We know from Revelation 20:7-15 that this judgment will take place after the millennium and after Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:7-10).
The books that are opened (Revelation 20:12) contain records of everyone’s deeds whether they are good or evil, because God knows everything that has ever been said, done, or even thought; and He will reward or punish each one accordingly (Psalm 28:4; Psalm 62:12; Romans 2:6; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 18:6; Revelation 22:12).
Also at this time another book is also opened and that is the “book of life” (Revelation 20:12). It is this book that determines whether a person will inherit eternal life with God or receive everlasting punishment in the lake of fire. Although Christians are held accountable for their actions, they are forgiven in Christ and their names were written in the “book of life from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 17:8). We also know from Scripture that it is at this judgment that Jesus will judge “the dead according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12) and that “anyone’s name” that is not “found written in the book of life” will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
The fact that there is going to be a final judgment for all men, both believers and unbelievers, is clearly confirmed in many passages of Scripture. Every single person will one day stand before Christ and be judged for their deeds. While it is very clear that the Great White Throne Judgment is the final judgment of Christ, Christians do disagree on how it relates to the other judgments mentioned in the Bible, and as to exactly who will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment.
Many Christians believe that the Scriptures reveal three different judgments to come. The first is the judgment of the “sheep and the goats” or a “judgment of the nations” and is seen in Matthew 25:31-36. They believe it takes place after the tribulation period but prior to the millennium and that it is to determine who will get to enter into the millennium kingdom.
The second is a judgment of believers’ works, often referred to as the “judgment (bema) seat of Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:10); at which time Christians will receive degrees of reward for their works or service to God. The third is the “Great White Throne” judgment at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:11-15); which is the judgment of unbelievers in which they are judged according to their works and sentenced to everlasting punishment in the lake of fire.
Other Christians believe that all three of these judgments as seen in Matthew 25:31-36; 2 Corinthians 5:10 and Revelation 20:11-15 speak of the same final judgment, not of three separate judgments. In other words, those that hold this view believe that the “Great White Throne” judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 will be the time that both believers and unbelievers alike are judged.
Those whose names are found in the “book of life” will be judged for their deeds in order to determine the rewards or loss of rewards that they will receive; and those whose names are not in the “book of life” will be judged according to their deeds to determine the degree of punishment they will receive in the lake of fire.
Those that hold this view believe that Matthew 25:31-46 is another description of what takes place at the “Great White Throne” judgment. They point to the fact that the result of this judgment is the same as what is seen after the “Great White Throne” judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. The “sheep” (believers) enter into eternal life while the “goats” (unbelievers) are cast into “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46).
Whichever view one holds of the “Great White Throne” judgment, it is important to never lose sight of three very important facts concerning the coming judgment or judgments.
1—That Jesus Christ will be the judge.
2—that all unbelievers will be judged by Christ, and that they will be punished according to the deeds that they did. The Bible is very clear that the unbeliever is storing up “wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5), and that God will “render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6).
3—that believers will also be judged by Christ, but since Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to them and their names are written in the “book of life,” they will be rewarded according to the deeds that they did. Romans 14:10-12 is very clear that “we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” and that each one of us will “give an account of himself to God.”
Without a doubt the Bible is very clear that everybody, believer and unbeliever alike, will someday stand before Christ to be judged. But the good news for the believer is that our judgment will not be to determine if we are cast into the lake of fire, because that was settled once we believed the gospel and became “children of God.”
Those that are truly saved have benefited from the great exchange in which our sins are accounted to Christ and His righteousness is imputed to us. So, while our salvation is secure in Christ we will “still give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:12), and should strive to do all things for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).