The White Throne Judgment

“I wish that it wasn’t called “The White Throne Judgement” the way it describes it. The way it’s been described.
“We each stand before God. Who weighs every thing we have done in life. And determines our reward.
“It sounds terrifying. To be before everyone. And have them see my life. To be on display.
“And the word judgement just seems so ominous.
“It makes me scared. Like nothing. No matter how hard I try here on earth. There will be nothing besides disappointment”.

The above is a quotation from a very worried Christian lady, writing it as a post in a Facebook group I am in. And this present piece is intended to encourage any who find themselves in a similar place with regards to worry about any future judgment[1].

There is a concept in some Christian circles called the ‘Great White Throne’ Judgment. It’s based on the passage in Revelation 20:11ff which says,

“Then I saw a large white throne and the one who was seated on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Then books were opened, and another book was opened—the book of life. So the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to their deeds”.

And it goes on to say that anyone whose name was not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life, etc. etc. will be thrown into the ‘lake of fire’. Or something.

To give just one illustration of how many unfounded doctrines are based on this section of Scripture, let’s just consider this one point: that there are some who say that this judgment is only for unbelievers. Well, in its defence, the passage does not say this at all, nor do the following verses; quite the opposite in fact, if you study them correctly. So straight away we can see that the passage, and its modern interpretation, is not only very dangerous in terms of emotional health, but it also has the potential for massive misinterpretation by believers of all flavours. And I won’t even give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are ‘well-meaning’ believers, either, because usually their objective is to instill fear in their readers/listeners. Which, when we are dealing with a God of Love (1Jn4:8b), in Whom there is no darkness (1Jn1:5), and Whose perfect Love drives out fear, (1Jn4:18) has to be a non-starter.

So.

Let’s just say that I noticed the cry of distress in my sister’s Facebook posting and, amongst other gentle-hearted believers, I too tried to add my version of comfort to the help she was being given.

Here was my first response:

“I make light of the White Throne Judgment for two reasons:

1) It is an exaggeration made up by vicious people who want Christians to live in fear, extrapolated from a single, obscure verse (Rev 20:11ff) in the most obscure book of the Bible*, and

2) A great white throne is actually a toilet[2], so I really can’t take it seriously like, ever.

*Regarding Revelation, I was made aware of this caveat by a friend on FB (whom I am still badgering for the original reference):

‘[The early church fathers, when considering whether to include the book of Revelation into the canon], decided NOT TO DO IT without the following strict conditions: 1) It was not to be used for any major doctrine or in any liturgy of the church; 2) It did not have the canonical authority of the other New Testament writings; and 3) It was never to be taken literally in any way, but only metaphorically, as an encouragement for Christians about to undergo major persecution and bloodshed’.[3]

“Whether or not this information is apocryphal, I do think it is a reasonable way of interpreting any passage in Revelation, especially since it is obviously written in an Apocalyptic style which means it is essentially a cryptic message written for those who were originally to receive it. And they would have understood the cryptic meaning. For us, nearly 2,000 years later, any exegesis of the book must at least take that factor into account and, bringing us back to that original quote, our application of the book must be done with that in mind. Note that I am not suggesting, even for a microsecond, that Revelation should not be in the canon; far from it. But, to me, those three principles, supposedly given by the early Church Fathers, should be borne in mind. Especially since this is the only book in the canon where we find almost blasphemous caricatures of Jesus, and his purported horrific end-time activities, that do not fit even slightly with the rest of the New Testament’s accounts of Him”.


I also wrote this in a separate comment, after further pondering:

“There is no Scripture that says that your entire life will be played back in IMAX quality for everyone to see. Fearmongering preachers have tried to twist Jesus’s words about ‘nothing shall remain hidden’ in order to scare people into thinking this…could I suggest that ‘by their fruits you shall know them’? If those thoughts are causing you worry and sadness and fear, then those thoughts are not from God? Therefore, the people who put them there were not speaking words from God.

As a believing Christian for whom Jesus died and dealt with your ‘sin’, could it be that those sins have been removed forever, as far as the east is from the west, and that God shall ‘remember your sins no more’?

Yes! That’s all true! Why should you live in fear, which perfect love casts out? Why let the curse laid on you all those years ago, by those fear-selling preachers, why let it dominate your life now? Walk free of it, sister. The part in Hebrews 12:1, where it refers to the ‘sin that so easily entangles’, well I believe that this passage is referring to the entanglement caused by the constant fretting and worrying about ‘sin’; ‘Did I do something wrong today?’ and so on[4]. You are allowed, nay, you are required to throw off that worrying about ‘sin’.

Let not the sin-police take away your peace. Don’t listen to the accuser, who also wants to steal, kill and destroy: Steal your peace, kill your joy, and destroy your freedom. Don’t listen to him”.


And I think there is a lot more to be said, too, but I didn’t say it. Instead, let me finish by quoting another dear sister on that thread who was equally encouraging, but from a different angle:



“I am curious, what are you basing the idea that everyone would see all that [having the life on display].

I have pondered that moment a lot. But never put that angle on it. I tend to think we cannot fully project what that will be. I usually project it as me before God, & it’s my mind/soul that is enlightened, & sees myself fully as God always has. A major paradigm shift that is not possible here in this life.
 
If I do ponder other souls present in heaven I recall that they will also have been changed by seeing themselves & by extension others as God sees them. None of us will have our limited prejudices we do now. I think humility would be the overriding attitude of all in the Kingdom of Heaven. Pride, & our limited knowledge really does prejudice & limit everyone’s thinking & perspectives here. That won’t be an issue there. Whatever people do see & know would be tempered by seeing themselves & their own life in God’s view.
I my life experience the more clearly I see myself in truth that helps me be more empathetic with others shortcomings.
 
But again I have my doubts others would be so privy to our own judgment before God. I would rather not know all that about everyone. I just have a hard time believing that shame or guilt lasts long in the presence of God. It would be quickly consumed leaving redemption & love in its place. I do want to build up unconditional love, goodness, all the fruit of the Spirit in myself because I think that is what survives before the all consuming presence of God. I pretty much know I will not perfect that in this life.
 
So many people for centuries have tried to control others by using guilt & shame to attempt to control behavior. I see that as a failing in the Church. It is a failing that many of the best theologians have discussed throughout time. Some Prophets & Rabbis even before Christ had a glimpse of this truth.
 
I believe there has been this “Continuing Grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” in play since he was physically here. There is always this controlling element out there pushing to bring condemnation back onto us. Then there is another element that pushes us to grow past that attitude & live with God in full control in our hearts. That pushes for more freedom of the believer. It goes back & forth, but for instance look at how much & how incredibly brutal the Ancient World was in the use of capital punishment. Not just death but torturous death on the idea of setting fear of punishment onto people.
 
Statistically today we have hard data that corporal punishment is not an effective deterrent. Reform, treatment for mental & behavioral health & retraining has a stronger effect, but there is no perfect system certainly not yet.
 
I think shame & laying guilt into others is highly ineffective as it never deals with the cause. But we are surrounded by control freaks who believe heavily in it. True guilt when we have it, tends to motivate us to change. We might struggle with that in the process. Shame always gets in the way of real growth & repentance. God is more interested in true guilt. Evil wants us mired in shame & feeling incapable of change. This is not direct onto the specific topic of our judgement. But this issue of shame versus true clear guilt plays into how we tend to see that Judgement.
 
People put shame onto us for being different, for things they perceive as flaws, but every flaw has a flip side that is a strength to it that needs redirected. Often people shame us for things that are not a flaw at all. It’s just something they are ignorant about as a rule.
 
My goal for 3 decades now has been to throw off shame & false guilt laid on me by other people. I have found many aspects of myself that either need treatment or support, but with treatment & support have strength that has always been there. But for a good portion of my life I felt shame about my strengths because they were different than the expected norms. That is not my fault. That is societies ignorance in play. If people persist in ignorance once something like the autism spectrum is concerned they are in the wrong.
 
I am still intimidated at the idea of standing before an all-knowing God. But my confidence in how he loves me, made me with strengths & even delights in me at times has been mostly growing deeper & stronger.
 
I do go through tough times that really test that a lot. But often come out understanding God’s perspective better & his perspective is just a relief once I grasp it than what I projected it to be. I think wherever I am at the moment in that process the judgement will be more of a stripping away of things that have weighed me down, & a healing. More like a diagnosis & treatment for my soul.”
 

Wow. Well, that’s a lot to think about and take on board, so I’ll leave it there. But I sincerely hope that this piece has encouraged you, especially if you were in any way in fear of judgment. There is no room for fear in the Gospel; none at all. Walk free of it!

Grace and Peace to you

Footnotes

Footnotes
1 I believe that the ‘Judgement of God’ that the Bible speaks of is actually a Heavenly judgement of restoration and relationship, not one of wrath and punishment.
2 Hence, my use of a toilet for the header image for this post. Well, I think it’s funny, at least 😉
3 I have quoted this before, in my article ‘Apocalypse
4 I once preached a sermon on this very topic; the reference is here

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