by Watchman Nee
Having differentiated between reward and salvation, we can now touch upon a related problem—the subject of judgment. Without judgment, how can it be determined who is saved and who is unsaved? Without judgment, how can it be known who will be rewarded and who will suffer loss? The Bible unfolds to us four different kinds of judgment: (1) the Lord Jesus was judged for us on the cross; (2) the believers will be judged as to their works before the judgment seat of Christ; (3) the nations will be judged on earth (Matt. 25.31-46); and (4) God’s judgment of the dead (or, of the great white throne) (Rev. 20.11-15). Of these four judgments, one has already passed, but three are coming in the future. All who are willing to believe in the Lord Jesus as their Savior will have their problem of sins forever solved due to the effect of Christ having been judged for sins on the cross. They are therefore saved, they have received eternal life, and they will be judged no more (see John 3.18, Rom. 8.1). They will not be judged for sins anymore because the Lord Jesus has suffered for them on the cross.
But although believers will not be judged for sin, the Bible nonetheless indicates that they will still be judged (2 Cor. 5.10; Rom. 14.10-12; Matt. 25.14-30; 1 Cor. 3.10-15; etc.). What judgment is that? Not the judgment as to whether one is saved or perishes, since this issue has already been resolved for the believer by the cross. Moreover, 1 Corinthians 3.15 states that in this judgment there is no danger of perishing. Hence this judgment is that judgment of the works of saints. The judgment of the cross concludes our lives as sinners. The judgment seat of Christ concludes our lives as believers.
Before the judgment seat of Christ we are going to be examined as to our lives lived from the day we first believed in the Lord and onward. Sins which have been confessed will not be brought up. Some believers will have served the Lord faithfully—having sufferedmuch and forsaken all things, having done the will of God without any ulterior motive except to please Him. These people will be rewarded and will reign with Christ in unspeakable glory. How great and good this will be! For the Lord’s heart will be pleased, and they will receive glory. Let us seek for it! Some others may have faltered at times, but if they have confessed their sins, they will be washed by the precious blood so that they may renew their pursuit and follow the Lord along the narrow path of the cross. These too shall receive His reward. As to others, however, they may not have sinned, but their works were like wood, hay and stubble since they sought after the approval of men and worked with a double motive. These shall not be rewarded at all but will suffer tremendous loss. And then there will be still others who after being saved will have continued to commit many sins—unconfessed and unrepented of; such people will be punished instead of rewarded. Although their eternal salvation is an unshakable matter, they will nonetheless be severely disciplined by the Lord. Revelation 1-3 discloses the attitude of the Lord Jesus in judging His saints. It is the prelude to the judgment seat of Christ.
The third of these four judgments—the judgment of nations—will be determined according to how each nation will have treated the Jews during the Great Tribulation. This judgment will take place at the end of the Tribulation but before the commencement of the millennial kingdom. What is to take place as described in Revelation 16.12-16 and 19.11-21 has reference to this judgment.
The fourth and final judgment is that of the great white throne—that is to say, God’s judgment of the dead (see Rev. 20.11-15).
Since the book of Revelation speaks so much of judgment, an awareness of these four judgments to be found in the Scriptures will help us to understand the different judgments spoken of in this final book of the Bible.