Part IV – The Great White Throne and the Lake of Fire

In my last blog we looked at Hades from the Story of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Hades was shown to be a place consisting of two compartments: one a place of comfort where Lazarus was located and one a place of torment where the Rich Man was located. Now even though the Rich Man was in torment, he was not yet in what we would refer to as “Hell.”

What we commonly refer to as “Hell” would better be called the Lake of Fire.  Nobody is in Hell or the Lake of Fire yet, and it will stay uninhabited until after the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. A look at these verses is necessary…

11a Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it,

It is Jesus Christ who sits on the throne based on:

  • John 5:22 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son
  • John 5:27 [the Father] has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man

Jesus judges all unbelievers. Some people like to say, “Can you imagine what it would be like having to stand before the Father after you’ve rejected His Son?” That’s not true. You don’t stand before the Father if you reject the Son. You stand before the Son after you reject the Son. Jesus will be your Savior or He will be your judge. Imagine standing before Him after spending an entire lifetime without acknowledging His sacrifice. Terrifying.

In one moment, all the unbelievers who have ever lived will be raised from the dead to stand before this throne to be judged. Picture a throne large enough that all the billions of unbelievers throughout history can be stretched before it.

No believers will go before this throne. It isn’t that believers’ sins escaped judgment, it’s that their sins were judged on the cross.

11b from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.

I think this is a figurative way of trying to describe how terrifying the throne is: even the earth and the sky try to flee from its presence. They don’t move away from it, they flee from it.

11c And there was found no place for them.

This means there’s no way to hide from the judgment; nobody escapes it

12a And I saw the dead,

This means spiritually dead. Regarding believers Eph 2:1 says And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. Believers were spiritually dead, but then spiritually brought to life. This verse is about unbelievers who stayed dead in their sins. They were born physically, but they were dead spiritually. When they died physically they were still dead spiritually. Believers are born physically, but at some point in their lives they’re also born again, but spiritually. They die physically, but they remain alive spiritually.

12b small and great,

This is just another way of describing how nobody escapes this judgment: not the small or the great.Not the greatest, most famous, wealthiest, most powerful people in the world, and not the smallest, most insignificant, poorest, weakest people in the world. All unbelievers will be judged.

12c standing before the throne,

Notice they’re standing before the throne. This looks like a courtroom, but there’s something interesting about courtrooms. Most of the time everyone sits. These people are standing. One of the only times a defendant stands in a courtroom is when he’s being sentenced. This is a trial, but it really just consists of a sentencing. There’s no discussion. There’s no defense. There are no excuses. Nobody will be explaining why they rejected Jesus. Nobody will be talking about how this happened during their lifetimes or this person treated them this way, or they lost this loved one, etc.

12d and books were opened.

I believe one of these books will be the Bible based on John 12:48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day

12e And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.

The Book of Life is commonly called, “The Lamb’s Book of Life.” It is the book that contains the names of all believers who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. It contains the name of all those who won’t be appearing before this throne because their sins were judged on the cross. I believe it’s mentioned here to encourage believers that its presence will ensure they aren’t mistakenly judged.

If your name is not in this book, you will be at this judgment.

12e And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.

Earlier it said books were opened. I’m guessing these books are the records of men’s deeds since it says they’re judged by their works. Maybe there’s a book for each person. If you don’t accept by faith the righteousness Jesus offers, you stand before God in your own righteousness (or unrighteousness) and you’ll find out how close you were to meeting the standard of perfection set by God.

In other words, all those who reject Jesus will be judged according to how well they obeyed the Bible, or I should probably say how poorly they obeyed the Bible. Consider these verses regarding judgment:

  • Matt 12:37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned
  • Luke 8:17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light.
  • Rom 2:16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel

All the words and even thoughts of unbelievers will be judged. No unbeliever will stand before this throne and feel like anything but a filthy, wretched sinner. Every sinful action, word and even thought will be brought to light. The righteousness of even the most righteous person will be shown to be woefully below the standard required by God to make it into heaven. It will instead be completely obvious each of these people deserved Hell instead of heaven.

Maybe you say, “If my works aren’t good enough, what work do I do to get to heaven?” Jesus answered this in John 6:29 when He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

13a The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.

The “sea” and “death” probably refer to the physical location of these people’s bodies. The “sea” was known as a bottomless abyss. That’s why Micah 7:19 says God will hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. It was considered a place where nothing could return from it. Therefore it’s probably mentioned to show no matter the physical location of a body, God can raise it up again.

Hades refers to the location of people’s souls. We studied Hades in detail in my previous blog. It was shown to be a place divided into two compartments: one of comfort and one of torment. All the unbelievers with the Rich Man in the compartment of torment will be resurrected from Hades to stand before the Great White Throne. Nobody is in Hell or the Lake of Fire yet. Unbelievers don’t go there until after this judgment. Hades is the “waiting place” of all unbelievers until they’re resurrected for this judgment.

13b And they were judged, each one according to his works.

The Bible doesn’t have bold, italics or underlining, so when it wants to emphasize it uses repetition. Twice we’re told this because it’s so important for people to understand if they don’t have Christ’s righteousness, they’ll find out how well their righteousness stacked up…or didn’t stack up.

14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Death and Hades weren’t permanent. They only existed until this judgment. Death was temporary in that unbelievers only stayed “dead” until they were resurrected to be judged before this Throne. When all unbelievers are resurrected, death will no longer exist because all the dead will again be alive.

Hades is not permanent either. Hades only existed until this judgment. When all unbelievers are resurrected out of Hades and brought before this Throne, Hades will be empty and no longer necessary. (As a note, the compartment of Hades where Lazarus was in comfort has also been emptied by this point by Christ following His crucifixion. We’ll cover this in a future blog.)

In a way the casting of Death and Hades into the lake of fire shows the final end of the vestiges of sin. Sin came into the world and brought Death. Death brought Hades in that Hades is the abode of the dead. With this judgment, Death and Hades come to an end and are also cast into the lake of fire. The last echoes of sin are finally brought to an end.

The lake of fire is what we commonly think of as Hell. It is called the Second Death, because it is where people go if they die twice. Believers die only once: physically. Unbelievers die twice: they die physically, and then they die spiritually when they are cast alive into the lake of fire.

15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

The reason it says anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire is because anyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life hasn’t yet put his/her faith in Christ and will not have the necessary righteousness to enter heaven

We still have a lot to cover 🙂

Do you have a question or thought? If so, please share!