Christians believe that God has always existed as judge over his creation. God’s judgement is a process that ends in a decision about whether a person is worthy of his reward (Heaven) or not (Hell).
For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due to us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.2 Corinthians 5:10
Some Christians believe that God judges each soul as soon as a person’s body dies. Souls are then sent straight to Heaven or Hell, rather than waiting for a Day of Judgement. This is called personal judgement.
Some Christians believe that people will be judged again at the Last Judgement, at the end of time. Others believe that all souls must wait until the Day of Judgement, when they will be judged together.
The biblical Parable of the Sheep and Goats explains the idea of judgement. The sheep represent everybody who has helped those in need or given back to the world in some way. The goats represent those who have acted in an unkind or selfish way.
He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’ (Matthew 25:33–34)
This means that the sheep (the good people) will be allowed a place in Heaven because they have been helpful and kind, giving the hungry food or the thirsty something to drink.
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:41)
This means that the goats (the bad people) will go to Hell because they did not show a caring side and ignored those in need.
In the Gospel of Luke (16:19–31), Jesus tells how a rich man ignored a poor beggar at his gate, named Lazarus, who was starving and covered in sores. When both men died, Lazarus went to Heaven. The rich man, having shown no compassion, went to Hell.
In the agony of Hell, the rich man begged Father Abraham for mercy. His request was refused. He then asked whether Abraham could send a messenger to warn his family and friends to show compassion during their lives, so that they could avoid the same fate. Again, his request was refused. Abraham replied that they already had the words of several prophets in the scriptures to warn them. He said that if they could not follow these words, they would not believe a messenger either:
If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.Luke 16:31
Christians learn a number of lessons from the story of the rich man and Lazarus: