The Five Great Judgments


The Five Great Judgments

January 29th, 1956 @ 8:15 AM

Revelation 6:12-17

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
Print Sermon
Downloadable Media
Share This Sermon
Play Audio

Show References:


Dr. W. A. Criswell

Revelation 6:12-17

1-29-56    8:15 a.m.


The title of the sermon this morning is The Five Great Judgments of God.  Two of them are in this world and here and now, and three of them are yet to come at the end time of this world. 

The first judgment here and now is the judgment of eternal life and eternal death, and a typical passage revealing it is in the third chapter of the Gospel of John.  This is the judgment of life and the judgment of death, the judgment of hell and the judgment of heaven.  "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life" [John 3:14-15].Then you have the wonderful verse of John 3:16 then 17:


For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. 

He that believeth on Him is not condemned:  but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 [John 3:17-18]


And the last verse:  "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him" [John 3:36].In the fifth chapter of John and the twenty-fourth verse:  "Verily, verily I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed out of death into life" [John 5:24].

Now, the reason that you would not ordinarily think of that as a judgment of God is because of the translation of the Greek word krisis:  k-r-i-s-i-s – krisis.  You have it in your English word "crisis."  They do not have a "c" in the Greek alphabet.  All the c’s you find in our English language in Greek will be a "k" – a krisis.  So let’s translate it "judgment." 

"He that believeth on Him is not judged: but he that believeth not is judged already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" [John 3:18].Or that last passage:  "He that believeth on Him hath everlasting life and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death unto life" [John 5:24].

Our first judgment is God’s judgment concerning whether a man is going to heaven or going to hell.  Is he going to be saved, or is he going to be lost?  And that judgment is now.  We are not going to be saved.  If we are saved, we are saved now.  We are not going to be lost.  If we are lost, we are lost now.  I am either saved or I am lost now [John 3:18].  There is no judgment in the future, in the future lifewhen Jesus comes again at the end of the world at the great apocalypses.  There’s no judgment in the future concerning whether I am lost or saved.  That judgment is now.  I’m either saved or I am lost now [1 John 5:11-13].

  It isn’t some other time.  It is now.  My name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life [Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5]now, or it’s not.  My sins are forgiven in Christ now, or they’re not.  I am on my way to heavennow, or I am not.  That judgment is right now.  I am saved by trusting the Lord, or the wrath of God, present, abides upon me [John 3:36].  That’s the first judgment.  The judgment of salvation, of heaven and hell,is right now.  That’s our first great judgment.

Now, for us, it is past.  The judgment of God upon our souls because of our sins is past.  That judgment fell upon us in Christ at Calvary [Colossians 2:13-14].  A man on a big boat, awakening one morning, went out on the deck.  And the clouds were dark and lowering, and the waves were mountainous, and there was a tremendous feeling of storm and hurricane in the air.  And the men, afrighted, went to the Captain and said, "We are headed toward a great storm, aren’t we?  A great hurricane is coming."And the Captain said, "No, not so."  He said, "The storm has already passed, and this is just the aftermath."  That’s the way with us.  The judgment on our sins,of God upon our souls, the damnation of hell for us is already passed.  Christ took that judgment in His own selfin His body on the tree [1 Peter 2:24].

Now, the man who has not accepted that atoning grace of God in Christ is judged facing an eternal second death, an awful damnation – what we call the "fires of hell" [Revelation 21:8].  That’s the first judgment, and it’s now.  That’s the reason we ought to preach, and pray, and work, and visit, and plead, and do all we can to get men to Christ for that judgment is going on now [Romans 10:13-15].

Now, the second great judgment is the judgment of God upon the sins of a believer, His children – all of us who are saved.  In the eleventh chapter of the first Corinthian letter, the thirty-first verse, Paul says:  "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged – if God has to judge us – we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" [1 Corinthians 11:31-32].

Now, a like passage to that is in the fourth chapter of First Peter:  "For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God" [1 Peter 4:17].Now, regarding that chastening of the Lord, in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews, the author speaks of it like this:


Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord. . .

For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth."

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?

But if ye be without chastening, whereof all are partakers, then are ye illegitimates, and not sons.

Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be subject unto the Father of spirits, and live?

For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own decisions; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness.

Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:  nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

 [Hebrews 12:5-11]


The second judgment of God is upon His people.  It’supon His children when they sin.  God may let the world pass by when they sin waiting for that great and final day of judgment that we’ll come to in a moment, but God chasteneth His children now.  When His children fall into sin, God chastens them now.  God judges them now [1 Corinthians 11:29-30]. That’s the reason Paul says: "If we would judge ourselves – if we would discipline ourselves – we would not be disciplined by God.  But when we are judged – when God has to judge us – we are chastened of the Lord, in order that we might not be damned with the world" [from 1 Corinthians 11:31-32].There is no son of God that can escape the chastening hand of the Lord when he sins.  God will do it.

The classical instance of that in all of the Scriptures is Nathan’s word to David:  "David, God hath put away thy sin [2 Samuel 12:13].  You’re not going to be damned for it.  You’re not going to be condemned for it.  But, David, the sword will never leave thy house" [2 Samuel 12:10].From now on and forever, David’s house will be one of blood, and of murder, and of rapine, and of intrigue, and of lecherous, traitorous, indescribable iniquity and villainy.  And the unfolding of the story of the life of David in his children and in his children’s children, all of that is but a comment upon this awful judgment of God upon the sins of His people – the chastening of the Lord.  That’s the second great judgment of God.

Now, the other three are in the future.  The third judgment of God is the believer’s judgment at the Judgment Seat of Christ when the Lord comes.  The first thing that takes place when the Lord comes for His people is the great judgment day for those who have trusted in Him, for the people who have accepted Jesus as their Savior – those who have died Christians.  The first thing that happens when the Lord comes again is the judgment day for all of His people.  Listen to the fifth chapter of the second Corinthian letter:


Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.

For we must all appear

– "We" – he’s writing to a Christian church, to Christian people –

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

 [2 Corinthians 5:9-10]


Now, another passage like that is in the third chapter of the first Corinthian letter.  Now, the foundation upon which we build our lives is Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 3:11]:


If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day

– that great day of judgment –

shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.

 [1 Corinthians 3:12-15]


When the Lord comes again, the first great thing is the judgment of all of the people of God [2 Corinthians 5:10], and we’re going to be judging according to those books that God is writing of the deeds of our lives [1 Corinthians 3:12-13].  And if in that book, there’s not anything that a man has done in Christ worthy of blessing – he built on that foundation wood, hay, and stubble – then everything of his life is gone.  He receives no reward at all.He himself is saved "yet so as by fire" [1 Corinthians 3:15].  That is as though a man ran out of the building naked.  He had nothing.  It all was burned up.  He himself is saved by the skin of his teeth.  He just barely is saved, but there’s no reward.  Everything that he did was burned up in the great day of judgment.  Nothing abode.  Nothing was left.  Some people build on that foundation gold, silver, and worthy, matchless, beautiful stones, a magnificent temple [1 Corinthians 3:12].  And in that day of fire, it shall abide, and the man shall receive a reward [1 Corinthians 3:13-14].

Now, when is that reward given?  I say it’s at the end of the world.  It’s when Jesus comes again.  In order to save time, I copied out about four or five passages to fix that in our hearts.  We receive our judgment day – the Christian’s judgment day, the believer’s judgment day, the great day of rewards for us – we receive it at the end time, beyond the resurrection when Jesus comes again.Now, listen to these typical passages:

In the sixteenth chapter of Matthew in the twenty-seventh verse Jesus says:   "For the Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works" [Matthew 16:27].  Every man shall be rewarded according to his works when Jesus comes in the glory with His angels.

All right. Luke 14:13-14:  "Now, when thou makest a feast, call the poor, and the maimed, and the lame, and the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just" – at the end time, at the resurrection of the just.

Now, First Corinthians 4 and 5:  "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God" [1 Corinthians 4:5].  We’re not to judge one another.  That’s God’s business at the end time, and He’ll know exactly how it ought to be done.

Then in Second Timothy 4 and 8, that great passage:  "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me at that day: and not to me only, but to unto all them also that love His appearing" [2 Timothy 4:8].

And then that verse in the twenty-second chapter of Revelation, the twelfth verse:  "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his works shall be" [Revelation 22:12].

I told you last Sunday morning why you cannot receive your reward when you die.  When you die, you go to an intermediate state called paradise, and we’ll preach further about that later on.  But when you die, you go to paradise, but you do not receive your reward because what you did is still reverberating.  It’s still going on.  For good or for evil, the influence of your life when you’re dead, it goes on. 

But at the end time when time is no more – when the Lord Jesus Christ comes – there’ll be a great judgment day for His people, and every man’s life will be judged then according to all of the influence of his worksfrom the time he lived through all of the endless ages down to the denouement of all time.  And then at that day and at that hour, we’ll be judged according to the things that are written in the book, and our rewards will be given us according to what we have done.

That is the third great judgment of the Lord, the judgment of His people, and that ends it for us.  When we receive our reward when the Lord comes, that is the final unraveling of all of the influence and work of our lives, and from then on, we’rein heaven.  We’re in glory.  We’re with the Lord to enjoy what God has prepared for us forever [Matthew 25:14-23].

There are some people that are going to be barely in heaven, that’s all – barely there [1 Corinthians 3:15].  There are some people who are going to be rich toward God.  Their treasures are in heaven [Matthew 6:19-21], and the glory of their lives forevermore will be to rejoice in the richness of that precious and celestial reward [2 Timothy 4:6-8].  That’s the reason we ought to be busy serving God [1 Corinthians 15:58].

Now, the fourth judgment is a judgment that I have a great deal of trouble with.  Maybe some of these days after I’ve studied more and prayed more and read more, I can say something more.  But there is a judgment of God upon the nations, the Gentile nations of the world, and that judgment is shared in by His saints.  For example, Jude says in 14 and 15 in his little chapter, Jude says:  "And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied saying, ‘Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousand of His saints, to execute judgment . . . ‘" [Jude 1:14-15].

And in the first Corinthian letter, the sixth chapter and the second verse, Paul says:  "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?" [1 Corinthians 6:2  ]He’s talking about our going to court against one another.  He says you’re to judge your own problems [1 Corinthians 6:1-11].  You’re not to take them to a Gentile court.  "Do you not know," he says, "that the saints shall judge the world?" [1 Corinthians 6:2]

Well, there are two judgments especially delineated, one in Joel and one in Matthew.  That’s the only time that I can see where the saints might sit with the heavenly Father and the Son of Glory and judge the nations of the world.  And that’s this judgment:  "When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him" [Matthew 25:31].

And in these other passage it says:  "And with His holy saints, He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all the nations of the world" – all the nations of the world.  And He’s going to judge them according to the way they have treated the brethren of the Lord’s – that is, His Jewish people, His brethren [Matthew 25:31-46].

In the days of the Great Tribulation, after the church is taken out of the world – after all of God’s people who are saved are taken out of the world – the clock of the Jewish people is going to start again.  In the Revelation, after the first beginning [Revelation 1:1-3:22], after the church is taken away, it’s never mentioned any more.  Everything in that revelation concerns the Jewish people.  They’re named; their tribes are named [Revelation 7:4-8].  In that day, there’s going to be a nation born in a day [Isaiah 66:8].  The Lord is going to appear to His brethren, to His people, and they’re going to be saved, and they’re going to be the world’s evangelists [Revelation 7:1-17].

Thousands of those Jewish people are going up and down this earth, preaching the redemptive message of the Son of God.  And this great and final judgment, at the end of the Great Tribulation, is going be: "How did you receive that message of My brethren?  Did you love them?  Did you entreat them?  Did you welcome them?  Did you listen to them?  Did you turn to them?  Did you turn to their appeal, or did you do despitefully unto them?  Did you reject their message, and did you reject them?  Did you?"  And the great judgment of the nations is going to be on the basis of how those Gentiles treated and received the message and the messengers of God, His brethren.

Now, that thing is said exactly in the third chapter of Joel:  "For, behold, those days and that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem" – when I gather My people back again – "I will also gather all the nations at that time" [Joel 3:1-2], says the prophesy."When I gather my people and bring them back to my heart" – when the Lord appears to his brethren – "I will also gather all nations, and bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there concerning My people" [from Joel 3:2].How did you treat them?  How did you receive them?  Did you listen to their message?  "And I will plead for my heritage Israel" [Joel 3:2].

Then he continues:


Let the nations be awakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the nations round about.

Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the vats overflow; their wickedness is great.

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision:  for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. 

The sun and moon shall be darkened, the stars shall withdraw their shining. 

The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. 

So shall ye know that I the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. . .

and on and on and on.

 [Joel 3:12-17]


There’s going to be a great judgment day at the end of the tribulation, and all of these Gentile nations are going to be gathered together, and they’re going to be judged.  "How did you receive My brethren and My messengers with the unsearchable gospel of redemptive love and grace?"

Now, I say there’s a whole lot of things about that that you’re going to have to give your pastor some more time on – maybe never find out allfor many of these things are hidden from our eyes. 

Now, the last judgment: the fifth judgment and the last judgmentis upon the wicked dead.  In the twentieth chapter of the Revelation, there is Satan chained in the bottomless pit [Revelation 20:1-3], and there is the resurrection of those who have loved the Lord Jesus.  "And they live and reign with Christ a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead live 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" [Revelation 20:4-6].

When that day comes, when the Lord comes and He speaks life to these bodies that are asleep in Jesus, "Blessed is he that hath part in that first resurrection" [Revelation 20:6] – to live and reign with Christ a thousand years [Revelation 20:4].  "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" [Revelation 20:6].  That’s the first resurrection.  That’s the resurrection of God’s people.  That’s what you call the rapture of the church: when the Lord comes and He gathers His people to Himself in the air [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17].  That’s when we receive our rewards.  That’s our great judgment day.  That’s a blessed day of life and triumph.

Now, when that millennial era is done, Satan is loosed out of his prison for a season; and he gathers his cohorts together, and they have that great and final day of the final conflict [Revelation 20:7-9].  And then – and then: "The devil that deceived them is cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" [Revelation 20:10].And the beasts and the false prophets shall be tormented there with him forever and everandall of the wicked dead – all who then lived and all who have died without faith in Christ.  Listen to the second resurrection:


I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the heaven and the earth fled away; there’s found no place for them

– they couldn’t hide –

I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, 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 in them; and death and hell delivered up the dead in them: and they were judged every man according to his works. 

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.  This is the second death.

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

 [Revelation 20:11-15]


There are two sets there.  Here’s the book of life, and the Lord looks through it.  Is your name there?  No.  Is your name here?  No, no.  There’s the book of the saints of God: people already had their rewards, their great judgment day, and there with God.  The book of life: is your name in the book of life?  Is it in the book of life?  No.  Whosoever’sname is not in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire [Revelation 20:15].

            But there’sanother set of books at that final judgment.  And those books were opened, and the wicked dead, these unbelievers, were judged according to those things that were written in that book [Revelation 20:13]:"This is what you did, and this is what you did.  And this is what you did.  And this is what you did."

And why is that great white throne judgment at the end of time?  Because when a wicked man dies, he doesn’t die either; but the wickedness that he does lives on and on and on and on.  Through the years does it reverberate.  It touches others.  And God gathers all that together and writes it down, and the wicked have their reward at the great final white throne judgment when they are sent away into damnation, and condemnation, and hell, and fire [Revelation 20:15], and there are tormented according to the terrible reward of their unbelief and their wicked works.

             [It is] 9:30, and we have got to stop.  Ah!  These things frighten you to death, frighten you to death.  I read here in this Book, and the marvel is that with so awful, awesome, terrible a responsibility, we are so prone to be at ease and shut it out of sight.  Don’t like that kind of preaching.  Don’t like that kind of reading.  Don’t like that kind of message – disturbs me.Lord, give us wisdom to know, give us faith to believe, give us health to serve. 

We sing one stanza of a song.  While we sing it, one stanza of a song, somebody give his heart to Jesus today.  Somebody put his life in the church.  While we sing one stanza, on the first note of that stanza, would you come and stand by me while we sing this one song?


Dr. W.
A. Criswell




I.          Eternal life or eternal death

A.  Judgment
here and now(John 3:14-18, 36, 5:24)

1.  Krisis
– translated "condemned"; actually means "judgment"

We are either lost or saved now

B.  Judgment
of God upon our souls because of sins is past – it fell on Christ at Calvary

The man who has not accepted atoning grace of God in Christ is judged facing an
eternal second death


II.         Sin in the believer

A.  God
chastens His children now(1 Peter 4:17, 1
Corinthians 11:31-32, Hebrews 12:5-13)

1.  Word
of Nathan to David (2 Samuel 12:10, 13)


III.        The believer’s works

A.  First
thing that happens when Christ comes for His people is the judgment of our
deeds(2 Corinthians 5:9-10, 1 Corinthians 3:11-15)

Receive rewards at the end time, beyond the resurrection, when Jesus comes
again (Matthew 16:27, Luke 14:13-14, 1
Corinthians 4:5, 2 Timothy 4:8, Revelation 22:12)

Your influence, for good or for evil, lives on after you die

This ends it for us – we are in glory with the Lord to enjoy what God has
prepared for us forever – some "barely there", some rich toward God


IV.       Judgment upon the living nations

A.  When
Christ returns with His saints(Jude 14, 15, 1
Corinthians 6:2)

The saints a part of the judgment (Matthew
25:31-46, Joel 3:1-21)


V.        Judgment of the wicked dead

A.  Satan
chained in bottomless pit, and there is a first resurrection of those who have
loved the Lord Jesus to reign with Christ a thousand years (Revelation 20:4-6)

B.  End
of millennium, Satan loosed for a season – after great day of final conflict he
is cast into the lake of fire(Revelation 20:10)

A second resurrection – those who then lived and those whohave died without
faith in Christ(Revelation 20:11-15)

Great white throne judgment at the end of time because when a wicked man dies,
his influence goes on