Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)

Rev. 20:13 “And the sea gave up the DEAD ONES (plural) which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the DEAD ONES (plural) which were in them; and THEY (plural) were judged, every one of THEM (plural) according to THEIR (plural) deeds.”

There isn’t any mystifying needed to be done here about the “sea,” as it is what it says – the literal seas.  It is not given for “where” the departed souls were still residing, but it is listed for us to understand the reference to all those who had died at sea (“where” they died), in contrast to those who had died on the land (and both together takes care of everyone). 

Nothing is stated at all about the “physical body” in this passage, and nowhere in the Bible does it say the “physical body” will come out of the ground (we even are told the physical dust body was not made to, nor capable of, entering the spiritual realm in 1 Cor. 15:50.  No, we are to have a perfect “individual” spiritual body just like Christ had at His ascension (1 Cor. 15:48-50; 1 John 3:2; Phil. 3:21)).  The physical body is not “you or me” but the “soul” is.  All of the “already departed souls,” (whether they died at sea or on the land) were already in the “unseen spiritual realm,” and would be raised/resurrected out of that waiting place those souls were in (Hades/Sheol) in the same “unseen realm” where they already were, which is why this event would not be seen in the physical realm on earth. 

Rev. 20:14 “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  This is the second death, the lake of fire.”

If one checks the Greek, they will notice the inference that both “Death” and “Hades” are personified.  The “Death Angel” and the angel who guarded the waiting place of “Hades (Sheol)” were both cast into the Lake of Fire forever.  Why?  Because after “that one-time past resurrection” to empty Hades, their power to imprison any souls in Hades was stripped away from them.  Death could not kill the living saints at the Parousia, nor could any souls be held in Hades any longer.  Hades was emptied and the dead were judged and sent to their appropriate places of eternal habitation (either Heaven or Gehenna/Lake of Fire).

Rev. 20:15 “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

From that “once in time past resurrection,” going forever forward, someone dying from after that day forward never would need to be resurrected because their soul “immediately goes before Christ upon physical death,” and the unsaved are judged and cast into the Lake of Fire according to the wages of their sin, and the believer is instantly clothed with their new perfect immortal spiritual body (2 Cor. 5:1-2 was near future to the Corinthians at the time of the writing; however, instantly now for us today, as with everyone after that AD 70 “one-time final” resurrection, upon death the soul goes immediately before Christ). No one dies today and goes “down” to Hades/Sheol to wait for some resurrection (Hades/Sheol is now destroyed in the Lake of Fire) – that was a “one-time event in the past.”  If you don’t need to go down to Hades/Sheol anymore upon physical death – then you don’t need to get resurrected.

Important note: Did you also notice what was “not” said in Rev. 20:11-15?  There is “nothing” mentioned about the “living.”  This is highly significant and dispels the view that this is an end of world, end of time, resurrection judgment.  No, this is speaking of an “in time” resurrection judgment.  This resurrection judgment had nothing to do with a supposed end of time judgment of every person dead or alive.  This passage is about the resurrection judgment of the “dead” only.  The timing was at the destruction of Babylon, i.e. Old Covenant Jerusalem.  The fulfilling and complete “vanishing away” of the empty and obsolete covenant as spoken of in Hebrews 8:13 had now come in AD 70.

The purpose of this resurrection judgment was to raise and empty all of the “dead” disembodied souls out of Sheol/Hades/Paradise.  Then all of the unrighteous souls were cast disembodied into the Lake of Fire (second death/eternal separation from God) along with the Death Angel and Hades, and the righteous were raised to put on their individual immortal spiritual bodies God had reserved for them in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1-2) and entered the heavenly realm to forever be with the Lord.

Do you notice how this passage does not talk about judging the “living.”  Revelation is not about the end of time and the physical heavens and earth, but was about the removal and dissolving of the old heavens and earth administration and cosmological world order, and the bringing in of the “new heavens and earth” administration and cosmological order consummating the never ending Kingdom through the blood of Christ.


This is another one of the most misunderstood and overextended eschatological passages in the Bible. The belief has been widely held that this is the scene of an “end of time” worldwide judgment on every “living and dead” person in history.  However, just as the Revelation 20 Great White Throne judgment was shown to be a judgment on only the “dead,” with contextual study, in conjunction with “verses answer other verses” cross passage study, it becomes evident that this Matthew 25 passage (which is the one and only same Revelation 20 judgment) is also “only” a judgment on the “dead” before Christ in the unseen realm.

The Matthew 25 judgment scene was a “part of” the full Revelation 20 judgment scene.  The Matthew 25 scene was a primary focus on the judgment against Old Covenant Israel – the separating of the sheep from the goats (faithful believing Hebrews from the unfaithful adulterous covenant breaking ones).

  • Matt. 25:34-40, notice how the qualification of separating the sheep from the goats was only based on “works” with how they treated the brethren – and nothing about true salvation (which is based on “faith only” and nothing about your works). 
  • Matt. 25:41-45, also notice how the separated goats answer back to Christ is also only based on the “works” they did not do for the brethren/believer.

To understand this better, with “scripture answering other scripture,” recall from many earlier Study Series (particularly see eschatology Study Series 6 for an in-depth study into the “Two-fold” ministry of Christ.”) the multiple passages which declared how a major purpose of Christ’s ministry was to judge Old Covenant Israel and separate them as “wheat from the chaff” (sheep from the goats).


See also related “Topic Studies & Terms”:

Sheep From the Goats

Lake of Fire


For a more in-depth study see the related full “Study Series”:

Study Series 16 Lesson 7 Rev. Chapters 19 and 20