Final Judgment

Revelation 20

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
June 2023

Today, we come to one of the most tragic passages in the Bible.  It is the scariest passage in the Bible.  It is found in the book of Revelation.

It is without question the most frightening picture in the entire Bible.  It is absolutely chilling.  It is a sobering passage.

Many avoid this section.  No one likes to talk about judgment.  That is too negative.  It is much more popular to talk about Heaven, rather than Hell (streets of gold, pearly gates).

This passage deals with the Lake of Fire.  It tells you what Hell will be like.  It deals with the Second Death.

In 2021, Richard Osman wrote a bestselling book entitled, The Man Who Died Twice.  It is a novel.  In Revelation 20, we see it actually belong fulfilled.  Some people will die twice.

If we are saved, we only die once.  The unsaved die twice.  They die physically.  They are resurrected and die a second time in Hell.

This passage deals with Final Judgment.  John got to see it.  We see what Judgment Day looks like in this passage.  It will not look like many think it will look like.

It looks like a courtroom.  Most of us have had some experience with the court system (served on a jury or received a few speeding tickets).  If we haven’t, we have probably seen a few court dramas on TV.

This will be a courtroom like no other.  God will hold court and sinners will be on trial.  All of humanity will be on trial.

There will be a summons.  Everyone will have a court date.  We are used to seeing a bailiff entering the room and saying “all rise” as the judge enters.

The defendants rise.  Our passage says that the dead, small and great, will stand before God. The judge enters the courtroom and sits down on a great throne and opens the books.

There will be defendants.  There will be a judge.  There will be a prosecution.  There will be evidence presented.  There will be an indictment.  There will be a verdict.  There will be a sentence.

It will be the Supreme Court of Heaven.  America has a Supreme Court, but it is really not supreme.  We call it the Supreme Court, but it is really not the Supreme Court.

This will be a court of no appeal.  One day, each one of the judges that sits on the Supreme Court will stand before another judge and be held accountable before a holy God.  They will have to answer to a higher power.

This will be the real Supreme Court.  On this day, every dead person will have a court date.  They will be given a summons from their cells to appear before a judge.

They will stand before that judge.  A jury will not decide their fate.  A Judge will determine their eternal destiny.

He will determine if they spend eternity in heaven or in hell.  When the verdict is read, the sentence will be final and irreversible.  There will be no appeal.  The sentence is not ten or twenty years.  It is not even sixty years.  It is forever.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens FLED from his presence, and there was no place for them. (Revelation 20:11 NIV).

It is a terrifying scene.  It is so terrifying that creation is banished.  It is scary scene for unrepentant sinners to stand before a holy God.  It is scary because it involves a place called the Lake of Fire

It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31 NASB)

This chapter raises the question, Are you ready for eternity?  Are you ready for final judgment?  Are you ready to stand face to face before God?

Let’s look at a statistic.  Every minute one hundred and seven people die.[1] The Bible says, “It is appointed for man to die and after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27 KJV).

All of us have an appointment with God.   Paul said, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed” (Acts 17:31 NIV).  There is a day already set for that judgment.

Amos 4:12 says, “Prepare to meet your God.”  Judgment is coming.  We will all stand face to face before God one day.

The problem is that most people in the world do not prepare for that moment.  We live like God does not exist.  We live like this day will never come.

There is good news in this passage.  There is a way to avoid the Lake of Fire.  It is right in the text.  Most of us read right past it.  The text says if your name is not in the Book of Life, you will be cast in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15)

That implies if your name is in the Book of Life, you will not enter the Lake of Fire.  That is mentioned three times in two verses (Revelation 20:14-15).  Is your name in that book?

If you are saved, your name is in it.  The problem is that not everyone who thinks they are saved is saved.  Not everyone who attends church is saved.

Jesus said, on Judgment Day, many are going to think they are saved and are going to call Jesus Lord and He is going to say to them. “Depart from Me.  I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23).  They knew Jesus but He did not know them.

If you are saved, and it is possible to know for sure, you will not be sent to this place, because your name is in the Book of Life.  Is your name in the book?

If you are saved, you will experience the First Resurrection.  If you experience the First Resurrection, the second death will have no power over you (Revelation 20:6).  It will not be able to hurt you.

The other reality of this chapter is that if you refuse mercy, you get justice.  All who reject Christ now will stand before a holy God in his or her sins.  Everyone will either face Jesus as Savior or Judge.

Last week, we began looking at Revelation 20.  It is one of the most controversial passages in the Bible.  It is the great chapter in the Bible on the Millennium, which will take place on earth after He returns with the armies of heaven.

We saw that there are four lessons in this chapter.  Last week, we saw that God wins.  Jesus comes back and rules and reigns four a thousand years.

We saw that Satan loses in this chapter.  He is thrown into the Abyss.  He is locked up, bound and chained for a thousand.  He is let out for a while and then thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Now, the entire Satanic Trinity is in the Lake of Fire (Satan, Beast, and the False Prophet) but they will not be the last people sent there.  At the end of the chapter, more people join them.

Today, we are going to look at two more lessons from this chapter: The saints will be rewarded, and sinners will be held accountable.

The First Resurrection

 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

During the Tribulation Period, the Antichrist will persecute and kill believers.  He will wage war on them and overcome them (Revelation 13:7).

Believers will not be able to buy food and provide for their families because they refuse to take the Mark of the Beast.  Many are martyred.

During the Fifth Seal, John saw the souls who were slain because of the Word of God.   They cried out in a loud voice, “How long will it be until you avenge our blood?” (Revelation 6:9-10)

In Revelation 20, see these saints rewarded.  They are rewarded in two ways.  They are brought to life and reign on thrones.

1) Dead believers will be raised

We are told in this passage that souls that were beheaded will come to life.  Those without heads will get their heads back and they will come to life.  It is called “the first resurrection” (Revelation 20:6)

Is this literal?  Is it talking about literal bodies coming to life physically or is it talking about people who are dead in trespasses and sins who come to life spiritually?  Many spiritualize this and they get it from John 5:25.

Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. (John 5:25 NIV)

There is only one problem.  Revelation 20:4 deals with people who already have faith.  They were beheaded FOR their faith in Christ.  They were already saved and the word “resurrection” in the NT (ἀνάστασις) only means a physical or bodily resurrection.[2]

These believers will be literally raised, just as Jesus was literally raised from the dead.  He said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever” (Revelation 1:18 NIV)

2) Resurrected believers will rule and reign

The tables are completely turned.  The ones who were persecuted and martyred are now ruling.

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21 NIV)

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28 NIV)

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? (I Corinthians 6:2 NKJV)

Truths about Final Judgment

That brings us to the topic of the Great White Throne Judgment.  This will be the judgment of the unsaved dead at the end of the Millennium.  What does this judgment say to us today?  It says four things.

1) It will be a Day of Resurrection

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned. (John 5:28-29 NIV)

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2 NIV)

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne (Revelation 20:12 NIV).

John says, “I saw the DEAD STANDING”.  They were dead and now they are standing. Their soul will become united with their body. They are resurrected.

One day, everyone who is dead will be raised.  Every dead body one day will be raised.  Many Christians believe that there will be only one final resurrection but it does not fit this chapter.

There are two separate resurrections in Revelation 20.  The first is for believers (who cannot be hurt by the second death) and the second is for unbelievers (who are hurt by the second death).

We will all rise from the dead one day.  It may not be at the Second Resurrection, but we will all rise from the dead.

That is not just a NT teaching.  It is an OT teaching.  We see it in the Book of Daniel.  In fact, Job said, “after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:26 NIV)

You can picture this Second Resurrection in your mind.  All over the world, in every country on the planet, bodies will be coming out of the grave and going up to heaven.

No one can stop it.  If you died and were buried, you will be raised.  If you died and were not buried, you will be raised.  If you died at sea, you will be raised.

The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them (Revelation 20:13 NIV).

If you were cremated, you will be raised.  Cremation is not a problem for God.  God said after you die, you turn back to dust (Genesis 3:19).  Cremation turns us back to dust but is not a problem for God.

This resurrection will involve billions and billions of people.  The Great White Throne Judgment will be a judgment of all of the unsaved dead throughout history.  That must be a big courtroom.

These people will come from all different time periods and from different countries.  They will be from all different races.  John says that both the small and great will be there.

The GREAT will be there.  They are big shots, the movers and shakers, celebrities and athletes, movie stars, CEOs and even heads of state (kings, presidents).  They are the famous people that everyone knows. They are the highly educated (PhDs)

The SMALL will be there.  They are poor, uneducated and unsuccessful.  They are part of the lower class, the dropouts, drunks, prostitutes, homeless, and illiterate who cannot read or write.

There will be some very wicked people at this judgment.  Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Jack the Ripper, Osama Bin Laden and all of the mass murders and serial killers throughout history will be there.

Many moral people will be there as well.  Some of your own family members may be there.  Big sinners and little sinners will stand before this throne.  There may be some Baptists there.  One of the Apostles will be there (Judas).

All of the people who mocked God and the Bible will be there.  All of the atheists and agnostics (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris) will be there.  Every unbeliever will be there.  Everyone who worshipped a false god will be there.

Everyone who followed a false religion will be there.  Every cult leader will be there.  Buddha will be there.  Muhammad will be there.  Joseph Smith will be there.

2) It will be a Day of Reckoning

God will hold sinners accountable for their actions.  God will not only hold people accountable.  He will also hold angels accountable.

Many today think that there is no God, they can live any way they want and will not answer to anyone.  It all goes back to Satan’s first lie in the garden.  “You can sin and you will not die.  There will not be any consequences.”

People still believe that lie today.  Not only will unbelievers give an account before God but so will we.

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12 NIV)

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10 ESV)

Paul said that all of us will do this.  He said that each one of us will face this judgment seat. Apparently, even Paul will have to give an account as well us.  Even the apostles did not get off.

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. (Matthew 12:37 NIV)

We will not just give an account for every curse word or every profane word but for every careless word, but the Great White Throne Judgment is not dealing with the judgment of believers.

3) It will be a Day of Revelation

It will be a revelation of the books.  There is some information that is going to come out during this trial.  There are some secrets that are going to come out.

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)

Here is some good news for all book lovers.  There will be books in heaven.  Revelation 20 mentions books (plural) in heaven.

Just because there will be books in heaven does not mean that there will be fiction in heaven.  There are two kinds of books mentioned in this chapter.  There is a book of names, and there are books of deeds.

The Book of Life is the important one.  It is your ticket in.  If your name is not in the book, you don’t get in.  It doesn’t matter if you have been baptized.   It doesn’t matter if you have been a church member for fifty years.

It doesn’t matter if you teach Sunday School.  It doesn’t matter if everyone in your family is a Christian.  The only thing that matters is if your name is in the book.  The Book of Life that has the names of all of the people who are saved.

Two Stage Trial

The Great White Throne Judgment will come in stages.  There will be two stages to the trial.  Each stage will involve a test.

STAGE ONE is the GUILT PHASE of the trial.  It will involve a SALVATION test.

If your name is in the Book of Life, you pass the salvation test.  That is what saves people, not their works.

Most people think that on Judgment Day, there are two sets of books: books of good works and books of bad works.  Whichever one is heavier, determines where you spend eternity.

That is incorrect.  The Book of Life determines heaven.  If your name is in it, you will enter heaven.

STAGE TWO is is the PENALTY PHASE of the trial.  It will involve a WORKS test.

Works do not determine salvation but determine the degrees of reward or punishment.  Judgment will be based on what is written in the book of works.

The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books” (plural).

God keeps records of everything.  He has record books in heaven.  God is keeping a book on you. He has your life recorded.  He records everything you have done in your life. He records the things that no one else knows.

That is a scary thought.  God has a record of sins, recorded in a book.  The Psalmist says, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Psalm 130:3 NIV).

Can you picture billions and billions of these books stacked up?  Each book contains a list of good deeds and bad deeds.  Could you imagine a list of ALL of the sins you have committed in your entire life?

It would be a pretty long list.  God keeps perfect records of everyone’s life.  All the skeletons will come out of the closet on this day.  All of the secret sins will come out.

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:14 NIV)

 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5 NIV)

4) It will be a Day of Retribution

We always wonder why certain people commit horrible crimes and never get caught.  They seem to escape justice.  They may escape it on earth but one day, it will catch up with them.

Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15 NIV)

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8 NIV)

This brings us to the topic of Hell.  The Book of Revelation gives us one of the strongest passages on hell in the entire Bible.  It is the book that talks about the Lake of Fire and Fire and Brimstone.

It seems to be the favorite topic of some preachers. There are some hell, fire and brimstone preachers. That is the favorite topic of some Baptist preachers.

Other preachers never seem to even mention the topic. There are very few sermons on hell in some churches.

There are a lot of myths about Hell.  There are myths in the Roman Catholic Church.  There are myths in Seventh Day Adventism.  There are myths taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Four Truths about Hell

Let’s review four truths about Hell that are found in the Book of Revelation.  It refutes four lies about Hell that are found in society today.

1. Hell is a place of Terror

Some have said that they want to go to Hell so they can be with all their friends, but this is a place that no one wants to go to.  You have to be thrown into it.

They are thrown alive into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 19:20).  All of the unsaved will be thrown into it as well (Revelation 20:15).  They go kicking and screaming.

Preachers always say that God never sends anyone to Hell.  He sends people to Hell in Revelation 20.  They are thrown there.   Jesus told the goats, “DEPART from me into eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41).  That sounds like He sends some people to Hell.

2. Hell is a place of Fire

Many say that Hell does not exist or if it does exist, it is nothing to be afraid of.  The second truth we learn is that Hell is a place of fire. Fire will be the instrument of punishment.

Wherever, you see Hell in the Bible, you see fire.  In Revelation, it is called a Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10, 14, 15).  It is described as Fire and Brimstone four times in the book (Revelation 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8)

Paul describes hell as “blazing fire” (II Thessalonians 1:7).  Jude describes hell as “eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Jesus speaks of “hell fire” (Matthew 5:22; 18:9), “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:46), “a furnace of fire” (Matt 13:42, 50) and an “unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12; Mark 9:43).

3. Hell is a place of Torment

Many today teach the doctrine of annihilationism.  Jehovah’s Witnesses teach it.  Seventh-Day Adventists teach this doctrine but that is not what the Book of Revelation teaches. The First Death did not mean annihilation.  Why would the Second Death mean that?

The wicked are not extinguished and annihilated.  They are tormented, according to the Book of Revelation.  If there is annihilationism, there is no torment.  You have to be conscious to be tormented.  Hell is torment.

And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be TORMENTED day and night for ever and ever. (Revelation 20:10 NIV)

They, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be TORMENTED with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their TORMENT will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.” (Revelation 14:10-11 NIV)

“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in TORMENT, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am IN AGONY in this fire.’ (Luke 16:19-24 NIV.)

NT scholar C. K. Beale notes, the Greek word for “tormented” (βασανισμος) ONLY means conscious suffering in the Apocalypse (Revelation 9:5; 11:10; 12:2; 18:7, 10, 15; 20:10).

That is how it is used in the rest of the NT (Matthew 4:24; 8:6, 29; 28:34; Mark 5:7; 6:48; Luke 8:28; 16:23, 28; II Peter 2:8).  It NEVER means annihilation.[3]

4. Hell is a place of hopelessness

There is never any hope of getting out.  Here you think of Dante’s Inferno.  When he takes a tour of Hell, he sees an inscription on the outside that says, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”  There’s no escape and no release from this place.

They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever (Revelation 20:10 NIV).

The smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night (Revelation 14:11 NIV). 

That phrase “forever and ever” occurs thirteen times in Revelation and always refers to eternity.[4]

It always means “forever and ever” (Revelation 1:6, 18; 4:9, 10; 14; 7:12; 10:6; 11:15; 14:11; 15:7; 19:3; 20:10; 22:5).

I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! (Revelation 1:18 NIV)

the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. (Revelation 4:10 NIV)

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15 NIV)

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:5 NIV)

If Hell is not Eternal, they heaven is not eternal, and God is not eternal.  Some say that hell does not last forever, only the consequences last forever. With that logic, you would have to say that heaven does not last forever, just the consequences of heaven.

Applications for Today

This passage looks like all bad news.  There is good news in this passage.  Here is the good news

1) Hell was created for the Devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41)

2) God does not want anyone to perish (II Peter 3:9). No one has to go to Hell.

2) If we turn from our sins and accept Christ as Savior, we can get saved now our name is written in the Book of Life.

3) We can know we are saved now. We don’t have to wait until Judgment Day.  Are you saved?  Is your name in the Book of Life?  Do you know for sure?

4) Once we get saved, all of our sins will be forgiven.  He forgave us ALL our sins (Colossians 2:13 NIV).  You wont have to worry about a Book of Sins.  Everything in the Book of Works will say “forgiven.”

5) Not only will we be forgiven but we will not be condemned.

There is NO CONDEMNATION to those who are in Christ” (Romans 8:1 NIV)

Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come (I Thessalonians 1:10 NIV).

 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24 NIV)

If we are saved, we only die once.  We will not experience the Second Death.  As Martin Luther said, “Born once – die twice; Born twice – die once”.

Here is the catch get saved is before we die.  Now is the day of salvation (II Corinthians 6:2 KJV)There is no second chance after death.

6) If we reject grace, we will grace justice.  If we reject Jesus as Savior, we will face Him as Judge.


[2] Matthew 22:23, 28, 30, 31; Mark 12:18, 23; Luke 2:34; 14:14; 20:27, 33, 35, 36; John 5:29; 11:24, 25; Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2, 33; 17:18, 32; 23:6, 8; 24:15, 21; 26:23; Romans 1:4; 6:5; I Corinthians 15:12, 13, 21, 42; Philippians 3:10; II Timothy 2:18; Hebrews 6:2; 11:35; I Peter 1:3; 3:21; Revelation 20:5, 6.

[3] G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999), 764.

[4] Ibid.

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