In God's courtroom, He will preside as judge, jury, eyewitness, and prosecuting attorney--and there will be no deliberation. The verdict for every unbeliever will be the same: "Guilty!"
The ad campaign that originated out of London, England, announces, “There’s probably no God; now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
It was composed by a young atheist who was rather appalled at the idea – actually funny to her – that people would one day burn in Hell. And so she created a slogan that would be positive to counteract the Christian doctrine of everlasting Hell.
On the launch date of the bus campaign, Richard Dawkins showed up; he’s a well known atheist and author of the book entitled, The God Delusion, in which he reasons that this life is all we have and after that we cease to exist.
He’s actually giddy over communicating throughout the streets of London that, “There’s probably no God . . . so you can stop worrying about accountability to Him and go and enjoy your life.”
Richard Dawkins said in this interview that we can’t be anymore sure that God does or doesn’t exist than Father Christmas. Santa Clause is possibly living at the North Pole?!
We’ve had satellites over the North Pole and expeditions into the North Pole. Santa’s elves aren’t there either.
There isn’t an old man who goes around the world in 6 hours and he can’t eat all those cookies and drink all that milk and still be able to steer his flying reindeer back home.
Are we really no more certain about Santa’s existence than we are the existence of God?
By the way, I remember creating a neighborhood crisis one December when I was about 6 years old; I had asked my parents some questions about Santa Clause and they had told me it was actually just make believe – that our Christmas presents came to us from our parents and grandparents ultimately because of the provision and goodness of God.
Well that same December, unbeknown to them, it became a driving passion of mine to inform all the other little kids in my neighborhood that I played with that Santa Clause really didn’t exist – that they were being told a lie.
Irate parents besieged my poor mother with phone calls about how in the world could her son do such a thing to their children. He’s ruining everything. One kid couldn’t sleep.
My mother had no idea at the time that I was actually preparing for the ministry . . . telling people the truth; which just might ruin their sleep.
So . . . just how have people responded to this bus campaign?
The British Humanist Association had hoped to raise 5-10,000 pounds ($10-$15,000) to cover the expenses of the campaign.
But people have been so enthusiastic however, that they have already received more than 150,000 pounds – around $200,000 dollars to create more advertisements. People have actually rented these busses carrying the ads and taken them on tour beyond the city of London.
They’re actually excited over their collective courage to come out and effectively say, “God is no more real than Santa Clause.”
Which is what Richard Dawkins actually mean, tongue in cheek, of course – the reality of God’s existence is as likely as the reality of the existence of Santa Clause.
And the American Humanist Association has climbed on board the bus campaign too.
And they designed a slogan that subtly picks up on Dawkins comment about Father Christmas.
They started running bus advertisements in Washington D.D. last year, that read, “Why believe in a god (little g) . . . just be good for goodness’ sake.” / Excerpts taken from humanism.org.uk/bus-campaign, 2/20/2010
Which is a play off the Christmas song about Santa Clause; in other words, just be good whether or not you believe in some final accountability before God, Santa Clause or whomever.
Now, if you don’t quite pick up on their subtle message that Santa Clause and God belong in the same category of myth . . .
. . . the smaller ads inside the American busses have a picture of someone actually dressed up in a Santa Clause suit, clearly implying the underlying message that believing in Santa Clause is just as silly as believing in God.
Intelligent people don’t believe in Santa Clause and that means intelligent people don’t believe in God.
Only children believe in Santa Clause – unless they lived in my neighborhood – the implicit message is, only children believe in God. C’mon, it’s time to grow up . . . wise up!
To them the Apostle Paul would write under the inspiring direction of the Holy Spirit, “unbelievers are professing themselves to be wise but they are actually fools.” (Romans 1:22)
They are foolishly repressing the internally intuitive truths and externally visible evidences of God.
In that same interview with The British Humanist Association that sponsored the London bus campaign, they were asked, “Why does your slogan include the words, now stop worrying’?”
“There’s probably no God, now stop worrying . . .”
They answered, because Christians talk about an eternity of torment in a lake of fire and that’s pretty worrying . . . we wanted to send out a positive message.
In other words, we don’t want a message that will make us worry about God, we want a message that will make us happy without God.
They went on to say . . . we only have one life so we need to make the most out of it because death is the end of our personal existence. They also quoted Robert Ingersoll, the nineteenth century humanist who said, “The time to be happy is now.” / Ibid
These are not only deceptive lies – they are old lies. It’s a lie that began in the Garden of Eden where the first human beings were tempted by the serpent to effectively disassociate their future from any accountability to God. The serpent said, “Eve, if you eat this fruit, don’t worry, nothing bad will happen.” (paraphrased: Genesis 3:4).
In other words, stop worrying about the future and enjoy your life now.
The trouble is you can’t really enjoy this life until you’ve answered with certainty the question of an afterlife.
You really aren’t prepared to live, until you are prepared to die.
Why do you think all around the world, people are worshipping idols, planets and stars; burning roots, bathing in the Ganges, performing rituals, sacrificing animals and chanting to unseen spirits – why?
Because mankind knows there is something beyond this life and he’s intuitively trying to get ready for it.
Mankind senses the truth of God written on his heart that this brief life is not all there is.
And so the advertisements boldly say, “C’mon . . . stop worrying about that . . . don’t even think about it . . . there’s probably no God . . . so stop worrying . . . enjoy your life.”
Imagine if the Food and Drug Administration took that same approach . . . labels on food products read, “The level of insecticides and poisons in this package is probably safe . . . now stop worrying and enjoy what could be your last meal.”
Would you buy a television or computer or a car from a salesman who says to you, “Look, it will probably work . . . don’t worry . . . just sign here.”
Imagine the pilot coming over the loudspeaker, “As far as I know, during our flight, the engines will probably work . . . we probably have enough gasoline to make it – and I can probably land the plane when we get there.” How many of you would say, “That’s fine”?
Oh no . . . there are a thousand things in life where we would never be satisfied with “probably”.
Imagine the irony . . . we want certainty in life about computers working or food being clean or that airplanes can fly and the pilot knows how to land it safely; why would anyone settle for probabilities about life after death?
One reason: because then, according to the Revelation of Jesus Christ – delivered by the Apostle John . . . the accountability that mankind so fears and detests and denies will indeed take place.
You have your Bibles turned to where we left off in our last study at Revelation chapter 20 and the last paragraph.
We first noted this unforgettable setting – reading at verse 11, 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.
The prophetic aorist ephugen (efugen) predicts the departure of the old creation – the word pictures a sudden and violent termination of the physical universe. / Robert. L. Thomas, Romans: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 1995), p. 429
This lets us know that the Great white throne judgment of the unbelievers from all of human history takes place between the close of the Millennial Kingdom and the creation of a new heaven and new earth.
So you have then this terrifying event that seals the doom of the unredeemed taking place in a courtroom suspended in limitless space.
If there was any doubt of accountability before God, the Bible is now vindicated in its repeated warning; David wrote centuries ago that, “God has established His throne for judgment, and He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment of the peoples with equity.” (Psalm 9:7-8).
Paul warned the citizens of Athens that God had appointed a day in which He will judge the world (Acts 17:31)
Nearly 50 times throughout Revelation, there is the mention of the throne of God in all its majesty and splendor and terrifying glory. It is the seat of God’s sovereign rule. / John MacArthur, Revelation: Volume 2 (Moody Press, 2000), p. 247
And now the moment has arrived.
“There probably is no God” will haunt many who denied His existence.
“Go ahead and enjoy your life” has been the slogan for not just atheists, but billions the world over who have lived their lives according to their own dictates and determinations.
This great white throne will be the final vindication of the character of God before the unredeemed that God always keeps His word and His word is always right . . . and just . . . and true.
This is the unforgettable setting.
The population of the unredeemed has heard the unavoidable summons and their bodies have resurrected from where they had crumbled into dust.
Their bodies are now immortalized and fitted for eternal punishment in this resurrection unto death; verses 5 and 6 of this same chapter inform us that there will be a literal physical resurrection of the unredeemed dead following the Millennial Kingdom.
Now, as we studied in our last session, not one unbeliever can escape this summons. No one will be able to pull the dirt up over their heads and hope they can avoid the judgment.
Just as the believers are physically raised and reunited with their souls which have been with Christ immediately after death (2 Corinthians 5:8) – so also the bodies of unbelievers will be physically raised and reunited with their souls which have been incarcerated in Hades following their deaths (Luke 16).
It won’t make any difference if their bodies and souls have been separated by death for 1 day or 5,000 years.
And no matter where they died or how wide spread the remains of their bodies, their souls in Hades will be reunited with their resurrected bodies.
The ancients of John’s day believed that if someone died at sea – or had their ashes tossed into the waves of the ocean, that even the gods would never be able to put them back together for an afterlife.
That’s one of the reasons the Egyptians mastered mummifying their leaders – keeping the body together as much as they could so that nothing would be disturbed in the afterlife.
According to John’s Revelation, the God of Creation is no Egyptian or Babylonian or Indian or American God. He will be able to summon their ashes from the four points of the compass and recreate their bodies – only this time, their bodies will be capable of lasting an eternity of torment as God summons their souls from Hades and their bodies from the earth so that their reunited being – just as they were in life – can stand before the throne of God.
This is the unforgettable setting; the unavoidable summons and now, I want you to notice:
An Undeniable Standard
Notice verse 12 again, “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.”
The word translated “books” is biblia (biblia) from which we get our transliterated word, Bible. It simply means scrolls, or books - plural.
We’re not told how many there were that God opened, or what exactly these books are.
But the first observation I want to make is this; not only is man accountable to God, God has been keeping track. To the horrifying discovery of mankind, an omniscient, omnipresent God has kept a record of everything.
And lest someone could think that this is some mass judgment and God doesn’t really focus on any one person as verse 12 could suggest, the language of verse 13 clarifies individual judgment.
Notice there in verse 13, 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 according to his deeds.
Hekastos (ekastoV) is translated every one; you could actually translate it even more woodenly – each one – each individual person is judged by God. / Thomas, p. 433
This is the epitome of individual accountability before God.
This verse isn’t alone in teaching singular judgment. Jesus Christ delivered this chilling prophecy in Matthew 16:27 – The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father . . . and will repay every man according to his deeds.
Paul wrote in Romans 2:6 that God will render to each person according to his deeds.
Here is the moment when it will occur.
No longer bound by the normal structures of time and space, God will individually confront every unbeliever with irrefutable evidence that calls for a guilty verdict and an everlasting sentence.
And the books were opened . . . is that terrifying moment mankind has intuitively dreaded, denounced, denied or at least downplayed.
Now John introduces us to only one of the titles of these books – the one scroll he calls, the Book of Life.
That is the book that includes only the names of the redeemed. It is the register of the citizens of heaven. It is the passport from this country to the King’s country.
Outside this paragraph however, there are at least 5 books mentioned in the Bible that could very well be introduced as evidence by the Great Judge as he calls each individual member of lost humanity to step up to His bench.
You say, how much time would it take for God to judge every member of lost humanity? I don’t know – but I do know it won’t matter how much time it takes.
Time will be uniquely different as this courtroom is suspended in limitless space – without earth beneath or heaven above – no sight of planets or constellations or galaxies.
Just all the unredeemed standing before the Redeemer they did not want – while we, as we’ve already learned, are seated around his throne with the myriad of angels.
And the books were opened. What exactly are these books?
- The Bible refers to a written record of God’s law upon the heart of man – their consciences bearing witness to the testimony to this book of the law (Romans 2:15).
One of the books could be nothing more than The Book of God’s Law – and God will open it to reveal that each person standing before Him is in violation of His perfect standard – each person is a sinner with a record of offenses that add guilt upon guilt.
- Furthermore, there is the promise of Jesus Christ to repay every person according to what they have done.
One of these books could be A Book of Actions.
God will bring every act into judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
Perhaps their immortal bodies and minds will be capable of remembering and rehearsing every detail of every act that God pulls from the Book of Actions, identified as evidence against them.
But someone might say, “I did a lot of good things!” Why aren’t they balancing the scales of justice?
My friend, because God knows the heart, He knows that motive behind the good things that were done.
He will pull the mask off motives at this judgment day and reveal to them that the good things they did were internally motivated to make them feel good about themselves.
They wouldn’t admit it, or stop long enough to critically, consciously challenge themselves; but God will. When they helped the poor, they enjoyed most the fact that they felt better about themselves. When they went to church or gave money to a good cause, it was inwardly motivated to make look better to others, or to feel more confident about themselves.
Being a good neighbor or a good sport looked on the outside as something good, but God who knows the secrets of their hearts knew that they did those things, internally motivated by a desire to sound good and seems good – if not superior to other people.
God will pull back the curtain of their hidden motive and reveal that unbelievers did the good they did, to:
- Feel good
- Look good
- Seem good
- And sound good
Like the Pharisees who prayed long prayers, fasted and gave their tithes – Jesus Christ said, “You are whitewashed tombstones” . . . that is, you look good and clean, but you’re covering over a grave of corruption and sin.
- Third, there is A Book of Words
In Matthew 12:37, Jesus said, “For by your words you will be condemned.”
Christ also warned the unbelievers in that same chapter, “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” (Matthew 12:36)
This judgment is so precise, so exacting that every word uttered in violation to the holy standard of God will be brought out as evidence.
- Not only are actions and words weighed against the law of God, there is another book – The Book of Secrets
In Romans 2:16, we’re told that God will judge every man’s secrets.
Psalm 44:21 reinforces the truth as David writes, “Would not God find this out? For He knows the secrets of the heart.”
Do you know what this means? It means that these things – these actions – these sins – had remained a secret. They were undiscovered until this day . . / Sam Gordon, Worthy is the Lamb: A Walk Through Revelation (Ambassador, 2000), p. 417
Until now, they had never been found out.
I got away with it!
No . . . you can be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23).
So, why then isn’t the believer here at this judgment – he’s certainly sinned too! He is not here because his sins – his actions and his words and his secrets – have been forgiven. There is no record of the believer’s sins. No tapes, files, books or DVD’s.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud and your sins like a heavy mist . . . for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)
I, even I, am the One who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake and I will not remember your sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
Peter preached in Acts 3, Repent and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away (Acts 3:19).
I am writing to you . . . because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. (I John 2:12)
How could that be . . . how could God take away my guilt of sin and my record of iniquity?
He was pierced through for our transgressions – that’s how, Isaiah writes – He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed; all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him. (Isaiah 53:5-6)
Listen, the believer will not be judged for his words or his actions or his secrets or any of his sins because there is no record of them anymore.
The record has been wiped clean . . . anybody out there?
Your deeds have been deleted . . . your iniquities have been erased.
Isaiah rejoiced when he recorded, It is You [O Lord] who has kept my soul from the pit of destruction; For You have cast all my sins behind Your back (Isaiah 38:17).
These here who will be condemned are condemned by the record of their sins . . . the evidence against them is just and true. They are receiving a fair trial . . . and all the evidence against them could have been eliminated with one shout of Christ – It Is Finished.
They refused to settle out of court.
They are standing here because they refused the gospel.
You say, wait a second . . . more than half the world doesn’t even have a Bible. They’ve never heard the name of Jesus.
How could God send them to Hell when they’ve never heard the gospel?
Ladies and Gentlemen God will not condemn them to Hell because they refused to believe in Jesus Christ – you’ll notice in this paragraph that they are held accountable to their own works and words and secrets and sins.
There’s no mention of some time in their lives when they heard about Christ and said, “I don’t want Him to be my Savior.”
Do you realize that most of the world has never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?
They are not judged here by the light they never heard or saw. They will be judged according to the light they did have and rejected.
The Gospel of Conscience
According to Romans chapter 2, everyone may not have the gospel of Christ, but they have the gospel of conscience.
Paul wrote in Romans chapter 2 and verse 15 that every man has the law of God written on their heart – their conscience bearing witness.
In other words, the unbeliever – no matter where he lived or how much he knew about the Bible – had an ongoing with his conscience – that inner voice that told them the things they were doing were sinful.
God will reveal on this judgment day that the condemned refused to listen to their conscience.
They came up with their own standard that salved their conscience – that settled it down – that silenced it.
Mankind created his own standards and felt good about them. I must be okay!
This was perfectly illustrated in the case of an armed robber named Dennis Lee Curtis who was arrested in 1992 in Rapid City, South Dakota. In his wallet was found a sheet of paper on which was written his code of conduct;
- I will not kill anyone unless I have to;
- I will take cash and food stamps – no checks;
- I will rob only at night;
- I will not wear a mask;
- If I get chased in a vehicle, I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line;
- I will rob only seven months out of the year;
- I will enjoy robbing from the rich to give to the poor.
He had a sense of morality – he knew certain things were out of bounds. But his sense of morality was flawed. When he stood before the court, he was not judged by the standards he had set for himself, but by the higher law of the state. / Craig Brian Larson, Choice Contemporary Stores and Illustrations, (Baker, 1998), p. 181
For those who stand before this Judge – they will not be judged by their own personal code of morality, they will be judged against the standard of God’s holiness.
The Gospel of Creation
God will also reveal on this day that the condemned refused to listen to gospel of creation.
David wrote in Psalm 19:1-3, The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.
I love this paraphrase of these verses from The Message, God's glory is on tour in the skies, God[’s crafts] on exhibit across
the horizon. Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening. Their words aren't heard, their voices aren't recorded, but their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.
These unredeemed may not have believed the gospel of Christ, but they wouldn’t believe the gospel of conscience or they wouldn’t believe the gospel of creation.
Let me add, that a person cannot be born again unless he has accepted the gospel of Christ. However, since most of humanity never has, the unbeliever will be judged and found guilty because they refused to believe the gospel they did hear and see – the gospel of conscience and the gospel of creation.
Paul wrote in Romans chapter one, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20-21)
By the way, the reason creationism is so vehemently denied is because creation requires a Creator and a Creator demands accountability.
Charles Darwin, raised in the church, pursued something other than Christianity and its accompanying creationism simply because of this accountability before God and the doctrine of Hell.
In his autobiography, he wrote, “I can hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if [it is] the plan language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe will be everlastingly punished – and that would include my father and my brother and almost all of my friends.” / David A. DeWitt, History of Life, Fourth Edition (Creation Curriculum, 2008), p. 40
Darwin’s inward motive was fueled by a desire to come up with an answer to origins apart from a Creator God, because Darwin was honest enough with the record of scripture to know that if it was true about the existence of God, the Bible would also be telling the truth about a place called Hell. And for Darwin, that was completely unacceptable.
You say, like I did until recently, “I didn’t know that.”
Listen this courtroom will explode open the secrets and the motives of hearts and minds and everything will be revealed for what it truly was and no one will have any excuse.
By the way, just because someone believes in a Creator and listens to the conscience speak of sin, doesn’t automatically allow a person into heaven.
Our major world religions that do believe in a Creator and in the concept of sin and conscience – major world religions like Islam and Judaism and even the minor cults of Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses – these are all the very same religions that borrow from the Bible, yet they deny the unique deity of Jesus Christ as God incarnate.
In other words, while they believe in the gospel of conscience and the gospel of creation, they deny the gospel of Jesus Christ. And their denial of the gospel of Christ will be revealed in the books of their actions, secrets, deeds and words.
So, here’s the picture: every person standing before God at this Great White Throne will be condemned by their failure to meet God’s standard in their own actions, words, secrets.
And every one of them will be shown to have rejected whatever gospel they had – the gospel of conscience; the gospel of creation; the gospel of Christ.
- There is a fifth possible book that could be opened here; simply, this Book – the Bible.
God may very well pull texts from His inspired, eternal, inerrant word and apply it to the condemned who stand before Him.
You need to know that this courtroom is not to determine whether or not a person is going to be sent to Hell, they are here because they are already going there. This judgment isn’t weighing their good deeds and their bad deeds to see if they had enough good deeds to go to heaven.
No, they are being judged by their deeds so that their degrees of their punishment will be determined and proven and sentenced.
We’ll study that further next time.
I happen to take our trash to the neighborhood recycling and garbage collection station located between my home and the church – if you go down Penny and around to Yates Mill Pond.
There at the dump are several huge green containers delivered by trucks and they open these metal gates and we throw our trash down into these massive containers openings.
Taking my trash here saves me about 25 bucks a month. But the truth is it’s fun.
All I have to do is open our kitchen door that leads into the garage and with one swift throw I can toss that bag of trash squarely in the back of my pick-up truck. I’ve gotten good at it . . . I don’t mind telling you . . . it’s one of the few sports I have time to play.
I go by the dump once or twice a week. Over time, I’ve gotten to know some of the men who work there by name. One of them is a believer and my minute or two there always includes some words of encouragement between us. What a sweet saint of God.
The dump is an interesting place – frequented by some rather rugged looking people and a lot of construction workers who come to unload their trash.
This past week I happened to pull up next to a construction crew and when I got out of my truck they were about to leave and one of the guys was saying to the other men, “Well, you know, our bodies are just gonna be eaten by worms and that’s it . . . that’s the end.”
I could tell I had arrived at the tail end of a theological discussion. And I was disappointed I missed it.
So I tried to extend it by quickly saying to these guys, “Whaddya mean by that?” One guy looked at me and said, “When we die our bodies, like that trash in there, gets eaten by worms and that’s it.”
I said, “No, that is not the end.”
He said, “It isn’t?” The rest of the crew stopped to listen; the workers stopped to listen . . . birds stopped in midair to listen.
These guys were bigger than me and for some reason I had just decided to tell all of them about Hell. If they had thrown me in, I would have never been found.
It was actually a great opportunity and they listened to everything I said – which lasted no more than a minute as the crew chief got into the driver’s seat and revved it up.
My final comment was directed to the one construction crew member who seemed the most interested. I said, “Read Revelation chapter 20.” And he repeated it back to me as he got into the pick up; I heard him say, “Okay – Revelation chapter 20; I’ll do it.”
And they were gone. I have already prayed that I will see that guy in heaven one day. Revelation chapter 20 is enough to save.
What about you? I have prayed for you too . . . everyone listening to my voice – I have prayed that this study would be enough.
Listen, I don’t know what your record of sin is, and I don’t need to know . . . but what I do know is that you can’t go back and start over - nobody can go back.
But you can make Jesus Christ your living Lord and Messiah and, today, you can start over.
In fact, it’s better than that. You can’t go back and start a new beginning, but you can come to the cross of Jesus Christ and make a new ending.
You can’t have a new beginning . . . but you can have a new ending.
Your beginning cannot be changed – no matter what you do.
But your ending can be changed – from an ending without ending in Hell, to an ending without ending in Heaven!