Judgment at the Great White Throne

by Mike Ratliff

11 Καὶ εἶδον θρόνον μέγαν λευκὸν καὶ τὸν καθήμενον ἐπʼ αὐτόν, οὗ ἀπὸ τοῦ προσώπου ἔφυγεν ἡ γῆ καὶ ὁ οὐρανὸς καὶ τόπος οὐχ εὑρέθη αὐτοῖς. 12 καὶ εἶδον τοὺς νεκρούς, τοὺς μεγάλους καὶ τοὺς μικρούς, ἑστῶτας ἐνώπιον τοῦ θρόνου. καὶ βιβλία ἠνοίχθησαν, καὶ ἄλλο βιβλίον ἠνοίχθη, ὅ ἐστιν τῆς ζωῆς, καὶ ἐκρίθησαν οἱ νεκροὶ ἐκ τῶν γεγραμμένων ἐν τοῖς βιβλίοις κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν. 13 καὶ ἔδωκεν ἡ θάλασσα τοὺς νεκροὺς τοὺς ἐν αὐτῇ καὶ ὁ θάνατος καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἔδωκαν τοὺς νεκροὺς τοὺς ἐν αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἐκρίθησαν ἕκαστος κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν. 14 καὶ ὁ θάνατος καὶ ὁ ᾅδης ἐβλήθησαν εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρός. οὗτος ὁ θάνατος ὁ δεύτερός ἐστιν, ἡ λίμνη τοῦ πυρός. 15 καὶ εἴ τις οὐχ εὑρέθη ἐν τῇ βίβλῳ τῆς ζωῆς γεγραμμένος, ἐβλήθη εἰς τὴν λίμνην τοῦ πυρός. Revelation 20:11-15 (NA28)

11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. From his presence fled the earth and heaven, and a place was not found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, having taken their stand before the throne, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged by the things written in the books according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead in it and Death and Hades gave up the dead in them and they were judged each one according their works. 14 And Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the Second Death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone was not found having been written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:11-15 (translated from the NA28 Greek text) 

In Revelation 2:11, in his message to the Church at Smyrna, our Lord Jesus said, “Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. Ὁ νικῶν οὐ μὴ ἀδικηθῇ ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου τοῦ δευτέρου.” Or, “The one having ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one overcoming will never be hurt by the second death.” What is described in Revelation 20:11-15 is the judgment of those going into “the second death.” These are people who have already lived their physical, temporal lives on earth and have died physically, but now they stand before the great white throne to receive the judgment of God.

There are some things we must take notice of in this passage. The first is that the judgment of those who go to the lake of fire is according to their own works not just because of the original sin of Adam. Also, the reason for their judgment of being thrown into the lake of fire, which is the second death, is that they are not found in the Book of Life. All are born dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-10), but the sin that is basis for this judgment is ones own works. Those who escape this judgment are those who are in the Book of Life and our Lord makes that clear as well in Revelation 2:11. Do those whose names are found in the Book of Life also have works that would otherwise cause them to be thrown into lake of fire? Of course! Yes indeed, those whose names are in the Book of Life have been redeemed and the Lord Jesus Christ is their propititiation as they have been justified by grace through faith. Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to their account while their unrighteousness was imputed to Christ’s account on the Cross. His death there paid the penalty for their sin and satisfied the wrath of God against their sin, but these whose names are not found written in the Book of Life, have no Advocate before the Father as do those in Christ.

Notice also that there is a real difference between those whose names are in the Book of Life and those whose names are not. Those who are in the Book of Life also overcome as we saw in my post All believers are called to be faithful witnesses. Those who do not listen, i.e. do not repent after being convicted and warned, prove their disingenuousness as believers by not overcoming and eventually becoming apostate (1 John 2:19).

God’s wrath against sin is real. Judgment is real and the second death awaits all who are not in Christ. We all know people who are in that danger. Are we praying for them daily? Are we witnessing to them when we can? What about all those people all around us who are lost in their trespasses and sins? We have no idea who the elect are, therefore, we must give the Gospel to everyone. Our Lord builds his church. We do not do that. Our part is to obey him by making disciples from the people around us wherever he has us.

Time is short.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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