Before the Throne
11Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The description of this coming day captures the imagination like none other. Anyone who has ever read this passage has imagined this scene before the throne of God in their minds. The entire human race stands before a Holy God and gives an account of their life. There will only be two stories told: those who tried to earn an eternity in heaven by their good works, and those who claim nothing but the blood of Jesus on their lives.
“The last phrase of Revelation 20:12 implies that all “the dead,” both the wicked and God’s own saints, are judged on the basis of what is recorded in the “books,” for all stand before his judgment throne. But while the wicked are found guilty and sentenced because of their “works” recorded in the books (20:12–13), God’s own people are acquitted—declared innocent and righteous—not on the basis of their works, but on the basis of “another book,” because their names are recorded in the book of life (20:12, 15). While Christians also sin and thus could have had their sinful deeds recorded in the “books” of God’s judgment in 20:12, other passages suggest that God keeps a record only of their good works, the deeds done out of faith and by the love of Christ (see Matthew 25:34–40). So then John not only sees the books of judgment, but also “the book of life.” All whose names are written in “the book of life” are recorded in the heart of God as ones who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 3:5; 7:9–17). For this reason in the books of judgment only their good deeds are recorded and not their sins, for their sins and guilt have been blotted out of God’s mind and so will not be the object of his righteous anger and judgment. God lists the good deeds of his saints, and they will be recalled as visible demonstrations of their saving faith in his grace, wrought for them by Christ, the victorious Lamb (Matthew 5:16; 7:15–20).”
Brighton, L. A. ©1999. Revelation (p. 584). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Pub. House.
No matter how you frame it, all of the Scriptures support this picture of the end. You will either stand before God on your own or you will stand with Christ as your Savior. Standing on your own is going to end in disaster. Standing behind Christ will end in glory. I’m not sure how to state it any more clearly than that. God fulfills His very first Gospel promise made to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15) in the work of Jesus Christ and now we are allowed to stand before Him dressed in a white robe of righteousness. Our good works are the only ones that count and they only serve to bring glory to God. Woe to the one who tries to stand before our Holy God based on their own merit for nothing will be good enough. This will end in the lake of fire. This passage needs to burn within our hearts as we live to witness to the saving work of Jesus Christ, for we should wish this fate upon no one.
This will be an amazing day for those who believe. Frankly, I can barely imagine that many people standing before God. It feels like chaos in my puny human mind. But I am certain that chaos will not reign that day, but the might and majesty of God will overwhelm the crowd and we all shall bow and worship Him.