THE LAST OF THE UNRIGHTEOUS (20:12-15). Many have convinced themselves that death ends all and there is no final justice. Others often ponder over the fact that evil deeds appear to go unpunished in this life while righteous men often have trouble all their days. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, furnishes insight into these deliberations:
When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong. Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God (Ecclesiastes 8:11-12).
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
The time of final judgment has arrived in Apocalypse. Here John witnesses the second resurrection along with the second death. “The dead” refers to those who are spiritually dead at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. As with Armageddon, there will be survivors, after the Battle of Gog and Magog, who hate Christ. They will be judged first.
The only ones not judged at the Great White Throne will be the righteous, the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and the unsaved survivors after Armageddon, who had been separated as “goats” in the judgment as described in Matthew 25. Postmillennialists behold this separation as taking place at the Great White Throne since they do not believe Christ will return to earth to reign.
Several books are used for this judgment. One is the Book of Life (Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27); a second would be the Bible; and a third would be a book where every individual’s words and deeds are recorded since the dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. In addition, the books might include the books of memory, conscience, character and nature.
This judgment will be just and righteous!
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12-13; cf. Matthew 25:41ff; Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
Next, the dead of all ages are resurrected and judged by Christ. Multitudes that sleep in the dust of the earth awake to shame and everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). The sea gave up the dead that were in it, death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Christ holds the keys of death and Hades (Revelation 1:18).
Many people speak as though the unsaved immediately go to Hell once they die. They go to the side of Sheol/Hades known as a place of torment (Luke 16:22-24), to await the final resurrection and the Great White Throne Judgment. The residents of the temporary abode of Sheol/Hades are now cast into the Lake of Fire, which is Hell (geenna, Gehenna), where the fire never goes out according to Jesus:
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out (Mark 9:43).
Hell is the second death, where separation from God is made permanent.
He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
Hell is a place of everlasting punishment and destruction.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched’ (Mark 9:47-48).
Hell is a place of darkness and gnashing of teeth.
And throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:50).
Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 22:13).
Hell is a place of everlasting torment and unrest.
He will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name (Revelation 14:10-11).
Many perceive that the souls of all believers and non-believers will appear together at one final judgment before the Great White Throne to determine who goes to Hell and who goes to Heaven. However, the Bible does not teach this concept.
Many perceive that all unrepentant sinners will experience an identical degree of punishment in Hell. However, the Bible reveals that a holy and just God will judge every individual sinner according to the deeds of his life and will punish him in Hell according to his works (Jude 13). Jesus taught degrees of punishment:
Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:1-2).
Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the market-places, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely (Mark 12:38-40).
That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:47-48).
There is an old adage: “Born once, die twice; born twice, die once.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Are you born again?