THE GREAT WHITE THRONE
By D. M. PANTON, M. A.
The Great White Throne, the junction between the old worlds and the new, is revealed in a narrative which is the apex of sublimity in literature because it is the most awful revelation ever made. The Sitter on the Throne is not described: only by the effects do we learn the appalling majesty of the Godhead:- "from whose face the earth" - the earth feels the shock first, as nearest to the Throne, and starts the flight - "and the heavens fled away" (Rev. 20: 11). The Throne is thus left self-poised in space: behind it, annihilated worlds; before it, uncreated worlds: with nothing therefore between, all eyes perforce are held by the lonely, glittering Throne. It is a great, white Throne: great, because from it proceed all destinies, not for a day or an age but for ever, and because before it are arraigned all devils, all angels, all men; and white, because no bribery, no cruelty, no ignorance, no injustice are there - it is an unsoiled, untainted, unbiased, inexorable Throne.
vast assemblage is gathered before the Throne.
Three days are supreme in the history of the world:-
the day the world was made; the day the world was redeemed; and the only day
the world will be judged: but of these days, on one only - and that for the
first and last time - all men will be assembled in one spot. "I saw THE DEAD, both small and great, standing"
- therefore in resurrection - "before God."
What a vision! All graves will be empty at last. Out of the vaults
and the catacombs, out of the mummy-pits and the pyramids, in rolling clouds
they come up; yet each face sharply distinct, each character defined, each
memory crystal-clear, each forehead foredoomed. The unknown multitudes
that perished in the Flood; the countless hordes of Barbarians that swept
across Asia and buried the Romam Empire; the ten
millions - some of them faces we remember - from the War-trenches of
[* i.e., regenerate believers who were not ‘accounted worthy’ of 'the First Resurrection' or the 'better resurrection,' (Luke 20: 35; Rev. 20:6 cf. Heb. 11: 35b; Phil 3: 11; Rev. 3: 21 etc.)]
[** The mystery as to who are the dead that come out of the sea remains unsolved, and probably so until hereafter. Bodies are not in question, nor do bodies come up out of Death and Hades, which contain all the human dead. - (That is, all the disembodied souls of the dead; from the time of their death, until the time of their resurrection.)]
The processes of the Court unfold, and the real thrill of judgment comes, in the opening of the books. "And BOOKS," we read, "were opened." There are no witnesses - the Witness is on the Throne; a second witness is in every breast; a third witness is in every neighbour’s face: but there is ample and flawless evidence. After all phonographs and photographs are gone down with the vanished worlds, perfect records remain written by the finger of God. It is an extraordinary fact that Science has discovered that nothing is lost. It is said that remote stars are still receiving the light which shot up when Luther cast the Papal Bull into the flames; that Peter’s guilty firelight is finding its way into remoter worlds; that the dying cry of the forsaken Christ is being registered on the receiving tablets of space; that all prayers and all curses, all psalms and all oaths - "all that is filthy with all that is fair" - are woven into the texture of things. A bird alights, thousands of years ago, on soft clay, and the claw’s imprint hardens into the rock forever. But these records are still more serious: they are books, consciously and deliberately written; and never written on earth at all. They are God’s history of every man’s life, a journal of every man’s career: "and they were judged every man - every man, and appearing singly and alone, none escaping the final trial - "according to their works"; in a judgment, therefore exactly graded to transgression. The Books are opened:- to inspection, to cross-examination, to conscience, to memory.
The verdict follows, and the execution of the sentence. Two fundamental purposes are served by evidence:- namely, the guilt or innocence of the accused is established; and the strict impartiality (or the reverse) of the judge is proved, together with the righteousness of his sentence: so, therefore, "the dead were judged" - not out of the arbitrary decisions of the Judge, even though the Judge is God Himself, but - "out of the things which were written in the books, according to THEIR WORKS." Both the fundamental purposes of justice, calling for a public trial before the assembled worlds, are thus wholly satisfied in the last great assize. And a very startling fact comes out in the Court. Not a solitary soul of mankind, redeemed or unredeemed, can stand the judgment of the Books. We know this because another Book – ‘the Book of Life’ - delivers any soul at all. So the Gospel had always stated. "What things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and ALL THE WORLD BROUGHT IN GUILTY before God" (Rom. 3: 19). All are condemned by the plural Books, so far as the Books are concerned, their own actions deciding their destiny. And appalling beyond conception is the verdict: "he" - [See Greek text. Translated ‘whosoever’ in A.V. that is, all whose names were not found written in the ‘Book of Life’ (verse 15)] - "was cast" - for no power in the universe can resist the execution of the sentence: a fiery doom thrice repeated, that the awful words should sink into our souls forever. Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the heart of man, the things that God hath prepared for them that hate Him. It is not even possible to go back into Hades; for Death and Hades - two places, a double compartment [presently holding the souls of the] dead, the deep internals of the old earth -[See Matt. 12: 40]- are also cast into the Lake of Fire: it is a second death out of which there is no second resurrection: for the living, no more death; for the dead, no more life.*
[* "Their names do not appear on the records of pardon. The law
must therefore take its course. They are
cast into the lake of fire. This, being
the second death, is followed by no resurrection. Inasmuch as
death, in its first meaning and with its original power, is no more, there is
no way of relief after a death entirely different in its nature. The
sufferings of those who undergo the second death,
cannot be alleviated by expiring; for there is no expiring. Pardon, moreover, is now too late.
Besides, inasmuch as their names are not written in the Lamb’s
Book of Life, how shall they become the subjects of pardon? And what is
more than all, the great work of atonement and reconciliation is now at an end;
Christ gives up His mediatorial kingdom, having no
more official duties (if we may so speak) to perform; and how are
they to be ransomed without an acting Mediator?" - (Moses Stuart,
we see the sole body of the acquitted, and the sole ground of the
acquittal. The whole of evangelical theology stands extraordinarily
vindicated in the crucial document of the Judgment. "And another
book was opened, which is THE BOOK OF LIFE; and if any was not found"
- [inferring that there
will be at this time names of the resurrected found.] - "in the book of
life, he was cast into the lake of fire." These
contrasted documents sum up the whole Gospel of God. Books and works -
for vast be the library which is to record all human action; one book of life -
for it has nothing in it but names: books of works, bringing damnation; a book
of life, for [eternal]
life is a gift to the enrolled by
God; Books of works - for vast must be the library which is to
record all human action; one of life - for it has nothing in it
but the names: books of works, on matters of fact; a book of
names, a record of grace: the Books, the earned certificate for the Lake; the Book, the sole passport to the
City. The Book of Life is a register of the redeemed.
Twice in the Apocalypse (13: 8, 21: 27) it
is called the Lamb’s Book of Life. There is not a solitary act recorded in
the Book of Life: I am saved on the Book. It is most remarkable that the Book of Life is never said to admit to the
[* That after the Thousand Years souls stream up out of Hades (or Paradise) as well as out of Death (or Abaddon) puts it beyond doubt that all the saved do not share the Millennial Kingdom, but some reap corruption for sowing to the flesh; and so the Book of Life is brought in to reveal a destiny decided on Calvary and already proved by their presence in Paradise; and even the co-heirs with Christ in the Millennial Kingdom, when passing into the City, are franked in by the Book, not by their Millennial rank or glory. All thus enter Eternal Life on the ground of sovereign grace alone, having nothing in the Book but a name, put there in election’s dateless eternity. It is natural, however, to assume that Millennial rewards will abide, un-cancelled and un-lowered, into the Ages beyond.]
The day of grace is to prepare us for the day of judgment. Judgment is coming to the reckoning of doom. The thunder is solemn: but what is it to the crash of ten thousand thunders, waking the dead, and emptying the deepest abyss, to the roar of the disappearing worlds? The earthquake is solemn, when cities fall, the kingdoms totter, and islands disappear: but what is it to the convulsion which shall snap gravitation, disintegrate the universe, and drive a million worlds back into the nothingness out of which they came? O sinner, you may not fear that Face now: but when all the worlds recoil from before Him, when there are no mountains to hide, no rocks to fall, when every soul stands self-poised in air - when no object remains in all God’s universe save that one glittering white Throne, caught by every eye, with nothing between - you will fear Him then. For the prosecutor is God; the evidence, eliciting the facts, is God’s; the jury, deciding the issue, is God; the judge is God; and the executioner is God, "PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD" (Amos 4: 12).*
[* Amos 4: 12 is a popular text to direct at the unsaved, We often see it attached to trees by the roadside; but a glance at the context will show that this text is addressed to the redeemed people of God - apostate Israel: " ... yet you have not returned to me," R. V. (verse 6, 8, 9, 10, 11.) " ... Therefore, thus will I do unto thee," (verse 12). This text is therefore of great importance to regenerate believers today, since we also can apostatize from the living God.]
THE DOOR OF HOPE
(Hosea 2: 14, 15.)
The Apostles of Hope and of Love,
For the door has to them been wide open’d
Which was promised of old from above.
They had looked for some Garden of Eden,
And had pray’d for
Where the lilies would bloom without trouble,
And the flowers without sacrifice.
Where some pioneer faithful had labour’d,
Or the martyrs their blood had outpour’d,
They would gather a ‘mass movement’ harvest,
And would fight with a scabbarded sword.
But the Angel had led them far elsewhere.
While they follow’d God’s Pillar of Fire,
To the Wilderness He had allured them,
On the Achan of Ease and Self-pleasing,
On the traitorous Love of the World,
At the Word of the Lord by the Angel
A great shower of stones had been hurl’d.
There lay buried the garb Babylonish,
And the silver and bright wedge of gold;
And the Spirit of God had descended
Upon them from on high as of old.
With the bones of the lost: they were dry!
So the Spirit of God has commanded,
"Son of Man, to these bones prophesy!"
Then the breath of the Lord came upon them,
And they lived and they stood on their feet,
And behold, ‘an exceeding great army’
Round the Cross and the Saviour did meet:
From the Wilderness wastes of the city,
From the soil and the slush and the slum,
See the Sisters and Brothers of mercy
With their thousands of ransom’d souls come.
From the drink-seller’s death-dealing shambles,
from the pitiless regions of Sin,
Come the drunkards, the harlots, the wasters:
"BRING THEM IN," saith the Lord, "BRING THEM IN!"
And I saw in the
Hope had open’d Salvation’s ‘great door,’
And the Lord of the Harvest was standing
To receive one and all to Heav’n’s shore.
He was clothed in apparel of crimson,
And as King of Kings, Lord of Lords crown’d,
While the hosts of the souls He had ransom’d
In their myriads were gather’d around.
And the Powers of Darkness were scatter’d,
And the Devil who had led them was chain’d
While Jehovah, victorious and glorious,
As the Lord of the universe reign’d.
In the mountains His House was establish’d.
Where the nations had eagerly gather’d
From the East and the West, South and North:
They had beaten their swords into ploughshares,
And their spears into pruning-hooks turn’d,
Had disbanded for ever their legions,
Not a nation the art of war learn’d.
And a great Voice from Heaven resounded,
And re-echo’d again and again, -
And His dwelling shall be among men."
- F. DEL. BOOTH TUCKER.