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Revelation 20:11-15 Bible Study Lesson – Commentary And Discussion Questions – Great White Throne Judgment
I. Satan bound for one thousand years (1-3)
II. The first resurrection and the millennium (4-6)
III. The final rebellion (7-10)
IV. The final judgment (11-15)
IV. The final judgment (11-15)
- What does it mean that from His presence earth and sky fled away from Him?
- Who takes part in this next resurrection?
- What are the books in verse 12?
- Since each one is judged according to what he has done (13), what hope do we have?
- What is the significance of the book of life?
- Whose names are written there? When are they written?
- What does it mean that death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire?
- What would you say to someone who says that a God who would send people to hell is not good?
- How does knowledge of the Great White Throne of Judgment affect you now?
- What can you do to make sure that you don’t go there? How about your children and family and friends?
Mark 9:43 – And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
Romans 14:12-13 – So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.
Matthew 12:36 – I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.
1 Corinthians 4:5 – Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
Matthew 10:28 – And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 25:32-34 – Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
1. A great white throne – At the end of days, there will be a final judgment. It is normally called the Great White Throne Judgment. The one who sits upon the throne is the King of Kings. He has supreme authority as the judge. And His judgment is final. There is no one above Him. There is no option to appeal to a higher or supreme court. His court is the final one and highest there is.
The white color of the throne shows that the judgments are pure and holy. He who sits on it is impartial. He cannot be bought, corrupted, or negotiated with.
Most likely, it is Jesus who is on the throne.
John 5:22 – For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.
There is a distinction between this judgment and the one that believers will face. Believers will appear before something called, “the judgment seat of Christ.”
2 Corinthians 5:10 – For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
It could be that Paul and John simply use different terminology to describe the same event. However, the first part of Revelation 20 indicates that believers and unbelievers take part in a different resurrection. Saints who take part in the first resurrection are blessed, while unbelievers who take part in the second one are condemned. And there is also a time gap of one thousand years between these two resurrections.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that every person who has ever lived, will face Christ the judge. You either face Him as friend and follower, having been cleansed already by His blood, or you face Him as a rebel and an enemy.
Application: One day each of us will have to give an account to the one seated on the throne. We would do well to remember who is on the throne. He is the one who has the final authority to judge our lives and the decisions we make. Your boss, neighbor, or teacher will not be on the throne. Neither will even your parents or your spouse. Our goal should be to live in such a way as to please the one on the throne. Do not be pressured into compromising behavior by those who would use their earthly authority to influence you to sin.
2. From His presence the earth and sky fled away –
This may signify the fact that nothing can be kept secret from Him. There is no barrier in between His gaze and our most secret thoughts and actions. People often convince themselves that God is far away. The fool says in his heart, “there is no God” (Psalm 14:1) and believes that he will not be punished (Psalm 53:1).
Many do things in secret that they would never dare to do in front of others. They hide in the dark, behind closed doors, in shady alleyways, in basements, and pass things under the table. None of these things are effective in keeping our actions secret from God.
Hebrews 4:13 – And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
He not only sees everything we do, but He also sees everything we think about. Our innermost thoughts are laid bare to His eyes. All of our lust, greed, bitterness, pride, and envy are exposed to the one who has eyes like fire (Revelation 19:12).
He is always watching.
Psalms 139:8 – If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Application: Remember that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, God is watching. He sees everything that you do in secret. He knows every skeleton you have in the closet. That knowledge can help remind you to do what is right even when you are alone. At the same time, we are all guilty. Instead of thinking that we can continue to hide our sins, we should pre-emptively confess them to God (and to others). Seek forgiveness now and bring it to Him before He uncovers it at the last judgment. Even from the fall, we see that God wants us to proactively confess sins to Him. He asked Adam and Eve, “did you eat the fruit?” when He knew well they did. He asked because He wanted them to take initiative to confess.
3. I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne – The last judgment is the great equalizer. Every person will one day stand before God and face judgment. It is a time to give account for the life spent on earth, for the use of the gifts and resources God has put in our hands. It is a time to look at one’s record and compare it to God’s law.
There will be no partiality.
Your riches or position on earth will not give you a free pass. The poor and the rich alike will stand before the throne. No nationality will be privileged. The Ancient Chinese and Native Americans will be there. Viking generals and Thai kings will be there. French paupers and Peruvian shepherds will be there. Great inventors like Thomas Edison and explorers like Marco Polo will be called to give an account. Those whose names and achievements are recorded in the history of the world will stand before the throne. And in exactly the same manner, those forgotten by history will be summoned to present themselves before the ultimate judge.
We have an ultimate authority over us.
From the very beginning at the fall, mankind has resisted God’s authority. Adam and Eve rebelled by disobeying the one restriction God placed on them, falling for Satan’s law that God’s authority over them was rooted out of capricious and evil motives. Soon mankind degenerated into more rebellious behavior. Only one generation later, Cain murdered Abel. Abel was created in the image of God, but Cain did not care. At the Tower of Babel, people gathered together to flaunt their perceived independence from God. To them, man was god. They believed they did not need God and could do anything.
When Jesus came He was rejected and murdered. The Son of God was killed as man attempted to cast off all of God’s authority.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century. Modern-day man has developed a sophisticated system that enables them to deny God and claim man as the pinnacle of the universe. It is called evolution.
Man’s rebellious desire to be free of any authority is shown in Romans 1.
Romans 1:21-23 – For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Reflect: Why do people so deeply dislike authority?
People dislike authority because their deeds are evil. They want to enjoy sin without any consequences or guilt.
But in this passage, we are reminded that regardless of man’s attempts to cast off God’s authority, He remains on the throne. Each person without exception will come before the throne. He is the authority over our lives and that cannot be changed by us.
Reflect: How does recognizing God’s authority over your life impact you? How does it influence your decisions? Your thinking?
Application: Accept God’s authority over your life now, rather than later. Submit yourselves to Him. Be humble under His mighty hand.
4. Books were opened… and the dead were judged by what was written in the books according to what they had done –
These books appear to be written accounts, containing the entire histories of each person who has ever lived. Our world history only has bits and pieces of the most significant events or accomplishments of famous people. God’s history collection will be comprehensive.
Everything you do will be recorded. This will include everything you have done in secret and no one knows about. It will include things you have long forgotten. Most likely, motivations and inner thoughts will also be written down. Those have to be taken into account for a fair judgment to be rendered.
Reflect: How would you feel if you are called up and your book of deeds is read in front of billions of people?
It will be a time of great personal shame and sorrow. The judged will desire to escape, but there won’t be any. All will be revealed under the gaze of the Almighty. No reasonable justification can be offered. No excuse will be good enough. There can be no negotiation, no appeal, and no more second chances.
It is hard to imagine the sheer anguish and regret that will be felt by the condemned at that time. And yet no there can be no finger-pointing to anyone else. Each person will stand on his own before the throne, responsible for his own choices.
5. The judgment will be fair –
The judgment will not be arbitrary. It will be perfectly fair. Everything will be taken into account. Background, environment, family upbringing, physical abilities, health issues, education level, and exposure to the truth will all be considered.
According to Revelation 20:12, each will be judged “according to what they had done.” Personal responsibility is emphasized. If you are abused as a child, that will be considered and factored in. But neither will it absolve you of all responsibility for your own choices. No one will be able to say, “I had no choice” or “he made me do it.”
God is the perfect judge. His courtroom will be perfectly just. Every one of His verdicts will be 100% pristine. No one will be able to find fault with His judgments. The condemned will not say, “it is not fair.” They will fully recognize that it is fair. Whatever sentence God hands down will be exactly what is fair, no more and no less.
Proverbs 16:11 – A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.
6. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them – Hades is a Greek word, meaning the place of the dead. The Hebrew equivalent is Sheol.
Revelation 20:13 – 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.
This verse simply means that all of those who died will appear at the judgment. No one from any era will escape it.
7. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire – Death is not the end. Many people believe that after death there is nothing, that one loses all consciousness. The Bible teaches very clearly that death is not the end. There are two final destinations, eternal life with Jesus in heaven (more technically on the new earth, seen in Revelation 21-22), or the second death in the lake of fire.
The lake of fire is described in Scripture as:
A place of darkness (Matthew 22:13)
- The second death (Revelation 20:13)
- A place for Satan, the antichrist, and the false prophet (Revelation 19:20, 20:10)
- A place originally prepared for the devil and his demons (Matthew 25:41)
- A place of torment (Matthew 25:41)
- A flaming furnace (Matthew 13:42)
- A place of gnashing of teeth and weeping (Matthew 13:42)
- Unquenchable fire (Mark 9:48)
- A place where the worm does not die (Mark 9:48)
- Eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
Away from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
Much of the agony of hell is not just physical pain, but spiritual anguish. Guilt, shame, and regret will continue. Loneliness and despair will be deeply felt. Sin will continue. People there will not be redeemed or repentant. They will not have glorified bodies. Many will gnash their teeth at God. Bitterness and anger will likely grow. Those in hell will continue to sin against God for eternity. As their sin continues, so does the punishment.
It is horrible to even think about the terror of being sentenced to hell. Every believer should be saddened to think of any souls going there. Its existence should motivate us to boldly share the gospel.
Application: Believers are called to share the gospel with a world that will be doomed to hell unless they come to Christ. We are called by God from above. We are called by our own consciences from within. And we are called by the lost souls below who are already in Sheol. Do not think about the horrors of hell and be so callous as to do nothing.
Firstly, evaluate your own salvation and make sure that you have a relationship with Jesus. He is the only way to avoid this fate.
Secondly, make sure you bring your children up to know the Lord. It would be a truly terrible thing to watch your children sentenced to hell. What are you doing to make sure this doesn’t happen? How much time do you spend teaching your children the things of God compared to taking them to soccer practice or dance lessons?
Thirdly, show compassion for the lost souls around you. Warn them of what is to come so they can avoid this fate.
8. The book of life and the lake of fire –
Revelation 20:15 – And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The Book of Life is sometimes referred to as the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 13:8, 21:27). It contains all the names of those who trust in Jesus and have been cleansed by His blood.
After checking the book of deeds, one more book will be checked. The Book of Life will be opened. Since the guilty will not be able to pay this debt on their own, their only hope is that the Lamb already paid this debt on their behalf. All of those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be condemned to hell.
No one will be able to pass this judgment on their own. No one will be found innocent.
One can imagine the feelings of those about to be condemned. They will know their guilt. They will know they deserve hell. As the Book of Life is opened, they will hope against hope that somehow their name is recorded there. Even while hoping, they will know it is a fool’s hope. Since they did not turn to Jesus and seek forgiveness how could this transaction have been made? How could their name be written there when they did not ask for it to be written there? How could they be called one of God’s family when they rebelled against Him as His enemy?
Then the dreaded words will be pronounced, “his name is not found here.” All hope will vanish. All the sin, guilt, and punishment will remain squarely on the shoulders of the guilty. They will have to bear the responsibility alone. Those words “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness (Matthew 7:23) will be the most frightful ever known.
It is grievous to think about.
Application: Are you sure that your name is written in the book of life? All of those in Christ have their names written there and will avoid this fate, instead hearing the words, “well done, good and faithful servant.” Do not chase after the thrills of now and so lightly care about eternity. People prepare for interviews, university exams, and to go on dates, but do not prepare for the final judgment, where everything is decided. We should throw ourselves upon God’s mercy now. And though believers do not seem to be present at the Great White Throne judgment, we will be present before the judgment seat of Christ (1 Corinthians 5:20), to receive rewards. Are you ready to meet the judge? If not, what do you need to do to get ready? How should you live your life now knowing He is the authority and you will give an account to Him?
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