v.11-13 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 was 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.
The “great white throne” speaks of the judgment throne of Christ, for it is to Jesus whom God has granted the authority to execute judgment (John 5:27). All the condemned shall be resurrected from their graves in corrupt flesh and made to stand before Him for judgment (check—Dan.12:2; John 5:28).
“From whose face the earth and heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them.” Scripture says that from the face of Jesus Christ this present world and its atmosphere will pass away (Matt.24:35) in what Peter characterizes as a literal “meltdown” of all the elements of this earth and its atmosphere (2Pet.3:10).
Seemingly, the emphasis here is to show us what it will be like for the unbeliever that stands before the great white throne.
There is no rainbow above this throne to suggest grace in judgment, no sign of a Lamb on the throne suggesting that He was slain in substitution for sinful man, no human figure, and no incarnate Son of man; rather, just an awesome Presence that is all a matter of trial and judgment.
“And books were opened, and another book was opened, which was the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” These “books” represent the Divine record of the works of the unsaved by which God will justify the sentence of eternal punishment passed upon the wicked. The other book called the “Book of Life” is the roster of the names of the righteous who inherit eternal life (Phil.4:3; Rev.3:5; 13:18; 17:8; 21:27).
v.14-15 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.
The “second death” is the ultimate death. The very “death of deaths” in which one becomes eternally gone and eternally forgotten even by God Himself (check—Isa.65:17; Ps.88:5). All in opposition to God will be cast into the lake of fire and endure the second death: Antichrist, the False Prophet, Satan, the fallen angels, the unsaved, Death, and Hades.
The idea that “Hades” will be cast into the “lake of fire” might be confusing. So let’s consider what each signifies.
“Hades” is a Greek word used in the New Testament to denote the realm of conscious departed spirits and is generally equivalent to the Hebrew word “Sheol” in the Old Testament. It is not “Hell” and it is not eternal. Hades is a temporary holding place in the center (bottomless pit) of the earth. Once consisting of two compartments as the abode of all departed souls whether saved or unsaved (see—Luke 16:19-31), when Christ died and His spirit descended into Hades (Eph.4:9) proclaiming victory to the evil spirits incarcerated there (1Pet.3:19), He resurrected with the souls of those who died in faith (Eph.4:8; Matt.27:52-53).
Today, Hades is only where the disembodied spirits of the unsaved dead are confined until the Day of Judgment. When the righteous die, they go into the immediate presence of the Lord (2Cor.5:6-8; Phil.1:23).
The “lake of fire” speaks of Hell—the final eternal abode of the wicked after judgment. The Greek word “Gehenna”, also used with the same meaning, furnished the imagery of Hell. Taken to mean Valley of Hinnom (a garbage dump south of Jerusalem with perpetually burning fires once notorious as a place of child sacrifice to Molech), Gehenna describes the dread, fear and torment of Hell. Today no one is yet in Hell (Gehenna).