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. 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. 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. And death and hell were cast into the lake
of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life
was cast into the lake of fire.
Revelation 20:11-15 (KJV)
We've heard a lot about nuclear war and its devastating
possibilities over the past few decades--my generation (the Baby Boomers) are said to have
grown up under the shadow of the Bomb. Men's hearts are already "failing them for
fear" as they allow their minds to dwell on the horrors that a nuclear exchange is
sure to bring. We're hearing about the end of the race and the end of the world as we now
know it; movies are depicting the instant disintegration of millions; scientists are
warning us about the inevitable damages to the earth's atmosphere, and to the rest of the
countries that weren't even in on the war. We are being told, in short, that the human
race simply cannot survive even a limited nuclear war, and that the very thought of it
is... well, unthinkable.
The Bible, of course, has concerned itself with the end of the world
for quite a long time now. In a very matter-of-fact way, the Lord and the various prophets
speak of the destruction of the earth and the present world order. There will be fire and
brimstone, signs in the heavens, distress of nations, great wars, and unimaginable forces
unleashed. The writers of the Bible assumed that the world had a beginning, and that it
must have an end. Most of them happily believed themselves to be living very close to that
end. They saw it as being carefully staged and conducted by God--a very necessary day of
reckoning that a benevolent Creator could not possibly do without. The Bible is not
horrified at the thought of the end of the world--it takes it for granted.
The horrifying part comes later! Yes, there is something far worse
than the end of the world. Jesus said, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are
not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body
in hell," (Matt 10:28). Physical death is bad enough, but it's not nearly as awful as
the second death spoken of in our opening scriptures. It is the spiritual things, the
invisible things of eternity, that really count in the long run. Let the worldly worry
about this world; let us who know the Lord worry about the next one. Let the unbelieving
and the carnal strive after the riches and creature comforts of this life; let us seek to
lay up riches in Heaven. Let the sensuous and earthly drink the right soft drinks and work
out together for better bodies--they will soon become worms' meat, anyway; let you who are
of the light walk in that light and live for things eternal, for one day the books will be
opened and all our works will be assessed by the principles and values of the next world.
The Judgment Day
One day the Lord will sit in judgment on the inhabitants of this old
earth. There will be such an awful tension and sense of impending doom that the very
heavens and earth themselves will flee from the scene, leaving Him who sits on the throne
and those who stand before it suspended in eternity, as it were. The dead will be there,
small and great. King, prince, president, plumber, and aborigine will stand together in a
huge throng that no one can number. It doesn't matter who you were in the previous
life--all are equal at the Great White Throne. You can't buy a pardon, pass a petition, or
stage a campaign to bring public opinion to bear upon the proceedings. There is no higher
court to appeal to--this is the final resting place of every case; the buck stops here.
And perfect justice is guaranteed, regardless of race, caste, color, or creed.
"And the books were opened..." The books will
indeed be opened. These are the books that contain the history of every individual that
ever appeared on this earth. Your works, both good and evil are recorded in them. From the
sins of your youth to the folly and stubborn pride of your old age, they are all there.
And not only the works themselves, but the motives that prompted them, are recorded...
"I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to
his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jer 17:10). "Neither is
there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened
unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do" (Rev 4:13).
How many times did John Doe reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did
he scornfully push aside the "Jesus freak" who tried to stop him downtown to
speak a few moments about his soul? Did he quickly switch the channel of his television
set from the Billy Graham crusade to some action-packed program featuring a dozen gleaming
bodies? The books record every significant deed... there he is again, lusting after his
secretary... cheating on his income tax form... screaming in rage at a fellow worker.
Wait! There's our John Doe in church, but look what he's thinking... "these pompous,
self-righteous preachers just want my money..."
Then the other book is opened, the Book of Life. In vain the search
is made for John Doe's name. Certainly there must be some mistake! No, I'm afraid not,
John. The One on the throne sorrowfully, but firmly, gives the command to cast him into
the lake of fire, where the devil, the beast, and false prophet are, where they
"shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10).
Who Will Stand There?
Will the true believers in Jesus Christ be at the Great White Throne
Judgment? No, they were resurrected a thousand years earlier. Revelation 20:6 speaks of
them: "Blessed 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." Jesus said in John 5:29 that the dead
"shall come forth: they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they
that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation." There are two groups of
people and two resurrections. By the time the White Throne Judgment is under way, the
righteous have been glorified and resurrected for a thousand years.
But the fearful and unbelieving, and the abominable, and
murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their
part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
The fearful and unbelieving will be there: they are those who loved
this present world too much to risk the shame and embarrassment of being a genuine
Christian. The cost was just too great, they thought; and why throw my life away on some
old traditions that hardly anybody cares about anymore? The vile (abominable) and the
murderer will be there: they were a law unto themselves while they lived, but now the law
has really caught up to them. They hated their brothers and lived for themselves, and have
no one to blame but themselves on the day of judgment. The whoremongers--the word means sexually
immoral in the original Greek--will be there: they went along with the world around
them without stopping to remember that God didn't change His mind about what constitutes
immorality. They paraded their wares for all to see and slept with whom they pleased,
making up their own standards as they went along; they redefined love and
fulfillment--they may try to act innocent in that day, but their innocence and purity has
long since been lost.
The sorcerers -- all those who practice occult arts and
"sciences" -- will be there: they rejected the light of the Gospel, and
preferred to dabble in the dark, forbidden, and mysterious things. All the idolaters will
be there: whether they worshipped a brass Buddha, the Virgin Mary, a rock star, or
someone's body, they will all find their place in the lake which burns with fire and
brimstone. And the liars will be there, too, the Bible says; they turned from the truth
that made them so uncomfortable and embraced and propagated lies instead. Evolution,
Communism, false religions, false teachings, and all those who willfully or ignorantly
mislead their brother fall into this category.
The problem is that it's not John Doe standing at the Judgment Seat.
It's not a faceless multitude that parades one by one before the Judge of the Universe. On
that rare occasion when we allow ourselves to think of the day of judgment, we usually
picture just that... millions upon millions of people going their way to the lake of fire:
nothing more than numbers, just one file after another being pulled and analyzed.
But these are people, real people. Mothers and fathers, brothers and
sisters; people who lived real lives, who loved in their own way and were loved by others.
That faceless person may be your next-door neighbor; once or twice you may have tried to
share the Gospel with her, but you didn't really press it. Maybe that person standing
before God is the young man that played his rock music well into the night, keeping you
up. You may have angrily wished for the righteous judgment of the Lord to fall upon him,
but you didn't mean this! Perhaps your aunts and uncles are part of that
"faceless" mass of human beings awaiting their turn, perhaps your very mother is
there. Suddenly it seems very terrible, doesn't it?
You see, this is not some fanciful scene from the writings of a
medieval monk, it is the Word of God. It is not symbolic, it is very literal in its
meaning. There is a lake of fire, and those who didn't believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ
will go there. They will spend eternity there; there is no hint of any sort of parole in
the Bible, or a temporary suffering to purge away sins committed. We cannot even allow
ourselves the small comfort of believing that these lost souls are annihilated, or
completely destroyed, in the burning lake--there is simply no shred of scriptural evidence
that this could be the case.
No wonder the inspired writers of Scripture placed all the emphasis
on the next life. No wonder they could seemingly speak lightly of the destruction of this
present world: the more serious implications of living for the next world occupied their
every waking moment. It is unfortunate that more Christians today are not following their
example and really striving to be heavenly-minded. Let us sit down and assess our own
lives and priorities right away. Do you really believe in the White Throne Judgment and
the damnation of the lost? Do you daily live as though you believed that? Or are you
continually bound in your spirit by the fear of man and the love of this world? Do you
find that all your efforts to really get zealous for Jesus seem to be thwarted by the
plain old lusts and desires of the flesh? Then it is time to do some meditating on the
realities of the invisible world, and on that coming day when the books are opened. It is
time to pray more diligently for the spirit of revival to grip your soul as it never has
before. It is time to be zealous and repent.
Perhaps you are not a believer at this time. Perhaps you will be
among those people standing before the throne of God on that great and terrible day. Maybe
when the books are opened they will show you reading this little article: you were touched
deeply... but then became a little annoyed... and finally you decided to take your chances
with eternity. It doesn't have to turn out that way, you know. Even now you can turn to
the Lord Jesus for salvation. It doesn't matter that you have been unbelieving, immoral,
or even murderous in the past. All that matters is that you now see your need of a
Saviour, and that you are willing to play the game by His rules now. Tell Him that in
prayer. Turn away from those sins and surrender your heart to Him. He will not refuse the
person who comes to Him sincerely in faith.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all
men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly,
righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the
glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Titus 2:11-13 (KJV)
Copyright © 1998
Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.