The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20.11–15)

I have served on three juries over the past few years, one of which heard a civil case, the other two criminal cases. It is difficult to sit in judgment on a fellow human being, to make decisions about actions that may affect his or her freedom. In one of the criminal cases—the defendant was accused of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to sell it—we found the man guilty. Although I do not know what the man’s sentence was, I assume it involved jail time.
That man’s case was interesting. He was an older man, an artist, who had fallen on hard times late in life. He seemed nice enough, not a hardened criminal or anything. And yet, when the police searched his car, they found a not inconsiderable amount of drugs hidden in it. The defense tried to argue that the drugs had been planted, but that excuse fell apart on cross-examination. The man had simply made a very bad choice and been caught in it. He broke the law, and we found him guilty.
It took several hours for us to do so, however. There were many pieces of evidence: witnesses whose memories of that day’s events did not agree on every detail, background information that had to be sifted through. And we did not want to dispose of this man’s case without having done our level best to ascertain the truth of the matter and reach a just verdict. Our deliberations were, therefore, deliberate, hard even; we held a man’s life in our hands.
Revelation 20 concludes with a description of the great white throne judgment at which “the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.” The Judge in this case is no fallible group of twelve ordinary human beings. Nor is the evidence ambiguous or contradictory. As John portrays it, all our actions written in God’s books, which he reads as he prepares to hand down judgment. The consequences of that judgment are stark: Heaven for the innocent, Hell for the guilty. But—and this is crucial—we can choose what our verdict will be. John mentions twice that the dead according to “what they had done,” or more individually, “what he had done.” What you do—your intentions, choices, and actions—determine where you go. Guilt or innocence is in your hands.
C. S. Lewis once wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”
So, what do you choose? Your eternal destiny depends on your answer to that question.

2 thoughts on “The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20.11–15)

  1. Hi George, I am doing a short report on this passage Rev:11-15. One question for you. Because we will all be JUDGED on all our ACTIONS as recorded in the Book of Life, it almost sounds like we need to WORK our way to heaven. I believe that if we really accept/choose the free gift of Salvation from Jesus, our hearts and our lives will be changed and then we are GUARANTEED heaven. Even when we sin, our actions have already been forgiven. On another angle, I also believe that God will forgive our sins, but we must at very least TRY to repent and turn from re-committing those sins. BUT, we are still going to heaven. Is there a trick to it? Can we be forgiven and saved but not go to heaven?

  2. Mike:

    For me, the Scriptural formula of salvation is found in Ephesians 2:8-10. We are saved by grace through faith for good works. True faith, in other words, works. A person who claims to have faith but does not perform good works has a “dead faith” according to James.


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