And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…
I. WHEN ONCE THE GREAT WHITE THRONE IS ERECTED, ALL DISTINCTIONS OF THIS LIFE WILL HAVE BEEN FOR EVER ABOLISHED. We often marvel at the contrast exhibited in the present life, between the circumstances or conditions in which mankind are placed. From the extreme of affluence to the extreme of destitution there are endless varieties of condition, yet, in certain respects, all are equal; the noble and the mean; the richest and the poorest. Surely it ought to make the wealthy set loose to their riches, and the poor think lightly of their poverty, when it is remembered how soon the small and the great will stand alike before God, to be judged according, not to their respective conditions on earth, but each according to his works.
II. The next feature which calls for notice is THE OPENING OF THE BOOKS. The idea is that of a faithful register to be brought forward hereafter, to decide the everlasting portion. Thus, when we hear of the books to be opened at the judgment, and of men being judged out of those things which are written in the books, we are, in effect, reminded that the actions which we day by day commit, the very words we speak and the thoughts we indulge, contribute the materials for a final reckoning, upon the issue of which will be suspended eternal joy or eternal shame. This regard to the inevitable connection between conduct in this life and our portion in eternity, would serve alike to restrain from iniquity and impel to obedience.
III. It must not be overlooked, however, that while mention is made of books — of several volumes of account — out of which the dead will be judged, ALLUSION IS MADE TO BUT ONE BOOK OF LIFE, containing the names of those who would be saved. Possibly an intimation is hereby conveyed as to the comparative fewness of the saved. Yet another interpretation of the difference is, that, whereas there are many different methods by which men may go to perdition, there is but one way of life. It is not alone the heathen, who never heard of a Redeemer; nor the infidel, who professed to disbelieve the existence of God or a revelation; nor the heretic, who corrupted the truth and turned the grace of God into lasciviousness; not alone the scoffer, the profligate, the profane, who will be excluded from heaven; but the impenitent, the unbelieving, the unconverted, the ungodly — all who have refused to lay hold of the salvation which is offered in the gospel.
III. THE DEAD, UNIVERSALLY, ARE SAID TO BE JUDGED ACCORDING TO THEIR WORKS. This accords with the representation given in other parts of the Bible. The reward is of grace; the judgment is according to things done in the body.
IV. THE ISSUE OF THE JUDGMENT, AS DESCRIBED IN THE CLOSING VERSE OF THE CHAPTER. No sooner has the evangelist spoken of the judgment itself, than he tells us of the extinction, thenceforward, of death and of hell. There will be no more slumber in the grave. Up to this period the wicked will nat have entered upon the full consummation of misery. The soul is not the man. The soul, in union with the body, constitutes the nature, which Christ redeemed, and which must, hereafter, partake of punishment or reward. Hence the complete wretchedness will not overtake the wicked till the final abolition of death and the grave. "Whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire." This will be the consummation of the ruin of the ungodly. From this doom there will be no appeal; from this sentence no reprieve. We can be earnest for time; who, comparatively, is earnest for eternity? The book is still open. Christ is willing to write your name there.
(Bp. R. Bickersteth.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.