many of which may have been committed in ignorance. The Bible explains that at death a person is set free or released from any sins he has committed. It says: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” (Romans 6:7) This means that when a person is resurrected he will be judged on the basis of what he does during Judgment Day, not on what he did before he died.
4. (a) How long will Judgment Day be? (b) Who will be judges with Christ?
4 Judgment Day, therefore, is not a literal 24-hour day. The Bible makes this clear when it speaks of those who will share with Jesus Christ in doing the judging. (1 Corinthians 6:1-3) “I saw thrones,” the Bible writer says, “and there were those who sat down on them, and power of judging was given them.” These judges are Christ’s faithful anointed followers who, as the Bible goes on to say, “came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for a thousand years.” So Judgment Day will be 1,000 years long. It is the same 1,000-year period during which Christ and his 144,000 faithful anointed followers will rule as “new heavens” over the “new earth.”—Revelation 20:4, 6; 2 Peter 3:13.
5, 6. (a) How did a Bible psalmist describe Judgment Day? (b) What will life be like on earth during Judgment Day?
5 Look at these pages. They give some idea of how wonderful Judgment Day will be for humankind. The Bible psalmist wrote of that glorious time: “Let the open field exult and all that is in it. At the same time let all the trees of the forest break out joyfully before Jehovah. For he has come; for he has come to judge the earth. He will judge the productive land with righteousness and the peoples with his faithfulness.”—Psalm 96:12, 13.
6 During Judgment Day those who survive Armageddon will work to make the earth a paradise. Into this paradise the dead will be welcomed back. (Luke 23:43) What happiness there will be when families long separated by death are joined together again! Yes, how pleasant to live in peace, to enjoy good health and to receive instruction regarding God’s purposes! The Bible says: “When there are judgments from you for the earth, righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.” (Isaiah 26:9) During Judgment Day all the people will learn about Jehovah, and they will be given every opportunity to obey and serve him.
7. During Judgment Day, what will happen to those who choose to serve God and to those who refuse to do so?
7 It is under such paradise conditions that Jesus Christ and his 144,000 associate kings will judge humankind. People who choose to serve Jehovah will be in a position to receive everlasting life. But, even under these best of circumstances, some will refuse to serve God. As the Scriptures say: “Though the wicked one should be shown favor, he simply will not learn righteousness. In the land of straightforwardness he will act unjustly.” (Isaiah 26:10) So after being given full opportunity to change their ways and to learn righteousness, such wicked ones will be destroyed. Some will be put to death even before Judgment Day ends. (Isaiah 65:20) They will not be permitted to remain to corrupt or spoil the paradise earth.
8. What was the moral condition of the men of Sodom?
8 It will truly be a grand privilege to be resurrected on earth during Jehovah’s great Judgment Day. However, the Bible indicates that it will be a privilege that not all will enjoy. Consider, for example, the people of ancient Sodom. The Bible says that the men of Sodom sought to have sexual relations with “the men” who were visiting Lot. Their immoral behavior was so extreme that even when they were miraculously struck with blindness, “they were wearing themselves out trying to find the entrance” of the house to get inside to have intercourse with Lot’s visitors.—Genesis 19:4-11.
9, 10. What do the Scriptures indicate about the prospect of a resurrection for the wicked persons of Sodom?
9 Will such terribly wicked persons be resurrected during Judgment Day? The Scriptures indicate that apparently they will not. For example, one of Jesus’ inspired disciples, Jude, wrote first about the angels that forsook their place in heaven to have relations with the daughters of men. Then he added: “So too Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities about them, after they in the same manner as the foregoing ones had committed fornication excessively and gone out after flesh for unnatural use, are placed before us as a warning example by undergoing the judicial punishment of everlasting fire.” (Jude 6, 7; Genesis 6:1, 2) Yes, for their excessive immorality the people of Sodom and of the surrounding cities suffered a destruction from which they will apparently never be resurrected.—2 Peter 2:4-6, 9, 10a.
10 Jesus too indicated that the Sodomites may not be resurrected. When he spoke of Capernaum, one of the cities where he performed miracles, he said: “If the powerful works that took place in you [Capernaum] had taken place in Sodom, it would have remained until this very day. Consequently I say to you people, It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom on Judgment Day than for you.” (Matthew 11:22-24) Jesus here was emphasizing the reprehensibility of the people of Capernaum by saying that it would be more endurable for the ancient Sodomites who, in the minds of his Israelite audience, were totally unworthy of a resurrection on Judgment Day.
11. Why will it be easier on Judgment Day for the “righteous” than for any of the “unrighteous”?
11 Surely, then, we should do everything we can to live our lives so as to merit a resurrection. But it may still be asked: Will it be more difficult for some of the resurrected dead to learn and practice righteousness than it will be for others? Well, consider: Before such “righteous” persons as Abraham, Isaac, Job, Deborah, Ruth and Daniel died, they all looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. How glad they will be during Judgment Day to learn about him, and that he is ruling in heaven! So it will be much easier for these “righteous” persons to practice righteousness at that time than for any of the “unrighteous” who are resurrected to do so.—Acts 24:15.
RESURRECTIONS OF “LIFE” AND OF “JUDGMENT”
12. According to John 5:28-30, who receive a “resurrection of life,” and who receive a “resurrection of judgment”?
12 In describing the situation on Judgment Day, Jesus said: “Those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment. . . . just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:28-30) What is this “resurrection of life,” and what is the “resurrection of judgment”? And who receive them?
13. What does it mean for a person to receive a “resurrection of life”?
13 We have clearly seen that when the dead come forth from the grave, they are not judged by their past deeds. Rather, they are judged on the basis of what they do during Judgment Day. So when Jesus mentioned “those who did good things” and “those who practiced vile things,” he was referring to the good things and bad things that they would do during Judgment Day. Because of the good things they do, many of those resurrected will progress to human perfection by the end of the 1,000-year Judgment Day. Thus their return from the dead will prove to be a “resurrection of life,” for they will attain to perfect life without sin.
14. What does it mean for a person to receive a “resurrection of judgment”?
14 On the other hand, what about those ‘who practiced vile or bad things’ during Judgment Day? Their return from the dead will prove to be a “resurrection of judgment.” What does this mean? It means a judgment or condemnation to death. So these persons will be destroyed either during or by the close of Judgment Day. The reason is that they do bad things; they stubbornly refuse to learn and practice righteousness.
WHEN THE JUDGMENT DAY BEGINS
15. What happens just before Judgment Day begins?
15 The apostle John saw in vision what takes place immediately before Judgment Day. He wrote: “I saw a great white throne and the one seated on it. From before him the earth and the heaven fled away, . . . And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne . . . And the dead were judged.” (Revelation 20:11, 12) So before Judgment Day begins, this present system of things made up of “the earth and the heaven” will pass away. Only those serving God will survive, while all the wicked are destroyed at Armageddon.—1 John 2:17.
16. (a) Who besides the dead will be judged during Judgment Day? (b) From what will they be judged?
16 Thus, it is not only the resurrected “dead” who will be judged during Judgment Day. The “living” who survive Armageddon, as well as any children they may have, also will be judged. (2 Timothy 4:1) In his vision John saw how they are judged. “And scrolls were opened,” he wrote. “And the dead were judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds. And the sea gave up those dead in it, and death and Hades gave up those dead in them, and they were judged individually according to their deeds.”—Revelation 20:12, 13.
17. What are the “scrolls” from which the “living” and the “dead” will be judged?
17 What are the “scrolls” that are opened from which “the dead” as well as “the living” are judged? Evidently they will be something in addition to our present Holy Bible. They are inspired writings or books that contain Jehovah’s laws and instructions. By reading these all people on earth will be able to know God’s will. Then, on the basis of the laws and instructions in these “scrolls,” everyone on earth will be judged. Those who obey the things written therein will receive the benefits of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, and they will gradually grow to human perfection.
18. (a) What will be the situation at the end of Judgment Day? (b) In what way do the “dead” come to life at the end of the 1,000 years?
18 By the end of the 1,000-year Judgment Day nobody on earth will be in a dying condition because of Adam’s sin. Truly, in the fullest sense everyone will have come to life. This is what the Bible refers to when it says: “The rest of the dead [those besides the 144,000 who go to heaven] did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” (Revelation 20:5) The reference here to “the rest of the dead” does not mean that others are resurrected at the end of the 1,000-year Judgment Day. Rather, it means that all persons come to life in that they finally reach human perfection. They will be in the same perfect condition as were Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. What will happen then?
AFTER JUDGMENT DAY
19. What does Christ do at the end of Judgment Day?
19 Having done all that God has given him to do, Jesus Christ “hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.” This is at the end of the 1,000-year Judgment Day. By then all enemies will have been put out of the way. The last of these is the death inherited from Adam. It will be destroyed! Then the Kingdom becomes the property of Jehovah God. He rules it directly as King.—1 Corinthians 15:24-28.
20. (a) What will Jehovah do to determine whose names are to be written in “the book of life”? (b) Why is a final test of humankind fitting?
20 How will Jehovah determine whose names are to be written in the “scroll of life,” or “the book of life”? (Revelation 20:12, 15) It will be by a test upon humankind. Remember how Adam and Eve failed under such a test, and how Job, when tested, kept integrity. But most humans that live to the end of the 1,000 years will never have had their faith tested. Before they were resurrected they were ignorant of Jehovah’s purposes. They were part of Satan’s wicked system of things; they were “unrighteous.” Then, after their resurrection, it was easy for them to serve Jehovah because of living in Paradise without any opposition from the Devil. But will these billions of humans, who are then perfect, serve Jehovah if Satan is given the opportunity to try to stop them from further doing so? Can Satan do to them what he did to the perfect Adam and Eve?
21. (a) How will Jehovah have humankind tested? (b) When the test is completed, what will happen to all those involved?
21 To settle such questions, Jehovah lets Satan and his demons loose from the abyss where they have been for the 1,000 years. What is the result? The Bible shows that Satan is successful in turning some persons away from serving Jehovah. These will be as “the sand of the sea,” meaning that their number is undetermined. After this test is carried out, Satan and his demons, and also those who do not pass the test, are thrown into the symbolic “lake of fire,” which is the second (eternal) death. (Revelation 20:7-10, 15) But those whose names are found written in “the book of life” will remain in the glorious earthly paradise. Having their names written in “the book of life” means that Jehovah judges them to be perfectly righteous in heart, mind and body and thus worthy of living forever in paradise on earth.
THE PRESENT DAY OF JUDGMENT
22. To live to see Judgment Day and the final test of humankind, what must we now survive?
22 So the Bible gives information about events over 1,000 years into the future. And it shows that there is no reason to fear what lies ahead. But the question is: Will you be there to enjoy the good things that Jehovah God has in store? This will depend on whether you survive an earlier judgment day, namely, the present “day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.”—2 Peter 3:7.
23. (a) Into what two classes are people now being separated? (b) What will happen to each class, and why?
23 Yes, since Christ returned and sat down on his heavenly throne, all humankind has been on judgment. This present “day of judgment” comes before the 1,000-year Judgment Day begins. During the present judgment people are being separated as “goats” to Christ’s left hand or as “sheep” to his right. The “goats” will be destroyed because they fail to help Christ’s anointed “brothers” in their service to God. In time, these “goats” show themselves to be unrepentant sinners, wicked, hardened in their practice of unrighteousness. The “sheep,” on the other hand, will be blessed with life under the Kingdom rule because they support Christ’s “brothers” in every way.—Matthew 25:31-46.
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Why did Jesus say it would be more endurable on Judgment Day for those in Sodom?