Tuesday, December 7, 2021

70. The Revelation: The Great White Throne Room Judgement - The Scene (Revelation 20:11-12a)


This passage describes the final sentencing of the lost and is the most serious, sobering, and tragic passage in the entire Bible. Commonly known as the great white throne judgment, it is the last courtroom scene that will ever take place. The accused—all the unsaved who have ever lived—will be resurrected to experience a trial like no other. There will be no debate over their guilt or innocence. There will be a prosecutor, but no defender; an accuser, but no advocate. There will be an indictment, but no defense mounted by the accused; the convicting evidence will be presented with no rebuttal or cross-examination.

No one at the great white throne judgment will have the slightest grounds for complaint about his or her sentence. Those who reject God’s grace and mercy in this life will inevitably face His justice in the life to come. Unrepentant sinners will experience God’s justice at the great white throne judgment.

This simple but powerful text describes the terrifying reality of the final verdict and sentence on sinners under four headings.


"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. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne..." (Rev. 20:11–12a)

In one brief statement, John describes the terrifying scene before him. The apostle observes the Judge seated on His throne of judgment and all the accused standing before Him. The familiar phrase “Then I saw” once again introduces a new vision. This vision of the great white throne judgment follows those of the millennium (20:1–10) and the second coming (19:11–21) and immediately precedes the vision of the new heaven and the new earth (21:1ff.).

The first thing John saw was “a great white throne.” Revelation mentions thrones nearly fifty times. In this case it is the seat of God’s sovereign rule. It is called great not only because of its size, but also because of its authority. That it is white symbolizes its purity, holiness, and justice. The verdict handed down from this throne will be absolutely just.

Even more awe inspiring than the throne was the vision of “Him who sat upon it.” The judge on the throne is none other than the eternal, almighty God (4:8–11). Sharing the throne with the Father is the Lord Jesus Christ. In 3:21 Jesus promised, “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.” In John’s vision of the new heaven and the new earth, he saw “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (22:1, 3).

Though the Father and the Son share the throne, it is the Son who is uniquely in view here, since Scripture teaches that He will judge sinners (John 5:22, 26–27; Acts 10:42). It is God in the Person of the glorified Lord Jesus Christ who will sit in final judgment on unbelievers.

After describing the vision of the Judge on His throne, John noted the startling reality that “from His presence earth and heaven fled away.” That incredible statement describes the “uncreation” of the universe. The earth will have been reshaped by the devastating judgments of the tribulation and restored during the millennial kingdom. Yet it will still be tainted with sin and subject to the effects of the fall; hence, it must be destroyed. In its place God will create “a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away” (Rev. 21:1). The present earth and heaven will not merely be moved or reshaped, since John saw in his vision that “no place was found for them.” They will go totally out of existence.

The details of God’s uncreation of the universe are given by Peter in 2 Peter 3:10–13, which describes the final expression of the day of the Lord: “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” (verse 10). The day of the Lord will come suddenly, unexpectedly, and with disastrous consequences for the unprepared—just like the coming of a thief.

Introducing the final element in this fearful scene, John writes that he saw “the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.” The setting is the indescribable nothingness between the end of the present universe and the creation of the new heaven and the new earth. The dead pictured standing before the throne of divine judgment are not just from the millennial rebellion, but include all the unbelievers who have ever lived. This is the “resurrection of judgment” (John 5:29), the resurrection “to disgrace and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2), the “resurrection of … the wicked” (Acts 24:15).

To emphasize the all-encompassing scope of the judgment, John notes that the sweeping mass of unbelievers before God’s throne includes both “the great and the small.” All will face judgment, “for there is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:11).