Someone once said, “The book of Revelation is not hard to understand—it is hard to believe!” What they meant by the words “hard to believe” could be open to interpretation, but one thing is for sure: Revelation is trustworthy because the author is Jesus Christ—referred to four times over in the book as the “Faithful and True.” True in every respect besides being the True Light (John 1:5, 9); the True Bread (John 6:31), and the True Vine (John 15:1). Unless one takes the study of God’s Word seriously—which we are meant to do—the first part of that statement is also open to question. No matter how difficult the book of Revelation might be to understand, God would not give us such a book and describe it as being the revelation (unveiling) if it could not be understood!
The book of Revelation, like some other books of the Bible, is not written in chronological order, although most parts of it are. This is one reason the storyline can be difficult to follow. Added to this is the meaning of the many symbols used. Some Christians are quick to advance this latter point as an excuse for not studying the book, but it has no validity when we come to the last five verses of chapter 20 because there is not a single symbol mentioned there. Those five verses (11 to 15) are the most solemn of the entire Bible and, sadly, will be the experience of every unrepentant sinner. For that reason, and hoping some unsaved persons are reading these pages, it is essential that we repeat them here:
“And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (vv. 11-15)
The above verses describe a court scene beyond compare, to which we now turn our attention. This throne is not a regal throne in the sense of normal regal rule, but judicial—set up specifically to judge those who have rejected Christ as Savior. Since it is unlike judicial systems throughout the world, we contrast some differences using that which is most familiar to me—the Northern Ireland (NI) system.
There is no better place to start than with the throne and its Judge. The throne is great because of who sits on it and of the seriousness of the matters dealt with. Also, it is white because of its purity—the righteousness of its Judge and His judgments. Three times over, Revelation tells us that Jesus Christ and His judgments are righteous (16:5, 7; 19:2) —so unlike our judiciary, who recently had to undergo training because of unhelpful comments made from the bench.
Next, we come to the dead, small and great standing before God. In many instances, under the NI judicial system, the defendant does not have to be present. They may plead guilty by post, or have a solicitor appear on their behalf to enter a plea. Should the defendant not be present, and not be legally represented, the case may be proven in their absence. In contrast, this will not happen at the Great White Throne. Every unsaved person will appear there. There will be no escaping the jurisdiction, no amnesty, and no reliance on “comfort letters” (claiming the person is not on the wanted list) issued secretly to “on-the-run” terrorists by a government that could not be trusted.
Allied to this is the behavior of defendants when present in court. Because of political aspirations, some who are there under arrest refuse to recognize the Court. When I think of this, my mind goes to the account of Jesus’ arrest as recorded in the opening verses of John 18. Upon being asked, and then confirming that He was “Jesus of Nazareth,” those who came to take Him by force went backward and fell (forward) to the ground in obeisance. There will be no disrespect for the Judge at the Great White Throne.
Then, there is the legal maxim which dictates that every person who stands charged with a criminal offence is presumed innocent until proven guilty—unless a specific law provides for an exception. Hence, the burden of proof is on the prosecution. And, there is also the defendant’s entitlement to legal representation, with the added advantage of perhaps qualifying for financial help to meet that cost. But again, none of these things will apply at the Great White Throne.
The absence of the person’s name in the Book of Life at this throne is the convicting evidence, while the other books determine the sentence—not as to duration, but severity, for they are judged according to their works (v.13).
As for the sentence, there will be no withdrawing of the charge; no worry about insufficient evidence; no absolute discharge; no conditional discharge; no binding over to keep the peace; no monetary fine; no deferred sentence; no maximum period of imprisonment; no suspended sentence; no probation (agreeing to live a ‘reformed’ life under the supervision of the authorities); no community service order; and no recorded sentence (imprisonment presumed to having been served). The only punishment will be IMPRISONMENT in THE LAKE OF FIRE with torment day & night for ever and ever—as revealed in the next comment.
After the judgment, there will be no appeal; no remission of sentence; no parole; no royal pardon (as distinct from an amnesty) and no miscarriage of justice, because the sentence will have been passed by Jesus Christ the Righteous, the King of kings and Lord of lords. The consequences of the scene described are so terrible that Christians need to both warn and pray for family, friends and others who are perishing lest this be the experience of any of them.
Editor’s Note: Given the gravity of this topic, why not share a copy of this article to those who need to hear it?
by Alan McIlwaine