In Rev 20:11-15, John describes the judgment of all the unbelievers of all time. It is a terrifying scene. John says that heaven and earth “fled away.” Whatever that means, it is clear that this judgment will be something never seen before. It concludes with every unbeliever—every person who does not have eternal life by faith in Christ—being cast into the lake of fire.
Occasionally, I am asked if believers will observe this judgment. People point out that John does not mention whether we will be there or not. Some even tell me they do not want to be a witness to such things. All of us will know people who are judged at that time. We will have relatives and former friends who stand before the Lord on that day. We cannot comprehend what it will be like to see somebody we loved on Earth being cast into an eternal hell.
I suppose some would conclude, therefore, that believers will not be present at the Great White Throne. What would be the purpose? Why would God cause us to experience such anguish? It seems to me, however, that this is an “ostrich with its head in the sand” approach. As believers, we will already know that the unbelievers we knew in this life are not in the kingdom with us. Would we be able to deny the reality of that fact simply because we didn’t see the judgment? Would we be able to find comfort in such denial?
That doesn’t make sense to me. During the revelation given by Christ, John saw this judgment. Why would we be any different? Why would we not see the actual event take place?
Part of the answer to this issue lies in the fact that we will be in glorified bodies on that day. We cannot understand now what our thought processes will be like then. We know that we will have the mind of Christ, and He will be the Judge on that day. It is inconceivable that we will be offended or disagree with what He does and says. We know, even if we cannot understand it now, that this judgment will be righteous.
Recently, I was in a Bible study where this came up. One of the folks made a comment that I think is very helpful. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, when believers are judged by the Lord to determine our eternal rewards, we will all see the Lord’s wisdom and righteousness as He gives out the rewards for the works believers have done. I think we can all comprehend that it will be a learning experience. We may wonder now what our rewards might be, and what the Lord will say about various aspects of our lives and the lives of others, but at Christ’s Judgment Seat, truth will be brought to light. He will be rightly glorified on that day.
Won’t the same thing be true at the Great White Throne? We are often asked about people in other countries who have not had the same abundance of opportunities that we have had to hear the message of grace. Do they deserve to be cast into the lake of fire? Certainly, we will see how the grace of God reached out to the whole world. We will have seen, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, how untold millions received eternal life by faith in Christ alone. At the Great White Throne, we will also understand how many suppressed the truth the Lord gave them. We will see how they hardened themselves to the light of His revelation, which was given in various ways. We will see, once again, that God is righteous when He judges the world (Rom 3:4-6).
The kingdom of God will be an eternal kingdom. It will be one in which we will continue to learn more and more about our Savior. That learning will never cease. None of us knows, at this present time, what it will be like to be in His presence, eternally set free from the power of sin and death, and how we will react to the things we observe. I am sure we will be witnesses at the Great White Throne. Right now, the thought of being at such a sober judgment–from which even heaven and earth flee–is unsettling. I have a lot of questions. But I know that on that day He will teach us more about Himself.