Read with Me

 Revelation 20:11-15 (HCSB)
Then I saw a great white throne and One seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books.
Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

 Listen with Me

This scene has often been referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment based on the description in verse 11. But the throne is not what is central in this scene of the last judgment; the One seated on the throne is. In the final judgment, God, the Most High, is the Judge.

This is an all-inclusive judgment, meaning that it includes all people whether they were living or dead at the time that God called an end to time. Everyone appears before God’s throne to stand judgment. Some teach that the saved are not subject to God’s judgment, but that belief goes against several Scriptures, notably this one, but also the scene of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, where both the sheep and the goats must appear before God the Son to be placed on in one of the two categories. All the dead, even those who were lost in the depths of the sea will be raised up to appear before God’s throne where their final destiny will be decided.

At this final judgment, Death and Hades will be defeated and cast into the lake of fire fulfilling God’s promise that death, the last enemy, will ultimately be defeated and destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26). Since all physical bodies will have been transformed into resurrection bodies that will live forever, death will no longer function. Then those eternal beings, every human being who ever lived, will be all consigned either to an eternity of joy and light in God’s presence, or an eternity of suffering and darkness in the lake of fire.

And contrary to what many believe, the determining factor at the last judgment is not what each person believes, but what they have done, their works, how they have lived every moment during their earthly lives. This truth is clearly stated here twice in verses 12 and 13, where it says that each person is judged “according to their works”.

This follows closely Jesus’ own warnings about the last judgment. In the parable of the sheep and the goats, even many of the goats call Jesus “Lord”. But it is their deeds, their consistent actions based on their beliefs, that determine whether in the end they are a sheep or a goat. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:15-23), Jesus says that it is the fruit of one’s life that shows the kind of tree it is, despite any and all professions of being a good tree. In the end it is not those who call Jesus “Lord” who are saved, but those who consistently do God’s will. The rest are turned away with a clear “I never knew you!”

The key is that anyone can profess to believe anything. But it is a person’s actions that show what they truly believe. A husband may profess to love his wife, but if he commits adultery with another woman, that action shows that, all his professions of love notwithstanding, he does not. In the same way, many may profess faith in Jesus and love for God. But it is their actions, their obedience or disobedience, their faithfulness or betrayal, that shows most clearly whether their names are written in the book of life.

Pray with Me

Father, this teaching is so clear throughout the Scriptures, both the Old Testament as well as the New. It is our day-to-day actions and attitudes, both in public and in private, that show what we truly believe, and thus can be trustworthy in determining our fate in Your final judgment. Help us, Lord, to love You so deeply and to commit ourselves to You so fully, that godly actions spring naturally from our purified and devoted hearts. Amen.