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The Revelation of Jesus Christ: Chapter 46 - The Great White Throne

By Horatius Bonar


      "Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."--Revelation 20:11-15.

      This ought to have begun a new chapter, or formed a separate section. It is a new scene--following, no doubt, close on the judgment terrors of the preceding verses, but still separate from them. It is a scene of infinite grandeur and solemnity; a scene from which the world shrinks back, but which shall one day be realized on this very globe. John 'saw' it--in vision, no doubt; but in a vision presented by God Himself--a true picture of coming realities to man and man's world. All this scene shall one day come true. It is the 'vision,' and it shall be one day the reality of--

      (1) A THRONE--YES, a royal seat, a seat of judgment, the seat of the great King and Judge of all. There have been many thrones on earth, but none like this--one throne in place of the many.

      (2) A GREAT throne--All earth's thrones have been little, even the greatest--Nebuchadnezzar, or Alexander, or Caesar, or Napoleon--but this is 'great;' greater than the greatest--none like it in magnificence.

      (3) A WHITE throne--White is purity, truth, justice calmness. Such is the throne to be--unsoiled, untainted, incorruptible--no one-sidedness nor imperfection--no bribery nor favor there. All is 'white'--transparent and spotless perfection.

      (4) One SEATED on it--It was not empty or unoccupied, nor filled by a usurper, or by one who could not wield the power required for executed its decrees. God was seated there; that very God before whose face heaven and earth flee away; that God whose presence melts the mountains, and made Sinai to shake (See Psalm 102:26; Isaiah 34:4, 51:6; Jeremiah 4:23, 26; Revelation 6:14, 16:20). In the last two passages we find men upon the earth, and hail falling from heaven upon them, after it had been said that all had fled away; which shows that it is not annihilation that is meant in any of them. Nothing is annihilated. Our bodies return to dust, but return out of dust into themselves again; so earth will undergo changes, but will come out of these the same earth, only purified. For our bodies there is resurrection, for earth restitution, but for neither annihilation. If annihilation is the portion of the wicked--what then, does their resurrection mean? He who sits on this throne is the mighty God, able to judge and to carry out His decrees in spite of all human or hellish resistance. How terrible to stand unready before such a Judge and such a throne! All justice, all perfection, all holiness! Who can abide His appearing?

      But besides the Judge and the throne, there are the millions to be judged. They are--(1) The dead; those who did not rise in the first resurrection, called 'the rest of the dead' (20:5). They remained behind the dead in Christ, but they must rise at last. (2) Small and great; from the youth to the old man, from the feeblest to the strongest, all are there. 'They shall not escape.' They have to do with unerring eyes.

      These 'stand before God.' There are others who 'stand before God,' or 'before the throne of God,' but for very different purpose.

      'The angels stood before God' (8:2); the two witnesses 'stood before God of the whole earth' (11:4); the great white-robed multitude 'stood before the throne' (8:9-15); the elders 'sat before the throne of God' (11:16). But all these are very different from the 'small and great' who stand before 'the great white throne.' The former stand for honor and glory and gladness, the latter for judgment.

      The process of judgment is also seen. (1) Books are opened--books probably containing God's history of the sinner's life. His record of the sinner's deeds. How different from man's! How different God's story of our great men, our literary men, our poets, our philosophers, our captains, our kings, from man's! The divine version of human history--how unusual it will be! How unlike all earthly annals! Most of the leading facts the same, yet how differently told! Most of the scenes and events and actions the same, yet how differently put the interpreted! What a strange thing will be a biography, a human life, seen by divine eyes and recorded by a divine pen! What 'books' these will be! Alongside of these is another book, called the book of life--the register of those whose portion is life eternal, whose home is to be the land and city of life, whose heritage is to be that God in whose favor is life. (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 21:27).

      The books first mentioned contain the materials for the Judge's decision. Out of them the individuals are judged, 'every man according to his works.' The 'things written in these books' being thus connected with the 'works' mentioned, lead us to conclude that they are the record or annals of the works of each. All things are written down. God keeps His diary of every soul's doings and sayings and thinkings. Nothing is forgotten! Every deed awakes from its slumbers and speaks on that day! What a resurrection of each buried thought and word at that great white throne!

      The judgment will be just and fair; nothing overrated, nothing underrated. Every fact will speak exactly for itself. Each word will be weighed in perfect balances. No one shall be able to complain. God will be justified in all. What a scrutiny! What impartiality and calmness, yet what exactness and minuteness!

      It shall be universal judgment then. Sea and land shall give up their dead. Death and the grave shall part with their victims. Each region of earth shall furnish its thousands or millions of the dead for judgment. And again it is said, 'according to their works.' On these each man's judgment is to turn.

      Then death and the grave are utterly destroyed. They exist no more, but are consumed. The lake of fire is their portion; and in this lake there is the second death. The first death passes away only to give place to a second far more terrible; a death that never dies, that has no grave, and no end. The second death! The lake of fire! What words of horror are these! Yet they are not exaggerations, but God's own calm and solemn language. It indicates real punishment, not annihilation.

      And all who are not found in the book of life are cast into this fiery lake--handed over to this second death, this eternal mortality, this never-ending dying--this death that is always both present and to come--the worm that never dies, the fire that is never quenched. Such is the eternity of the lost, according to God's account of it. Man may dilute or disbelieve or allegorize the statement, but there it stands. Eternal sorrow or eternal joy!

      (1) Is it all true? Do we believe it? All this about the great white throne, and the Judge, and the books, and the lake, and the second death? Are all these things true?

      (2) Does it bear upon us? Have these scenes of judgment any bearing upon us? Are their terrors for us? Has humanity anything to do with that lake of fire? Or is it only for lost angels?

      (3) Is it rousing to us? If anything could awake us, it would be a futurity like this. That Judge, that judgment, that woe!

Back to Horatius Bonar index.

See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Book of the Last Days
   Chapter 2 - The Grace and Peace of the Three-One God
   Chapter 3 - The Chief Among Ten Thousand
   Chapter 4 - The Great Advent
   Chapter 5 - The Fullness of the God-Man
   Chapter 6 - The Voice from Patmos to the Churches
   Chapter 7 - The Seven Golden Lamps
   Chapter 8 - The Glory of the Son of Man
   Chapter 9 - Fear and its Remedy
   Chapter 10 - The Symbolic Sevens
   Chapter 11 - Watchman, What of the Night?
   Chapter 12 - Self-Denial Christianity
   Chapter 13 - First Love Left
   Chapter 14 - Paradise and the Tree of Life
   Chapter 15 - The Divine Food of Our Heavenly Life
   Chapter 16 - The Morning Star
   Chapter 17 - The Fullness of the Holy Spirit
   Chapter 18 - The Key of David
   Chapter 19 - The Church's Little Strength, and the Lord's Great Love
   Chapter 20 - The Philadelphian Conqueror
   Chapter 21 - The Charity of the Lord Jesus
   Chapter 22 - The Heavenly Merchant and His Goods
   Chapter 23 - The Love and the Discipline
   Chapter 24 - Christ's Loving Earnestness
   Chapter 25 - The Victory and the Crown
   Chapter 26 - Glory to the Glorious One
   Chapter 27 - The Weakness and the Power of Christ
   Chapter 28 - How Long?
   Chapter 29 - The Recompense of Martyrdom
   Chapter 30 - Pent-Up Judgment
   Chapter 31 - The Great Multitude
   Chapter 32 - The Earthly and the Heavenly
   Chapter 33 - The All-Fragrant Incense
   Chapter 34 - The Cross of the Lord Jesus
   Chapter 35 - Strangership and Pilgrimage
   Chapter 36 - The Heavenly Song of Victory
   Chapter 37 - The Blood of the Covenant
   Chapter 38 - The Church Dwelling Alone
   Chapter 39 - The Model of a Holy Life
   Chapter 40 - The Everlasting Gospel
   Chapter 41 - The Swift and Sudden Advent
   Chapter 42 - The One Witness and the One Testimony
   Chapter 43 - The Great Prophetic Theme
   Chapter 44 - Messiah's Many Crowns
   Chapter 45 - The First Resurrection
   Chapter 46 - The Great White Throne
   Chapter 47 - Death and the Grave
   Chapter 48 - The Vision of the Restitution of all Things
   Chapter 49 - God's Tabernacle on Earth
   Chapter 50 - The Coming of the Perfect, and the Departure of the Imperfect
   Chapter 51 - The New Things of God
   Chapter 52 - The Conqueror's Reward and the Coward's Doom
   Chapter 53 - The Glorious Bride
   Chapter 54 - The Holy City
   Chapter 55 - The Light of the New Jerusalem
   Chapter 56 - The Life River
   Chapter 57 - The Tree with its Twelve Harvests
   Chapter 58 - The Serving and the Reigning
   Chapter 59 - The Curse Cancelled, and the Kingdom Begun
   Chapter 60 - The Vision of God
   Chapter 61 - Entrance Into the City
   Chapter 62 - Come, O Savior! Come, O Sinner!
   Chapter 63 - The Divine Word, and the Doom of its Defacers
   Chapter 64 - The Free Love of Christ
   Chapter 65 - The Last Amen

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