A specific “day,” or period, when particular groups, nations, or mankind in general are called to account by God. It may be a time when those already judged to be deserving of death are executed, or the judgment may afford opportunity for some to be delivered, even to everlasting life. Jesus Christ and his apostles pointed to a future “Judgment Day” involving not only the living but also those who had died in the past.—Mt 10:15; 11:21-24; 12:41, 42; 2Ti 4:1, 2.
Past Times of Judgment. At various times in the past Jehovah called peoples and nations to account for their actions and executed his judgments by bringing destruction. Such executional judgments were not arbitrary demonstrations of brute force or overwhelming power. In some instances the Hebrew word translated “judgment” (mish·patʹ) is also rendered “justice” and “what is right.” (Ezr 7:10; Ge 18:25) The Bible emphasizes that Jehovah “is a lover of righteousness and justice,” so his executional judgments involve both of those qualities.—Ps 33:5.
Sometimes the executional judgments came as a result of the wicked conduct of people in their daily lives. Sodom and Gomorrah are an example of this. Jehovah inspected the cities and determined that the sin of the inhabitants was very heavy; he decided to bring the cities to ruin. (Ge 18:20, 21; 19:14) Later Jude wrote that those cities underwent “the judicial punishment [Gr., diʹken; “judgment,” Da; “justice,” Yg; “retributive justice,” ED] of everlasting fire.” (Jude 7) So those cities experienced a “day” of judgment.
Jehovah conducted a legal case against ancient Babylon, the longtime enemy of God and his people. Because of being unnecessarily cruel to the Jews, not intending to release them after the 70-year exile, and crediting Marduk with the victory over God’s people, Babylon was in line for an executional judgment. (Jer 51:36; Isa 14:3-6, 17; Da 5:1-4) That came to Babylon in 539 B.C.E. when it was overthrown by the Medes and Persians. Because the judgment to be executed was Jehovah’s, such a period could be referred to as “the day of Jehovah.”—Isa 13:1, 6, 9.
Similarly, Jeremiah prophesied that God would “put himself in judgment” with Edom, among others. (Jer 25:17-31) Hence the nation that had shown hatred for Jehovah and his people experienced destructive judgment in “the day of Jehovah.”—Ob 1, 15, 16.
When Judah and Jerusalem became unfaithful and merited God’s disapproval, he promised to “execute in the midst of [her] judicial decisions.” (Eze 5:8) In 607 B.C.E. “the day of Jehovah’s fury” came with an execution of his destructive judgment. (Eze 7:19) However, another “day,” or time, of judgment on Jerusalem was foretold. Joel prophesied an outpouring of spirit before “the great and fear-inspiring day of Jehovah.” (Joe 2:28-31) Under inspiration Peter, on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., explained that they were then experiencing a fulfillment of that prophecy. (Ac 2:16-20) The destructive “day of Jehovah” came in 70 C.E. when the Roman armies executed divine judgment upon the Jews. As Jesus foretold, those were “days for meting out justice.”—Lu 21:22; see DESTRUCTION.
Future Times of Executional Judgment. Aside from Hebrew Scripture prophecies, the Bible definitely mentions a number of future judgment days that are executional. Revelation points to the time when “Babylon the Great” will be completely burned with fire. This judicial punishment is due to her fornication with the nations and her being drunk with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus. (Re 17:1-6; 18:8, 20; 19:1, 2) Mentioning another executional judgment, Peter drew upon what occurred in Noah’s day and foretold a “day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2Pe 3:7) Revelation speaks of such a destruction as being executed by “The Word of God,” who will strike the nations with a long sword. (Re 19:11-16; compare Jude 14, 15.) Also, in the first century the Devil already had judgment passed on him, and the demons he leads knew that they would be put into the abyss, as will Satan. (1Ti 3:6; Lu 8:31; Re 20:1-3) Thus it follows that the judgment awaiting them is simply the execution of a judgment that has already been decided upon.—Jude 6; 2Pe 2:4; 1Co 6:3.
May or May Not Be Condemnatory. Most of the occurrences of “judgment” (Gr., kriʹsis and kriʹma) in the Christian Greek Scriptures clearly carry the force of condemnatory, or adverse, judgment. In John 5:24, 29 “judgment” is set in contrast with “life” and “everlasting life,” plainly implying a condemnatory judgment that means utter loss of life—death. (2Pe 2:9; 3:7; Joh 3:18, 19) However, not all adverse judgment leads inevitably to destruction. Illustrating this are Paul’s remarks at 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 about celebrating the Lord’s Evening Meal. If a person did not discern properly what he was doing, he could eat or drink “judgment against himself.” Then Paul adds: “When we are judged, we are disciplined by Jehovah, that we may not become condemned with the world.” Thus one might receive adverse judgment but because of repenting not be destroyed forever.
Furthermore, the possibility of a judgment that is not condemnatory is apparent from 2 Corinthians 5:10. About those manifest before the judgment seat it says: “Each one [will] get his award . . . according to the things he has practiced, whether it is good or vile.” The judging mentioned in Revelation 20:13 evidently results in a favorable outcome for many. Of the dead judged, those receiving an adverse judgment are hurled into “the lake of fire.” The rest, though, come through the judgment, being “found written in the book of life.”—Re 20:15.
Judgment Day of Personal Accountability. Pre-Christian Hebrews were acquainted with the idea that God would hold them personally accountable for their conduct. (Ec 11:9; 12:14) The Christian Greek Scriptures explain that there will be a specific future period, or “day,” when mankind, both the living and those who died in the past, will individually be judged.—2Ti 4:1, 2.
Identity of the judges. In the Hebrew Scriptures Jehovah is identified as “the Judge of all the earth.” (Ge 18:25) Similarly, in the Christian Greek Scriptures he is called “the Judge of all.” (Heb 12:23) He has, though, deputized his Son to do judging for him. (Joh 5:22) The Bible speaks of Jesus as “appointed,” “decreed,” and “destined” to do judging. (Ac 10:42; 17:31; 2Ti 4:1) That Jesus is thus authorized by God resolves any seeming contradiction between the text that says that individuals will “stand before the judgment seat of God” and the verse that says they will “be made manifest before the judgment seat of the Christ.”—Ro 14:10; 2Co 5:10.
Jesus also told his apostles that when he would sit down on his throne in the “re-creation,” they would “sit upon twelve thrones” to do judging. (Mt 19:28; Lu 22:28-30) Paul indicated that Christians who had been “called to be holy ones” will judge the world. (1Co 1:2; 6:2) Also, the apostle John saw in vision the time when some received “power of judging.” (Re 20:4) In view of the above texts, this evidently includes the apostles and the other holy ones. Such a conclusion is borne out by the remainder of the verse, which speaks of those who rule with Christ for the Millennium. These then will be royal judges with Jesus.
The fine quality of the judging that will take place on Judgment Day is assured, for Jehovah’s “judgments are true and righteous.” (Re 19:1, 2) The kind of judging that he authorizes is also righteous and true. (Joh 5:30; 8:16; Re 1:1; 2:23) There will be no perverting of justice or hiding of the facts.
Resurrection is involved. When using the expression “Judgment Day,” Jesus brought into the picture a resurrection of the dead. He mentioned that a city might reject the apostles and their message, and said: “It will be more endurable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than for that city.” (Mt 10:15) Although he was evidently using a hyperbole (because Sodom and Gomorrah had undergone everlasting destruction), his statement did point to a future judgment for at least some from such a first-century Jewish city. (Compare Mt 11:22-24; Lu 10:13-15; Jude 7.) Even clearer is Jesus’ statement that “the queen of the south will be raised up in the judgment.” (Mt 12:41, 42; Lu 11:31, 32) The Biblical statements about Jesus’ judging “the living and the dead” can be viewed in the light of the fact that resurrection is involved in Judgment Day.—Ac 10:42; 2Ti 4:1.
A final indication that many being examined on Judgment Day will be resurrected ones is the information in Revelation 20:12, 13. Individuals are seen “standing before the throne.” The dead are mentioned and so is the fact that death and Hades gave up those dead in them. Such ones are judged.
Time for Judgment Day. In John 12:48 Christ linked the judging of persons with “the last day.” Revelation 11:17, 18 locates a judging of the dead as occurring after God takes his great power and begins ruling in a special way as king. Additional light on the matter comes from the sequence of events recorded in Revelation chapters 19 and 20. There one reads of a war in which the “King of kings” kills “the kings of the earth and their armies.” (Earlier in Revelation [16:14] this is called “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.”) Next Satan is bound for a thousand years. During that thousand years royal judges serve with Christ. In the same context, resurrection and the judging of the dead are mentioned. This, then, is an indication of the time when Judgment Day comes. And it is not impossible from a Scriptural standpoint for a thousand-year period to be viewed as a “day,” for such an equation is stated in the Bible.—2Pe 3:8; Ps 90:4.
Basis for judgment. In describing what will take place on earth during the time of judgment, Revelation 20:12 says that the resurrected dead will then be “judged out of those things written in the scrolls according to their deeds.” Those resurrected will not be judged on the basis of the works done in their former life, because the rule at Romans 6:7 says: “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”
However, Jesus said that unwillingness to take note of his powerful works and repent or unresponsiveness to God’s message would make it hard for some to endure Judgment Day.—Mt 10:14, 15; 11:21-24.