The Universal Judgment.
A. D. 95.
11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
The utter destruction of the devil’s kingdom very properly leads to an account of the day of judgment, which will determine every man’s everlasting state; and we may be assured there will be a judgment when we see the prince of this world is judged, John xvi. 11. This will be a great day, the great day, when all shall appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. The Lord help us firmly to believe this doctrine of the judgment to come. It is a doctrine that made Felix tremble. Here we have a description of it, where observe,
1. We behold the throne, and tribunal of judgment, great and white, very glorious and perfectly just and righteous. The throne of iniquity, that establishes wickedness by a law, has no fellowship with this righteous throne and tribunal.
2. The appearance of the Judge, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, who then puts on such majesty and terror that the earth and the heaven flee from his face, and there is no place found for them; there is a dissolution of the whole frame of nature, 2 Pet. iii. 10.
3. The persons to be judged (v. 12): The dead, small and great; that is, young and old, low and high, poor and rich. None are so mean but they have some talents to account for, and none so great as to avoid the jurisdiction of this court; not only those that are found alive at the coming of Christ, but all who have died before; the grave shall surrender the bodies of men, hell shall surrender the souls of the wicked, the sea shall surrender the many who seemed to have been lost in it.
4. The rule of judgment settled: The books were opened. What books? The books of God’s omniscience, who is greater than our consciences, and knows all things (there is a book of remembrance with him both for good and bad); and the book of the sinner’s conscience, which, though formerly secret, will now be opened. And another book shall be opened–the book of the scriptures, the statute-book of heaven, the rule of life. This book is opened as containing the law, the touchstone by which the hearts and lives of men are to be tried. This book determines matter of right; the other books give evidence of matters of fact. Some, by the other book, called the book of life, understand the book of God’s eternal counsels; but that does not seem to belong to the affair of judgment: in eternal election God does not act judicially, but with absolute sovereign freedom.
5. The cause to be tried; and that is, the works of men, what they have done and whether it be good or evil. By their works men shall be justified or condemned; for though God knows their state and their principles, and looks chiefly at these, yet, being to approve himself to angels and men as a righteous God, he will try their principles by their practices, and so will be justified when he speaks and clear when he judges.
6. The issue of the trial and judgment; and this will be according to the evidence of fact, and rule of judgment. All those who have made a covenant with death, and an agreement with hell, shall then be condemned with their infernal confederates, cast with them into the lake of fire, as not being entitled to eternal life, according to the rules of life laid down in the scripture; but those whose names are written in that book (that is, those that are justified and acquitted by the gospel) shall then be justified and acquitted by the Judge, and shall enter into eternal life, having nothing more to fear from death, or hell, or wicked men; for these are all destroyed together. Let it be our great concern to see on what terms we stand with our Bibles, whether they justify us or condemn us now; for the Judge of all will proceed by that rule. Christ shall judge the secrets of all men according to the gospel. Happy are those who have so ordered and stated their cause according to the gospel as to know beforehand that they shall be justified in the great day of the Lord!
– Matthew Henry Commentary