If I was to offer a $1000 prize to the person who could name North America’s longest-running television news magazine, I think my money would remain quite safe in my own pocket. The show to which I am referring started in 1966 and is still running – that is over 50 years. It is still running because it has usually been fair and accurate – as well as entertaining. It was the first of its kind – a magazine format where several stories were described in detail. If you guessed the CBS news show “60 Minutes” you’d be wrong by more than two years. “60 Minutes” is an American clone of the Canadian show called “W5.”
To many people outside journalism, W5 doesn’t make any sense – it doesn’t mean anything. But to a journalism student, the five W’s are drilled into his head as requirements for accurate news reporting. Each story should provide a minimum of five details – who, what, where, when and why. Sadly, a great deal of modern journalism is filled with editorial opinion based on only one or two facts. Proper journalism should provide the reader with all the pertinent information, permitting the reader or listener to reach his own conclusions.
This morning, I would like to use the five W’s as the outline for our thoughts. I have heard fanciful sermons on what we find here in Revelation 20, and you probably have as well. There is a place for fiction and fictionalized facts, but the pulpit is not one of those places. It is fun to read a story about a true historical figure who has been painted with the colors of the author’s imagination. But God’s House is not a public reading room filled with jokes, laughter and the smell of strong coffee. We should want to know as precisely as we can what it is the Lord is revealing to us. Let the internet evangelist fill in the blanks with his imagination and interpretation of world events. In the mean time let us seek for the divinely revealed facts.
This morning, I want you to see WHO it is that we’re reading – from verse 11 forward.
Despite the traditions and imaginations of some movie script writers, Satan is not involved after verse 10. Satan is not being judged here, nor is he the judge. Some people think that it is Satan who sends people to Hell. Or they picture Satan in Hell, acting as its chief maintenance man, stoking the tormenting fires. And those who visualize him this way, usually see him as some sort of cartoon figure. But the Devil, Satan, is NOT a cartoon figure. And it is not he, but the holy God of Heaven who condemns people to Lake of Fire.
The Judge who sits upon this white throne is not named in verse 11. But assuming that verse 12 refers to the same person, we see that He is GOD. John describes the throne, but not the Being sitting upon that throne. Why? Is it because in His glory, Jehovah is more than any human eye can behold – John could not be sure? Ordinarily, no man shall see Jehovah through natural eyes and live to describe Him. But this is special revelation; one might think that the Lord would make an exception. Then again, this Judge is the One from Whom Heaven and Earth fled like minnows from the shark. And who is greater than all creation — only the Creator? This is God upon the throne of judgment – the Second person of Trinity to be more exact. “God (the Father) judgeth no man, but hath given all judgment unto Son” – John 5:22. Paul told Timothy that the Lord Jesus Christ “shall judge the quick and the dead.” The evidence is clear – this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God judging the people of His creation.
The other “who” in this passage are simply called “the dead.” Now that is not very definite and precise is it? As a matter of fac it happens to be very precise because we have them well-described. These dead are brought to court out of the prison cells of the sea, death and hell. I know that some preachers like to spiritualize these three terms, but there is no need. The word “hell” in Greek is “hades” and it refers to the place of the dead. It usually has reference to the place of dead SOULS. “Death” in verse 14 seems to compliment “hell” pointing toward the place of dead bodies – the grave. “The sea” in verse 12, is a place where thousands of dead have been interred but where no actual grave can be found. Some think of the “sea” as referring to simply the unnumbered mass of dead humanity. That is a possibility, but I prefer to use the term literally.
So we are talking about the dead, but what dead? Wouldn’t it be all the dead at the end of the thousand years of Messianic peace? That excludes those who have been raptured or translated prior to the Millennium.. It excludes those dead saints who have been resurrected before the Millennium. It excludes those who have lived through the thousand year kingdom of Christ. Who does it include? Who are those dead standing before the throne of God? It would be those not raised or resurrected at the rapture. That is: all the lost – the unbelieving and wicked from Cain to the last day prior to Revelation 20:11. This is the judgment of those outside of the Lord’s saving grace. These are people who have lived and died without submitting themselves to the sovereignty of Christ. These have lived and died rejecting and/or hating Christ Jesus, the Saviour.
Who will be standing before this Great White Throne? Essentially, it will be the unbeliever from the beginning of time – the wicked, the proud, the self-righteous. Some come from the days of the Old Testament and some from the days of the apostles. There will be the unbelievers from the Tribulation, and those who rebelled against the Messiah during and after the Millennium. They will come from every nation, tribe and kinship. They will speak hundreds of languages, and not a single language will be excluded. Some will be criminals while others will have been secular judges, princes and even kings. All distinctions will be gone – erased by the great equalizer – Death.
Perhaps out of order, our next question is “WHEN?”
I realize that there is debate on the subject. But I believe that this great judgment will take place about 1007 years from now. Clearly the first part of this chapter speaks about a thousand years of Satanless life on earth. I believe that this corresponds to the Old Testament prophecies of lambs and lions laying down together. This will be the day that rattlesnakes and other formerly poisonous reptiles replace baby’s rattles . “None will hurt or destroy in all of God’s holy mount.” And that means this judgment is NOT near at hand – as far as pages on the calendar are concerned. The millennium is not here today, because we have yet to await for the King to mount His throne. There is yet a literal thousand years to wait before this judgment. But, thankfully, we must not wait a thousand years to wait for the Saviour. His return for the saints is imminent – according to a multitude of scripts scattered throughout the Word. And then will follow seven years of earthly judgment and purification, before Christ establishes His Millennial Kingdom.
And THEN will come this judgment. Remember that one day is with Lord as a thousand years and a thousand years as but a day. In the time-table of God, this judgment is closer than the sound of your alarm-clock tomorrow morning. But besides this: for all intents and purposes this judgment is as close as the day of your death, if you die unrepentant and still under the penalty of your sins. Your soul will be like the frozen remains of a the great wooly mammoths discovered in the north. Some have been found almost instantaneously frozen, even with food in their mouths. What they were doing the moment of their death has been almost eternally sealed. And the state of your soul the moment of your death, will remain unchanged until the day you stand before the One from whose face the heaven and earth fled away. Unfortunately I can’t say that from the time of death to Revelation 20:11 will feel like the blink of an eye for the unbeliever. Because that person will spend those thousand plus years in torment. The soul of that person will spend a millenium in Hell waiting to be reunited with his body before spending eternity in even greater torment. Our few short years in this world are a terrible waste, if we are not humbly serving the King of Kings.
Our next question is “WHERE?”
Where will these events take place; what will be the locale of this final judgment? If we take verse 11 chronologically, then it appears the world, as we know it, will be gone. In fact the universe itself may not exist any longer, awaiting new Heavens and a new earth. So, will this take place suspended in a new kind of spaceless vacuum? I don’t know, nor do I think that our speculation is to much of a purpose. But I do know that it appears this judgment will take place on the shore of the lake of fire. There will be no time lost in the execution of all the unregistered souls.
And obviously, this judgment will take place immediately in front of the throne which John saw that day. That will be a ROYAL seat of judgment; and something John had never seen before. He was quite bedazzled by what he saw. That throne was like its Holy Occupant, filled with incorruptible purity. Some thrones have no right to exist; but this one DEMANDS existence. It is demanded by unrepented sin, unrepentant sinners and the eternally Holy God.
Please don’t ask me for specifics about where this will take place, because that has not been revealed. But this one thing I do know, this judgment will take place SOMEWHERE. This is not some metaphorical, mystical, allegorical event. It will be as real as you are sitting there before me this morning. This judgment shall occur just as we read of it here.
And again, about WHAT are we talking?
Revelation 20 describes the judgment, condemnation and execution of all those who have rejected the sovereign Lordship and salvation of Christ. As I have said, Heaven and earth will have fled from before his face. But even though the sinner might wish for the same kind of escape, for him will be impossible. This chapter speaks of those whose names are not written in Lamb’s Book of Life. And Who is that Lamb? John the Baptist, while pointing to Jesus Christ, said, “Behold, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” Elsewhere in Revelation we have a description of the Lamb as “the one who was dead but who lived again.”
This is the judgment of those who refused to fellowship with the Saviour, the Christ, during their lives.. And why have they refused? It was not simple neglect. It was hatred. This chapter most likely describes the judgment of some who are in this building this morning. It will be a public hearing, but at the same time as personal as possible. It will be based upon the records found in three kinds of books. The dead, “whose names are not found in the Lamb’s book of life, shall be cast into the lake burning with fire and brimstone.” And it appears that the degree of their torment will be based upon what is found in the other books. Salvation and deliverance from sin is of God’s sovereign grace. But the depth of the judgment of those who are not saved will be according to people’s lives as compared to the Bible, the Word of God.
And we are told that this is a description of “the last judgment” – the real and ultimate supreme court. There will be no appeal courts beyond this one. No lawyers and advocates will be present, objecting or petitioning the Judge. And it appears that there will be no rebellion, no question, and no dissension from the condemned. This is more like a simple sentencing hearing than an actual trial. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God already abideth on him.” There is no pleading of cases, the fact is; their names are not found in Lamb’s book.
And that bring us to our last question: “WHY?”
Scripture tells us that God created for His pleasure and glory. But He permitted Satan and man to sin. Some theologians can’t understand or explain that. God created this universe for His pleasure and glory. But it has been corrupted by sin, and, thus, it cannot produce the glory for which it was created. That sin must be eradicated – eliminated.
This chapter begins with a description of the removal and end of Lucifer, known as Satan and the Devil. Other scriptures talk about the new creation of Heaven and Earth. And more scriptures describe the salvation of sinners and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to them. This Great White Throne tells us what will be done with those human beings who live and die without the Saviour. God could not be God and permit the continuation of sin and those sinners. And, when the Lord graciously pulls a few of those sinners away from the lip of Hell, He is infinitely more glorified than He would have been, if He had never permitted sin in the first place.
God has been so very, very patient with all of us. Our attitudes and our overt sins have begged God for our immediate destruction. The Lord is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.” But, the time will come when His patience will be no more. Those whose names are not written the Lamb’s book of life will be cast into the eternal lake of fire.
None of us can with our hand and our scrawling penmanship enter our names in the Lamb’s book. It IS the Lamb’s book and I assume that only He has ever written on its pages. You cannot enter your name, but you can meet the Holy Scribe Himself.