We’re picking up where we left off last week. Revelation 20:11-15, the Great White Throne Judgment. This is where the lost, the wicked, will be judged one last time and be sent to their eternal destination. Every person who has ever lived who did not know Jesus Christ will none the less be judged by Him. Anyone who does not believe in Hell will still go there. This is what Jesus came to save us from. He did not come to give us some “Christ consciousness,” like what’s being preached in the church of Oprah. He came to save us from His judgment, because He is a judge who can not be bribed, cannot be fooled. His judgment is perfect.
Revelation 20:11-15—11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. We’ll pick up where left off last week, verse 12.
…and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. Books were opened. These are the books of people’s works. Every good thing and every bad thing they have ever done in their life. Make no mistake, there are people who do “good things” and yet they do not know Christ. There are people who take in foster kids and give money to charities and what not. Some would say, “There’s a special place in Heaven for that person.” Not if they don’t know Christ. Because at the heart of the gospel is the fact that man is a sinner. We are born with the stain of sin, and there is no amount of “good deeds” we can do to erase that. So all these “good people”—if there was such a thing, and there isn't—who did their “good deeds” and yet did not accept Christ as their Savior will be at this Great White Throne. And all those who stand there will have their entire lives laid out for them, and they were not, in fact, “good people.” Jesus said, “There is only one who is good and that is God” (Mark 10:18).
Those who never accepted Christ as their Savior, or those who claimed to be saved but never turned away from their sins—will stand before the Great White Throne, every evil deed they did, every evil word they spoke, every evil thought they ever thought will be brought against them. Matthew 12:36-37—“36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Luke 12:2-3—2 "For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops." Hebrews 4:13—And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Are there things in your past you're ashamed of? If you have been saved by the grace of God and the blood of Christ Jesus, God will never remember those things. But for those who do not know Christ, it will be a whole different story. Every time these people were alone, in the dark, committing their sinful acts, thinking no one would find out—every one of the acts will be broadcast on a screen that will make the JumoTron® at Neyland Stadium look like a pocket watch. You can only imagine what it’s going to be like. Every single charge against these people will be read. 7,000 counts of lying. 10,000 counts of murder by hatred. 5,000 counts of adultery by lust. And on and on and on. But you want to know the perfect justice of God? If a person stood before that Great White Throne with only one charge on their account, they would be worthy of eternal damnation. Make no mistake—there will be many “good people” in Hell.
And this is not like any human courtroom. There will be no lawyers. Scratch that. Their will be plenty of lawyers there. But they won’t be arguing any cases. There will be no “plaintiff” and “defendant.” Their will be no “motion to dismiss.” There will be none of the fancy technicalities and maneuvers that lawyers in our world like to use. There will be no appeals. There will be no overturning the verdict. There will be no “higher court” because there is no higher court than the throne of God. People like to say, “Well, when I stand there I'll make my case, and He'll just have to hear me!” No. Not at all. They will be picked up and flung into the Lake of Fire with no second thought, no hesitation, no mercy, no leniency. There will only be the perfect justice of God—and all those in Heaven will clap their hands and rejoice because God’s perfect justice will be done.
One question many people like to ask is “Well, what about people who never hear the gospel?” They will stand before this same Judgment. But, look at what it says. And the dead were judged according to their works… That little phrase according to means “in proportion to.” These people are receiving a due portion for the things they did in this life, based chiefly on the amount of truth they received. I truly believe from everything I've read that those who never hear the gospel will be judged less harshly than those who hear the truth and reject it. And I want to park on this subject for a moment.
The clearest passage on this is Romans 2:12-16—12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Let's break down this passage. 12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law—those who died not knowing the commandments of God, never hearing the gospel will be judged even though they never heard. ...and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law—those who do know the gospel and reject it will be judged by that Law. 13 (for [it is] not the hearers of the law [that] are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; and watch this—14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves—in other words, even though there are people who never hear the Law of God, they do have a sense of right and wrong, though it is diminished somewhat. They don’t know that the Law of God says “thou shalt not kill,” but they do know it’s not right, and that little spark of “goodness” carries the same weight as the whole Old Testament Law, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) their conscience tells them, “Hey, this isn't right.” But they do not acknowledge that the law against it comes from God. 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel. What all this means is at this Great White Throne, Jesus will judge and condemn sinners to that level of Hell their works make them worthy of. Those who do not hear the gospel will be judged less harshly. Those who do hear it and reject it will be judged more harshly.
Verse 13. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Remember the rich man we talked about a couple weeks ago? Him. He is still in Hades. He is still in torment. Sodom and Gomorrah. They are still in Hades. Herod, the king who wanted Jesus dead. Still there. All those who are alive at the end of all things will be brought before the throne. Those who died in the depths of the sea. Those who are in their graves. Will be reunited with their souls. And if someone has been cremated, then they will get a new body just for this judgment.
John 5:28-29—28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. Look at that. They will ALL come forth. They may not want to. But they will come. Philippians 2:10-11—10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. EVERY KNEE will bow. EVERY TONGUE will confess. THIS IS FINAL! I wish we had a word in the English language that could convey the sense of finality. See, in this life, things end, but life goes on. Once this judgment is complete, that's it. That is it. After all of these stand before the throne, after their sentence is read, after the docket is cleared, after all of this, all the books are closed. The final judgment of God has been rendered. The courtroom is adjourned, and the judge calls for an eternal recess.
Then, to get rid of the last reminder that these people even exist. To do away with the last vestige of all rebellion against God and to purge it from the sight of God, Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. The Lake of Fire is the place Jesus referred to as Gehenna, from the Hebrew Ge-Hinnom, or “Valley of Hinnom.” The Valley of Hinnom was an area outside of Jerusalem that was, basically, a garbage dump. It was where all the people took their garbage and just dumped it in a pile. But that wasn’t the worst part of it. In the Valley of Hinnom pagans would sacrifice their children—they would offer their children to the pagan god named Moloch or Molech—they would burn their still-living children and throw the dead bodies on the pile like so much garbage. Today we have abortion clinics. Same difference.
2nd Chronicles 28:1-3 speaks of one of the more wicked kings in Israel, a man named Ahaz. This guy made Saddam Hussein look like a Boy Scout. 1 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king… and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD…For he…burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. He burned his children to worship this pagan god. We suck them out of the womb. Think God ain't ready to judge this nation?
There is an eternal Gehenna for those who die without Christ. Just to give you an idea of what Gehenna was like. Back home I used to live next to a field that was owned by a local farmer. And one year he had the bright idea to plant cabbage. It was OK during growing season. But they harvested. As the months went by, those cabbage plants started decomposing. I think you get the idea. How about the smell of the rotting corpse of some critter? A raccoon or a deer? Have you ever put some raw chicken in the garbage, and left it for a couple days? Now, multiply that by a humongous number. Also, any criminals that were put to death in Jerusalem—where did their body go? You can imagine what rotting corpses smell like. Especially in the heat of a Middle Eastern desert. You didn’t have to get very close to smell it. So in order to keep the pile under control—and to get rid of some of the stench—there would always be someone there to set the pile on fire. So it was always burning.
The word Gehenna is used 12 times by Jesus Christ in the gospels. In Matthew 5 and 18, Jesus tells us that it is better to go into Heaven lame, or blind, or maimed, than to be cast whole into Gehenna. Matthew 10 and Luke 12, He says “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” And of course, with garbage you get flies. In Mark 9, He adds, “Where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched.” Worm is probably better translated “maggot.” So after these people have spent thousands of years in conscious, physical and mental torment and fire in Hades. Then one day they will stand before Christ and be judged and cast into this place of rotting flesh and fire and worms. Have you ever been in a situation that seemed hopeless? No you haven’t. This is hopelessness.
Look back at the first part of this passage in Revelation 20:11—Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. These people have nowhere to go except before this throne. And it doesn’t say so specifically, but there are probably going to be angels there keeping everybody in line. Not that there will be a big rush to get to the front. But I dare say that nearly everyone there will be trying to escape to somewhere. And they will standing there knowing their turn is coming. And they will more than likely be wishing they could be back in Hades. But what’s going to happen to Hades? Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. They won’t even be able to get relief in Hades, because it’s going to be destroyed!
Finally, verse 15. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Albert Barnes put it this way: “All persons, of all ranks, ages, and conditions. No word could be more comprehensive than this. The [only thing that] would save any from being cast into the lake of fire, is that they are “found written in the book of life.” [Anyone who is not found in the Book of Life, whether] princes, kings, nobles, philosophers, statesmen, conquerors; rich men and poor men; the bond and the free; the young and the aged; the frivolous, the vain, the proud and the sober; the modest, the humble will be doomed to the lake of fire.” Anyone not found in the Book of Life.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that He will separate the sheep from the goats. Matthew 25:32-33, 41, 46—31 "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left…41 Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels…And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." He says in other places that “There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” This will not be a party by any stretch of the imagination. There are people who think it’ll be cool because all their friends will be there. Well, they got part of it right. Their friends will be there.
I don’t know exactly what these levels will look like or how they will be divided. But I think it is clear from Scripture that some will be judged less harshly than others. And that there will be some who will suffer at a level that we would not even want to imagine. Who do you think will suffer the worst? I believe—and I ain't gonna take a bullet for this—but I do believe that the lowest, hottest, most painful places of Gehenna will be reserved for those who pervert the gospel—who made people think they were pleasing God when they were actually blaspheming Him. Joseph Smith. Charles Taze Russell. The “prophet” Mohammed. Galatians 1:8--even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be ACCURSED. "May that person be damned by God." And also I believe there will be a place for those who pervert and twist the Word of God. And I say based on Scripture. Psalm 138:2—You have exalted Your word even above Your Name. Think of how holy the NAME of YHVH is. The third commandment. "Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD your God in vain." He considers His word as being even higher and more worthy of reverence and respect and awe than even His name. And when Satan invents a false religion, what is the first thing he attacks? "Hath God indeed said?"
The Great White Throne is where God’s perfect justice is rendered. The Lake of Fire is where all traces of sin and evil are destroyed with an everlasting destruction. It was prepared by God for Satan and those who follow him. And many people don’t even know they're headed there. A place of eternal torment that is just as real as this building we’re in. A place that Jesus came to rescue us from. Are you rescued?