The Final Sequence
The Great White Throne Judgment
We now arrive at the Great White Throne Judgment, the second of that pair of judgments which have as their result that those condemned are cast into the Outer Darkness (Lake of Fire) for eternity. As I noted in the previous chapter, this judgment differs from the Judgment of the Nations in its time, place, participants and criteria.
The name typically used to describe this judgment comes from the well-known text in Rev 20:
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.
The criterion of condemnation is very simple:
… if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
[I have written extensively on the sovereignty of God and election in another series (a thorough critique of the spectacular errors of Evangelistic Apologetics) and so will not recreate that study here.
Let it suffice to say that behind the detail of whether a person’s name had been recorded in the Book (lit. Scroll) of Life of the Lamb (Rev 5.1-5) is the sovereign election of God.]
The fact of this “simple” criterion of a person’s name not recorded in the Scroll of Life as the single cause of the condemnation is not to say that there isn’t a judgment for the sins committed by the person under judgment—no, not by any means!
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. 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.
Some might ask the question,
“If the single criterion for being consigned to the Outer Darkness (Lake of Fire) is the fact that a person’s name was not found in the Scroll of Life, why will there be a concurrent judgment of works? What does that accomplish? That person was already condemned!”
The Lord provided that answer a long time ago:
And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.
It is absolutely true that a person whose name is not found in the Scroll of Life is unconditionally condemned for all eternity. But it is also true that the nature/scope/force of that punishment will be commensurate to the scope of the evil which he/she committed in his/her lifetime. The Lord’s justice righteously constrains Him to punish the guilty to the exact extent/manner required. But make no mistake: the Lake of Fire will, in its “least configuration” (as inferred by Luk 12, though the language of my description is clumsy, at best!) is more terrifying than the human mind is able to contemplate—and it is still for eternity. (Please see this chapter for details.)
[Remember, in the OT sins committed in ignorance still required the offering of a sacrifice.]
Ultimately, all sin must be dealt with:
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a person sins unintentionally in any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, and commits any of them, if the anointed priest sins so as to bring guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord a bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
As the text from Paul’s sermon in Athens shows, as a result of the resurrection of Christ all people are now culpable for all sins they commit. Whether any will claim ignorance will be irrelevant; the Outer Darkness is ready to receive those whose names are not in the Scroll of Life.
While the Judgment of the Nations served to judge those who were alive at the time the Lord Christ returns, the Great White Throne Judgment serves to judge those who had already died by the time the Lord returns or who will die afterward. In that great, final judgment lies the fulfillment of the fact that the Lord Christ is the Judge both of the Living and the Dead!
The Judgment of the Nations serves as a “preview” for His righteousness and power to enact justice and judgment upon those who happened to have died before His return. They “escape” condemnation during the Judgment of the Nations but they can’t escape that which unconditionally awaits them at the Great White Throne Judgment. Indeed, for the temporary reprieve of not being cast into the Lake of Fire at the Lord’s return they exist in the torments of Hades for another millennia, never having a moment’s rest because they know what has been reserved for them! Yes, even the sea, Hades and death itself will be delivered up to that judgment:
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. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
We now have the major components of the coming judgments and are ready to see them all in a single, comprehensive view of the Final Sequence, the final chapter of this series.