What Happens at the Great White Throne Judgment?

The Great White Throne Judgment is the final judgment of those not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life. This heavenly record, also referred to as the Book of Life, includes the names of everyone who has received eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. 

What Does This Mean?

Daniel 12:2 says, “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” (emphasis added)

John 5:28-29 says, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”  

Each of us will be resurrected one day after we die. Some of us will be resurrected to eternal life, and others will be resurrected to eternal destruction. At this time, God will judge us from one of two books: the Lamb’s Book of Life or the “book of works.”

Two books being opened with fire coming out and fire below the books in an apocalyptic setting.

  • The Lamb’s Book of Life – As mentioned, the Lamb’s Book of Life contains the names of those who have put their faith in Jesus. In other words, it’s heaven’s registry. The righteous blood of Jesus (the Lamb) has covered them and given them eternal life. The works they did in life to build His Kingdom are judged, refined, and purified at the Bema Seat, or Judgment Seat of Christ. This is where they will receive a reward for the pure motives of the heart—how they used their spiritual gifts and lived for Jesus.   


  • The “book of works” – This book records every sinful deed of anyone who has died without Christ. In other words, this book lists everyone not included in the Lamb’s Book of Life, the names of those who oppose God and will suffer eternal death. The Bible clearly says they will be judged according to our works (Psalm 28:4). It also says those who oppose Him will be cast into the lake of fire and endure torment forever, and “…they have no rest day or night” (see Revelation 14:9-11). This judgment and sentence is what happens at the Great White Throne Judgment.

Bible Verses About the Great White Throne Judgment

Revelation 20:11-15 says… 

  • “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (emphasis added)

In this scene, the Apostle John records a vision. He sees those who have died in their sin—both “small” and “great”—resurrected from the dead and standing before Jesus, sitting on the Great White Throne Judgment. Both presidents and peasants will stand before God. Our earthly position has nothing to do with our eternal destination. 

How do we know Jesus is sitting on the Great White Throne?

In John 5:26-27, Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment.”

Let this be a sobering thought for all of us. Everyone is equal before Jesus. All will stand before Him—the rich and powerful and the small and insignificant.

Jesus died to save us from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death (Romans 6:23). However, if we reject Him as Savior, He will be our Judge. Rejecting His grace today results in receiving His judgment at the Great White Throne Judgment. 

Daniel spoke of this same scene in Daniel 7:9-10…

  • “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. (emphasis added)

The Great White Throne vs. the Bema Seat

  • The Great White Throne

The Great White Throne speaks of the final judgment of humanity. It is Jesus’ public recognition of decisions already made. It is where Satan, his fallen angels, and unbelievers are judged. It is the last judgment before all who oppose God are cast into the lake of fire. 

  • The Bema Seat

The Bema Seat of Christ, also known as the Judgment Seat of Christ, is where Jesus rewards Believers based on what they did to build His Kingdom. Paul used the word bema in his writing to give Believers hope for the “crowns of glory that will not fade away” when Christ comes for His bride (1 Peter 5:4). Believers are in a spiritual war or contest and will receive imperishable rewards. The Judgment Seat of Christ is not related to the problem of sin but to the bestowal of the right rewards.

An hourglass on top of a Bible lying on a table, indicating time is running out.

Those Judged and Sent to the Lake of Fire

So then, if the Great White Throne Judgment is about God’s righteous judgment being demonstrated, where do those listed in the “book of works” go? 

If their name is not written in the Book of Life, they will spend forever in the lake of fire. 

  1. The lake of fire is literal and eternal. 

It will last forever. Revelation 14:11 says, “The smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night.” 

  • The lake of fire is eternally dying but forever existing. 

Revelation 20:14 says, “This is the second death.” Mark 9:43-44 says, “…into the fire that shall never be quenched—where ‘their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’”

  • The lake of fire is eternally dying in fire and flames. 

Revelation 20:15 says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” 

Those in the Lamb’s Book of Life 

God didn’t save you just to save you. He saved you so that you might lead others to Him. Find one person to speak truth and life into today. Be filled with the light of Jesus. 

Daniel 12:3 says, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” 

The wise will shine for Jesus and share Him with others to turn them from their sin so they, too, will find redemption.

Bible Facts About the Great White Throne Judgment to Know

  • The Great White Throne Judgment accomplishes God’s plan. It reminds us that God is just and knows the motives of our hearts (Proverbs 21:2-3). 
  • Believers will have a role in this final judgment at the Great White Throne. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-3, Paul corrects the Corinthians’ thoughts about settling disputes in secular courts and reminds them that they must remember they will be judging the world with Jesus one day. 
  • The Great White Throne Judgment follows the millennial reign when there was peace and plenty. Satan will be released and deceive many. Then, those who didn’t trust in Christ will stand before God. Satan, his fallen angels, and unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire, experiencing the “second death” (see Revelation 20).   
  • After the Great White Throne Judgment, eternity begins! Revelation 21 describes all things made new. A new heaven and earth are created. A New Jerusalem comes down from heaven prepared as a bride. And God wipes away every tear—no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain. 

Now What?

The Great White Throne Judgment and second death may be difficult to reconcile with a merciful and loving God. However, God is purely holy and just. And because of these attributes, He cannot turn a blind eye to sin. Too often, we want a literal heaven and a figurative hell. But the Bible doesn’t give us this option.

God didn’t give us His Word to hide the truth but to reveal it. Remember, Jesus talked four times more about hell than heaven. He wants us—you—to be fully aware of the joy of receiving Him and the consequences of rejecting Him. 

And this is the truth many in our culture need to hear today. Let us, as the Body of Christ, be moved by this truth to share the saving love of Jesus before it is too late.  

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