Summary: 1) The Scene (Revelation 20:11-12a), 2) The Summons (Revelation 20:13a) , 3) The Standard (Revelation 20:12b, 13b), and 4) The Sentence (Revelation 20:14-15).
This week, Skylar Murphy admitted in court that he put together a pipe bomb with a friend last year and planned to blow up a shed in rural Alberta for fun, but forgot the explosive in his bag until he was in line at the Edmonton airport. Screening staff found the device but — in an admitted foul-up — didn’t immediately call RCMP and allowed the 18-year-old passenger to board a plane to Mexico with his family for a holiday. The judge who handled the case had her own stern words for the young bomb-maker:“ If the authorities had missed that pipe bomb and you had gone in Mexico, through a screening device, you would not even get a trial,” “You would be in a Mexican jail. And your grandfather and your family would be visiting you in that jail. And you would probably be learning Spanish by now, if you survived. “I doubt you would have survived.” (http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/01/16/teen-who-brought-pipe-bomb-to-edmonton-airport-built-device-out-of-bullets-stolen-from-mothers-fiance/)
Revelation 20:11-15 describes the final sentencing of the lost and is the most serious, sobering, and tragic passage in the entire Bible. Commonly known as the Great White Throne judgment, it is the last courtroom scene that will ever take place. After this there will never again be a trial, and God will never again need to act as judge. The accused, all the unsaved who have ever lived, will be resurrected to experience a trial like no other that has ever been. There will be no debate over their guilt or innocence. There will be a prosecutor, but no defender; an accuser, but no advocate. There will be an indictment, but no defense mounted by the accused; the convicting evidence will be presented with no rebuttal or cross-examination. There will be an utterly unsympathetic Judge and no jury, and there will be no appeal of the sentence He pronounces. The guilty will be punished eternally with no possibility of parole in a prison from which there is no escape.No one at the Great White Throne judgment will have the slightest grounds for complaint about his or her sentence. Those who reject God’s grace and mercy in this life will inevitably face His justice in the life to come.
This simple, but powerful text describes the terrifying reality of the final verdict and sentence on sinners under four headings: 1) The Scene (Revelation 20:11-12a), 2) The Summons (Revelation 20:13a) , 3) The Standard (Revelation 20:12b, 13b), and 4) The Sentence (Revelation 20:14-15).
1) The Scene. (Revelation 20:11-12a)
Revelation 20:11-12a 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. 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). (ESV)
The words ‘then I saw’ indicate the commencement of a new vision. What the apostle John is given here is a remarkably detailed vision of the Day of Judgement, painted in vigorous colours. Here is the day that God has fixed ‘when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed’ (Acts 17:31). (Richard Brooks. Revelation: The Lamb is all the Glory. EVANGELICAL PRESS. Faverdale North Industrial Estate, Darlington, England.1986.)
During his earthly ministry when Jesus taught about his Second Coming, he connected kingship closely with judging: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All 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” (Matt. 25:31–32). In Revelation 19 we see the conquering King of kings. John sees Jesus in his role of the Judge of all unredeemed humanity. (Kendell Easley. Revelation : Holman New Testament commentary. Broadman & Holman Publishers. Nashville, Tennessee. 1998)
The throne is great in the sense of being authoritative and powerful and “white” to sum up the themes of purity and holiness that have been associated with it throughout the book. Christ has white hair (1:14), sits on a white cloud (14:14), and returns on a white horse (19:11); celestial beings wear white (4:4); the triumphant saints wear white (3:4, 5; 6:11; 7:9, 13) and return with Christ on white horses (19:14). The “white throne” sums up all these themes. It is a throne of purity and triumph and so rightly stands as the throne of judgment.(John R. Yeatts. Revelation: Believers church Bible commentary. Herald Press, Scottdale, Pa. 2003)
Though the Father and the Son share the throne, it is the Son who is uniquely in view here, since Scripture teaches that He will judge sinners(cf. Jn. 5:22-27). Yet, John is not interested in labeling the one on the throne, and it is likely he intends both Father and Son to be involved in the judgment. (Grant R. Osborne. Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary. Baker Academic. Grand Rapids, MI. 2004)