Judgment Day (Revelation Sermon 37 of 49)
February 25, 2018 | Andrew Davis
In June 2007, I was in Greece with my daughter, Jenny. I was there to preach at a missionary conference. We visited Athens and went to see the Acropolis, one of the most famous ancient sites in Greece, with its famous ruins standing hundreds of feet above the bustling modern city of Athens. As we were climbing up the winding road up to the top of that famous mountain, off to the side, we encountered a small rocky outcropping, a little knob, with a road leading to it. We decided to follow that road and soon found a plaque written in Greek and in English next to some stairs going up. I suddenly realized we had found Mars Hill — the Areopagus where Paul, as recorded in Acts 17, had discussed and preached the Gospel to the Epicurean and stoic philosophers that gathered daily to talk about and listen to the latest ideas.
On that plaque, we read Paul’s defense of the Christian Gospel, culminating with this statement in Acts 17:31 to the Athenian philosophers, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” That is how the message at Mars Hill ended. When these brilliant Greek philosophers heard of the resurrection of the dead, most scoffed and mocked. In their anti-physical philosophy, it was utterly ridiculous that the spirit would want to take the body again. But some listened with interest and said they would like to hear more.
God has set a day when he will judge the world with righteousness by the man he has appointed, and He has given proof of this by raising Him from the dead. That man is Jesus Christ, and that day is Judgment Day. As Jenny and I stood and looked at that plaque, most of the tourists going up to the Acropolis walked right by the side path. Generally, only the Christians take that detour. It is not all that impressive; the rock where the plaque is mounted is covered with graffiti. Far down below in the streets of that modern city, bustling businessmen and shoppers and tourists and all kinds of people go about their business, paying barely any attention to the concept of Judgment Day. The people who sprayed the graffiti certainly were not thinking about the reality of the terror of Judgment Day.
Another time that I was in Greece, I visited a hotel in Corinth, which is not far from Athens. I asked the proprietor, “Do you realize that your city, Corinth, is famous all over the world?” He had no idea what I was talking about; he did not know that it is in the Bible. He was a Greek Orthodox, as most Greeks are, but he had never read the Bible and was not aware of 1 and 2 Corinthians. We had the chance to go up to Acrocorinth, the old Corinth, where the Bema seat is located that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 5. In Scripture, we will all stand before the Bema judgment seat of Christ to give an account for our lives, but this man, this citizen of Corinth, had no idea about any of it.
I think this is true of the natural man. The natural human does not think much about Judgment Day. It is true here in Durham, North Carolina, just like in Athens — people are bustling. Tomorrow, people will get up and begin their week, going about their business here in the Triangle, most not giving any thought to Judgment Day. It will happen all over America. Stockbrokers in New York, riding the subway to Wall Street to try to earn and not lose money for their clients — they will not be thinking about Judgment Day. Legislative assistants in Washington DC will go to their offices or out and about to do their job, giving no thought to Judgment Day. Professors of religion at UNC-Chapel Hill will find new ways to destroy the faith of those who listen to their lectures, and many of the students who attend them at UNC or Duke or NC State will not be thinking about Judgment Day at all.
We Christians should be different. We will see this morning with eyes of faith this Great White Throne that is coming. We should be able to see the reality of Judgment Day and absorb its lessons and its responsibilities, both for ourselves and for those to whom we speak as messengers of the Gospel. The next action in this marvelous book of Revelation is the appearance of the New Heaven and New Earth. I cannot wait to physically be in the New Heaven and New Earth, but if the Lord should tarry, it will be a joy to preach about it next week. This is the final act of this present evil age in which we live, in which there is death and mourning and crying and pain, this Great White Throne of Judgement.
The Great White Throne
The Final Day of Human History
Revelation 20:11 gives us the description of this Great White Throne and the final day of human history in this present evil age. Human history is linear. It had a beginning, it has progressed now through its stages, it had a middle, and it will come to an end. That's the biblical view of history. We know this from the very beginning in Genesis 1. There is a first day, then evening, then morning, and the second day and the third and fourth. The days are counted there in Genesis 1, which began the unfolding of history. Psalm 90 asks of God to “Teach us to number our days.” There is a sequence to them. They have a beginning, they will unfold through a middle, and then they will come to an end. Our personal history is linear, as is the history of the world.
Many verses teach this. Jesus said in Revelation 22:12-13, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” That is sequential. Alpha, beta, gamma… to omega — A to Z — to the final day. Eastern religions posit an endless cycle of birth and life and death, and then rebirth, or reincarnation — it continues on until one finally escapes karma to become nothing, a drop in an endless sea. The Bible teaches otherwise — that history had a beginning, it is making progress, and will have an end. For us, if we are not among the final generation, Hebrews 9:27 says, “…man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” Paul calls this our present evil age. He says in Galatians 1:3-4 “…the Lord Jesus Christ, ... gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age.”
This “present evil age” is defined by the defiant rebellion of the human race against God the King, against the throne established in Revelation 4. This rebellion is led in secret by Satan and his demons. It seems like the death, mourning, crying, and pain that characterizes it will go on forever, but it will not! It will come to an end, and that end is Judgment Day. That will be the final day of this present evil age.
Judgment Day is Coming
This is the consistent teaching of Scripture. There are many verses in Scripture that teach this theme of Judgment Day. Psalm 96:13 says, “…the LORD... comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.” Jude talks about Enoch, the seventh from Adam, Who saw Judgment Day coming prophetically and he said, [Jude 1:14-15], “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” Enoch saw it a long time ago by faith, and that is the only way we can see it now.
Satan Has Tried to Deceive Us About this
Satan has tried to deceive us about this from the very beginning when he was tempting Eve, when he said to her, “You will not surely die.” [Genesis 3:4] He convinced her that there would be no accountability, no bad consequence in reference to eating the fruit. From the very beginning, he has tried to get us to not believe in Judgment Day, to deny that it is coming.
Unbelievers Deny or Minimize It
Unbelievers deny Judgment Day, or they minimize it. Psalm 94:3-7 says, “How long will the wicked, O LORD, how long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, O LORD; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the alien; they murder the fatherless. They say, ‘The LORD does not see; God ... pays no heed.’” In other words, they say there is no Judgment Day, no accountability for their wickedness. Psalm 10 says, “In his pride, the wicked does not seek him. In all his thoughts, there is no room for God. His ways are always prosperous, he is haughty and your laws are far from him. He sneers at all his enemies. He says to himself, ‘Nothing will shake me. I’ll always be happy and never have any trouble.’”
The Center of Judgment Day
In this text, the center of Judgement Day is a Great White Throne with someone seated on it. We can see that throne now only by faith. Some day we will not need faith to see it; it will be there, and we will all be there. This throne is paired with the earlier vision in Revelation 4 — the doorway to Heaven was standing open and a voice came from Heaven saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once, he was in the Spirit, who took him up through the doorway, where he saw a throne with someone seated on it. This is the same throne — the throne of Almighty God. The more we, by faith, saturate our minds in Scripture and keep Judgment Day in front of us, the better it will be for us on that day, and the fewer regrets we will have.
Paul said in Acts 24:15-16, “…there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” He put forth practical ethical implications of believing in Judgment Day. Because death does not end everything, and both the righteous and the wicked will be resurrected to face a Judgment Day, he strove always to keep his conscience clear vertically before God and horizontally before other people.
The throne is the place where a king sits. The basis of Judgment Day is the kingship of God; we, His created beings, are His subjects. God is the Creator of the universe and of the ends of the earth. Because He made everything, He has the right to rule over everything. Every king rules by law. God made laws that He wants us to obey. He gave us the Ten Commandments, which we are to obey: You shall have no other gods; You shall not make or worship any idols; You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain; Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy; Honor your father and mother; You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; You shall not covet (deeply desire in your heart anything that belongs to your neighbor).
In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus took the coveting aspect of heart inquiry and applied it to the earlier two commandments of murder and adultery, saying God looks at the heart. You may not have murdered your brother, but if you are angry with him, you are in danger of the fire of Hell. You may not have literally committed adultery, but if you even look at a woman lustfully, you are in danger of the fire of Hell. He was not going beyond the spirit of the law; the Tenth Commandment is about what you do with your mind and your heart and your intentions. Jesus was saying, “I will judge you based on your heart response to the entire law of God.” The law was presented mostly in the negative: “You shall not, not, not, not, not.” But Jesus turned it around, summarizing the law with the Two Great Commandments:“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-40]
That law exposes all of us as sinners. Every one of us has violated the Ten and the Two Commandments. The essence of sin is lawlessness, or breaking of the law of God. If you do not understand the law or you do not think it applies to you, you will think that you are sinless, that you do not have anything to fear from judgment. The law alone convicts the guilty. The Word of God does that. The Puritans called it law work. Evangelism must apply the Ten Commandments and the Two Commandments to the one receiving the Gospel. This is the King’s standard, and we have all violated it.
If He is the Creator, He is also the King and Ruler. Therefore, he will also be the judge who will assess or evaluate us. Salvation corresponds to His kingship because we, by faith through the grace of God, will be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. By faith in Jesus, we are offered amnesty through his blood from all the transgressions and sins we have ever committed, all the ways we have violated the Ten and the Two. We are offered free and full forgiveness through the blood of Jesus. If we believe this, we will, the New Testament teaches, enter the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s Kingdom. When we get there, we will find a King ruling on a throne forever. As believers, we do not have a problem with that. We are delighted in the kingship of God. We see that Jesus’ yoke of kingly authority is easy and his burden is light, so we are delighted to take that yoke and that burden on us. It is a beautiful thing to submit to King Jesus. That is what salvation is all about.
Why is it called the Great White Throne? We have a sense of the throne’s great, massive magnitude. It is an imposing, majestic, large throne. It makes us feel small — Psalm 2 says we are like grasshoppers before Him. We are small compared to him, and we are meant to feel that way. It is white because it is pure and holy, free from any blame. His judgment is perfectly righteous. God’s justice is His essence: “…all his ways are just…” [Deuteronomy 32:4]. Psalm 36:6 says, “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains; your justice like the great deep.” God possesses limitless commitment to justice.
God Has Entrusted All Judgment to Christ
The Scripture in the New Testament reveals that God has entrusted the judgment of the human race to Jesus Christ. Paul said in the Areopagus on Mars Hill, “…he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” [Acts 17:31] That man is Jesus, who also taught this openly in John 5. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is seated on the Great White Throne.
He says in John 5:22-23 “…the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” We are to honor, meaning worship, Jesus like we worship the Creator God. We will see that on Judgment Day when he is the One judging the entire world. John 5:27 “And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”
When my sister Julie was married, she wanted me to read Matthew 25 at her wedding in Vermont, my only duty that day. She wanted this passage because she has a heart for the poor and needy. I do not think she had reviewed text and all that it said, but it regards Judgment Day. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He'll put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.” I had memorized it long before then, and I read it very clearly, slowly and powerfully. I have never been to a wedding rehearsal like that. It was quite a moment. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone looked at me with eyes like saucers, wondering if I would actually read that at the wedding the next day. Julie, to her credit, did not waver.
Christ Judges in Perfect Righteousness
The judgment of Christ is perfect because he judges in perfect harmony with the will and the nature and the commandments and laws of his Father. He is a perfect embodiment of the righteous character of his Heavenly Father, and thus, he is a perfect judge. He says in John 5:30, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”
Speaking of Jesus, the Messiah, Isaiah 11:2-4 says, “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD — and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.” He will judge with perfect, just judgment.
Does Judgment Day Come in Stages?
Some evangelicals believe we will not be at the Great White Throne judgment at all, especially those who believe in a literal millennium. They say it has already happened, that Christians will not need to be there because we were already judged at the cross. We will skip Judgment Day because we are already perfectly righteous in Christ. They quote Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” This shows a misunderstanding of what condemnation means.
Though there is no condemnation, there will be evaluation, reckoning, giving account even for those who are in Christ Jesus, for everything we have done in the body, good or bad. Scripture confirms this. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” We will all be there. The separation of sheep and the goats will not happen without all being present. He will separate the sheep from the goats. It is not a parable or a metaphor but a prophetic prediction. It will be like the separation that a shepherd does with sheep and goats. Jesus is telling us that when the Son of Man comes, he will sit on the throne with everyone gathered in front of him, and he will separate them, putting the sheep on his right and the goats on his left, and then he will judge them.
We will all be there. Romans 14:10-12 says, “…we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” We will give an account to God for how we have lived. There is an infinite difference between giving an account to your Savior for what you did with the gifts you received — the time and energy and money that you were stewards of — and being condemned to the lake of fire.
Either way, this Great White Throne is the last judgment. There is no more judgment after this. Sin will be destroyed forever, death will be defeated forever, and we will have no need of this kind of judgment in the New Heaven and New Earth.
The End of the Present Universe
Everything Will Be Destroyed
Revelation 20:11 shows the end of the present universe: “Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” This is an awesome reality. Revelation 21:1 reiterates it plainly. This present physical universe will depart; in some sense it will be no more. Everything will be destroyed. In this text, earth and sky are somewhat personified, running in terror from the presence of the One on the Great White Throne. Earth and sky flee from His presence, but there will be no place for them.
A simple way to understand these words is that this is the end of the physical order as we know it. The very next verse, Revelation 21:1 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” This means that Christ, the judge of all the earth, is more permanent than the present heavens and earth. He will outlast them forever. In Hebrews 1:10-12, God the Father speaks to God the Son: “In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment, they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”
Uncreated or Regenerated?
What will happen to the present heavens and earth? Will the next universe be made in some sense out of existing materials, or will those be entirely destroyed and removed to make way for an entirely new creation made out of new materials?
There are two different evangelical views on this. Will this present, groaning, decaying earth be purified, rehabilitated or renewed in some marvelous way, or will God speak it out of existence and speak a whole new universe into existence? Donald Grey Barnhouse says, in support of the second view, “There is to be an end of the material heavens and earth which we know. It is not that they are to be purified and rehabilitated, but the REVERSE OF CREATION is to take place. They are to be UNCREATED (spoken out of existence). As they came from nothingness at the word of God, they are to be sucked back into nothingness by this same word of God.”
That evangelical view seems to line up with Peter’s strong assertion in 2 Peter 3:10: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” The word elements, stoicheia, relates to the actual atoms. The atomic structure will come apart, like Einstein’s E=MC2 turns matter into energy. All matter will become a massive thermonuclear blast of heat, and it will be gone with a roar.
However, I do not think 2 Peter 3:10 deters us from saying that the New Heavens and the New Earth are in some powerful significant way linked to this present universe. I speak of a resurrected earth and heavens rather than entirely newly, made out of nothing, ex nihilo. Similar to our resurrection bodies, there must be a connection between the two or else we do not use the word “resurrection”, just as there was a connection between Jesus’ first body that was wrapped with linen cloths and buried and that body which came to life. He invited his disciples to look at and touch his wounds. Thomas said unless he could put his hands in the wounds, he could not believe. He required continuity.
The New Heavens and New Earth
The earth will be, in some sense, raised. Matthew 19:28 speaks of “the renewal of all things.” Acts 3:21 says that God will restore all things. Consider the promise made to Abram. Abram’s and Lot’s shepherds were bickering about the lack of pasture for all of their animals, and finally Abram told Lot to choose whichever land he wanted. Lot chose Sodom and Gomorrah.
Genesis 13:14-15 says, “The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.’” He says it again in Genesis 17:8 after He changed Abram’s name to Abraham: “The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” We find out from Hebrews 11:13,16: “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. …they were longing for a better country — a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Bait and switch, to be offered one thing but receive something else, is not okay, even if the thing that you receive is even better. In the end, will God say it did not work out like He promised Abraham, but He will give something even better instead? I do not see that. Abraham will receive the land he walked on, but it will be resurrected because the feet he will be walking in will be even better than the feet he was in then. There is a similarity between the resurrection body and the resurrected earth.
Paul links this earth and our resurrection bodies in Romans 8:20-23: “…the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Creation is waiting for us to receive our resurrection bodies, because creation will then receive its resurrection self as well. Verse 11 tells us that the earth and sky then fled from the presence of the Great White Throne, “because there was no place for them.”
All the Dead Arraigned in Court
God’s Judgment Throne
Revelation 20:12 “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne.” After the earth and sky flee, every single human being stands before God’s judgment throne. They were dead, but now they are alive in resurrection bodies fit for eternity. Jesus said this would happen in John 5:28-29: “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out — those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” There will be no exceptions — nobody will be left out; everybody will be there.
John Phillips said, “There is a terrible fellowship there... the dead, small and great, stand before God. Dead souls are united to dead bodies in a fellowship of horror and despair. Little men and paltry women whose lives were filled with pettiness, selfishness, and nasty little sins will be there. Those whose lives amounted to nothing will be there, whose very sins were drab and dowdy, mean, spiteful, peevish, groveling, vulgar, common, and cheap. The great will also be there, men who sinned with a high hand, with dash, and courage and flair. Men like Alexander and Napoleon, Hitler and Stalin will be present, men who went in for wickedness on a grand scale with the world for their stage and who died unrepentant at last. Now one and all are arraigned and on their way to be damned: a horrible fellowship congregated together for the first and last time.”
That is a powerful picture. When Hitler committed suicide in that reinforced concrete bunker, he thought he was escaping the Red Army and its rage. He did not realize a far greater enemy was waiting for him on the other side. Jesus said we should not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more to us. He admonished us instead to fear the one who has the power to destroy both soul and body in Hell. Jesus said it is appropriate to fear the God who can condemn to Hell.
The quote from John Phillips made me think also about all the small, insignificant, not-famous sinners of which human history has largely been comprised. These have not been recorded because their actions are not noteworthy. They will be there too, unrepentant for their small sins, not realizing they were sinning against an infinitely glorious God. There will be an infinite penalty for those so-called small sins as well.
I think about elderly unbelievers in a rural setting, on a porch in rocking chairs, drinking sweet tea, talking — older men, telling off-color jokes and gossiping, perhaps bitter. They cannot do much more sin because they are old and weak and sick, but they are coming to the sordid end of a life of sin, unrepentant without any concern for Judgment Day. There will be no escape, so there will be no need to send heavenly federal marshals to hunt down fugitives from justice — there will be nowhere to escape to.
Amos 9:1-3 says, “Not one will get away, none will escape. Though they dig down to the depths of the grave, from there my hand will take them. Though they climb up to the heavens, from there I will bring them down. Though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, there I will hunt them down and seize them. Though they hide from me at the bottom of the sea, there I will command the serpent to bite them.”
Revelation 20:13 says, “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them.” In Revelation 21:1, the sea will soon be destroyed. But before that happens, the sea will give up all sailors and merchants and commercial fishermen and wealthy yacht owners out on a cruise, anyone who died and was buried at sea or sank into the sea. The victims of the Titanic or the Lusitania down at the bottom with several miles of cold North Atlantic water above them will come up out of that to stand before the Great White Throne. Anyone eaten by a great white shark, anyone who died of dysentery on a British man-of-war in the 19th century and was buried with honors with the cannonball wrapped around their sheeted body will arise. Everyone will be there.
Death and Hades — the grave, the holding place of the bodies and souls of sinners who died before the end of the world — will give up the dead that are in them. Most people die on land and are buried on land or cremated. Their bodies will come together in order to be judged and condemned. Death and the corruption of the grave will no longer be needed; their job will be finished. The new home of the damned will be the Lake of Fire.
Books Are Opened
God’s Accurate Record-Keeping
The Books of Deeds and the Book of Life will be opened. Revelation 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
The books represent God’s accurate, meticulous record-keeping. Much of both the Old New Testaments is history of things that were said and done. The Bible says that even the very hairs of our head are all numbered, and that all the days ordained for us were written in God’s book before one of them came to be. Those were forward-looking books of predestination. These in Revelation give a different perspective, telling what we did, what happened. The two are the same in the end. But now it has happened; it is finished, not predestined at that point. It will be utterly meticulous. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.”
In a search, I found that on average, according to a team of linguists, people speak approximately 20,000 words a day. That means that over the course of 80 years of speaking, we will give account for half a billion words. I once shared the Gospel with someone who said that he did not remember what he had said before we started talking. But God will remember every careless word we have spoken, and we will give an account for it all based on God’s perfect record. 2 Peter 3:8 also gives a sense of God’s meticulous nature: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years…” God can see one 24-hour period in super slow- motion, as if it lasted a millennium. He misses nothing, whether a slight glance of the eye, a slight inclination of the heart, a little action, a little snide comment. It is all there; there is no escape.
The Book of Deeds
His judgment is perfectly just and righteous. Job said we will not be able to answer him one in a thousand times. He will have no need of witnesses or cross examination or DNA evidence for this court trial. When God revealed to Abraham and Sarah that a year from then they would have a baby, Sarah laughed. She thought it was funny. I think she was thinking about her husband at that particular moment. Genesis 18:13-15 says, “Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too hard for the Lord? A year from now, I'll return and Sarah will have child.’ Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’” That is a little moment of what the court trial will be like. Christ will be the prosecutor, and on the basis of what is written in the perfect record of the Book of Deeds — everything we have done — we will be judged.
People have a hard time with this, confusing it with being justified by faith, not by works. This is not about justification but evaluation and identification. Sheep or goat? We are not saved by our works, but we will most certainly be evaluated or assessed or judged by our works. We cannot use good deeds to pay for our sins, but we will most certainly be evaluated. Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus is the perfect fruit inspector. He will look at the fruit of our lives. The words alone are enough — if he has our words, he knows who we are, because out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks; but he will have everything.
Revelation 20:13 says, “…each person was judged according to what he had done.” Romans 2:5-11 makes this plain: “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. [Great White Throne judgment] God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self- seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. [Then he inverts it.] There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.” Clearly, we will be evaluated, assessed, and judged by our works.
Our works will identify us perfectly, but Christ also is able to probe the heart. He warned that though we have heard it said, “You shall not murder,” if we are angry in our heart, we are in danger of the fire of Hell. Revelation 2:23 says of Jesus, “I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” He look at minds, hearts, intentions. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” He will look at the motives behind everything. There will be no secrets on that day. Romans 2:16 says, “…on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ…” Luke 12:2-5 says, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. ‘I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.’” Nothing that will be secret on Judgment Day.
The Book of Life
Thank God there is a Book of Life. Thank God there is a Savior and salvation for sinners like us. We cannot survive this kind of scrutiny, not one of us. But Revelation 20:12 says, “Another book was opened, which is the book of life.” The Lamb’s Book of Life is the record of all of those who are born again through faith in Christ, chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. They also were sinners. They violated the Ten Commandments and the Two Commandments, but there is an infinite difference. By the working of the Holy Spirit of God on them, they came to see their sins while they lived here on earth. They turned away from those sins in repentance and turned toward Jesus Christ, the crucified Savior, for forgiveness and atonement for their sins. At that moment, their sins were all wiped away, and they received the gift of forgiveness.
John 5:24 says, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” It comes down to what you believe about Jesus. When Lazarus died, Martha went out weeping in distress to meet Jesus. John 11:25-27 says, “Jesus said to [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. [Then he asked her the most important question:] Do you believe this?’ [She gave this beautiful testimony in response:] ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’”
If you can make Martha’s confession, you will not be condemned to the Lake of Fire but will be rescued. Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 5:9-10 says, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! [That is a future salvation; on that day, you will be saved from the Lake of Fire by the living Savior on the Great White Throne.] For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” If a dead Jesus on the cross atones for your sins, how much more will a living advocate, who sitting on the throne of judgment advocating for you, save you finally!
Basis of Eternal Condemnation
1 Thessalonians 1:10 says that we are waiting for “…his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” Praise God. Christians will be evaluated on the quality of our works. That is the gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay and straw which Paul taught in 1 Corinthians 3. I believe that will happen at this judgment.
But non-Christians’ deeds — their actions, their sins in violation of the Ten Commandments — will be the basis of their condemnation. Romans 1:29-31 says, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Do not imagine it is on the basis of whether they heard of Jesus or not. They will be condemned because of actual sins they have committed, violating their conscience and the moral laws of God written in their souls. The Lake of Fire is God’s eternal judgment for his enemies.
Revelation 20:14-15 says, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” There, Jesus said, quoting Isaiah 66, “…their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched…” The damned will come out of their graves in some version of a resurrection body to be condemned, and their experience in that body in Hell will be infinitely worse than those who are apart from their bodies suffering now in torment. That is the future for the damned.
The Atonement of Christ
The atonement of Christ is our only hope, and it is sure and certain. Paul says, “…I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” [Acts 24:16] We are motivated to live a holy life.
Judgment Day is Coming
Jesus came as the Son of God and died on the cross in our place so that we might have forgiveness of sins. Do you know if your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? Revelation 20:15 says, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Judgment Day, the Great White Throne, is coming. Every day brings us closer. You do not know when you will die, and from that point on, there is no possibility of repentance and forgiveness. For you that might be today. You are hearing the Gospel and being warned of the coming judgment. Have you fled the wrath to come by trusting in Christ?
If you are a Christian, foremost, be sober about this; it is a serious topic. You will stand before God and give Him an account for your life. It is also a motivation for evangelism. We are surrounded by people who do not think this will happen. Our job is to share the Gospel: First, God is Creator and is therefore King and is therefore law-giver and is therefore judge. Second, man was created by God and should have been submissive to God the King and law-giver, but violated His laws; all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Third, Christ is our Savior, God’s Son, whom He sent into the world to save us. Fourth, a response of repentance and trust in Christ is necessary to gain eternal life. Preach that gospel.
Close with me in prayer. Father, we have been sobered by the word of God. We are mindful of the seriousness of this topic of Judgment Day, and I pray, Lord, that you would help each of us who are believers in Christ to see it by faith, to know that it is coming, and to live our lives in holy and reverent fear of sin and Satan, but with the knowledge that we have been delivered from the fear of Hell. Thank you, Lord, thank you. Help us, O Lord, knowing the fear of the Lord and knowing the love of Christ, to persuade others to flee the wrath to come and find in Jesus a warm and welcome Savior. We pray in his name and for his glory. Amen.