"Christ Jesus . . . is to judge the living and the dead." 2 Timothy 4:1
Jim Marshall was a defensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings in the 1960s and ’70s. Although Marshall was a Super Bowl champion, he is best known for the mistake he made on October 24, 1964. In a game with the San Francisco 49ers, Marshall saw a fumble, picked up the football, and began running the length of the field. But Marshall did not realize he was running toward his own end zone. Even though the Vikings won the game, Marshall is remembered not for his success but for his mistake. From that point on, he was known as Wrong Way Marshall.
Making it to the end zone is the goal in a football game, but making it to the right end zone is imperative for winning. It is the same way in the Christian life. If we have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, we are going to make it into the right spiritual end zone, heaven, but some will make it there only after spending some time running in the wrong direction. Some who make it into heaven will be celebrated by God for the way they played the game. Other Christians will be evaluated by God for having done little to contribute to the success of the team.
This week we will answer the question: Will heaven be the same for every Christian? The answer to that is no. Not every Christian will have the same experience in heaven. And this is such an important truth to comprehend that we are going to divide this topic in two parts.
Let’s establish the reality of the judgment of all people. The Bible is clear that everybody after death will be judged by God. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” We are all going to be judged. In 2 Timothy 4:1, Paul talked about “Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead.” Everyone, both Christians and non-Christians, will be judged by God, but we will not all be judged in a single judgment.
There is one judgment for non-Christians, called the Great White Throne Judgment. At the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, every unbeliever who has ever died will be raised and will stand before this Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” If you have not trusted in Christ as your savior, it does not matter how good you are. The only way to escape God’s eternal judgment is by trusting in Christ as Savior before we die.
There is another judgment for Christians, called the Judgment Seat of Christ. This judgment results not in condemnation but in God’s commendation for the lives we have lived for Christ. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul said, “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” Both non-Christians and Christians have a judgment to face before God.