The Great White Throne Judgment

Title: The Great White Throne Judgment

Bible Book: Revelation 20 : 11-15

Author: Johnny L. Sanders

Subject: Judgment, The White Throne



When I was growing up I heard a number of evangelists and pastors tell a well known story - at least it was well known at the time. It was so well known that sometimes the details got scrambled in the telling. The story involved something that happened in south central Mississippi half a century or more ago. I recently mentioned it and stopped to ask one of our deacons, Eugene Abbey, if he had heard evangelists and pastors tell the story when he was growing up in Laurel, Mississippi. He said, “Yeah, but I heard it happened on Bouge Chitta River instead of the Homo Chitta River.” I had heard that it was the Big Black River but learned that it had been the Homo Chitta River. By the way, one of our members owns a farm on the Bouge Chitta River and I called her to ask her how to spell Bouge Chitta. I had misspelled it. I then told her why I needed to know and she assured me that the incident did happen, and it happened on the Homo Chitta River. Of course none of this means any thing to you - and it has no bearing on what that which the story illustrates. But let me tell you the story.

There was a very severe thunderstorm in south central Mississippi and the rain had been pouring down for sometime in the hills, filling the Homo Chitta River with water. The normally shallow river was just right for float trips on inner tubes (after the service, Gene Abbey will meet you in the foyer and explain what an inner tube is - a special service our church offers for those who have never had the pleasure of patching one on the side of the road in August!). At flood stage, the Homo Chita River was no longer the calm peaceful little river that attracted local residents who loved to take guest to its sandy shore for a picnic. At flood stage, it was a roiling, churning, loud force, a liquid terror, tumbling limbs, logs, and everything in its path down stream.

It was during one of these storms when the river was doing its best to sweep everything in its path all the way to the mighty Mississippi, that a man was driving home. It was at night, the rain was so heavy he had to give the road his full attention. The only light was that of his headlights reflected off the rain which was falling in sheets - except for the blinding lightening. There was no way he could see that he bridge across the Homo Chita River had been washed down stream. He drove off into the raging waters. By the grace of God, he was able to get out of the car and catch onto something on the bank and pull himself out of the water.

This man immediately rushed back to the highway and stood in the middle of the storm so he could flag down any other driver he saw headed toward the river. Now, picture this. That man stood in the middle of the road waving frantically with both arms as drivers swerved around him and plunged into the river. Eleven cars swerved around that man who was trying with all his might to save them.
He did everything in his power to save them, to warn them, but they dodged around him and drove into the river. According to the reports, not one of them came out of the river alive.

The point the evangelists were making is no mystery to anyone who knows the Word of God. I am still amazed at the spiritual ignorance of those who say they don’t believe in God because a God of love would never send anyone to hell. How, they argue, can a God of love send anyone to hell without any hope of deliverance. Of course if you fall for that one, they want to know how God could let bad things happen to good people. Back in the early eighties, a popular book was written by a Jewish rabbi on that subject. He concluded that, though He is God, He cannot do everything. In other words, there are things beyond His reach. If you believe that, please spell your god with a small “g”! I happen to agree with Francis Shaeffer: “The most meaningless word in the English language is the word god spelled with a small “g”.

If you will permit me to offer the briefest answer possible to that question, I will simply say, “He doesn’t.” Bad things do not happen to good people! The Bible is very clear on this: Only God is good! Bad things happen to sinners. God sent His only begotten Son to suffer and bleed and die for sinners. God watched His Son suffer and die a miserable death for you. He sent His Spirit to convict you of sin, to convince you or the righteousness that is available to you if you confess your sin, repent, and receive Jesus as Savior - simply by believing in Him. God called out Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude to write messages to you offering you eternal life through Jesus Christ - and to warn you of the consequences of refusing Him.

Now, back to that man escaped the Homo Chita River. What were his options? He might have fallen on the river bank and waited for the storm to pass. He might have begun walking until he found a home where someone would take him in and provide warm, dry clothes and hot coffee. But he didn’t. He make his way back to the highway and stood in the middle of the road, waving with all his might in an effort to try to prevent anyone else from plunging into the river. What more could he have done? He was risking his own life! He may have been hit by lightening. He may have been run over by a driver who was blinded by the storm - they couldn’t see him until they were right on him. He risked everything to try to save everyone on that road. Eleven cars and their occupants plunged into the river and all the occupants perished. Then, I assume the twelfth driver stopped. Maybe others stopped after that - at least, one would assume that to have been the case.

For centuries, God has been sending His servants to stand in the middle of the road to warn all those on the road that if they continue on the highway of the world they will perish. Most people swerve around those preachers, teachers, and other witnesses. (I might add that in America only church members run over them!) What more can God do to save them? He gave His only begotten Son to save them. If they reject Him there is no hope. Some one has said that there are 237 warning in the New Testament of the consequences of rejecting Jesus Christ. In our Scripture today we see the consequences of disregarding all the warning and rejecting Jesus Christ.


A. First, Let Us Look at the Reality of Judgment as Seen in the Bible.

The fact of divine judgement should not surprise anyone. But, some may wonder, doesn’t the Bible say God is love? Absolutely! How, then can a God of love send anyone to hell? There is a simple answer - God is holy. The holiness of God cannot and will not tolerate sin. You can be sure that no one, having been glorified, will ever question God’s love or His holiness again. The God Who is holy will punish sin and condemn sinners. In John 3:18, we learn that you do not have to wait until Judgement Day to be condemned - the lost person is condemned already because he has not already believed in Jesus Christ. The only way to escape eternal condemnation - and that does mean hell - is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no other. There is no other name known among men whereby you must be saved.

An elderly Jewish friend, to whom I have been a witness for some twenty years, went to the funeral service for a son-in-law’s father. Later, he asked a new rabbi, “Why do they always talk about Jesus? Why can’t they just say God?” Then, he said, “And don’t say you have to go through Jesus.” Once again, I tried to witness to my friend, and once again I found him to be spiritually blind.

The Gospel is the good news of salvation. At the same time, the Gospel assures us that those who reject Jesus Christ as Savior will face Him in judgment. Listen to the words of Jesus on this subject:

“I assure you: It will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (Matt 10:15, HCSB).

“I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak” (Matt 12:36).

“The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah’s proclamation; and look—something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look—something greater than Solomon is here!” (Matt 12:41-42).

“The one who rejects Me and doesn’t accept My sayings has this as his judge: the word I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48).

If these words of Jesus are not enough, let me remind you of the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man stated that he was in torment. Abraham assured him that there is a great gulf between heaven and hell and no one can cross it. Those who reject Jesus Christ will spend eternity in hell. I know that is not a popular subject today, but we have the Lord’s word on it.

B. Now, Let Us Look at the Text.

“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” (Rev 20:11-15, HCSB).

1). God is seated on a great white throne (20:11). There are almost 50 references in Revelation to a throne. This is the judgment throne and God sits on this throne as Judge. We should have seen it coming! There have been plenty of warning signs along the way. Maybe I should say, THEY should have seen it coming. True believers have to know that this judgment is coming, but with the lost will not be prepared for anything like this. They may not have feared God their whole lives, but they fear Him now. The most proud, arrogant, evil sinners will be in a state of panic when they see God on the great white throne. The Scripture says, “Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them.”

This should be the ultimate warning for every lost person, but throughout the centuries men and women have looked their Creator in the face and declared, “I don’t want you! I don’t need you!” Of course, many of them would never be quite so bold about it - they just say, “Not now. I may do something about it later.” Joe was a handsome young man of 21, as close to “a perfect specimen” of a young man as you were likely to find. He was having fun, enjoying the world, dating, going to parties, celebrating with his friends. My grandfather tried to witness to Joe, but Joe said, “Some day I may become a Christian, but not right now. I am having too much fun.” Three days later we got the word that Joe had drowned in the Cold Water River, which was at flood stage at the time, while trying to save the life of his girl friend and her friend. Their boat capsized and as Joe he pushed her into some vines he pushed himself back out into the current and a drunken friend sat on the bank and watched him drown. The friend had been a swimming instructor in the Navy! My grandfather told us that Joe was the third person he had tried to persuade to call on the Lord for salvation who refused for the same reason - “and not one of them lived over three days.” Joe, Had an appointment with the judgment bar of God. My grandfather stood in the middle of the road, waving both hands in the air, trying to get Joe to stop before it was too late and turn to Jesus Christ.

This should serve as a warning to all lost people everywhere, and it should motivate us to take the message of salvation to them. It should also encourage believers. Dear friend, I thank God that I will never stand before this great white throne and hear the eternal death sentence. Many years ago someone told me that a man from a works oriented church challenged a local Baptist pastor to a debate. During the debate, the man challenged, “When you stand before the judgment bar of God He will decide whether you are going to heaven or hell.” To which, the pastor said, “I will not be in that judgment, I settled out of court.” I thank God I have settled out of court. I will be judged according to my works, but there will never be any doubt about where I will spend eternity.

The Great White Throne Judgment should put a healthy fear into every heart. At the same time, every believer will rejoice in two things. First, he/she is protected from that judgment. Second, if you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, you will be protected forever from the kind of people who chose to reject Jesus Christ in favor of a life of sin. When God pronounces His judgment every believer will say AMEN! Hallelujah! It may be your mother or father, your sister or brother, your son of daughter, or even your husband or wife, but you will say, AMEN, because there is no place in heaven for anyone who rejects Jesus Christ.

2) John tells us what he saw. “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” (20:12).

1. All the unsaved dead will stand before the throne.

2. Books were opened.

3. Another book was opened, the book of life.

4. The dead were judged according to their works.

All the deeds, all the words, and all the thoughts are recorded in God’s books. He is omniscient. He knows everything. The saved are protected from this judgment because when your are born again the blood of Jesus Christ covers your sins. Believers sin and God deals with them as a Father deals with a child. He deals with the lost, not as their father but as their Judge. When you sin, if you are a Christian, God deals with you in a number of ways. He convicts, He disciplines, and He withholds blessings. He may even take more drastic steps if these do not work. He deals with you in the here and now - He has all eternity to punish the unredeemed. They will pay the price forever. They say they don’t want His Son and they have their wish granted forever.

3) All lost people are judged according to their works. Look at the verse again, “Then the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead; all were judged according to their works” (vs. 13). When he says that “the sea gave up its dead, and Death and Hades gave up their dead,” he is covering any and every conceivable place. People may debate these three places all they want to, but the point I want to make is a very simple one. All the lost will stand before the Great White Throne and hear the sentence of the Judge they can never call Father. They rejected His Son. He rejects them and His rejection is forever.

4) Everything that is not under the blood of Christ is thrown into the lake of fire. Listen again: “Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire” (vs. 14). Death will reign no longer. Hades, is the place of the departed dead, the realm of death. For the lost, Hades means hell, but for the redeemed Hades means heaven. Either will be forever. Never again will there be a place for, or a need for death, or the realm of the dead.

If there is ever any question about what “the second death” means, it is answered here. It is “the lake of fire.” Now, for those who do not believe in a literal lake of fire, let me stress that if you say that is only a symbol, no symbol is as great as that which it symbolizes. If the lake of fire symbolizes something much worse, we don’t want to go there!

I often heard R. G. Lee call Charles Haddon Spurgeon the greatest preacher since Paul. If I could stick a DVD into the player and sit and listen to any three preachers peach a sermon, I would probably choose Paul, Spurgeon, and R. G. Lee. When I was growing up, we went to Sunday School at 9:00 o’clock and morning worship at 10:00. We got home at about 11:15 - 11:20 and immediately turned on the TV. We often turned it on just as Dr. Lee dropped down onto his right knee beside the pulpit at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis to pray before he preached. I heard him preach PAY DAY SOME DAY at First Baptist Church, Senatobia, MS., and later I would hear him a number of times in person. I was always amazed at his quick response to criticism or to cynical remarks. One day a young man told Dr. Lee he didn’t believe in hell. Dr. Lee said, “Young man, you won’t be there five minuted before you change your mind.” Folks, this is serious business!

Once, a young man walked up to R. G. Lee and said, “I don’t believe in God because I don’t believer in anything I can’t prove with my natural senses.” Dr. Lee said, “Son, you don’t believe that.” The young man continued to insist that he did believer it, and Dr. Lee finally asked, “Would you be willing to write that down on paper?” He agreed to do it, so Dr. Lee said, “Write, ‘I I don’t believe in anything I cannot prove with my five senses.” When he finished writing, Dr. Lee said, “Sing it!” And he did.

Dr. Lee took the paper and read it back to him and asked if he meant it. When the man assured him he meant it, Dr. Lee asked, “Young man, do you have a mind?” He said, “Of course I do.”

Dr. Lee: “Have you ever seen it?”
Man: “No, but....”
Dr. Lee: “No buts. Have you ever smelled it?”
Man: No, but.....”
Dr. Lee: No buts. Have you ever felt it?”
Man: “No, but....”
Dr. Lee: “No buts. Have you ever heard it?”
Man: “No, but...”
Dr. Lee: “No buts. Have you ever tasted it?”
Man: “No, but...”
Dr. Lee: “Young man, I have a signed statement here that says you are a stark raving idiot!”

5) “...Anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15).
First, let me remind you that we have already seen a reference to “the book of life.” When God opens the book of life, He sees the name of every person who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. There has never been a forgery in that book. There has never been a mistake. There has never been a false entry. If your name is there it is because you have been born again the only way any one can ever be born again - by grace, through faith (Eph. 2:8).

There is one more thing for which I am eternally grateful. There has never been an erasure in (or from) the book of life. Jesus is very clear about that: “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:28). That states it very clearly. First, you will not accidentally or intentionally lose your salvation. Second, no one can ever take it from you.

One of my closest friends is a dedicated Christian, an honest man, and the kind of friend everyone needs - he is loyal. We may not see each other for a few months, but the time apart never diminishes our friendship. We love to cultivate that relationship, but it never fades when we get too busy to visit for a period of time. True to his nature, he once told me he wanted to talk with me about something. He said, “I have a problem with ‘once saved, always saved.” He went on to tell me that he had witnessed a number of people make a profession of faith and be baptized. Then three months later they were working on Sunday, using God’s name in vain, and doing other things that no Christian should do. I agreed, “I have a problem with that, too. But my problem is with that individual, not the Word of God.” In time, I believe he came to accept that doctrine. If you know you are a child of God, you can be sure you are protected from the Great White Throne Judgment.


A. God Does Not Want Anyone to Perish.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

“The patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God does not want anyone to perish. He has given His Son to die a miserable death on the cross so that we might be saved. He has given us His Holy Scripture to tell us we are sinners, condemned by sin and destined to hell. He has sent His Spirit to convict us of sin and to convince us of the righteousness that is available to us in Jesus Christ. He has sent prophets and preachers to proclaim His salvation. He has commissioned all believers to be witnesses to His great salvation. He has churches proclaiming His salvation around the world. He has evangelists and pastors covering the world with the Gospel through radio, television, the Internet, and Ham radio. He has posted the warning signs along the way, both to warn of the consequences of not trusting His Son, and the joy of salvation through Jesus.

My friend, you are going to have to climb over a lot of barriers if you are determined to go to hell, not the lease of which are His Word, His Spirit, His church, and His Gospel. What this means is that if you end up before the Great White Throne, don’t blame God. You are totally and fully responsible. You have looked God Almighty in the eye and said, “I don’t want you!” Please don’t make that mistake. If you are determined to go to hell, you are going to have to dodge a lot of witnesses God has sent to do everything within their power to warn you of the destruction that lies ahead if you do not repent and trust Jesus to save you.

B. God’s Salvation Is Clearly Presented in the Bible.

A lot of people object to the term, God’s plan of salvation, but whether you call it God’s plan of salvation, How to Be Saved, or something else, I would like to share a very simple outline with Scripture which I have adapted from THE TRACTS, WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURE, and THE ROMAN ROAD TO SALVATION.

1) YOU HAVE SINNED. (1) “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked” (Jeer. 17:9). (2). For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

2) YOU ARE LOST. (1) “The soul who sins shall die” (Eze. 18:20). (2) “He who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

3) GOD LOVE YOU. (1) “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). (2) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

4) GOD WILL SAVE YOU. (1) “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47). (2) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (! John 1:9).

5) HE WILL SAVE YOU NOW. (1) “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” (Heb. 3:15). (2) “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

6) HE PROMISES TO KEEP YOU. (1) “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 19:28). (2) “Kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:5).

7) HE OFFERS ASSURANCE OF SALVATION. (1) “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” (2) “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36).


Anyone who doubts God’s judgment should revisit the Garden of Eden. Then pay a visit to Noah. Remember God’s promise that He would not destroy the world again by water. The next time it will be fire. Listen to these words from Simon Peter’s pen:

“But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be on fire and be dissolved, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell” (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Now, do you remember that man standing in the driving rain, waving both arms for all he is worth in an effort to prevent other drivers from driving off into the Homo Chitta River? He did everything in his power to stop those drivers from perishing. There was nothing more he could have done - nothing more anyone could have asked of him. Not one person who perished could blame him for failing to try to save them.

Right now, picture our Creator, the One Who would be your Savior, standing in the middle of the highway of life, flagging you down to warn you that you must repent of perish. ““For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). There you have it: believe and live, or refuse and perish.

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