Probably one of the earliest memories I have of my father was fear. When I say that, you may be tempted to think of a terrible man who beat his children – but that is not my story. My father has been a great influence in my life, and he has not beaten me nor my mother. Why fear then? Because I knew what it meant to respect him, and to properly fear his response to my bad behavior. Dad knew how to communicate fear. What is funny, is that I have no distinct memory of him ever spanking me at all. I just knew he could, and he WOULD if he had to. I knew where the “Board of Education” hung beside the refrigerator…It was an unspoken fear – unless my mom invoked that terrible phrase: “You wait until your father gets home!” Then it was SPOKEN FEAR.
I want to be clear, because the days we live in are not the days I grew up in. I never advocate harming a child, but rather a controlled form of discipline that a child will deeply desire to avoid in the future. Men need to be very careful when physically dealing with their children. It is possible to exasperate a child – and Scripture warns fathers about that. It is possible to break the fragile spirit of a child by either physical or emotional taxing that is beyond their ability. Yet, equally, we need to say this in our day: It is possible to neglect discipline in a child and think we are being loving, when actually we are acquiescing on a basic parental responsibility. Discipline comes with the package. If you don’t want to do it – please just don’t have children.
Don’t placate them when they want to take control at age two. Don’t look past their cruelty to siblings, house pets and even digital beings. Don’t laugh when they are mean, and shrug your shoulders thinking “Boys will be boys”. If you do, these may become the very children that will beat a young man to death and burn his body – as we have just witnessed locally this past week. If not, they may become the children that will stay out all night drinking and partying, and watch a young man die on the sidewalk – thinking only about using their phone to digitally capture his death – and not call 911. I plead with you – if you don’t want the responsibility of discipline – don’t have children.
Here is a truth worth remembering: Parents who (out of a poorly formed notion of love) refuse to discipline their children, will find their children disciplined by a world that cannot allow them to do everything their own way. It smacks against our common sensibilities today – but part of the job of the father is to create a dread in the child of the penalties of disobedience. It is to act a s a deterrence – and also to create in the mind of the child a solid line between right and wrong. We have so thoroughly immersed our society in the problems of abuse, we have forgotten Biblical discipline is part of the work of the father. God says so: “He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.” (Prov. 13:24). Other verses support the same principle … “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15) and …”Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22: 15). In the Hebrew Scriptures, the term ROD was used two different ways – as a calamity to the disobedient and as a comfort to those who walked with their shepherd (Psalm 23).
Let me be clear on a further point: When there is no penalty – the line between right and wrong blurs. God’s patience is one of the central causes of men’s disbelief in Him. Because He patiently allows them to continue in sin – they don’t think He is engaged, or they don’t believe He is truly powerful. Both conclusions are false. God is engaged. God is powerful… but God is patient. Don’t let His patience fool you into a false conclusion. This was the point of Peter’s warning:
2 Peter 3:3 Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” … 7 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. 8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
Make no mistake, the idea that God will judge has been deliberately and systematically eliminated from our culture. The modern church, with all its psychotherapeutic sensibilities, believes that God not only WON’T JUDGE but SHOULDN’T JUDGE men. Further, many would argue that even raising the threat is damaging. Yet, the Bible and its truth is stubborn.
Here is the point: God is not in a hurry, but He is not overlooking sin. Judgment day is truly coming, and that is the subject of our passage in Revelation. This isn’t rehabilitation – it is judgment. It will sound harsh to some who have been schooled in God’s love more than His righteousness – but it is nevertheless a proper witness of the truth of God’s Word. The reality is that we are waiting until the Father gets home. Those who are choosing to walk in disobedience are dreading His coming – but those who are walking with Him anxiously await His appearing.
We have been studying Revelation, and in the middle of our study, Father’s Day pops up. What do they have in common? At the risk of stretching the text of Scripture, we must remember that the pattern for parenting is God. He is a Dad – and He knows what being a dad is all about. In one sense, He does what all dads do to get us on track – He threatens response if we keep up our nonsense. In another way, He is not only dad – He is the ultimate judge… it is part of His job.
Key Principle: God loves man, but His justice does not allow Him to look past unpaid sin. His role of judge is just as real as His role as Savior.
Look at the record of the judgment called “The Great White Throne” Judgment – a catchy title based on a detail in the description of our passage in Revelation 20:11: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Here is the scene:
Verse eleven reveals a vast throne, a stern-faced Judge, and people trying to escape His presence. I wonder if God will hold back tears and looked at the rebellious squarely in the face. I wonder if He will sit as a parent of a rebellious and angry teen sits, while their wayward child writhes to get away from the parent’s grasp – and wonder what He could ever have done to create such disdain in their eyes. He loved them, He provided for them – and a jury of their ignorant and rebellious peers had judged Him inadequate.
Verse twelve drew John’s eyes from the throne room to a vista of the earth. Joining those in the courtroom of the damned were those from Hades – the abode of the unrighteous dead. It is a terrible holding place for those not in the Book of Life, but not yet permanently sentenced to the Lake of Fire. Just as believers in the presence of the Savior await their final destination after judgment, so those in Hades hopelessly know what is bad is about to get worse…. They are pushed into the presence of the Judge – those who in life were great, and those who were small. All of them were pulled in together, and shoved in front of the Judge’s bench. The Book of Life was brought out, but their names were not found within. The other books of the deeds of men – the thoughts, the works, the attitudes – every one – were revealed as the Judge made His decision to place them in their final disposition. There was no question of destiny – that was already understood. There was no question of length of term – that was to be eternal. The only question was the specific nature of the torment and terror. Nothing pretty came from that horrible day – except the complete understanding of God as God. Knees bowed in sincerity, but far too late for any kind of reparation.
Verse thirteen says that John’s attention was again pulled away, this time to see those who were drawn from the seas of the earth, and they joined the flow of those who were from the graves of the land and the holding place of the dead who left this life with no effective payment for their sins. The place they were held in was destroyed in the molten lake, according to verse fourteen, and all of them – their names not inscribed in the book that holds record of all those who have had their break and rebellion with God bridged and satisfied in this life – were hurled into their final molten judgment place.
In a world where spanking has become an issue, this message is certain to fall on deaf ears. Love has now been completely redefined by our society as eternal forgiveness – regardless of the egregious nature of the rebellion. So here is the question: Is God bound to OUR sense of fairness and love – a sense that is redefined with each new generation? Here is an even more important question: Are we not bound to God’s terms – since He is the Creator and we are the creature?
I am not selling anything to you. I am simply making this argument: If God is in Heaven, as I wholeheartedly believe He is; If He is the God of the Bible, as I affirm week after week -then the terms of judgment are HIS TO MAKE. Further, if He opened up His intent for His creation, and explained both the story of the rebellious defection and how to come back into His arms – is He to blame when people choose another path? At what point are we going to admit that the problem isn’t JUST society – it is MY WILL. My stubbornness, my rebellion, my intransigence, my rut is the problem. I don’t WANT a God – because I want to be on His rightful throne in my heart. Even my grammar betrays me. I say “my life” and “my heart” – when the Word reveals that none of those things were made by me or for me. My creation, and your creation was by God’s elaborate design for God’s wonderful purposes. I am His and the plan for my life can be HIS – if I surrender it.
The Bible is not silent on judgment of men and of angels.
In fact, there are no less than SEVEN judgments recorded in the Word. Remember our principle? God loves man, but His justice does not allow Him to look past unpaid sin. His role of judge is just as real as His role as Savior. It is important to note from a thorough study of the Bible, that all men and women who have ever lived must be judged on two bases – one judgment for sin (which determines your destiny) and one judgment for works (which determines our incremental reward or judgment). Both Heaven bound and Hell bound await their appropriate reward or penalty based on their works.
Let’s say it clearly: Judgment after death doesn’t determine destiny – relationship with God before death does. Destiny is determined by prior to death satisfaction of their sin account before God. There are two venues for judgment – one for those who are Heaven bound, and another for those who are Molten Lake bound. People who have a personal and surrendered relationship with God are in the Book of Life and are Heaven bound. They know when they stand before the Judge that He is not going to send them to hell, but rather examine their works and service of Him from this life – in order that He may commend them and reward them. They will come with clear expectations if they have been taught God’s Word.
Those who do not have such a relationship are not in the Book of Life, but they may come with some wrong expectations – but they will not be at a judgment seat for people with relationship. They made their choice in this life – even if they weren’t making it with a full picture of the eternal consequences. We will see this again in a few minutes…
There are three times God will judge people – and within the three there are no less than seven different groups will be judged.
I. The first is at the beginning of the Tribulation (in Heaven) after the rapture of the church:
The Judgment seat (Bema) of Christ (1 Cor. 3; 2 Cor. 5). The work of Jesus as He deems His Bride fully prepared for the wedding feast in Heaven. This happens after the Rapture, and during the time on earth of Tribulation.
- 1 Cor. 3:13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
- 2 Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
Every believer of this age must understand this truth: Your life is not your own. Jesus bought your salvation. When you surrendered to Him as your rescuer (you cried out to Him to be your Savior), you agreed to let the Rescuer take control to guide you to safe shores. From that moment, every action of your life was either a struggle against the Rescuer’s tug of you to shore – or it was an act of cooperation and submission.
A day is coming when every believer will answer for every act of service, attitude of stubbornness, and point of surrender. We will have the work of our lives measured. Our SIN was cared for in this life by accepting the work of Jesus at Calvary in accordance with God’s Holy Word. We trust Christ alone for salvation. Yet, we will still face a works inspection. How are YOU doing as you face that? Are you ready? The trumpet can sound at any moment.
II. After the seven years of Tribulation, when the Messiah comes to rescue Israel (Armageddon) and rule:
We have seen the rapture and the Bema Seat of Christ, but while that is happening, there is a Great Tribulation on earth. God is carefully exposing to Israel that her “would be suitors” don’t really love her at all – and that He is her true Husband. At the end of three pummeling rounds of judgment over seven years, five groups will stand before the judge.
The Judgment of the Beast, False Prophet and Detention of Satan (Rev. 19:20 – 20:3): The Antichrist and his Propaganda agent will be permanently disposed of, while Satan will be detained for a thousand years.
- Rev. 19:20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet … were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. … 20:1 Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven… 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
The Judgment of Martyred Believers of the Tribulation (Rev. 20:4): Believers from the Tribulation that were martyred for their faith will be raised and stand judgment and be given reward:
- Revelation 20:4 “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years….”
The Judgment of Jewish Believers Alive at the Second Coming (Daniel 12:1; Ezekiel 20:34-38; Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11:25-27): Jews who survived the wrath of the Tribulation and fell to their knees on the arrival of their rescuer as they received their Messiah will be judged and prepared for the coming Kingdom. Everyone that endured to the end of the Tribulation saw the arrival of the Savior and accepted Him as their Messiah:
- Daniel 12:1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.“
- Ezekiel 20:34 “I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; 35 and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36 “As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord GOD. 37 “I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38 and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD.
- Zechariah 12: 9 “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10 “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, … 11 “In … Jerusalem, like the mourning …in the plain of Megiddo.
- Romans 11:25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.” 27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”
The Judgment of Believers of Israel (Daniel 12:1-4): Raised from their placed of death, believers from before the time of Jesus are raised and judged. People with a relationship with God from the time before the Gospel of Jesus was proclaimed had their sin dealt with by abatement of wrath, finally paid for in Messiah. They are resurrected before the 1000 year rule of Messiah in Judah, so that God can fulfill all His literal promises to the Jewish people.
- Daniel 12:1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt. ….”
The Gentiles Alive at the Second Coming (Matthew 25:31-46): Those who survive the powerful conquest of Jesus from the Heavens – for many of them perished at His appearance and word (Rev. 19) – the remaining will be subject to judgment for both sin and works. Those who knew Messiah as Savior treated His people with love and respect, because they knew His Word and wanted His will. They will enter the Millennial Kingdom. Those who harshly treated God’s people in the Tribulation showed they were at enmity with God and they will be tossed from the presence of the Messiah into hell.
- Matthew 25:31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. 32 “All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 ‘For 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; …39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ 41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; … 45 “Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Remember, their armies have already been smashed by the Word of God when Jesus came back. This is the record of the people of those nations. This is not the record of how their government treated God’s people – but rather how individuals treated individuals. We hear a lot about God judging our nation for our sin path. We hear far too little about God’s personal standard of righteousness for which each of us will individually be judged. That is a mistake. Our behavior counts, not just our Supreme Court’s behavior! That will be true in the Tribulation as well.
III. After 1000 years, when the final rebellion is quelled by God (Rev. 20:10):
We have seen God’s judgment of believers of the church, believers of the time before the church, and both believers and unbelievers of the Tribulation. The thousand year reign occurs… and at the end a short rebellion is again attempted. God again picks up the gavel of judgment…
Satan and His Rebellious Hoards (Rev. 20:10): The final hell – that Lake of Fire – was not created for men, but for Satan and the angelic followers of the adversary.
- Rev. 20:10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
That brings us back to where we started… the terror of the Great White Throne. Look at it one last time:
The Judgment of those in Hades (Rev. 20:5a,11-15) : Those who died without a relationship with God (unbelievers throughout the ages) were raised from the place of their temporary torment to be sentenced to eternal damnation – a punishment meted out according to their deeds.
- Rev. 20:5a The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed….11 “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
There are four words in the Bible that describe the place of the afterlife before resurrection and judgment– In Hebrew, the term “Sheol” simply means the “abode of the dead” and may refer to the place of the body (the grave) or the “State of the dead”. In the Greek Scriptures, “Hades” is the rough equivalent to the Hebrew Sheol, and is translated both “grave” and Death” in the New Testament. The Greek term used only once in 2 Peter 2:4 “Tartarus” is specifically the abode of the angels that were stripped of their place in Genesis 6, referred to in Jude 1:6. The fourth term, used in the Greek Scriptures is “Gehenna”, is used in the Gospels and by Jesus – a term used twelve times as the “eternal place of the damned”.
It doesn’t take long before we can separate the modern church into two distinct groups- solely on the basis of a single idea. There are those who call themselves Christians, but are actually “universalists” – they believe everyone somehow goes to Heaven. You can agree with them if you choose, but you cannot make the argument that their position is based on any serious literal understanding of the Bible and the God of the Bible. God is the judge- and the Word is clear.
At the Great White Throne you can see it clearly. Stop and think about what we see in these few verses about men who died without the proper and acceptable payment for their sin:
- They were afraid to stand before God – even after they had been in torment since their death (Rev. 20:12).
- They couldn’t get away from it – even though they wanted to run (Rev. 20:11).
- They faced two standards – the Book of Life for their ultimate destination and the “Other Books” for a record of their deeds. If they weren’t in the Book of Life – they were excluded from Heaven. Yet, their deeds would determine the level of judgment they ultimately would face.
- It didn’t matter how or where they died – they faced judgment (Rev. 20:13).
- It didn’t matter how important or unimportant they seemed in this life – everyone faced God (Rev. 20:12).
Let me say it plainly. It doesn’t matter WHO you are in this life – or who you think you are. It doesn’t matter where you live or what you do for a living. What matters for your eternal destiny is entry into ONE BOOK – the Book of Life.
Those who do not have such a relationship are not in the Book of Life, but it is clear from the record that some of them will appear before God with wrong expectations – but they will not be at a judgment seat for people with relationship because they chose not to have one in this life. They made their choice in this life – even if they weren’t making it with a full picture of the eternal consequences. They will come in believing they were GOOD PEOPLE and be tossed from God’s courtroom. Why? Because although God loves man, His justice does not allow Him to look past unpaid sin. His role of judge is just as real as His role as Savior.
Is it fair? Yes, because He revealed it all well in advance of any judgment.
Is it just? Yes, because He has paid the full price for anyone who will surrender being their own God and let Him come in and take over your life.
Is it clear? Yes, His Word has volumes on it… but some won’t open it. They don’t think a real dad disciplines… and they are very wrong. They don’t think sin has consequences, and rebellion a terrible end… they are very, very wrong. Don’t be among them.