Question: Why does Jesus say in John 5:24 that Christians will not be judged, whereas Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:10 that “we must all appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ”?
Here are the two verses in question:
John 5:24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
2Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
These passages refer to two different kinds of Judgment. John 5:24 refers to what is also known as the Great White Throne Judgment. Those who die without having their names recorded in the book of life must appear before the Lord at this judgment to hear the verdict of eternity in hell (i.e., “the lake of fire”):
Rev. 20:11-12, 15 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it… 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
John 5:24 teaches that those who trust in Jesus now have already “crossed over from death to life.” Jesus’ followers will not have to face the Great White Throne Judgment at all! In full agreement with this teaching, 1 Corinthians 6:2 points out that Jesus’ followers will sit with Jesus, exercising judgment over unsaved humanity and rebellious angels:
1Cor. 6:2 Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!
“The judgment seat of Christ” (2Cor. 5:10) is where Jesus’ followers must account for the way we put our earthly lives to use, good or bad.
Rom. 14:10c—12 …For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. …“ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
This judgment for believers is not about eternal life or eternal damnation, but about how we manage the resources God entrusts to us in this life. This has a direct bearing on the level of responsibility entrusted to us in the Kingdom of Heaven. In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:15-46), here is what Jesus says of those who invested the resources entrusted to them by the Master while he was away—
Matt. 25:23 ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
“The judgment seat of Christ” is where Jesus’ followers will be appointed to their roles and responsibilities for eternal life in heaven, based upon the way we conducted our lives here—after we put our faith in Jesus.