The Great White Throne Judgment

Rev 20:11-15


There shall be a second resurrection, and the unsaved will be raised and will stand before God's judgment. Do not confuse this judgment at the White Throne with the Judgment Seat of Christ, where believers will have their works judged and rewarded. At this judgment, there will be only unbelievers; and there will be no rewards. John described here an awesome scene. Heaven and earth will flee away and no place will be left for sinners to hide! All must face the Judge! Be Victorious - Revelation, Electronic Edition; Wiersbe, Warren W.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it

This seems to be similar to what Daniel saw in Dan 7:9-10

9 "I watched till thrones were put in place, and 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, its wheels a burning fire; 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. (NKJ)

Here is the last and final judgment of history following the close of the Millennium. It is an awesome and solemn scene and one which should cause deep concern to our hearts for many of our friends and even relatives will be here, those who have never received Jesus Christ as their Savior. All who have scoffed at God, denied His being, rebelled at His rule, or rejected His sovereignty, and in the process, have also rejected His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, must at this time stand before this throne to be condemned to eternal judgment. May the study of these verses make us more concerned and more committed to reaching the lost for Christ. Studies in Revelation by J. Hampton Keathley III

Some commentators also note that this is different from the judgment of the nations, who were judged on earth (Matt. 25:31-46). The judgment of the nations was to determine which nations would have a right to experience the millennium. New Commentary on the Whole Bible: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

Ps 102: 25 Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 They will perish, but You will endure; yes, they will all grow old like a garment; like a cloak You will change them, and they will be changed. 27 But You are the same, and Your years will have no end. (NKJ)

Isa 51: 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look on the earth beneath. For the heavens will vanish away like smoke, the earth will grow old like a garment, and those who dwell in it will die in like manner; but My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished. (NKJ)

Mark 13: 31 "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (NKJ)

2 Pet 3: 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (NKJ)

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God

A resurrection occurs. No trumpet is sounded, for the sounding of the trumpet is for those in covenant with the King, as his armies and friends; but these are not his people nor his friends. There is simply the going forth of eternal power, into the sea, into the graves, into Hades, into all the depositories of the souls and bodies of the unholy dead, and all the vast multitudes in them suddenly stand in the presence of the throne. Not one of them that ever lived and died, from the beginning of the world until then, save and except the Beast and the False Prophet, but is in that unblest congregation. "The great and the small," the big sinners and the little sinners, rulers and subjects, nobles and plebeians, the learned and the ignorant, the refined and the vulgar, the civilized and the barbarous, emperors and beggars, all alike are there. We read of no white robes, no spotless linen, no palms, nothing but naked sinners, before the naked majesty of enthroned Almightiness, awaiting their eternal doom. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

and books were opened.

Books are opened. heaven keeps record of all the deeds of people, and of all the thoughts and feelings under which they act. Myriads of human beings have lived and died of whom the world knows nothing; but the lives they lived, the deeds they did, the thoughts and tempers they indulged, still stand written where the memory of them cannot perish. Not a human being has ever breathed earth's atmosphere whose career is not traced at full length in the books of eternity. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

The first book opened will probably be the Scriptures, the Word of God which contains the revelation of God's holy character, the moral law, the declaration of the sinfulness of man and God's plan of salvation by faith in the Savior. This book also reveals that even when men do not have the written Word, they have the law of God written in their hearts (Rom. 2:14-16) and the revelation of God consciousness in creation (Rom. 1:19-20). Because of this they are without excuse (Rom. 1:20; 2:12). All men are responsible for the revelation they have and stand at this judgment because of their own negative volition to God's grace (Rom. 1:18; 2:4, 14; John 7:17). So then, Scripture will be used to demonstrate the clearness of the plan of God and that man is without excuse (cf. also John 12:48-50; and 1 John 3:23). Studies in Revelation by J. Hampton Keathley III

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. John 12:48

The second book will be the book of works (deeds). Verses 13 and 14 state that the unbelieving dead will be judged according to their deeds (works). Undoubtedly, one book is the book of works which contains a record of their deeds as a witness of the true nature of their spiritual condition. Studies in Revelation by J. Hampton Keathley III

O how many hidden things will then come to light; and how many will have quite another appearance than they had before in the sight of men! With the book of God's omniscience, that of conscience will then exactly tally. The book of natural law, as well as of revealed, will then also be displayed. It is not said, The books will be read: the light of that day will make them visible to all. Then, particularly, shall every man know himself, and that with the last exactness This will be the first true, full, impartial, universal history. Wesley

It is sobering to ponder that in God's sight nothing is forgotten; all will give an account of their actions (v. 13). Judgment always proceeds on the basis of works (Matt 25:41 ff.; Rom 2:6; 2Cor 5:10; Heb 4:12-13). The "books" are the records of human deeds (v. 12). The Expositor's Bible Commentary

God is a Righteous Judge; He keeps a record of their deeds and will punish each one justly. Certainly those who knew the truth and deliberately disobeyed it will be punished with greater severity than those who did not know the truth. Hell will have degrees of punishment in the same way that heaven has degrees of reward (Matt. 11:20-24). Good works will not save sinners, but God will judge their works fairly and give them a just punishment in hell. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament; Warren W Wiersbe

And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.

It seems to me that some confuse the book of the living (Exo. 32:32-33; Ps. 69:28; Dan. 12:1. This passage in Daniel 12 seems similar to the marking of those in Ezekiel 9:4 before the destruction of Jerusalem. Those who received the mark were to be spared when the Babylonian's came into the city to destroy.

The Book of Life is the record of those who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. Phil 4:3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. (NKJ) Rev 21:27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. (NKJ) Jesus had told His disciples to rejoice because their names were written in heaven. Luke 10:20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." (NKJ)

This book contains the names of believers, all who have put their faith in Christ and His plan of salvation through the suffering Savior. To put it another way, it is a record of those who have not rejected God's plan of salvation and who have responded to Him in faith; for these their faith is reckoned for righteousness (Rom. 4:22). Studies in Revelation by J. Hampton Keathley III

But there is "another book, which is that of the life"-- the roll-book of the regenerate in Christ Jesus-- the register of the washed and sanctified through faith in his redeeming blood. This must needs be opened too, for many there be whose lives are fair and honest, who spend their days in conscientious purity, who live and die in the persuasion that they have fulfilled all the requirements of virtue, but who have never experienced the regenerating power of the new creation, who have never felt the need of atonement by the propitiation of a crucified Saviour, and who have disdained to build on the merit and righteousness of the one only Mediator as the sole hope of diseased and guilty humanity. Exalted as they may have been in their own goodness and morality, they have not believed on the only begotten Son of God, and therefore have not life, and so are not written in the Book of Life. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

There are degrees of punishment in hell (Matt. 11:20-24). Each lost sinner will receive just what is due him, and none will be able to argue with the Lord or question His decision. God knows what sinners are doing, and His books will reveal the truth. Be Victorious - Revelation, Electronic Edition; Wiersbe, Warren W.

This judgment is not a balancing of good works over bad works. Those who have their names in the Lamb's book of life will also have records of righteous deeds. The Expositor's Bible Commentary

The "dead" in this case exclude all the redeemed at least up until the translation of the Church, who have been in glory with Christ during the "thousand years." But they include all the wicked dead from the beginning of the race until the end of the world, for this is the last judgment. Note the distinction between "books" and "another book." The wicked and unbelieving have always chosen to be justified by their deeds rather than by faith in Christ, and the "books" represent the record of those deeds. The outcome (15) shows the fallacy of their trust for the deeds of none were sufficient to justify. Only those "found written in the book of life" are saved. Gray's Home Bible Commentary

The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

In the resurrection of the unsaved, the individual is unchanged. He is conscious, aware, but his character and his attitude toward God retains sin's twist. The man consumed with anger is an angry man still. The jealous person is still jealous. The lustful still lust. In the lake of fire, the old desires burn, but are forever unsatisfied. This is one reason why the lake of fire is called the second death (Rev. 20:14). It is an endless captivity to what one is when he dies. There is no hope for change, no hope for growth, no hope for transformation. Fixed forever, unchangeable, the personality of the lost burns as much from inner torment as from the cauldron John can only liken to burning sulfur. The Teacher's Commentary

Rev. 21:8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.

And Death and Hades, here viewed as if they were personal beings, share the same fate. They, of course, cease to be. There is nothing more of temporal death or of the place of departed spirits after this. They are not personal beings, hence, their casting into "the lake of fire" is the end of them; but, conceived of as persons, they are consigned to exactly the same eternal punishment with the other wicked. They are the products of sin, and they share the doom of what produced them. And thus, in an ever-burning Hell, from which there is no more deliverance, all the enemies of God and his Christ find themselves at last. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

Death and Hades personified, cast into the lake of fire, express that Christ and His people shall never more die, or be disembodied spirits. The yawning, craving Sheol, that can never be satisfied, is abolished. (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

1 Cor. 15:26 And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

This is the second death

The first death consisted in the separation of the soul from the body for a season; the second death in the separation of body and soul from God forever. The first death is that from which there may be a resurrection; the second death is that from which there can be no recovery. (from Adam Clarke Commentary)

And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

When the judgment is finished, all of the lost will be cast into hell, the lake of fire, the second death. Many people reject the biblical doctrine of hell as being "unchristian," and yet Jesus clearly taught its reality (Matt. 18:8; 23:15, 33; 25:46; Mark 9:46). A sentimental kind of humanistic religion will not face the reality of judgment, but teaches a God who loves everyone into heaven and sends no one to hell.


First, believers are told their names stand permanently written (recorded) in the book of life. The tenses used in Luke 10:20, Hebrews 12:23, and Philippians 4:3 suggest an abiding state. Both Luke 10:20 and Hebrews 12:23 use the perfect tense which can carry the idea of "stand recorded or enrolled." The perfect tense in its basic meaning, unaffected by context or a particular verbal idea, refers to completed past action with existing results. But when used in context, the emphasis may be on the accomplished action; this is called the consummative perfect. On the other hand, the emphasis may be on the existing state, the results without any thought or emphasis on the past; this is the intensive perfect. And of course, the emphasis can be on both elements, completion and results. The intensive perfect is much like an emphatic or intensive present. "The attention is directed wholly to the present resulting state, the past action of which it is the result being left out of thought." Studies in Revelation by J. Hampton Keathley III

The judgment of these people according to these books is, in each instance, a judgment of condemnation, whether to the lesser or the greater damnation. There is no account of the name of anyone of them being found in the book of life; "and if anyone was not found written in the book of the life, he was cast into the lake of fire" (<Rev 20:15>). Not one of them is adjudged place with the "blessed and holy," or his resurrection would not have been deferred until now. (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

He who understands it best, calls it "a lake of fire and brimstone," and I do not know what mortal man can tell us better. If perchance it be not material fire, or the brimstone which feeds it be not the article which commerce handles, it still is fire of some sort, fed with its proper fuel-- fire which can take hold on body and spirit-- fire which preys on the whole being, whether clothed with corporeity or not-- fire kindled and kept alive by almighty justice, and a great lake of it, commensurate with the infinite holiness of an infinite law. It is called "The Second Death." Hence, some think it means extinction of existence, annihilation, a cremation of body and spirit, which leaves no ashes after it. But the Beast and the False Prophet were in that death for more than a thousand years, and at the end of that time the implication seems to be that they are still alive. Concerning those who are compelled to make proof of that death, the specific statement is, "they shall be tormented day and night, to the ages of the ages." (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

Ho, ye unbelieving people-- ye dishonest people-- ye profane people-- ye lewd men and women-- ye slaves of lust and appetite-- ye scoffers at the truth of God-- "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33). Ye people of business-- ye whose souls are absorbed with the pursuit of gain-- ye people of wealth without riches toward God-- ye passengers on the voyage of life, without prayer, without Church relations, without concern for your immortal good, your God, or the eternity before you-- hear: "Hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure, and your glory, and your multitude, and your pomp, and your rejoicing, shall descend into it!" (Isa. 5:14). (from Seiss' Apocalypse)

Satan and sin have been judged; human rebellion has been put down; now God can usher in the new heavens and earth--eternal bliss for the people of God! Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament; Warren W Wiersbe

Romans 2: 4Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6who "will render to each one according to his deeds":7eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath, 9tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 11For there is no partiality with God.


The Great White Throne Judgment

Rev 20:11-15

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who 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, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. (NKJ)


We have come to a most solemn event as we come to the end of earth's history. Actually the end of history since even before the earth was created.

God had created everything perfect, but Satan had rebelled against God and brought mankind into the rebellion against God. But with this final judgment God ends all rebellion.

Another part I want us to see is that we have come to a sad occasion. I cannot as some preach on this subject without realizing that the terrible judgment of God will fall on many people that I know.

Now I know that some think this idea of eternal condemnation went out with the dark ages. But Jesus taught much more about eternal judgment than He did about heaven. Our sense of justice tells us that there must be a judgment for those who have escaped justice in this life.

Eternal judgment is just as real a heaven. Eternal judgment is just and eternal as heaven. So it is with awesome solitude that we come to this subject this morning.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.

  1. This is an awesome scene.
    1. It is awesome because it includes so many billions of people.
      1. And I saw the dead, small and great
        1. From the king to the pauper
        2. From the corporate president to the janitor
        3. From the Phd to the simple fool
        4. The one thing they have in common is that they died without Jesus
      2. The sea gave up the dead who were in it
        1. Those who died without a burial will still be raised.
        2. Everyone in the grave will one day hear the voice of the Son of God and will come forth, some to glory and these to condemnation.
        3. John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice "and come forth-- those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (NKJ)
      3. Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.
        1. Death is the place of the bodies of those who have died.
        2. Hades is the place of the departed spirit of those who have died.
        3. In Luke 16 the rich man died, death took his body and he was buried. But his soul was taken to hades, where he already had a foretaste of the sufferings he would face in the lake of fire.
    2. It is an awesome scene because of who is on the throne.
      1. They stand before God
        1. God with all His majesty and indisputable sovereignty.
        2. God on a white throne to represent His holiness and purity.
        3. Like every other glimpse of God that we have in the Scriptures this one also strikes terror in the soul of men.
      2. Jesus said that the father and given all judgment into His hand.
        1. John 5:22-27 22 "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 23 "that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 "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. 25 "Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 "and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. (NKJ)
        2. Acts 17:31 "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (NKJ)
        3. This would fulfill what Paul says when He says that before Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess.
    3. It is an awesome scene because of the evidence brought forth.
      1. The books are opened
        1. The Bible will be the book that condemns those who have refused to read and to follow it.
          1. John 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him-- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
        2. It seems that a record of every life has been made.
          1. That is an awesome thought that God's cosmic recorder has been keeping track of everything that we ever did.
          2. To realize that those things we didn't tell our parents, God knows and they are recorded and we will see them again and judged for them.
          3. To think that every lie we ever told and every hateful thought we ever had will be replayed before heaven's court.
          4. To comprehend that those things we did when we thought no one was looking will then be displayed for all to see.
        3. They are judged by the things which are written in the books.
          1. There will be no defense.
          2. There will be no slick lawyer to plead insanity.
          3. Everyone who stands here will only hang their head in shame and fright of the impending judgment.
      2. And the dead are judged according to their works
        1. All those who have thought they were good enough will then be forced to admit that they are not.
        2. Those who said I just want what is coming to me will then want nothing of the kind.
        3. Those who thought their good deeds would out weigh their bad will find that absolute perfectness is what is required.
      3. And they were judged, each one according to his works
        1. This is not as some suppose, that their good will be weighed up against their bad.
        2. The good could never cancel out the bad.
        3. Next time you get stopped for speeding try this. Tell the officer that you were wearing your seatbelt. Tell him that your lights are all in working order. Tell him you stop completely at every stop sign. I bet he will just let you go knowing that you are obeying more laws than you are breaking.
  2. Death and hell are themselves finally destroyed.
    1. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire.
      1. They are the final enemies.
      2. They have held man in fear since the fall of man.
      3. They are the great levelers among mankind.
      4. But there is no place for them beyond this point in time.
      5. They will be destroyed.
    2. This is the second death.
      1. Death is a separation.
      2. James said that the body without the Spirit is dead and faith without works is dead.
      3. This is an eternal separation of these people from God and His gracious favors that they enjoyed in life.
      4. It is a separation from everyone and everything that could bring comfort or pleasure.
  3. The ultimate difference
    1. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.
      1. The book of life is the record of the saved.
      2. It is the record of those who have put their trust in Jesus Christ.
      3. It is the record of the citizens of heaven.
      4. This not a record of those who earned heaven, although they do have good works pleasing to God.
      5. This book is the ultimate difference between the eternally saved and the eternally lost.
      6. Those redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ have their names written there.
    2. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
      1. What do you have to do to end up in the lake of fire, nothing.
      2. Jesus told Nicodemus that those who had not put their trust alone in Jesus as savior are condemned already.
      3. John 3:18 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (NKJ)  
This message was preached at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at