Jesus or Moses? Revelation 20:11-15
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 20 and verse 11, moving into verses 11-15 this morning. The title of our message this morning is the following question. Jesus or Moses? If you’ve been tracking along with us in the Book of Revelation we have completed that huge section, chapters 6-19 which is a description of the tribulation period itself, which will last seven years. We’ve traced all of the judgments, 21 judgments during that time period; that time period culminating with the personal return of Jesus Christ to the earth, Revelation 19.
Then what? Well, once Jesus returns to the earth four things will happen prophetically. Number one, His kingdom. Number two, The Great White Throne Judgment. Number three, the destruction of the old earth. And number four, the implementation of the new heavens and new earth. We actually finished and as you look to the right there, the second advent, you can see those same four things. But we finished last week the kingdom. The kingdom will last for a thousand years and we were able to cover a thousand years in three sermons so for that I’m grateful.
But once the thousand year kingdom runs its course then what? The next thing that’s mentioned here is something called the Great White Throne Judgment. And as we read this prophecy beginning this morning on the Great White Throne Judgment we’re tempted to think that such a thing could never happen. In fact, if I didn’t have this in my Bible, what he describes here, is so mind bending I would doubt ever such a thing could ever take place. And yet Paul, on Mars Hill in Acts 17:31 says this: “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.” Paul is very clear in his Mars Hill Sermon as he concludes it in Acts 17:31 that there is a fixed and appointed time in which Jesus will judge every single human being. And we actually get a description of it here in our passage, The Great White Throne Judgment. It has three parts, the Judge, verses 11, the judged, verses 12-13, and then we have a description of the Judgment itself, verses 14-15.
I very much agree with what David Hocking says in his Revelation commentary concerning this judgment. He writes, “There is no more awesome passage in the entire Bible than this one — THE GREAT WHITE THRONE judgment for” as we will see, “for all unbelievers.” If someone, no matter what age of time they’re living in dies without Christ this is their future. David Hocking, The Book of Revelation: Understanding the Future (Tustin, CA: Hope For Today Publications, 2014), page 532.
So notice, if you will, part one, the judge and notice, if you will, Revelation chapter 20 and notice if you will verse 11. “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.” Notice the first part here, John sees the next thing prophetically sequentially following the thousand year kingdom. He says, “Then I saw a Great White Throne….” So what we have here is a description of a particular judgment that will take place in real time called The Great White Throne Judgment. And the tendency of theologians and a group of people even today is to take this judgment and merge it with all the other judgments that are described in the Bible. Many theologians believe in just one universal judgment. If you see “judgments” in the Bible let’s just follow the ram, jam and cram method and make it all one. That makes it easy, right?
Dr. Robert Condon describes this trend amongst some who do not believe that Christ will return on the earth for a thousand years nor do they understand that those of the church age will return to rule with Him following a review time before His judgment seat or the Bema Seat Judgment when our roles and responsibilities will be determined. What he’s saying there is there’s another judgment, not to be confused with this judgment, for the believer. This one, as we’ll see here, is for the unbeliever. The one for the believer (us in other words) is a judgment not to determine heaven or hell, this one here is such a judgment. Our judgment will be to determine reward.
He says, “Most believe that the Great White Throne Judgment is for everyone,” even if you’re a Christian people think you’re going to sort of pop up at this judgment, “of all ages and it will determine whether one is truly saved or not.” I want to assure you of something folks; if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you’re trusted in Him for your salvation, you have no part in this horrific scene that’s being described here. The only judgment in your future is the judgment to determine rewards or degrees of rewards, never salvation itself. That was taken care of the moment you trusted in Christ as your personal Savior.
Here’s a chart that I like to use, it describes the four great judgments of the Bible. The one I have in yellow there embolden is our judgment. But there’s something called the Sheep and Goat judgment and a parallel judgment for the judgment of the Jews in the wilderness. And those two judgments involve, not us but tribulation survivors because some will survive the tribulation period and a judgment is made there in Matthew 25 and Ezekiel 20 concerning which of these survivors are believers and which ones are unbelievers. The unbelievers are cast off the earth into Hades but the believers will enter the millennial kingdom. That’s what’s called the Sheep and Goat judgment, Matthew 25:31-46 and a parallel judgment for the Jews in the wilderness, Ezekiel 20.
[Matthew 1:31-46, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’  “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;  for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;  I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’  Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’  Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’  These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”]
Following the rapture of the church which precedes the tribulation we will go into the presence of the Lord and we will be judged, not as members of His church to determine salvation but rewards will be given or not given, based on how we allow the Lord to express Himself through us in our present life.
The judgment on the far right, the one we’re speaking of here, called the Great White Throne Judgment, is not to be confused in any way, shape or form with those other judgments on the left side. The judgment we’re talking about here will take place only for all unsaved and it will take place at the end of the millennial kingdom. It is a judgment that is completely and totally different than the Bema Seat Judgment and completely and totally different than the Sheep and Goat judgment. You see, the Sheep and Goat judgment took place a thousand years before; there’s a thousand years in between the Sheep and Goat Judgment and Great White Throne Judgment.
The Sheep and Goat Judgment was post second advent; this judgment is after the millennium. Sheep and Goat Judgment is for living people only, on the earth at the time. The judgment we’re talking about here is for all the dead. The Sheep and Goat Judgment has believers and unbelievers in it and that’s why a judgment needs to be made to determine who enters the kingdom and who doesn’t. But the judgment we’re speaking of here is for unbelievers only. The sheep and goat judgment you’ll find in Matthew 25, angels, sheep, goats, brethren.
None of that is described here; this is for unbelievers only. The sheep and goat judgment will take place when Jesus returns to Jerusalem and begins to rule for a thousand years on David’s throne. This is not David’s throne, this is the Great White Throne. The sheep and goat judgment takes place on the earth; this judgment seems to take place after the earth and heaven have fled away.
Look at all those differences. You say well, that’s exhausting to think about, I’m glad you’re finished talking about that. No, not really, because there’s a second slide there which I won’t talk you through, you can read it there online as we post all of our power points online. But my point is the sheep and goat judgment, just like the Bema Seat Judgment, is completely and totally different than the Great White Throne Judgment that we’re speaking of here.
So when he says, “Then I saw a Great White Throne” he’s speaking of a different judgment entirely at the end of history, at the end of the thousand years for the unsaved only. And notice what also it says. “Then I saw a Great White Throne,” and notice what it says, “and Him who sat upon it,” now who is on this Great White Throne. Many commentators believe that it’s God the Father.
In fact, one of my favorite commentators, Robert Thomas, wrote a very wonderful two volume set on the Book of Revelation, and he says this concerning this verse: The Almighty Father is undoubtedly the one seated on this throne as He has been throughout the Book of Revelation. So his point is every time you see a throne in heaven the Father is on it, so the Father must be on this throne as well. But then my friend, David Hocking in his commentary says this: The word “throne” appears forty-five times in Revelation but only sixteen times in the rest of the New Testament. The one who sits on the throne in Revelation 4 is God the Father but the throne that God the Father is on is never called The Great White Throne.
So you ask what is my perspective on it, who is it that’s on this throne? I’m of the view that it is not God the Father on this throne but it is Jesus Christ Himself. I get that largely from The Gospel of John which is another book that the Apostle John wrote, besides the Book of Revelation, and in this book he records Christ saying this? “For not even the Father judges anyone but He is given all judgment to the Son.” John 5:22. Verse 27, “And He gave Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man.”
In fact, in the Mars Hill speech, Acts 17:31, Paul also made reference to the fact that in the final judgment it will be Jesus on that throne. It says, “because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man” now who could that be? Jesus, “to whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Who better qualified to be a judge than Jesus Christ, because how can anybody look at Jesus Christ and say “You’re acting unfairly? You’re acting arbitrarily” when the very wounds are in His hands and His feet and side. He has done everything that can possibly be done to remove a person from the prospect of this horrible judgment that we’re reading about here. Who better to answer the objection “you’re just not fair God” when you look at what Jesus did in terms of His wounds and how He did everything possible to prevent people from showing up at this particular judgment.
I do notice in Revelation 3:21 that Jesus and the Father currently are on the same throne. [Revelation 3:21, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”] And part of me thinks maybe both of them will be there. It doesn’t say that but I think Jesus is what people are going to see in the end as their ultimate state, their ultimate destiny is determined.
And we continue on and it says “…from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and there was no place found for them.” [Revelation 20:11, “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 Lord is on His throne whether you believe it’s God the Father, like Robert Thomas or Jesus Christ the way David Hocking teaches it; whoever is on this throne is extremely powerful. In fact this being on this throne is so powerful that heaven and earth itself are portrayed as fleeing from His very presence. In other words, you show up at this judgment there’s absolutely nowhere to hide. There’s nothing to duck behind because heaven and earth itself have fled and you’re just there naked and bare before your Creator. Of course heaven and earth, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1. Jeremiah 23:24, “… declares the Lord, “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” Heaven and earth is everything. And yet this being is so powerful that heaven and earth are portrayed as fleeing from His very presence. That would fit Jesus because He is the Creator. He spoke and the universe, heaven and earth leapt into existence.
And there’s a very strong view that it’s at this point the earth as we know it and the heavens as we know it is dissolved by fire. There’s actually two views on this; the heavens and earth as we know it is destroyed before the Great White Throne Judgment as Revelation 20:11 intimates or is it destroyed at the end of this judgment which Revelation 21:1 intimates. I don’t know if I know the answer to that question but I do know this, whichever view you take the Bible is very clear that this world that we are living in is very temporary. The appointment of God is to take this world, heavens and earth contaminated by sin, dissolve it by fire and to replace it with a brand new creation which we’ll read about in Revelation 21 and 22. And if that’s true why do I hold so tightly onto the things of this earth when the reality of the situation is like going to the store and you buy a carton of milk and it’ll say expires after a certain day. God has stamped this entire universe with an expiration date and one of these days in God’s timing it’s going to be dissolved.
This is why 1 John 2:17 says, “The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” 2 Peter 3:10-11 says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” And then verse 11 says, “ Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” The necessity of hanging on to the things of this world with a loose grip, knowing that if your grip tightens you’re in essence rearranging the deck chairs on a Titanic is what you’re doing because the whole thing is going down, the whole thing is going to be dissolved and thus the very presence of the heavens and earth itself are fleeing from the One who is seated on the throne. And that’s the Judge that’s mentioned.
And then what follows, verses 12 and 13, is the judged. Who ae the people that are going to be judged. Look at verse 12, “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.” Who’s being judged here? We have number one, the subjects of the judgment, verse 12. Number two, the Books of the judgments, verse 12. And number three, the basis of the judgment around the end of verse 12 into verse 13. Who are the subjects of this particular judgment?
It tells you right there at the beginning of verse 12, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small,, standing before the throne,” who are “the dead”? The dead are all the unbelievers of all ages of time, ever since the fall of man in Eden, from that point until the end of history every single human being that’s ever died without Christ is summoned. And you’ll notice here it says, the small and the great, “the great and the small,” isn’t it interesting how final judgment has a way of equalizing everybody. The beautiful people are there and the people that are not so beautiful are there. The rich are there and the poor are there. People of the United States are there, other people from other countries are there.
And I just find it very fascinating that the final judgment and death itself is sort of the great equalizer; it doesn’t matter how successful you are, how prosperous you are, how many good deeds you think you’ve done in your life, if you’re effective compared to another person you’ve got a promotion compared to that other person in your workplace, it doesn’t matter anymore because there you stand as an unbeliever, the small and the great.
And then we move into the Books of the judgment and notice verse 12, it gets into some very interesting details here. It says, “And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne,” look at this, “and the Books” now is that noun book singular or plural there? That’s plural, more than one, “… and the Books were opened;” so we have two sets of records, we have the Books (plural) verse 12, but then the verse goes on and it says “ and another book,” is that singular or plural… singular was opened, which is the Book of Life. So a big question I think for any person to understand this is what’s in the Book and what’s in the Books?
As we continue this morning I’ll try to make the case that the “Books,” plural, as unbelievers are standing before the Lord is a record of sins, sins of commission, sins of omission, things that people have done, things that people have left undone. And it is what unbelievers will be judged by if they don’t have the transferred righteousness of Christ. And apparently those summoned at this judgment do not have the transferred righteousness of Christ and so they’re evaluated by a standard which is contained in the Books.
You’ll notice as these verses go on, I think it says it twice, once verse 12, once again verse 13, it keeps saying “according to their deeds.” So if I don’t have Christ the only thing left to evaluate me is not His deed that He did for me on the cross two thousand years ago but my own deeds. What a scary prospect that is! But then it goes on after talking about the Books and it talks about something else called the Book, singular, also there in verse 12. It says, “and the Books were opened, “ and then it says “and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.” Well, as the Books contain a record of sins what’s inside the Book? What’s inside The Book, singular, is a record of everyone throughout the ages who has trusted in Christ, Old Testament, New Testament, Old Testament looking forward, New Testament looking backward, Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.
You say well how do you know that? I think that’s true because John didn’t just write the Book of Revelation he wrote The Gospel of John. This is called “The Book of Life.” And watch how John uses the word “Life” in his other book, The Gospel of John, is used as a synonym for those that are in Christ Jesus by way of faith. John 3:16, you knowledge that one by heart, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” That’s the same Greek word here, “the Book of Life.” John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” We all know John 14:6 where Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Life means you’re in Christ, you’ve received His provision by way of faith.
The very first reference we have to the Book of Life in the Book of Revelation is Revelation 3:5 which said, “He who overcomes,” and when we were back in that chapter, I don’t know, 30 years ago, something like that [laughter], I said overcomer is a synonym for the believer. [Revelation 3:5, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the Book of Life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”] Why would I think overcomer is a synonym for the believer? Because that’s how the overcomer is described in John’s other book, 1 John, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” [1 John 5:4] Who is the one that overcomes the world, “but the one who” what? “believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
So when you see overcomer in Revelation 3:5 just mentally substitute that for a believer. “He who overcomes,” in other words a believer, “will thus be clothed in white garments;” now if I’m clothed in white garments that means I don’t have to be evaluated by what’s in the Books; “and I will not erase his name from the” what? “Book of Life and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Now who receives that privilege? The overcomes who is called the believer. It’s actually used, sadly, by many people to teach the doctrine of insecurity, you can lose salvation when you understand who the overcomer is, this actually becomes one of the greatest verses in the Bible to teach the security of the Christian, secure in Christ, your name is in that book. Absolutely nothing can take you out of that particular book.
Unbelievers names are not found in the Book of Life. How do I know that? Revelation 13:8, “…everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb [who has been slain.”] Those are the ones that followed the beast. Revelation 17:8, “….And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast….” So those that are unbelievers are always portrayed in the Book of Revelation as not having their name in the Book of Life.
This is why Jesus said what He said to His disciples who returned with joy because even the demons were in submission to them. Luke 10:17, “The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Then Jesus said to them a few verses later, Luke 10:20, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this that the spirits are subject to you but you rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” When you get your name inscribed in the Book of Life and that is the single greatest thing that could ever happen to you.
And how in the world do you get your name inscribed in the Book of Life? Well let me tell you how you’re not going to get it there. You’re not going to get there through good works! Isaiah 64:6, God through the prophet Isaiah says, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds” you’ll notice it doesn’t say unrighteous deeds, “all of our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” You think you’re right with God because of what you do? God sees that as a filthy garment.
Galatians 2:16 says this: “…since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. “ [Galatians 2:16, ““nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.”] You are not justified before God through the works of the Law. Romans 3:20 says, “ because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; [for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.]”
If you somehow are mixed up on this and you think it’s something that you do or perform or execute or accomplish or some ritual that you keep that gets your name in the Book of Life you’re in for a very rude awakening. NOBODY gets their name in the Book of Life through good works; they get their name in the Book of Life by receiving what Jesus did in their place two thousand years ago as a gift. If a person will not receive that, I don’t care how religious they are, how spiritual they are, their name is not found in the most important book that your name can ever be found in, the Book of Life.
One of the most frustrating things in life is to get wrong directions somewhere. I don’t have much of a sense of direction anyway and when someone gives me the wrong directions somewhere I get really messed up. And here’s the reality of the situation; most Christians today, when they’re given an opportunity by the Lord to evangelize are so cluttered and confused on the clarity of the gospel that they give people wrong directions.
In fact, all you’ve got to do is tour ministry websites, what they think the gospel is and they’re constantly pointing people in the wrong direction. I was just listening the other day to a visual presentation to a very popular evangelist interacting with people and it was sort of a live conversation that was recorded. And this person, this evangelist finally got to the gospel and this evangelist says to the unbeliever, you need to believe in Jesus Christ AND stop sinning. And the moment he said that, and it’s interesting as you watched the camera, the unbeliever themselves is confused. The moment he said that he just preached a false gospel. He just gave wrong directions because the Bible is very clear by the works of righteousness no flesh will be justified in His presence. The gospel is going up to people and telling them to stop sinning. Those are wrong directions. That is a works oriented gospel.
Well, gee pastor, so you’re in favor of Christian sinning? That’s not what I said! The issue of sin, the issue of profanity, the issue of whatever the sin is God will start to deal with that person in the middle tense of their salvation, not their justification but their sanctification as they grow in Christ. Saying no to sin under the power of the Holy Spirit is a vital step in the Christian’s growth but it will accomplish absolutely nothing in terms of getting someone’s name inscribed in the Book, the Book of Life. There’s only one way into the Book of Life, you have your name inscribed there is to receive what Jesus did for you as a gift. If your performance, your energy, your ambition to do better, your New Year’s Resolution, they get you nowhere with God. And yet because the clarity of the gospel is not emphasized today in Christ’s church your average Christian goes out and gives to people garbled muddled messages and sends them the wrong direction. God help us not to do that here at Sugar Land Bible Church.
You know, if there was somebody that Jesus could have said that to it was the woman at the well. You want to talk about a morally messed up person, five husbands, your current partner you’re not even married to, and I would challenge anybody to look at John 4 where Jesus is conversing with the woman at the well and He never once tells her to morally straighten yourself out. What He talks to her about is living water which she didn’t have, which is the Holy Spirit. That’s what you need; you need to receive what I have to offer, water which can satisfy the soul, living water, you need to receive that by way of faith. There’s no moral talk in her life. Now presumably the Holy Spirit once inside of her began to deal with her about certain sins but that’s not what got her in the door! That’s not got her name in the Book. That’s not what gets your name in the Book. That’s not what gets my name in the Book; it is by faith alone, faith by itself with absolutely 100% nothing added. Faith alone in Christ alone!
And you see, this trial that’s happening here is the dead are summoned and their names are not in the Book because they never received this gift. And so now they are going to be evaluated by what’s in the Book. So that raises an interesting question, doesn’t it? What in the world is in those books? I gave a generic answer earlier, it’s sort of a record of sins but let’s get a little bit more specific, shall we? You can find yourself in that predicament without the transferred righteousness of Christ, you have nowhere to head, heaven and earth just fled, what are you going to answer for exactly? You look at Revelation chapter 12 at the very end of the verse, it says, “and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the Books,” look at what it says here, “according to their deeds.” [Revelation 20:12, “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.
What deeds? I mean, what in the world are they going to be responsible for? The Bible doesn’t say but I think when you look at the whole counsel of God’s Word there’s five issues that are going to come up here. It has to do with how frequently and with what severity unbelievers violated number one, the Old Testament Law. Galatians 3:10 says this: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse for it is written, ‘Cursed is the one who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law to perform them.” If you don’t want Jesus, you get Moses.
Jesus said this in John 5:45 to the Pharisees, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.” Wow, you thought the Law of Moses was a stairway to heaven? The Law of Moses with the Ten Commandments which sit in judgment not just on what I do but what I think. The Law of Moses with 613 commandments in it total, you think that’s going to be your vindicator on the day of judgment? Jesus says that’s not true, that’s the very thing that will accuse you because that’s the only thing we have to go by now that you won’t receive the forgiveness of Christ. How did you fare and how did you stand related to your performance under the Law of Moses? The sermon title is something the late Walter Martin said that
What else are unbelievers going to be judged by? I mean, how could God hold people accountable to the Law of Moses, a lot of people don’t even have the Law of Moses; they haven’t read the Law of always stuck out with me. He said, “You don’t want Jesus, you get Moses!” Moses. Think again. What has God done with the Law? He has put it where? In the hearts of people; every human being. It’s something called conscience. God said this after Adam and Eve fell. He said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:22. [Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—]
How could Adam in his fallen state still know the difference between good and evil? Because God took His Law for every human being and put it into their hearts. Paul talks about this in Romans 2:14-16. He says, “For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law,” has that ever struck you as odd? Has it ever struck you as odd that you have two little kids in your house and you tell one kid if you empty the dishwasher I’ll take you to Burger King, and you tell another kid if you empty the dishwasher I’ll take you to Disney World and the first kid is going to say that’s not fair! Well who ever gave you an idea that things were supposed to be fair? How is it that you instinctively understand fairness? Or equity? It has to do with conscience.
“For when the Gentiles who did not have the Law did instinctively the things of the Law, these not having the law are a law to themselves,  in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,  on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” See not having the Law of Moses is an excuse at the Great White Throne Judgment because it’s in your heart.
How frequently did you honor conscience; that becomes standard for the unbeliever. What else is the unbeliever going to be held accountable to and for at this Great White Throne Judgment? They’re going to be held accountable for ignoring the witness of creation because when you look at the world that we’re living in it does not take a rocket scientist to know that there’s something greater than ourselves that designed this. Seven billion people on planet earth and no two finger prints are alike. You think of all of the snowflakes that have fallen to the ground; when examined under a microscope no two snowflakes are exactly alike.
And here we are in our heliocentric solar system as I speak orbiting around the sun and we’re not close enough to the sun to burn to death (we feel like it sometimes in Texas) and we’re not so far away from the sun that we freeze to death but we orbit at exactly the right distance to sustain life. And you want to deny the existence of God? Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.” Psalm 139:14, David just sort of looking at his body, the cardiovascular system, the respiratory system, the fact that all of our personalities are unique and different, David says, Psalm 139:14, “For I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Who can deny the existence of God? Psalm 19:1-4, people say I wish God would speak to me. He speaks to you every moment through the witness of creation. Psalm 119:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.”
We say well we’ve got to get on Christian radio, we’ve got to get on Christian TV, we’ve got to get on the internet, we’ve got to get our message out, we’ve got to get our sermons out. God says I don’t need any of that, the unbeliever’s got sermons every single day revealing Him. There is no speech nor are there words, there is no speech nor are there words where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone through, gone out through all the earth and their utterances to the end of the world and then He has placed a tent for the sun. What did Paul say on Mars Hill? Paul never let unbelievers on Mars Hill off the hook because they didn’t know anything about Judaism or Christianity. He says you see evidence of God all around you, it’s in your own poets, it’s in your temples that you build. You’re misdirected but you know there’s something there that you’re searching for.
Acts 17:24-27 it says, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;  nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;  and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,” why? Why has God created all of these things. Verse 27 “ that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;”
Well, you know, gee God, my professor in college told me that everything assembled itself over billions of years. Boy, that’s an excuse that’s really going to get you far on the day of judgment. Why would you believe something like that? That’s insane to believe that! Can’t you see God all around you? Can’t you see the Bible that He’s written called general revelation. Paul in Romans 1:18-20 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” now here’s the problem, “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, there’s the problem. It’s not a lack of evidence, it’s people don’t want the evidence, because if I acknowledge God exists that means I have to live in submission to Him and I want to be God!  “because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made,” watch this, “so that men are without excuse.”
You know even the most vitriolic atheist on planet earth wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because they instinctively know that God exists, and all of this activity that they’ve given themselves to is like trying to explain away the Pacific Ocean. It’s obvious that God exists.
God will not tolerate any excuse of any person despite their academic pedigree that says well I just didn’t know you were there. That’s a lack of common sense to say something like that. And you know what folks? God deserves glory for what He has made; He deserves it!!!!
Revelation 4:11 says, “Worthy are You our LORD and our GOD to receive glory and honor and power for You created all things and because of Your will they existed and were created.” There’s having enough smarts to do what those on the earth don’t do, glorifying God for the obvious. I mean, even Shakespeare, we’ll read a Shakespearean masterpiece and we’ll say wow, that Shakespeare, what an author. You hear a wonderful concert of music and wow, Bach or whoever, what a tremendous musician. And yet we look at the world that we’re in and we give God no credit? The fact of the matter is God has spoken through conscience; God has spoken through creation and as unbelievers are standing before the Lord as the earth and heavens [can’t understand words] this is the kind of thing that’s in the Book. How frequently did you ignore My Law? Well God, I never had Your Law. NO, you had it, I put it in your heart!
And how frequently did you ignore the obvious witness of creation? And then, cheer up folks, it gets worse. They’re held accountable for all their words. Where am I getting this from? It’s in Matthew 12:36-37. “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and ]by your words you will be condemned.” I read that and I say thank you Jesus that I’m not in that judgment because I’ve said a lot of dumb, stupid, sinful, hateful things over my 53 years of existence. Well, maybe 52 years, I couldn’t talk when I was age one, but once I started to talk hateful, sarcastic, ridiculous self-centered anti-God statements, gossip, has been pouring out of my mouth ever since. I don’t want anything to do with the judgment where God is holding me accountable for all my words.
The Book of Jude, there’s only one chapter in the Book of Jude, talks about the Lord returning and holding people accountable and it says, “To execute judgment upon all and to convict the ungodly of all of their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way,” I wish it stopped there but it goes on and it says, “and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.”
You know the late night comedians that think it’s so funny to criticize Jesus Christ, criticize the Bible, criticize the people, mockery, all of that you stand accountable for. That’s what’s in the Book.
I think the last thing the unbelievers are going to be held accountable for is resisting the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit because John 16:7-11, Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  And He, when He comes, will convict” who? It doesn’t just say the elect there, it says the world, “He the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;  concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me;  and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me;  and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.”
Did you know that right now as I speak the Holy Spirit is at work in the world, convicting every single person of those three things? This makes evangelism easy, tailor your message according to what’s already bothering them. I mean, it says right there that they’re being convicted “because they do not believe in Me,” they’re already bothered by the fact that they don’t believe in Jesus, tell them to believe in Jesus. They’re already being convicted because He’s going back to the Father, they don’t have in other words His transferred righteousness, tell them how to get the transferred righteousness, not through self effort but through trusting in what He has done for them.
And they’re already being convicted of future judgment because the devil is going down; they already know that, and they understand that if they die without Christ they’re going down as well. Tell them how to escape a future judgment. Don’t give them a self-help course, don’t tell them to watch the right cable shows or… we know a guy, it’s so tragic because this individual was given the wrong information about the gospel. He is in unbelief today. He was told that as a young man that if you want to be a Christian you need to give up dancing and he liked to go out and dance. Does this say when the Holy Spirit comes He will convict the world of dancing? Or loud music? Or putting an earring through your nose? Or having a tattoo? Or voting for the wrong party? Or watching the wrong cable host? It doesn’t say anything like that. The Holy Spirit has absolutely no interest in morally reforming the unsaved.
Now moral reformation, that’ll take place after the Holy Spirit’s inside of them, they don’t have the Spirit inside of them. The only thing they have is the perpetual conviction of God and so tell them how to escape that conviction. Talk about the free gift of salvation. Don’t major on external things like haircuts or denominations or all of this foolish silly talk that we bring up. That has nothing to do with it! Cooperate with what God is already bothering them about—unbelief, judgment, and a lack of righteousness which they can have transferred to them because they think they can get it through self-effort.
What exactly, pastor, is in the Book? This is what’s in the Book, you show up at this judgment, here’s the standard—you don’t have Jesus you get Moses, even though you may have never read him he’s in your heart through conscience. And how frequently did you ignore and avoid the obvious witness of creation. And what was coming out of your mouth throughout your life, against the Son of God? And how frequently did you come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and you just ignored it? Postponed the decision. This is horrific stuff.
Revelation 20, verse 13, we’re moving, look at this. “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.” What is all of this about? You have to understand the difference between death and resurrection. Death is a separation, the body and what we call the immaterial part of a person, sometimes called the soul in the Bible, sometimes called the spirit, separate. That’s what happens when a person dies. That even happened to Christ when He died. The King James says He gave up the ghost, Matthew 27:50. [Matthew 27:50, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” King James Bible] He breathed His last, He gave up His spirit. The body, the material and the immaterial separated. The same thing happened to Steven, Acts 7:59. [Acts 7:59, “They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”]
That’s what death is. If a person is unsaved they go into a place, not soul sleep, they go into a place called Hades and you’ll see a reference to Hades in Luke 16:23, “In Hades he lifted up his eyes, being in torment, and saw Abraham far away and Lazarus in his bosom.” Jude 7 speaks of those who die undergoing the punishment of eternal fire. [Jude 7, “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after [a]strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”]
The body and the soul separate; if a person is unsaved they go to this place of conscious torment called Hades awaiting their final resurrection.
So what is a resurrection? It’s the opposite of death, it’s where the two come back together. The body is resurrected and the immaterial part of a person re-enters that body. And that’s what’s being described here for all unbelievers. See, we have a tendency to think of resurrection as only for the saved but that’s not what your Bible teaches. Your Bible teaches that there is a resurrection for unbelievers and they’re standing now before the Lord and the final evaluation is being made. And it’s pointed out to them that their name is not in the Book, they’re now going to be judged by the Book, in a place that’s different than Hades called The Lake of Fire.
See, the resurrection of the saved has already happened a thousand years earlier. And what we’re speaking of here is the final resurrection of all saved of all ages (after the thousand year kingdom has run its course} at what is called the Great White Throne Judgment. Do you see what’s happening here? You’re coming out of Hades, you’re resurrected, you’re put through your trial legally, your name is not found written in the Book, so you’re judged by the Book.
Well why do I need to be judged if I’m an unbeliever (perish the thought) why would I need to be judged by the Book when shouldn’t it just be just a simple transfer operation? I mean, I’m not in the Book, I’m going into the Lake of Fire, why consult the Book? Ever asked yourself that? You consult the Book, the Lord on the throne who bled in our place is consulting the Book because the Book determines the degree of punishment in the Lake of Fire. Here is the reality of the situation folks: All sin separates from God, Isaiah 59:1-2. [Isaiah 59:1-2, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.  But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”]
All sin brings God’s wrath, Ephesians 5:6. [Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”] But there are some sins that are worse than others. Because they are worse than others they demand a higher consequence in the perfect justice and outworking of God. Didn’t Jesus say that in John 19:11, “Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” So we have lesser sins and we have greater sins. That’s why the consultation with the Book becomes paramount at this point, because hell is hell for everybody but it’s more hell for some people than others. Wouldn’t that make sense in the perfect justice of God? Would a man like Adolf Hitler be punished the exact same way as someone that did not kill six million Jews?
Jesus spoke of this in Matthew 11:20-24. He says, “ Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable” see that? “for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom” a pretty bad place, “which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day.  Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”
You see, Chorazin, Bethsaida, you’re all going off into judgment. Sodom, you’re going off into judgment. But for these New Testament cities the judgment is going to be more severe. Why is that? Because they saw something that Sodom never saw. In fact, if I’m reading this right had Sodom seen what these New Testament cities had seen they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. They saw Jesus! They saw the incarnate Son of God, they heard His teachings, they saw His miracles, and they turned their back. The more light that’s rejected the greater the degree of punishment. I don’t have a problem with that if God is perfectly just in His dealings.
Did you know that in heaven there’s going to be different degrees of reward? I mean we’re all in heaven by God’s grace but why would someone that just sort of squandered their life in Christ be rewarded the exact same way as someone that consecrated themselves under the Lord and allowed the Lord to work through them. Wouldn’t it be unfair that both receive the equal reward? And thus in the outworking of God’s purposes and in His perfect justice He provides the Bema Seat Judgment which determines different degrees of reward in heaven although all believers will be in heaven only through the grace of God.
If there are differing degrees of reward in heaven why would we expect it any different than with the damned, those in hell? Why would they be judged exactly the same way? They’re not. And that’s why “the books were opened.” If you’re not in the book you get the books. May God help us understand this. [Revelation 20:12, “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.”]
He moves on to the final judgment, verse 14, and it says, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.” They’re not needed any more, death and Hades. This temporary holding tank for unbelieving souls is not necessary. The final resurrection has happened, the sentence has been pronounced, and these folks are now thrown into the Lake of Fire. So death and Hades are gone. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
And by the way, when it talks about the sea giving up the dead and Hades giving up the dead, the sea I think is where the bodies come from, the material part of man. Hades is where the immaterial part of the unbeliever comes from and they’re reunited in a resurrection for the unsaved only to stand trial as it’s determined that they’re not in the Book of Life so they’re going to be judged in that resurrected body, in the Lake of Fire, throughout all eternity, the degree of which is determined by the Book. Think of all of the sermons that are being preached this morning in the United States of America as the Christian church is just going through it motions, and think how few of them are dealing with this. That’s why I agree with David Hocking, this is the most awesome scene in the Bible; it God hadn’t conveyed this it would be very hard pressed for me to believe that this is going to happen. If He has fixed a day with certainty in which this particular judgment will take place, continuing on with verse 14, look at this. “This is the second death, the lake of fire.”
A.W. Tozer put it this way: “Once born, twice died, twice born, once died.” If you’re born once you die twice. If you’re born twice you die once. If I’m born physically, never born again which is an absolute prerequisite to entering the kingdom, then what’s my future? Biblical death and the second death which is the Lake of Fire. Revelation 2:11 also calls this “Lake of Fire” the second death. [Revelation 2:11, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’”]
But if I’m born twice that’s different; physically born, the gospel is presented to me, I believe it, I’m born spiritually, I’ve got no place in this place of fire; the very worst thing that could happen to me is physical death. And beloved, that might not even happen if we are the rapture generation.
Verse 15, and with this we’re finished, it sums it all up. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life he was thrown into the Lake of Fire.” What’s interesting is the beast and the false prophet are already in there; they’ve been in there for a thousand years. Last week we saw Revelation 20:10 where Satan was thrown in there. [Revelation 20:10, “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”]
And then at this final resurrection as unbelievers names are not found written in the Book they go into the Lake of Fire, the books determine the degree of punishment that they experience. You say I don’t know, I don’t like all this stuff, differing degrees of punishment stuff. Well, join the club, I don’t like it either.
But Luke 12:47 says, “the slave that knew his masters will and did not get ready or act in accordance with His will, will receive many lashes.  but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of flogging, will receive but few” lashes This doctrine is here, this doctrine of eternal punishment is here; this doctrine of differing degrees of punishment in the Lake of Fire is in the Bible and this degree of differing rewards amongst believers in heaven is in the Bible.
Well pastor, what about the doctrine of the second chance? I wish that there were such a thing as the second chance. But Hebrews 9:27 puts it very clearly, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.” What’s so interesting to me about all of this is that hell itself was never created for people. Jesus, in Matthew 25:41 says this: “…‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;” When God came up with, invented, whatever word you want to use, this idea of eternal retribution He never had in mind for its people. That’s why He bled on the cross in our place, to keep us out of this horrific place. But if people reject what He’s done, say no to the sacrificed Savior then they end up sharing in the same space as Satan himself.
Philippians 2:10 says, “So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” The reality of the situation is every knee will bow to Jesus Christ, either voluntarily as you receive Him as your Savior or involuntarily as you meet Him as your judge, but the knee will be bowed. And this is what we’re reading about here as we’ve looked at the judge and the judgment.
Well pastor, do you have any nice interesting segway’s into the gospel today? If you can’t segway this into the gospels then go fill out the form to sell vacuum cleaners and insurance because you shouldn’t be a preacher. The Segway into it is you don’t have to come here, no human being has to go. In fact, the Bible says God is not willing that any should perish. [2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”]
And He did what He had to do through His death, burial, resurrection and ascension to bridge the gap between His holiness and man’s sinfulness so that we don’t have to stand there naked as heaven and earth flee from the very presence of the One who is on the throne, standing there without Jesus, without the transferred righteousness of Christ, standing there in my own good works, judged by the books, what kind of future is that when you can have the transferred righteousness of Christ by way of faith. So the gospel says avoid this by trusting in what Jesus has done for us two thousand years ago on the cross. It’s just a matter of trusting in Him, NOT self, in Him and receiving what He has done as a free gift. It’s not a matter of walking an aisle or raising a hand, joining a church, giving money, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you trust in Him and His provision alone. And that’s what keeps you away from what we might call the other side of the good news.
Lots of talk today about getting saved! Saved from what? Saved from this because of what Jesus has done. If it’s something you need more explanation on I’m available after this service.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for the things in You Word that go down easy and are a little bit more enjoyable for us to read yet at the same time You love us enough to reveal other things that can be avoided. May everybody within the sound of my voice today either in this building or listening online, may they not go to this horrific place because today they have trusted in Your provision. I ask that You’ll do this great word is You convict men and women of their need to trust in the Savior. We’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!