The Bible teaches that there are three phases for the judgment:
The First Phase
The first phase of the judgment has been called the “pre-advent judgment” (or investigative judgment) because it takes place before Jesus’ second coming. Those that have claimed to be Christians (alive or dead) will be judged in the pre-advent judgment.
When Jesus comes, He will bring His rewards based on His pre-advent judgement: “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work” (Revelation 22:12). The judgement will first start with God’s followers “for judgment to begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
Who will judge? God the Father will preside in the judgment (Daniel 7:9, 10). Jesus will be the believer’s attorney, judge, and witness (John 5:22; 1 John 2:1). And He promises that judgment will be “made in favor of the saints” (Daniel 7:22). Satan will be the only accuser (Revelation 12:9, 10).
God will judge people from the heavenly books of records (Daniel 7:10; Revelation 20:12). The standard of judgment will be God’s moral law or the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17; James 2:12). The righteousness of the law will be fulfilled by Jesus for believers (Romans 8:3, 4).
Although believers are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8), rewards will be given based on their works or the fruits of their faith (James 2:26; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10, etc.). God will bring every work into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
The judgement will be seen “both to angels and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9). The vindication of God’s character is another very important purpose of the judgment (Revelation 11:16–19; 15:2–4; 16:5, 7; 19:1, 2; Daniel 4:36, 37).
The Second Phase
The saints will be involved in the second phase of the judgement. The Bible tells us, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? … Do you not know that we shall judge angels?” (1 Corinthians 6:2, 3). John wrote, “I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them” (Revelation 20:4).
During the 1,000 years, the saints will ultimately agree with Jesus’ decisions concerning the eternal destiny for each person. This judgement merely affirms the decisions that people have already made (Revelation 22:11, 12). Thus, it will become clear to everyone that the judgments of God are not arbitrary.
The Third Phase
The last phase will take place on earth at the close of the 1,000 years (Revelation 20) after Jesus’ return to earth with the holy city and His saints. “I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:2). “Thus the Lord my God will come, and all the saints with You…” (Zechariah 14:4, 5, 10).
At the close of the 1,000 years, the wicked dead of all ages will be raised (Revelation 20:5). “Satan will … go out to deceive the nations … to gather them together to battle” (Revelation 20:7, 8). And he will succeed in convincing the lost that they can capture the holy city. So, “They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city” (Revelation 20:9).
But God will interrupt their plans and He will appear before the world (Revelation 19:11–21). John reports, “And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12). Every lost soul will face God in judgment (2 Corinthians 5:10). They will look at the King of kings (Revelation 20:12) and review their past lives.
Then, “every knee shall bow” down to God (Romans 14:11, 12; Philippians 2:10, 11; Romans 14:11) and admit that He is loving, fair, merciful in His treatment to them. At this point, God will stand vindicated before the entire universe.
After that, God’s judgement will fall upon the lost: “And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them” (Revelation 20:9, 10). “The wicked … shall be ashes” (Malachi 4:3). The heavenly Father will without a doubt weep over those whom He loved. His anguish will be beyond description.
After the destruction of the wicked, the Lord will wipe all tears away (Revelation 21:4) and “create new heavens and a new earth” (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13). And He will live “with men … and they shall be His people” throughout eternity (Revelation 21:3).
There are three phases of the final judgment mentioned in the Scriptures, the pre-advent judgment (or investigative Judgement), preceding the second advent; the judgment of the lost world and wicked angels by Christ and the saints during the 1,000 years following the second advent; and the executive judgment, or the punishment of the wicked at the close of the 1,000.
The investigative judgment takes place in heaven before Christ comes, in order to ascertain who are worthy to be raised in the first resurrection, at His coming, and who among the living are to be changed in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trump. It is necessary for this to take place before the second advent, as there will be no time for such a work between the coming of Christ and the raising of the righteous dead. The investigative judgment is that which is announced to the world by the angel’s message of Revelation 14:6,7.
The executive Judgment on the wicked occurs after their cases have been examined by the saints during the 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4,5; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3).
For more on this topic, check the following link: The Judgement.
In His service,