Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
The Great White Throne Judgment should terrify anyone who isn’t clothed in the righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. Like an ominous courtroom scene, the evidence will be brought forth to be examined before God. There will be no debate over guilt or innocence. No one at the great white throne judgment will have any defense to make for themselves. After this judgment, everyone will enter their eternal destinations.
When Does the GWT Judgment Occur?
The Great White Throne Judgment occurs immediately after the Millennial Kingdom, after the “Last Battle”. When God sits in His court of judgment, earth and sky flee away. This suggests that the Great White Throne Judgment occurs in the supernatural/spiritual third dimension, after the present form of heaven and earth has passed away (Revelation 21:1). The new heavens and earth will be created after the Great White Throne Judgment is complete.
Who is Judged at the GWT Judgment?
All humans who have died in rejection of Jesus Christ since the dawn of humanity will be resurrected from the dead and stand before the throne of God at the Great White Throne Judgment. It is possible that believers who have died in Jesus Christ during the Millennial Kingdom will also stand for judgment at this time, but their judgment is not specifically discussed. Judgment before God at some point is certain for every human.
For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me, and every tongue will give praise to God. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10-12)
All other believers in Christ (from the beginning of humanity up to the start of the Millennial Kingdom) have already been judged and are in their eternal, glorified, rewarded states. They will not participate in the Great White Throne Judgment except perhaps as observers.
What Takes Place During the GWT Judgment?
Each and every human will face resurrection from the dead. The general resurrection at this time is described as the “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29), the resurrection to “disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), and the resurrection “of the wicked” (Acts 24:15). God has placed eternity on our hearts because we are, in fact, all created to be eternal beings. Where we spend eternity is up to us, and is decided while we are in our physical bodies on earth.
Each person will be summoned and take a turn standing before the throne of the Almighty God. Books will be opened. There are two different types of books. The first, is the singular Book of Life. This book contains all the names of people who are saved by grace through faith through the blood of Jesus, throughout the entire age of humanity. If your name is found in this book, you will receive eternal life. If your name is not found in this book, you will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the devil and his angels. It’s a “yes or no” type book. Because God knows the beginning from the end and is not constrained by time, everyone’s name in the Lamb’s Book of Life has been recorded in there since the foundation of the world (Rev 3:5, Phil 4:3, Rev 13:8, Rev 21:27, Rev 17:8).
The second set of books contains the record of everything every human has thought, said, and done while in physical existence on earth.
Those whose names are found in the book of life will find that all their bad deeds have disappeared out of this second set of books. Psalm 103:12 states that “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us”. These sins against God have been blotted out by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Judgment will determine degrees of reward.
Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me to repay each person according to his work. (Revelation 22:12)
Those whose names are NOT found in the book of life will have all their thoughts, words, and actions held up against God’s perfect holy laws. God’s expectation is stated in Matthew 5:48 – “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If even a single rule is broken, the death penalty is prescribed. The balance of good deeds versus bad deeds will be taken into account as to HOW bad their eternal suffering will be. However, everyone whose name is not found in the Lamb’s book of Life will be cast into the eternal lake of fire.
The Great White Throne Judgment boils down to a single verse in Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus paid the price so that every human ever born could have been redeemed and had eternal life. It is only by rejecting God’s free gift that humans choose to pay their own debt with their eternal life.
Upon the completion of the Great White Throne judgment, Death and Hades (hell) is also cast into the Lake of Fire. The decision is final and complete.
Understanding God’s Judgment
God’s holiness demands that He deal with sin and rebellion against Him. This is why He offered Himself as a sacrifice, in order to provide a way for us to escape His wrath. One thing we can be certain of is God’s fairness, justice, and mercy. There are some things we just can’t know, such as how God will judge those who can’t understand or who haven’t heard His truth. We are told that He will judge by the heart and the conscience.
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:5-16)
We all deserve God’s wrath, because we all have sinned against Him. Through God’s great mercy, we are each extended the offer of eternal forgiveness. It is our free will whether we ask for that offer to be applied to our individual account.
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The Bible is infallible. I am not. Be a Berean – examine the scriptures for yourself to see if these things are so!