Jesus states how He has been given the authority to judge by the Father. In John 5:22–23, He says, “Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” Yes, Jesus came into the world to save those who put their trust in Him (John 3:16), but His coming also brought judgment (John 9:39). Through His death and resurrection, Jesus brought judgment to Satan (John 12:31–33). Furthermore, unbelievers will ultimately be judged by the Lord Jesus.
Jesus will act as judge over believers and unbelievers. At the Bema Seat of Christ, He will judge believers’ works after salvation to determine reward or loss of reward (1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10). This judgment has nothing to do with salvation, as believers’ eternal destiny is secure in Jesus (Ephesians 1:13–14). Rather, believers will receive rewards according to how faithfully they served Christ (Luke 19:12–27; 1 Corinthians 3:12–15). In contrast, unbelievers will be judged by Christ at the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11–15). Again, this judgment has nothing to do with their eternal destiny—at that point, unbelievers have already sealed their fate by rejecting Jesus. The Great White Throne Judgment determines the severity of unbelievers’ punishment based on what they did in life (Revelation 20:12). Notably, all of the people at this judgment are thrown into the lake of fire because their names were not found in the book of life, which means they rejected Christ’s free gift of salvation (Revelation 20:15).
Another judgment that Jesus will preside over is referred to as the Sheep and Goat Judgment or the Judgment of the Nations (Matthew 25:31–46). Some interpreters equate this judgment with the Great White Throne Judgment, but there are many notable differences, a major one being that the judgment is based on how people treated Jesus’ “brothers,” that is, the people of Israel (Matthew 25:40). Considering its placement after Jesus’ second coming, the Sheep and Goat Judgment will most likely determine the earthly fate of those who are alive at the time of Christ’s return (Matthew 25:1–30). During this judgment, Jesus will separate the “sheep” from the “goats.” The sheep are believers who gave evidence to their faith by helping the Jewish people during the tribulation; the goats are unbelievers who portrayed their unbelief by failing to help Jews during the tribulation (Matthew 25:33–36, 41–43). Those who rejected Christ and took the side of the beast during the tribulation “will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matthew 25:46).
Because Jesus is both God and man, He is the perfect judge of mankind. His judgment will be fair and perfectly just and not subject to appeal (Acts 17:31). He is not like sinful human rulers who at times judge unfairly and seek to fulfill their own agendas. Instead, Jesus states, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30, ESV). We can be assured that Jesus is a fair judge and will enact judgment according to His wisdom and righteousness (Isaiah 11:3–4; John 8:15–16; Revelation 19:11). The Son of God will transform a world full of injustice into a place of peace and safety. No more will the guilty go free; no more will the innocent suffer: “He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37:6).