The Great White Throne Judgment

There are lines of an old song which say, “In that great day, people in that great day. . . God’s gonna rain down fire. God’s gonna sit in the middle of the air to judge the quick and the dead. Early one of these mornings God’s gonna call for Gabriel, that tall bright angel, and God’s gonna say to him, ‘Gabriel blow your silver trumpet.’ And then putting one foot on the mountain top and the other on the sea Gabriel stands and blows his horn and wakes the living nations. Where you gonna stand on that day?”

The Bible teaches clearly that judgment day is coming. Every member of Adam’s race, both saved and lost, from the beginning of time until the end, will stand before God in judgment.

The judgment of the saved is called the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10; Romans 14:10). This judgment is discussed in another article.  See “Judgment Seat.”

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

The Great White Throne

God’s final judgment of the human race is called “the Great White Throne.”

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled found no place for them.” (Rev. 20:11)

The Judge

The one sitting upon this throne is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ.  God the Father has given to Him the responsibility for all judgment.

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 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.” (Matt. 10:22-29)

The Judged

Those who will be judged at the Great White Throne are people who have not trusted in Jesus Christ.

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jn. 3:18)

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jn. 3:36)

The unbelievers will be judged out of the book of works. God has recorded in these books every thought, word, and deed of every person who has ever lived.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to their works.” (Rev. 20:12-13)

Those who fail to measure up to God’s righteousness will be cast forever into the lake of fire. God’s required righteousness is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require. God must adjust all to His absolute righteousness. This judgment has been forever satisfied “in Christ.” If we have believed in Christ and die “in Him,” we are not to fear the Great White Throne judgment, because we will not be there.

The Judgment

The unbelieving segment of Adam’s race will one day face the full and final judgment of God which the Lord Jesus called hell.

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt.10:28)

Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:11-14)

This Great White Throne judgment is reserved for those who are called “Death and Hades.” Death in the Bible means separation. When Adam sinned, the point of contact between God and man immediately changed. Man’s sin violated God’s holiness and immediately set in motion the demand for His justice. Because the genetic blueprint for the entire human race was in Adam at the very moment of His sin, his death was passed on to all. All sinned in Adam.

“Whereas by one man sin entered the world and death by sin, and so death passed on all men, for all sinned.” (Rom. 5:12)

Every member of Adam’s race was indicted by God and sentenced to death.

“In Adam all die.” (1 Cor. 15:22)

“The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23)

This judgment of death has to be carried out. God’s word was at stake. God’s absolute righteousness is in the balance.  God’s required righteousness is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require. Those who are not given the life of God by faith in Christ will taste forever death by being separated from God forever in the place called “the lake of fire.”

“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 Jn. 5:12)

This final forever judgment is called “the second death.”   It may be that those of us who have believed in Jesus Christ will taste the pangs of physical death.

“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me.” (Psa. 23:4)

However, we will never have to face the horror of the second death because Jesus Christ bore this death upon the cross.

“For He has made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

God’s Justice Forever Satisfied

Motivated by an indescribable love, God determined long before Adam and the human race sinned that He Himself was going to take care of our sin problem once and forever.

In order for this to happen a death had to occur (the wages of sin is death, Rom. 6:23). That would not be an easy task because as God He is eternal life and eternal life cannot die.

“From everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psa. 90: 2)

In order for Him to die and thus satisfy His own judgment of death, He became a human being.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of a man. And being fashioned as a man He humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:5-7)

The Son of God born to the virgin Mary was in every way perfect. Because of His supernatural birth, He had not been contaminated with Adam’s sin. Because of His perfect life, He never committed a single act of sin.

God then slipped out of His judicial robe as our judge and onto a cross becoming our sin sacrifice. God, in the person of Jesus Christ, bore the judgment that was meant for us. The One who was right became a substitutionary atonement for those who are wrong. The innocent became a substitute for the guilty.

“He made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us.” (2 Cor. 5:21)

Here is the wonderful news of the gospel. The gospel is the good news that God’s just judgment against man’s sin has forever been settled by the death of Jesus Christ. And the good news gets even better. The magnificent benefits of the work of the cross are made available to all who will trust Jesus Christ.

“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God has passed over the sins that were previously committed. That God may be just and the justifier of those who believe.” (Rom 3:24-26)

God will declare to be right before Him only those who believe. God will not grant the righteousness necessary to enter heaven to anyone until it is received by personal faith.

“But to him who does not work, but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Rom. 4:4)

“He that believes on Him is not condemned; but he that does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jn. 3:18)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (Jn. 5:24)

We could never do anything of ourselves to persuade God to be any more loving and just than He has already been in Jesus Christ. We cannot stop all of our bad habits, join a church, give our money, say prayers, nor anything at all to help satisfy God’s demand of death against us. God’s work of grace has been finished.

This second death is reserved only for those who have not trusted in Him. They will all appear at the Great White Throne judgment.

Every member of Adam’s race will stand before God either at the Judgment Seat of Christ or the Great White Throne judgment. There can be no escape. As the song writer says, “Where are you gonna stand on that great day when time shall be no more, and the sun goes out like a candle in the wind. Oh where you gonna stand.”



S. Lewis Johnson

Chuck Swindoll

The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament

John MacArthur