WHEN is the judgment of the unbeliever? It is at the great white throne in the
interval between the resurrection and the second death (Rev.20:11-15). Simple as this
statement seems, and supported by the Scriptures as it is, no one accepts it as it stands.
The result is the amazing confusion among students of the Bible. Some insist that the
sinner suffers before the judgment session in the first death. Others postpone
the penalty to the second death.
It must be borne in mind that we are not considering partial or temporary judgments, such
as that of the nations at the beginning of the day of the Lord, but the personal
individual judgment of mankind. We are dealing with the great mass of mankind, not the
exceptional cases, as the Slanderer, the two wild beasts, and the worshipers of the wild
beast. These will come before us in dealing with "Eternal Torment."
There is no judgment in death. This may be established by a direct statement of
Scripture as well as by many unanswerable lines of reasoning based on the nature of
judgment and resurrection. Our first appeal will be to the plain assertion of the great
In the terse, pregnant language of the text we are told that "the dead were
judged" (Rev.20:12). All that this usually conveys to our minds is that they were
tried and sentenced. We leave the execution of the sentence for another occasion.
Here is where we go astray, for the usage of the word "judge" always includes
the execution as well as the passing of the sentence.
The indignation and fury, affliction and distress which is to come on every human soul
which is effecting evil (Rom.2-9) is visited on the unbeliever at the great white throne,
not before it or after it. We do not need to appeal to Greek lexicons to establish this
point. The constant usage of the word judgment in previous parts of the Unveiling is
sufficient to put it beyond question. The souls under the altar (6:10) were not praying
for the conviction of those who had shed their blood, but for the actual
execution of their just deserts. Hence they pray "Till when...art Thou not
judging..." No mere sentence will satisfy their cry for vengeance.
This is even more evident when the messenger of the waters, speaking of the inflictions
under the third bowl (Rev.16:4) when the rivers and springs became blood, says that
"Thou judgest..." The judgment consisted in giving them blood to drink because
they shed the blood of saints and prophets. What the souls under the altar requested is
Of Babylon we read "Strong is the Lord God Who is judging her" (Rev.18:8). This
judging consisted of paying as she pays, doubling her doubles, giving her torment and
mourning, and her calamities, the famine and the conflagration. It was the actual
infliction of God's sentence against her.
When the Rider on the White Horse treads the wine trough of the furious indignation of God
(Rev.19:15) He is said to be judging the nations. So, throughout this Unveiling,
the actual infliction of God's fury is intended by this term. Since this cannot be denied,
why should we give it a different force in its final occurrences? To all who are subject
to the word of God, this will be conclusive. The dead receive their due deserts at the
great white throne. They do not receive it before or after. This is the simple
solution of the many problems which have arisen to perplex and baffle the earnest student.
|The Unbeliever is Judged
at the Great White Throne
Besides this plain passage, which appeals to our faith, there are at least three major
lines of argument which confirm this truth. These are based on the time of the judgment,
its character, and the resurrection of the unjust. Briefly stated they are as follows: As
a sentence cannot be carried out until after it has been passed, the sinner cannot suffer
for his sins until he appears before the Judge. As his sentence is in accord with his acts
it cannot be fulfilled until its measure and manner have been determined. As the dead are
raised before the judgment, life is necessary for its execution. There is no judgment in
death. As the sinner is dead both before and after the great white throne, it is confined
to that era.
The "orthodox" position that the execution of the sentence of the sinner begins
at death and continues for at least a thousand years before he is brought before the Judge
is as unreasonable and unrighteous as it is unscriptural. No one with the slightest sense
of justice would commend such a course. Even human laws are so trained that those who have
not been pronounced guilty, or whose trial has not yet taken place, may suffer as little
as possible. Let us suppose that one of the fierce governments of earth should enact a law
that its judiciary shall have its sessions every fifty years, and that all suspects or
offenders shall be put to hard labor until the time of trial. That would be mild compared
with a millennium of anguish waiting to appear before the great Judge. No such law could
be passed, for the voice of mankind, notwithstanding its degradation and injustice and
ungodliness, would rise in protest.
It is useless to speak of God's righteous character and cling to such a travesty on
justice. Whatever may be the condition of the sinner previous to the judgment, it is not
the execution of his sentence. That can only occur after his case has been tried
and the degree of guilt determined and the just sentence pronounced.
It is of the essence of God's judgments that they accord with the acts which they are
intended to correct. Adam was doomed to toil and death because he had taken the word of
the serpent and must taste the fruit of his self chosen path, so that, through it, God
might effect a higher purpose than was possible without his sufferings. The scene in Eden
at the beginning of human history is a miniature of the judgment of mankind near its
close. Adam, during his life, learned the bitterness of disobedience and estrangement, and
this prepared him for reconciliation. So the sinner will face the Judge, and each will
receive a suitable sentence, adjusted to meet and mend the special sins and offenses of
which he is guilty.
Now it is manifest that such a special imposition is impossible before the trial and
sentence. If judgment is previous to trial, then all must be treated alike or without
discrimination. How such a course would affect the millions upon millions of human beings
involved is a staggering thought, but it is nothing compared to the effect it must have on
the estimate His creatures have of God. We appeal to all who are zealous for His great
name. There is no Scripture for judgment before trial. Why, then, blacken God's character
with a charge which is recognized by all as an act of gross injustice?
Why are the dead raised before the judgment? Why not judge them in the death state? Only
one answer is possible: There can be no judgment in death. The resurrection of
the unjust is no mere incident or accident. To raise a single man from the tomb involves
the mighty power of God. What will it mean to raise millions upon millions to stand before
Him in the judgment? If judgment could possibly proceed without resurrection the dead
would assuredly answer for their sins in the death state. The resurrection of the unjust
is proof positive that there can be no judgment before the sinner has been restored to
Why are they cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death? If resurrection was
necessary to judgment, a return into death is the end of judgment. Just as we have no
Scripture to show that judgment precedes resurrection, so we have none to show that it
follows the second death. The special cases of the Slanderer and the two wild beasts only
confirm this position, as we shall see when we take up the question of torment. As the
sinner, then, returns into death after the judgment, we need only inquire into the
function of the first death to understand the second. The first death was God's means of
detaining sinners until the judgment. It is an absolutely just and impartial method of
holding over the unjust until the time of trial. It is as though the prisoners were
arrested at night and slept until court was in session, then paid the penalty, and slept
once more until the day of their liberation.
from the Second Death
So with the second death. The unjust can have no part in the blessings of the eonian
times: That is reserved for the just, who have been saved through the faith of Christ.
What shall be done with them until the judgment? Death is the answer. During the
long millennial reign they wait in its confines for the judgment day. After judgment is
passed, and still another eon remains of the eonian times, in which only those who belong
to Christ by faith can have a part, what shall be done with them until the consummation?
Once more, death is the answer. Just as they were held for the judgment by the first
death, so now, they enter the second to wait until the abolition of death at the
consummation. It is the function of death to hold its victims until God's appointed time
to deal with them either in judgment or in grace. Even believers enter the confines of
death to await His coming.
One of the most flagrant and unwarranted additions to this scroll is the oft repeated
phrase saddled on the second death- -"from which there is no resurrection."
Thank God, the curses reserved for those who add to this scroll cannot operate in this day
of grace. Not only is it unscriptural, but it is unreasonable. If there was a resurrection
from the first death, the logical deduction is that resurrection is possible from the
second death. As this is only a repetition of the first (or it would not be called the second)
resurrection or its equivalent is possible from it also. As the Unveiling is concerned
with judgment, it is obvious that such a resurrection is outside its scope, both as to
subject and time. It deals with the divine judgments during the eons of the eons. The only
legitimate inference from its silence as to the fate of those who enter the second death
is that, during the eons of the eons, they suffer no further inflictions. To discover what
is their position after the eons of the eons, we must look elsewhere.
Often have we been asked, "Where is there a scripture to prove that there is a
resurrection from the second death?" Speaking accurately, there is none. But there is
vivification, which includes resurrection, and infinitely surpasses it. The
resurrection from the first death does not bring them into a state of deathlessness,
immortality. They die again. Not so with the vivification at the consummation. The God Who
raises the dead and vivifies them makes them alive beyond death's jurisdiction.
Indeed, the resurrection (if we choose to misname it so) at the consummation must be
a vivification, for it follows the abolition of the death state.
Paul, in the fifteenth of first Corinthians, carries us to the very verge of the last eon
brought before us in the scroll of the Unveiling, and tells us what occurs after
it has been fulfilled. John tells of the reign of Christ. Paul tells of His abdication.
John tells of the sway of the second death. Paul tells of its abolition.
It is not as at the beginning of the last eon, that there should be no more
death. For the whole of that eon death has had no more victims. It is now a
question of God's enemies. He has commissioned His Christ to rid the universe of all
enmity. This is accomplished gradually.
Death continues to the very consummation. It is the last enemy. The first death will have
long since passed by. Only the second death will remain. Its abolition marks the final
scene in the drama of the eons. The dead have been judged at the great white throne. The
eons awarded to the saints have passed by. Nothing remains for Christ to do to complete
the work of reconciling the universe but the vivification of all.
This done, the whole creation will witness that grand climax of His career, which can be
compared only with Calvary. There He went down to the deepest depths of infamy, to save
and reconcile a universe. Now He descends once more, His work accomplished, and not one is
lost for whom He died, but all are in harmonious accord with the heart of God.
We conclude, then, that judgment, God's strange work, is swift and salutary in its
execution. God is love. He is not justice, though love must be just. He lingers in
dispensing grace and in displaying glory. But He hastens in inflicting pain. For centuries
He has been giving out His grace. The era of His indignation will be brief. He sends His
storms, but they hurry by. He does not follow a brief life of sin by an eternity of woe,
but by a judgment swift and sharp and suited to His glorious purpose and their good. Such
a God we can love and reverence and worship. To Him be glory and wisdom and might for the
eons of the eons!