And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away…
I. ITS PLACE IN CHRISTIAN BELIEF.
1. It is an essential part in the creed of a Christian.
2. Its importance may be gathered from its prominence in the Scriptures. It is foretold in the Old Testament — the Psalms, Isaiah, Daniel, Malachi, all reveal it. Our Lord, in His parables, especially in those called "eschatological," because of their reference to the "last things." The scene in Matthew 25. is in line with the text. The day of judgment is pointed to both in the Epistles and Apocalypse.
3. Yet belief in the general judgment is difficult. The mystery is so transcendental, so vast, so seemingly unlikely, that the inability of the imagination to bring home to itself this stupendous truth is apt to lead the understanding astray and to obscure the light of faith.
II. WHY THERE SHOULD BE A GENERAL JUDGMENT? The question was debated of old, why the particular judgment of the soul in the hour of death should not suffice. It was urged that the Lord judged the penitent thief and rewarded him with Paradise on the day of his death; Nahum 1:9 was quoted; and the fact that desert appertains only to the deeds of this life. Yet one verse demolished all this (John 12:48). The reasons for the general judgment may be found in this — that the issue of our actions do not stop with the actions themselves. Not only actions, but their far-reaching effects, will form the subject-matter of that tribunal. The complete being, body and soul, must also be arraigned before judgment is complete.
III. THE PROCEDURE.
1. The persons: "the dead," the living being numerically inconsiderable when compared with the generations of mankind who had departed.
2. "Small and great" stand before God — that is, all earthly distinctions no longer are of any account; as we should say, "all sorts and conditions of men." The only surviving difference is that of goodness or badness.
3. They stand before the throne. They are not merely spirits, but men and women in bodily form.
4. He who sits upon the throne is the Son of man.
5. "The books were opened," etc.; that is, the secrets of all hearts are made manifest (Psalm 1:3; 1 Corinthians 4:5). "Another book," etc., has been differently explained, as that which pours light upon what is written in "The books," declaring what is good and what is bad in reality; or again, it is taken to be the book of Divine predestination; or again, as by St. Anselm, as "the life of Jesus," which is to test the life of His followers, which, perhaps, is the best exposition, for the issues are decided by the lives of those judged — by their "works."
1. Test our belief in the Second Advent of Jesus Christ: is our faith in the mystery clear and vigorous, resting upon Divine revelation and the teaching of Christ's Church?
2. Has the mystery an effect upon our lives, knowing it is one in which we must take part? Does it impress upon us the seriousness of life, and how we shall have to answer for all our actions?
3. Are we becoming more familiar with that other "book," the life of Christ, as written in the Gospels and made manifest in the lives of His saints? and seeking to bring our lives into more accord with it?
4. Do I live as one who really believes in the day of judgment?
(Canon Hutchings, M. A.)
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.