Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďThe Wicked Standing Before the Judgment SeatĒ

Revelation 20.12

Adapted from a sermon by Asahel Nettleton


The doctrine of a future judgment of the damned is fundamental to Biblical Christianity. It is also inseparable from the existence of God as a righteous moral governor over His creation. This world is not the place of final retribution. If we look abroad in the world around us, we often see good men afflicted. We also see bad men prospering.

This paradox is contrary to our sense of moral order, and something inside us cries out against the injustice of it all. This inequality that we see loudly proclaims to us that there must be a judgment to come. It is reasonable, then, to suppose that God will take care to reward virtue and to punish vice.

The Bible, however, goes beyond mere supposition and actually settles the point beyond any doubt by giving to us many details on this subject. Scripture describes events that are as solemn as they are awful. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, repeatedly spoke of the future judgment, and His apostles dealt with the matter, as well. The apostle Peter foretells that there shall come in the last days, scoffers walking after their own lusts. How does Peter respond to such bold presumption on the part of wicked men? By stating forthrightly, ďThe day of the Lord will come.Ē

In Revelation 20.12, as a spectator of passing events, the apostle John describes the tremendous scenes of the judgment day. ďAnd I saw,Ē said he, ďa great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was no place found for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened.Ē

The two prominent things in the text before us are the universality of judgment and the discoveries that will there be made of the character of the unsaved.




No truth is more clearly established than this: That we must all stand before a judgment seat. It is established by many, many passages in Godís Word. Moreover, while some few will come right out and be so bold as openly to deny it, most others will admit to the fact of Godís final judgment of the unsaved. However, it is the nature of man that many will make some sort of exception in their own favor.

Someone who sees himself as being poor and ignorant sees no reason why God should call him to account. He has convinced himself, you see, that he will be judged by a milder rule, a different standard. He thinks to himself that to whom little is given little shall be required. Yet this rule does not hold where the means of knowledge was available but has been neglected. Therefore, no one who owns a Bible can make this excuse. The Day of Judgment, then, will bring the small as well as the great, the ignorant as well as the learned, to trial. Who dares to plead his ignorance, which is perhaps the greatest of all his sins, being the parent of all the rest of the sins, when the cure for that ignorance was ignored?

Another, who has suffered in this life, concludes that she has suffered in this world all that she deserves. Still another person draws the same conclusion from opposite evidence. From his outward prosperity, he falsely concludes that the judgment of God is already pronounced in his favor, and he expects equal kindness in the world to come as he has experienced in this life.

In reply to these false conclusions, let me point out that the worst of men are often found in the best circumstances, and the best of men are sometimes found in the most adverse circumstances. Lazarus, and a whole army of persecuted believers, suffered their whole lives, while men like Herod and Caesar lived in prosperity. Read the account of the rich man who fared sumptuously. Where is he now? Lifting up his eyes in Hell. Therefore, it is true that all who receive their good things in this life will suffer in the next.

No descendant of Adam is exempt from Godís judgment. High, low, rich, poor, wise or ignorant, prosperous or afflicted. The dead, both small and great, must stand before the throne of God. That means you will stand before the throne of God.




First, let us take an overview of this judgment. The Bible says, ďAnd the books were opened.Ē Books are used as records containing exact accounts of events as they occurred, and containing laws by which the conduct of men is to be evaluated. This image is particularly clear and striking. It reveals to us a full and exact picture, a preparation for the final sentence of the damned. However, some would object to Johnís portrayal of the event. Such a minute and complete exhibit of the character of each individual of this vast assembly present for judgment cannot be made in a single day. Such an objection presumes to limit the infinite God. The Scriptures, however, are very clear on this. Such an examination will be made, and it will be scrutinizingly strict, meticulous to the nth degree, searching, and public.

The Son of Man will come from heaven in His glory. Then, at the appointed time of judgment, shall He sit upon the throne of His glory, and before Him shall be gathered all who know Him not, both the dead and those not yet gone to the grave. Every lost one of you, small and great, shall give an account to God. Every idle word, which men shall speak, you shall give an account thereof in the Day of Judgment, according to the deeds you have done in the body. There is nothing hidden which shall not be made known. The Lord will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of your hearts. The Scriptures do not tell us how. The fact that a full development will be made before God and the assembled world is explicit, however, and cannot be doubted.

Now, let us make some more particular observations. Your open, which is to say your public, sins will be made at that time more public. What was known only in your neighborhood, or in your branch of society, or in your town, will then be known to the entire assembled universe. Then will be fully exposed the character of the one who loves this world, of the person who has no treasure but that which is here on earth, who has made the world your portion, who has made the world your God, who is a sordid worshiper of silver and gold and silver, who has despised eternal riches, and whose time, thoughts, and talents have been devoted to procuring a large portion of the dust you walked on each day. At that time, your base, shriveled, groveling soul will be seen in all its deformity by the vast assemblage of men and angels who are gathered before the throne of God.

There will stand the unjust man, the extortioner in all his dishonesty. Fraud and undue advantages advanced him once upon a time, enabling him to overreach and oppress. However, at the judgment he will be faced with all the poverty, the want, and the distress that he caused to those who were without friends, to those who suffered, the widow and the single mom, and the fatherless.

There will also appear the person devoted to pleasure and amusement. His thoughtless, useless, wicked life, the hours she was occupied with her appearance, the time spent in idle talk, in idle company, or squandered on carnal pleasures. You will be reminded of all your wasted privileges and abused mercies, your contagious and fatal example, your aversion to all serious reflection, your utter disregard of everlasting concerns, and the endless hours in front of a mind-numbing television set or a Nintendo game. Thus, you come to judgment.

Then there is the slanderer, who has talked only deceitfully and with falsehood, who has intruded into the personal affairs of others, who has preyed on the peace of otherís families, who tears down values and high moral standards with your mouth, and corrupts others by provocation and erodes resistance to wrongdoing.

There is also the scoffer, with all his contempt for God and the things of God. He is the one who shuns heaven, where angels dwell, and who ridicules the thought of Hell, where the demons and the damned now groan. He is the one who defies the God whose frown is death and who throws ridicule on the mercy and grace and love of the Savior Who bled for him. There he appears at his final trial.

There is the profane man, with his horrid mass of oaths, curses, and blasphemies that spew forth from his sewer of a mouth. There is the drunkard in all his brutal indulgence, with his sense and reason drowned in liquor. The suicide, who is a self-murderer and a cowardly destroyer of the peace and comfort of his family, and perhaps of the souls of his wife and children, is also there.

There is the Internet pornographer who lusts after other menís daughters while ignoring the wife of his youth, as well the chat room adulteress who fantasizes about a man not her husband. All these individuals will stand at the bar of God.

There also will stand the Sabbath breakers. At the judgment, it will be seen what use he made of the many Sabbaths that the mercy of God had given him. The man of 20 years of age must give account of hundreds, the man of 40 of more than 2,000, the man of 60 of more than 3,000 Sabbaths wasted and perverted by business, by pleasures, by sloth, without reading or serious reflection, without prayer, with contempt for every blessing which this day of mercy brings to guilty men.

In addition, what about those who are without the Law of Moses? Will God let off Scot-free those Gentiles who used the Lordís Day for entertainment instead of on a contemplation of the goodness and greatness of God? No.

At the great white throne will be exhibited the character of that one who profanes the house of God by sleep, or by worldly thoughts, or by his disregard of the Gospel that is preached by the minister of Christ, or by his contempt of prayers and praises which are offered in the Saviorís name. This is the one who, week after week, comes as a condemned criminal before a righteous judge, without a thought of His wrath or a wish for His mercy, who, month after month, turns his back on the broken body of Jesus and spurns all the blessings of His precious shed blood. Such are the characters of multitudes in this world, and such will they appear before God and the vast assembly on the judgment day. Not a single doubt will be found throughout the immense multitude that such is the real character of you who know not Christ.

Then also will be manifested their more private sins. It is obvious that relatively few people see most of the sins of unsaved men. In addition, if their sins are seen, they are thought by few people to actually be sins. However, at their final trial every disguise will be stripped off, every error of opinion concerning their moral defilement will be corrected.

Many a man who now maintains so respectable a standing among us for honesty and industry in dealing with others will then be seen guilty of countless undue advantages of the ignorance or weaknesses of his fellow man, or artful deceptions and sly overreaching in the hourly business of life. You see, much, very much that passes for strict honesty among men will be pronounced dishonesty and fraud at the bar of God.

There will be seen the companions of wicked men who like to associate with them at a distance, while pretending to maintain in their own minds their innocence.

There will be exhibited the unclean person, the fornicator, and the adulterer.

There will also be seen the glutton and the now sober drunkard, whose God is his belly, whose glory is his shame, seen in all his brutishness.

There will appear the person who raises petty objections against the humbling doctrines of the cross, with all his points of order and his pretexts and his excuses and his empty arguments that are used to conceal his hostility to the Gospel.

This man attempts to hide his pride, his selfishness, his worldly-mindedness, and his evil passions with an outer layer of morality. The man who appears so godly and devout on the Lordís Day and on other particular occasions, but who lays aside his pretended Christianity in the business of the day and in the family will be clearly exposed.

There will be seen the man who never entered his closet to pray, who neglected the Word of God, who never uttered a prayer for the mercy of God.

There will be seen the foreman who never instructed his workmen in the great truths of the Gospel, who has emboldened them in sin by living in sin himself.

There will be the head of a family who has never acknowledged God in his house, the parent who has never taught his children the fear of God, nor commended them to His love, with their blood on his hands.

That ungrateful child who has neglected or scorned the urgings of a faithful father or an affectionate mother.

There will be seen the corrupter of youth, who by his conduct, by his writings, or by his example has seduced the young onto the pathway that leads to death.

There will be seen the hardhearted wretch who has refused to comfort the afflicted, who has refused to defend the persecuted, and who has refused to relieve and console the widow, the orphan, and the fatherless, and who always loved his money more than the Church of Christ and the souls of men.

These and numberless like sins of the unsaved known here to but a few of their acquaintances will all be produced against them when they come to judgment. Every veil will be turned aside, every mask torn off, and every work of concealment brought to light.

Finally, my unsaved friend, Christ will produce your secret sins against you. There will be a long list, which only the Searcher of hearts can develop. However, the recording angel has been faithful and the books will be opened. The counsels of your heart, with all its corruptions and its crimes, will be laid open and compared with the book of God, and will be seen to be destitute of any spirit of love toward God or men. Every minute transgression will be exposed. Then the dreadful pain of those evil tempers and wicked passions that have lurked within your bosom will be revealed. Moreover, remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ is interpreting, you will see Him pronounce your lustful look adultery, and your anger and hatred murder. How will your unsaved human heart appear? How, with all of its pride and stubbornness, anger, lust, and malice brought to light? Horrid as the sight might be, it will be seen.

However, that will not be all. A word from Him has declared that you are a guilty, accursed, ruined, sinner. No reason will then be given why the sentence of damnation should not be executed upon you. Moreover, on the verge of eternal judgment you will reminded that on this day salvation was offered, salvation for you. Salvation! And you heard the glad tidings and did not welcome the message. You heard of the Saviorís love and did not feel your heart melt with gratitude. This shall be told of you on the judgment day.

There shall you stand with the other enemies of the cross of Christ, those despisers of the Lord that bought you. A Savior called a thousand times, and another thousand times, but you ignored His appeals, and did not regard the blessed Holy Spirit Who did strive with you from day to day, and from year to year. Instead, you perpetually grieved Him. The privileges of the Word and the worship of God were granted to you so often, but were abused for purposes worse than imagined.

Godís long-suffering was exercised toward you for so long, but was used by you only as a license to commit sin. The counsels, warnings, and prayers you cast behind your back as you walked out of the auditorium. The blood of Christ was offered to cleanse you from the pollution of sin, but it was trampled under your feet. And in the same manner, you have disregarded the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


I will not proceed any farther. The sum of sins is swelled to a staggering amount. Millions of crimes that were either not paid attention to or which have long been forgotten will be brought to light to show each sinner his dreadful guilt and the terror of the wrath, which awaits him. However, we will leave this catalogue of sins, which God alone can and most certainly will unfold. Now, my friends, are you willing to stand before the great white throne with such a character to be judged? There you must stand, and are you still in your sins? Is not death and judgment at your door? Are you still one of those who must hear the Savior say, ďDepart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angelsĒ? Are you still among those who will be tormented? I urge you to strive to enter in at the strait gate. I plead with you to seek the Lord while He may be found. I advise you to flee to Christ before the door to the Ark is shut. Remember, the door to the Ark was shut before judgment fell. Your opportunity to be saved will pass before the judgment of God falls. Today is the day of salvation. Now is the appointed time.

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