...Judge the living and the dead. A Protestant perspective needed

I’ve never received a logical answer to the following question growing up in a Protestant denomination. I’m hoping a Protestant can answer this. Most, if not all, Protestant churches say, believe or know the Apostle’s Creed.

According to Protestant theology as I understand it, when you die its binary in nature, in that you go to heaven (if you accept Jesus as your savior) or hell because you didn’t.

In the Creed “…He will come again to judge the living and the dead”. Can someone explain how their theology and this statement are aligned? If you die and immediately go to heaven or hell, then why would Jesus judge the living and the DEAD? Or judge anyone for that matter because they would already be in heaven or hell?

I do sincerely hope to understand this from a Protestant perspective.

I believe it’s because not everyone will be dead when Jesus returns.

More specifically, we believe that the current state of the dead (whatever that may be) is different from the eternal state. The vast majority of us believe that the dead have already been “preliminarily” judged (for lack of a better term) but that their final judgement awaits the… well… Final Judgement.

It’s not that anyone currently in hell will get to go to heaven or vice versa, it’s just that the judgement that the dead have already received isn’t complete, even though the final outcome has already been determined.

I suppose I’ll expand on your expansion :slight_smile:

The people who have already passed on have experienced “death” but if they died without Christ they will experience a second death:

Rev 20:
13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

I agree with what has been said above. I’ll just add that while Protestants don’t believe in purgatory, we also don’t believe that people who die now in a state of grace are in the “New Heaven and the New Earth.” While they are in the presence of Christ, their state of existence is not known to us. They are in an “intermediate state.”

That sounds almost like Purgatory to me. I was always taught as a Protestant when you die you go to heaven or hell. So is that not the belief?

Yes I get that, but the theology as I was taught was that if you believe in Jesus as your “personal” Lord and savior you will go to heaven. So given that, its only the living who do not believe in Jesus as their savior that get judged? Why would you need to be judged if you believe in Jesus as your savior?

You may go to a heaven or hell but you do not go to the final heaven or hell.

I really can’t be any more detailed than that without getting pretty far down into the weeds of Protestant Eschatology, I’m sorry.

As for the question about why a final judgement would be needed after an initial judgement, well… the soul in question may know its final destination but it does not know its degree of reward of punishment. Most Protestants (or at least most Evangelicals) believe (as I, I think, Catholics) that there are varying degrees of reward in heaven and punishment in hell. Establishing which of those levels you and I deserve is a big part of what the Final Judgement is about.

Ultimately, however, and I can only speak for myself on this point, but in my view, the main purpose of the Final Judgement isn’t to actually figure out where people are going to end up. I think most people will already know that. Christ will certainly already know that. The Judgement isn’t for Him. It’s for us. Each of us will see that Judgement play out before our very eyes and none of us, wherever we may be headed, will be able to say afterwards that anyone’s final state was in anyway unjust.

In the Catholic / Lutheran dialogue statement, The Hope of Eternal Life, treats the issue in a rather lengthy section, from about paragraph 62 to this common affirmation:

  1. Common Affirmations
  1. Catholics and Lutherans affirm together that God, who calls us into a life of communion with him, holds us accountable for our whole lives. The grace we have been given in Christ and the Spirit is not a “talent” to bury, but should become our empowerment for praising God in freedom and contributing to the good of our fellow creatures (cf. Mt. 25:1-14). We also cannot forget that God’s gifts to us can be squandered. Each Christian must take seriously Paul’s admonition, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, RSV).
  1. The truths that God will judge our lives, that what we have done in the dark will be brought to light, and that we will know as we are known, all affirm both the seriousness of how each of us lives and God’s faithfulness to his human creatures. Both our traditions reject “security” in the face of divine judgment, while recalling that from those to whom much has been given, much will be required (cf. Lk. 12:48).
  1. Both of our traditions, however, form us to live in joyful confidence and certainty of hope. We know that God’s grace is sufficient. God’s judgment is one aspect of the comprehensive establishment of God’s justice, that is, the very justice that is an essential aspect of our hope. Judgment, as our encounter with God revealing the truth about the lives we have lived, is an important and necessary moment of our entrance into the joy of eternal life and thus should be an object of our hope as well.
  1. Foundational for our hope, however, is that our Judge will be none other than our Savior. We can entrust the judgment of our lives to the one who died for our trespasses and rose for our justification (cf. Rom. 4:25).

The bolding is the document’s.

Because of the general diversity of denominations and theological opinions within denominations (or non-denominational communities), it’s really hard to come up with a general statement about what Protestants believe when it comes to things like this, but…

I personally come from community that does not use creeds as tests of faith. This is not to say that we repudiate anything in the creeds (the Apostles creed, Nicean Creed, etc. are in our hymnal), only that we reject the concept of having a specific statement of beliefs everyone has to subscribe too that goes beyond faith in Jesus and the Bible. So I didn’t grow up saying the creed. With that said I’d say from a Protestant prospective that people go to a heaven or hell like state at death based on their relationship with God and then go to a final judgement at…The Final Judgement. Additionally these verses could refer to those left alive on the Earth at the end of the world versus all those who have died.

Is the bolded a creed? :wink:


Haha, well actually yes and no.
On one hand I could never picture a person being denied membership in the Disciples of Christ denomination over refusing to believe some part of the creed (such as “He descended into hell”), nor would I anticipate a creed being read in church regularly, but as I said, they’re in the hymnals and I see no reason why they couldn’t be referenced or used in worship or study. I see no reason why a Disciple couldn’t use a creed to define his or her own faith as long as he or she doesn’t impose them on another Disciple.

So yes I guess you could say “No creed but Christ and no book but the Bible” is a sort of a creed and thus self-refuting…except for the fact that it’s not dogmatically applied to every individual member the way creeds are and is more of a general rule for the denomination- it’s confusing :wink:

A refreshingly honest answer. Typical Texan! :slight_smile:


I’ll put it to you simply: most people’s ideas about heaven are confused. Most Protestant preachers don’t help the matter by not preaching on it more.

If Jesus is your personal lord and savior, then you can be assured that when you die, you will be in his presence. Where God is, that is heaven.

But what most people think of as heaven is what comes after Christ’s return and the Final Judgment. It’s the New Heaven and the New Earth, where we will have resurrected and glorified bodies.

Because Scripture is not very detailed about what existence for the righteous dead is like, Protestants can’t really give any details. There just is not enough biblical data. All we
really know is that the righteous dead are now in the presence of Christ.

Are the righteous dead conscious or not? Some Protestants will say people are conscious and some will believe in a concept called “soul sleep.”

After the Final Judgment, we have a much more clearer idea what life in the New Heaven and New Earth will be.

Because the Bible says so. We must all give an account for the things we have done and failed to do.

The difference is that when those justified by faith come forward for judgment, they have an advocate in Jesus Christ.

Those who aren’t saved will have no advocate.

How can someone read this and not be so happy and so thankful. I love Jesus so much, honestly.

Ok growing up going to a fundemental baptist church sometimes with one granny and a pentecostal signs following church with my great granny sometimes and a fundamental baptist school for 3 yrs I was taught that this part of the bible is in reference to the new jerusalem that jesus will make after the tribulation and the final hell as the lake of fire that burns eternally also the school I attended gave us chick tracts to read so the cartoons explained it a bit but as a catholic I now completely understand the apostles creed if that makes sense:shrug:

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