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By Norman Manzon
The two glorious periods that believers look forward to with divine hope are the Messianic or Millennial Kingdom and Eternity or the Eternal Ages. Thus far in our studies we've covered the Millennial Kingdom, the satanically inspired persecution of the Jews and rebellion against the Lord that followed, and the utter destruction of the rebelling forces at the hand of the Lord. We will study the eternal blissful state that all holy angels and believers of all ages will enjoy; but before we do, we must study the second and last of the two transitional events between the Millennium and the Eternal Ages. The first of the two events was covered in our last study, The Final Rebellion and the Return of the Kingdom - come to think of it, it was actually two significant events that was covered, the first being Satan's final rebellion, and the second being the return of the Kingdom by Yeshua to His Father! - and the next and final event of this transition period, the Great White Throne Judgment, is the subject of this study.
A recapitulation of the Kingdom studies may be found in The Significance of the Kingdom. If you'd like to review or read all of the studies in full, links to each may be found in Page 4 of our Doctrinal Overview.
Before we explore what Scripture has to say about the Great White Throne judgment, let us once again lay a foundation by reading relevant aspects of the We Believe statement of The Association of Messianic Congregations.
The Central Passage
The next five verses, Revelation 20:11-15, opens to the awesome reality of the Great White Throne Judgment:
Immediately after Satan's not-too gentle escort into the Lake of Fire - he was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone (20:10) - verse 11 opens to the spellbinding scene of the Great White Throne Judgment - and spellbinding it ought to be due to the utter finality and seriousness of what will transpire there. Its solemnity and gravity is captured in verse 11:
According to verses 12-15, it will be the unsaved of all ages who will be judged.
To be sure, eternal condemnation will already have been rendered on unbelievers. Jesus said in John 3:18, He who believes in [the Son] is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God; but here, at the white throne, their condemnation will be declared to them openly; and just as after the Rapture each believer in the body will receive rewards according to the quality of each man's work (1 Corinthians 3:10-15), here, at the Great White Throne, degrees of punishment will be declared to the condemned, every one of them according to their deeds (Revelation 20:13).
Are Dead How Will They Get There?
Daniel 12:2: Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
John 5:28-29: 28. for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29. and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Revelation 20:13: And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged.
Daniel 12:2 says that they will awake; John 5:28-29 says that there will be a resurrection of judgment;the sea and death of Revelation 20:13 refer to the bodies of the unsaved deceased, and Hades is the place where their spirits are now imprisoned. The bodies and souls of the impenitent dead will be called up by God and reunited by Him to stand alive before Him in judgment. In other words, they will get to the Throne by means of resurrection.
Not only unsaved people will be judged, but fallen angels, also.
2 Peter 2:4: God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.
Jude 1:6: And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day.
The angels of these passages are those who came in human form and had relations with the daughters of men (Genesis 6:2, 4). They are now in eternal bonds under darkness, (reserved) for the judgment of the great day (2).
Corinthians 6:3, Paul said to the Corinthian
saints, Do you not know
that we will judge angels?
How much more matters
of this life?
Who will sit on the throne of judgment? Although He is not named, it is hardly necessary to point out that the throne-sitter will be divine: from whose presence earth and heaven fled away; and who but a member of the Godhead could qualify to pronounce eternal condemnation on an innumerable number of fallen angels and billions of people, and their degrees of punishment, with unfailing fairness and accuracy? Furthermore, the throne is described as white, a symbol of holiness throughout Scripture.
But who, among the Godhead, will He be? Though many writers speak in terms of probability, it is conclusive to me that it will be Yeshua. After His resurrection, He declared, All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Though the passage is in the context of the work of the body of Messiah, He did say, All authority. Even more to the point, in John 5, He declared, 22. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son . . . . 27. and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. These are definitive statements. In the John passage, the Father is explicitly excluded as Judge, and the Son is named twice, once as having authority to execute judgment, and once as having been given all judgment. Consistent with this, it is He who will judge the members of His body after the Rapture for rewards (2 Corinthians 5:10); it is He who declared, while He yet walked the earth, that He would pronounce the eternal condemnation of the goat Gentiles when the Son of Man comes in His glory (Matthew 25:46), which will be a thousand years before the White Throne Judgment; and it is He who is presented as the Judge of the seven churches in the same Book as the passage we are reviewing (Revelation 1-3). Jesus will be the Throne-sitter.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3: 2. Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? . . . . 3. Do you not know that we will judge angels?
Paul is affirming that the saints will not only judge the unbelievers, those associated with the world system, but angels also. The saints, those who comprise the body of Christ, believers from Pentecost to the Rapture, will sit in judgment along with the Lord. The judgment of fallen angels by believers will be taken up again below.
1. The Basis for the Judgment of Fallen
The Basis for the Judgment of Unsaved
What of those who were born prior to Jesus' advent or never heard of Him while or after He walked the earth?
In every age and in every place God did not leave Himself without witness whether in nature (Psalm 19:1; Acts 14:17; Romans 1) or by special revelation about Messiah, though it be as rudimentary as that declared in Genesis 3:15 in the hearing of Adam and Eve. Those who reject the light of the existence of God provided them in nature will surely reject the greater light of special revelation whether they are exposed to it or not, and will surely be condemned (Romans 1:18-20); and those who are exposed to the greater light of special revelation and reject it will likewise be condemned.
It will be those who rejected the light offered whose names will not be found in the Book of Life in Revelation 20:15: And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
Those in the tombs will be resurrected and judged on the basis of what they did while alive. No second chance.
Death seals the fate of people, whether it will be Heaven and their degree of reward, or the Lake of Fire and their degree of punishment.
1. Hell and the Lake of Fire Are Not the Same
Dr. Fruchtenbaum writes,
Consider the different translations of Revelation 20:14, Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire (NASB). Of the thirty-five translations I checked, eighteen render Hades as Hades (Greek), two render it as Sheol (Hebrew), and twelve render it as Hell. All the translators who used an English translation of the word - a third of them - used the word Hell; and if Hell is thrown into the Lake of Fire, they must be certainly be two different places.
In this matter we see another example of the need for precise terminology: Though the souls of unsaved deceased people are in Hell (Sheol or Hades), no fallen angel is; but all will be present in the Lake of Fire.
(Before Jesus' ascension, Sheol or Hades contained a paradisical section for the saints and a place of torment for unsaved humanity [see Luke 16:19-31]; but upon His ascension, He cleared Sheol or Hades of its saints [see Ephesians 4:8-10], leaving the souls of its unsaved residents in its place of torment, Abbadon or the pit, to be cast into the Lake on the Day of Judgment.)
The sea and death refer to the bodies of the unsaved deceased, and Hades refers to their souls. Unsaved people will be thrown body and soul into the Lake of Fire.
The Lake of Fire is also named as the final abode of fallen angels and people in Revelation 19:20, 20:10 and 21:8.
Sequence of Entry into the Lake
While Jesus yet walked the earth, He declared to His disciples what He will say to the goat Gentiles upon His return (Joel 3:1): Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). I consulted many translations and looked into the Greek; and the plain meaning is that He will command them to enter the eternal fire at the time of His commandment to them. The torment section of Sheol or Hades is described as a place of flame (Luke 16:24) and will itself be cast into the Lake, yet it is only the Lake of Fire that is explicitly named as being prepared for the devil and his angels, and that is where the goat Gentiles will depart to.
This, then, will be the sequence: first, the anti-Christ, false prophet and goat Gentiles will be thrown into the Lake in the brief interval between the Tribulation and the Kingdom (Matthew 25:41-46; Revelation 19:20); then, a thousand years later, at the end of the Millennium and prior to the White Throne Judgment, Satan will be cast in (Revelation 20:10); and then, after the Judgment, all other fallen angels and unsaved people will be cast in.
There are principles by which God will judge degrees of punishment for unsaved humanity, and these principles can readily be applied to angels. For example, one principle is that judgment will be in proportion to intimacy with God, and Satan was more intimate with God before his fall than were the other angels (Ezekiel 28:14). Also, as has been shown, Paul told the Corinthian believers that they will judge demons. Since their condemnation to the Lake of Fire is common to all fallen angels, what Paul must be saying is that members of the body will judge the degree of punishment that individual demons will receive in the Lake.
Just as greater or lesser rewards will be bestowed upon the members of the body of Messiah at the Judgment Seat of Messiah (1 Corinthians 3:8-15), greater or lesser punishments will be meted out to fallen angels as well as unsaved humanity at the White Throne Judgment.
Principles of Judgment and Degrees of Punishment
An application of this is found in Jeremiah 30:15: Why do you cry out over your injury? Your pain is incurable. Because your iniquity is great and your sins are numerous, I have done these things to you.
4. Other Principles
Amos 3:2: You
only have I chosen among all the families of the earth;
Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.
Let not many of you become
teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will
incur a stricter judgment.
Matthew 10:15: Truly I say to
you, it will be more tolerable for the land
of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment
than for that city.
21. Woe to you,
Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the
miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon
which occurred in you, they would have
repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.
22. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be
more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day
of judgment than for you.
38. In His
teaching He was saying: "Beware of the
scribes who like to walk around in long
robes, and like respectful greetings in the
market places, 39. and chief seats in the
synagogues and places of honor at banquets,
40. who devour widows' houses, and for
appearance's sake offer long prayers; these
will receive greater condemnation
47. And that
slave who knew his master's will and did not
get ready or act in accord with his will,
will receive many lashes, 48. but the one
who did not know it, and committed deeds
worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.
From everyone who has been given much, much
will be required; and to whom they entrusted
much, of him they will ask all the more.
But Jesus was
saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do
not know what they are doing." And they cast
lots, dividing up His garments among
John 9:41: Jesus
said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains."
Jesus answered, "You would have
no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from
above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has
the greater sin."
Romans 2:9: There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. Punishment will be in proportion to intimacy with God and revelation received.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and
does not do it, to him it is sin.
2 Peter 2:4:
For if God did not spare angels
when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed
them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.
(Also Jude 1:4. See Genesis 6:1-4) (4).
and the dead
were judged from the things which were
written in the books, according to their
A peculiar title, but those in the Lake will be very much alive.
Daniel 12:2:Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
Matthew 25:41: Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.
John 5:28:29: 28. for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29. and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment.
Revelation 14:10-11: 10. he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11. and the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night.
Revelation 20:14: Then death [bodies] and Hades [souls] were thrown into the lake of fire.
Contrary to those who hold that the Lake of Fire is a temporary place and that those thrown into it will be instantly annihilated, these passages and others like it show that the Lake of Fire will be eternal, and that it's inhabitant will live forever in a conscious state, having no rest day and night, and experiencing disgrace, contempt, the wrath of God and torment in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus].
Who has not shaken their heads at the severity of the eternal punishment depicted in Scripture? Who of us can bear to dwell on the thought of our unsaved loved ones in the Lake of Fire?
We who have been born with the sin nature into a sin-saturated world can hardly begin to fathom the depths of the sinfulness of sin. However, Scripture does give us some benchmarks:
1. The Depth of the Fall
Adam and Eve dwelt in idyllic peace and bliss in the Garden, experiencing fellowship with God unmitigated and undiluted by sin (Genesis 2:21-25). Compare that with a world of injuries, sickness, agonizing pain, death, swearing, cursing, sin on every hand and ceaseless wars - and all this by reason of but one sin in the Garden.
2. The Difference Between Heaven and
the Lake of Fire
3. The Crucified Son of God
Being limited in our perception of the sinfulness of sin, we must trust Him who is omniscient and all-loving.
Genesis 18:25: Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?
Deuteronomy 32:4: The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.
Job 34:12: Surely, God will not act wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.
Isaiah 61:8: For I, the LORD, love justice.
Jeremiah 17:10: I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.
Perhaps you have not yet placed your
trust in the Lord for salvation, and desire to be saved from the
power, the destructiveness and the punishment of the sinfulness that is binding you and
hanging over you. God has made a way.
Do you believe? If so, declare it to the Lord now and thank Him for your salvation.
If you'd like to read my story, you can read it here: norm-biog-messianic.htm.
1. The entire We Believe statement of the Association of Messianic Congregations may be found at http://www.messianicassociation.org/believe.htm.
2. The best exposition of Genesis 6:1-6 that I know of appears in Dr. Fruchtenbaum's The Book of Genesis. See Recommended Reading, below.
3. The basis for the judgment of humanity, whether for eternal salvation or condemnation, is examined in detail in the following studies: Salvation Is by Faith in Yeshua, The Narrow Way and Eternal Security.
4. Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. Messianic Bible Study 107: The Place of the Dead. San Antonio: Ariel Ministries,1992, 2005. p. 10. See Recommended Reading, below.
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
Dr. David L. Cooper
Thomas Paul Simmons
For a continuous exegesis of every doctrinal point in the AMC Doctrinal
Norman Manzon is a Bible teacher in Hawaii
and may be reached
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