The Spirit World: Ch. 19 (The Judgment of Believers)

This entry is part 21 of 23 in the series The Spirit World

The Judgment of Believers

(This is a continuation of The Spirit World book series. This post assumes the prerequisite reading of earlier posts in the series.)

It was noted earlier that the process of resurrection is always followed by a judgment for the group which has been raised.  Judgments are of two general categories in scripture.  There is a type of judgment for the righteous and a type of judgment for the unrighteous, each having different criteria and characteristics. 

Concerning the judgment of believers, the obvious question one may ask is, “judgment for what?”  Clearly scripture teaches that believers are not judged for their sin[1].  Christ alone has received the judgment for the sin of his followers on the cross.  The righteous, by merit of their position in Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives have also accepted his substitutionary payment for their sins.  Yet, scripture teaches that believers will undergo judgment.  Some have mistakenly understood that this judgment of believers is a type of punitive response for their sins which goes beyond the work which Christ provided in his atonement.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Christ’s death is sufficient for the full payment of sin.  Indeed, the nature of the judgments concerning believers will be demonstrated in this section to be related to the issuance of reward rather than the punishment of one’s sins. Christ handled that requirement quite adequately.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

As the church is the first group to rise, following Christ himself, they will be also the first group to receive their corresponding judgment.  The “Judgment Seat of Christ” is the designation for this judgment concerning the church.  This title comes from Romans 14 and 2 Corinthians 5, both referring in the Greek to bema Christos.  Bema is a term which refers to a tribune or platform upon which a judge would stand.  In most New Testament era usages, this platform would be a location for a governor or a judge to present a judgment in a case of law or order.  It also would be used by the judges of sporting events as a platform from which to render a victor.  In Paul’s usages in both Romans and 2 Corinthians, the bema is that of Christ himself.  As the title indicates, the “judgment seat of Christ” refers to a time when the bride of Christ, the church, will undergo judgment at his investigation and oversight.  The judgment seat of Christ does not include the Old Testament saints nor the tribulation saints, but only those who participate in the initial raised group of the first resurrection; the church.  This judgment is oriented toward those of the rapture, of whom Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 15:23, “But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” 

The results of this judgment

The most essential understanding which must be examined concerning this judgment is its nature and purpose.  The judgment seat of Christ, like all judgments concerning believers, is taught in scripture to be oriented toward reward rather than punishment.  Judgment for reward should be understood similarly to the judgment which one may undergo in a sporting event. 

In the Olympic games, for example, talented athletes from the world over present the fruits of their careers before appointed judges.  They are judged based on their performances of the required elements.  This judgment encompasses their successes and failures concerning the completion of their required elements, yet the outcome of their judgment results only in rewards, or a lack thereof.  Never does the judge cast a fallen gymnast into outer darkness or require her to pay a punitive fine for her failures.  Instead, based on her failures, her overall score is lessened and her reward not as great as the competitor which performs each part of routine without falter.  Indeed, she may receive no reward at all because of her failures, yet she is not punished outside of her loss of reward.  Paul uses another illustration concerning the nature of this reward in 1 Corinthians 3.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NIV)
11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. 15 If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.

In this text, Paul notes simply, “the Day” as the timing of this reward.  He will further define the timing of this day in chapter 4, which will be the next text observed in this work, as “the Day” of the Lord’s coming for the church.  In this text, however, Paul clearly stipulates the nature of this judgment to be concerned with reward rather than punishment.  He designates each man’s life as if it were a building being constructed.  He speaks of man’s works as if they are building materials of varying degrees of quality; gold, silver, costly stones, and deteriorating downward to less precious materials such as wood, hay or straw.  Paul’s point is then clearly made concerning the nature of man’s work as he notes, “his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.”  Thus, what a man “builds” throughout his life is rendered into judgment on the basis of its quality and endurance through the test. 

Paul next notes the nature of the judgment concerning this metaphorical building.  It is judged by fire.  Fire will quickly consume straw, hay and wood, but the more precious materials would endure such a test. 

Paul’s conclusion to the matter is profoundly illuminating concerning the results of this judgment.  He states that “if what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.”  Clearly the essence of this judgment is demonstrated to be concerned with reward.  The basis of reward is the quality and endurance of man’s work through this test of fire.  Yet, he also continues and makes a strong note concerning the lack of punishment for those whose work is sub-standard.  He notes specifically, “if it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

Two things are noteworthy from Paul’s description of the one who fails the test.  First, it should be noted that he suffers loss.  Some, even at this point, may desire to hear a punitive tone in Paul’s terminology, but such is not the essence of the text.  It is clear that the context of the passage is reward.  To “suffer loss” when calculating one’s reward only indicates a lack of reward to have been awarded.  Surely the Olympic gymnast who watches the award ceremony from her hotel television “suffers loss.”  Because she failed to meet her objectives and enter the final rounds of the contest, she indeed has suffered loss; the loss of the anticipated reward.  Secondly, it is noteworthy that Paul goes the extra mile to reinforce the fact that this reward is not punitive in nature.  He states, “he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”  Clearly, even those who will receive utterly no reward for their works upon the earth, if they are part of this judgment- by merit of their relationship with Christ- are still not subject to punitive action.  They will be saved just as all who are in Christ will be saved.  Yet, they will suffer loss because they will have no reward which will follow them into their eternal state. 

It should be reminded to some preachers which the author has heard to present this text that the “flames” in question do not refer to Hell.  Paul makes no allusion to Hell whatsoever in the text.  He does speak articulately about the flames of the testing fire of this judgment.  The picture Paul is giving of one “escaping through the flames” is not one who manages to barely make it into Heaven, managing to just escape the flames of Hell.  One’s entry into Heaven is never considered in this judgment.  At the moment one is risen with Christ his eternal abode is secure.  Rather, “escaping through the flames” is indicative of everything he has done his whole life having been burned up in the test, while he himself is saved.

In the next chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks again concerning this judgment.

1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV)
5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

Paul speaks in this context concerning the nature of men’s motives in their gospel service.  Of such, once again he affirms that reward is the nature of the judgment for the church.  He notes the timing as when “the Lord comes” and the nature of the results to be that one may “receive his praise from God.”  This text affirms once again both the timing of this judgment of the church and that its nature is to be reward oriented.  Other texts throughout the New Testament consistently affirm what Paul has established in this letter.

In Ephesians, Paul once again notes,

Ephesians 6:8 (NIV)
8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

And, in 2 Timothy he states,

2 Timothy 4:8 (NIV)
8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Jesus himself states,

Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)
12 … “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

In every case, references concerning the judgment of the church, or the judgment seat of Christ, are references which indicate a reward being offered as the results of one’s righteous deeds.  Never is punishment indicated as a response for the works of Christ’s church.

That being noted, it is essential that the body of Christ understand that one’s sinful actions are indeed of great concern at the time of this judgment.  While one’s sin is atoned for and will not cause one to lose one’s salvation or experience any other retaliatory sentence, it is clear that one’s sin is indeed involved in the overall assessment of one’s reward.  Just as the gymnast may mar an otherwise flawless routine by falling on her rear end, it is clear in scripture that the church will be required to give an accounting for their sinful actions in light of this judgment.

Paul notes in 2 Corinthians that both the good and the bad are taken into account on this day.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (NIV)
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Clearly one’s receiving of “what is due him” takes into account both that which is good and that which is bad.  Just as Paul’s metaphor of a building being tested by fire, that which is poorly constructed burns up.  Only that which is worthy will endure to invoke one’s reward.

In conclusion, the nature of the judgment seat of Christ is unmistakably oriented toward reward rather than punishment.  While one suffers loss for a lack of discipline or for sinful actions, such loss does not include a penal retaliation from the Lord.  Glory be to Christ, who has suffered the full price of sin; past, present and future for his people.

The timing of this judgment

Concerning the timing of this judgment, which has already been postulated as the time of the rapture of the church, each text which specifies a timing for the judgment references such in light of Christ’s “coming.”  Texts referencing a “coming” of Christ fall into two general categories.  One category concerns Christ’s “coming” to remove the church from the earth and another category references Christ’s “coming” as a returning King.  The rapture event and the second coming of Christ to reign as king can easily be confused in scripture if one does not consider the context of the coming which is being referenced. 

Concerning Christ’s coming to redeem the church, John notes,

John 14:1-3 (NIV)
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

In this text, Jesus speaks of a “coming” in which he will not stay, but rather will return to Heaven from which he came- taking the church “to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  He notes specifically that he will go to his Father’s house to prepare a place for those of which he will return to take to that place.  As such, this “coming” is not a “coming to stay.”  It is more akin to a fly-by of an airplane as opposed to a landing.  This text speaks of the rapture event, which is characteristically different from what is theologically known as Christ’s “second coming.”

The second coming, on the other hand, refers to a time when Christ will come to stay.  At this time he will destroy the armies of Antichrist and establish the millennial kingdom upon the earth and will rule the earth from Jerusalem for one thousand years.  Concerning the Lord’s coming to stay, Zechariah notes,

Zechariah 14:3-4 (NIV)
3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. 4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.

Notably, at the time of this “coming” the Lord’s feet are firmly planted on the earth.  He engages a battle against the enemies of Israel and then continues to establish his kingdom upon the earth.  Revelation 20, observed earlier, notes that Christ remains upon the earth for the duration of his one thousand year reign.

Revelation 20:6 (NIV)
6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

In determining the “coming” of Christ in question, whether it refers to the rapture “fly-by” event or the second coming, one must pay attention to the context of the passage.

Luke teaches about the coming judgment seat of Christ in conjunction with a “coming” which can easily be discerned to be the coming of Christ to remove the church.

Luke 21:35-36 (NIV)
35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke refers to the advent of the judgment seat of Christ as something which prefaces the tribulation period.  It is at this judgment when one will “stand before the Son of Man,” and “escape all that is about to happen.”  Luke furthermore references the timing of this judgment as the time of the resurrection of the righteous.

Luke 14:13-14 (NIV)
13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

The resurrection of the righteous is the rapture event; beginning with the raising of the dead in Christ, followed by those who are still living.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NIV)
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

In conjunction, then, with the Lord’s coming to rapture the church, she will stand before him for the judgment seat of Christ.  At this time each will receive rewards for the works of faith which one engaged in during one’s life.

Mark 9:41 (NIV)
41 I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.

The Rewards of Judgment
Authority

Concerning the actual substance of the rewards of the righteous judgments, numerous scriptures can be examined which reveal the nature of the honors to be claimed by the righteous whose works are counted as worthy.  In Matthew and Mark, Jesus demonstrates that positions of authority in the kingdom are a possible reward.  In Matthew he states,

Matthew 5:19 (NIV)
19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

At the onset, it is obvious that there are distinctions of one’s existence in the Kingdom.  Jesus in the least demonstrated that some will be considered elevated over others in some way.  Some will be called “least” in the Kingdom while others are called “great.”  This asserts not only that such distinctions exist, but that they will be recognizable in some manner as well. 

Continuing Jesus’ comments on the subject, he notes more detail in Mark 10.

Mark 10:35-40 (NIV)
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”

Affirming that positions of elevation exist in the Kingdom, Jesus further acknowledges that this honor is indeed related to one’s authority.  For James and John to ask Jesus to be seated at his right and left is to be understood from their cultural norms.  The right and left hand positions are the places of the highest authority in a human kingdom of their day.  Clearly, the two disciples were asking Jesus for a place of authority directly under himself.  Jesus did not deny their presuppositions.  In fact, he affirmed them, stating “these places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”  Obviously, these positions of authority do indeed exists.  They are to be assigned to those specific people who are found worthy of their position.

Crowns

Crowns are also assigned as rewards for the Kingdom.  Each crown appears to be assigned for particular righteous works of believers.  The term crown is translated from the Greek term, stephanos, in each of these texts.  There are two types of crowns in the New Testament.  One crown is the diadema, which is the crown of royalty.  This is the type of crowns Jesus wears in Revelation 19.

Revelation 19:12 (NIV)
12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

The stephanos, on the other hand, is not a crown of royalty, but a crown of reward.  The stephanos is the type of crown which would be granted to victors in the public games or as a sign of general honor.  As such, it is appropriate that the crowns rewarded to believers in judgment are the sorts of rewards one would receive from competing well in athletic training. 

Such is the very sentiment of Paul in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)
25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Paul directly correlates the stephanos, which one wins in athletic competitions, to the crowns one will receive upon one’s judgment of Christ.  Unlike the earthly crowns, however, he specifically notes that believers are to “get a crown that will last forever,” being free from corruption, theft or loss.

In this text Paul writes concerning the self discipline required to fulfill his ministry.  It appears that the spiritual fruit of self discipline is an area which one may receive such reward for.  Paul also notes a crown in 1 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 2:19 (NIV)
19 For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes? Is it not you?

In this text the crown is rewarded to those who are faithful in the ministry.  In particular, Paul notes that the church at Thessalonica is the source of his future crown.  His soul winning work in that area is to be the very source of his anticipated reward.

To Timothy Paul noted “the crown of righteousness,” which he also anticipates to receive. 

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV)
7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Surely the very name of this crown is suggestive of its intended recipients, yet also perhaps Paul’s note of endurance is of value in the receipt of that particular reward.

Also noted in scripture is the “crown of life.”

James 1:12 (NIV)
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Revelation 2:10 (NIV)
10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

In both James and Revelation, the crown of life is noted to be a reward for those who suffer for the cause of Christ.  In both cases the crown is promised to those who endure persecution for the sake of the ministry of Christ.

Lastly, Peter references a crown in his first Jewish epistle.

1 Peter 5:2-4 (NIV)
2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers–not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

This “crown of glory” is granted to those who serve God’s people with a proper attitude, “not greedy for money, but eager to serve.” 

While the joy of receiving crowns may be somewhat lost in the current generation, it appears that the receipt of such crowns is much more than a personal collection of headwear for the believers who receive them.  Concerning events John saw in Heaven, he writes in Revelation of the account of the stephanos of twenty four elders.

Revelation 4:9-11 (NIV)
9 Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: 11 “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

It is not entirely clear to the author who these twenty four elders are.  Presumably, they are men who have been assigned positions of authority for their works.  Earlier in the same chapter John noted,

Revelation 4:2-4 (NIV)
2 At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. 3 And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne. 4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.

In John’s vision he encountered these twenty four elders on thrones which surrounded God’s very throne in Heaven.  Clearly these elders were exalted in such positions.  Additionally, they had crowns, which also are presumed to be the objects of their reward by Christ.  What is fascinating is how they behave with respect to their crowns.  They “lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.’”  Indeed it appears that one’s crowns are an object of future worship which are to be re-dedicated back to the Lord himself. 

At a future moment in Heaven proper, it thus appears that man will have opportunity to return to the Lord the crowns he received for his own reward.  In that moment, unencumbered by the sinful and covetous nature, being compelled to worship in the very presence of the God of the ages, what a glorious opportunity may be afforded to those whose works have secured the crowns of reward!  How sad that same day may be for those who have no crowns, having been saved “as one escaping through the flames.”

It appears that one’s future rewards are in fact not elements which are used to self-adulate.  Indeed, in the fruition of a perfect and renewed mind, one realizes that all glory, honor and praise belong to the Lord alone.  In such a circumstance, one’s reward will yield him the utter satisfaction and pleasure of having something of value by which he can ascribe even further glory to his King.

Unspecified Rewards

The nature of rewards are certainly not limited in scripture.  While authority and crowns are noted, many other possibilities surely exist in the numerous scriptures which speak of rewards that remain undefined as to their natures.

Matthew 10:41 (NIV)
41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.

Matthew 10:42 (NIV)
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

Luke 6:35 (NIV)
35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Ephesians 6:8 (NIV)
8 because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.

Understanding that one’s rewards are able to further ascribe glory to the Lord, it is clear that one’s life on this earth is much more than a life-long venture of securing one’s salvation.  The true blessings of reward are offered for virtually every manner of righteous accomplishment; from receiving a prophet to giving a cup of cold water in the name of our Lord.  The pursuit of such eternal reward should be the very heartbeat of the body of Christ. 


Other Judgments of the Righteous:

The resurrection and judgment of the church complete, there remain two other groups of the righteous who are to be resurrected and receive their inheritance in the Kingdom.  As noted earlier, the Old Testament saints are not a part of the church.  Likewise, the tribulation saints- those receiving their salvation after the rapture of the church- are also not part of the church.  Each of these groups are demonstrated in scripture to have a future resurrection and judgment of their own. 

The preponderance of the New Testament which is concerned with the resurrection and reward of believers is, however, oriented toward the church.  Not a great deal of information is dedicated to the illumination of the judgments of the Old Testament and Tribulation saints.

The Judgment of the Old Testament Saints

Concerning the Old Testament saints, the first observation has been made already.  That observation is that they will not participate in the rapturing of the church.  It is not as if they are missing out, for their spirits have been with Christ since he arose.  They have their joy in Heaven with Christ in spirit, yet are without eternal spirit-bodies until their resurrection event.

In Daniel 12, Daniel receives instructions from an angel concerning the end of the age; those last days prior to the advent of Jesus’ millennial kingdom.  In Chapter 11 the campaign of Antichrist is noted during the tribulation season, which immediately precedes the Kingdom.  It is noted that during this tribulation, Antichrist will attack Israel.  Daniel begins chapter 12 with the announcement of that time of great duress. 

Daniel 12:1-2 (NIV)
1 “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 found written in the book–will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

This “time of distress” refers to the last half of the tribulation, when Israel will be harshly persecuted by Antichrist.  Noted to Daniel is that, “at that time your people…will be delivered.”  While beyond the scope of this work, that delivery will be presented in the form of the return of Christ, who will destroy the armies of Antichrist and establish his Kingdom.

Daniel is then given a general description regarding the future resurrection of man.  “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”  The text does not speak as to the timing of these pending resurrections other than to note that they will occur after the delivery of Israel, or, the advent of the millennial kingdom.

The Timing:  at Resurrection

Continuing the discourse, the angel next states,

Daniel 12:3-4 (NIV)
3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

Clearly, there are separate types of judgments for those who are to be resurrected.  The wise, or the righteous, will “shine like the brightness of the heavens.”  Nothing is noted concerning the unrighteous at this time, but Daniel is instructed to “seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.”  Clearly, there are certain elements of this story which are intentionally shrouded until they are to be revealed. 

At this point, Daniel observes two bystanders in his vision discuss the timing of the tribulation concerning Israel.  It is identified as three and one half years, the length of the second half of the tribulation.[2]  Then, in verse 11 it is noted to Daniel,

Daniel 12:11-13 (NIV)
11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. 12 Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days. 13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

In this chapter of Daniel, three time periods are noted.  First is the noted the time of Israel’s distress which corresponds to the second half of the tribulation.  Verse 7 notes the duration of that season to be, “time, times, and half a time,” or three and one half years. If three and one half years are relegated into days, using Jewish lunar calendar standards, the number of days would be 1,260.

The second time period is a number of days equaling 1,290 days.  This time is noted to be the full number of days which an abomination is set up in the temple.  This time correlates to the time of the Great Tribulation plus 30 additional days.

The third time period is 1,335 days.  This date is given to represent a time period of special blessings to those who reach it.

Finally, Daniel is told, “You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

“You will rest” is indicative of Daniel’s death.  This rest refers to his rest in Sheol until Christ redeemed him from that location with the righteous.  Yet, while Daniel’s spirit would have risen out of Sheol with Christ, his body would have remained in the ground. 

“You will rise to receive your allotted inheritance,” speaks to Daniel’s pending bodily resurrection, as has been noted earlier.  After he has rested, being dead until all of the prophecies come to pass, Daniel’s body will rise.  The Old Testament saints, with Daniel being one of them, are noted to rise at a point after the Great Tribulation period, therefore.  Accordingly, upon their resurrection, they will “receive [their] allotted inheritance” at the judgment of the Old Testament righteous.

One last note concerning the Old Testament saints is the substance of their particular judgment.  While judgment always accompanies resurrection, in Daniel’s case he is told something peculiar: his “inheritance” has already been allotted.  Daniel, like many of the Old Testament saints, is Jewish, although not much more is known about his family.  As a Jew, however, he has been promised an inheritance in the coming Kingdom.  God’s covenant to Abraham promised his descendants the land “from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates.”[3]  While the “river in Egypt” is debatable, the Euphrates river is noted to be the Eastern boundary of the future land of Abraham’s descendants.  Specifically, this land was promised to Abraham’s line through his son Isaac and his grandson, Jacob.

Genesis 35:12 (NIV)
12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

Jacob, renamed Israel, became the father of the nation of Israel, who were to inherit the lands God had promised to Abraham.  Yet, at the current time in history, Israel has not yet inherited the entirety of the lands which God had promised.  That inheritance will be granted in the messianic kingdom.  As such, those of the Old Testament resurrection who are Jewish have as the substance of their reward an inheritance which will be granted to them. 

Concerning the judgment of the Old Testament saints, nothing more is said specifically in scripture.  However numerous Old Testament passages proclaim God’s judgment to be concerned with one’s works, just as other judgments are.  The psalmist notes that God is strong,

Psalm 62:12 (NIV)
12 and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.

Likewise, the Lord concurs through Jeremiah. 

Jeremiah 17:10 (NIV)
10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”

As with all judgments, a man’s deeds are brought into account while determining the nature of his future reward.  It should be noted once again that one’s works do not secure one’s salvation.  Salvation is by grace alone.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

Yet, man’s works do account for his final judgment.  Upon one’s resurrection, his pending reward is determined fully by his submission to his Lord during his earthly life.

The Judgment of the Tribulation Saints

The final remaining group of believers to receive a resurrection and judgment are the tribulation saints.  This group are those which were saved after the rapture of the church and died prior to the advent of the Messianic Kingdom.  Some of this group are surely to be saved shortly after the rapture event.  Many exist in churches today who have heard the gospel of Christ but have considered that they have much time available to make the commitment to his Lordship.  Having heard and known the scriptures, undoubtedly this group will experience a widespread repentance upon the realization that their believing friends and family have been rescued from the coming wrath of the great tribulation.  Likewise, during the tribulation will exist a great ministry on the earth.  In Revelation 7 is noted a restraint which is placed upon the judgments of the great tribulations to protect the ministers of the Lord during that season.

Revelation 7:3-4 (NIV)
3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” 4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.

This 144,000 Jews are a group of ministers who are called to serve the Lord during the tribulation.  As God’s “servants,” they will employ an evangelistic campaign upon the earth during the tribulation.  While the preponderance of the earth will reject the gospel, even in light of the tribulation judgments, many will be saved from this effort.

Revelation 7:9 (NIV)
9 After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

Revelation 7:13-14 (NIV)
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes–who are they, and where did they come from?” 14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Thus, from the whole of the earth a great multitude are saved during the great tribulation and are killed as martyrs.  This group of tribulation martyrs are the last grouping of the dead which have need of resurrection and judgment.  Revelation 20 notes this occasion early in the millennial kingdom of Christ.

Revelation 20:4-6 (NIV)
4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. 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. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

Verse 4 begins, “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.”  With judges in place, the judgment portion of their resurrection is prepared.  This indicates that the judging of these tribulational saints is the context of that which follows, and that their judgment occurs, once again, in conjunction with their resurrections.

This verse continues, “they came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”  That one thousand years concurs with the timeframe of the messianic kingdom.  The term “one thousand” appears six times in Revelation concerning this kingdom.  That this group is to reign with Christ for one thousand years indicates their participation in Christ’s Messianic Kingdom program, and likewise their judgment to be in accordance with rewards related to that program.  If one is raised, judged and rewarded, then one begins to invest that reward immediately.  In such a case, the tribulation saints will accept their reward in conjunction with the advent of the kingdom and will have their rewards available to them during the Kingdom era.

Verse 6 states the nature of their rewards.  “They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”  Specifically, this group of martyrs is promised a special position in the Kingdom for their martyrdom.  While the text does not clearly articulate the details, it relates two categorical types of service, each of which are hierarchical in nature.

One category is that of a priestly office.  The priesthood in the Old Testament is a hierarchical structure through and through.  While there is no distinct priestly office noted in the New Testament, a return to a different form of priestly office will exist in the Kingdom.  Tribulation martyrs have a position within that priestly office noted as a possible reward for their labors.

The second category is that they will “reign” with Christ.  It appears the tribulation saints will categorically participate in both priestly and kingly functions of Messiah’s reign.  Governing, likewise, is a hierarchical position.  Just as the works of the church age are judged to determine a future reward for the Kingdom, so the judgment of the tribulation saints will yield them into a position which will be determined by their works.  While their works are not expressly noted in the text, they are inferred by merit of their being judged.  If one is judged and is rewarded from a variety of hierarchical positions, then the results of the judgment clearly are expressed to be the determining factor of one’s future position.

Lastly can be noted that the tribulation saints are the final category involved in the first resurrection.  Verse 5 notes simply, “…This is the first resurrection.”  As was noted in Chapter Eighteen, the “first resurrection” is a process which began with Christ himself.  Upon the designation, “this is the first resurrection,” it is hereby ended.  This demonstrates that the resurrection and judgment of the Old Testament saints must be concluded prior to the resurrection and judgment of the tribulation saints.  It is the author’s opinion that these judgments will occur the very same day, concurrent with one another and concluding with the judgment of the tribulation saints.

In conclusion, early in the millennial kingdom of Christ the fruition of the resurrection and judgments of all believers will be complete.  One may be curious concerning the judgment and resurrection of those believers who may die during the Kingdom.  The answer is beyond the nature of this particular work, but the author’s book, “The Return of the King” answers that question with scripture.  The short version is simple.  Believers in the Kingdom do not die, but live until the final eternal city of Heaven is placed upon a new earth, at which time they, too, will undergo a translation into eternal substance.



[1] John 3:18; 5:24, Romans 8:1

[2] For more information on this subject, see the author’s book, “The Return of the King.”

[3] Genesis 15:18

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