WHAT IS THE GREAT WHITE THRONE OF JUDGMENT?
Prophecy Series ❧ Part 15
John 5:28-29; Revelation 2:11-15 ❧ Pastor John Denney
This morning we’re going to look at what is commonly known in the Bible as The Great White Throne of Judgment. What is it? The Bible says it is God’s final judgment of those who chose to reject God’s free offer of forgiveness for their sins through His Son Jesus Christ. They will stand before God to be held accountable for their sins. I suspect if some of you knew the message was going to be on God’s final judgement of sinners this morning, you would have found some reason, any reason, to avoid coming to church!
I’m reminded of a story I read this past week about a man living in the country who had a severe rash. He decided he’d better make a trip to town to see the doctor. After doctor examined him and took a series of tests, he told the man the reason for his rash was because he was allergic to his dog. The doctor’s strong advice was to get rid of the dog. As the man was leaving the office the doctor asked him if he planned on selling the animal or giving it away. “Neither one,” the patient replied. “I’m going to get me one of them second opinions I been reading about. It’s a lot easier to find a doctor than to find a good bird dog.” You may leave here today thinking, “I’m going to go where I can find a second opinion!”
Turn with me to the book of Revelation 20:11-15. These verses describe the final event of all of human history. God is putting the last period on the last sentence of the last paragraph of the last page. This is the final judgment of all who die lost, never having repented and never having received Christ as their Savior. This really is very serious, and we need to give our full attention to this matter.
John points out seven things about God’s final judgement I want us to see: 1) the judgment, 2) the courtroom, 3) the judge, 4) the accused, 5) the evidence, 6) the verdict, 7) the comfort.
I. The Judgment The Bible speaks of two ultimate judgments and two resurrections, one for those who are genuine believers and one for those who are unbelievers. Jesus mentioned both in John 5. An hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29). The first resurrection Jesus calls a resurrection of life. This will happen in two stages. First, the rapture when believers of the Church age, both the living and the dead, are gathered together with Christ (1 Thess. 4:13-17). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 believers will receive their glorified bodies at this time. Shortly after the Rapture, believers will stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10).
This is not a judgement connected to sin, but reward or lack thereof. Since it will only be believers who stand before the bema seat of Christ, we will all have already been forgiven and declared righteous by God. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). Jesus assures us, I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life (John 5:24, NLT). So, this will not be a judgment having to do with your sin. If you are a believer in Christ, your sins are forgiven. But your life, how well you carried out the good works God planned for you, will be evaluated. Elva Hoover is noted for saying: In the day when all men stand before God, the significant question for each of us will no longer be what we think of Christ, but what He thinks of us.
The second stage will happen at the end of the seven-year Tribulation when believers who were martyred will be raised along with the Old Testament saints (Dan. 12:1-2; Isa. 26:19). In Revelation 20, John is talking about the second resurrection, the resurrection of judgment when the condemned hear Jesus voice calling them before His Throne of Great White Judgment. These are all those who are unsaved from the beginning of creation to the end of the Millennium. Court cases sometimes are labeled: “Stevenson vs. The People” or “Jones vs. Texas.” But at the Last Judgment, every case will be labeled “The Unbeliever vs. God!”
II. The Court Room Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them (Revelation 20:11). This will be the most unique court room to ever exist. The throne itself is described as “great” and “white.” It is great because there is no greater place of authority. It is white because it is the most pure and righteous rendering perfect judgement.
As well, a number of things will be missing. Notice there is no jury, no defense attorney, no prosecuting attorney, no bailiffs, no appeals, no retrials, no reporters. All that seems will be there will be the Judge (Jesus Christ), the defendants (unbelievers), as well as believers who somehow God includes in the judging both the world and angels. Paul writes in1 Corinthians 6, Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world?… Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? (1 Cor. 6:2-3, NLT). In addition, John tells us this courtroom will be in an intermediate place between Heaven and Earth. It won’t be on Earth because it will have fled away. Nor can it be in Heaven since sinners are not allowed there. So, the Court Room will be the perfect court room rendering perfect justice.
III. The Judge Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it… and I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne (Revelation 20:11-12). The most important Person present will be the Lord Jesus Christ – the Judge. He will have just completed ruling the world for a thousand years. He’s just defeated Satan throwing him and his rebellious forces into the lake of fire forever. He is the One whom Peter says in Acts God ordained to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). Jesus Himself could not have been clearer on this point. In John 5 Jesus said the Father has given all judgment to the Son… He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man (John 5:22,27). The very One who hung on the cross, offering God’s forgiveness and eternal life is the One who will sit in judgement of those who rejected the same offer.
Peter tells us there will be those who hear these things and laugh, mocking God’s Word and following their own desires. They’ll scoff saying, Jesus is not coming back, these things are not going to happen. The world is going to go on. Nothing is going to change. Jesus is not coming back. But Peter warns the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed (2 Pt. 3:7). This time will come like a thief in the night, a time they don’t expect. For the last two-thousand years God has been warning the world of this coming time. Peter goes on to say God has not been slow as some might think, but patient. He does not want anyone to stand in the Great White Throne of Judgment. He wants everyone to repent (2 Peter 3:9; Acts 17:30).
IV. The Accused And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds (Revelation 20:12-13). Every unbeliever that has ever lived from creation of the world to the end of the Millennium, the great the small, the rich, the poor, the famous, the unknown, the powerful, the weak, the religious, the non-religious, the atheist, the agnostic – all who are not genuine believers in Christ will be brought before the Great White Throne of Judgement.
Erwin Lutzer does not mince any words saying: This multitude is diverse in its religions. We
see Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, and Catholics. We se those who believed in the one God and those who believed in the many gods. We see those who refused to believe in any god at all. We se those who believed in meditation as a means of salvation and those who believed in doing good deeds was the path to eternal life. we see the moral and the immoral, the priest as well as the minister, the nun as well as the missionary (Lutzer, Your Eternal Reward, p. 166). In other words, the accused are those who’ve reject the only means possible to go to Heaven; they’ve rejected Jesus Christ and His free offer of forgiveness through faith in Him.
There are many today who believe there are many ways to Heaven. That truth is what you make it. Even that there is no final judgement that leads to eternal hell. God says there is only one way to Heaven and that is through turning from your sin and placing your trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. When we do, Jesus says we no longer need fear judgement. Instead, we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world (1 Jn. 4:17, NKJV). The wisest thing you could ever do is make sure you truly know Christ.
V. The Evidence books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds (Revelation 20:12). What are these books? They are God’s books. He is the Divine Book Keeper and has been keeping a complete and detailed record through the annuls of time. What kind of details? Jesus tells us. Whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be shouted from the housetops for all to hear! (Lk. 12:3). For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all (Lk. 8:17). Paul said, For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will judge everyone according to what they have done (Rom. 2:5-6).
Everything that was said and done in the open and in secret will be brough into the open for all to see. The evidence will be undeniable and horrifyingly damming. There will be no where to hide, no place to flee. Earth and Heaven will be removed. There will be no escape.
There are those who say they are not afraid to stand before God on the day of judgement. They have a few bones to pick with God demanding He justify Himself. There are, after all, any number of wrongs in the world they anticipate bringing to God’s attention. They are neither being honest with themselves or with God.
When the prophet Daniel saw a vision of a heavenly being, he involuntarily collapsed on the ground in utter fear. His body instantly lost all its strength and he fainted. Those with him fled in terror (Dan.4:7-9). This is the same Daniel, by the way, who was thrown into a den of lions (Dan. 6:16). He was no coward. When John the Apostle saw a vision of the resurrected Christ in Revelation 1, he fell like a dead man out of utter fear! (Rev. 1:10-17). For someone to say they are going to give God their two cents worth on the day of Judgment is complete foolishness. The Bible says on that day every mouth will be closed (Rom. 3:19).
Shortly after WWII and the collapse of the German army the entire membership roll of the Nazi Party, containing some eight million names, was found soon. This was no joyous news to those whose names were in the roll. At one time these same people were proud to be numbered with the ruling party. Once it had meant power and prestige, and in many cases wealth. This master file had been the key to places of honor and authority for those whose names were listed, but after the war it was different. Now it meant fearful judgment and exacting accountability for the many wrongs done.
On the day of God’s Judgment the books will be opened bringing into the open every word, every deed, every thought, every secret unbelievers have ever done. Nothing will be left out. The evidence will be indisputable and unforgivable leaving the accused speechless and mortified. Then comes the verdict.
VI. The Verdict Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14-15). Death and the grave will finally be destroyed by being thrown into the lake of fire. But before God pronounces His final verdict on those standing before Him, John says God will go through the pages of the Book of Life proving no mistakes were made. Their name was not accidently missed. I think this is a painful reminder as well. Their name could have been written the Book of Life, but it wasn’t. At one time there was room for it had they turned from their sin and trusted Christ. The Judge’s verdict is they are thrown into the lake of fire. Another name for the lake of fire is hell – a place of eternal torment and utter darkness. We’ll talk about this next week.
VII. The Comfort What comfort can we glean from the Great White Throne of Judgement? How should this great truth inspire us to live? I’m indebted to respected theologian Wayne Grudem here. He offers us what he calls four moral applications of the final judgment (Grudem, Sys. Theo. Pp.1147-1148). I’ve added some of my own thoughts here as well. 1) Is our need for justice is satisfied. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous (Psalm 119:75). The Lord is righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:17). This answers another need as well. What about those we love and care for that are not going to be in Heaven. God assures us He always does what is right. In Heaven, we will fully see sin in light of God’s holiness. Not only this, God says He will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). Our satisfaction with God and Heaven will not be lessened by the Great Throne of Judgement. 2) Our need to forgive is strengthened. Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19). For all the wrongs done to us and any desire we have to harm or pay back those who wronged us, we know that every wrong in the universe will ultimately be paid on God’s Cross and God’s courtroom. We can give our hurt to Him knowing He will satisfy and heal our wounds of injustice. 3) Our need to for live for Christ is encouraged. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20). The Great White Throne reminds us to keep doing what is right, keep serving Christ even though it may not feel like it’s worth it. It is. Keep going. Stay focused. Keep trusting. 4) Our need to tell others about Christ is inspired. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). The door of Heaven is still open. God has not closed it yet. There is still hope and work to be done toward sharing Christ with others. Keep praying for your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers. Keep asking God to open doors to tell others about Christ.
So, there you have it. We’ve covered a lot. Hopefully, you won’t leave here this morning thinking, I am going to find a second opinion. God’s Word is not an opinion. You may find someone who will tell you what you want to hear, but if it is not based on God’s Word, you’re only fooling yourself. Let me close with this.
Arnold Lewis worked as a supervisor in a shipyard. His work took him from one ship to another all day long. One day an inspector who needed to consult with Arnold about company matters had to search several ships to find him. When he finally found him, the inspector was impatient and frustrated. The inspector said, “I’ve been looking all over hell for you”.
“That’s one place you will never find me,” was the calm reply. “I’ll never be in hell because I’ve been saved from hell by the blood of the Lord Jesus.” No more was said on the subject, and the two men got their business settled. But at the end of the workday, just before the whistle blew, the inspector again came looking for Arnold. “I’ve been thinking all day about what you said today,” he said. “I wish that I, too, could know that I am saved from hell.” “You can know,” Arnold assured him. Pulling a Bible out of his pocket he explained God’s plan of salvation, and standing there on the deck of that unfinished ship, the inspector prayed to receive Christ. That can be your testimony today! Wouldn’t like to be able to say about Hell, “That’s one place you’ll never find me!” You can come to Jesus right now!