The world in which we live is not known for its consistency and this is particularly true as far as justice is concerned. Many times the way justice is applied depends on your status, or your ethnicity, or the area in which you live or your political affiliation or any number of extraneous matters. This, sadly, is the state of affairs in virtually all countries and we know this to be so and we perforce just have to live with it.
But there is something worse with the earthly system of justice, something far more galling and that is when people, often in high places, commit crimes and the evidence is clear, overwhelming and compelling and the system prevents them from being called to account. And often the excuses given are puerile and distasteful like he has diplomatic immunity or he is the president/prime minister/leader and can’t be touched or there is no documentary evidence etc. allowing the culprit in most cases to avoid justice. In many cases high-level corruption of one sort or another is the deciding factor although this is fiercely denied by the participants.
This fraudulent system of justice finds no sympathy with Almighty God and it does not escape his notice for the Bible says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3) As a consequence God gives this powerful and trustworthy promise, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). The rich, the poor, the educated, the unlearned, royalty, vagrants, the well connected, the desolate, the old, the young and those who think the law can’t touch them will all be called to judgment.
In this reflection we shall base our thoughts on this scripture. “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)
First let us observe the place of judgment
Nearly all countries have a distinguished and dedicated place for criminal justice of the highest level and this is referred to as the Supreme Court of Justice or such like. Even at the lower levels where justice is dispensed there are still dedicated courts to look after these matters. Likewise of this one thing we can be assured that God has designated a place and the Bible describes this awesome place of judgment.
The place of judgment will be a terrible reality
It will disclose a terrible fact. The place of judgment will be for many a terrible awakening for they would have departed this world without a single concern for their future only to wake up before God in judgment. Christians too will be judged but they will appear happy at the judgment seat of Christ to be given awards and commendation for good service. The unconverted appearing before God is quite a different matter for though many may deny it the place of judgment is real and John the Divine noted, “And I saw a great white throne…” (Revelation 20:11a) and this is where the unconverted meets God.
It will declare a terrible figure. During Jesus’ earthly ministry he was accurately characterized as being kind, gentle and compassionate and he taught his disciples to be likewise. Children flocked to Jesus precisely because of these qualities. Now in heaven and presiding over the judgment our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the very one denied by the world and abused during his earthly ministry, now sits as a stern judge before them, “…and him that sat on it…” (Revelation 20:11b) This brings to fulfillment what the Scriptures said regarding Jesus’ judicial role, “And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained.” (Acts 17:30-31). Yes this same earthly Jesus will be the stern and terrible figure presiding over the Great White Throne Judgment, “…and testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of the quick and the dead.” (Ac 10:42b).
It will define a terrible fear. The fear experienced by all before the Great White Throne will be palpable as the doomed sinner looks at Jesus. Will they collapsed in a deep faint or will they be composed. Can they stand it? This is an important question bearing in mind these words of the Psalmist, “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous” (Psalm 1:5). Knowing what’s ahead of them their fear will be terrible for even the heavens and earth withered away, “…from whose face the earth and heaven fled away…” (Revelation 20:11c)
It will describe a terrible fellowship. If ever there will be a motley collection of sinners this is it, all lumped together in this fellowship of hell-bound losers described by John thus, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God…” (Revelation 20:12a). Those who committed small sins as well as those who committed huge sins will all be there and no one will be excused. We often hear the dumb notion that hell will be so full of people it would not matter much if you end up there. Does fire burn less hot because you are being incinerated with company? I don’t think so.
The place of judgment will have some terrible books
We see the terrible books of the lost. Just as they think things could not get any more terrible it just did for not only are they in a terrible place on a terrible occasion before a terrible figure they are now confronted with some terrible books documenting their misbegotten life. These books are so many because they contain all the deeds of the wicked committed on earth during their entire lives from the cradle to the grave, “…and the books were opened…and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books…” (Revelation 20:12b) The books will record the wrong deeds done in all sincerity as well as those deeds done in willful defiance of God; sins of omission as well as sins of commission as Solomon declares, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes 12: 14)
They will show all the secret sins you thought nobody knew and perhaps even you have forgotten and here is the rub for not a single entry can be refuted!!
The place of judgment will have a terrific book
We notice that a terrific book of life is opened. This book of life, containing as it does the names of all of God’s children, is singular for against each name is probably one entry only, “REDEEMED” but the sinners names are not included, “…and another book was opened, which is the book of life…” (Revelation 20:12b) All believers once had their names in the terrible books of the lost but upon being saved their names were expunged from the record.
The love of God is so great and his desire so set on bringing many souls to glory that he gives us every chance to use our freewill to choose life and not death. No matter how perverse our life is we can still say yes to God and escape damnation. We should think long and hard about this for we can have our name added to this terrific book of life.
Then let us notice the people to be judged
Revelation 20:11-15 leaves us in no doubt as to the totality of earth’s population who died without God being the ones to be judged but it goes even further and list all the possible categories that will be summoned before God.
Judgment will include all the wicked buried in water
About two thirds of the world’s surface is covered by water and the sea has an infinite number of human skeletons in it, many unknown to man, but God will bring them all up as this scripture affirms, “And the sea gave up the dead which were in it…” (Revelation 20:13a) We have a new phenomenon in the world that has been going on for a while and that is to have dead people incinerated and the ashes scattered over the sea. Some do this in an effort to prevent God raising them from the dead. Those misguided sinners who think they can thwart God’s plans by having their ashes scattered over the sea are in for a severe shock for they fail to understand that there is no hiding place from God, none whatsoever. The Bible tells us, “For he spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9) and just as Jesus called forth Lazarus from the grave in like manner the sea will be commanded to give up its dead and it will instantly comply.
Judgment will take in all the wicked buried in the earth
Although huge numbers of bodies are buried at sea the earth is still the place of the greater number. Most bodies are still buried in graves, which is nothing more than the hole about six feet in the ground (or the ancestral tomb) where their remains reside until they are resurrected. It matters not what state the remains are in or if the body was eaten by carnivores and in tern their body was eaten by other carnivores for they will be resurrected just the same. The time will come when every soul in the grave will rise at the command of God, some will rise at the first resurrection and all the others will rise at the second resurrection and the Bible puts it like this, “And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15)
Those bodies never interned, e.g. left in the bush or desert somewhere, will rise in exactly the same manner with those in the earth and in the sea.
Judgment will also include all the wicked bound in hell
This touches to a large extent to where the dead are at this moment. The Bible does not in Revelation 20:11-15 go into details as to the precise location of the souls of the dead for that is dealt with elsewhere but when the sea gives up its dead and the earth yields its dead then the only place left is the place called hell. Notice that this hell gives up its dead so this hell is not the final punishment of the wicked. The souls of the wicked dead repose in hell. Christians’ souls repose in Paradise and it is believed that Paradise was relocated to heaven when Christ ascended to heaven. The souls of the wicked in hell are reunited with their bodies to appear before God and our text puts it like this, “…and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them…” (Revelation 20: 13b)
All those who have died without God will now be given up to face God in judgment. Absolutely all of them will now be accounted for. No choice is given here but compulsion!
Finally let us examine the punishment of the judged
The Great White Throne Judgment is the place where the unconverted are processed for eternal damnation and after a just trial the verdict is arrived at, the sentence is announced and the punishment administered as follows.
Punishment will be based on the verdict arrived at
Operating in much the same way as an earthly court where every court case is expected to deliver a verdict, the Great White Throne Judgment is no exception and the verdict is arrived at forthwith, “Guilty on all counts”. If we appear before Jesus Christ as he presides at the Great White Throne Judgment then know with absolute certainty that there will be no escape for there can be one verdict only – Guilty! We will be judged, not on what people say, think or did to us. It will be irrelevant what abuse you might have suffered at childhood or what kind of person your spouse turned out to be or your many struggles to earn a living or your particular kind of neighbourhood or the many trials life has thrown at you. None of these things matter whatsoever for the emphasis will be on our total life production and this text puts it like this, “…and they were judged every man according to their works” (Revelation 20: 13b). Sinners will be guilty because they will be judged according to their work; Christians are judged too but according to the work of God in Christ and the difference is life or death.
May we never forget that no one is ever saved by works but by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and Paul states it well, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Punishment will follow after the sentence is announced
For all who are summoned before the Great White Throne Judgment, although they surely know what to expect, this will unquestionably be one of the most terrifying moments for them. They would have seen and heard every sentence so far and even rudimentary common sense would have prepared them for the expected. This is the moment when life becomes surreal and you stand on the brink of eternity knowing that what you hear next will be the sum of all nightmares. You will be, like all the others before, just another sinner, in unimaginable dread, hearing the sentence pronounced, “…Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matthew 25: 41b).
This is the inevitable consequence of your choice to serve Satan on earth and now as a result you suffer with him in hell!
To conclude we observe the punishment administered
Earthly courts may allow obfuscation, technical challenges and sidebars but absolutely not so with God. Without ceremony the punishment is immediately and totally administered by the angelic attendants as our text shows, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire,” (Revelation 20: 15). We do not know the precise nature of the lake of fire and brimstone and, in essence, it matters not but of this we can be certain; this place is beyond unspeakable horror for it is God’s ultimate punishment.
No appeals will be entertained; no grounds exist for any.
No leniency will be examined; God’s compassion has been withdrawn.
No pardon will be extended; the time of God’s mercy is now exhausted.
Some will ask, are you sure that we will be called to judgment? The answer is yes and this should not be frightening but a reminder that we have a choice and it is completely up to us to choose where we want to spend eternity.
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