Topic: The Great White Throne Judgment
TEXT: Revelation 20:11-15
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The subject of judgment is not strange to the minds of mortals. Since it is in the nature of human beings to err, it is common in every sphere of life to see men being tried and punished accordingly. The common practice and experience in homes, schools, offices, courts and many other places is to see someone give a verdict after trial for some wrongdoing. The guilty is almost always given some punishment. This practice underscores the need and importance of justice and fairness in relationship.
Our study deals with the final judgment that God will bring upon those who reject His word and live as they pleased. This is called the great white throne judgment. In this study, the Lord graciously reveals to us His programme for this present evil world. The doctrine opens our eyes to the time all wicked and ungodly people (the living and the dead, small and great) who neglected God’s salvation will face the final and terrible judgment of the living God (Romans 14:12). It is important that we approach the study with the seriousness it deserves, as these things are written for our learning and admonition upon whom the ends of the world are come (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10: 11).
GIVEN JUDGMENTS IN THE SCRIPTURE (Revelation 20:11; Isaiah 53:4-11; John 3:15-18; 2 Corinthians 5:10, 11; 1 Timothy 5:24; Jude 6)
Recall that the Antichrist and the false prophet, who deceived kings and nations to war against the second coming of Christ at the battle of Armageddon, were conquered and cast into the lake of fire. Later, Satan their master was also cast there (Revelation 19:20; 20:10). The truth is that God has always been meting out judgment from His throne in heaven for sin and rebellion to His word and will. That judgment is certain for all men is clear in every part of the inspired word of God. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). However, contrary to general assumptions of a single judgment at a given time for sinners and saints alike, a number of separate judgments are clearly taught in Scripture for different classes of people and at different times. The Lord God has always been acquitting the innocent as He did in the case of the antediluvians, Sodom and Gomorrah and Korah’s company. Since He never changes (Hebrews 13:8), He will keep to the same principle in the future, final judgment.
It is clear from the Scripture that believers have been judged in respect of their sin. This took place on Calvary’s cross when Jesus became the sinner’s Substitute (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; John 3:18; Romans 8:1,2). The punishment for sin must be visited on the sinner or his substitute. Christ has borne the punishment for the sins of humanity. Everyone who acknowledges His love and sacrifice and accepts it will be free. When the penitent sinner personally appropriates this vicarious sacrifice, reposes his failing the Saviour and accepts His Lordship, he is declare justified by grace. Thi is the first type of judgment. Then, as he lives the Christian life, he daily judges (or examines) himself in the light of God’s word (1 Corinthians 11:31,32; 1 John 1: 7) to make sure he continues to abide in Christ. This is the second type of judgment. Failure in the same may bring temporary physical suffering or chastisement (Hebrews 12:5-11). The third type of judgment will be experienced also by believers at the “Bema” seat of Christ (Romans 14: 10; Revelation 22:12). This will be after the rapture and the purpose will be to distribute rewards for “the things done in the body”. No believer at this judgment will be condemned, for all are saved. But rewards will differ and the works of some will be burnt (1 Corinthians 3:14, 15). The other types of judgment will be with the intent of punishing sin. These include the judgment of Israel during the great tribulation (Ezekiel 20:33-44; Jeremiah 30:3-11) and the judgment of the (living) nations at Christ’s second advent (Matthew 25:31-46). Israel will be judged (for her many centuries of rebellion against God) by the cruel hand of the Antichrist. At the end of the ordeal, “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11 :26) as they shall “look upon me whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). The judgment of angels for rebellion against God is identifiable as another type of judgment in Scripture (2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6, 7).
THE GREAT, TERRIBLE AND FINAL JUDGMENT (Revelation 20:11-15; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 11:20-24; John 5:25-30; Acts 24:15)
The Bible clearly presents the order of events preceding the great white throne judgment and constantly urges, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7). The Lord calls everyone to repentance and faith in Christ for salvation but many are yet to respond; they prefer to remain rebellious and disobedient. It grieves God that the imaginations and thoughts of man’s heart have been evil continually (Genesis 6:5,6). Provoked by sinful lifestyle, He declares His judgment that, “the soul that sinneth it shall die” and that “the wages of sin is death” (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23).
God has been judging sinners over the ages. He judged the world in the days of Noah when He destroyed all living beings with the flood with the exception of eight persons (Genesis 6:17, 18; 7:10-13,21-24). He poured out His wrath and indignation upon Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed all that were in them except Lot and his two daughters (Genesis 19:13,24-26). On other occasions, He brought judgment on Korah, Dathan and Abiram with their supporters and punished Pharaoh with other Egyptian for refusing to let His people go. At various times, He brought judgment on Nadab and Abihu, Sennacherib and his 185,000 Assyrian soldiers (Isaiah 37:36-38) and on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10). However, in the great white throne judgment, all those who were destroyed in all those cases will still be judged. What then is this judgment? It is the last and final judgment. It is the verdict that concludes the affairs of this present evil world. At the end of the millennial reign of Christ, the devil will be released from the bottomless pit for a while (Revelation He will go out to deceive people again and will gather multitudes to fight against Christ and His saints. This is referred to as the Battle of Gog and Magog. Satan and his hosts will be defeated. Fire will come from God to devour them. After this, Satan shall be cast into the lake of fire; the stage then becomes set for the final judgment of sinners. Let us look carefully at the details concerning the setting of the judgment. (a) The Throne: The great God of heaven and earth, who is a great King cannot but sit on a throne. It is white and it represents His purity. The setting is magnificent, of great splendour and glory that befits the eternal King. (b) The Judge: The Judge is God Almighty, the Omniscient and Omnipresent. He knows everything and so there will be no miscarriage of justlce. He is everywhere; so all things are open unto Him. His sight will be so terrible because it is judgment time. (c) Those to be Judged: (Revelation 20: 12, 13) All those who died in sin from the time of Adam till the time of the great white throne judgment will be resurrected (Daniel 12:2; John Acts 24:15). They will all stand before God for judgment. These include: One, all categories of sinners, living and dead, small and great, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, male and female, rulers and the ruled; they will be judged for neglecting God’s offer of salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Two, all backsliders who denied the faith of God who once redeemed them (Exodus 32:33; Hebrews 10:26- 30,38,39). Three, all those who deny the deity of Jesus Christ (John 3:18, 19). Four, all religious hypocrites who are like “whited sepulchres” (Matthew 23157). The sea, death and hell will give up the dead in them. The bodies of all the dead will be united with their souls and spirits to stand before God to receive the just reward for their ungodly lifestyle. It will be a very great and sober gathering.(d) The Judgment: Everyone will be judged according to their works (verses 12, 13). It will be done in righteousness. It will be open and everyone on trial will know why he or she is going to the lake of fire. It will be to judge all unrighteousness (1 John 5:17) that was not cleansed by the blood of Christ before then, including unrighteous feelings and imaginations. Also, the secret deeds of men, which others may not know — bribery, immorality, pornography, drunkenness, abortion, whispering, etc. — will be judged. The words of men — every idle word, gossip or backbiting will be brought to Judgment; all foolish and unedifying words; corrupt, graceless, defamatory and abusive words will be judged (Matthew 12:36,37; Ephesians 5:4). God’s judgment will be fair, just and without partiality or respect of persons. “For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward” (Deuteronomy 10:17). None can influence or bribe Him. The Books: “…and the books were opened” (very everything done by sinners while on earth. It is according to the records written in these books that judgment will be delivered. This will remove all possibilities of arguments. There will be no room to say the sentence given was based on hearsay or guesswork. (f) The Book of Life: “…and another book was opened, which is the book of life” (verse 12). Only one book. This is the book that contains the names of all those who are born again and washed in the blood of Jesus. Their sins had been judged earlier at Calvary when they repented of their sins, confessed them and received Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. We must endeavour to make sure our names are in this book. All saints in all ages, from the time of Adam to the time of the judgment, have their names written in the book of life.
THE GLOOMY ETERNAL ABODE OF THE CONDEMNED (Revelation 19:20; 14:10, 11; Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 25:41)
“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). An awful end awaits all who will appear at the great white throne judgment for “…God is a consuming fire” and “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 12:29; 10:31). The lake of fire is the eternal abode of the devil and his angels (Revelation 20: 10; Matthew 25:41). It was not meant for man but all those who reject God and side with Satan by committing sin. Death and hell (the abode of demons and evil spirits) will be cast into the lake of fire (verse 14) where the beast and the false prophet are (Revelation 19:20). The fire will never be quenched but will burn forever (Revelation 14:10, 11; 20:10). How then is annihilation of human beings possible in it as advocated by some religious groups? Between Revelation 19: 10,11 and 20:10 is a period of over 1,000 years, yet the beast and the false prophet had not been consumed by the fire. The fire does not destroy but continuously torments. It is clear from the foregoing that the Scripture does not support annihilation or purgatory but eternal burning of all sinners condemned to hell.
GOD’S WAY OF ESCAPING ETERNAL DAMNATION (Revelation 20:15; 2 Peter 3:9-14; 1 Peter 4:7; John 3:3,5,16; Mark 1:15; 1 Peter 1 Timothy 4:16)
God wants everyone’s name in the book of life. He gave His only begotten Son that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” His will is that all should repent, believe the gospel and be saved (2 Peter 3:9; John 3:16; Mark 1:15).
Knowing that all ungodly people shall be brought to Judgment “what manner of person ought to be in an holy conversation and godliness” (2Peter 3:12). To escape the great white throne judgment, one needs to repent of all sins, confess them to God and receive Jesus as Lord and personal Saviour. Genuine salvation through repentance and faith in Christ is demanded from everyone who hopes to escape torment, weeping, gnashing of teeth and damnation in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Other conditions include following “…peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).