“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:11).
“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. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:7–10).
And so John saw a great white throne, upon which Christ is seated in glorious splendor. We know that Christ is the one on the throne because of the numerous ways Scripture indicates this. Christ was earlier associated with a white cloud (Rev. 14:14), and he was seen riding on a white horse (Rev. 6:2; 19:11). Here it is fitting that He is established as Judge on a white throne.
More to the point, this scene is obviously the last judgment (“the earth and the heaven fled away”), and the Bible is explicit that Christ is the one who will rule at that judgment. For example, Christ has the authority to “execute judgment” (John 5:27).
“When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory” (Matt. 25:31).
“I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).
“He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
So this is the final judgment, and we have a contrast—between one book on the one side, and “the books” on the other. That one book is the Book of Life, and the one specific thing we are told about it is that it contains a list of names.
“Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
“To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven . . .” (Heb. 12:23).
“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev. 3:5).
So the issue here is simple and binary. Either your name is in the Book of Life, or it is not. If a person’s name is not in the Book of Life, then he is judged in accordance with the other books, and these other books are histories, detailed biographies. These people are judged “according to their works,” which is repeated twice, in both verses 12 and 13. Anyone whose name was not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire, with the degree of punishment a function of the works they had done or left undone.
The sea gave up her dead, and so also both Death and Hades gave up their dead. This is the resurrection of the unjust. Earlier we saw that through His resurrection from the dead Christ came into possession of the keys of both Death and Hades (Rev. 1:18). He is the ultimate conqueror, and now in this final triumphant act, He throws both Death and Hades into the lake of fire. This indicates, incidentally, that Hades was a place for departed shades, a temporary place of judgment, until the time should come for that judgment to be made permanent. Death and Hades were thrown into the final death, the second death, the lake of fire, or Gehenna.