Revelation 20:11-15 - When Justice is served
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them.
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.
And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.
Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death…
And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
We all LONG for justice and this article causes mine to spill over:
THIS was the headline: “Man admits ‘he threw his children off bridge” “An Irvington man confessed to killing his four children by throwing them off the Dauphin Island Bridge into the waters below,” authorities said.
“Lam Luong, age 37, was arrested on four counts of capital murder.” A spokesman added, “Luong confessed to killing 4-month-old Danny, 1-year-old Lindsay, 2-year-old Hannah, and 3-year-old Ryan on Monday morning.”
“Authorities launched a search Tuesday evening in the waters near the bridge, using boats and a helicopter. Although bad weather later forced them to stop, they planned to continue the search.”
Lt. Richard Clayton with the Sheriff’s office added, “No signs of the children were discovered after several hours of searching the waters between the mainland of south Mobile County and Dauphin Island.”
Police Chief John Joyner said, “Luong reported his children missing on Monday, claiming that a babysitter had his kids had not returned them.” “Investigators later determined THAT story to be false, and when police further questioned Luong on Tuesday, he confessed to the slayings. He said, he “threw his four young children from the bridge sometime Monday morning in an act of revenge aimed at his wife, after the couple had an argument.”
When I first read that article, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I thought, “WHY do things like THIS happen? WHAT is wrong with people???”
If you're not outraged, you’re not paying attention!
The desire for JUSTICE is written into our DNA. There is something deep within the psyche that demands people be held accountable for their actions.
BUT as outraged as we can be over situations like these, WHY IS IT that people have such a hard time when it comes to God meeting out justice towards US??? Why do so many think, “God is far too loving to hold us accountable for the wrongs we’ve done.”
THE BIBLE IS CLEAR – there is coming a day when justice WILL BE served!
Two thousand years ago, God’s beloved Son, stepped out of eternity into time, was clothed with human flesh, born in a Bethlehem cattle stall… He CAME to offer men salvation from sin, abundant life, and a place in the family of God. He went about doing good – ONLY good. ALL HIS LIFE PROVED He was Who He claimed to be.
But MAN rejected Him, ripped His flesh, crowned Him with thorns, spiked Him to a cross, and mocked Him until He died.
For 2,000 years, GOD, in mercy and grace, has been withholding wrath, offering men PEACE with God through the blood of that cross. For ALL THESE YEARS, he has extended His mercy and grace to ALL who would repent and believe in His Son.
But one day in the future, God’s grace will give way to His JUSTICE!
The lost of all ages will be called to stand before the Great White Throne to face judgment at the hands of the One they crucified.
Our text provides us with a snapshot of that coming – terrible – day. WHY a snapshot? Because if we had any more information than THAT, we wouldn’t be able to bear it. BUT, in the limited information we have, 3 major points are clear:
1. First, I want you to consider the Scene. As I read this passage, I am struck by this awesome scene. We see 4 terrible realities here:
First, we see a terrible FACT – At the end of life there stands a Great White Throne of awesome majesty and power, ablaze with light – pure, holy, dreadful – awaiting those who have not received God’s salvation.
The whiteness of that throne symbolizes the holiness – the inescapable purity - of God.
There will be no place to hide for those who are summoned to this throne. All their achievements and bravado will be stripped away. Those who said, “There is NO God,” who insisted “there will be no judgment day,” and believed that “sin has no consequences,” along with ALL those who thought “IF there IS a God, He is far too loving to judge me,” are in for a rude awakening before the terrible fact of the Great White Throne.
There TOO, is a Terrible Figure. Even though they never knew Him in life - they will instantly recognize the One Who sits on the throne. They will KNOW HIM by the scars in His hands and feet. They will know Him by the gaping wound in His side. They will know Him by the marks of brutality sinful man inflicted upon Him.
This ONE, once the kindest, most approachable of men, this ONE who loved all people, WHO healed our sick and fed our hungry by the thousands – THEY WILL KNOW HIM.
As they stand before the Lord, their long forgotten memories will be awakened.
- Some in that crowd will recall how they heard about Him in their grandmother’s lap as she read them Bible stories.
- Others will lament, “I traded a relationship with Him for a few short years in sin.”
- Others will say, “I thought He was a myth!”
But THERE on that terrible throne He will sit, real, living, omniscient, with eyes like flame burning into the consciences of men. A terrible figure.
There will ALSO be a Terrible Fear – that will fill the hearts of those who behold that face.
For the born-again Christian, THAT FACE will be the beginning of heaven – but for the UNbeliever, the sight of His face will be the foretaste of hell. Heaven and Earth FLEE from that face. The lost of all ages will gaze upon THAT face. Those who once spat upon it, punched it, and tore its beard out by the roots – the face they marred will be the face of their Judge. A terrible fear.
And we see a Terrible Fellowship in verse 12: “the dead, great and small, standing before the throne.” Dead BODIES … Dead SOULS, ALL dead, will stand before God’s throne. Men of great significance, power ,influence, and wealth, along with the insignificant. Men who sinned OPENLY, side-by-side with those whose evil was thought to be hidden.
THAT is the Scene.
This innumerable mass of people will be standing before the throne of God and the BOOKS will be opened.
That’s right – God keeps books… and He keeps them for the Day of Judgment. He writes everything… He writes ALL the time. Those gathered before the Great White Throne will be judged by their own actions.
One book that God keeps is the record of each man’s works according to verse 12. All their thoughts, all their motives, all the things they have said or done – are disclosed in THAT book. While man often comforts himself in comparisons – always finding someone else he THINKS is a greater offender than himself, THIS BOOK will reveal the truth - under each name will be a long list of offenses against a holy God.
But there is ANOTHER book. It is called “The Book of Life.”
MY NAME was once in that FIRST book. Under my name was a long list of sins – SOME that people knew about – many MORE that people had never seen. But ONE DAY I was made aware of my guilt before God. I knew I was lost and incapable of saving myself. I was convinced that no amount of good works could ever make up for all the wrongs I had done. So, at an old fashioned altar, I knelt before the Lord and asked HIM to save me from my sins.
THAT’S WHEN God wrote my name in the Book of Life – and beside that list of crimes was written the words “PAID – IN - FULL.” All those who come to Christ in THIS life will find their records expunged… as Hebrews 8:12 declares, “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more!” FOR as 1 John 1:7 explains, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from ALL sin.”
I am no better than those who will be standing before the Great White Throne. I DESERVE to be there. But because I gave my heart to Jesus, I passed from death unto life, and as Romans 8:1 declares: “There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
SO, the Great White Throne Judgment is convened for those who DIE in their sins – those unrepentant, unforgiven, unsaved. Will YOU or someone you love be there?
THIS is the scene.
2. THEN I want you to notice The Summons, in verse 13: “And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.”
When God calls – no ear will be too deaf, no soul too far, that it can resist their appointment with God. No sea, no soil, will be able to deafen the voice of God.
It’s interesting, when you think about it, that the Bible BEGINS with God asking TWO questions. They are found in Genesis chapter 3.
The FIRST is found in verse 9, where God asks Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” You may remember, that, when Adam and Eve had sinned against God, they heard God coming… and hid themselves from Him because of their sin. But they soon found ⇒ there was no place for them to hide.
AND, here at the END of the Bible, God asks,
“Where are you?”
And with that question the dead will come out of hiding and will be assembled before Him. Those who died yesterday along with those who died a thousand years ago. Every unsaved man, woman, boy, and girl who has ever lived – will be summoned.
The SECOND question God asked in Genesis 3 is:
“What have you done?”
And AGAIN, when God has assembled the dead before His throne – He will ask that same question. Each one will be held accountable for his own choices – each one will be judged for his OWN sin.
In THIS life, we are prone to forget things.
- We forget where we put our keys…
- where we parked our car…
- what we ate for breakfast…
- we may even forget to pay our bills
- or to take our pills.
BUT – when man stands before God, the memory will be awakened. They will remember LONG-forgotten sins. All that they have ever done will FLASH through their minds when God calls out “What have you done?”
3. Then after the scene and the summons comes the Sentence. Notice vv. 14 and 15, “And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death... And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
The great word of the gospel is “Come!” As Jesus said, “Come unto me all that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!”
But at the judgment, those gathered will NOT hear “Come!” but “Depart!” As Jesus said in Matthew 7:23, “DEPART from me, for I never knew you.” And again in Matthew 25:41, “THEN shall he say unto them on the left… “DEPART from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
Understand, people will go to the lake of fire, NOT because they are sinners, but because they refused to COME when Jesus invited them.
Suppose there is a man afflicted with a FATAL disease. He goes to his doctor who prescribes medicine and assures his patient, “Take THIS and you will LIVE!” The man, for one reason or another, neglects to take the medicine.
WHY??? Who knows why?
- Maybe he doesn’t like the doctor’s personality.
- Maybe he is afraid the medicine tastes bad.
- Maybe he doesn’t believe his diagnosis or have faith in the cure.
- OR maybe he thinks ‘SOME DAY’ he’ll take the medicine - ‘just not today.’
WHATEVER the reason, the medicine sits neglected by his bed. The man dies and has nobody to blame but himself, for the cure was within reach, but he neglected the remedy.
Mankind is like that - cursed with a terrible disease – the disease of SIN. He will die without a cure. But God offers man a remedy for his disease in the person of Jesus Christ.
Men will go to the lake of fire NOT because they are sinners, but because they never accepted the only remedy for sin. WHY?
- Maybe they didn’t like the preacher…
- maybe they didn’t like the dogmatic terms of the gospel.
- Maybe it’s because they think they have plenty of time
- OR that they really aren’t all that bad when compared to the HYPOCRITES they know.
WHATEVER the reason, they die in their sins – and as surely as there is a God in heaven, they will arrive at the Great White Throne Judgment.
As the writer of Hebrews so profoundly asks in Hebrews chapter 2 and verse 3, “How shall we escape, if we neglect such a great salvation?”
No, it’s not popular to talk about such things. Skeptics call it “hate-speech” or “manipulation” - - call it what you will, it’s the BIBLE.
Yes, God loves us. Don’t you question the love of a God who would be willing to sacrifice His Own Son for a sinner like me! YES He wants all of us to go to heaven. But God is also JUST – and in the end, sin WILL BE JUDGED.
What about YOU? Have you come to the place where you have recognized your sin and your need for a Savior? Have you asked Christ to come into your heart and make you new? Have you determined to surrender your all to Him and to follow Him?
You can do that today – right here, right now… and IF you do, you will escape the Great White Throne judgment described in this text.
Consider that awful scene – all those souls gathered before the Throne. Will YOU be there? Will somebody you KNOW be there? There IS a remedy – accept Jesus today!