The Study of Last Things
by James T. Bartsch
Learning about the Future to Live Better Today
"And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done." (Rev. 20:12)
The Great White Throne Judgment
The Great White Throne Judgment
We have just finished studying an ancillary passage on the Destruction of the Universe, Rev. 20:11. John the Apostle wrote, "And I saw a great white throne, and the One sitting upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled, and no place was found for them" (Rev. 20:11, JTB translation).
This "Great White Throne" occupies a central place in Revelation 21:11-15. We are told that one person was sitting on this throne. We are not told in this paragraph who this one person is. Some guess that it is both God and Christ, but they constitute two people, not one. Jesus declared that God the Father has delegated all judgment to the Son (John 5:22, 27). So doubtless the Judge is Jesus Christ. Where does this throne judgment take place? Constable is convinced it is situated in heaven.
That does not appear to be the case. Rather it seems to be situated somewhere in space, initially within sight of Planet Earth and the entire Cosmos. What can only be described as horrifying to humans about to appear at this judgment is that, at the sight of this Judge, the Earth and the entire Second Heaven (the Universe) fled away! When the text says, "no place was found for them," it means that this fiery explosion that detonated the entire universe completely obliterated it. There was no matter left. The universe itself was gone.
There is one entity that survived this detonation – the Great White Throne and the One sitting thereon.
But that is not all that John saw. He also saw the dead, both the great and the small, standing before the throne (Rev. 20:12). Death is the first great leveler. But the Final Judgment is the second great leveler. The greatest tyrants, like Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Genghis Khan, will be unable to evade this judgment. Neither will the most insignificant slave or garbage collector. Inasmuch as these are called "the dead" it seems most likely that these are the spiritually dead who have been resurrected to the judgment of damnation (Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:5), and appear here in their resurrected bodies.
John also observed that books were opened, and another of a different kind of book was opened – "which is the one of the Life" (Rev. 20:12b). This Book of Life apparently will have recorded within its pages the names of all those who have been chosen to eternal life down through human history. This book is referenced in the NT in Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. Sadly, it does not appear that anyone who appears at this Great White Throne Judgment will find his name recorded in the Book of Life.
John stated further that the dead ones were judged out of the things having been written in the books according to their works (Rev. 20:12c). So apparently God makes sure that a careful written record of everything that all the dead have ever said or done is kept meticulously in the books that will one day be opened.
John next indicated the inevitability of the dead appearing at this judgment. The sea gave up those who had drowned in it (Rev. 20:13). Death and Hades, evidently the holding place for the wicked dead of all ages, gave up the dead ones in them (Rev. 20:13). Indeed, nothing in all the universe could preempt this Divine appointment. Once again it was stated that every one of them were judged according to their works (Rev. 20:13).
Warren Wiersbe, quoted in Constable, described this judgment:
"The White Throne Judgment will be nothing like our modern court cases. At the White Throne, there will be a Judge but no jury, a prosecution but no defense, a sentence but no appeal. No one will be able to defend himself or accuse God of unrighteousness. What an awesome scene it will be!"
Then something startling happened. Death and Hades were hurled into the Lake of the Fire. Then John wrote very solemnly, "This is the Second Death – the Lake of the Fire" (Rev. 20:14).
And then, perhaps the saddest words recorded in the entire Bible are written next. "And if a certain one was found not having been written in the book of the life, he was cast into the Lake of the Fire" (Rev. 20:15, JTB translation). This is the same place of torment into which the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Devil himself had been cast earlier (Rev. 19:20; 20:10).
A note to the reader. You do not want to die without having made certain your name has been recorded in the Book of Life. Pledge your Loyalty and Trust in Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who died to take away your sins (John 1:29), and who is busily preparing a place for His subjects in His Father's House even as you read (John 14:1-6).
See a more extensive treatment by this author on this subject: The Great White Throne Judgment and the Lake of Fire.
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB 1995.)
Background and Button Image Credit
Updated May 3, 2021