“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 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“
This section of Scripture presents the Great White Throne Judgment. This is a judgment against non-Christians only. This occurs immediately before God ushers believers into the eternal state. This is indeed a solemn and sad scene.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it,
The Great White Throne judgment, occurring just after the Millennium, is the final judgment of the lost of all ages by Jesus Christ. No believer will stand before this throne. Everyone who rejected Jesus Christ will give an account for his or her rebellion against God’s will. Thus this is a “great” judgment in contrast to the other preceding judgments. This is also a “white” judgment, the insignia of God’s purity and righteousness.
from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.
The whole universe will flee away from the awesome Judge on the Great White Throne. They cannot tolerate the stark glory of God.
God will destroy the entire universe as we know it (Hebrews 12:25-27; 2 Peter 3:7-12). No one but believers will inhabit the new heaven and earth. God will replace the entire present order of the cosmos after the Great White Throne Judgment. This new order will suit those who believed while on earth.
And there was found no place for them.
In chapter twenty-one, God institutes a new heaven and earth. The present heaven and earth will disappear (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; 21:33; 2 Peter 3:10-13).
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God,
The “dead standing before God” refers to the second resurrection of all non-believers. All those who rejected God’s plan of salvation throughout history will stand before God’s Great White Throne. These people are dead both physically and spiritually that is, eternally. Death puts everyone on the same plane, the “small and great.” Both the President and the garbage collector will face eternal death.
The first resurrection is pre-millennial and the second resurrection is post-millennial.
and books were opened.
God opens a number of books including the “Book of Life.” Status will not influence this judgment because Jesus will judge the great as well as the small. First, God opens books other than the Book of Life. This is a book of works. These people stand on their inadequate works and not on the work of Christ on the cross. The Bible will be one of the books opened at this judgment.
And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.
The “Book of Life” is the record of those who received eternal life at some point in time. These are believers (3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27).
And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.
God’s final judgment will be according to the evidence – works. The word “works” means deeds whether good or bad. The issue at the Great White Throne Judgment is the degree of punishment.
We are justified by faith but judged according to (not by) our works. God’s final judgment vindicates God’s righteousness. The evidential test to decide their eternal state is their works. People’s deeds reveal what their heart is like. It shows what their true beliefs are. When people stand on their works, they expose themselves to the perfect and absolute righteousness of God.
God wipes away the sinful record of the Christian.
Jesus takes away the sinful record of the believer. The government keeps a record of every crime a criminal commits. God wipes the slate of the Christian clean because Jesus paid for our sins.
Every shady situation, every dishonesty, God knows them all. There is no way to evade God’s judgment apart from the gospel of God’s grace.