Question: "What is Judgment Day?"
Answer: Judgment Day is the day of God’s final, ultimate judgment on sinful mankind. There are a number of passages in Scripture that refer to the final judgment after death at the end of time when everyone will stand before God and He will render final judgment on their lives.
The Bible warns us of Judgment Day. Malachi the prophet wrote, “‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them’” (Malachi 4:1). John the Baptist spoke of the need to “flee from the coming wrath” (Luke 3:7). Paul wrote to the unrepentant: “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’” (Romans 2:5–6; cf. Psalm 62:12). Judgment Day is a sure thing.
Scripture records several times when God passed judgment on individuals and nations. For example, Isaiah 17 — 23 is a series of judgments pronounced against Damascus, Egypt, Cush, Babylon, Egypt, Arabia, Jerusalem, and Tyre. These localized judgments serve to foreshadow the judgment to come (Isaiah 24 describes the judgment of God over the whole world). Often there is a temporal judgment on sin that occurs in this life, but the final judgment will occur at the end of time. Revelation 19:17–21 records a great battle in which the enemies of God are slaughtered (and this may well be the image that most people think of when they think of Judgment Day). However, this is only a temporal judgment on the people alive at the time of the great battle. The final judgment will encompass everyone who has ever lived and will consign people to their final destiny.
Revelation 20:11–15 contains one of the most vivid descriptions of Judgment Day: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
In this passage, we see that God is the final judge. According to Jesus, it is the Son who will render final judgment, so it must be He who is sitting on the throne (John 5:16–30; cf. Revelation 7:17).
Also, we see that this judgment is comprehensive. This is all who have ever died, small and great (insignificant as well as significant). No one escapes Judgment Day.
The judgment of Judgment Day is carried out according to what individuals have done in their lives—they are judged according to their works. A person will not be judged according to what others did or didn’t do; he stands judgment alone, responsible for his own actions.
Although the judgment is based on works, it is not a weighing of good deeds against bad. Ultimately, our entrance into heaven or hell is based on whether or not our names are recorded in the book of life. Those who are not recorded in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 21:27 reiterates that only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter the new heaven and new earth.
In light of the high stakes involved (eternal destiny) it would behoove one to make sure that he or she is prepared for final Judgment Day in advance. How can a guilty sinner (and we all are guilty) have his or her name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and therefore stand before Him in final judgment and be pronounced “not guilty”? How can a sinner be justified before a holy and righteous God and avoid His wrath? The Bible gives us a clear answer.
“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1, NASB). The person who has faith in Christ has already had judgment rendered. That person has been justified—that is, declared righteous—by God on the basis of Christ’s perfect work on his behalf. It is as if the final judgment that would have happened on Judgment Day has been rendered in advance. All who have faith in Christ are declared righteous, and their names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They have nothing to fear on Judgment Day because their punishment has already been borne by Christ on the cross (Romans 8:1). For those who have faith in Christ, Judgment Day will be the day of final salvation when they are rescued from all of the adverse effects of sin (Malachi 4:2–3).
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:27–28).