In my opinion, Revelation 20:11-15 is the greatest and most solemn announcement in the Word of God. This is the time of which the writer to the Hebrews warned us - “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”
The Great White Throne - The word throne is mentioned more than thirty times in Revelation, but this throne is unique, because it is “a great white throne.” For Rev. 20:11 says, “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.” This judgment takes place in space, because the earth flees from the presence of the Lord Jesus. It cannot take place in heaven, because no unbeliever has access to heaven. See Rev. 21:8.
Truth and justice will meet with sin and rejection right here at this throne; and it is a Great White Throne. The judgment will be “great,” because almighty power will be demonstrated. It also will be “great” because of the vast crowds that will be there: every unbeliever from the time of Adam, the fallen angels, and the great hosts of angels and believers - they will assist at this judgment (See 1 Cor. 6:2-3). This great throne is “white,” emphasizing the holiness and purity of the Judge. This dazzling whiteness will be in contrast to the blackness of sin of those who stand before the throne.
The Judge - Let us consider the Judge: “From whose face the heavens and the earth fled away.” The Judge is the Lord Jesus; all judgment has been given to Him. Acts 17:31 says, “God has appointed a day in which He will judge the world – by that man whom He has ordained.” The nail-pierced hands will carry the scepter of authority. His once thorn-crowned head will be crowned with glory, majesty and power. His once marred face will shine as the sun and the heavens and earth will flee away.
The Savior’s exalted position, after the humility of the cross, is the fulfillment of Phil. 2:10-11. “Wherefore God has highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is God to the glory of God the Father.”
The great white throne is where the spurned love of God turns to wrath. John 3:36 says, “He that believeth on the Son has everlasting life; He who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Rev. 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God.” Every unbeliever will be there. “The sea gave up its dead.” They will stand face to face with Him whom they have rejected. There will be no hiding place – no caves or mountains to hide in (contrast with Rev. 6).
The Second Resurrection - Every unbeliever will be resurrected [Describe what happens to an unbeliever after death]. The body dies and goes to the grave. The spirit and soul go to Hades (Luke 16). This is a place of physical and mental torment, but is only an intermediate stage. At the final resurrection, death (where the body has gone) and Hades (where the soul and spirit have gone) will give up the dead that are in them. The unbeliever’s body, soul, and spirit will be reunited, then judged and cast into the lake of fire.
I am often asked, “Why is it necessary to resurrect the unsaved, if they are being punished already?” There are two reasons: (1) Hades is not the final destiny of unbelievers. Rev. 20:13 says, “The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done.” They are there for the sin of rejecting Christ. (2) Their degree of punishment has to be determined.
This final judgment has to do with “works [according to these works],” (Rev. 20:12-13). The latter part of Rev. 20:12 says, “Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” Records are kept in heaven. On this momentous occasion, these books or records will be opened, which will expose the works of each unbeliever. Every deed, action, and thought will be exposed. “God will judge the secrets of men’s heart.” Every mouth will be stopped. There is a difference of opinion as to when names are entered into the Book of Life. Some say names are entered at birth. Others say the name is entered at conversion. Those whose names were not written in the book were cast into the lake of fire. See Rev. 20:15.
Degrees of Judgment - I want to touch on a subject that we scarcely ever hear about, although it is clearly taught in the Scriptures: degrees of judgment. There will be different degrees of judgment. It will not be in length of punishment, but in severity of punishment. The degrees of judgment are based on a person’s works and knowledge. Jesus revealed this truth when He said, “Woe unto you Chorazin - Bethsaida – mighty works in Tyre and Sidon they would have repented. More tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the Day of Judgment than for you.” Furthermore, in Luke 12:47-48, some of the servants were beaten with many stripes – others with few stripes. One final observation is that the sentence imposed at this time is called the “second death.” This is terrible in its definition. It means separation from God for eternity, being tormented day and night forever and ever, as seen in Rev. 20:10.
For Your Personal Reflection: Is there someone asking this morning, “How can I escape this judgment?” You can escape it by reserving Christ as Savior. Jesus said that those who believe “have everlasting life and shall not come into judgment; but is passed from death into life.” Luke 3:7 says to “Flee from the wrath to come.” Job 36:18 says, “Because there is wrath beware.” As you are fleeing, Jesus is standing with arms wide open saying, “Come unto Me.”