It was Thomas Jefferson who once said, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” In the scene before us now we see God’s justice awakening. In a world where the very concept of justice has become twisted by sin, this scene is both refreshing and terrifying at the same time.
The Throne and the Judge
The ancient question of Abraham was, “Shall not the Judge of all of the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25, KJV). We see it answered in the scene confronting us now. The Judge Who sits on the Great White Throne is none other than Jesus Christ, the One to Whom God has committed all judgment (John 5:22, Acts 17:31). It is incredible to consider that the Sufferer of Calvary, Who subjected Himself to the skewed justice of men, and ultimately died on the cross in the place of sinners, will now stand to judge sinners.
There are likely no more terrifying words in the entire Bible than these: “… stand before God.” Imagine what it would be like to stand before the God you have rejected all of your life, the God against Whom you have sinned. We are told “the dead, small and great” will all be there; no one will be excluded. Rich and poor, educated and illiterate, famous or unknown, criminals and philanthropists, the religious and the atheists will all stand before the Judge.
“The books were opened.” This is a trial that will end with no confusion or doubt, a trial in which the evidence will be overwhelming. The text tells us that the dead will be judged out of the things written in the books, according to their works. It is interesting that so often men seek to gain favor with God and entrance into heaven with their works. Yet, in the final judgment, those very works will be the evidence of guilt. Those who are saved, and at this point have had their part in the first resurrection (Rev 20:6), will share the same sentiment as Paul in Titus 3:5 (KJV). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” But now, mercy’s hourglass has run out, and only judgment awaits those who have chosen to appeal to God on the basis of their works. Their works serve to prove their rejection of Christ as Savior, the only way of salvation from sin.
Unimaginable, eternal torment awaits those who are sentenced from this final judgment. John tells us it is a “lake of fire.” The Lord Himself used the Valley of Hinnom to illustrate it, as a place where the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:43-48). Jude spoke of those who would suffer “the vengeance of eternal fire.” Sadly, fire can never take away sin, so it must be eternal. Only the blood of Christ can remove sin (1Peter 1:19). Why not trust that saving blood today?
There is no condemnation,
there is no hell for me,
The torment and the fire
my eyes shall never see;
For me there is no sentence,
for me has death no stings,
Because the Lord Who saved me
shall shield me with His wings.