Moving Toward Full Disclosure
by Don McGee
Except for one group, every person on the face of this planet is constantly having every aspect of their lives recorded, to be used as testimony against them in a supreme court of law. This has nothing to do with government intelligence agencies spying on people whether that government is libertarian or totalitarian. This has to do with the cold hard fact that God is documenting every word, thought and deed that people entertain, and this information will be used against them in His court of final judgment as seen in Revelation 20:11ff.
The only people this does not apply to are Christians, for they will never appear before God’s great white throne judgment. Rather their sins, whether in word, thought or deed, are never to be held against them (Romans 8:1) because they have been paid for by Jesus. Their only judgment will be for the receiving of re-wards, not for punishment (2 Corinthians 5:10).
So much has been said about “judgment day” that most people have relegated such a day of reckoning to the trash heap along side Chicken Little and his hysterical alarm that the sky is falling. The average human mind is so desensitized to a coming judgment day that little to no thought is given to the truth of the matter. We can be sure that this idea of ultimate accountability did not originate with mankind. If it did, mankind had better scrap the idea and be thinking of something else because the end is eternal death for those who will be there.
The truth is that a day of ultimate reckoning has been ordained by God, and it will be a fearful encounter for the multitudes of people who will experience it first hand.
If a person does an internet search for “judgment day” they will see many articles and pictures, but most of those are all wrong. It is difficult to formulate a detailed description or visual representation of the great white throne judgment for two reasons. One, we just aren’t given a lot of information beyond the basic facts about it. And two, there is a lot of confusion between the judgment seat of Christ for Christians (2 Corinthians 5:10) and the judgment of sinners at the great white throne (Revelation 20:11).
Actually, the distinction between the two should be one of the easiest things to understand in all of scripture, but many remain confused because they try to force one or the other into a skewed belief system about future events. The judgment of Christians will be before the bema, a word that means a judgment of rewards similar to a judge’s seat at an athletic event where placement medals are handed out to competitors. Only in the case of the Christian’s bema the rewards will not be based upon competition, but upon faithful service according to the abilities and opportunities God had given them individually.
Unlike the political correctness of today, Jesus will not hand out participation trophies though there will be some who will be saved but will have no rewards at all (1 Corinthians 3:15). But a warning is in order here: do not mistake that verse for God’s toleration of rebellion. There is no such thing as one getting into heaven by the skin of their teeth. We would be wise to keep in mind that nobody will be in heaven or in hell by accident; volition is the integral part of both salvation and of damnation. The choice is a person’s to make.
Regarding the judgment of sinners in Revelation 20:11 the seat is a thronon, or throne, and the scene is that of krenos meaning a bar of judgment from which comes condemnation and sentencing to the lake of fire. Nothing about rewards is found here. There are some interesting things about the day when God will pronounce judgment upon the lost. For one thing, the saved of all ages are not present. Further, God’s people are never called “the dead” in context of judgment. And, most importantly, these people are judged by their deeds, which is something that never happens to Christians.
No person wants to be judged by God based upon their deeds, for all the good deeds one might do are not sufficient to atone for one single, solitary sin. No, not one. And if a person sins in one matter he is guilty of breaking the whole law (James 2:10). So forget this idea of a person being saved by their good deeds out-weighing their bad ones. That is one of the most pernicious lies to have ever afflicted the human race.
What the judgment of Revelation 20:11 does is to issue the formal sentencing of the second death which is hell. There is no defense attorney present, for mankind’s only advocate is Jesus and He was rejected by those who will be present that day. Each one there is on their own, personally carrying the guilt of their sin before God. There is no word in any human language that sufficiently describes the terror a person will experience as they are ushered before The Judge. In the same way that salvation is personal, so this judgment and condemnation will be personal. There will be no blanket sentencing and no getting lost in the crowd.
To personalize it, a person will stand there naked and alone, stripped of any earthly renown they might have known.
How can this be known? By the presence of two different books; the book of life and the books of record. Since the book of life has listed the names of only the saved, why is it there at the judgment of the lost? We are not told specifically, but it is there probably as a silent witness to the fact that the person being judged by God at any given moment is not found among its pages. In short, an appeal to the book of life by the defendant results in confirmation that he or she is damned.
Then, there are the books of record (Revelation 20:12) that will be opened, and this is where it will begin to get very personal. We might remember that time when Jesus said that every imprudent word will be disclosed (Matthew 12:36). I like the way the Holman Christian Standard Bible puts it, “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak.” Along the same line is the Luke 12:3 text, “Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.”
Words do not have to be audible to be manifestations of the heart. A person incapable of speech communicates by other methods, but their thoughts are made known just as clearly as the spoken words of the ablest of orators, and their sins are as obvious as anybody else’s. So, those sins for which a person would die before admitting will, in fact, be revealed on that day. That person might have taken false comfort in thinking that they got away with something, but on that day the record will be made public.
As time moves on every person on this planet is building up vast files wherein are recorded all their sins. Nothing is missed. But the comforting thing is that when that person repents of his sinful life and turns to God through Jesus and His propitiatory death, all sins are forgiven and the record book is expunged. The books of record that will be in evidence on judgment day at the great white throne will contain no Christian’s name. Scripture says such a person is free. Yes, and it is only God’s forgiveness of sins that can really set a person free. Tyrants can imprison and bind a Christian; they can even put him into solitary confinement. They can do whatever they might do, but they cannot bind that over which they have no control. Only God has control over eternal condemnation and when He sets a man free that man is free indeed. Further, when a person is released from sin and its inherent guilt that person is no longer obligated to a sinful lifestyle because the very Spirit of God indwells his heart. When that person so chooses to sin — and we all do at times — the Spirit is grieved and immediately convicts the conscience for the purpose of repentance.
There is no liberty like the liberty that comes with a heart that is totally and unconditionally forgiven of all sin. There is no sleep that is as peaceful as that into which a body can sink whose heart is right with its Creator. These truths are what Jesus meant when He said in John 8:32, “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Yes, it is true that an unsaved person may regret something they do, but their remorse is by no means sufficient for the atonement of their sin. The blood of Jesus applied to a person’s life is the only substance in the annals of creation sufficient for that. And the thing to remember here is that the longer an unsaved person entertains sin the more calloused and resistant to repentance becomes their conscience. The average, run-of-the-mill nice guy can, at times, be capable of thoughts, words and deeds so despicable that even those closest to them would be appalled. On the day described in Revelation 20:11ff all such things will be duly noted as the sentence of condemnation is handed down an unrepentant sinner.
There is something else that happens when God sets a person free from the consequences of their sin, and that is the guilt associated with their sin is also removed. This is something that no amount of money can buy and no amount of eminence can demand. The removal of guilt not only enhances physical health, but more importantly it soothes and relieves the tormented soul.
Guilt can even induce spiritual stress in a Christian if they become influenced by the false gospel of a works oriented relationship with Christ. It is like a phantom whose melancholy presence hovers over their soul constantly speaking words of doubt and condemnation. They ask themselves questions such as, “Have I done enough to make God pleased with me?” Such a person tries desperately to tune out those haunting echoes by activity and busyness but in the still, quiet darkness of the night those doubts have unfettered access to their soul with their demonic condemnation, “You miserable wretch, you are not good enough for God to forgive you!” The truth is having guilt removed is not about your being good enough. No one is. It is about God’s grace and mercy.
About 45 years ago a psychologist with years of clinical experience told an undergraduate class at LSU that many patients in mental wards could be set free if they could be convinced that they were forgiven and guiltless. There are any number of variables in that statement, but the essence of it must not be missed. With God’s forgiveness comes His removal of guilt, and that is what allows the human soul to cease struggling.
This is part of what is meant when Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And this, in a way, undergirds the judgment seat of Christ where Christians will receive their rewards. We would do well to meditate upon this truth: God keeps no record of a Christian’s sin; therefore they will never see a judgment day of condemnation.
But, for the person who thinks they can stand before God on their own merits and insists such a meeting take place, it will happen soon enough and it will be accompanied by the unabridged record of their life.
The study of prophecy and future events includes a lot more than God’s judgment upon this decrepit world. It includes a judgment that is very up close and personal for the unsaved. And it is near. DLM