The books of Matthew and Revelation both give an account of judgement at their ends. The question arises as to whether or not these judgments are the same. Ammillenialists (those who believe we are currently in the Millennial Kingdom) hold that the two judgments are the same since they believe the kingdom Christ taught about is going on now. Pre-millennialists (those who believe the Millennial Kingdom described in the book of Revelation will be a literal reign of Christ on Earth and that it will not begin until Christ returns) hold that they are different, since Christ will someday return and inaugurate a 1,000 year long kingdom. However, there are enough contrasts given between the two passages that it becomes evident that there are two judgments in view. The contrasts show that the judgement of Matthew 25 is the judgement Christ makes at His second coming, while the judgement of Revelation 20 is made 1,000 years later at the Great White Throne.
In an attempt to help prove their interpretation of the kingdom, Amillennials will equate the judgement mentioned by Christ in Matthew 25 with the judgement in Revelation 20. However, these two judgments are in fact different. There are notable contrasts between the two of them.
I. Contrasts From Matthew 25.31-46
The Matthew passage opens by saying that this judgement will follow the return of Christ. Christ will appear once the seven years of the Tribulation come to an end. This is in stark contrast with Revelation Which makes it clear that at the Great White Throne judgement Christ will have been on the Earth and ruling for 1,000 years already. This is the first clue that these judgments are not the same.
At that point in Matthew, Christ says that all nations (some commentators say the greek word for “nations” here is probably best translated as “gentiles.”) will be gathered unto Him. This includes both believers and nonbelievers. These two categories of people will be separated like sheep and goats in front of Christ. Christ will pronounce blessing and approval on those who are saved and have survived the tribulation, and then turn to the unsaved and pronounce a curse upon them. They will then be thrown into the Lake of Fire.
II. Contrasts From Revelation 20.11-15
At this point in Revelation, the Great Tribulation has finished, Jesus has returned to earth and set up His kingdom and the 1,000 years of the millennium have passed.
The Revelation passage begins with a very specific throne, the Great White Throne. This is in contrast with the Matthew passage, where the only throne mentioned there is referred to as a “glorious throne” (Matt. 25.31).
Also in the Revelation passage there is a mention in verse 12 of books being consulted as an aid in pronouncing judgment. The famous Book of Life is found here in this passage. There are no books opened in the Matthew passage, but rather Jesus pronounces His judgement based on how the people of earth treated Him and His followers.
Perhaps the biggest difference between these two judgements is that the Revelation passage says there will be a great resurrection before the Great White Throne Judgement. “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” (Rev. 20.13).
Throughout this passage there is no mention of saved people being judged here, and since other scriptures indicate at this point that all saved people will have been resurrected, it is safe to assume that all those resurrected here are only nonbelievers with believers not being judged here. Not only that, but the text also says that “Death and Hades” give up their dead. Hades is the temporary place that nonbelievers go to after death while they wait for this upcoming final judgement. The judgement in Matthew has both believers and nonbelievers and makes no mention of a resurrection.
The Revelation passage states that the nonbelievers here are judged both according to their works and on whether or not their names are found in the book of life. When they are found lacking they are cast into the Lake of Fire. Matthew includes a judgement based on works, but does not include the book of life.
In conclusion, the two judgments are much too different for a person to accurately say they are the same judgment. The only proper conclusion is that they are different. The first occurs at the second coming of Jesus, while the second takes place 1,000 years later at the Great White Throne.