Kingdom: What judgment awaits Christians and non-Christians at the end of this life?

Kingdom: What judgment awaits Christians and non-Christians at the end of this life?


Christians will not be judged at the end of this life in the same way that non-Christians will be. The Bible teaches this truth clearly and repeatedly. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” [FOOTNOTE: John 5:24] Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” [FOOTNOTE: Romans 8:1] Simply stated, in Christ, all sin is forgiven having been judged at Jesus’ cross. [FOOTNOTE: Col. 2:13; 1 John 2:12] Subsequently, Christians are members of the family of God now and forever.

Nonetheless, Christians will be judged at the end of this life in a way that is different from the judgment of non-Christians. This life, and what we do and do not do with it, matters greatly. The Holy Spirit has given every Christian time, talent, and treasure that they are to steward well for the Kingdom. The Christian’s judgment is a day of assessment when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” [FOOTNOTE: 2 Cor. 5:10.]

This theme of accountability and reward runs all through Scripture as a continual reminder not to waste our life but rather steward it in light of eternity. [FOOTNOTE: Matt. 24:45–47; 25:14–30; Luke 12:42–48; 16:1–13; 17:7–10; 19:12–27; Rom. 2:16; 14:10; 1  Cor. 3:8–15; 4:5; 9:17–27; Col. 3:23–25; 1 Tim. 2:3–6; 2 Tim. 4:8; 1 Pet. 1:7; 5:4; Rev. 4:4, 10; 22:12.]

To illustrate this concept, Jesus tells a kingdom story in which He gives believers ten minas, a large amount of money, and commands them to do business with it. [FOOTNOTE: Luke 19:12–27.] The servant who brings ten more minas receives authority over ten cities in the kingdom, while the servant who brings five minas receives authority over five. The last servant, who hides his mina from fear of the master, typifies someone who does not have a grace relationship with Jesus. The point of Jesus’ story is that if we are truly Christians and know the love of our Master, we should faithfully invest our lives in the service of his kingdom. The quality of work we do will be revealed and tested in the end, and only work that survives Jesus’ evaluation will be worthy of a reward. Positively, our day of testing can be a day of great rejoicing when we hear Jesus declare, “Well done,” if we are faithful stewards in this life.

Negatively, some Christians will be grieved by the lack of reward given to them. Paul says, “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” [FOOTNOTE: 1 Cor. 3:15.] The Bible is clear that there are eternal consequences for believers doing both good and evil. [FOOTNOTE: 2 Cor. 5:10.]

Those who love Jesus will strive to be like Him. Because we are God’s workmanship, created for good works, we should do them. [FOOTNOTE: Eph. 2:10.] The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to “make every effort” to be faithful to God’s calling. [FOOTNOTE: Luke 13:24; Rom. 14:19; Eph. 4:3; Heb. 4:11; 12:14; 2 Pet. 1:5–10; 3:14.]

We are children of God with the full right of inheritance. Participation in the Kingdom is already ours, not because of what we have done for God, but because of what God has done for us. We should respond by being trustworthy. Bit by bit, we learn and grow in faithfulness with the small kingdom works he has entrusted to us. We know that God is a Father whose love for and devotion to His children is purely by grace and will never change. Still, as a good Father, He also gives chores and responsibilities to each of His children to help them mature and grow so that He can entrust to them increasingly important things; in the Kingdom He rewards the children who are faithful in this life in ways that He does not reward the children who are unfaithful in this life. [FOOTNOTE: Lk. 16:10–12; 19:17–19]


When a great injustice has occurred, there is cheering when justice is served. This explains why joy rises when a dangerous criminal is captured, or a demonic dictator is toppled. Because God made us in His image with a conscience, we long for righteousness where wrongs are made right.

Romans 2 is one chapter of the Bible that deals in depth with the blessings and benefits for God’s judgment. Human judgment and justice are usually imperfect because they’re generally only known in part and have biases. Making matters worse, to some degree we are all guilty of the very things we judge others for doing, “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” [FOOTNOTE: Rom. 2:1] We tend to see the sin of others much more clearly than our own. Thankfully, there is a day coming when God will perfectly judge everyone, “on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” [FOOTNOTE: Rom. 2:5.]

The reason God has not yet had the final judgment is not because He is indifferent, but rather He is patient giving sinners ample opportunity to trust in the Savior, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” [FOOTNOTE: Rom. 2:4-5.]

Just as Jesus said that believers store up treasures for themselves in Heaven by their works in the Spirit, so Paul says that unbelievers similarly store up wrath for themselves in Hell by their works of the flesh. Paul even uses the same Greek word as Jesus to contrast the judgment of believers and unbelievers. [FOOTNOTE: Matt. 6:19; Rom 2:5.] Paul concludes by saying of God, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury…For God shows no partiality.” [FOOTNOTE: Rom. 2:6-8,11.]

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” [FOOTNOTE: John 3:36] The new creation can be new only if everyone in it loves God and obeys him. There can be no sin or sinners. They must be separated out. In the kingdom, the twin sins of idolatry and injustice will be transformed into obedience of Jesus’ twin commands to love God and neighbor. [FOOTNOTE: Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 30:6; Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:37–40; Mark 12:30–31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9–10; 15:2; Gal. 5:14; 6:10; James 2:8.]

A day is coming when God will judge the living and the dead [FOOTNOTE: Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5] through the Son. [FOOTNOTE: Ps. 2:12; Mark 14:62; John 5:22; Acts 17:31] When the Son of Man’s throne arrives on the earth, all will stand before Him for judgment. [FOOTNOTE: Matt. 25:31–46; Rev. 20:11–15.] From the beginning of creation [FOOTNOTE: Gen. 2:15–17] to the end, [FOOTNOTE: Rev. 20:12–13] the Bible makes it clear that the basis of God’s judgment is our deeds. [FOOTNOTE: Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; Rom. 2:6; Gal. 6:7–8; Rev. 2:23; 22:12.]

There are degrees of punishment in hell like there are degrees of reward in Heaven. Jesus told the people of Capernaum that it would be worse for them in the judgment than for Sodom. [FOOTNOTE: Matt. 11:21–24.] The one who sins knowingly and willfully will receive a more severe beating than the one who did not know. [FOOTNOTE: Luke 12:47–48.] Both in life and in hell, some sins receive more severe punishment, because that is just. [FOOTNOTE: Num. 15:22–30; Lev. 4:1–35; 5:15–19; Matt. 18:6; 1 Tim. 5:8; James 3:1; 1 John 5:16–18.] This fits the scriptural teaching that some sins are qualitatively worse than others in that the depth of their evil and the damage that ensues is greater. Jesus illustrated this when he told Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” [FOOTNOTE: John 19:11.]