Let's turn to Revelation chapter 20. I'm still holding my sermon, holding fire on it, that I have been planning to preach to you, in fact, I mentioned it to you a week or two ago, that sometime soon I was going to preach on, "Have You Counted The Cost?" Well, I'm still going to do that one of these days if we all live long enough. But I'm holding it again for next Sunday. Till a time when we have some unsaved people here ready to hear it.
In Revelation 20 we'll read beginning with verse 11. "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."
Now my attention has been drawn to this passage again from which I have preached before, of course. It's been drawn to this passage recently by our studies on Armstrongism or our studies on the British Israel cult which is represented primarily by Herbert W. Armstrong and Garner Ted Armstrong. We've been studying that in the Bible college. And my attention has been drawn back to this passage by some of the weird teachings that they have in connection with this.
Of course, this Armstrong bunch has a lot of weird teachings. In fact, nearly everything they teach is weird, so you want to watch those folks and don't believe anything you read of theirs. And, in fact, if it's anybody else that's had very much to do with them, you don't want to have anything to do with them either. They simply do not believe a lot of the important things in the Scripture. (Of course, all Scripture is important!). Many of them don't even believe a lot of the things that are necessary that one should believe in order to be saved. So we can say without any doubt whatsoever that they're not even Christians, though they're running a big, worldwide church operation with about five million followers.
But one of the places that they really are off the beam is about this business of the second death. And basically, the way they teach this is that the second death is that time when all of the incorrigibly wicked will finally be annihilated by God --- Just cease to exist. And, of course, they've got the whole story mixed up, just as they have most everything else.
But let's look at this now from a scriptural viewpoint and not worry about these ridiculous stories that the Jehovah's Witnesses tell about this passage and that the Armstrongites tell about this passage, or that the Mormons may tell about this passage. But rather, let's find out just exactly what the Bible does teach about the Great White Throne Judgment and this second resurrection.
This Great White Throne Judgment is certainly not a general judgment. There is no place in the Bible that teaches a general judgment. You know, that's what men have been trying to put into the Bible ever since the time of Christ. They've been trying to make it out like this, "Well, at the end of the world the Lord's going to just gather all souls together, then He'll pick out the good ones and He'll put them over here and the bad ones He'll put them over there. And these over here are going to be in trouble but these are going to be all right." Well, there is not one place anywhere in Scripture that teaches such a thing as a general judgment.
You may say, "What about that over there in Matthew 24?" Well, that's not a general judgment at all; that's a separation of the nations based on how they've treated the Jews. Has nothing to do with a general judgment. So there's just not any place in the Bible that teaches any such thing as a general judgment. And this portion here about the Great White Throne Judgment is certainly not a general judgment. There's not any such thing, as we said, ever mentioned anywhere in the Bible.
The church is not in this judgment nor is Israel. How could you have a general judgment if you didn't have Israel in there, if you didn't have the church in there and you didn't have all of the saved in there, then there couldn't possibly be a general judgment, could there? But the only way that Israel might be said to be in this, of course, would be in the same sense that any group might be said to be in this judgment. That is in the case of individual, unsaved Jews. Because all the unsaved of all the ages will be in this Great White Throne Judgment.
I almost said, ("Bankwa masumu bakulu batelemene hana" - Kiyaka Tribal Language). That is to say they (all the unsaved) must stand there before God. And that's a pretty good way to say it, whether it's in English or in Kiyaka, isn't it? They must stand there before God and give an answer. That is, all of the unsaved. But the saved won't even be there. The church and the saints have already been judged before this time at the Judgment Seat of Christ in heaven during the Tribulation Period.
This judgment of the Great White Throne is not going to take place on earth. Because it's going to take place during the time of the renovation of the earth. During the time that the earth is being purified by fire, if you want to call it that, or recreated after being destroyed by fire.
Death and hell here are personified as they often are in Scripture. Quite a few places in Scripture you find that death and hell are personified. That is, they're spoken of as if they were a person. And this "grave," of course, we might say is generally the meaning of the word death here. And hell we could say the general meaning of that as it's used here in this passage is, "where the souls of the wicked dead remain until the resurrection of the wicked." We could use those as general definitions of the terms.
Peter tells us in II Peter 3:9, "But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men." And I mentioned this --- I quoted this Scripture to you recently in another sermon. And it's one that we need to read from time to time.
But remember the main thing about understanding the Great White Throne Judgment is this --- it is the judgment of ONLY the wicked dead, NOT the saved. No one else, just the wicked dead. The unsaved are the only ones who will be in this judgment at all.
If you look at Matthew chapter 13 and read verses 24 through 30 and then read on down further in that same chapter and read verses 36 through 43, you'll see the parable of the tares and its explanation. Now, we won't take time to read all that passage tonight, but it's an interesting passage to read in connection with the Great White Throne Judgment, or the final judgment of mankind.
The devil has been working on this trying to get as many as he can into this Great White Throne Judgment. Ever since the garden, from the time of Adam and Eve in the garden until now, the devil has been, as the parable of the tares teaches --- "He's been sowing the tares in with the wheat," mixing it in together --- planting just as much bad seed as he can.
In Genesis 1:1, some people say that this is where the first over-sowing of Satan took place. Because it says that God's creation was without form and void, or some people translate that, "became without form and void." Some people say that's where the devil first planted his rotten seed, and is what made the world become without form and void. But the work of God's hands is always perfect, we know that. He never makes any mistakes. So something happened, though we don't know exactly what it was to make it without form and void.
Isaiah 45:18, possibly speaking there about this same thing says that He made the world to be lived in. And He made it a glory to His excellent majesty. So that seems to indicate that He didn't create it originally without form and void, doesn't it? And God doesn't need a process to accomplish His creative work, either. He doesn't need evolution to do it. He's got the power to just say the words, and it is.
The entrance of sin through Satan's rebellion made waste of God's creation. And that waste is still going on today, isn't it? Think of all the millions out here all around us, lost without Christ. Think of all the thorns and thistles. Think of all the curse on the earth. Think of all the wickedness that's going on. Think of all of it. Every bit of it is due to this entrance of sin through Satan's rebellion and then his transplanting this rebellion into man, isn't it? Every bit of it is from that.
Now we said that might be the first over-sowing. This one, if we make it a second one, would be the time when he entered into the garden of Eden to corrupt God's creation. He sure threw in some tares there, didn't he? He got in a lot of tares that have been growing vigorously ever since the garden of Eden.
And then third, here in Revelation 20, we could say that this would be a third occasion. Although, of course, his over-sowing is going on all the time. It's not just in little spurts here and there, indefinite periods of time, but it's been going on all the time. But the third major over-sowing by Satan here in Revelation 20, Satan again tries to destroy or corrupt God's creation and God's plans for the last time.
Now you may say, "Well, what did he do here?" Well, in the earlier part of this chapter, remember, that Satan has been loosed at the end of, or near the end of the thousand years. As it says in verse 7, "And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison. And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, God and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea. And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them."
So we could say this is a third big campaign of Satan. We can put this one into a definite time slot. Because we know he's been in prison for a thousand years, don't we, at this time? So now we've got a definite time period for this at the end of the thousand years. And he leads a rebellion against the Lord at the end of the Millennial Kingdom, trying to upset God's plans again in his last great effort. But after that he'll never again be allowed to waste God's creation. That'll be his last opportunity. After that's done, we won't ever have any problem with Satan anymore because we'll be finished after that.
The fire falls from heaven, as we read to you, and destroys the great armies that have followed Satan. And Satan is cast into the lake of fire forever, as it tells us in verse 10, where he and the false prophet and the beast shall be tormented day and night forever and ever.
"Now," you say, "how could Satan deceive so many people that they'd be an army, the number of whom is as the sand of the sea after a thousand years of perfect government under the King of kings and Lord of lords?" Well, that just shows how evil the heart of man is, doesn't it? And, how clever Satan is. It shows both those things, that he could do such a thing, after a thousand years of perfect government upon the earth with Jesus Christ Himself as king and the church as queen, or co-ruler with Him. And yet, Satan is able to do this. And those who have followed Satan in this last great rebellion against God and His creation are going to face judgment with all of the unsaved of all the ages at this Great White Throne Judgment.
It'll be a terrible thing. An awful thing. A frightful thing. The saved won't ever be there unless, perhaps, we might be there as witnesses of the glory and power of God, or something of that sort. But, as far as taking any part in this, we'll have no part in it. We won't be standing before the bar here. It'll be only the unsaved of all the ages who will stand before the Great White Throne.
At this same time as we said, the heavens and the earth will be destroyed or purified by fire as we read to you in Peter, and will be restored as a new heavens and a new earth where no sin has ever, nor ever shall be, and Satan forever in hell. That's going to be a celebration day, isn't it? When he gets his and we get the new and perfect earth where we shall live in perfect harmony with the creator throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.
This resurrection is the resurrection unto damnation. Yes, the resurrection unto damnation. That is, at the time of judgment day, after the thousand years. The Scripture shows us clearly that the unsaved dead will not be resurrected until after the Millennial Kingdom. This is different from the resurrection or the judgment of the saved in every way. There's no comparison between them. There's no trumpet, no voice of the archangel, no white robes, no linen or righteousness; and yet, we have all these things in the resurrection and the judgment of the saved, don't we? We have the trumpet. The trumpet calls for what? Remember, the trumpet calls people to worship, and it calls men to battle. It calls God's people to worship, and calls God's people to battle.
And here we don't see the trumpet. We don't hear the voice of the archangel calling. We don't see any white robes, and no linen of righteousness. But here we see only damnation and doom and judgment mentioned. Nothing else. It's going to be an awful time, and there'll be no escape. Here, sometimes they get a prisoner right up before the judge and the judge is just fixing to pass sentence on him, and he may escape. Or even after he's had sentence passed on him he may escape. He may get away. They may never catch him again. But here there'll be no escape, no avoidance, no diminishing, no pleas for mitigation in sentence or anything of that sort. Because there won't be any pleas allowed. It'll all be just doom and damnation.
Now we say, who are these sentenced at the Great White Throne? Well, in Revelation 20, verses 4 through 6, it tells us about the first resurrection. "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given unto them. I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for their witness of Jesus." These are obviously saved people here at the first resurrection. "And for the word of God, which had not worshipped the beast neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years." So this is also obviously before the beginning of the millennial reign, isn't it?
"But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." That is, the unsaved dead didn't live --- were not resurrected until after the thousand years were finished. And it says here in verse 6, "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
So there's no doubt at all about it that the first resurrection consists only of the saved. Now this second resurrection we see speaks of them in verses 12 through 14, which I read to you a moment ago, and these people here are clearly the doomed and the damned. There's no other way that one can possibly interpret this. All of these are the doomed and the damned. Verse 5, remember says, "But the rest of the dead," --- after it's been talking about the saved dead being resurrected at the first resurrection --- it says, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished." That is, after the great Millennial Kingdom of Christ, after the thousand years millennial reign, then comes the Great White Throne Judgment.
Now some people try to say that the word resurrection, as used in the Bible, does not mean a bodily or physical resurrection, but it clearly does. The word anastasis, is the word that's translated resurrection, and wherever it's used in the Bible, it always refers to bodily resurrection. It never refers to anything else. It always means a bodily resurrection. A real body that you can feel. Remember what Jesus said to Didymus? What did He say to him? He said, "Put your hand here and feel." Now that's bodily, isn't it? That's bodily. That's not just a spirit, if it were a spirit, or a spiritual resurrection like so many people try to make it today, then Thomas couldn't put his hand out and feel the scars, could he? He couldn't do it. And Jesus Himself said, "A spirit hath not," what? "Hath not flesh and bone such as I." Jesus Himself said that. So it is a body of flesh.
This word anastasis, as we said, which is translated resurrection --- or is the word that's always used and translated referring to resurrection --- it always refers only to the raising of a dead body, a real bodily resurrection. You say, "Well, how can God do it?" Well we don't have to know how God can do it, all we have to do is just believe it. He said it and that's enough isn't it? We don't have to understand how God can do it. If we could understand how God can do this and that and something else, we'd be equal with God in that, wouldn't we? And we're certainly not.
There are always two resurrections everywhere in the Bible. Every time that it speaks about resurrection in detail it always brings out two resurrections. One unto incorruption, that is, the saved. One unto corruption, that is, the lost into hell. One to life, one to death. Resurrection to honor and the resurrection to shame and contempt are taught in the Bible. Always we find everywhere that it speaks about it that those in Christ, those asleep in Christ or those dead in Christ, rise first. Everywhere that it gives any order it's always the saved rise first in the resurrection to eternal life, and the resurrection to eternal damnation is also referred to in Scripture.
These things, when we really think about them, should make us tremble. It should make us weep and make us really get in earnest about winning our lost friends and neighbors and loved ones. Because these things are true. God said it and they're going to come to pass.
"The books are opened," he says here in verse 12. That's an interesting thing, records are kept of the deeds of the wicked in the book. You say, "Oh, that's to find out if they're going to be lost or not." No, that is not to find out if they're going to be lost or not. If they're here at this White throne Judgment, they're already lost; that's the reason they're at the Great White Throne Judgment. They don't keep the record to find out if they're going to be lost or not. They're to be judged according to their works as God has promised, so that their punishment, even the best punishment in hell, the least punishment in hell, is going to be horrible beyond contemplation. But they will be punished even more severely for their evil works.
The book of life is mentioned here. And that book of life is a list of the saved. And that's not checked to see if they've been saved or not, it's just checked to show that they are not saved. Because they are not saved is the reason they're standing here. This is just like a court might check sixteen different ways the innocence of a man or the guilt of a man before they sentence him to death. Even though the court already knew he was guilty as a dog and worthy of death, they might check several different ways on his guilt before they actually sentence him to death.
Judgment must be at the end of time for several reasons. One is that a man's wickedness does not die when he dies because his influence goes on, doesn't it? Oh, I know his body dies but his influence doesn't die immediately. And in the case of some men, their influence may carry on for a long time after they die. The parent who is an evil influence on a child, then his child may be an evil influence on his grandchild. And the grandchild may be an evil influence because of that on the great grandchild. And all these things have to be taken into account, that evil influence that goes on and on.
This is an appalling thing to think about and yet, it's true and it's going to be taken into consideration when God sums up all of the wickedness of a man's life at the Great White Throne Judgment. And He'll know it all, too. He'll have it all on a list. And He'll have it there ready and the man will see it flash before him in a moment, in the twinkle of an eye. What a terrible thing that will be.
The opening of the book of life is done at this time. First, the books recording the deeds of man and the influence of his life through all the generations and the ages of time. Then another book is opened, the book of life, and they say, "Is Tom's name there?" And the recording angel says, "No, he's not there." "Is Dick's name there?" The recording angel says, "No, he's not there." And only those who are lost, remember, are going to be here, so they won't find any names in the book of life. Just like I said, double checking before sentencing the man to eternal punishment.
Verse 15. "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire," into the brimstone and torment that lasts forever.
Now going on quickly a step further. Some people seem to think that God enjoys punishing man. I've mentioned this before in other sermons to you. Some people have the attitude that God is like a dirty old man up there just watching for every little thing and gloating when He gets a chance to punish someone for evil. And, of course, that's a lie. That's blasphemous to even think such a thing, isn't it? "God is not willing that any should perish, but that all might come to repentance."
God's love is offered and extended to all mankind. Not just to a little select group. Only a little select group will take it, that's true. Only a little select group will accept His love and be saved. But it's freely offered to all mankind.
Ezekiel 33, verse 11 says: "Say unto them, As I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"
God's attitude hasn't changed. He's still got the same attitude toward man. His willingness is that men should turn to Him, turn from their evil ways and live. Come to Christ, whom to know is real life and life eternal.
You might ask the question, and I might as well, "Why would a man refuse to be counted among the children of the saved?" That's a good question, isn't it? I really don't understand it. I can't answer that question. I'm sure you don't have a good answer for it, either. Why does a man refuse to be counted among the saved? Now I can think of a thousand excuses that they've give me. But I can't think of any real reason at all. Not one. I've never heard any genuine reason. And I really can't understand it, why men refuse to be counted among the saved.
Can you imagine the angel of God standing in the gate of Sodom? And he says, "Okay now, God's fixing to destroy the city here and all who will turn to God, I will just write their names down in this book and they will be saved." And the whole city refuses. I can't understand that, can you? And yet, that's basically the way it was!
The answer that they gave, we could say, was something like this: "No, we'd rather be dammed to eternal fire." And actually, that's the answer of a man when he refuses to accept Christ, isn't it? "No, I'd rather go to hell." He doesn't mean it that way. And he doesn't really realize sometimes That is what he is saying. But in reality that is what he is saying when he rejects Christ! And then the fire fell on Sodom, and burned it up completely.
Or what about the angel at Jericho? What if there had been an angel there and instead of just Rahab and her family being saved, what if an angel had gone through the city and said, "Okay folks of Jericho," remember there were thousands of people there, no telling how many. What if the angel of God goes through the city and he says, "Okay, the city is going to be destroyed and everybody in it is going to be killed. The ones that aren't killed in the falling of the walls will be put to the sword. Men women and children, all except the family of Rahab are going to be destroyed. But God has extended His mercy and if you'll just accept this mercy Godoffers, I'll write your name down here and you'll be spared"? Imagine an angel saying that to the people of Jericho. And if he had, they would have rejected it and would have been destroyed the same way they were.
You might say these examples of Sodom and Jericho are ridiculous, but that's not so --- they're not ridiculous. Men are still doing the very same thing today, aren't they? The very same type of thing today. They're refusing salvation from certain damnation in hell forever. That's what they do. Every time that we witness to them, every time they read "The Message" (The Message was a small gospel paper we published in Southern Africa), every time they read a gospel tract, every time they hear a sermon preached, they're saying, "No, I'd rather go to hell." They're still saying by their refusal of the message of salvation, "No, I do not want my name written in the book of life. I do not want to be saved. I do not want you to write my name in that book. I'd rather be damned and spend eternity in burning torment." What an awful decision and yet, there are still millions making that decision today.
One of the most terrible things that a preacher ever has to do perhaps is to try to comfort a family where death has come and the people are not Christians. What can you say to people like that? There's not much you can say, is there? When a man is lost, then he's lost and that's all there is to it. And you can't cover that up. When a family is unsaved, then it's not saved, is it? It's just lost. When a man dies outside the grace of God, he dies forever; there's no second chance. You can't lie to them like the Catholics do and teach them that there's a second chance, that maybe he'll be saved from purgatory. Or that he'll have a chance afterward as the universalists teach. The Bible doesn't teach that. When a man dies unsaved, then he's doomed. There's no hope, just eternal damnation. This is the second death, isn't it? There's nothing you can say in a case like that. There's nothing you can read. All we can do with people like that is to weep with them, and give them the gospel, isn't it? That's all we can do.
"Why would a man chose to die like this?" you might say. Why would he? I can't give you a sensible answer to that. The only answer that I can give you is the Bible teaches that Satan puts deception on people and he uses every means at his command to blind them to the truth. And oftentimes, this deception is successful in blinding them to the truth and they go out into eternity unprepared to meet God.
Another thing we see clearly from this passage we read tonight, is this --- when the time comes there will be swift and immediate execution of God's judgment. No appeals, no delays, no postponement. No hope at all.
Verse 15 says, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." No appeals court, no changes can be made, it's too late then. That's the worst, most awful thing perhaps that men will ever hear or ever think or know. It is like the old song says, "Sad, sad, that bitter wail, almost, but lost." Too late --- Too late!
Christ died that men might avoid this damnation, this consignment to eternal punishment --- this punishment which awaits all who appear at the Great White Throne Judgment.
Let's remember this little chorus that we sing sometimes, in closing tonight. It goes like this,
"Oh, my loving brother, when the world's on fire,"
and that's when the world will be on fire, remember, during this Great White Throne Judgment,
"Oh, my loving brother, when the world's on fire, don't you want God's bosom for to be your pillow?
Oh, hide me over in the Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages, cleft for me."