Summary: The Great White Throne judgment points out the importance of inwardly embracing Jesus.
Although the number of people identifying themselves as “Christians” here in the United States has dropped significantly over the past two decades, most surveys show that somewhere around three quarters of Americans still claim to be Christians. But when some more probing questions are asked about their beliefs, it is apparent that there is a big difference between those who outwardly claim to be Christians and those who inwardly embrace Jesus and all that He is.
In a March 2009 survey, the Barna Group asked a series of questions to identify those who hold what they described as a “Biblical worldview”, which they defined as those who hold to these six beliefs:
• Absolute moral truth exists
• The Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches
• Satan is a real being, not merely symbolic
• A person cannot earn their way into heaven by being good or doing good works
• Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
• God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today
Overall, only 9% of the respondents held all six beliefs. But what is really troubling is that fact that only 19% of those identified as born again believers had that worldview. These are people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus and are certain that they will go to heaven when they die only because they confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their Savior.
Over the last two weeks, it has become quite apparent that without a doubt, chapter 20 of Revelation is by far the most difficult for most of us to deal with. In many ways, it really raises more questions than it answers. And among the most common of those questions is this: Why, after He has defeated His enemies, would Jesus have Satan bound for a thousand years, only to release Him at the end of that time to deceive the nations one last time? While none of us can satisfactorily answer that question in full, I am convinced that at least one of the purposes is to help us see the kind of huge disconnect between the outward conformity to Jesus and the inward embrace of all that He is that is demonstrated by the Barna survey and others like it.
So with that in mind, go ahead and open your Bibles to Revelation 20 and follow along as I begin reading in verse 7:
7 And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison 8 and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea. 9 And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, 10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 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.
As I mentioned, this chapter certainly raises a lot of questions that frankly we just can’t answer at this time. But at the same time, there are a number of things that we can know from this passage and which provide us with some practical principles that can guide our lives right here and now. So that is what we are going to focus on this morning.
1. Many will still reject Jesus - even under perfect conditions
Some of you may have been following the murder trial of Shawna Forde. After being convicted of first degree murder in the slaying of Raul Flores and his daughter Brisenia in a home invasion in Arivaca in May 2009, the jury returned to determine whether Forde would receive the death penalty. During that phase of the trial, the defense witnesses recounted Forde’s broken childhood in which she suffered abuse and abandonment. This is only one very public example of how so many people today try to blame their behavior on their circumstances and environment.