This past Sunday, I taught through the twentieth chapter of Revelation. While there is much that we could (and did) discuss on what is prophetically declared in this passage—I’m rendered speechless each and every time I get to verse 11. That’s because it introduces the final sentencing of the lost (vv. 11-15):
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. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from 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. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
It could be argued that this is the most serious and sobering passage in all of Holy Scripture. Here the apostle John is shown the Judge, Jesus Christ, seated upon His great white throne of judgment. All of the accused are standing before Him. There are no more opportunities. Repentance can only be replaced by remorse. The physical death of unbelievers will now lead to a spiritual one resulting in an eternal and terrifying reality: their final sentencing into the lake of fire.
Verse 11 is magnetic, as it attracts our attention by describing God’s uncreation of this current planet, atmosphere, and universe. There is a time coming when sin will be judged and dealt with for all time; and it will include His purging of all that has been tainted by the effects of the Fall.
Dr. Walvoord’s explains in his commentary:1
The One John sees on the great white throne is of such majesty that earth and sky flee away from before Him… The most natural interpretation of the fact that earth and sky flee away is that the present earth and sky are destroyed and will be replaced by the new heaven and new earth. This is also confirmed by the additional statement in 21:1, where John sees a new heaven and a new earth replacing the first heaven and the first earth.
Frequent references in the Bible seem to anticipate this future time when the present world will be destroyed (Matt 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17; 21:33; 2 Pet 3:10). According to this last reference, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
Passages such as Revelation 20:11 and 2 Peter 3:10 state explicitly that this destruction is literal and physical. It would be most natural that the present earth and heaven, the scene of the struggle with Satan and sin, should be displaced by an entirely new order suited for eternity.
The whole structure of the universe is operating on the principle of a clock that is running down. What could be simpler than for God to create a new heaven and a new earth by divine decree in keeping with His purposes for eternity?
The clock is winding down. (Just measure our morality with Romans 1.) There is coming a day when the absolute justice of God will unambiguously take place. When there will be no place for those who have spurned the Lord Jesus Christ to run and hide. He will cleanse the cosmos and punish the unrepentant.
Yet there is ONE WAY to avoid this terrifying reality. A blessed hope. It is the only lifeline available. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him… that is Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath to come. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:8-9; 1 Thess 1:10; 5:9).
Friend, the time is near. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?
1 Walvoord, John F. The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries: Revelation (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2011). 316-17.