Robert Jeffress - Final Judgment
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. People love to hear stories about God's love and forgiveness. And while his amazing grace truly covers all our sins we cannot fully appreciate God's mercy until we understand his absolute holiness. You see one day, God's patience will run out. And he will come again to judge the unrighteous. The Bible describes this epic event when each person will give an account for his or her actions. We're talking about the final judgment on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Warren wiersbe tells the story about a frontier town in which a wagon being pulled along by a horse suddenly bolted away as the horse began to run carrying the wagon that in turn had a small boy in it. A young man seeing the danger the young child was in suddenly got on a horse and put his own life at risk to rescue the little boy. That little boy grew up to be a ruthless criminal, and one day he found himself standing before a judge awaiting being sentenced for a murder he had committed. And as the young criminal looked up at the judge, he recognized the judge as the man who had saved his life many years earlier.
And so he made a plea for mercy to the judge based on what the judge had done for him many years earlier. But the judge silenced the plea of mercy with these words. He looked at the young criminal and he said, "Son, many years ago I was your savior: but today I am your judge: and therefore I sentence you to be hanged". More than 2.000 years ago Jesus Christ came to be our Savior. He lived a humiliating life: he died an excruciating death in order to provide for us the forgiveness of our sins. But the Bible says one day Jesus Christ is coming back to earth not as the Savior of the world, but as the judge of the world. And it's that second coming of Christ when he comes to judge all unbelievers that we're going to look at today. It is a judgment that takes place at an event we often call the Great White Throne judgment.
If you have your Bibles turn to Revelation 20. Verses 4-6 "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark upon their forehead and on their hand: and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection: over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years".
This phrase "The first resurrection" introduces us to a concept that we have to understand if we're going to understand the end times, and it's the concept of two resurrections. Now that word "Resurrection" comes from the Greek word "anastasis". It's a word that is used 40 times in the Greek New Testament, and it always refers to the raising of a person's physical body. You see the Bible says when we as christians die, our spirit goes to heaven our bodies are left behind in the grave. When the non-christian dies, his spirit goes to hades: his body is left behind in the grave. But both the bodies of Christians and non-christians will be raised at some future time. The body of Christians will be raised so that we can experience everlasting blessing. The body of non-christians will be resurrected so that they can experience everlasting judgment.
Now let's look at each of these resurrections in more detail. The first resurrection is called very creatively the first resurrection. That makes sense, doesn't it? The first resurrection is the first resurrection. It is the resurrection of all Christians. But here is the concept you need to understand: the first resurrection doesn't happen all at the same time. The first resurrection happens at four different times in history. That is, every Christian goes immediately into the presence of Christ when he dies, but his body is raised at a particular time in history, and it's not the same for all believers. I want you to think of the first resurrection as a heavenly carpool, ok: that different Christians are picked up at different points in history: that is their bodies are raised up and changed into the resurrection body.
Where do we find that? Hold your place here and turn over to 1 Corinthians 15:20, "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, he is the first fruits of those who are asleep". And what Paul is saying is: as magnificent as the resurrection of Jesus Christ was, it's not the whole story. Jesus Christ was just the first of many who would be raised from the dead. He was the first fruits. He was the sample of a greater resurrection yet to come. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive". It's not just Christ who was raised from the dead, but every follower of Christ will also be raised from the dead. Verse 23, "But each in his own order". Translation: but everybody has to wait their turn. That's what he's saying: we're all going to be raised, but each according to a specific order.
Now underline that word "order". It's the Greek word "tagma", T-A-G-M-A. And it's a word that refers to a military parade. Just imagine a parade that is going down a long stretch of a boulevard with everybody watching and at different points along the parade different corps of the military fall into their place in the parade. And as the parade continues, it gets larger, and larger, and larger. Now that is the word-picture Paul is painting here. Think of the resurrection, if you don't like the idea of a carpool, think of it as a heavenly resurrection parade. Who's in that parade? Well, it tells us in verse 23. First of all, Christ the first fruits. He's the leader of the parade. He's the guy out front. He is the one leading the parade. That's what Ephesians 4:8 says, "When he ascended on high, he led captive a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men". Christ is at the head of that military parade.
Now, notice the next group in the parade route "After that", verse 23, "those who are Christ's at his coming". The next group after Jesus to receive their resurrection body will be you and I - the church. And we get our bodies at the rapture, but also, it refers to another group, thirdly those who will receive the resurrection bodies at the second coming of Christ. It is the souls of those who were martyred during the tribulation. That group of Christians were killed for their faith: they would not receive the mark. Of course, their soul immediately went to heaven, but John says: I saw them come to life at that time. That is, they received their resurrection bodies at the beginning of the millennium when Christ returns. Not only that, Daniel 12:1-2 says the Old Testament saints will receive their bodies: Adam, and Eve, and Jonah, and Esther, and David - all will receive their resurrection bodies. They're with Christ now, but they receive their resurrection bodies at the second coming.
And then there's one final group, the fourth pick-up point in the resurrection parade. Then comes the end when he delivers up the kingdom. That is the end of the millennium, the 1.000-year reign of Christ. There is one final group to receive their resurrection bodies. Who are these people? It will be those Christians who have gone into the 1.000-year reign of Christ in their natural bodies. We'll talk about that more in a moment. Not every Christian will be slaughtered during the tribulation. Some will survive. They will enter the millennium in their natural bodies. They will give birth to other people during the millennium. Those children will die during the millennium. They'll live longer than they do now, but they will die. They receive their resurrection bodies at the end of the millennium.
So do you get the concept? The first resurrection doesn't happen at a single point in time: instead it's a reference to all believers who all will receive their resurrection bodies, but at various points in history. John says blessed is the person who is a part of this military parade, this heavenly carpool, the first resurrection: over him the second death has no power. And then notice in Revelation 20:5 it says, "The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed". Who are the rest of the dead? It is the unsaved who will be resurrected. And that leads to what is on your chart.
Number two: the second resurrection. It's referred to in Revelation 20:13, "And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead which were in them". Unlike the first resurrection that takes place over a period of time, the second resurrection of the unsaved occurs all at the same point. And it happens after the 1.000-year reign of Christ. And the purpose of the second resurrection is to raise the bodies of all unbelievers so they can experience the final judgment we're talking about today, the Great White Throne judgment. However, John says before that final judgment one last thing has to occur. And he describes it in verses 7-9. So what happens after the 1.000 years? This just absolutely blows my mind - God chooses to let satan go, instead of dropping him into the lake of fire.
What is the purpose of satan's release? Why does God choose to let him go? Well it says in the text here in order that he might deceive the nations. That is, in spite of the previous 1.000 years of the perfect rule of Jesus on the throne in Jerusalem, some people at the final moment when given the chance will choose to follow satan. Now, of course, that brings up a number of questions. Who are these people who decide, who have survived the millennium, who have lived under the perfect reign of Christ, who are these people that would choose to follow after satan? The only explanation is there are Christians who enter the millennium in their natural bodies: they will have children and those children will be deceived, some of them by satan.
You know that's an amazing thing when you think about it: after living under the rule of Christ for 1.000 years, having experienced the blessing of Christ's ruling some will be deceived and actually choose to follow satan. But ladies and gentlemen, the fact is every believer has to make a choice. Every person who's ever lived in whatever age he lived: starting in the Garden of Eden has had to make an individual choice rather to follow God or follow satan. And so the Bible says satan will be released. He will deceive some, but it won't be a deception that will last for long because in Revelation 20:9 God sends a fire. He devours those who have opposed him. Verse 10 says he then takes satan and he drops him into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet are. And that prepares the way for this judgment we're looking at - the Great White Throne judgment.
Turn over to Revelation 20 beginning with verse 11. John says, "Then I saw a Great White Throne and him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them". Now notice this is completely different from the picture in Revelation 4:2 where at the beginning of the tribulation John looked into heaven and he saw God the Father on a throne surrounded by the 24 elders, the church, and he saw the rainbow surrounding the throne in peals of lightning, and the sounds of thunder. That's not this picture. This picture is of a single solitary throne and it has a different occupant on it. The occupant is not God the Father. It is Jesus Christ, the Son.
Go back to verses 12-13, "And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and the books (underline that) were opened. And another book (singular - underline that) was opened". What is that book? It is the book of life, "And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books". Plural, not the book - the book of life - they were judged by the things which were written in the books, "According to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead which were in them: and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds (their works)".
Did you know God keeps two sets of books on all of us? There is the book, and there are the books. The book is what the Bible calls the Lamb's book of life, every name in it is a record of everyone who has ever been saved or will be saved: and unless your name is written in that Lamb's book of life you will not escape the Great White Throne judgment. There is the book, but then there are the books. That is, God keeps a book, a record of every person's, believer and unbeliever's works, no good deed goes unrecorded, no sin goes unnoticed - it is all in the books.
The Bible says that the unsaved are judged according to the books: according to their deeds: according to the things that had been written in this book. After the unbeliever gets over the initial shock of seeing the Lord Jesus Christ whom he rejected sitting on that Great White Throne, after that initial shock, the unbeliever will actually start to feel pretty confident as he hears Jesus announce the basis on which he's going to be judged. As Jesus begins to open the books and says: I will judge you as you've chosen to be judged, according to your deeds, according to your works. But that optimism, that confidence will turn to despair very, very quickly as the unbeliever realizes that the basis, the standard by which his works will be judged will not be his relative righteousness to other people, but by the perfection of God's own son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
See, most of us, we judge ourselves according to other people. We say: well, I may not be perfect, but I pay my taxes. I don't cheat on my mate. I'm certainly better than Osama Bin Laden, you know, so I ought to do pretty good. I ought to make it into the kingdom. But God says: no: the basis by which I judge every man is not his relative righteousness compared to others, but by the perfection of my Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And by that standard everyone falls short.
What happens as a result of the white throne judgment? Look at verses 14-15, "Then death and hades", that is unbelievers, "Were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if any man's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. He isn't annihilated, he doesn't cease to exist: he suffers, he is tormented with indescribable suffering day and night forever and ever" - Revelation 20:10. There will not be one occupant in the lake of fire who is not there by his own choice.
The unbeliever is the person who has said to God: whatever Jesus Christ did means nothing to me. I don't need his death. I don't need his righteousness. I'm happy to be judged by you according to my own merits. And God says: fine, I'll give you exactly what you wish. We'll judge you according to your works. But nobody's works will be good enough. For you see, the Bible says unless we have a righteousness that equals that of Jesus Christ himself, none of us qualified to enter into heaven. You say: well, that's impossible. Nobody could ever meet that standard, the perfection of Jesus Christ: nobody could ever meet that standard. Exactly. Exactly. And that's why the only way we'll ever be qualified to enter into heaven is not on the basis of our goodness, but on the basis of the goodness, the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
I know I've said this before, but I think right now is a helpful time to illustrate exactly what that means, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and what it means to put that on. I want you to imagine here two books. One book is titled "The Life and Times of Jesus Christ". This is a book that records every good deed, every perfect thing that Jesus Christ has ever done - his complete record of absolute righteousness. "The Life and Times of Jesus Christ". Now I want you to imagine another book titled "The Life and Times of Robert Jeffress". It is a book that records some of the good things I've done, but it also describes every wrong action, every wrong thought, every wrong motivation for doing anything I've ever had. This book reads like a supermarket tabloid. It's a book I hope nobody will purchase.
Two books: "The Life and Times of Jesus Christ". "The Life and Times of Robert Jeffress". Now what happens when I trust in Christ as my Savior? Know what God does? He takes the cover of this book, and he places it on this book containing Jesus' good deeds. And so when God looks at "The Life and Times of Robert Jeffress" he no longer sees my sin, he sees all of the good things that Jesus did, and he gives me credit for his righteous life. But there's something else that happens. When I trust in Christ as my Savior, God takes the cover of this book, "The Life and Times of Jesus" and he places it around my life story.
Two thousand years ago when God looked down on Jesus on the cross he saw my sin, he saw your sin and he judged Jesus for what we have done. It's the greatest exchange that has ever taken place when we become a Christian. I take my sinfulness and my righteousness, and give it to Jesus Christ to suffer for, and he takes his righteousness and he credits it to my account so that I spend eternity benefiting from the perfect life of Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:21 says it this way, "God made him, Jesus, who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him".
The most important choice you ever make in life is this, what am I depending upon to get me into heaven one day? Am I going to depend upon my righteousness, or am I going to choose to depend upon the righteousness of Jesus Christ, and the perfect life he led? You see, it's one or the other. Either you're depending on your righteousness or you're depending completely on the righteousness of Christ. It's one of the other. It can't be both. And ladies and gentlemen, that choice of what you're depending on to get into heaven is a choice you have to make right now in this life. If you wait until you die to make that choice, you've waited too long. If you wait until you die to call on the name of Christ for salvation, there is no salvation. If you find yourself standing before that Great White Throne judgment it's too late. You must choose the righteousness of Christ now to escape that final white throne judgment.