Great White Throne of Judgment

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash
The Dragon, the False Prophet, the Beast from the Sea, and Babylon have all been overthrown and destroyed. The conspiracy against the Lamb and his followers only sealed the doom of its perpetrators.
Throughout the book of Revelation, Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, remains in firm control of events; he uses the malevolent plans of his enemies to implement God’s redemptive plan for the entire cosmos, often in paradoxical and unexpected ways. That plan will culminate in the New Creation.
The time has arrived for the final judgment, an event anticipated at the close of each of the three sevenfold series; the seven seal openings, the seven trumpets, and the seven bowls of wrath.
(Revelation 20:11-15) – “And I saw a great white throne and him that was sitting thereon, from whose face fled the earth and heaven, and place was not found for them. 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 out of the things written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead that were in them; and they were judged, each one, according to their works. And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death — the lake of fire. And if anyone was not found in the book of life written, he was cast into the lake of fire.
The Great White Throne.” This is the first mention of a “great white” throne; however, this description is most likely an expansion of John’s vision of the heavenly throne in Chapter 4: “Behold, there was a throne set in heaven, and one sitting upon the throne.” The occupant of the throne is the one “who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.”
From whose face fled the earth and heaven.” This clause recalls two earlier visions; the opening of the sixth seal and the sounding of the seventh trumpet, both of which ended in a judgment scene:
(Revelation 6:14) –And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places…they say to the mountains and to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come.”
(Revelation 16:20) –And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air; and there came forth a great voice out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is complete!’…and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.”
I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened.” This scene borrows language from the vision of the “Ancient of Days” in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts from the sea, as follows:
(Daniel 7:10) - “A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened” (cp. Daniel 12:1-2).
The idea of a “book” containing a record of each person’s deeds occurs elsewhere in scripture. The Psalmist declared regarding his oppressors, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” And Jesus exhorted his disciples, “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you but, rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.” (Psalm 69:28, Luke 10:20).
What is different here is that “another book was opened; the book of life.” What sets this record apart is that it is the “book of life of the Lamb that has been slain from the foundation of the world.” What determines one’s final fate is how he or she responds to the Lamb. The names of all who follow the Lamb “wherever he goes” are included in his book; everyone who gives allegiance to the Beast is excluded from it (Revelation 13:8, 17:8).
The dead were judged out of the things written in the books, according to their works.” The one who “sits on the throne” does nothing apart from the Lamb. When the sixth seal was opened it was the day of the “wrath of the Lamb and of the one sitting on the throne.” Jesus promised the overcomer that the HE would not “blot out his name out of the book of life.” It is Jesus who will give to “every one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23, 3:5, 6:15-17, 22:12).
And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire.” This description argues against interpreting this vision in a strictly literal fashion. It is not just unrighteous humans that are thrown into the Lak of Fire, but “death and Hades.” Whether the book of Revelation views these two things as personal spiritual beings or abstract concepts is not clear.
When the fourth seal was opened, a pale horse was released ridden by one named “Death, and Hades followed with him.” This appears to view “death,” at least, as having a personal aspect. However, the same verse explains how authority was given to all four riders to kill “a fourth part of the earth with sword, and with hunger, and with pestilence, and with the beasts of the earth(Revelation 6:8). The four methods of death correspond to the characters of the four horsemen:  deceivers-white horse (“beasts of the earth”), war-red horse (“sword”), famine-black horse, and plague-pale horse (“pestilence”). This is visionary symbolism, not literal pictures of four individual human beings.
In the book’s first vision, Jesus was declared the living one who possessed the keys to “death and hades” (Revelation 1:18, 6:8); that is, his sovereignty extended even over the realm of the dead. “Hades” corresponds to the Old Testament concept of Sheol, the abode of the dead; it is not identical with the Lake of Fire or popular concepts of “Hell.” The casting of death and Hades into it probably represents the end of their domain; that is, the cessation of death after the final judgment (note well the Apostle Paul’s comments about the “last enemy, death,” in 1 Corinthians 15:20-57).
This is the second death — the lake of fire.” Note carefully that the book of Revelation never mentions the expected counterpart to this – the “first death.” As in Revelation 20:5, the “second death” is juxtaposed with the “first resurrection.” Physical death is not the final answer or the thing to be feared. Rather, what counts in the end is whether one is destined for the New Creation or the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8).
Persons and things do not survive forever in a literal fire; rather, fire consumes them. Comparing fire to a “lake” is analogy; this is comparative language used to represent another reality and to communicate things about it.  However literal the description is, clearly, this is an undesirable place and fate, something to be avoided at all costs. This dread fate is set in contrast to the glorious one that faithful followers of the Lamb will experience (cp. Revelation 21:1-8).
Anyone who was not found in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” This reiterates a theme seen previously. Humanity in the book of Revelation is divided into two groups: those who follow the Lamb and those who render homage to the Beast; there is no in-between. The former live forever in the New Jerusalem, the latter experience the “second death” in the Lake of Fire.
Note well that the Beast and the False Prophet were “cast alive” into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20-21). In this paragraph, the “dead” from the sea, death, and Hades are simply “cast into the Lake of Fire.” This simple statement reinforces that the unrighteous dead do not participate in the “first resurrection,” whatever their state of existence or consciousness is when they are brought before the Great White Throne of Judgment.
The next paragraph will present the fate of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life in stark contrast to those whose names are excluded. It will also close out the third major division of the book (Revelation 21:1-8).


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