The Great White Throne Judgment. Here is what Scripture says about this judgment, found in Revelation 20:11-15 -- And I saw a great white throne and the One sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from His presence, but they found no place to hide. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God's throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and Hades (the grave) gave up their dead. And all were judged according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.
The first thing we need to understand about this passage is that this judgment was prophesied in the Old Testament by Daniel 12:2: And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And it is evident, by the language, that this is referring to awakening from death [sleep], i.e., resurrection; and that there are two different resurrections being mentioned -- one to everlasting life, and one to everlasting contempt [death]. So, it looks like all the dead will be resurrected at some time or other, but not everyone will receive the same fate. Jesus confirms this in John 5:29, when He says, "and come out, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment".
So, what does the Bible say about these two resurrections and what are the fates of those resurrected? Let's take a look at the first resurrection ... Revelation 20:4-6 describes it: Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years. The first resurrection will see the martyrs, the Old Testament saints, and those who rise to meet Christ at His return. These are all believers and they will rule and reign with Christ for a thousand years, or in other words, during the Millennium.
It is also important to realize that this first resurrection "age", if you will, takes place in different stages. Jesus begins the age with His own resurrection, as the "first fruits" of God's redemptive plan for all mankind (1 Corinthians 15:20). There will then be the resurrection of "the dead in Christ" at His return (1 Thessalonians 4:16). These stages are then followed, at the end of the tribulation, with the resurrection of the martyrs and the Old Testament saints (Revelation 20:4). They are all part of the first resurrection.
NOTE: I want to interject that sometime during this age between the first and second resurrections, the Bema Seat Judgment takes place. (See my post on this judgment of believers and their inheritance/rewards here). There is no definitive time given in the Bible [that I can find] that narrows the timeline. The options are: immediately after a believer dies; after the Rapture [depending on when you believe that takes place]; after Jesus's Second Coming; sometime during the Millennium Kingdom; or before the Great White Throne Judgment, which some believe happens at the end of the Millennium Kingdom, [or thousand year reign of Christ on earth] and preceding the coming of the new heavens and the new earth. That's why it is important for us all to spend time knowing what we believe and why.
Now, let's look at the second resurrection. From the Revelation 20 passage, it can be surmised that those who comprise the second resurrection are the wicked who are judged by God at the Great White Throne Judgment. Their judgment will take place prior to being thrown into the Lake of Fire. So, this is the raising of all unbelievers, who will be judged for their evil and/or unbelief. Various versions of John 5:29 describe it as "the resurrection of judgment" (ESV); judgment that is to be sentenced (AMP); the "resurrection of condemnation" (1599 Geneva Bible); and the "resurrection of damnation" (KJV).
We have now expanded on the events that happen before the Great White Throne Judgment, i.e., the Bema Seat Judgment and the first and second resurrections of all the dead on earth. But what actually happens at this critical judgment of the unbelieving world? First of all, we should be in awe of the picture that the Apostle John paints ... Satan is released from the Abyss and God's presence on this throne of judgment is presented. It is so powerful and profound that both the earth and the sky [first heaven] "fled away". I believe this is referencing other descriptions in the Bible that describe earthquakes, mountains and islands being displaced, and the darkening of the sun and moon and stars -- in other words, man's sin cursed the earth, and God is now going to make way for a new creation; the new heavens and earth. That will begin to be revealed at the Great White Throne judgment.
Also, it is clear that this judgment is coming against all the unbelieving from every age of human history. The Lamb's Book of Life will be opened and if your name is not written in that book, you will not escape the Lake of Fire. I think we can consider this as a "spiritual death"; the eternal and everlasting separation from the presence of God. Thankfully, those of us who are believers and found in the Book of Life, need have no fear of suffering this second death. It has no power over those of us who have experienced the first resurrection and stood before the Bema Seat of Judgment.
The final thing I would like us to consider about the Great White Throne Judgment is its underlying message to us, the Believer. At times, when we see the lawlessness, cruelty, and wickedness of the world, we may wonder where God's justice is. Will the evil-doers ever be punished? The Great White Throne Judgment assures us that God is just, and He will repay the wicked for their crimes. "Vengeance is mine", says the Lord. Also, the picture of a future Great White Throne judgment reminds us that we are in a period of God's patience, as 2 Peter 3:9 tells us: The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise [to repay the wicked], as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance". We are to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak, and reach as many as we can for Christ during this time in which God is exercising His patience, before releasing the Son to hold judgment. This is doing the will of God.
In summary, the Great White Throne judgment is where unbelievers will be resurrected from the dead to stand before Christ and be judged for their works. Every thought, word and act has been documented in the Books in Heaven, and each will receive what they deserve, depending on the severity of their disobedience, and based on the amount of revelation they received about God and what they did with it. And here's an unexpected turn of events --- because Believers are co-heirs with Christ, they will participate in the judgment! "Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world"? (1 Corinthians 6:2).
So, while we know that our great God is a God of love, mercy and grace, we must know Him in the fullness of His character, and understand that He is also a righteous God of justice, and judgment belongs to Him. Thank you, Lord, for revealing Your complete nature! I want to know all about You!
Acts 10:42. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.