Revelation 20:11-15 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The Books Were Opened
Ever hear a student say, “I haven’t cracked a book all semester.” I had an engineer who had been out of school for years say, “I never read a book in college and haven’t read one since either.”
I have a pastor friend who reads one book a week. My son and daughter-in-law have bookcases and boxes full of books. We now have books on tape, on CD’s, in our Kindles and I-pads. Amazon is getting rich off of books. Books are much a part of life. But there are some books that are far more important than anything you have ever gotten at the school or public library or ever ordered from Amazon.
The Bible calls them the book, the books, the book of life. All seem to have a very important role to play in the judgment of humankind at the end of time. The Final Judgment.
When everything else seems to have been completed then: ‘the books are opened’.
This judgment is called “The Great White Throne Judgment.” I remember as a teenager reading the Book of Revelation and getting to this passage and I will be honest it scared me. What did it mean? Was it applicable to me? Was my name in the Book of Life? Good questions to ask even as a high school student.
The Great White Throne was occupied by the Great One. Jesus is either on the throne or the whole God-head is on the throne.
Guzik “Great in status, power and authority; white in purity and holiness; and a throne in kingly sovereignty.”
This Great White Throne Judgment is for non-believers. No born again believers will be at that judgment.
Verse 11 “From whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.”
There is no place for the unbelievers to hide from the final judgment. The reason believers will not be at the Great White Throne judgment is that the judgment for believers already has taken place.
The judgment for those who believe in Jesus declared them guilty and it was Jesus who took the judgment for your sins in the cross.
Jodi Arias, who was found guilty of killing her fiancé is an example of found guilty and then waiting on the punishment part of judgment. We have discovered here in the Arizona courts that you can be found guilty, but the sentencing phase takes place later. Everyone who has rejected Jesus is declared guilty before God. The Great White Throne is the sentencing phase. The determination is not whether they are guilty of sin, but what will happen as a result of their lack of faith.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds.
The idea of judgment is condemnation. They stand before God guilty and condemned. The small and the great stand before God. No one is excluded. It is not a time when pulling any kind of status card will help. You are condemned already because of your rejection of Jesus.
Undoubtedly two sets of Books exist. The first is just called the Books. The other is the Book of Life. Not a good idea in business, but for God it is His way. The first contains the names of the lost and their deeds. They will be judged by their works; number one being their lack of faith in Jesus. The judgment is condemnation and death. They are even called “The Dead” Their works were written in the book. Instead of being judged at the cross they are judged by their unbelief. The works condemned them to eternity away from God. Even the sea gave up the dead in them. These represent those with no bodies. This shows the universality of the dead who are being condemned to eternal punishment.
They were standing, much like in a court of law. The guilty stand before the judge to receive their sentence. The other Book, called the Book of Life, is where the names of those who believed in Jesus were written. It was not gained by works, but by faith in Jesus.
Those who believe and have their names written in the Book of Life will have their own judgment. It is not to be condemned but to receive rewards for their deeds. It is called The Judgment Seat or the Bema Seat. It is not a place to give an account for sins. It is a place to receive rewards for service.
Revelation 20:14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
The second death happens when those who are judged guilty and condemned to die are joined by death and Hades. Death and Hades will no longer haunt the humans. All those who have rejected Jesus along with the results; death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire for eternal punishment.
We often hear someone say that certain people deserve a worse hell or punishment than others. I believe the Bible teaches that eternity away from God is not a way to spend eternity, but also there seems to be degrees of punishment. We see that in our courts today. If you committed first degree murder your punishment is worse than those who commit a robbery. Those who reject Jesus receive are guilty and condemned. Those who fight against Jesus and try to destroy the faith are in for greater judgment. I know not everyone agrees but here is the Biblical reference that I believe speaks to this truth.
Matthew 11: 20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” Both Hades and Death are to be destroyed. Where and What is Hades. Often it is translated Hell. That is a wrong translation. Hades was the place of the dead. Whether you were righteous or unrighteous you went to Hades when you died. The Biblical story of the rich man and Lazarus give us a picture of Hades. The rich man ended up in Hades. Lazarus ended up in Abraham’s bosom.
Guzik’s commentary on Revelation says: Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. a. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire: The last echoes of sin are now eliminated. Death is the result of sin, and it is gone. Hades is the result of death, and it is gone. The last vestiges of sin’s unlawful domination are done away with.
b. The lake of fire: When a person refers to hell, the lake of fire is what they usually have in mind. The Bible uses three main words to describe where the ungodly may go when they die. i. Sheol is a Hebrew word with the idea of the “place of the dead.” It has no direct reference to either torment or eternal happiness. The idea of Sheol is often accurately expressed as “the grave.” ii. Hades is a Greek word used to describe the “world beyond.” In the Bible, it has generally the same idea as Sheol. Revelation 9:1 speaks of the bottomless pit; this place called the abyssos is a prison for certain demons (Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Or more generally, it is considered part of the realm of the dead (Romans 10:7 uses it in the sense of Hades). iii. Gehenna is a Greek word borrowed from the Hebrew language. In Mark 9:43-44, Jesus speaks of hell (gehenna). Hell is a Greek translation of the Hebrew “Valley of Hinnom,” a place outside Jerusalem’s walls desecrated by Molech worship and human sacrifice (2 Chronicles 28:1-3; Jeremiah 32:35). It was also a garbage dump where rubbish and refuse were burned. The smoldering fires and festering worms of the Valley of Hinnom made it a graphic and effective picture of the fate of the damned. This is the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Men only go to this place prepared for the devil and his angels if they reject God’s salvation and condemn themselves. c. This is the second death: “As there is a second and higher life, so there is also a second and deeper death. And as after that life there is no more death, so after that death there is no more life.” (Alford)
The place of the dead, Hades, also called Sheol. That word is often translated “the grave.” It seems to have two places. One is called Abraham’s bosom in Luke 16. The other is a place of punishment; although named Hades in Luke 16 it is where the rich man was punished. Peter in his epistle: 2 Peter 2:4 calls it Tartarus.
In Revelation that Hades is always accompanied by Death (esp. see Revelation 6:8 where they are together personified). Death is thought to claim the material portion of a person and Hades the immaterial portion.
It is apparent that neither Death nor Hades are permanent. Both will be cast into the Lake of Fire. The Lake of Fire is eternal punishment. Likely this is the equivalent of HELL. (Gehhena)
The Final Book was opened:
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
There will be an eternal punishment for sin. It is more than death. It is a Lake of Fire.
The way to avoid the Lake of Fire is Faith. Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
When by faith you received Jesus as you Lord, Savior and Life you were born again to a living hope. Your name was placed into the Book of Life.
Remember that the Great White Throne Judgment is really not a place of determining guilt. That has already been determined. It is a place of sentencing. The only way to not be sentenced at the Great White Throne Judgment is to have your name written in the Book of Life.
The important thing about this passage is not the punishment that will be given to those who reject Jesus, but the eternal life is given to those whose name is written in the Book of Life. Where does that life come from, where is it generated.
Jesus said, “I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” John 10:10
The Christian life is a faith life. It is a gift from God; given by His grace and mercy.
For by grace you are saved through faith. The faith does not save you; the grace does. Faith opens the door to salvation when God’s grace is given.
Our response to God’s grace is to believe in Jesus.
But many would say. But we have to work out our salvation; quoting Philippians 2:12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
You are not saved by your works; nor are you kept by your works. Your deeds are the result of your faith. God is in you working both to will and to work for His good pleasure. You also hear someone quote:
James 2:17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. (NAS)
It is because of faith that we have works or deeds. Faith produces works; works do not produce faith.
The Apostle Paul reminded the Galatian church that they were saved by grace and also kept by grace. The Christian life is not a performance, but a relationship with God in Christ.
Galatians 3:1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?…
Your name is in the Book of Life because of grace and faith paid for by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not by working your way into its pages.
Is your name in the Book of Life? It can be. Would you place your faith in Jesus right now?