The Great White Throne

History will end with the judgment of all the wicked throughout the ages, a sobering event described by the apostle John in Revelation 20:11–15. This final judgment will occur at the end of the 1,000-year Messianic Kingdom, after God judges Satan and the fallen angels (v. 10).

All of the dead from all time will be gathered before God who will be seated on His pure and holy “great white throne” (v. 11). Their bodies will have been resurrected from the land and sea, and their souls brought from Hades where they had previously been in torment. They will appear as complete human beings before the Lord of the universe and their Creator, Jesus Christ.

Books will be opened in which the details of every person’s life have been recorded. Each person’s heart of unbelief, as verified by his or her actions, will form the basis of God’s judgment: “The dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (v. 12).

Final judgment is based on an individual’s deeds because works reveal the heart’s true condition (Mt. 16:27; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 22:12). To confirm guilt, another book will be opened, the Book of Life, containing the names of all who have placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and received the gift of eternal life. “Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

Two earlier prophecies of this judgment are recorded in Scripture. One was from the prophet Daniel: “The Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame….Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake…to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 7:9–10; 12:2).

The other came from Jesus Christ: “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth— …those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn. 5:28–29).

All judged at the Great White Throne will experience conscious, eternal punishment. Just as Moses saw a bush that burned without being consumed (Ex. 3:2), so will the Lake of Fire punish unregenerate sinners forever without consuming them.

Many find this teaching repulsive and unacceptable, but it reveals the profound nature of God’s wrath. This sobering doctrine comes also from the lips of the Lord Jesus: “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” (Mt. 25:41, 46). The Beast, False Prophet, and Devil whose abominations filled the earth will already have been cast into the Lake of Fire. Then all who are there will be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). This punishment is known as “the second death” (v. 14). The first death is that of the body, which all people experience.

How important it is to follow Jesus the Messiah who saves us from the second death through His gift of eternal life: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (Jn. 5:24).

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