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Revelation 20:11

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

A great white throne - Refulgent with glorious majesty.

Him that sat on it - The indescribable Jehovah.

From whose face the earth and the heaven fled away - Even the brightness of his countenance dissolved the universe, and annihilated the laws by which it was governed. This is a very majestic figure, and finely expressed.

There was found no place for them - The glorious majesty of God filling all things, and being all in all.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And I saw a great white throne - This verse commences the description of the final judgment, which embraces the remainder of the chapter. The first thing seen in the vision is the burning throne of the Judge. The things that are specified in regard to it are, that it was “great,” and that it was “white.” The former expression means that it was high or elevated. Compare Isaiah 6:1. The latter expression - white - means that it was “splendid or shining.” Compare 1 Kings 10:18-20. The throne here is the same which is referred to in Matthew 25:31, and called there “the throne of his glory.”

And him that sat on it - The reference here undoubtedly is to the Lord Jesus Christ, the final Judge of mankind (compare Matthew 25:31), and the scene described is what will occur at his second advent.

From whose face - Or, from whose presence; though the word may be used here to denote more strictly his face - as illuminated, and shining like the sun. See Revelation 1:16, “And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”

The earth and the heaven fled away - That is, as the stars, at the rising of the sun, seem to flee to more remote regions, and vanish from human view, so when the Son of God shall descend in his glory to judge the world, the earth and all other worlds shall seem to vanish. Every one must admire the sublimity of this image; no one can contemplate it without being awed by the majesty and glory of the final Judge of mankind. Similar expressions, where the natural creation shrinks back with awe at the presence of God, frequently occur in the Bible. Compare Psalm 18:7-15; Psalm 77:16-19; Psalm 114:3-5; Habakkuk 3:6, Habakkuk 3:10-11.

And there was found no place for them - They seemed to flee “entirely away,” as if there was “no” place where they could find a safe retreat, or which would receive and shelter them in their flight. The image expresses, in the most emphatic manner, the idea that they entirely disappeared, and no language could more sublimely represent the majesty of the Judge.

Uriah Smith
Daniel and the Revelation, 697

Verse 11

With verse 11, John introduces another scene to take place in connection with the final doom of the ungodly. It is the great white throne of judgment, before which they are assembled to receive their awful sentence of condemnation and death. Before this throne the heavens and the earth flee away, so that no place is found for them. A moment's reflection on the changes which must then take place in the earth will bring out the great force of this language. The scene is that of Peter's burning day, which is the “perdition of ungodly men,” and in which even the “elements” melt with fervent heat. 2 Peter 3:7-13. The city is then located upon the earth, the foundations of course extending under its whole area, so that it will not be affected by any changes that may take place, or any conditions which may exist, in the earth beneath it. Fire comes down from God out of heaven.DAR 697.3

First, the works that are in the world are burned up; and by the poisonous gases evolved, and the flames, the wicked are destroyed; this is the fire of Gehenna, which contains all the elements necessary to consume utterly every mortal being that comes under its power (Mark 9:43-48); and then will be fulfilled Isaiah 66:24: “And they [the righteous] shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”DAR 698.1

Secondly, the heat is raised till all the material of which this globe is composed, is fused like the ores in a smelter's furnace, and the whole earth becomes a fluid, fiery, molten mass. Upon this the city floats, as the ark of Noah floated upon the waters of the flood. Then will be fulfilled Isaiah 33:14: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” The answer, in the following verses, shows it to be the righteous, and this must be the time when it will be fulfilled.DAR 698.2

Thirdly, there is one stage more to be reached. It is well known that with a sufficient degree of heat, any substance on this earth can be reduced to the condition of gas, and thus become invisible. So will it be then with this whole earth. The heat being raised to a sufficient degree of intensity, would not the whole earth be converted into gas, and become invisible, and thus appear most literally to flee away, so that no place is found for it? The city would then seem to be, as virtually it would be, suspended in mid-heaven.DAR 698.3

But the elements are not destroyed. They are only, by that process, purged from the last and minutest taint of sin, and every token of the curse. The almighty fiat again goes forth, “Behold I make all things new. ... It is done” (Revelation 21:5, 6), and the particles combine again to compose a new world; and there beneath the wondering and admiring gaze of all the redeemed and the angelic host, the work of creation is gone through with again. At the first creation, the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. Job 38:7. At this new creation, that song and shout will be augmented by the glad voices of the redeemed. So will this earth, wrenched for a time, by sin, from its intended orbit of joy and peace, be brought back, renewed, into harmony with a loyal universe, to be the everlasting home of the saved.DAR 699.1

The Books of Record. — They are judged out of the things written in the books, from which we learn the solemn fact that a record of all our deeds is kept on high. A faithful and unerring record is made by the angelic secretaries. The wicked cannot conceal from them any of their deeds of darkness. They cannot bribe them to pass over in their record any of their unlawful acts. They must meet them all again, and be judged accordingly.DAR 699.2

The Execution of the Sentence. — They are to be punished according to their works. The Scriptures declare that they shall be rewarded according to their deeds. There are, then, to be degrees in the punishment of the wicked; and it may be asked how this can be harmonized with the view that death is the punishment for sin, and comes upon all alike. Let us ask believers in eternal misery how they will maintain degrees in their system. They tell us the intensity of the pain endured will be in each case proportioned to the guilt of the sufferer. But how can this be? Are not the flames of hell equally severe in all parts? and will they not equally affect all the immaterial souls cast therein? But God can interpose, it is answered, to produce the effect desired. Very well, then, we reply, cannot he also interpose, if necessary, and graduate the pain which will attend the infliction of death upon the sinner as the climax of his penalty? So, then, our view is equal with the common one in this respect, while it possesses great advantages over it in another; for while that has to find its degrees of punishment in intensity of pain alone, the duration in all cases being the same, this may not only have degrees in pain but in duration also; inasmuch as some may perish in a short space of time, and the weary sufferings of others be long drawn out. But yet we apprehend that the bodily suffering will be but an unnoticed trifle compared with the mental agony, that keen anguish which will rack their souls as they get a view of their incomparable loss, each according to his capacity of appreciation. The youth who had but little more than reached the years of accountability, being less able to comprehend his situation and his loss, will of course feel it less; to him of older years, more capacity, and consequently a deeper experience in sin, the burden of his fate will be proportionately greater; while the man of giant intellect and almost boundless comprehension, — who hence possessed greater influence for evil, and so was the more guilty for devoting his powers to the service of that evil, — being able to understand his situation fully, comprehend his fate, and realize his loss, will feel it most keenly of all. Into his soul the iron will indeed enter most intolerably deep. And thus, by an established law of mind, the sufferings of each may be most accurately adjusted to the magnitude of his guilt.DAR 699.3

That the degree of suffering which each one is to endure is taken into the account as a part of the punishment of his crimes, is evident from Rom. 2:6-10. Paul, here speaking of the future “judgment of God,” says: —DAR 700.1

“Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality [he will render], eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness [he will render], indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile.”DAR 700.2

The Book of Life. — Why, it may be asked, is the book of life brought forth on this occasion, when all who have part in the second resurrection, beyond which this scene is located, are already forejudged to the second death? One apparent reason, at least, is, That it may be seen that none of the names of all the multitude who die the second death are in the book of life, and why they are not there; and if the names have ever been there, why they were not retained; that all the intelligences of the universe may see that God acts with strict justice and impartiality.DAR 701.1

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” This is the final epitaph of all the forces that have risen up from first to last, to oppose the will and work of the Lord Almighty. Satan originated and led out in this nefarious work. A portion of heaven's angels joined him in his false position and murderous work; and for him and them the everlasting fire was prepared. Matthew 25:41. Men become involved therein only because they join him in his rebellion. But here the controversy closes. The fire is to them everlasting because it allows of no escape. The second death is their punishment, and it is. “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46) because they never find release from its dread embrace. “The wages of sin is death.”DAR 701.2

“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Reader, is your name written in the book of life? Are you striving to avert in your own case the fearful doom that awaits the ungodly? Rest not till you have reason to believe that your name is registered in the list of those who are to share at last in the blessings of eternal life.DAR 701.3

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
After the events just foretold, the end will speedily come; and there is no mention of any thing else, before the appearing of Christ to judge the world. This will be the great day: the Judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, will then put on majesty and terror. The persons to be judged are the dead, small and great; young and old, low and high, poor and rich. None are so mean, but they have some talents to account for; and none so great, as to avoid having to account for them. Not only those alive at the coming of Christ, but all the dead. There is a book of remembrance both for good and bad: and the book of the sinner's conscience, though formerly secret, will then be opened. Every man will recollect all his past actions, though he had long forgotten many of them. Another book shall be opened, the book of the Scriptures, the rule of life; it represents the Lord's knowledge of his people, and his declaring their repentance, faith, and good works; showing the blessings of the new covenant. By their works men shall be justified or condemned; he will try their principles by their practices. Those justified and acquitted by the gospel, shall be justified and acquitted by the Judge, and shall enter into eternal life, having nothing more to fear from death, or hell, or wicked men; for these are all destroyed together. This is the second death; it is the final separation of sinners from God. Let it be our great concern to see whether our Bibles justify or condemn us now; for Christ will judge the secrets of all men according to the gospel. Who shall dwell with devouring flames?
Ellen G. White
The Retirement Years, 152.3

God's messengers are to hold aloft the standard of truth until the hand is palsied in death. When they sleep in death, the places that once knew them know them no more. The churches in which they preached, the places they visited to hold forth the word of life, still remain. The mountains, the hills, the things seen by mortal vision, are still there. All these things must at last pass away. The time is coming when the earth shall reel to and fro and shall be removed like a cottage. But the thoughts, the purposes, the acts of God's workers, although now unseen, will appear at the great day of final retribution and reward. Things now forgotten will then appear as witnesses, either to approve or to condemn. RY 152.3

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 148.1

Ellen White's Only Hope in Christ—1881—In my recent bereavement, I have had a near view of eternity. I have, as it were, been brought before the great white throne, and have seen my life as it will there appear. I can find nothing of which to boast, no merit that I can plead. 3SM 148.1

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Ellen G. White
Selected Messages Book 3, 351.4

I leave my work and its results until we gather about the great white throne. Do you see the Spirit of Christ in this watching, in these suspicions, in these conjectures, these suppositions? What right have they to suppose, to conjecture, to misinterpret my words? to misstate me as they do? 3SM 351.4

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