#6 Post of 2014 – Are Believers Judged After They Die?

Many Christians believe the answer to this question is “no.” Of course, they would be wrong. The New Testament clearly claims that all people, believers and unbelievers, are judged for their works after they die. Randy Alcorn, in his book Heaven, lays out the biblical evidence for this view. Alcorn describes the first judgment, after we die, as the judgment of faith:

When we die, we face judgment, what is called the judgment of faith. The outcome of this judgment determines whether we go to the present Heaven or the present Hell. This initial judgment depends not on our works but on our faith. It is not about what we’ve done during our lives but about what Christ has done for us. If we have accepted Christ’s atoning death for us, then when God judges us after we die, he sees his Son’s sacrifice for us, not our sin. Salvation is a free gift, to which we can contribute absolutely nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Most Christians are aware of this first judgment, but forget about the second, or final, judgment.

This first judgment is not to be confused with the final judgment, or what is called the judgment of works . Both believers and unbelievers face a final judgment. The Bible indicates that all believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of their lives (Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10). It’s critical to understand that this judgment is a judgment of works, not of faith (1 Corinthians 3:13-14).

Alarm bells are going off in many Christian heads at this point. How can he say that Christians are judged for their works? After all, our faith in Christ is all that counts, not our works. Are we under the Law again? Why did Jesus die if our works matter? Read on….

Our works do not affect our salvation, but they do affect our reward. Rewards are about our work for God, empowered by his Spirit. Rewards are conditional, dependent on our faithfulness (2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2: 26-28; 3:21). Unbelievers face a final judgment of works as well. The Bible tells us it will come at the great white throne, at the end of the old Earth and just before the beginning of the New Earth (Revelation 20:11-13).

Believers, then, are judged on the works they performed for God after becoming believers. The greater the faithfulness, the greater the rewards in Heaven. The Bible doesn’t offer easy-believism, the idea that you trust Jesus one day, and then continue living as you did before. That concept is totally and completely contrary to everything the Bible teaches.

  • Jake Hayworth

    Mr. Pratt, what will the nonbelievers be judged on at the final judgement? If they are already slated for hell due to the first judgement, what outcome does the second judgement have for them? If they denied Christ but performed many works, is their punishment lessened?

  • Hi Jake,
    Great question. There are verses in the New Testament that indicate that there are different “levels” of hell, depending on the life you lived. So, yes, unbelievers are judged on their works.

  • Jake Hayworth

    Thanks for the response, good to know.