Raised To Stand Before God (Revelation 20:11-15)
Not too many days ago. I was in a Bible study with a gentlemen who was having a little bit of a frustrating time trying to determine truth. And his frustration was really not coming from the Bible so much as it was coming from the various authors and writers and commentators that he was reading. He was reading from various different works and different people were concluding different things.
And he was trying to figure out what to believe. And I said, how about you just do away with all that? And let’s just open up the Bible and see what God has to say. Interestingly enough, by the end of the Bible study, he had formed in his own mind, a conclusion as to what was truth. That was not a reflection of some commentary,
but was more a reflection of the word of God. When we start talking about the book of revelation, that’s where I am. You just had the resident guru on the book of revelation, our local teacher in the school of preaching, presenting a lesson that’s way over my head. I’ve got a couple of ladies here who are sisters that rode with me this morning.
They know more about the book of revelation than I probably ever will. But recently I had the opportunity to teach the book of revelation in Sebring. And we took about a chapter every week on Wednesday night and every single week, almost without fail. I reminded them that this is revelation 1 0 1. This is not an advanced course. This is not some kind of advanced theory on this.
We were not going to get real deep into the book of revelation. We were simply going to look at it, read it as it is and see if we can understand what it teaches. When we think about the book of Hebrews, we think about the book of faith. When we think about the book of revelation, the word that comes to mind is victory.
Because ultimately we realize that this is a book that’s not designed so much to scare, but to encourage those who are faithful in Christ Jesus. And so without wanting to repeat a lot of what has no doubt been said this week, I want to take you on a very simple cursory introduction to the book of revelation. And what I want us to do is I want you to take a look at five things to remember about the book of revelation.
The first thing to remember comes from revelation chapter one in verse one, right off the bat, we understand that the revelation was singular. So if you’ve ever heard someone talk about the book of revelations with an S on it that’s incorrect, there was just one revelation and it was singular. The revelation was divine, meaning that it came from God. Now,
once again, if you look at chapter one in verse one, you’re going to see more than what sometimes is taught. In other words, we see the role of the father and the son in this revelation. And in addition, we have an angel delivering that to John as chapter one in verse one reads the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his bond servants,
the things which must soon take place. And he sent and communicated it by his angel to his bond servant John. So you have four entities present in the receipt of this revelation, but ultimately it comes from God. So thirdly, taking a little bit out of not only verse one, but also verse three, we read that the revelation was a things which must soon take place.
You read that in verse one in verse three, John records bless it as he who reads and, and those who hear the words of the prophecy and heed the things which are written in it for the time is near. So we recognize that there were many things in the book of revelation that have perhaps been misunderstood and miscommunicated thinking that they are very far off in the very far off future.
When in fact so much of what the book of revelation was talking about and dealing with was for those first century Christians, it of course applies to us, but these were Christians who were under a great deal of stress as the oppression of persecution was upon them. And so, as a result, this was something that was going to give them hope, give them something to look forward to to understand that victory was theirs in Christ Jesus.
Number four, the revelation was witnessed by John and written to the seven churches that are in Asia. This of course has revealed to us in verse four of chapter one. These of course were congregations of that time. They are addressed in the early chapters of the book of revelation, each having its own flavor to be addressed some faithful, some not faithful,
some somewhere in between some had lost their first love and needed to repent and return to their devotion to Jesus. But the fifth point that I want to make, just as point of introduction, just so we can set the stage is that the revelation was understood. Jesus, the father, the spirit, God is not the father of it is not the author of confusion.
He is not the one who gives us information that we cannot and will not ever understand. And I think that’s how some people view the book of revelation. I’m not saying it’s an easy book. In fact, it’s one of the more difficult books of the Bible, but understand this first century, Christians understood the language that was being used, the symbolism,
the figurative, they understood that kind of language. Otherwise they could not have that hope and understood the victory that was theirs in Christ. Our challenge today is to look at the revelation at the book of revelation, through the eyes of first century, Christians it’s to look at it as they would have looked at it, to see it as they would have seen it so that we can understand it.
Like they understood it. Remember that even Jesus, his disciples didn’t understand everything that he said all the time. Sometimes he would help them on the spot to understand a parable better. Sometimes they would understand it later when events occurred or their maturity increased, but it was understandable. And the book of revelation is understandable. It just may not be as easy to understand as other works as other writings of the Bible,
but it is something with great thought careful study and a proper understanding. It is something that we can take and apply it to our lives. As we strive to walk in newness of life this morning, what I want us to do is I want us to take a look at the lesson raised to stand before God’s throne and our key text, which we’re just about to read,
comes from revelation chapter 20, verses 11 through 15 revelation, chapter 20 verses 11 through 15. And if you have your Bible, I encourage you to turn there a read along with me. As we take a look at this particular lesson in this series of lectureship sermons, revelation chapter 20 beginning in verse 11, John writes, 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 this morning. What I want us to do is I want us to separate this passage of scripture into three major points,
three things that I believe we can glean and some lessons that we can very easily learn nearly 2000 years after it was written. And so this morning, the very first point that I want us to do is ask the question. What was revealed to John in revelation chapter 20 verses 11 through 15. The first thing is that John saw deity sitting on the throne.
John saw deity sitting on the throne. I want you to notice some of the wording that is in verse 11. John says I saw a great throne. So obviously this is something that is demonstrative of the greatness of God. He sees a white throne, which would be indicative of his purity, but then he sees him who sat on it. And whoever this him was,
we read from him, the presence of earth and heaven fled away and no place was found for them. In other words, there’s no place to hide from whoever it is. Who’s on this throne, everything in on the earth, everything in the sky, in the heaven above, it cannot escape. Whoever it is, who’s sitting on the throne. Now,
the reason I’m making a point about who the him is, as Brian said, I teach English grammar. So I always ask the students who is this pronoun? What’s the antecedent? Who are we referencing here? And once again, if you would go to commentaries, I betcha. You would probably find a whole lot of people in disagreement. We’re not going to pursue the disagreement as much as we’re going to pursue the conclusion.
That, which is very, very simple. If you take a look at some of the passages of scripture that I’m going to read and reference as we go along, but they’re up there. If you want to take notes and go back and study that in greater detail, if you take a look at who is sitting on the throne, somebody might say that that’s Jesus.
Somebody might say, that’s the father. I want you to consider what the book of revelation has already done in setting the precedent for answering this question and revelation chapter five, verses six through 13, there seems to be a distinction between persons in this heavenly vision we read. And I saw between the throne with the four living creatures and the elders, a lamb standing.
Now someone’s on the throne. Someone standing beside the throne in between the throne and these elders. And it reads that this was the lamb. Now we understand from songs that we sing from passages of scripture, who that probably is, but let’s see if we can determine for sure, as we read it reads that this lamb was standing as if slain having seven horns and seven eyes,
which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him who sat on the throne. When he had taken the book, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the lamb, each one, holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
Now listen to verse nine and they sang a new song saying worthy are you to take the book and to break it seals for you were slain and purchased for God with your blood men, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And that would not be a reference to God. The father that would not be a reference to God. The spirit that would most certainly be a reference to God.
The son, he was the one who was slain. He was the one who shed his blood on the cross. He was the one who purchased the pardon for all men, verse 10, you have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign upon the earth. Then I looked and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders.
And the number of them were myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might, and honor, and glory and blessing, and every created thing, which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things in them. I heard saying to him who sits on the throne and to the lamb,
be blessing and honor, and glory and dominion forever and ever. We seem to have a distinction between God, the father, who is sitting on the throne and God, the son who is standing at his side, but continue on with me for just a moment. We see this same similar distinction in revelation, chapter six, verses 15, 16, and 17 and verse 16 reads.
And they said to the mountains and to the rocks fall on us and hide us from the presence of him who sits on the throne. And from the wrath of the lamb for the great day of their wrath has come notice. The plurality that’s mentioned here that same distinction continues in revelation seven verses nine and 10. John writes after these things, I looked and behold a great multitude,
which no one could count from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues standing before the throne. And before the lamb clothed in white robes and Palm branches were in their hands and they cry out with a loud voice saying salvation to our God who sits on the throne and to the lamb. Now, as you continue in that same chapter, you start to see just a little bit less of a distinction and more of a blending,
perhaps of what we would refer to as the Godhead in revelation seven verses 13 through 17, we read then one of the elders answered saying to me, these who are clothed in the white robes, who are they? And where have they come from? I said to him, my Lord, you know, and he said to me, these are the ones who come out of the great tribulation and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the lamb.
For this reason they are before the throne of God. And they serve him day and night in his temple. And he who sits on the throne will spread his tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer nor thirst anymore, nor will the sun beat down on them nor any heat in there. Remember that distinction we’ve talked about and here we see God sitting on the throne,
but look at verse 17 for the lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd and we’ll guide them to the Springs of the water of life. And God will wipe every tear from their eyes. This can, this less of a distinction continues also in revelation 22 verses one through three. When we read in that very last chapter of the Bible,
then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal coming from the throne of God and of the lamb in the middle of its street on either side of the river was the tree of life. Bearing 12 kinds of fruit yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse.
And the throne of God and of the lamb will be in it. And his bond servants will serve him. You might understand perhaps why I have said John saw deity. Some people will say, God, John saw the father. Some people will say John saw the son, but what we see is the oneness of the Godhead in the book of revelation,
we see that God is in charge. God has already won everything. It’s just a matter of time until the righteous and the unrighteous take their eternal places. And so he has brought victory to our doorstep. So if we’re taking a look at revelation 1 0 1, we’re going to recognize that the father, the son and the spirit of course are one. If we take a look at some other passages that are less apocalyptic,
other passages that are less disk or less figurative, we go back to acts chapter 17 and verse 30, where Paul is teaching. And he says, therefore, having overlooked the time of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent because he has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness. Now notice what’s happening here,
God, and this particular God is a reference to the father or the fullness of deity. God overlooked the times of ignorance, but now declares everyone to repent. And in verse 31, it says that he will judge the world in righteousness through a man. And we know that man to be Jesus whom he has appointed having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead.
So we see the collective co-operative effort of the Godhead in this scene, Matthew chapter 19 and verse 28. We see Jesus actually sitting on the throne and in John and Matthew 28, Jesus said to them, truly, I say to you that you who have followed me in the regeneration when the son of man will sit on his glorious throne, you also shall sit upon 12 Thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.
If the father is sitting on the throne in one passage of scripture, and Jesus says, he’ll be sitting on a throne and another passage of scripture, are there two different Thrones? Are there two different gods? Or is this the beautiful blending and unity of the one God of the universe? I want you to remember what Jesus would say in John 5 22 for not even the father judges,
anyone, but he has given all judgment to the son. Well, is there any judgment that Jesus would ever make that would be inconsistent with scripture that the holy spirit inspired men to write? Would there be any judgment that Jesus would ever declare that was inconsistent with the teachings of his father? Absolutely not. What we see here is John saw deity sitting on the throne.
Let’s move to the second point. We take a look at this second point in revelation, chapter 20, verses 11 through 15, what was revealed to John. John saw the dead being judged before the throne. John saw the dead judged before the throne. We find this in revelation, chapter 20 verses 12 and 13. We don’t see the consequences of this judgment yet,
but we do see the judgment taking place. Now in verse 12, when John says, I saw the dead, we have a little caveat there, both great and small. This could be defined in a number of ways, but perhaps we’re talking about the people who are very powerful versus the people who are not so powerful. Maybe we’re talking about the rich,
as opposed to the poor. Maybe those who are esteemed very highly and those who are steamed, not at all, maybe we’re talking about in this passage of scripture, those who are members, some of whom, at least were members of the body of Christ who were respected. And well-known people like Peter and Paul and Barnabas, but maybe there are others who are lesser known as we have in our fellowship today.
Those who do wonderful works, but who often garner no attention for doing them? They simply do it to please their God. We see the dead standing before the throne. And there is a book that’s mentioned in particular, the book of life. We have the first reference to that back in revelation, chapter three in verse five. And we often refer to it in our teaching and our preaching is the Lamb’s book of life.
But it’s in this passage of scripture in verse 12, that we see additional books that are opened. And if you consider from the context of what’s going on, if you consider that the dead were judged from the things which were written in these books, according to the deed, verse 13, the dead that the gave up, the dead that death and Hades gave up,
they were all judged according to their deeds. If we understand this, then the book of life represents that book of righteousness. That book of what God has determined is right in his sight. And some of the other books would obviously refer to those who are judged according to their deeds, unrighteous, deeds, those things, which are in conflict with the teachings of God.
We would see such a thing in John chapter 12 and verse 48, where the righteous are right by obeying Jesus, John 12 and verse 48 reads. He who rejects me. And of course, Jesus is the one who is doing the talking here. He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has one who judges him. The word I spoke is what will judge him at that last day.
So what is in the Lamb’s book of life, the list of the righteous, but how did they get in that book? Well, because they heated the words of Jesus. They respected and honored his teachings. They put their faith into practice and followed by their obedience, their submission to his will. And of course, this is very important because the Bible teaches that unless we submit to his will,
eternity is going to be a very bad place because every single one of us is going to die. Unless Christ comes first, Hebrews chapter nine verses 27, 28, and specifically verse 27 in as much as it is appointed for men to die once. And after this comes the judgment, unless Christ comes again, we are all going to die. What happens next?
Well, everyone is going to be held accountable. Even the wise king Solomon concluded this. And as I was having a discussion with somebody the other day, I want to reiterate to you my definition of king Solomon it’s in one of two ways, he was either the wisest dumb guy ever known, or the dumbest wise guy ever known. Why? Because he made a good decision and God rewarded him with the wonderful,
amazing blessing of wisdom. And he took that wisdom and he executed wise decisions and he became wealthy beyond anyone’s dreams. The queen of Sheba comes to visit him. She thought she understand how great his wealth was. She said the half has not yet been told that’s extraordinary. I can’t comprehend that kind of thing. And yet his heart was constantly turned away from God,
why women? And we’re not blaming the women. We’re blaming Solomon. Solomon was told don’t don’t turn to these foreign women. They’ll turn your heart away from me, but what happened? Well, he 700 wives and his one little girl in kindergarten said he had 300 porcupines to go along with it. Well, I don’t know about the porcupines, but they were certainly concubines.
But even at the very end of, of everything at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, he’s when he’s finally seems to figure it out. When he finally figures out that everything in this world and everything that this world has to offer is vanity. And so the pursuit of it is vanity. He finally concludes this when all has been heard, fear God and keep his commandments because this applies to every person.
Now notice the verse. We sometimes don’t read along with it, but we’ve, we’re familiar with it for God will bring every act to judgment everything, which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. And so the bottom line is the reason we fear God. And the reason we keep his commandments, the reason we strive for righteousness in our lives is because we’re going to be held accountable.
Paul would say this in the new Testament in second Corinthians five and verse 10 for, we must all appear before the judgment seat. Notice this of Christ is Christ deity. Absolutely. So is he the one who can judge and will judge us justly? Absolutely. So that each one may be recompensed for the deeds in the body, according to what he has done,
whether good or bad, every single person, the righteous and the unrighteous, those who are alive in Christ, those who are dead to Christ because of sin, unforgiven uncleansed sin. Those are going to be the people who are going to stand before this judgment seat and give an account. Romans chapter four, verses 10 through 12, gives us the same thing.
As Paul is telling the church at Rome about their relationship. One with another, he concludes in verse 12 by saying so then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. That’s something we’ve got to remember. Well, that’s something that we’ve got to respect. That’s something that we need to appreciate. I don’t want to say that we need to fear it.
As long as our fear of God is properly placed, we should expect it even look forward to it. But if our respect for God is not properly placed. If we are living this lie for us, if we have the attitude eat, drink, and be Merry for tomorrow, we may all die. If we’re only living for ourselves. And today,
then this particular account, this particular encounter is going to be grave. Indeed, let’s take a look at the third point that we get from the last two verses of scripture, what was revealed to John in revelation chapter 20 verses 11 through 15, John saw death, the domain of the dead and the disobedient expelled from the throne. For those of you in my sermon preparation delivery class,
I had to work hard for an alliteration of all those DS, but I want you to think that’s exactly what we see in this lab. In these last two verses of scripture. Notice, first of all, what happens? Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire. And this of course is called the second death. And then if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life,
he was thrown into the lake of fire. And I want you to consider both are thrown away. And the first thing that I want us to make sure we understand is that John sees these three entities, death Hades, and those who have not obeyed the Lord, he has seen them expelled from the presence of God. If you take a look at second Thessalonians chapter one,
verses five through 10, we read in my mind, what is a classic new Testament definition of judgment, gone bad. We see the classic new Testament definition of what eternal punishment really is. So many times we turn to a lake that burns with fire and brimstone, because that is the language that is used by the text in order to convey that this is a terrible place.
But of course the question is always asked, will physical things be in a spiritual eternity, will physical fire be there, will it be kind of lack a lake where we understand what water is, but instead of water, it’s just fire. And you’re somehow in the fire and you’re burning and burning. And it’s hard for us to understand what spiritual punishment eternally is going to be like.
But I believe that Paul addresses this to the church at Thessalonica Thessalonica in a beautiful way, a fearful way, but a beautiful way. He defines punishment as separation from God. He defines punishment as no longer being to be in the glory of God. First, second, Thessalonians one verse five reads. This is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God for which indeed you’re suffering for after all.
It is only just for God to repay with affliction. Those who afflict you and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well. When the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who know, not God and to those who obey, not the gospel of our Lord. Jesus.
Now listen to verse nine. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, a way from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power. When he comes to be glorified in his saints on that day. I want you to think about this. If God is absolute goodness, if God is absolute greatness, if God is absolute beauty, if God is absolute amazement,
if he is awesome, as the Bible indicates that he is then understand, you will get to have no part of that in eternal punishment, you will be cast away from all of that. Goodness. So what’s left badness. You will be, you will be cast away from all of that beauty that he describes heaven to be. Where will you be in a place that’s very ugly instead of the awesomeness of God that you get to be in the presence of every single day and bask in his glory,
you’re going to bask in the horror of Gahanna. What most people simply call hell. You’re going to bask in its horror forever and ever. If you notice in the text that in addition to those who are disobedient, we see death and Hades. And of course, I think of first, first Corinthians chapter 15 and verse 26, where Paul says the last enemy that will be abolished will be death.
And of course he continues in that same chapter in verses 54 through 57, to tell the church at Corinth that there is hope that there is victory that sin, that kills sin, that causes death is not the end all be all. If you will faithfully follow Jesus in verse 54, he says, but when this perishable will have put on the imperishable and this mortal will have put on immortality,
then will come about the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory. I want you to notice death is cast out of the presence of God. Why? Because death is contrary to God. God is the one who is victorious. So in other words, death loses. He goes on to say in verse 55 oh death, where is your victory?
Oh, death. Where is your sting to those outside of Christ to those unfaithful in Christ. The sting is there, but to those who live their lives for Jesus, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who gives us. Let’s look at this word, the victory through our Lord,
Jesus Christ. Hades is thrown in there as well. If you take a look at Luke chapter 16, verses 19 through 31, you will read the story of the rich man and Lazarus. And you recall in that story, that two people die. One, we know all by name and one, we do not. The one we know of by name is Lazarus Lazarus.
When he dies, he’s carried away by the angels and he finds himself in the paradise of God, referred to in this particular passage, as Abraham’s bosom, it is there that he receives rest. It is there that he has to cease from all the struggles he had in life, where he didn’t have food. He’s eating crumbs off the rich man’s table.
He’s got sores all over. His body. Dogs are licking his sores. He had a miserable life, but now he has rest that. But the rich man suddenly finds himself in torment. A place that he says is so terrible that he asks Abraham to send Lazarus over, says, just bringing me a drop of water from a tongue, just, just to drop.
That’s all I need because he says, I am in agony in this fire. That again is a good description for us of the terrible nature of what it means to be cast out of the presence of God. But that’s the point after judgment? What happens next when we die or when Christ comes again, what’s going to happen next. And this is what our text is telling us.
There will be two groups. There will be two eternal destinations. You know, we asked this question and we make this point. At some point, we will all be raised to stand before the throne of God’s judgment. The question for each of us is this what happens next? And I think that that answer is given to us in a great passage of scripture from Matthew chapter 25,
verses 31 through 46. It is in this passage of scripture that Jesus would tell the following story. He would say, but when the son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him. And he will separate them from one another. As the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
and he will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right come. You who are blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.
I was a stranger and you invited me in naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. Then the righteous will answer him. Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed your thirsty and give you something to drink. And when did we see you a stranger and invite you in or naked and clothe you?
When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you? The king will answer and say to them, truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me. Then he will say to those on his left, depart from me,
a curse at ones into the eternal fire, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels for I was hungry. And you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger and you did not invite me in naked. And you did not close me sick and in prison. And you did not visit me.
Then they will say, then they themselves also will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you? You know, the question or the comment that’s always made at this point is I’m sure that if Jesus had shown up literally physically in their presence and they knew that it was him,
they would have probably been really nice. That’s kind of like a Sunday morning only Christian. We behave when we know when we’re supposed to behave, but he will answer them truly. I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of me, these, you did not do it to me. These will go away into eternal punishment,
but the righteous into eternal life, that’s the two options. That’s what we’re faced here. We can either be counted amongst the Lamb’s book of life, or we can be counted in those other books. We can be considered righteous in the eyes of God, through his grace and the forgiveness of sins through the shedding of his son’s blood, or we can be considered the unrighteous.
We can be those who will be welcomed into that eternal kingdom of heaven, or we will be those who are banished from the presence of God for all of eternity, but the choice is ours. And the choice is ours right now. This is the time when we can make decisions as to just exactly what we believe and how committed we’re going to be to that faith.
I want you to consider for just a moment. I want you to consider the question that is raised there. One second after death, where will you be? That will not be the time where you can make decisions. That will not be the time where you can repent. That will not be the time where you can change the time for that is now because when judgment comes,
it will be just, and when judgment comes, it will be forever.