Today we have come here to celebrate the commandment given by God to assemble together on the twenty-second day of the seventh Hebrew month for a commanded assembly. We learned last night why we call this day the Eighth Day rather than the Last Great Day, as some call it. But what does it mean? What happens on this day in the Bible? What does the eighth day symbolize? Both this morning and this afternoon I would like to answer that question, but it is a very large question. The short answer is that the eighth day is about judgment and restoration. First, this morning, I would like to talk about judgment. Then, this afternoon, I would like to talk about restoration. I want you to remember, though, that today symbolizes both of these themes, depending on where you stand with regards to God.
The Great White Throne Judgment
Where do we get the idea of the Great White Throne Judgment in the first place? As we should get all of our religious ideas, we get it from the Bible itself. In Revelation 20:11-15 we read about the Great White Throne Judgment. Revelation 20:11-15 reads as follows: “Then I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades [the grave] delivered up the dead who were in the them. And they were judged, each one according to His works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”
Here we see a little bit about the Great White Throne Judgment, enough to recognize its seriousness. Here all the dead who in their lives did not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and obey His commandments and receive the gift of eternal life are brought face to face with their Creator in judgment. All of the dead, small or great, whether they died on land or in the sea, will be resurrected to meet their Maker. And they will be all judged by what is written in books—either the books of the deeds of their lives, or the books of scripture by which their lives are judged, or both. Those who repent and accept the terms of surrender to their rightful sovereign will be given eternal life. Those who remain defiant will be burned up and destroyed forever, and like Satan will be ashes underneath the feet of the righteous and resurrected saints. After this there will be no more death forever. This is the picture that Revelation 20 gives us of the Great White Throne Judgment, and it is a fearsome picture.
Who Will Be Judged?
Who will be judged in the Great White Throne Judgment? The short answer is “everyone who is not called and chosen during their physical lives.” The longer answer will take a little longer, so let us look at what the Bible says about those who will be judged in the Great White Throne Judgment. The results are somewhat surprising, so we will do what we can to make the answers as clear as possible from scripture.
The first and most obvious group of people who will be in the Great White Throne Judgment are those Israelites who did not die in a covenant relationship with their Creator God. We read of them in Ezekiel 37:1-14, a passage that also tells us what sort of existence those who live in the Great White Throne Judgment have, a physical existence. Ezekiel 37:1-14 reads as follows: “The hand of the Lord came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley, and indeed they were very dry. And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” So I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” Again He said to me, “Prophecy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the world of the Lord!’ Thus says the Lord God to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.” ” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.’ ” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. Then He said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it,” says the Lord.’ ”
The people of Israel throughout history, the vast majority of whom never accepted the call of God to salvation, think that they are lost. It may have been their belief, as is the false belief of many churches, that if one does not believe and is saved during one’s physical life that one is doomed to an eternity of suffering in hellfire. Or, if they were good Israelites and not heretics, they believed that because they were not resurrected to life that they would sleep forever in the grave and never awaken. Neither of these beliefs is true, for God revealed to Ezekiel that the unsaved dead would be resurrected again to physical life, with physical bodies and physical breath in physical locations so that they could see and believe their Creator and Lord God, and enter into eternal life through their repentance and their growing in godly character.
We might think that the Israelites and the Jews of Jesus’ time, having known so much about God, would be in a good position in the Judgment, even if they were not chosen themselves. This thought would be incorrect, though. Let us turn to Luke 11:29-32 to read a few other people who will rise in this resurrection and how it will be like. Luke 11:29-32 reads: “And while crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.”
This passage tells us that people from different periods in history will rise together, both Israelites and Gentiles, and that thery will be able to comment on the others there. Those who repented and listened to the prophets will judge those who rejected Jesus, the very Son of God Himself. How will it feel like for those who thought themselves righteous to be condemned by Gentiles and heathen? That is not the only shock that is to come in the judgment, though. Let us look at Matthew 10:14-15. This passage lets us know the severity of rejecting the witness of the Bible for people since the first coming of Jesus Christ. Matthew 10:14-15 reads as follows: “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or that city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!”
Those who reject the word of God and the messengers whom God has sent to preach the truth are in a very dangerous position. There appears to be an element of comparable judgment here. We look at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed by fire for their homosexuality and for their social injustice, and we think of them as unspeakably wicked cities, but if we reject the message of God that tells us also to repent of our sins and to obey God’s laws and commandments, then the people of Sodom and Gomorrah will receive an easier judgment than we ourselves. Do we want to be in that place? I do not, and I hope you do not either. For we have the Word of God and the instruction of God in a way that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did not. The people of Jesus’ generation had God in the flesh living with them, and most of them rejected Him. Their judgment will be far harsher than those who never heard of God at all, but lived their lives without any knowledge of the truth. All will be judged, but the standard of judgment is harsher for those who know more and from whom God expects more.
So far we have been talking about people, but there is one other group of beings that will also be judged in the Great White Throne Judgment other than human beings that is also worthwhile to discuss. We will also be judging the rebellious angels of Satan. We find out this truth in 1 Corinthians 6:1-5. This passage, in discussing the problem of brethren suing other brethren in courts before unbelievers, mentions that we will be judging rebellious angels. 1 Corinthians 6:1-5 reads as follows: “Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?”
Is that so among us also? In our day and age we see brethren bringing each other up before the courts, because there seem to be no trustworthy people to mediate between parties in conflict, and because many people lack faith and trust in God to resolve problems through ordinary, but wise, members, or even ministers. This is to our shame as well as to the Corinthians. For those of us who are found worthy to enter the resurrection of the just will not only be judging as kings and priests, as we discussed earlier this Feast, but we will be judging the eternal destiny of both men and rebellious angels, alongside Jesus Christ. This is a momentous responsibility, and we cannot escape learning how to develop our capacities to rightly judge and discern matters, apportion blame and responsibility fairly and justly, in this life so that we will be prepared to wrestle with that responsibility when we are dealing with the stakes of eternal life or destruction. We must learn to judge, and judge well, if we wish to be citizens of the Kingdom of God. For mankind and demons will be judged, by us, if we are in the Family of God resurrected into eternal life.
By What Standard?
By what standard will we judge the great mass of humanity as well as the rebellious demons? The passages we have already read have given us some indications, so let us examine what we already know about this from what we have already read this morning. Revelation 20:11-15 tells us that the people who rise up to be judged in the Great White Throne Judgment will be judged from books. These books are either the records of their deeds or the laws and commandments of the Bible, or both. Either way, this passage tells us that we will judge according to law and evidence. We will not judge by suspicion, or by our subjective feelings, but rather by a firm and just and consistent standard. Matthew 10:14-15 and Luke 11:29-32 reveal to us that there will be some comparative element to the judgment, where some people (and not the people we necessarily think) will be judged harsher than others.
Let us expand upon this thought, which is an implication from scripture, and make it plain. Let us turn to Luke 12:47-48 to see what Jesus Christ says about the standard of judgment that will be meted out to those who are evil. Luke 12:47-48 reads: “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”
This passage gives us a sobering reminder that there are two different just standards of judgment. First, there is a judgment according to the fair and righteous standard of God’s law as to what actions are worthy of stripes. Either this means committing sins or missing the mark in one’s life, or in sins of omission in not doing what God has commanded and not preparing for the return of Jesus Christ by developing our relationships and our personal spiritual talents. So first, we have the element of a fair and just standard of God’s law and instruction determining whether someone is to be punished or not. Then we have a second element, how much the servant (ourselves) knew about their master’s will. Those who know a lot, to whom much wisdom has been given, have a far higher standard to meet than those who have been given little (like someone in the jungle who has never heard of God or Jesus Christ or the Bible). If we are among those to whom God has given much, we have a very high standard to live up to. It is a burden I deal with myself, reflecting often on whether I am behving in a godly fashion in my own behavior and relationships with others, not always satisfied that I am. Nonetheless, I accept a higher standard of judgment knowing that God has given me much understanding and wisdom about His ways, with the knowledge that this means God requires more of me than He does of others. The same may also be true for you. If so, be prepared.
So, let us conclude by reviewing what we have talked about so far. The Great White Throne Judgment is the time mentioned in Revelation 20 when all humanity will be judged. The Bible also reveals to us that different people will be judged not only on their obedience or disobedience to God, according to the standard of God’s law, but will also be judged more harshly for having been more aware of God’s will and more resistant to it, and less harshly for being less aware of God’s will. And not only humans will be judged, but also demons. And since we will be judging, if we are blessed to enter that kingdom, let us prepare ourselves now by learning God’s word so that we are able to judge according to the standard of scripture. I hope we all are blessed to be judges on that day, and are not among those who will be judged.