The Great White Throne Judgment
May 26th, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
THE GREAT WHITE THRONE JUDGMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-26-63 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message entitled The Great White Throne Judgment. In our preaching through the Bible after many years, we have come to the Revelation. In preaching through the Revelation now these several years, we have come to chapter 20. In preaching through chapter 20, this is the fourth and the last sermon prepared on this one chapter. The first sermon concerned the binding of Satan [Revelation 20:1-3]. The second sermon concerned the two resurrections [Revelation20:4-6]. The third sermon concerned the millennium. And now the fourth one concerns the great white throne, the ultimate and final judgment [Revelation2 0:11-15]. And the reading of the text is in Revelation 20, beginning at verse 11 to the end of the chapter:
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.
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.
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and the Grave and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.
And the Grave and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
There could be no more solemn passage to be read in the entire Word of God than this passage we have just read, nor is there a more somber message to which the pastor could address himself than this message encompassed in this passage this morning.
The vision begins, "And I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it" [Revelation 20:11]. The opening of these judgments before the millennium began in that same kind of a way. At the conclusion of the Lord’s letters to the seven churches in Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22]; beginning at chapter 4, he is taken up into heaven, and there he sees a great throne [Revelation 4:1-2]. There’s a lot of difference though between this throne set at the beginning of that judgment and this one set at the final day of the Lord [Revelation 20:11]. That throne in chapter 4 is described as having around it a rainbow [Revelation 4:3]; and a rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant promises for good [Genesis 9:9-17]. But there’s no rainbow around this throne; it is naked. There are no covenant promises at this throne for good; nothing but naked damnation [Revelation 20:11-15]. This throne, in the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, is described like this: "Out of it proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices" [Revelation 4:5]. There are no such lightnings and thunderings and voices of warning and of threatening at this throne; nothing but silent righteousness and holy purity and certain and ultimate judgment [Revelation 20:11-15]. The first throne God is warning, like He does today; He is threatening, as He does today [Revelation 4:5]. But the time of warning and threatening is all over now; this is the ultimate and final judgment [Revelation 20:11-15].
Another thing about that throne in the fourth chapter, "And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God" [Revelation 4:5]. But there are no seven lamps of intercession, there is no Holy Spirit of grace and appeal at this throne; nothing but perdition and judgment and retributive visitation [Revelation 20:11-15]. Another thing: before this throne at the fourth chapter there was a sea like unto crystal. Before that throne of God in heaven was a platform of celestial refuge [Revelation 4:6]. But there’s no sea of crystalline purity before this throne; for there is no heavenly platform of godly refuge and salvation upon which these lost sinners condemned may stand [Revelation 20:11-15]. One other thing: before the throne in the fourth chapter of the Revelation there were songs and hymns and praise and words of exaltation and exaltation [Revelation 4:8-11]. There are no voices of praise before this throne; there are no hymns of gratitude; there are no voices of exaltation; nothing but the silence of damnation. "I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them" [Revelation 20:11].
You see, twice before has God wrought and has Satan destroyed and wasted and sown unto sin and desolation. Twice before, the first one was in the beginning, whenever that was, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" [Genesis 1:1]. And the workmanship of God is ever beautiful and perfect. So in the beginning, when God created these heavens and this earth, the workmanship of God was beautiful and holy, celestial, glorious. "And the earth became tohu wa bohu; and the earth became waste and void and uninhabitable and destroyed" [Genesis 1:2]. Isaiah says God did not create this earth tohu wa bohu – waste, and formless, and void [Isaiah 45:18] – so something happened. In my persuasion, the thing that happened was this: Satan was filled with sin, and when sin was found in God’s creation, it fell [Romans 8:20-21]. There’s no exception to that in any experience in life or in any work of God that we know of. Sin, Satan, waste it, destroy it, turns it into vanity and vacuity and destruction. So God’s beautiful creation was destroyed when sin was found in Satan [Ezekiel 28:15]. He was cast out of heaven, and a third of the angels of heaven defected with him. That was the first destruction in God’s created universe [Revelation 12:3-4].
A second one: and the Lord re-created this earth, and placed in the heart of it the garden of Eden" [Genesis 2:8]. And in that beautiful recreation, the Lord placed a man and a woman [Genesis 2:15, 21-24], made in His image [Genesis 1:27], that they might think God’s thoughts after Him, might call upon His name, and might have fellowship with the Lord Almighty. And for the second time there came into God’s beautiful workmanship that same foul and evil fallen angel of God. And he brought into the home and into the lives of our first parents waste, and sin, and destruction, and death [Genesis 3:1-21]; and for the second time the Lord turned and said, "Cursed is the ground for Thy sake" [Genesis 3:17], and this earth fell again into destruction and waste and desolation. Sin destroyed God’s beautiful Eden.
Now, the third time, but the last time, after this millennium, God’s beautiful work in the earth, after this millennium, the Book says, "And after the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and he shall go forth and deceive the nations in the earth" [Genesis 20:7-8]. And they rebel against God, and they war against God’s people. But this time, but this time, there comes from God an ultimate and final judgment of fire: "And fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them. And the devil was cast into the hellfire of brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever" [Revelation 20:9-10]. And that judgment of fire is that final judgment by which God forever rids this earth and this universe of its sin and its waste and its destruction. "I saw that great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth condemned and the heavens wasted fled away: and there was found no place for them" [Revelation 20:11].
I have read that in the third chapter of 2 Peter [verse 7], "The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word of God are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men" [2 Peter 3:7]. When God judges ungodly men at this great final white throne judgment [Revelation 20:11-15], that is the day when God shall purge this universe by fire [2 Peter 3:7]. Then he continues:
That day comes as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works therein shall be burned up . . .
The heavens shall be on fire, the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat.
And we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.
[2 Peter 3:10-13]
So at this great final judgment of Almighty God, when the Lord judges ungodly and wicked and unbelieving men, that’s the last time that rebellion and sin shall ever be found in all of God’s universe. For the judgment that day shall be by fire: "And fire came down from God out of heaven. And the devil and those that he deceived were cast into the lake of fire and brimstone" [Revelation 20:9-10]. This is the ultimate dissolution of all that sin and Satan have destroyed in God’s universe. Now, the Book says that this happens in the day of the judgment of ungodly men [Revelation 20:13]. And that’s what is written here in the Revelation:
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God,
And the sea gave up the dead which were in it,
And the grave and Hades delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged by the things that were written in those books.
And the Book of Life was opened [Revelation 20:12], and it was perused, and the pages were carefully scrutinized to see if any of these were written in that book. No name was written in that book of these, the condemned, the ungodly, the wicked, the unbelieving; and they were cast into the lake of fire and brimstone [Revelation 2:12-15].
There are no white robes here. There is no fine linen of the righteousnesses of the saints here [Revelation 19:7-8]. There is no trumpet of the archangel, there’s no trumpet of God and the voice of the archangel calling God’s people out of their graves here [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. This is an assembly of the damned and the doomed. This is an unblessed and an unholy congregation. There is no mention of any one righteous in this passage; all that is mentioned here is of ungodliness, and of rejection, and of the doomed, and the damned.
You see, there was a resurrection [Revelation 20:12-15]; and wherever that word anastasis, "resurrection" [Revelation 20:13]; and it’s used many times in the Scriptures, wherever that word anastasis, "resurrection" is used, it always refers, without exception and without fail, to a corporeal, bodily resurrection. And here previously in the twentieth chapter, all of these blessed and holy have been raised in that first resurrection. And he says, "This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection" [Revelation 20:4-6].
That’s not a spiritual resurrection, not unless this is the first and only time in the Word of God that anastisis refers to a man being converted in his heart. The word anastisis, "resurrection," refers to being raised in corporeal, bodily presence, out of the dust of the ground, out of the depths of the sea, out of the heart of the earth. "This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in that first resurrection . . . they shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years" [Revelation 20:5-6].
So all of the holy and the saved and the righteous have been raised in that first resurrection; "But the rest of the dead," so there are two resurrections; there is a resurrection of the holy and the saved and those who’ve trusted in Jesus, the first resurrection, "But the rest of the dead," these that do not have a part in that resurrection unto life, "the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished" [Revelation 20:5]. And when that thousand years are done and the millennium is over, there is in this rebellion of Satan [Revelation 20:7-9], there is this final judgment day of Almighty God.
The Bible so carefully speaks of those two resurrections. There is a resurrection of the just and of the unjust. Some shall be raised to life, some shall be raised to contempt and to shame [Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46; John 5:29]. "These that are in Christ shall be raised first" [1 Thessalonians 4:16]; this is the first resurrection. But there is also a resurrection of damnation and of condemnation and of judgment. There is a resurrection to incorruption and immortality [1 Corinthians 15:42]. There is a resurrection of corruption. "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption" [Galatians 6:8].
There is a resurrection to glorified body, like that of Christ, to immortality [1 Corinthians 15:53-54]. There is a resurrection to shame and to contempt; there is a resurrection to eternal life and to heaven [Daniel 12:2]. There is a resurrection to damnation and to perdition, to the lake of fire [Revelation 20:10, 14-15], where the worm is not quenched, and the flames never die [Mark 9:46]. There are two and only two great destinies of the human soul, just two. "And I saw the dead, these sinners infamous and famous, these sinners who are great and mighty, and beggarly and sorry and filthy and despised," the emperor lost; and the beggar lost, these that are shrewd and genius, ingenious; and these that are dull and sordid, all alike, refined sinners and vulgar sinners: in God’s sight, whether a man is refined as a sinner or whether he’s stupid and filthy as a sinner makes no difference in God’s sight; "Small and great, there they stood before God"; and the books were opened" [Revelation 20:12]. All that we do is written in God’s Book of Life. And the Christian people shall stand before the bema of Christ, there to receive the rewards of what we tried to do for Him [1 Corinthians 3:13-15; 2 Corinthians 5:10]. There is also this judgment when the books are opened for the wicked of life, where they receive the rewards of their evil and unbelieving deeds. "The books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life" [Revelation 20:12]. All through the Bible you will find that Book of Life referred to, the Book of Life. God has a book, and in that book are written the names of those who trust in Him, the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. "And the dead were judged," these vile and wicked and unbelieving sinners, "they were judged out of those books which were written" [Revelation 20:12].
I have told you so many times why these judgments are at the end. They are not when a man dies. They are at the end because a man doesn’t die when he dies, but the evil of his life lives on and on and on.
For example, I remember when I was a youth, in the little town in which I was growing up, I saw a man take his little boy and teach that little boy to curse and to be filthy; and the imaginations that he put in that little boy’s mind were sordid. Now that father is dead, and that little boy has grown to manhood, outside of the orbit of God, following in the steps of that vile and wicked father. He will reap not only the judgment of the sin in his own life, but he will reap someday the recurring judgment of the seeds of vile wickedness that he planted in the life of his little boy. That’s why the judgment day is at the end day.
God who alone is able to do it shall unravel all of the influences for evil of these people who’ve refused the grace and goodness and forgiveness of God. The Lord shall unravel it through the ages and through the centuries. And at the end of time, I would think that every lost sinner will be overwhelmed and amazed at the stupendous magnitude of the reward of evil that has accumulated in the years of the vile influence of his rejection of Christ. That’s what this is, "judged out of the books, out of the things that are written in the books" [Revelation 20:12].
Then there’s one other book there, that Book of Life [Revelation 20:12]. And the Lord, lest any say He isn’t true and fair and honest and just, and the Lord opens that book, and He searches through that Book of Life to see if the names of any of these lost and damned and doomed and rejecting, to see if any of their names are in there. It is the most inexplicable, un-understandable thing to me in this earth that men, who have an opportunity to have their names inscribed in the Book of Life, refuse, steadfastly so, adamantingly so, vigorously so. "I’d rather be damned. I’d rather be lost. I’d rather live in hell. I’d rather fall into flames of fire than for Christ to save me and put my name in the Book of Life." I do not understand. I cannot enter into that mentality and that persuasion.
Just like a man such as Lot or Abraham or angels from heaven would go to Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19], and say, "If any man will turn, if any man will turn, and if he’ll let me put his name in this book, he’ll be saved"; but the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah say, "I’d rather have the fire of hell fall upon me, than for my name to be put in that book and I be saved." Just like the spies might have entered Jericho [Joshua 2:8-21], and made the announcement, "God is going to destroy this city with the edge of the sword; but if a man will turn and trust and let me put his name in this book, he’ll be saved"; but the vile and the rejecting of Jericho say, "I had rather be damned and lost than for my name to be written in that Book of Life."
Same and identical thing, "I’d rather say no to Jesus, and no to the Spirit of grace [Hebrews 10:29], I’d rather say no to the preacher, and I’d rather say no to the invitation hymn, and I’d rather say no to all God’s praying saints, I’d rather say no and be lost, than to say yes and have my name put in that Book of Life and be saved."
That’s the most inexplicable, un-understandable, unfathomable attitude I have ever met in my life. "I had rather be lost than to be saved. I’d rather be doomed and damned than to be rescued. I’d rather serve Satan and fall into the lake of fire with him than to serve God and call upon His name and live with God’s people in heaven." I don’t understand it.
But God has a certain judgment for that perversity of mind and that terrible decision of character. And the sentence is executed immediately. All the longsuffering of God through these centuries and centuries, and these ages, and these eons [2 Peter 3:9]; but it doesn’t last through eternity. There is coming a time when the Lord shall say, "And it is enough. I have given them space to repent. I have given them time to turn. I have extended every gracious invitation I know how to extend. Now it is through. Now it is over."
"And the grave and Hades were emptied of their occupants; and these were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death"; to be tormented day and night forever and ever, "And whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into that lake of fire" [Revelation 20:13-15]. Oh, it makes your soul tremble. What is that chorus?
Oh my loving brother, when the world’s on fire,
Don’t you want God’s bosom for to be your pillow?
Oh hide me over, in the Rock of Ages,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me.
["When the World’s on Fire"; author unknown]
A man plays capriciously with his eternal destiny, when he plays at this business of saying no to the Lord Jesus. That’s why the immediacy of the appeal of Christ presses upon any true follower of Christ [2 Corinthians 6:1-2]. Oh, oh, oh! Are our people saved? Is it well with their souls? With you? With you? With you?
We must close. We’ve gone beyond the time. While we sing this hymn worshipfully, reverently, prayerfully, is there somebody this day to give his heart in trust to Christ? Would you come and stand by me? Somebody to pray with us, who’d put his life with us in the church, would you come and stand by me? As God’s Holy Spirit shall open the way, shall say the word, would you give the preacher your hand? "Preacher, today, in answer to the call of the Spirit of God, here I stand, and here I come." Would you do it now, while we stand and while we sing?