Revelation 20:11-15 – Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
There are certain theological doctrines that are difficult to discern. For example, there are very strongly conservative biblical scholars who disagree on issues such as predestination or church government style. This is not to say that the answers to these questions are not in scripture, but they are not always the easiest to completely understand. However, when it comes to the issue of salvation, is it by grace or by our works, we see that there is simply no question.
Looking at Revelation 20:11-15, we see a picture of the great white throne judgment. The dead are lined up before Christ’s throne, and they are judged. In this judgment, there are two possible options as to how to be judged. One way to be judged is a book, and the other is a group of books. The single book is the “Lamb’s Book of Life,” and this book is the list of all who have been saved and forgiven by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. The other books are a recording of the lives and deeds of every person on earth.
If a person’s name is written in the book of life, there is no need to check the other books, because their eternity is set. They are forgiven and welcomed into God’s family. However, if a person’s name is not written in the book of life, they are then judged by their deeds. And notice that, in every situation with no exceptions, a person judged by his or her deeds is cast into the eternal lake of fire.
There are a few things that we should remember as we take a look at this final judgment. First among them is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. No one’s deeds get them into heaven. On the contrary, all who are judged according to their deeds in this life go to hell. There is no exception. No person other than Christ himself—God in flesh—has ever lived a life of such perfection that they could go to heaven based on their deeds. , regardless of who you are and regardless of how good you have been, you do not want God judging your eternity based on your deeds; because God has already revealed what the result of such judgment would be: eternal hell in the lake of fire. Only those whose names are written in the book of life, the list of those forgiven by Christ, will be able to stand in God’s presence.
Another point worth thinking about from this is that, if this doctrine is as clear as we can see it is in the scriptures, why are we not telling it to more people? Today, many Christians fear speaking about hell. They fear being thought of as backward fire and brimstone preachers with no understanding of modern sensitivities. However, if we are people who believe the word of God, we must believe it all. And Revelation 20:11-15 is a significant passage for us to understand what hell is and how to avoid it. We need to tell people that hell is real, eternal, and something to be avoided. We need to tell them that they can not avoid hell through good deeds. They can only avoid hell when they turn to God in repentance and place their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. It is only when someone has come to Jesus in faith that they will have their name written in the book of life.
Dear Lord, I thank you for the clear picture of the white throne judgment that you have given us. You have revealed to us that you are gracious and you are just. You will allow people to be judged on their own merits if they so choose, but such judgment will always lead to their destruction; because all have sinned and fallen short of your glory and perfection. You also show that you have made a way for people to be forgiven, rescued by having their names in the book of life. Lord, I know that no one deserves your grace, least of all me. So I thank you that your grace is a free gift in Christ. I readily acknowledge that my deeds would earn me your eternal wrath. I thank you that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sin so that I would not have to pay that eternal punishment. Now, I ask that you will help me to live as one forgiven. Help me to share with others the truth of the gospel, including the truth about hell. Help me to honor you by speaking truth to everyone you put before me.