How many of you have ever been in a courtroom and watched the proceedings of the court? As the Judge enters the courtroom the called is raised, “All rise.” The docket is read; roll call takes place as those present acknowledge their presence. Then each person on the docket approaches the bench one-by-one to be read the charge against them. The defendant then has the opportunity to plead “guilty” or “innocent.” The Judge hears the evidence and renders his or her decision based on the facts of the case. If the decision is that the defendant is guilty then the Judge must pick a punishment that fits the crime. Oftentimes the guilty party will appeal the case and try to get off.
We have the best court system in the world and yet the earthly manifestation of the heavenly reality of judgment leaves much to be desired. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In the earthly courtroom the decision makers are people, finite and flawed people, who do not always render the right decision. How many times have you watched high profile cases that you just knew the right decision wasn’t made? In the earthly courtroom the punishment doesn’t always fit the crime. We’ve heard of cases where someone was given too harsh of a penalty and we’ve also heard cases where people did heinous crimes and received a slap on the wrist. Do these injustices take place because of prejudice, inept decision makers, innocent mistakes, or the power of defendants who figure a way around the law? Yes. Absolutely yes.
Today we will take a look at a far different court setting. I want to take you into a courtroom where there has never been a misjudgment and never once will there be an appeal filed. I want to introduce you to the Judge who is just in all of His judgments. As we study Revelation 20:11-15 we will see the perfect Judge render His perfectly just judgments. Let’s read our Scripture together and then we will see what we can learn.
11 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. 12 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. 13 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. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 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 NIV)
This idea of a final judgment, a just Judge, and our having to face consequences for the way in which we live our life is not a new concept—it is rooted in God’s Word. Throughout God’s Word, in both the Old and New Testaments, we find the final judgment of Almighty God. In Daniel 7:9-10 we read,
9“As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10 NIV)
Did you notice the similarities? In Daniel’s vision he saw the “throne of God, the One sitting on the throne, “ten thousand times ten thousand” standing before Him, and the books were opened.
The only picture that Jesus ever gave us of the final judgment is found in Matthew 25:31-46. I say “picture” because Jesus used a parable to describe the final judgment. Read along with me.
31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46 NIV)
There is a difference between the parable of judgment that Jesus told and the scene we saw in Daniel and which we are studying in Revelation 20. In Matthew’s Gospel is the “Son of Man” seated on the throne. This has been a problem for some people, but it is really no problem at all. As a matter of fact, that the Bible speaks of God seated on the throne of judgment as well as the Son shows us the unity of the Godhead. Jesus said, 30 “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV)
Isn’t it amazing that even though the Bible is full of Scripture after Scripture that teaches us that we will give an account of the life we’ve been given, so few today take God’s final judgment seriously? I hear many people today talk about their belief about God and judgment, but their belief has no roots, it is simply what they believe. They say, “When I die I hope that I will have lived a good enough life that I will get to heaven.” Or they say, “Well, I just can’t believe that God would send anyone to hell. God is love and His love wouldn’t allow anyone to be sent to hell.” Or they say, “God forgives us for our sin. So in the end we will all be forgiven for the things we have done.” My friends, that maybe how you feel about God’s justice and judgment, but I have to tell you that what you believe in your heart has no foundation in the Word of God.
You and I can come up with all kinds of things that we believe to be true, but does that mean that they are true? Absolutely not. Our belief must be rooted in something more than what we feel in our heart. Scripture testifies to the fact that there will be a final judgment, an occasion when every person who has ever lived will stand before the throne of Almighty God and give an account of the life that we have been given.
I want us to spend a few minutes taking a look at the character of the Judge that you and I will stand before some day. Let’s take a look at Revelation 15:2-3 where we find the scene being set for the outpouring of the seven bowls of wrath, the judgment of God. Before the bowls are poured out, we read,
2 And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God 3 and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. (Revelation 15:2-3 NIV)
Those who had not compromised their faith sang a song. In the song they declared that God’s ways are “just” and “true.” The words, “just” and “true” are taken from two Greek words that speak volumes about the character and nature of God. The Greek word, “di,kaioj” (dikaios) means, “righteous,” or “rightly related.” It can also mean, “innocent, faultless, or guiltless.”
The second word that we are looking at, translated “true” in English, is the Greek word, “avlhqino,j” (alethinos) and it means, “that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name.” It also means, “the opposite of that which is imperfect defective, frail, and uncertain.”
This is the character of our God. He is rightly related to His creation. He is not partial. He does not show preference. He never has a bad day which clouds His judgment. His decisions are not defective or uncertain. He is “just” and “true” in all of His ways. We see this fact of God’s character testified to again and again in God’s Word. In the book of Revelation, after the third bowl of wrath is poured out upon those who have rebelled against God, we read,
4The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. 5Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: “You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; 6 for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.” 7And I heard the altar respond: “Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” (Revelation 16:4-7 NIV)
God is just in His judgments. The punishment will always fit the crime. There is no judgment that is too harsh and none to light. God’s judgments are always just and true. We see the same testimony shared after God defeated the harlot city of Babylon in Revelation 19. Read along with me.
1After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Revelation 19:1-2 NIV)
Now that we have established the credibility and character of the Judge let’s take a look at how the Judge renders His decision at the final judgment. Take a look with me at Revelation 20:12.
12 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. (Revelation 20:12 NIV)
John saw “the dead, great and small, standing before the throne.” “Great and small” have nothing to do with the stature of those before the throne, but instead these terms tell us that no one will escape their turn before the bench. From the greatest, most powerful, most prominent person who has ever lived to the least significant person who has vanished from the memory of life—all will stand before the judgment seat of Almighty God.
How does God judge? The books are opened, the book of life is also opened, and the dead are judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. There has been an ongoing discussion throughout the ages about the relationship of faith and works. We see this discussion even in the Word of God. In James we read,
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that– and shudder. (James 2:14-19 NIV)
Those who have carried the banner of “works righteousness” have highlighted verses like Jeremiah 17:10 in their Bible.
10 “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10 NIV)
On the other hand, those who have carried the banner of “salvation by grace” have highlighted verses like Ephesians 2:8-9 where Paul said,
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)
There is a reason for this tension my friends. There is no way to escape the fact that what we do with this life matters to God. God initiates His purpose and plan for each of our lives. He calls us to Himself, but He also calls us to live the life He has given us so that we will be a blessing to those around us and glorify His name. Paul wrote in the verse following the Scripture we just read about being saved by grace.
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10 NIV)
“We are God’s workmanship.” We have been created by His gracious hands and called to do good works. Our works are not what saves us, not what makes us right with God, but they are evidence of our right relationship with God. The good works that flow from our lives are evidence of an inner transformation that God has made in our life.
In addition to the “books” that are mentioned here in Revelation 20 we also read about the “book of life.” What is the “book of life?” That’s a great question. We run into the phrase several times in the book of Revelation. Let’s take a look at some of those instances and see if we can determine what exactly the “book of life” is? In Revelation 3:4-5, when Jesus speaks to the church in Sardis, He says,
4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. (Revelation 3:4-5 NIV)
Those who have not become entangled in the things of the world, those who have lived a pure life, committed to Jesus, they will never have their name blotted out of the book of life. Now let’s take a look at Revelation 13:8-9.
8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast– all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. 9 He who has an ear, let him hear. (Revelation 13:8-9 NIV)
All of those who do not have their name written in the book of life will worship the beast. Their allegiance, unlike those in Sardis, is to the enemy and not to the King of glory. Let’s look at one more instance found in Revelation 17:8.
8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. (Revelation 17:8 NIV)
Those whose names have not been written in the book of life will be astonished when they see the beast. I can’t stop there. I’ve got to show you the last occurrence of the phrase because it is in the next chapter of Revelation that we will begin studying next week. Take a look at Revelation 21:23-27 with me. John is describing the holy city, the new Jerusalem, when he says,
23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:23-27 NIV)
Who will populate the heavenly city? Those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life! Is your name written there my friend? Have you surrendered your life to the Lamb of God? Have you laid your life at His feet and said, “Here I am Lord. Forgive me. Fill me with your Spirit. Use me for your glory.” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians,
9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV)
Paul lays out a laundry list of folks who will not find their names written in the Lamb’s book of life. Is there anyone here this morning who can honestly say, “I don’t fit in that list anywhere?” At some time in our life, maybe at this time in our life, we are among the number of those who Paul says will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If the Lord will allow you to see yourself honestly, for who you really are, then you will know in your heart and soul that there is nothing you’ve done to earn heaven. As a matter of fact, when you consider the countless times God has shown us His mercy when we didn’t deserve it, we are more than guilty are we not?
We live in the most blessed land in the world today. Oh how God has been merciful to us. Oh, how the Lord has blessed us. We have supermarkets overflowing with food while many in the rest of the world walk miles each day for a meal, not three meals, but a single meal. We have running water, clean water, at our disposal 24 hours a day in our own home while many in the world walk miles to a well. Oh how we’ve been blessed! We have homes, not a room for four or five family members to live in, but homes to call our own. Oh how we have been blessed! We’ve have churches on every corner. Most of us drove by several churches to get to this one this morning. There are brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who meet in the middle of the night, who merely have a page of God’s Word, and who risk being arrested if their faith is found out. We are so blessed are we not?
What have we done with all of these blessings of the Lord? Does the attitude and character of America reflect the gracious, bountiful blessings that have been showered upon us by the Father? I hope you don’t have to look long for the answer to that question. We are a rebellious nation my friends, but don’t look too far to place blame because rebellious nations are comprised of rebellious people. Our hearts are calloused towards the Lord. We expect, rather than appreciate His blessings. We’ve turned from purity to perversity. We’ve turned from worship to wickedness. Paul wrote in Romans about a similar group of people by saying,
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:28-32 NIV)
Does this not describe our culture? We live like there is no tomorrow. We live like there will not be a day of reckoning. We live like there is no God. In times past the Church was the voice, the conscience of the nation, but today we have many, many supposed Bible teachers who discount God’s Word and join in on the revelry of a wayward nation. Jeremiah spoke these words,
31 The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end? (Jeremiah 5:31 NIV)
“What will you do in the end?” What will you do even now? Will you continue to live like there is no God? Will you continue to write your own rules for life? Will those of you who have turned your back on the Lord turn back to Him this morning? I don’t care how bad of a shape you are in this morning my friend. I don’t care how down in the ditch you find yourself, there is hope for you in Jesus. In the Scripture we read earlier about the list of folks who will not inherit the Kingdom of God, Paul said,
11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV)
Some of the people at the First Church in Corinth that morning use to be number among those who wouldn’t inherit the Kingdom of God, but God did something remarkable in their lives. He called them. He cleansed them. He changed the course of their life. He wants to change the course of your life this very morning. Won’t you let Him in?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 6, 2007