– REVELATION 20:11-15 – THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT

"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."

This is the saddest and most sobering passage in all of Scripture. Remember our Lord wept over death (John 11:35; Luke 19:41) – both physical death and especially the spiritual death ("the second death") of all the unsaved, of all those who reject Him and His saving love offered at the cross. "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!" (Ezek. 33:11) Thus no man should be able to read or teach this passage without sorrow in his heart, if not tears in his eyes. The reason Jesus spoke about hell more than anyone else did is because He wanted no one to go there. "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Peter 3:9; also see John 3:16) Yet, we see here and throughout the Bible, both the reality of hell, eternal torment, and the justice of hell.

 "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them." The next scene John saw was the great white throne with the Lord Jesus Christ sitting upon it. This is based on John 5:22:  "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father." (Also see John 5:22-29 that speaks of the resurrection of the saved and the unrepentant and 2 Tim. 4:1.) At this point in this unfolding revelation, all those saved, Old and New Testament saints, Tribulation saints, and by implication, Millennial saints, have all received their resurrected, glorified bodies and thus belong to the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) as God is about to destroy the old creation, the heavens and the earth (v. 11). "By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." (See 2 Peter 3:7-13) {"Since the coming of the Lord is in fact the end of the natural universe (2 Pet. 3:10-13), we read that there was found no place for them (v. 11), making way for a new heaven and a new earth to occupy the place left vacant by their dismissal" (21:1).Gregg, Steve: Revelation, Four Views : A Parallel Commentary. Nashville , Tenn. : T. Nelson Publishers, 1997} Satan and his demons have defiled the heavens (Eph. 6:12) and the earth is polluted and sin-soaked with the evil of fallen man. God's new creation will not just be a renovation and renewal as seen in the Millennium but an entirely new heaven and new earth. Science says that matter cannot be created or destroyed but God does both as seen here and in Genesis 1.

"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life." What a scary and awe-filled scene like the one Daniel describes in his vision (Dan. 7: 9-10). It seems that all unsaved people from Cain to the last rebel we see in the Millennium are all together standing before the Lord Jesus ready to be judged based on their works ("and books were opened") and sentenced by the Judge of all.  Scripture says no one is righteous, no one keeps the law and no one is saved by works of righteousness (e.g., See Rom. 3-4) because even our best deeds are as filthy rags compared to the pure white perfect righteousness of God (Isa. 64:6). The righteousness that God requires for a person to be saved is the perfect righteousness a righteous God is required to require. (Matt. 5:48) Thus the only way to be saved is by grace (God's undeserved forgiveness and favor) through faith (in what God in Christ did for us on the cross when He took the punishment for all of our sins and credited us with His perfect righteousness), and not by works (Eph. 2:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:21). When we are saved our name is written in the book of life (Luke 10:20; Heb.12:23).

Yet works are important to God. We are not saved by works but we are saved for works (Eph. 2:10) and James says that without works others will not see our faith and we should even question our own salvation (James 2:14-26). And the Lord will reward believers for works done for His glory for all eternity (1 Cor. 3:10-15). And even unbelievers are judged more or less severely for the extent of their evil works as God records every word, deed, thought and motive of a person's life (Matt. 12:36-37; Rom. 2:6; Gen. 6:5; Isa. 55:7; Heb. 4:12-13; Lk.12:47-48; Mt. 11:21-24; Mk. 12:38-40).

"The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death." (See Isa. 26:21). Both Sheol in the Old Testament and Hades in the New Testament are temporary holding places for the souls of the dead – both saved and unsaved. This is clearly seen in Luke 16 where Jesus speaks of the rich (unsaved) man and Lazarus who was saved: "The rich man also died and was buried. In hell,[c] where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side." (Luke 16:22-23) As seen here in the NIV translation and other translations and passages the word hell is wrongly used for Hades. Hell (or Gehenna) is the place of eternal punishment. {"For the unconverted who have died, Hades is a disembodied state of conscious punishment. It is a sort of holding tank, an intermediate condition where they await the Judgment of the Great White Throne. For believers who have died, Hades is a state of disembodied blessedness in heaven, awaiting the resurrection and glorification of the body. When Jesus died, He went to Paradise (Luke 23:43), which Paul equates with the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2, 4), the dwelling place of God. In Acts 2:27 the Lord's disembodied state is in Hades. God did not leave His soul in Hades, but clothed it with a glorified body. Hell is the final prison of the wicked dead. It is the same as the lake of fire, Gehenna, and the second death." MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer's Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S.}

In 2002 I taught a seven-part series on heaven and included a teaching entitled: WHY THERE HAS TO BE A PLACE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT – THE REALITY OF HELL.  I have attached this document for a more in-depth study of the doctrine of Hell. Here is a brief summary of the document: Jesus taught the existence of hell. He had more to say about hell in fact, than heaven, in order to warn us and turn us to salvation. A few of the examples of Jesus' teachings on hell include Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 11:22-24; 18:9; 22:13; 23:15,33; 25:41,46; 26:24; Mark 9:43-48. Many other Scriptures affirm the existence of hell. The Apostle Paul spoke of everlasting punishment and separation from God (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9), and not annihilation of the lost as some have taught. In other words, hell will be eternal, conscious torment as seen in Luke 16 above. The same Greek word "aionion" which means "everlasting" or "eternal" is used to describe both heaven and hell in the same verse. (See Matthew 25:46) God's justice demands a hell. God is just and so pure that he cannot even look upon sin. (Habakkuk 1:13) God's justice required a blood sacrifice for man's sin that would cleanse all the sins of all men and only the blood of the infinite God-Man, Jesus Christ was able to satisfy God's holy justice. Those who refuse this provision through Christ must be punished eternally for they have sinned against an eternal God. Nor is all evil justly punished in this life. Hitler's physical death alone is certainly not just punishment for a man who murdered six million Jews and others. In our finite and fallen minds, we don't see the sinfulness of sin nor the pure white holiness of God. (In God's eyes we are all more like Hitler than we are like Jesus.) God is perfect in all His ways including His justice. And how can any of us look at the bloody cross of Jesus and question God's mercy. Also Scripture assures us that He will wipe away every tear and there will be no sorrow or crying in heaven. (Revelation 21:4) Hell won't veto heaven. God's sovereignty demands a hell. God is greater than evil and will triumph over it. If there is no hell, the cross is a sham, Christ's painful and humiliating death is robbed of its eternal significance, and the jugular vein of the Great Commission is cut. Why go into all the world and preach the gospel if everyone is going to heaven?


  QUESTIONS FOR APPLICATION/DISCUSSION AND FROM STEVE GRIFFITH'S COMMENTARY

1) What is your main take away from today's message and table discussion and how can you apply it to your life?             

2) Who do you think will be resurrected at the Second Resurrection?                                                                          

3) According to Rev. 20:11 and II Pet. 3:7,10-13, what happens to the present universe and earth after the end of the Millennial Kingdom and the final defeat of Satan?

4) Why do you think God destroys the present heavens and earth?                             

5) Read Rev. 3:5; Isa. 64:6; John 6:27-29; and Eph. 2:10.  According to Rev. 20:12-13, it appears that two types of "books" are opened at the Great White Throne:  (1) the book of life and (2) other books, which have a list of a person's deeds.  Based on the verses above, on what basis will a person's "deeds" be the basis for his judgment or acquittal at the Great White Throne?  [Note: born-again Christians will not stand before God at the Great White Throne.]

6) What sobering epitaph is found in Rev. 20:15 for the person whose name is not found in the book of life?                

 

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