The Great Judgment
Revelation chapter 20:11-15: The Great White Throne Judgment when all the dead both small and great are raised to stand before God and He sends them to heaven or to hell. At this time, God dissolves the heaven and the earth and prepares us for eternity. And this is after the Millennium that we see in the previous verses.
Revelation 20:11 "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."
So here we see that there is a great white throne, and in the following verses there is a judgment before that throne. We see that it's a white throne. White speaks of righteousness; He's a righteous God and will judge with fairness. Throne speaks of His majesty and power; He's all powerful. This time of the judgment at the great white throne occurs when the heavens and the earth pass away. That's what it says here:
The earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. If there is no place for them, then that means they, the heaven and earth, don't exist anymore; they don't exist any place. They've passed away. The earth is not going to be renovated as some teach. Now there is a Millennium in which God will bless the earth for a 1,000 years. But some teach that that Millennial earth is going to be the eternal dwelling place of the righteous. They teach that the new heaven and the new earth will be this heaven and this earth made better. But the Bible contradicts that position. It says they passed out of existence, 20:11.
In Revelation 21:1, that truth is confirmed, Read. So they were passed away and did not exist anymore. Where it says the heaven and the earth fled away, the heaven spoken of is the physical heaven; the sky, the solar system, the universe. It's the physical heaven, the intergalactic heaven; it's this creation that passed away.
"Passed away" = "to go beside", "gone away beside." You see what it means. They are no more; they don't exist.
"New" = new and different. It doesn't mean "new" in time. It means "new" in quality or form, of a different nature; new and different from what has come before. In other words, it's not this heaven and earth made new. It's a new heaven and earth totally of a different order. They'll be of a new form and quality from this heaven and this earth. Read 1 Corinthians 2:9 "Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man all the things that God has prepared for them that love him."
Several other scriptures prove that this order of things is going to be totally done away with and will not exist anymore
1.) 2 Peter 3:7-14, Read. Verse 7-- so this earth and heaven is reserved unto fire. It will be destroyed by fire. Verse 10a-- so the heavens will pass away with a great noise. Another translation says, "with a hissing noise". And the elements of which this universe is built shall melt with fervent or intense heat. So if the elements melt, we're not just talking about a fire of combustion. We are talking about a fire in which the very nuclei of the elements disintegrate. It is the whole atomic system. Everything dissolves, passes away. 10b-- the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Literally, shall be found or discovered.
Verse 12-- so he repeats it for emphasizes. This creation is going to totally pass away and the elements melt. Verse 14-- it says that this heaven and earth will pass away, nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. That proves that it will be another creation all together. It is not this creation made better. Because it is only after this one passes away that he says, we look for a new heaven and a new earth.
2.) Isaiah 51:6 (Read) talks about this destruction of the heavens and the earth. The earth shall wax old like a garment.
3.) Matthew 24:35, Jesus said heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
4.) Psa. 46:6, a very clear reference. This is a summary of a lot of history here, but it ends up with the destruction of the heavens and the earth, (Read).
5.) Psa. 102:25,26,27 (Read).
6.) Isaiah 65:17 (Read) For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. The Hebrew word for create means to cut, to carve out, to form by cutting to create or produce. It has connotations of " to carve out of nothing". It's always used of God's creative power. It's never used of man creating.
7.) Isaiah 66:22 (Read) so this new heaven and earth will remain before Him and be an eternal dwelling place.
8.) Hebrews 1:10-12 (Read).
So the new heavens and the new earth are a new creation entirely; of a different kind, of a different order. It's not this heaven and earth renovated.
Revelation 20:12 "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."
We see the dead stand before the great white throne to be judged by God.
So he says, I saw the dead. Now what this means is, those who had remained dead in the earth until the end of the Millennium. Because there were already some dead who had been resurrected: the raptured saints, the tribulation martyrs, and the 144,000 of Israel. So they are not included here. At the judgment of the great white throne, it is not us. It's the dead; we are alive for eternity. We are alive for ever and for ever. We have our immortal glorified bodies. Death has been swallowed up in life for us. But John is seeing the dead, those who remained dead up to that time. So I think that this means all the dead (righteous or unrighteous) that where not raptured.
So what we see here is that the dead in general, aside from those who had been resurrected out at one time or another, remain dead. That is, in a physical sense until the destruction of the heavens and the earth and then at that time, they're resurrected and they stand before the great white throne to be judged.
Of course, here when it says he saw the dead, that doesn't mean that they were devoid of all consciousness before that time. They weren't sleeping as some people teach. They were dead in terms of the fact that they had died and they had not yet been resurrected, whether it be to a resurrection of life or of judgment.
But here they are resurrected and they are standing before the great white throne to be judged.
Now where it says that he saw the dead standing to be judged, this does not necessarily mean that only the dead will be judged there. But the dead are the only ones in view here; he saw the dead. In other words, what is primarily in view here is the dead. Those that had remained in the graves; those that had remained in the earth until that time.
The dead will be resurrected at the end of the Millennium to stand before this judgment throne. Now you might ask the question, what dead?
The wicked dead from all history; those who are not going to be partaking of eternal life who had lived throughout all history. Those from Cain on up through the Millennium, who had died. They remain in Sheol or Hades; the place of departed spirits. Sheol is the Hebrew word, and Hades is the Greek word. They remain there awaiting judgment until the end of the Millennium.
This truth is pictured in Isaiah 24:21-22, (Read). So these wicked dead are visited after many days by being resurrected, to stand at the great white throne to be judged.
However, there seems to be indications that there are not just wicked people who are judged at this great white throne. There are righteous as well as wicked. So there are other people besides the wicked dead.
Are there people who are righteous, and they haven't gone in the rapture; they haven't gone in any other resurrection and they are still physically in the graves up to that time: Are there righteous ones included in the dead?
Paul indicated that there were, and the implication is very strong in Phil.3:10-12 (Read).
Now when Paul says here that he desires "if by any means I might attain unto the out-resurrection from among the dead. I do not believe that the way to take that is to say if by any means I might be saved, if by any means I might be in the book of life. It is something more than that because he goes on to say, "not as though I had already attained. Here the word attained is received. Not as though I had already received, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
So what he is saying is I haven't apprehended yet. I don't reckon myself to have apprehended. I don't say, "that just because I'm saved; I am going to be in the rapture". I follow on if that I may attain unto that out-resurrection from among the dead, the righteous dead. That is, if I may attain unto that better resurrection; that higher resurrection. If I may be in that raptured company. Read Hebrews 11:35.
What he's saying is that there is something more to strive for by faith and by love after one is saved. And he says that I don't count that I have attained it; I don't count that just because I'm inside the gate, I have attained it. But I press on so that I can be in that out-resurrection from among the dead.
Then in verse 13 and 14, he goes on to say, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended." Now he is not just playing a mental game, "Well, I know I'll be in the rapture. I know I am in that company, but just in case, I'll pretend that I'm not and I will count it as though I wasn't." No, he is being totally sincere. I count not myself to have apprehended. I know that I am in a course of life and that in order for me to gain that prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus; I have to follow this course of life to the end. And I have to press toward that mark, and that is what he goes on to say.
"Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
So there is a prize that he is pressing toward, that he counts not himself to have apprehended. The prize of the high or upward calling of God in Christ Jesus. So the implication is that to be in that raptured company; you have to press for that prize. That is something beyond simply being justified. That is a position that as Paul says, is worked out-- "work out your salvation daily with fear and trembling", Phil 2:12. It's worked out by faith, which produces a life of reaching forth and loving Him, and moving in to become like Him. Genesis 1:26.
Now the earlier resurrections which are all summed up in the term, the first resurrection, were of specific companies of saints. There were specific companies of saints raised at different times
1.) You remember that when Jesus died, some of the saints were raised, and they came into the holy city and appeared unto many. Matthew 27:52,53.
2.) The rapture-- that is a special company of saints; the bride company. Revelation 12:5; 3:10.
3.) The tribulation martyrs again are a special company of saints. Revelation 11:12.
4.) The 144,000 again are a special company of saints. Revelation 7:1-8;14:1-5.
5.) But here in Revelation 20, we see a general resurrection of the dead. There are evil and there are righteous among them.
Now the question comes, "Where were the righteous ones who were dead up to this time?"
Well they weren't in Sheol, because Christ had already paid the price for the righteous souls in Sheol; they were taken into the presence of God. Ephesians 4:8 (Read). It says that he led captivity captive.
So at this time, at the end of the Millennium; they have been in the presence of God. And they haven't been sleeping. They have been consciously in the presence of God, but not yet in the full and final state of reward. They do not have their resurrected bodies that they are going to spend all eternity in; they have still been waiting for that.
They are called dead because they are without their glorified bodies. They are physically dead, not yet having that eternal body which they will have. It doesn't mean that they are unconscious, because there are other scriptures that show that the dead are not unconscious at any time. Revelation 6:9-11; Luke 16:22-26; 1 Peter 3:18,19.
Concerning the resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous
1.) Daniel 12:2, which said that many that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Now this is talking about the resurrection, both the righteous and the unrighteous. The fact that they awake does not mean that they were unconscious or soul-sleeping, as some teach. It just means that physically, in terms of physical life; their bodies were dead but were waiting for the resurrection. So in a sense, they were sleeping; sleep being a metaphor for a temporary state, not a permanent death.
2.) John 5:25,28,29 (Read).
So the dead are resurrected and they stand before this judgment throne; that is, those that weren't resurrected at a previous time.
Concerning standing before this great white throne-- this judgment seat. References
1.) Matthew 25:31-46 (Read). There it says that Jesus will sit upon His throne. All nations will be gathered before Him; the sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left. The good on the right, and the wicked on His left. Then He will say to the good, "Come, enter into my Kingdom." And to the wicked, He will say, "Depart into the everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels."
2.) Romans 14:10 (Read). The Greek there is "the judgment of God".
3.) 2 Corinthians 5:10 (Read). "the judgment seat of Christ"
So one scripture says the judgment seat of God, and the other says the judgment seat of Christ. The truth that is revealed there is that it is God in Christ. Christ is the eternal dwelling place of God. So here in 2 Corinthians, it shows that the good and the evil, and Paul includes us, saying, "we all" will stand before this judgment seat; all will stand at that judgment. Now this brings up another question.
After being in heaven with Jesus all of that time, we are then going to be judged?
Yes, it appears we will stand at that judgment and be judged in some way. I have never heard anything contrary to this. However, I believe the judgment for us will be one of rewards and positions. And probably it will involve the determining of our various positions and rewards in the new earth which we will inhabit just after that.
Because after the Millennium and the great white throne judgment, there's a new earth; and the righteous dwell in this new earth. And so if we're judged at the great white throne, which seems to be the teaching of scripture, of course, that doesn't contradict the fact that we've been married to Him; we've been loving Him already for a 1,000 years. And so the judgment for us has to be one of rewards in that new realm which God has created for us.
Concerning the fact that we'll live in the new earth, you can read
Revelation 21:1 and 2 Peter 3:13, where Peter says we look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Now it is certain that not just the wicked will be judged at the great white throne. In other words, there will not just be people who are damned who are judged at the great white throne
Matthew 25:31-46-- shows that there are sheep and goats in the judgment, good and evil.
And Revelation 20:15 implies that there were some at that judgment who were found written in the Book of Life when it says, "Whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire." The implication is that there was a check made, after the manner of men, in the Book of Life. And that there were those who were not found in it, and there were those who were. Otherwise, why have the Book of Life if nobody at that judgment is found in it?
Now it could be talking about the righteous that were not raptured earlier, or it could include the raptured saints as well. It does say "we all will stand before the judgment seat".
In as much as it says that we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ: does that necessitate that it refers to that particular point in time at the great white throne judgment, or could it refer to, in a sense, having been judged for our sins before and having received the reward already?
Well, that's a probability, because that doesn't necessitate that it is at that time, at least from that scripture alone. But the implication seems to be there. It seems to imply that it will be at that time. But I don't think we can say dogmatically that it's at that time, although we do see that the righteous are judged. And we do see that there are at least some righteous there at that time, because of the phrase "whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire."
"And the books were opened"
Now these books (plural) which were opened are records of the deeds of the dead, as the last half of the verse says. (Read).
"And another book was opened, which is the book of life"
The Book of Life contains the name of every individual who will have eternal life, no matter what position they're in. Every individual who will have eternal life is in that Book of Life. Everyone else will be damned, whoever isn't in the book will not partake of eternal life.
Concerning the Book of Life, there are many scriptures which mention it directly or indirectly
1.) Exodus 32:32 (Read). Moses said he was willing to be blotted out of the Lord's book.
And in that, he was a type of Christ who went unto death for us and was willing to be separated eternally from God that we might be saved. Of course, God saved him out of death. (Hebrews 5:7)
2.) Luke 10:20 (Read)
3.) Philippians 4:3 (Read)
4.) Revelation 3:5 (Read). One of the rewards in the Sardis Church Age promised to overcomers by Jesus was that He would not blot their name out of the Book of Life. And so that shows us it is based upon man's will whether or not he will be found in that Book of Life. One can be in the Book of Life and later be blotted out. And the reason he would be blotted out is because of the decision and the course of life that he chose.
So the Book of Life is not a list of the predestined, "and now these are ones I will have in my book and these are ones I will not have in my book, because I have predestine it." That is not what is in view here. The Book of Life rather shows a catalogue, a list, of those who make it in the end. There will be many people who had their names in the book, but they were blotted out.
There are other scriptures that tell us there are differences of rewards among those who are found in the Book of Life.
Another scripture on the Book of Life is Revelation 13:8 (Read). The worshippers of the beast are not in the Book of Life.
Revelation 20:13 "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."
"Every man" = each man. Each man, individually, was judged according to his works.
"The sea gave up the dead which were in it". This is the literal sea upon earth.
"And death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them".
That is, those who were in the realm of death, death delivered them up. And "hell" here delivered up the dead which were in it.
"Hell" is "Hades" in the Greek. It's not "Gehena", The Lake of Fire. That doesn't come for any man except the beast and the false prophet (Revelation 19:20), until after the white throne judgment.
Hades is the place of departed spirits. And so, those in the realm of Hades here; and at this time there are only wicked ones left in there, because the righteous had been taken up into the presence of God when Jesus paid the price.
Hades comes from a Greek word meaning "unseen". It's an unseen realm. And it's equivalent to the Hebrew term "Sheol". And "Sheol" comes from a word that means "to ask or to demand".
Originally, Hades was the waiting place of both the righteous and the wicked. Concerning the fact that the righteous were there, you can read Acts 2:27. David said, "Lord, thou will not leave my soul in Hades." The implication is he was in Hades, but he won't be left there. He was there waiting for a time.
The unrighteous in Hades are shown in Luke 16:23, the rich man there in Hades.
Now the unrighteous and the righteous were kept in separate places in Hades. They were kept in different places in Hades
1.) Luke 16:22-26. Abraham and the poor righteous man were in the section for the righteous, and the rich man, who had been a sinner in his life, was in the other part. And he was being tormented, whereas the beggar was being comforted. And Abraham said in the parable, "We can't come over to you, and you can't come over to us. There is a great chasm fixed between us." Now the righteous section was called "Paradise". That's probably were the righteous were kept.
2.) Luke 23:43 (Read). To the thief on the cross Jesus said, "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." The souls in Paradise were taken up into the presence of God, although they weren't resurrected yet.
3.) And you see that in 2 Corinthians 12:4 (Read). In that verse, Paul says, speaking about himself in the third person, "I knew a man who was caught up into Paradise." So when Paul left the body, or whether he had a vision, he says, "I cannot tell", he was caught up into Paradise. Now Paradise is in the presence of God since Jesus paid that price for the righteous dead.
A.) Ephesians 4:8 (Read). I already mentioned. Those souls which were captive in Sheol/Hades, the righteous ones were lead captive; He took them as a spoil. What that is taken from is a Roman custom where when a nation was conquered; they would bring the captives through the streets of Rome, and they would be lead captive. And so Jesus is bringing the righteous as captives of love into His kingdom and His presence.
B.) 1 Peter 3:18,19 (Read). This is another verse which shows the righteous in Hades. So he was quickened in spirit and went and preached unto the spirits in prison, and we're talking again about those righteous dead in Hades. And that preaching there probably pertains to the fact that Jesus had paid the price for them and now was going to lead them captive, so to speak, into the presence of God. And therefore, because Jesus paid that price, the righteous who die now don't go to Hades; they don't go to that waiting place. They go directly into the presence of God.
C.) 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (Read). And so he says, now, "to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." It wasn't always that way. Now, of course, realize that even those dead who are in the presence of the Lord are not yet resurrected. They don't have those immortal glorified bodies yet. And that's according to 1 Corinthians 15:44.
So the unrighteous dead at present are still in Sheol/Hades. They're not yet in the Lake of Fire. That doesn't happen until after the great white throne judgment, according to Revelation 20:15. And the unrighteous in Sheol are in a measure of torment and fear, though it's not the amount of torment which shall be after that. And we already saw Isaiah 24:21,22 concerning the unrighteous in Sheol. And in Luke 16:23, we see that the unrighteous rich man in Hades wasn't just waiting in some kind of neutral state. He says, "I'm tormented in this flame." He says, "Send this beggar to dip his finger in water and put it upon my tongue. I'm tormented in this flame." So there is torment for the unrighteous there.
Revelation 20:14 "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death."
"Death" in the Greek is "Thanatos". And the literal word means "separation". So death is a separation. Physical death is a separation of the body from the soul and spirit, (James 2:26). But spiritual death, the second death, is an eternal separation; it's an eternal death. And in that the soul and spirit of man are separated from God for all eternity; the second death is an eternal death.
"Death and hell were cast in the lake of fire. This is the second death"
Now the best manuscripts add here "the lake of fire" or "the lake of the fire". It reads, "This is the second death, the lake of fire." It emphasizes that the lake of fire is the second death.
"Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire", to me the implication there is the realm of death and the realm of hell, and so what it's talking about is those who are in that realm will be cast into the Lake of Fire. Death and hell aren't going to be punished; they haven't done anything. They're abstract things; they're not moral beings. So they're not being punished in the Lake of Fire. The implication here is, "Those in the realm of death and hell will be cast into the Lake of Fire which is the second death."
And that's what's so horrible about it. It's an eternal separation from God. It's an awesome punishment for sin. It shows the greatness of sin.
Revelation 20:15 "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."
Revelation 11:18 applies here, (Read). According to Matthew 25:41, the lake of fire was prepared for Satan and his demons. It was never God's will, heart, intention, or plan for any human being to ever go there, according to 2 Peter 3:9 which says that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to a knowledge of the truth and repentance. So this shows us there is a real battle. There are going to be souls in hell who did not have to be there at all. In fact, all the souls in hell did not have to be there. But in a more specialized sense, there will be those there who could have made it if they had made the right decision, if they had stayed on the path.
And that realization should cause: Number one, our hatred for Satan to grow immensely. We should have firing, boiling, fresh and vital hatred for the devil for what he is doing to the human race, because there is no need for it. But God allows it that those who will follow Him will make their decision, and those who won't will make their decision. Number two, it should cause our reverence for God to grow. As Jesus said, "Don't fear those who are able to kill the body only. Fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Fear Him in a wise way, not a tormented way. And it should cause our desire to win souls to grow. Proverbs 11:30 says, "he who wins souls is wise".
Eternal, conscious Punishment For The Wicked ( disproves annihilation of the soul at death or the great judgment)
Matt.8:12 Weeping and wailing are conscious torments (Luke 12:47,48).
Matt. 25:41 Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
Matt. 25:46 These go to everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.
2 Pet. 2:9 The Lord knows how to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment (NASB).
Jude 7 Sodom and Gomorrah are examples of suffering the punishment of eternal fire.
Jude 13 These people have the blackness of darkness reserved for them forever.
Rev.14:9-11 The smoke of their torment ascends forever; they have no rest day or night.
Rev.20:10 The devil will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
Differing degrees of punishment refutes annihilation: Matt. 11:21-24; Mark 12:40.
Consciousness after death: Luke 16:22-31; 1 Pet. 3:19; Rev. 6:9-11.
Death ( the separation of the soul and the spirit from the body)
Gen. 35:18 As Rachel's soul was departing (for she died), she called his name Benoni.
1 Ki. 17:21 Elijah cried to God, Let this child's soul come into him again.
Luke 8:55 The spirit of the ruler's daughter returned, and she arose.
Luke 23:46 Jesus said, Into Your hands I commend my spirit.
Acts 2:27,31 Christ's soul was not left in Hades.
Acts 7:59 Stephen said, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
Acts 20:10 Paul said, Trouble not yourselves for his soul (Greek) is in him.
2 Cor. 5:6-9 We are willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Jas. 2:26 The body without the spirit is dead.
Also: Phil. 1:23; 2 Tim. 4:6; Acts 9:40.