The Judgement Seat of Christ and the Great White Throne
Question or Topic
What is the difference between the Judgment Seat of Christ of Matthew 25 and The Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20?
Matt. 25: 4-6, Rev. 20
The Bema and The Great White Throne: To begin to answer our correspondent's question, we will say that in their direct applications there is a difference in the judgment seat of Matthew twenty-five and The Great White Throne of Revelation twenty. In order to adequately answer the question in the space allotted to us, we will assume that it is easily understood that the events of Matthew 25:31-46 relate to the judgment seat of Christ when he gathers his saints before him at his return to this earth.
It is important to note that Revelation chapter twenty does make reference to the events of Matthew 25 in verses 4-6: "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
From this testimony we see that John also saw the judgment of the saints at Christ's return. He saw a reward given to those who had been faithful to the precepts and commandments of Yahweh. The reward he saw given unto them was that they should live and reign with Christ a thousand years. But over what will they reign? And over whom will they reign? There must be something to reign over, and there must be subjects of a kingdom in order to have a kingdom.
The prophets clearly detail that there will be mortals living in the thousand year reign of Yahshua the King. Isaiah and Zechariah speak of the mortal nations coming yearly to worship at the feasts of Yahweh (Isaiah 66 and Zechariah 14). Isaiah, Zechariah, and Micah, all speak of the righteous rule over these nations (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:2-4; Zechariah 14:9). These mortals will be the remnants of the kingdoms of this world that have been subdued by Christ and the saints (Revelation 15:11-17). Therefore, we read in Revelation 20 that "the earth and heaven fled away" from the Great White Throne. None of the Nations, the Heavens of this present world, shall be able to stand before this throne; they shall all fall before him. For an example of Heavens and earth referring to the political makeup of this world see 2 Peter 3:5, where Peter speaks of the peoples and their political organizations that perished in the flood.
From these ideas we find that the "Great White Throne" is the throne of the kingdom age,the throne of the thousand years. It is the throne which rules over those nations that are left of them who have fled away. Why is it called White? It is white because it is a throne of righteous judgment. Isaiah speaks of its righteousness in chapter 11 when he says, "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins" Isaiah 11:1-5. It is also the antitypical throne of Solomon, which was a throne of Ivory (1Kings 10:18). Solomon's reign of peace serves as an allegory of the kingdom age. Both his and Yahshua's thrones are White.
Now the question, which must be pondered is, "What happens to the mortals who have died during this thousand year reign?" John gives this answer, "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." (Revelation 20:12-13) John sees them called for judgment. He sees them delivered to render every man according to his deeds, just as the redeemed did a millennia before them.
How can we know that John is speaking of a resurrection and judgment at the thousand years' close? We know it because it is associated with the destruction of death and the grave. Earlier John wrote that the rest of the dead would not live until the thousand years were finished (20:5). We know that death will happen in the millennium from the testimony of Isaiah, which states, "There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed" (Isaiah 65:20). It is before the Great White Throne that they appear to live again, to find whether they are written in the book of life or not. It is at this time that Man's greatest enemy will finally be taken away forever. Death and the grave will be cast into the lake of fire. Death and Hell shall be no more.
The Apostle Paul told of this event when he wrote "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:26). John repeats the reality of this great day in Revelation 21: 4 when he says, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
This day will be a joyous one for Christ and the redeemed saints who lived and reigned during the thousand years. They will see life eternal imparted unto those to whom they spoke the everlasting gospel (Revelation 14:6). And they will witness the truly great day when "all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD ...as the waters cover the sea" (Numbers 14:21; Habakkuk 2:14).