Great White Throne Judgment
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Revelation, chapter 20. We are resuming our series of discussions of the judgments that are yet future. We have discussed the Judgment of the Nations as it is described in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25. We found from the Word of God that at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ the nations of the world will be gathered together before Him for judgment relative to the manner in which they treat the nation of Israel–specifically, during the Tribulation. We mentioned the Judgment of the Angels as it is described in the Epistle of Jude and the Second Epistle of Peter, and we learned from I Corinthians, chapter 6, that you and I as believers are going to have some part in the Judgment of Angels. We discussed the judgment of believers' works at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We mention these judgments not in the order in which they occur, but in the order in which they came to mind in this brief review.

The judgment at which we are going to look now is perhaps the most familiar of all the judgments in the Scriptures and is referred to in a number of different ways. So that we might all be thinking along the same line, we are going to read from Revelation, chapter 20, and then we will look at another passage of Scripture that refers to this judgment. In Revelation, chapter 20, verse 11, John says:

Revelation 20

11And 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.
12And 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.
13And 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.
14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Reserving the Unjust for Judgment

Keep a marker in Revelation 20; we'll be back before long. Turn with me, please, to II Peter, chapter 2, and notice in verse 9 a reference to the judgment of which we speak:

II Peter 2

9The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

Notice the phrase, “reserve the unjust to the day of judgment.” In this verse this day is referred to simply as the day of judgment. We are told that the unjust are reserved unto this day for judgment. That is the reason why God does not go about striking the unjust dead in the Age of Grace. There is no question but that the ungodly are to be dealt with; only eternity will reveal what their judgment will be. But basically, the unjust are reserved unto the day of judgment. Glance across the page to chapter 3, verse 7, where we read:

II Peter 3

7But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Here is another reference to the day of which we speak–the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. Notice in chapter 2 the word “unjust” and in chapter 3 the word “ungodly.” Fix those words in your mind, for they will help you to see the relation of this judgment to the human race.

A Definite Day On God's Calender

Now, let's go back to the Acts of the Apostles for a moment and notice in chapter 17, verse 29:

Acts 17

29Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

As we glance at verse 31, we discover that this is an appointed day; it is a definite day on God's calendar; it is a day when God will judge the world. Now, this is not a reference to the earth and the grass and the trees. It is a reference to the world as contrasted with those who are in the kingdom of God. The reference to the unsaved is the same. The person who will do the judging here is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Turn to Acts, chapter 24–the message which the Apostle Paul delivered before an ungodly man named Felix. Notice in verse 25, as Paul reasoned:

Acts 24

25And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

We will stop there because we are only interested in the fact that in this verse the Apostle Paul speaks of this judgment as “judgment to come.” This is something very definitely related to the future.

Two Resurrections

Now, please turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 5, and notice verse 28:

John 5

28Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
29And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

If this were the only passage of Scripture related to the subject we are discussing, we might be prone to think that the judgment to which we refer is a judgment that is related to those who have done good and to those who have done evil–that is, that the two classes are combined in the judgment. But because we have other passages also to which we shall refer, we realize that the judgment we are now studying is the resurrection of damnation. It is not related, as we shall see, to the resurrection of life.

Please turn with me to Revelation, chapter 20, as I remind you that we have followed a simple outline in our discussion of these judgments. We've talked about the people, the period, the place, the principle, and the pronouncement of each judgment. We use alliteration so that the facts might be fixed in your mind. One of the primary purposes of this study is to enable you rightly to relate these various judgments one to another. Much that we have said is not new; it has been said before. And much that we say now is not new to you, because this particular judgment is emphasized in the Word perhaps more than the others.

The Time of This Judgment

What is the period in which this judgment is going to occur? We know it is related to the future. What is to be its date? I want you to look with me at Revelation, chapter 20, verse 4, where John says:

Revelation 20

4And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
6Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Review of Dispensations

Notice the double reference to a “thousand years” in these verses of Scripture. We have presented the truth of God's Word to you along dispensational lines, reminding you that time is divided into dispensations. We remind you that we are living in what we refer to as the Age of Grace or the Church Age. In this age the Lord Jesus Christ is taking out a people for His name. When the Bride of Christ is complete the Lord Jesus Christ will return and catch up His Church, both the living and the dead. This is the first resurrection. It will be followed by a period of time known as the Tribulation, referred to in verse 4. Men will lose their lives if they refuse to receive the mark of the beast, if they insist on remaining true to the Lord Jesus Christ. At the conclusion of the Tribulation, which will last for seven years, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth and establish His millennial reign upon the earth. It is referred to as a millennial reign because of its duration–a thousand years. Someone may say, “The word 'millennium' is not mentioned in the Scriptures.” Quite true; neither is the word “trinity.” It is a matter of usage; it is a matter of economy of words. It's easier to say “millennium” than it is to say “a thousand years.”

The End of the Millennium

When the thousand years are finished, according to these verses which we have read, then the Great White Throne Judgment will occur. That is the name by which this judgment is more commonly known, for reasons that we will see later in this discussion. The period of time, then, will be at the end of the thousand years.

Various Thrones of God

Now the second point: the place where this judgment occurs. Notice with me verse 11:

Revelation 20

11And 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.

Various thrones of God are mentioned in the Bible. He is pictured as sitting upon these thrones at various times in His dealing with the human race. For example, Ezekiel describes in chapter 1 of his book a “throne of fire.” In the book of Revelation, chapter 5, a throne is presented around which all those in Heaven bow down and shout their praises to God. In Matthew, chapter 25, a “throne of glory” is described before which all the nations of the earth will be gathered. In the book of Hebrews, chapter 4, a throne is described with which I trust you are familiar. If you are not, do familiarize yourself with it; it is the throne of grace. It is the throne before which we can come at any time and find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need. If you are not used to going to the throne of grace, develop the habit. I couldn't get along without going there regularly. I need the mercy and the grace to help me every day.

The particular throne we are now studying in verse 11 will be a Great White Throne. Some have suggested that the “white” is because of the light that surrounds the throne; Deity sits thereupon. Where is this throne? Well, it can't be in the atmospheric heavens, nor can it be upon the earth, because in verse 11 the earth and the heavens fled away. This is not figurative language, for we glance down at chapter 21 and we read in verse 1:

Revelation 21

1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

The Place of This Judgment

This present heaven and this present earth will someday be no more. God will create a new heaven and a new earth, but He will not do that until after the Great White Throne Judgment. So we suggest to you that the Great White Throne Judgment will be somewhere out in space. The Great White Throne will be the place where the judgment of which we speak will occur.

The People Being Judged

The third thing we want to say about this judgment is related to the people. Who are the people who will be judged at the Great White Throne? Various passages of Scripture plainly state that only the unjust will be at this judgment–not the just, not the born-again believer.

We refer to Revelation, chapter 20, verses 4 and 5, where we are told that the just–the believer–has his part in the first resurrection. He has part in the resurrection of the just, not in the resurrection of the unjust. May I remind you of what is recorded in Romans, chapter 8, verse 1:

Romans 8

1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus…

We will stop here, though my King James version goes on to say, “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” That phrase is not in the original manuscript. The verse reads, “There is therefore now no judgment to them who are in Christ Jesus.” The words“condemnation” and “judgment” are used interchangeably. If you are in the Lord Jesus Christ–that is, if you are trusting the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior–then you will not stand at the judgment of which we speak.

Only the Unsaved

As we think about the people who are to be judged, emphasizing that only the ungodly will be there, let me suggest to you that they will be there only in a resurrected form of life. For if you will glance at verse 12, we notice:

Revelation 20

12And 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.
13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it…

Who is going to be judged at this Great White Throne Judgment? The dead, all of those who have died without the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, those who have died in Christ will already have been raised at the time when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in the air for His Church (I Thessalonians 4 and I Corinthians 15). According to Revelation, chapter 20, verses 4 and 5, the rest of the dead (those not raised in the first resurrection) remain dead until this Great White Throne Judgment. Then they, small and great, will be raised and the sea will give up its dead also. In Revelation, chapter 20, not only is reference made to the small and the great, by way of distinction, but we read in verse 13 of another distinction:

Revelation 20

13…death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them:…

Death is what holds the body captive. Hell is what holds the spirit captive. So, those dead spirits will be united with dead bodies; body and spirit will be raised to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment.

The Principles of This Judgment

Now we come to the principles related to this judgment. What is taken into consideration in each one of these judgments? Let me say to begin with, that much teaching about this judgment is contrary to what I believe to be the truth. The issue in this judgment is not a matter of whether individuals are to go to Heaven or to Hell. That is not the principle. Oftentimes it is said that it is; but, Beloved, you do not need to wait until you stand before the Great White Throne to find out whether you are going to go to Heaven or to Hell. It would not cheer my heart to think that I might have to stand trembling in fear before a God who would decide whether I could go to Heaven or Hell. I am glad that that was settled at Calvary as far as I am concerned, and for you, too, if you are willing to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. The decision is not whether individuals go to Heaven or to Hell.

Listen closely now: The principle of the decision is to settle the place in Hell that each of the lost is going to have. Mark what I say: If you stand at this Great White Throne Judgment, there will be no question about your going to Hell. The very fact that you are present will mean that you are going to Hell. There is no way at all to escape it. Someone may say, “What is the reason for the judgment, then?” The answer to that question is that the judgment is to determine the place that you are going to have in Hell.

Degrees of Punishment

Notice, please, verse 12, as we read:

Revelation 20

12And 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: [now, notice] and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
13And 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.

Now, if you believe that your salvation is on the basis of your works, then you may think you will be standing at this judgment throne. You may think that your works will be examined, and if they are not good enough you'll be lost, and if there are enough good ones you'll be saved.

I think, at least to my own satisfaction, that we have established that the ungodly are the people concerned and they are judged according to their works and it is already decided that they will be in Hell. Then the reason for the judgment of their works, it seems to me, would be to determine the degree of punishment they will have in Hell.

Someone may say, “I don't quite understand that. I didn't know there were degrees of punishment in Hell. I thought Hell was Hell and that's all there was to it.” No, there are degrees of punishment in Hell. That's the reason I don't like to hear preachers say too much too loosely about sin.

For example, I heard a preacher say, “If you're going to sin, sin! Sin is sin, so just sin!” Well, that could be true as to the question of whether you're a sinner or not. But it isn't true in relation to eternity, for there are degrees of punishment in Hell. I would certainly recommend that every individual place his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and receive Him as Savior. But if you are not going to receive Him as Savior, then I would not recommend that you pull out the stops and be as big a sinner as you can (I'm being a bit facetious now for the sake of emphasis). If I were a sinner and had to go to Hell, I'd want to find the coolest spot I could find, wouldn't you? That's why I say it would pay sinners not to pull out all the stops; there are degrees of punishment in Hell.

Differences In Judgment

Turn with me, for example, to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 11, to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as they are recorded in the paragraph which begins with verse 20:

Matthew 11

20Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:
21Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.
23And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
24But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

Surely this would indicate a difference in judgment. For added evidence turn, please, to the book of Romans, chapter 2, and notice what the Spirit of God records concerning the heathen world. We read from verse 11:

Romans 2

11For there is no respect of persons with God.
12For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

Judged According to Knowledge

There is a difference, you see. Men who have not had the law–that is, God's truth–will be judged accordingly, but men who have it and have not obeyed it, will be judged accordingly. We read in verse 13:

Romans 2

13(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
14[Listen closely] For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)
16In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

So we say to you that the principle in this judgment is not whether you are going to Heaven or to Hell–you are already going to Hell if you stand at this judgment. The degree of punishment is what is to be determined. If you are thinking, and I trust you are, you have a very normal question: “If what you say is so, why is the book of life, the Lamb's book of life, mentioned as being present at this judgment?” Notice it is mentioned in verse 12:

Revelation 20

12And 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.

Then notice down in verse 15:

Revelation 20

15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

There is room in the Lamb's Book of Life for every person who believes the Gospel. There is room. You don't need to be afraid of being crowded out; there is room. And since there is room, it would follow that if your name is not there because you have not received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, there will be an undeniable blank space. The Lamb's Book of Life is here that men may see that their name is not where it could have been, for men are human and they will, then as now, question the wisdom and the justice of God.

The Pronouncement of This Judgment

What is the pronouncement of this judgment? What is the outcome? Notice verse 14:

Revelation 20

14And death and hell [body and spirit] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

What is the outcome? The lake of fire. Death and hell cast into the lake of fire, which is the place where the false prophet, the Antichrist, and the Devil then are (verse 10 of the same chapter). John refers to this as the second death. Do you remember reading in verses 4 and 5 of this chapter that believers will have no part in the second death? Why is this called the second death? Keep in mind that the word “death” literally is a reference to separation. When we speak of death–physical death–we speak of a spirit's being separated from the body.

The second death, which happens only to the unjust, is indeed horrible because both the body and the spirit will be separated from God for all eternity. This is the second death.

Escaping the Second Death

I would not want to presume that everyone who hears or reads this lesson is in right relation to God; of that I know not. Let me encourage you, if you have never received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, to receive Him now. Remember that He says, “There is therefore now no judgment to them who are in Christ Jesus.”


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