Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE EIGHTH OF CHRIST’S JUDGMENTS,

THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED

John 5.22 

John 5.22 reads, 

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” 

The eighth and final of the judgments we will consider is the Great White Throne Judgment of the Unsaved. It is the most terrifying of Christ’s judgments leading to the horrors of the endless punishment of the damned in the lake of fire. It is also the culmination of Christ’s judging activity, so far as we can determine from God’s Word. This is the judgment that awaits every soul that passes from this life to the next without saving faith in Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinful men’s souls.

As has been our usual pattern when it is possible, the judgment of unsaved by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Great White Throne will be considered under five headings: 

First, THE TIME OF CHRIST’S JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED 

Eschatology is the name given to the Biblical doctrine of last things, those matters found in the Word of God having to do with events in the future, culminating in the eternal state.[1] There are various approaches taken in attempting to understand what the Bible teaches about prophetical matters, issues that fall under the heading of eschatology. The approaches used to understand prophecy are dependent upon some assumptions that are made by Bible students. And every student of the Bible makes assumptions of one kind or another that influence his understanding of Scripture. Among the assumptions made by students of prophecy are assumptions about the truthfulness and reliability of God’s Word, assumptions about methods that should be used to interpret different types of Scripture (prophetical, historical, poetical, and doctrinal), assumptions about the nature of the covenants God has established (the Edenic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic, New, and Mosaic Covenants), and also assumptions about God’s dealings with the nation of Israel and the New Testament Church and whether Israel is ever considered to be the Church, or the Church is ever considered to be Israel. All of those things require that assumptions be made. I know that some people will claim in all naive piety, “Well, I just believe the Bible!” People who hold a variety of positions on each of these many and varied topics, every one of them clings to the Bible as his only rule of faith and practice, I assure you.

I mention these numerous considerations, not to confuse or overwhelm you, but so you will understand that what you believe about prophecy is the result of many considerations, conclusions, and assumptions made by you and also made by those who teach you the Bible, or by those made by those who taught your teachers the Bible. The various camps into which different views about prophecy are divided are listed as follows: Amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism, having to with one’s view of what the Bible teaches about the millennium, which is to say Christ’s kingdom.[2] Amillennialists believe there is no literal thousand year reign of Christ. Most Southern Baptist pastors, most Presbyterian pastors, most Methodist pastors, and all Roman Catholic priests subscribe to amillennialism. Postmillennialists believe Christ will return at the time of His Second Coming after the millennium. The vast majority of Christians believed in postmillennialism all through the 19th century because they believed that the expansion of the British Empire was leading to the millennial reign of Christ, with the world getting better and better. What ended that run was World War One. Premillennialists are persuaded the Bible teaches Christ’s Second Coming will take place before He establishes His literal thousand year reign on earth. Among those who are premillennialists are those who can be further subdivided as subscribing to a pretribulation Rapture, a partial Rapture, a post-tribulation Rapture, or a mid-tribulation Rapture. A pretribulation Rapture envisions a Rapture of Church Age believers, followed by seven years of tribulation, culminating in Christ’s Second Coming. A partial Rapture would be one in which some believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, while others are left behind to endure the tribulation. A mid-tribulation Rapture would be a Rapture that occurs halfway through the seven years of tribulation. A post-tribulation Rapture position expects the Rapture to occur after Christians have lived through the seven years of tribulation and would occur almost immediately before Christ’s visible return to earth. I am persuaded that among those who embrace the notion that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God, whose approach to interpreting Bible prophecy is the same as interpreting the rest of the Bible (which is to say, normally, or literally[3]), who are convinced that God’s unconditional covenants are never abrogated, and who subscribe to the belief that Israel and the Church of Jesus Christ are distinct programs in God’s dealings with mankind, consistency will result in a pretribulation premillennial Rapture position that sees John’s Revelation as being written in a basically chronological sequence of events fashion.

The pretribulational premillennialist, which position I hold, approaches John’s Revelation as a book to be interpreted literally when possible and seeks to understand obviously symbolic language as the means to communicate what would otherwise be impossible to communicate. I know that there are people who insist that the book of Revelation is incomprehensible, contending that “God never intended for us to understand the Revelation.” Such a claim makes no sense. Had God not wanted us to understand the Revelation (granting that we will never understand everything in John’s Revelation this side of heaven) He would not have given it to us. But there is a promise of blessing found in Revelation 1.3 for us to take note of: 

“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” 

As well, Revelation is seen as the only book of the Bible in which the overall outline is provided for the reader, Revelation 1.19, whereby God gives us help in understanding Revelation that is found in no other book of the Bible: 

“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter.” 

The first portion of this verse refers to Revelation 1: 

“Write the things which thou hast seen.” 

The middle portion of the verse refers to Revelation 2 and 3: 

“and the things which are.” 

With the final portion of the verse referring to the rest of John’s Revelation, the prophetical portion of the apocalyptic: 

“and the things which shall be hereafter.” 

Therefore, Revelation 1 records John’s immediate experience. Revelation 2 and 3 records John’s present dealings with the seven Churches he was used to communicate Christ’s words to in letters addressed to the angels of the Churches. And beginning in Revelation 4 through the rest of the book is a sequence of future events that John saw. This is important because if Revelation is written in chronological sequence, and I am so persuaded, we can fix the timing of Christ’s Great White Throne Judgment of the unsaved with astonishing precision. Revelation 20.1-15: 

1  And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.

2  And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,

3  And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

4  And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

5  But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.

6  Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

7  And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison,

8  And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea.

9  And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them.

10 And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

11 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.

12 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.

13 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.

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. 

The six references to the thousand years in verses 2-7 convince me the millennium is a literal thousand years. So much for amillennialism. At the end of the millennium, Satan is loosed to lead his end of the millennium rebellion before being cast into the lake of fire. Then comes the Great White Throne Judgment of the unsaved by the Lord Jesus Christ. It will occur at the very end of the millennium, being no less than 1007 years from now if the book of the Revelation is written chronologically: 

11 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.

12 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. 

Next, THE PLACE OF CHRIST’S JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED 

The place for this judgment is not stated in God’s Word. Reviewing Revelation 20.11 reminds the reader, 

“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.” 

This flight of heaven and earth suggests that this is also the occasion of the annihilation of the present creation that is mentioned by Peter in Second Peter 3.10-13: 

10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,

12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 

Considering this in light of the fact that those judged before the Great White Throne were dead, “the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which was in them,” this judgment of only those who have previously died will be held in a special place outside the bounds of this present physical universe, which will at that time no longer exist in its present form. 

Third, THE PARTICIPANTS IN CHRIST’S JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED 

Excepting Christ’s judgment of the fallen angels, the previous six times the Lord of glory sat in judgment those before Him were either resurrected saints or a mixed multitude of still living believers and unbelievers, with the unbelievers then dispatched by physical death to Hell fire.

This will be that judgment of the unsaved of all ages, from Cain all the way to the end, who at the time of this judgment have died and will be raised for this judgment, either having died natural deaths or having been summarily executed in other forms of divine judgment.

They are the great and the small (suggesting that no position or power will serve to benefit anyone judged on this occasion, and no one is so insignificant as to be overlooked), and their bodies are raised from their various burial places, Revelation 20.12-13: 

12 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.

13 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. 

They are “the rest of the dead” who do not participate in the first resurrection, Revelation 20.5: 

“But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.” 

They are “the others” who are raised “to shame and everlasting contempt,” Daniel 12.2: 

“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” 

And, they are those who comprise the “resurrection of damnation” as opposed to the “resurrection of life” of which Christ spoke in John 5.28-29: 

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 

Try to imagine what it will be like for the unsaved to stand with every creature in the universe gathered around as witnesses of our glorious Lord’s final judgment of the doomed and the damned, as they stand naked and ashamed under the gaze of not only everyone in existence, but also the Lord of glory Who is, according to the Bible, terrible in majesty, looking upon each one before Him with eyes that are a flame of fire.[4] The shame will be unimaginable. The horror will be incomprehensible. 

Fourth, THE BASIS OF CHRIST’S JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED 

It seems there will be a twofold basis for the Great White Throne judgment, the “books” and the “book of life,” Revelation 20.12-13. The books contain a record of all the wicked deeds of the unsaved (i.e., all the evidence of their lack of true faith). The book of life is the book of the elect, those with saving faith. Those whose names are not written in the book of life are the unsaved, the lost souls.

What will that lost individual say when he is called to give an account of himself to the Lord he has rejected, refused, and discounted? What will be his response to this One sitting atop the Great White Throne resplendent in His regal majesty which he in his natural life shunned and mocked and ignored? What will run through the mind of that person who thought himself too cool to seriously consider the claims of Christ, but who now stands before Him naked and ashamed? Do you think those of whom Paul wrote “Whose mouths must be stopped” will have anything to say in their defense?[5] I suggest to you that they will stand before Him mute. They will have nothing to say. Why? Because there is nothing to say. I am expecting that if you know Christ you will be there, as witnesses for the prosecution, ready to testify against those you know who died without Christ for their wickedness and stubborn refusal to consider the altogether lovely Savior, all the while acknowledging that but for God’s grace you would be judged at that time.

There will be degrees of punishment assigned to each person who stands before the Great White Throne for judgment. The severity of one’s torment in the lake of fire will correspond to three realities: First, the lost condition of the one judged, with each person’s eternal destiny unalterable from the moment he passes from this life to the next. Only in one’s natural lifetime is there space to repent of sins and come to Christ for salvation using faith in His name. Second, the light to which one is exposed during his natural lifetime. Thus, the pigmy in Africa never exposed to the Gospel will be judged in his sins more leniently than the person who grew up in a Gospel preaching Church who never turned to Christ. Finally, of course, the specific sins committed during each person’s lifetime will be judged by the Lord Jesus Christ. If what we learn from David in Psalm 51.4 is considered, though he had taken the life of Uriah and defiled Bathsheba, his sin against God was incomparably worse than his sins against those two human beings. As each saint’s life and ministry was judged by the Savior to ascertain his rewards in the afterlife to shine in corresponding glory throughout eternity, so each of the damned will be justly judged to ascertain the harshness of his eternal punishment. Regardless of the severity of each Christ denier’s torment, the Bible is very clear that the pain coupled with the horror will result in each of the damned weeping and gnashing his teeth.[6] 

Finally, THE RESULTS OF CHRIST’S JUDGMENT OF THE UNSAVED 

Though I have gotten a bit ahead of myself, it bears repeating that the result of this judgment will be each unsaved person being consigned to the lake of fire for his eternal punishment, Revelation 20.14-15: 

14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. 

And again, keep in mind that the Great White Throne Judgment of Jesus Christ does not determine anyone’s destiny, but only confirms it by giving it an infinitely righteous basis, namely, each lost soul’s failure to appropriate the saving benefits of Jesus Christ’s atoning work, coupled with the additional consequences of each person’s sins and wickednesses.

For these reasons, each will be given his eternal and just moral deserts. Everyone at the Great White Throne gets only what is coming to him. There is good evidence that there are degrees of punishment that will be meted out at this tribunal, Luke 12.47-48: 

47 And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. 

The principle of degrees of punishment is well established in God’s Word. 

Everything in creation exists and is designed to bring honor and glory to God. Revelation 4.11 reveals that to us very clearly: 

“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” 

While it is easily understood that God is greatly glorified when sinners are graciously saved through faith in Christ, and once it is realized that Christ’s purpose in the Church is God’s glory throughout the ages, Ephesians 3.21, which reads, 

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” 

It is somewhat more challenging to understand how God will be glorified by the judgment of the damned and by their eternal punishment following the Great White Throne Judgment of the unsaved dead by the Lord Jesus Christ. I would like you to turn to John 5.22-29: 

22 For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

23 That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

26 For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

27 And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,

29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. 

The Lord Jesus Christ will be honored in His judgments. And while it is clear that the grace of God will result in Him being glorified, I would suggest to you that God will also be glorified in the lives of those whose rebellion identifies them as not tasting that the Lord is gracious. Though it is not pleasant, consider that the Bible speaks of the way in which God will be vindicated in the lives of the unrighteous as they suffer His righteous retribution for their disobedience and rebellion. First, I read Deuteronomy 32.35: 

“To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” 

Next, I read Romans 12.19: 

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” 

Finally, I would like you to read along with me Hebrews 10.26-31: 

26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,

27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 

I hope you are not, or do not remain, God’s adversary. 

28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses:

29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people.

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 

Though God is not willing that any should perish, Second Peter 3.9, and though judgment is God’s strange work, Isaiah 28.21, He will be glorified by being vindicated in the eternal torment of the damned. The lost were warned. God is righteous. The damned will pay. God will be glorified in His Son’s righteous judgment.

These final words would be fitting words for a mother to say to her son, for a father to say to his boy. “Son, you do not understand. God will be glorified by being vindicated in the eternal torment of the damned. The lost were warned. God is righteous. The damned will pay. God will be glorified in His Son’s righteous judgment.”

__________

[1] Eschatology is a word formed from two Greek words, escatoV meaning last, Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), pages 397-398.

[2] The classic treatment of the kingdom is George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom, Vol I, II, III, (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, reprinted in 1978).

[3] Paul Lee Tan, The Interpretation Of Prophecy, (Winona Lake, Indiana: BMH Books, 1974), pages 29-39.

[4] Revelation 1.14; 2.18; 19.12

[5] Titus 1.11

[6] Matthew 8.12; 22.13; 24.51; 25.30; Luke 13.28

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org