The Last Judgment
August 26th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE LAST JUDGMENT
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-26-1984 8:15 a.m.
Now we are going to bow our heads deeply before the Lord, just deeply:
Look at us, Lord. God says, “Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove yourselves. Know ye not . . . how that Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” [2 Corinthians 13:5-6]. And our Lord, we are here for the holiest, highest, heavenliest purpose that could ever move a human soul. We are listening to what God says, and may it be our salvation. And we will be here together praying with open hearts and open minds to the end of that invitation. And dear Lord, we are believing that this morning God in heaven is bearing His strong arm to add to His redeemed family and to His wonderful church. Thank Thee for the gift. In Thy saving name, amen.
We welcome the great multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us on radio. This is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Last Judgment. In the twentieth chapter of the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, Revelation chapter 20, beginning at verse 11, Revelation 20, beginning at verse 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 delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every one according to his works.
And Death and Hell 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.
This is such an awesome passage; so much so that it is rarely referred to, and even more rarely preached on. It is very evident why: the liberal minister and the liberal professor says, “I don’t believe a word of it. No such thing as that would characterize a loving Father, a great, good and merciful God.” We might look at that for a moment.
Just what is God like? God is like His Book; He is like His Bible: this is the self-disclosure and the self-revelation of God. And in this Bible I read that God Himself, God does this, this is what God is like. He sends prophets, and He sends apostles, and He sends preachers pleading with a fallen humanity. And if they turn and repent, they are saved and delivered, like Nineveh [Jonah 3:4-10]. But if they reject, they are destroyed and condemned, like Jerusalem [Matthew 10:14-15]. That’s God. That’s the God who reveals Himself in the Book.
God is like His laws. God made the laws; He created them [Colossians 1:17]. And we live touched by the laws of God wherever we move and wherever we turn; they are universal. Laws of the heavens, laws of the earth, laws of fire, laws of light, laws of gravity, laws of health; all the physical laws that we live with, God created them [Colossians 1:17]. And if we obey those laws, we are blessed. If we disobey those laws, we court disaster. Hebrews 12:29, says that our “God is a consuming fire”—such as destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah [Genesis 19:24-29]. That’s God. God did that. When a liberal says, “Yea, does God say that you will be judged?” It sounds strangely and startlingly like the serpent, like the devil, when he said to our first parents, “Yea, did God say that if you eat of this forbidden fruit you will surely die? You will not surely die” [Genesis 3:1-4]. But they did [Genesis 5:5]. That’s God!
God is like our Lord, our Savior: He came into the world, and He suffered and died for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. But it is the Lord Jesus who spoke most and most solemnly concerning the judgment, and death, and hell, those awful, awesome things that our Lord revealed to us in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke [Luke 16:19-31], or in the twenty-third chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 23:1-39], or the twenty-fifth chapter of the Book of Matthew [Matthew 25:1-46]. Do you remember how the most marvelous chapter in the Bible, the third chapter of John, do you remember how it closes? “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: but he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth upon him” [John 3:36]. That’s God.
What is God like? God is like a merciful Father. In the beautiful one hundred third Psalm, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him” [Psalm 103:13]. And one, two, three, four times does it speak of the mercy of God. “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy [Psalm 103:8]. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him [Psalm 103:11]. For the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting” [Psalm 103:17]. What is God like? He is like a merciful Father. But it would be the most unjust and unmerciful and cruel thing that my mind could imagine if there is such a thing as a final judgment, an everlasting perdition, and He not tell us, He not reveal it to us. It is a mercy of God that He tells us of the awesome judgment that awaits all humanity [1 Peter 4:5].
I think of a highway, and the highway department puts barricades and signs saying that, “The bridge is out. Beware! Caution!” That’s not an unkindness on the part of the highway department; it is a mercy for us. “The bridge is out, beware!” I’ve heard it said that in the New Testament there are one hundred twenty references to damnation and perdition and judgment and hell. That’d be like a man traveling down a road, and there are one hundred twenty signs, saying, “This road leads to hell.” It’s a merciful judgment; it’s a merciful revelation, if there is such a thing.
I think of a railroad crossing, and there are red lights flashing. That is a merciful thing for the railroad company to do; it’s not unkind or unjust. It’s to save us. It’s like a doctor who talks to you, and he says, “These things are plain, and if you don’t observe these things, you will surely die.” That’s not an unkindness on the part of the doctor, it is a mercy from him. So it is with God: if there is a judgment I am to face, if there is the danger of perdition and everlasting damnation, it is a kindness of God that He tells me of it, that I might be aware of it and warned of it.
So we have in this awesome twentieth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, we have this revelation, the great white throne final judgment [Revelation 20:11]. Do you notice, it’s the last thing in time? Time ends at the end of the twentieth chapter of the Revelation. Eternity begins with chapter 21. Time ends here; and the last thing in human history, the last thing in time is when the whole earth, the unbelieving world, every sinner that ever lived, is standing before the Judge of all God’s creation [Revelation 20:11-15].
Why should it be there, the last thing? It’s very obvious: because the influence of a man’s life continues on after he’s dead; and it is only at the end of time that God unravels all of the facets of his life, and all of the overtones and repercussions of his life. And there they’re written in the books, as the great Revelation says, and he’s judged according to those things that are written in his life, written in the books [Revelation 20:12].
You see poignant illustrations of that every day that you live. Karl Marx wrote his Communist Manifesto in 1847, and died thereafter. But Karl Marx is as viciously and damnably and perditionally alive today as he ever was. The whole world is damned by Karl Marx and his Communist Manifesto. And that continues on, and it’s written in the books; and the judgment will not be until the end of time.
If you’ve been over there in Eastern Europe, have you seen the Berlin Wall? Have you looked at the divided Germany? Hitler committed suicide in 1945; but there are eighteen million graves and beyond that testify to the perdition of that damnable political leader. He didn’t die when he committed suicide; the repercussions of his life are violently seen today. That’s why it’s at the time of the end [Revelation 20:12].
You notice another thing here; it says, “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]. Then you can see there is fulfilled 2 Peter 3:10 and 12, 2 Peter 3, 10 and 12 says that the earth is dissolved, and the elements have melted with fervent heat [2 Peter 3:10, 12]. That has come to pass, and this great judgment is between the dissolution of heaven and earth and the re-creation of the new heaven and the new earth in the next [verse] [2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1]. The earth someday will be dissolved, and all creation [2 Peter 3:10, 12]. H2O, water, it’ll be separated and burned like gasoline; and the great caverns of the earth where the stone is melted by the fervent heat, all of this will be open to view. And from God’s righteous face the whole earth and the whole creation is dissolved [2 Peter 3:10]. As it says in the closing verse of the sixth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, “They cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” [Revelation 6:16-17]. That’s this [Revelation 20:11]. That’s this. Lord, Lord, what an awesome day!
Then the criminal docket is brought before the Judge of all the earth: He that sits upon the throne [Revelation 20:11]. The most poignant, traumatic moment I think that I ever lived through was one of my members was convicted by the federal court for embezzling in the bank; he was a banker. And he asked me if I’d come and stand by him. And the federal judge said to him seated out there, he said, “You will now approach the bench, and stand to be sentenced.” And I stood up with him, and stood right there by his side as the federal judge sentenced him. “You will stand and be sentenced.” And I notice that here in the Bible: that these who are called before that criminal docket, that they stand before God; they stand before God. Dear me! Each sinner, each unconverted person, each lost and damned soul is called forward to stand before God [Revelation 20:12], and the books are opened [Revelation 20:12].
Down there in Hades—we’d call it “torment” [Luke 16:22-23]—they are imprisoned when they die, like the angels are imprisoned in everlasting darkness and chains, they are chained down there, they are imprisoned down there [2 Peter 2:4]. And down there where the lost dead go when they die, they talk, they speak. In the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Luke, that man Dives, he cried, “Have mercy upon me!” and he cried, “I am tormented in this flame!” and he cried, “That you would send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue!” [Luke 16:24]. They call down there. There is absolute silence at this great judgment bar of Almighty God [Revelation 20:11]. Not a word is spoken. The condemned lost sinner stands before the Judge in absolute and complete silence. No word is spoken [Revelation 20:12].
Now I want you to notice one thing in this passage that you cannot escape: twice this “other book” is spoken of. “I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; all of them out of the sea, out of the earth, out of torment, out of Hades, all of them, the whole universe is before the court of Almighty God; and they stand before God [Revelation 20:13]. And it speaks of the books, “The books were opened, and they were judged according to the things written in the books” [Revelation 20:13]. Then did you notice this: “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life, another book” [Revelation 20:12]. And then as though that were not enough, it says, “And they made a search in the Book of Life”; they tried to find the man’s name in the Book of Life” [Revelation 20:15]. Well, the corollary of that is very evident: lest there be a miscarriage of justice, lest there be some mistake, God says to the recording angel, “Search the book! See if this man’s name is written in the book.” And the angel searches the Book of Life; page after page, century after century, millennium after millennium, searching for the man’s name in the Book of Life. And the recording angel returns word to the Judge of the court, “I cannot find his name. It is not written in the Book of Life. And the Lord God turns to the man, lost, who stands before Him, and says to him, “I remember,” says the Lord God, “I remember when I moved your mother to make appeal to you. What did you do?” And the lost man replies, “I turned down the pleas of my mother.” And the Lord God says to that damned soul, “I remember I placed on your street a church, with a steeple pointing to God! What did you do?” And the damned soul replies, “Judge, I passed it by.” And the Lord God says, “I remember I moved a Sunday school teacher to tell you how to be saved. What did you do?” And that damned soul shall reply to the Judge of all the earth, “I spurned and scorned her appeal.” And the Lord God says to that damned soul, “I remember that on the twenty-fifth, on the twenty-sixth day of August in 1984, I sent my preacher with an open Book to tell you of the awesomeness of this day. What did you do?” And the damned soul replies, “Judge, I spurned the preacher and all that he had to say.” And the Lord God says, “I remember that I sent my Holy Spirit, which is I, to make appeal to you, to give your heart in faith to the Lord. What did you do?” And the damned soul replies, “I closed my heart, and closed my mind, and hardened my soul against the appeal of the Holy Spirit.” And the court is closed. The docket is done. The gates are closed. The doors are closed. The trial is closed. Time has closed.
Do you remember the Flood? It says God shut that door [Genesis 7:16]. God shut that door. When Noah and the family that was saved entered in, God shut the door! [Genesis 7:16]. The trial is closed. The day of salvation is over. And they enter, it says here, into everlasting punishment [Revelation 20:13-15].
Can you see that in human life? Is this something strange? You see it every day of your life. If you turn from light, you immediately turn into darkness. If you turn away from truth, you automatically turn into error. If you spurn the overtures of grace, you immediately face damnation and lostness. If you say, “No,” to God, immediately you say, “Yes,” to Satan, to darkness. It is automatic. When you turn from the light, you turn to the dark.
That’s why, that’s why God in His Book, from the first of it to the last of it, that’s why God is heard making appeal, making appeal, making appeal. As Moses said to his people in Deuteronomy, “O that there was such a heart in you, that you would hear the voice of the Lord, and obey His laws, that it might be well with you and your children for ever”! [Deuteronomy 5:29]. Or listen to the voice of God in Ezekiel 33: “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 ways and live: turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11].
When I was a lad, they used to sing a song:
Why will you die?
When the crimsoned cross is so nearby,
Why will you die?
[“The Sheltering Rock,” William E. Penn]
As the apostle Paul spoke in 2 Corinthians 6, “We then, as workers together with God, plead with you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For He saith, 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]. Or, as the Lord has said, “All day long have I stretched forth My hands unto this people” [Romans 10:21]. That’s God, and that’s why the coming of our Savior into the world [Luke 19:10].
He didn’t need to come to teach us how to be good. Hundreds of years before the Christian faith there were great leaders who taught us that we ought to be good, great philosophers who said we ought to be good. What Christ came into the world to do was to save us from the judgment of our sins, to die in our stead [Hebrews 10:5-14], that whosoever would open a heart to believe and accept Him might have eternal and everlasting life [John 10:27-30]. And the Lord pleads, and His hands are stretched out and extended still [Romans 10:21], hoping that somebody you will turn and be saved [Romans 10:9-10].
I read this week of a father, living in a small village, who every day went down to meet the train. I could remember a thing like that because I did that for years. The little town in which I lived, train would come once a day. We’d all go down, the whole town would go down there and see the train, see it stop and go again. This father did that. He did that for over twenty years, every day go down to that train to meet the train. And the reason for it was, twenty years before, his only son, his one lad, got on that train and went away. Didn’t tell his father where he was going, and didn’t write to him. And the father met that train for over twenty years, every day, hoping that that day his son would come home. And the old man finally died in despair, heartbroken.
That’s God. That’s God. Every day God hopes that you will turn, that you will accept His grace and love [Ephesians 2:8], that you will believe in His only begotten Son that He sent into this world to save us from our sins [John 3:16]. God prays, God hopes, God meets with us here, and He is looking down. And the angels are looking down; hoping that today, this day, this hour will be the day of salvation for you [Luke 15:10]. Why turn aside? Why say no? Why reject such infinite love and mercy [Titus 3:5], when life now and everlasting is so nearby? Let’s stand. Let’s sing a song. And while we sing it, “Lord, I’m on the way. I’m coming, and I’m doing it now,” while we sing, while we sing [Romans 10:9-10].