The Last Judgment
August 26th, 1984 @ 10:50 AM
THE LAST JUDGMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-26-84 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas delivering the solemn and traumatic revelation from God concerning The Last Judgment, our ultimate and final destiny if we refuse the overtures of God’s grace and mercy. Now in the presence of the Lord, may we deeply bow our hearts and heads for our 2 Corinthians 13:5 commitment. Our Lord says: “Examine yourselves, look at yourselves, test, try, scrutinize, prove yourselves, whether you be in the faith. Know ye not how that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” [2 Corinthians 13:5].
Dear Lord, as we approach this awesome subject, open our minds and our hearts to the truth and move our volition, will, that we respond in a way that God can shield us and preserve us and forgive us and save us. Please, Lord, without loss of one, may we all be present when God calls His roll in heaven, not one of us before this awesome throne of final judgment and perdition. And our Lord, as we remain, during this time of appeal and invitation, no one of us leaving, we will stay, we will pray, we will believe God for a gracious outpouring of His saving Spirit. And thank Thee for every soul that turns, in Thy dear name, amen.
The passage is in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, the Apocalypse. That’s the way it starts off: apokalupsis, the unveiling, “The Revelation,” the uncovering, “of Jesus Christ” [Revelation 1:1]. The twentieth chapter of the Revelation, beginning at verse 11; Revelation 20:11:
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 Death and Hades—death and the grave—delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every one according to his works.
And Death 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.
Why is that not preached on and why is it rarely mentioned? The answer, for one part, lies in the attitude of the liberal preacher, minister, professor who says, “I don’t believe a word of it!” One of the tremendously gifted scholars in the liberal theological world said, “If the doctrine of damnation, if the doctrine of hell were written on all of the pages of all of the leaves of all of the Bibles in the world, I would not believe it.”
And out of that background of the liberal theologian comes a great hesitancy on the part of Christendom ever to teach or to preach or to refer to this awesome judgment that leads into damnation and into hell, which is very fine for him to say, the theologian to say. But does God say that? Is that the truth and the revelation of the Lord? There’s not any judgment of sin. There’s not any ultimate perdition. There’s not any damnation. There’s not any hell. Does God say that? Is that a man’s persuasion or did God say that? When I listen to a liberal theologian speak like that, I often think of the serpent who was the incarnate Satan who said to our parents in the garden of Eden: “Yea, did God say that if you ate of this tree you would surely die?” [Genesis 3:1] Did God say that? Then the first lie. “Thou shalt not surely die.” [Genesis 3:4]
That’s what Satan said. But they surely died, just as God avowed [Genesis 5:5]. Shall I be any less tremulous and afraid before this avowal of God? If I do not turn in repentance and in faith to God’s way of salvation, I shall surely die [Romans 6:23].
What is God like? The liberal who denies the Word of God, and the revelation of this Holy Book, and the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; the liberal says: “No merciful, loving, forgiving God would ever, ever allow one of His created beings to fall into hell, into perdition. A loving, tender, forgiving Father God would not do that.” Which again is fine for him to say. But what is God actually like? God is like His Book. This is the self-disclosure and self-revelation of the Lord. And God is like His Book. God, in this Book, pleads with men. He sends prophets, and He sends apostles, and He sends preachers to plead with men to turn and to be saved. If they repent, if they turn, they are blessed as Nineveh was. God spared Nineveh [Jonah 3:5-10]. That’s the Lord. But if they refuse to return and to repent, they are destroyed as Jerusalem was destroyed [Micah 3:12, Nehemiah 2:3]. That’s God! God did that!
What is God like? God is like His laws. The whole universe above us, beneath us, around us, is governed by God’s laws. God is like His laws. There are laws everywhere. There are laws physical. There are laws spiritual. There are laws material. There are laws immaterial. There are laws in heaven. There are laws in earth. There are laws of fire. There are laws of gravity. There are laws everywhere. And if we govern our lives and shape our lives according to God’s laws, we are blessed: Laws of the harvest; laws of seeding and sowing, laws of reaping; laws of health and strength.
If we obey those laws, we are blessed. But if we disobey those laws, there is disaster, failure that awaits us. Let me give you dynamic and traumatic illustration of that in a terrible way. Because of the teaching of the Word of God, that it is wrong for a man to have sexual relationships with another man, and it is wrong for a woman to be sexually intimate with another woman, because of the teaching of God’s word, AIDS the disease of AIDS was eradicated from the earth. It was never known. It was never heard of. It had disappeared from the surface of God’s created planet.
In our lifetime, we are scoffing at the Word of God, laughing at these old-fashioned puritanical ideas, and opening up society and culture to the permissiveness of the lesbian and the sodomite and the homosexual. Now the terrible disastrous judgment of the sin and disease of AIDS startles and frightens the earth.
There’s no such thing as shaking your fist in the face of Almighty God and not reaping a disastrous judgmental repercussion. God is like His laws. We never made them. We never created. God did that. The twelfth chapter of the Book of Hebrews says, “Our Lord God is a consuming fire” [Hebrews 12:29]. And when I read of the sodomites in Sodom and Gomorrah, I see the burning of the wrath and the visitation of the Lord from heaven [Genesis 19:24-29], and it frightens me. Great God, have mercy upon Your people!
What is God like? He is not only like His Book His self-revelation; He is not only like His laws, He made them—when we observe them, we are blessed. When we violate them, we are cursed—God is like His Son. His Son came into this world to show us what God is like [John 1:14], lived among us, walked among us. We can touch Him and hear Him. This is God.
What is God like? His Son! [John 14:9]. When we listen to His Son, He says words of preciousness, and blessing, and forgiveness [Psalm 103:8]. Finally, in His love, dying for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], and even today, pleading for us intercessorily, mediatorially, in heaven [Romans 8:34]. But it was the Son of God from whom we learned practically all that we know about perdition and damnation and hell. It is Jesus who spoke most and most solemnly concerning that awesome and awful confrontation at the great judgment throne of Almighty God.
In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, He tells us of this awful torment into which Dives was cast [Luke 16:22-24]. In the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew, He speaks of the awesome judgment of God upon those who were leading the Israelite nation into disaster [Matthew 23:33]. In the twenty-fifth chapter you just read, “these shall go away into everlasting punishment” [Matthew 25:46]. Do you remember how the third chapter of the Gospel of John closes? That’s the beautiful chapter that speaks of what God has done to save us. John 3:14:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in Him . . . shall have eternal life.
For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.
That’s the chapter, the greatest chapter of love and forgiveness and salvation in the Bible. Do you remember how it ends? This is the way it ends: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. The same Savior that came into this world to die for us [Hebrews 10:4-18; 1 Timothy 1:15] is the Savior who spoke to us of the awful judgment we face in our unforgiven sins.
I’ve often thought, “Why is it that our Lord God came into this world incarnate?” What would you say is His purpose? All of the liberal ministers and professors will say, “He came into this world to teach us to be good, to be a great model of goodness and of charity and of love and self-effacement and all of those fine virtues that magnify the hero idea of a man. That’s why He came.”
My brother, let me tell you the honest truth, and I’m not exaggerating it. Hundreds and hundreds of years before our Lord, there were great religionists who came into the world teaching us how to be good. All of your Zoroastrians, all of your Buddhists, all of your Confucianists, all of your Mahaviras, all of those great religionists, all of them said we ought to be good. Moses lived before Christ; he said we ought to be good. Our Lord never came into the world to teach us in order that we might be good. Our Lord came into this world in order to save us from our sins, to deliver us from damnation and perdition and judgment and hell [Luke 19:10]. He came to die in our stead that in Him we might have life everlasting [John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21]. God is like His Son.
God is like a father, a loving father. There’s no book in the Bible, I mean, there’s no chapter in the Bible, dearer or sweeter than the 103rd Psalm: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him” [Psalm 103:13]. Now you look at this psalm: One, two, three, four places here it will speak of that Father God as moved and filled with mercy.
Look in verse 8: “The Lord is merciful and gracious” [Psalm 103:8].
Look at that same verse again: “Slow to anger and plenteous in mercy” [Psalm 103:8].
Look at again verse 11: “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that love Him, that fear Him, and reverence Him” [Psalm 103:11].
Look at verse 17: “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that love Him and fear Him and reverence Him” [Psalm 163:17].
The mercy of the Lord: God is like a father and He is moved in mercy toward His children. Now tell me, could you think of a more unmerciful or cruel or unjust thing that our Father God could do than this, that there be awaiting us and confronting us the horrors and terrors of hell and damnation and He not tell us, He not warn us? It is a part of the mercy of God and the love of God that He speaks to us of these awful judgments that await us in our unforgiven sins.
Tell me, if there is a bridge out on the highway, and these cars are speeding down the road, tell me, if the highway department puts up a barricade and a sign saying, “The bridge is out, danger,” is the highway department cruel or unjust that it warns us of that awesome danger that awaits us? Is it unjust and cruel on the part of the highway department to put a barricade up there, “Don’t go beyond this limit?” In the Bible, I am told, in the New Testament, there are one hundred twenty revelations concerning hell and damnation. It is that same way as that highway, speeding down that highway of life, there are one hundred twenty signs that God puts there saying: “This road leads to hell.” Listen to it! Heed it! It’s a mercy of God.
Tell me again; if a railroad company were to put up a flashing red light on a crossing, is the company bitter or hateful toward us that it puts up those signs? Is it not a part of the kindness and graciousness and remembrance—the mercy of the railway company that it puts those flashing signs saying there’s danger coming down that track? Isn’t that true?
Take a doctor—is the doctor mean or unjust or unmerciful or kind when he says to us, “This way that you’re living or going leads to the loss of your health and it leads to death. Don’t do these things or do these things.” It is the kindness and mercy of God that leads the doctor to do that. And it is no less at the kindness and mercy of God that He reveals to us these awful judgments that await us in our unforgiven sins.
So I turn to this Book of the Apocalypse—the uncovering, the revelation of Jesus—and I am told here that this is the last section, the last chapter in time. The next chapter begins eternity. And the last incident, the last occurrence, the last phenomenon, the last historical development in time, is this great white throne judgment. This ends the story of humanity, of civilization, of culture, of life, of everything that we know. This is the end of the world. “I saw a great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, from whose face the heaven and the earth fled away; and there was found no place for them” [Revelation 20:11].
Why should that be at the end of time? At the end? Why is this ultimate and final judgment at the end of history? Because the man’s life and influence does not cease when he dies. He lives on—continues on. You couldn’t have that great judgment according to the man’s works when he dies, because his works go on.
Traumatically, dramatically, think of Karl Marx—damnable man, atheist, infidel, God hater—Karl Marx. It was in 1847 that he wrote his Communist Manifesto. But for the years and the years and the years since—and seeming to me for the foreseeable future—the damnable atheism of Karl Marx is a curse to the whole family of the whole earth. And we are reaping it every day of our lives. And God writes it in His book. Karl Marx didn’t die in the last century. Karl Marx and his communist teachings go on and on and on. And it will not be until the end of time that God opens that book and reads the works of Karl Marx, God’s damning heretic, God’s damming infidel and atheist.
Have you been over there in Germany? Have you looked at that Berlin wall? Have you looked at the divided people and nation of Germany? Have you looked at the eighteen million graves that came out of that one man Hitler? Adolf Hitler committed suicide in 1945, but his life didn’t end there. It goes on today. It is a tragedy, and at the end of this time, it will be until then only that God judges him according to the works that he did. All of life is like that. It continues on and on. Your life continues on. There are people that you’ve influenced. There are things that you have done that have affected people, and it is only God that unravels the scheme, and at the time of the end, at the end of civilization, at the end of humanity, and at the end of history, that’s when the great judgment day.
Look again; it says the great white throne was set, and Him who is the great Judge, who occupies it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them [Revelation 20:11]; I know from that, that this great white throne judgment, that ends time, is between the dissolution of the earth and the recreation of the new heaven and the new earth. It says in 2 Peter 3 verses 10 and verse 12 that: “This whole earth shall melt with fervent heat.” And it says that being on fire it shall be dissolved and then repeated again, and shall melt with fervent heat [2 Peter 3:10, 12].
The whole universe shall be turned into conflagration. The ocean is made up of hydrogen and H₂-oxygen and when you separate the two, they are flammable. The whole body of the oceanic world will be turned into gasoline. And the cavernous beneath this earth where the heat is so high that the stone melts, that’s what lava is, melted stone out of the burning earth, the whole thing shall be turned into elemental fire and fury in the presence of the face of God when the Lord cleanses this earth and purges this earth.
It says in the sixth chapter of this Revelation that “the day of His wrath has come: and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:17]. The whole earth is dissolved and all creation is on fire when God comes to the end of the world. And this white throne judgment is after the dissolution of the world and before the recreation of the world in the twenty-first and the next chapter of the Revelation. There’s going to be between those two awesome cataclysmic catastrophic events, that in between those two—2 Peter 3:10 and 12 and Revelation 21:1—between those two there is going to be a great universal court.
And God, the Judge, the Lord God, Jesus the Judge, shall sit upon the throne [Revelation 20:11]. And before Him, there will be brought every lost sinner who ever lived, every lost man and woman that was ever born. They will be brought before that court. And the criminal docket will be laid before the Judge. All of us will be there. The dead in trespasses and in sins [Ephesians 2:1] who are raised up out of the sea, raised up out of the grave, raised up out of the earth, all will be there in the presence of the great Judge of all of the earth. And we shall stand, it says, and we shall stand small and great before God who sits upon the throne [Revelation 20:12].
One time in my life, one time, I stood just back and by the side of a man who was called before a federal judge. The federal judge said to him, “You will now stand and approach the bench to be sentenced.” He was a member of our church. He was a banker. He was convicted of embezzling funds from the bank, stealing from those dear people who put their money in the bank. And having been tried and convicted, the federal judge said, “You will now stand and approach the bench for sentencing.”
And he asked me if I would stand with him in that awesome hour. And I stood to his right and to his back. And he stood there before the judge. And the judge sentenced him. That is what it says here. Each one of us shall stand before the great Judge. Our name will be called. And we’ll be raised up out of the grave, out of the sea, out of the earth, out of Hades, out of torment, in order to stand before the Judge of all of the earth. Down there in torment, in Hades where the dead go, that the lost dead go when they die, down there they cried. Dives cried, saying, “Have mercy upon me.” He cried, saying, “I am tormented in this flame.” He cried, saying, “Send Lazarus that he dip his finger in water to cool my tongue” [Luke 16:22-24]. They cry down there in that netherworld of Hades where the lost dead go, where they’re kept in prison like the angels [2 Peter 2:4], awaiting this great trial day of the Lord.
And you know, when I read this passage here of that white throne judgment, there is absolute silence. There is not a hint of a cry or a word from anyone being sentenced, being tried, not one. There is absolute silence. They come out one by one, out of that darkness of Hades and torment, and they stand before God to be sentenced in absolute silence.
Do you notice another thing here? It says here twice: “And another book was opened which was the Book of Life” [Revelation 20:12]. And then it refers to it again [Revelation 20:15]. And search was made in that book to see if they could find the name of this man or this woman who is being tried before God. They searched the Book of Life. I would think that means this; lest there be a miscarriage of justice, and lest there be some mistake, the Lord God says to the recording angel: “Search the Book of Life, search it, to see if you can find the name of this man in the Book of Life, search it.”
And the recording angel searches the pages of the Book of Life and reports, “Your Honor, I cannot find his name. There was no time when he turned, when he repented, when he gave his life in trust and faith to Jesus. I can’t find his name.” And the Lord God says to the man being tried, to the woman being tried, “I remember,” says the Lord God, “I remember moving your mother to make appeal to you to give your heart to Jesus. What did you do?”
And the lost sinner replies, “Your Honor, I refused to listen to my mother.”
And the Lord God Judge says, “I remember I put a church on your street and in your town with a spire pointing up to Me in heaven. What did you do?”
And the lost sinner replies, “I just passed it by.”
And the Lord God says to that damned sinner, “I remember that I taught and I moved a Sunday school teacher to tell you about how to be saved. What did you do?”
And that sinner says, “Your Honor, I refused to listen to her.”
And the Lord God says, “I remember sending that preacher, and he opened the book at the twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation on the twenty-sixth day of August in 1984, and I put in his heart an exposition of the word of My Bible, and he preached to you to turn and be saved. What did you do?”
And the lost sinner says, “I went out that church door just as I came in refusing the mercies and overtures of God.”
And the Lord God says to that lost sinner, “I remember sending My Holy Spirit into your heart and making appeal with you to turn and believe and be saved. What did you do?”
And the lost sinner says, “Lord God, I spurned the Holy Spirit, and I hardened my heart against the appeal of the Holy Spirit, and I said no to His invitation. And I went out that door as I came in, refusing God. No! I will not turn! I will not accept! I will not repent! I will not believe!”
“And the books are closed.” That’s what it says. “And the books are closed.” The angel says, “Your Honor, I can’t find his name, no time did he ever turn. No time did he ever repent. No time did he ever come down the aisle. No time did he ever accept Jesus as Savior. No time did he pray and ask God to be merciful and to save him.”
And the recording angel writes “lost” after his name. And the trial is closed. And the books are closed. And the gates are closed. And the door is closed. And life is closed. And opportunity is closed. And he enters into this world of damnation, and perdition, and burning, and hell, and darkness forever and ever and ever and ever.
Do you remember the story of the Flood? Who closed that door when Noah and his family entered in? The Bible says God closed that door [Genesis 7:16]. The Lord closed that door. And the judgment of the Flood fell [Genesis 7:17-24]. It is God who closes the door. The trial is done. The day of opportunity is passed. And it is God who closes the day. Tell me, my dear brother, tell me: if a man turns from the light, into what does he turn? He automatically turns into darkness. He just does. If a man turns from the truth, what does he do? He automatically turns into error. He just does.
That’s the way God’s made this world. When the man turns from the appeal of the pastor that you come and give your heart to Christ, to what do you turn? You turn to rejection and unbelief. If a man turns from salvation and what God has done to win him to Himself and to forgive his sins, if he turns from salvation, what does he turn to? He turns to inevitable judgment and damnation. You cannot escape that. That’s a part of God. When I turn from the light, I turn to darkness. When I turn from God, I turn to damnation. When I turn from truth, I turn to error. I cannot escape it. It’s the way God has made our universe.
That’s why in the Bible from the beginning of it to the end of it, that’s why you will find the Lord God making appeal and appeal and appeal and appeal:
“Turn! Come! Be saved! Be delivered!”
God said through Moses: “O that there was such a heart in them, that they would obey My laws that it might be well with them, and their children for ever!” [Deuteronomy 5:29]. That’s God! The Lord said through His prophet Ezekiel: “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked would turn from his evil way and live: O turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11].
When I was a boy, we used to sing an invitation hymn in our little village church.
Why will ye die?
When the crimson cross is so nearby,
Why will ye die?
[from “The Sheltering Rock,” William E. Penn, 1887]
In the beautiful, wonderful appeal of the apostle Paul in the sixth chapter of 2 Corinthians:
We then, we, we are workers together with God, pleading with you that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For He hath said, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
[2 Corinthians 6:1-2]
Now this minute, this moment, God says so. Why would a man spurn the mercies and loving grace and forgiving heart of our Father God? Why? Why? Why would you die? [Ezekiel 33:11]. The blood of Christ, the sacrifice of our Lord, the crimson of the life of Jesus was poured out to shield us from the judgment of our sins [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. That’s why He came into this world [1 Timothy 1:15]. I cannot save myself. I am a sinner [Romans 3:23]. I am a lost sinner. I am a condemned sinner [Romans 6:23; Ezekiel 18:4]. I face the inevitable judgment of Almighty God.
No one can enter His presence impure, sinful, lost. He came into the world to interpose His blood between me and that awesome penalty for my sins [John 12:27; Hebrews 10:4-18]. He interposes His life, His love, His forgiveness [Colossians 1:14]. And I stand at the judgment bar of Almighty God shielded by Him, my great Mediator, my great Intercessor, my great Savior [Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25]. If He is a Savior, He saves me from something. What does He save me from? He saves me from the judgment of my sins! [2 Corinthians 5:21]. I can’t save myself. These who love me most cannot save me. The church cannot save me. If I’m not saved by Jesus, I am lost. I am dependent upon Him. My mother and father can’t save me. They are dead. They needed someone to save them. There’s no one to save us but the Lord Jesus. That’s His appeal. “Come unto Me,” He says. “Come unto Me!” [Matthew 11:28].
There’s not a more beautiful piece of statuary in this earth than that statue by Thorvaldson in Copenhagen in one of the beautiful churches there called The Pleading Christ, standing there with His hands outstretched. I stood there, and one of the people standing there said, “You must kneel, you must kneel if you would see it in all of its grace and beauty. You must kneel.”
So contrary to what I had ever done, until we began kneeling here in the church, I approached that altar, and I knelt there, and I looked up in the face of the pleading Christ. I was rewarded with a view of Him that I had never seen in this earth. That’s the Lord, the pleading Christ. “Come. Come. Come” [Matthew 11:28].
I read this week, preparing the message, I read this week of a father in a village town, who for over twenty years met the train every day. I can easily identify with that. In the little village in which I grew up, there was a train. And we all went down there every day to meet the train. All went to the post office while they put up the mail from it. This father, every day met that train for over twenty years. Twenty years before, his boy, his only lad son, had got on the train and gone away on that train, never said a word to his father where he was going, and never wrote him where he was. And for over twenty years that father met that train every day, hoping that maybe today the boy will come home. “Maybe today?” He never came, and the father died in broken heartedness. That’s the saddest thing. But that is nothing comparable to the sadness of our Savior God who died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], who waits for us, who pleads for us and we don’t come. We don’t respond.
Lord, Lord, thank God for the day when I went down that aisle, gave the pastor my hand, and said, “This day, this day, this day, I open my heart to Jesus and accept Him as my Savior.” Have I lost in doing that? That was the greatest decision I have ever made in my life. It will be the greatest decision you’ll ever make in your life—the most meaningful: bless you in your work; bless you in your daily walk; bless you in your heart; bless you in your house; bless you in your home; bless you in life; bless you in death, and how infinitely blessed to stand in the presence of God with Jesus as your Counselor and Savior and wonderful Lord. Do it! Do it! May the Holy Spirit bless you as you do it.
In this minute we sing this hymn of appeal, and in the balcony round, you: “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am on the way.” In the press of people on this lower floor, down these aisles, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I am coming.” To give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], to put your family, you and your wife and your dear children, in the circle of our church [Hebrews10:24-25], “We are coming today.” To give your life in a new way to our Lord, “This is our day of recommitment.” Do it. Make it now. On the first note of the first stanza, that first step will be the most meaningful you have ever made in your life. God bless you, angels attend you in the way as you come, while we stand and while we sing.