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The King Judges Unbelievers – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
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February 26, 2024 1:00 am

The King Judges Unbelievers – Part 1 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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February 26, 2024 1:00 am

The idea of final judgment offends many people. They can’t conceive that God would send anyone to an everlasting hell. In this message, Pastor Lutzer takes a sobering look at what the Bible teaches about the final destiny of all who never believed in Jesus for salvation. We don’t rule the world—God does.

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-218-9337. 

The Line of Fire
Dr. Michael Brown
Running to Win
Erwin Lutzer
Matt Slick Live!
Matt Slick
Moody Church Hour
Pastor Phillip Miller

Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. The idea of final judgment offends many people.

They can't conceive that God would send anyone to a fiery hell. Today, a sobering look at what the Bible teaches about the final destiny of all who never believed in Jesus for salvation. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, do you see hell as endless torment or a place of annihilation? You know, Dave, you've asked a very difficult question, and I remember when I preached this message at the Moody Church, I remember that I could scarcely sleep the night before. And yet here we are confronted with scripture, and we always have to remember that God runs his world according to his standards, his commitment to justice, his commitment to his attributes.

So here we are. Now, if somebody objects and says, well, what about those who have never heard the gospel? We don't know all of the details. The Bible does not clarify all of the questions that we have. But there's really nothing in the scriptures to give us hope to believe that God is going to in any way save those who have never believed. Now, having said that, of course, hell is not the same for everyone. The Bible is very clear that God is going to judge according to certain standards, according to what people did with what they knew. I've written about this in my book entitled The King is Coming.

At the end of this broadcast, I'll be giving you information as to how this book can be yours. But for now, let's go to the pulpit of Moody Church, and let's confront and absorb this difficult doctrine. An evangelist made the statement that more people come to saving faith in Christ through preaching the love of God than through preaching the judgment of God. And that might be true, but I need to say that we don't really understand the love of God until we understand the judgment of God.

In that sense, the two attributes of God are related. Today's message is a very hard message. It's one that I have been thinking about for weeks, actually, because it is difficult to preach.

And for some of you, it's going to be very difficult to receive. But I need to begin by saying that what God is going to do and the description that is laid out for us in the scripture is not something that he particularly enjoys doing. The Bible says that he does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. But the judgment happens because of necessity, given the attributes that God has. Let me say also that as I speak, I hope that you will not be judging God. It would be easy to sit back and perhaps fold your hands and to say, you know, that's unfair. Cooper said that there were those who took from God's hand the balance and the rod.

They rejudged his justice and became the judge of God. And I warn you not to go there. Perhaps you remember a story that I've probably told you before about me being on a plane and an older woman sitting next to me. And I was witnessing to her and she was from a very liberal church that didn't believe in hell. And one thing she said is that if there's anything I know for sure, hell doesn't exist. I said, that's interesting. And then I smiled.

You always try to work up a smile at a moment like that. And I said, you know, you've put me in a really difficult dilemma here because on the one hand, I wish that you were right. But on the other hand, Jesus mentioned hell at least 11 times more than he did heaven. So you've put me in a predicament because either I have to go with you or I have to go with Jesus on this one. And don't feel too hurt, but I'm going with Jesus. All right. I'm going with Jesus. News flash about this topic. Your opinion doesn't count.

Remember that your opinion doesn't count. So instead of hardening your heart, and many of you are going to be tempted to do that and to say, how could God do that? Instead of hardening your heart, why don't you pray right now and ask God to soften it? Why don't you open your heart to what God may have to say? Because I have no doubt that for some of you, this is your moment to believe on Jesus.

And you say, well, how do I know whether or not I'm in that number? And that is if you have no assurance that if you died today, you'd go to heaven. I'm particularly talking to you.

Of course, I'm talking to all of us. Well, the topic comes up in the book of Revelation, which you can turn to. Revelation chapter 20. Revelation chapter 20. And if you have a Bible like mine, it's probably on page 1,040 and 1,041.

I'm going to read these five verses, and then we're going to go through the text basically, almost phrase by phrase, and then we'll see what there is to learn and what God has to teach us. Chapter 20 of Revelation, beginning at verse 11. Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it. From His presence, earth and the sky fled away.

No place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. This is the judgment, the mother of all judgments.

This is the judgment that is frightening and yes, chilling. Well, let's move through the text. First of all, we begin with the one who was seated on the throne. You'll notice he says, I saw a great white throne. The throne is great because it is majestic. This is the throne of God. This is the throne indeed that is forever the throne that exists from all of eternity. God is on this throne. And it's a white throne, absolute holiness, absolute purity.

No one able to tweak things to make them look better. No possibility of bribery because we are now in the presence of the sovereign judge who will do justly and do what is right. It is a pure and holy throne. And him who sat on it and who's sitting on it. Well, the Bible in Revelation speaks about the throne of God and of the lamb. But here, of course, we know it is the lamb. We know it's Jesus. Because in John 5 22, Jesus said, the father has committed all judgment to the son.

And Paul said in the book of Acts in Athens, he says, God is appointed a day by which he will judge the world by one man. That is Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who was on that throne. The meek and mild Jesus that people love at Christmas, the little baby that you can take out at Christmas and then tuck away for the rest of the year and pull them like a book off a shelf and be there again next year.

That's this little baby. The redeemer has become the judge. You say, well, where is this throne? You'll notice that the text says that everything fled away from his presence and there was found no place for them. It was found no place for this throne.

Now we have to back off and remember the rest of the series that we've had this far. You remember last time I spoke to you about the millennial kingdom, how Jesus rules. And then at the end of that kingdom, he delivers it to the father, the Bible says, and that transitions into the eternal kingdom. And it's during this period of time of transition that the scripture is fulfilled, that the world and all of its works shall be burned up. Scholars differ as to whether or not God is going to annihilate the present universe entirely and create a new one out of nothing or whether or not the earth is going to be recreated. But one thing is sure, it's going to be burned with fire. And during this transition period, when people are standing before the great throne, there will be nothing to see except the throne.

No galaxy is in sight. And they are all standing there with a fear. If you think that people fear judgment today when they are being tried, multiply that by about a hundred because they have a good inkling as to what it is that is in store for them.

And then we have the defendants. Not sure that I should call them that because this isn't exactly the same kind of trial that you'd find on earth, but it says, I saw the dead, small and great standing before God. Where did they come from? Well, later on in the text, you'll notice it says that the sea gave up the dead, which were in it and death and Hades gave up their dead. They're there because God summons them from the entire world. From the beginning of time, all unbelievers are summoned to this judgment. You know, it was said in ancient times that if you died of the sea, if you were drowned and of course probably the sharks would eat you, or if you were cremated and your ashes were sprinkled on the sea, not even the gods could ever retrieve you for an afterlife.

It was sort of an insurance that once you died that way, you are secure from any final judgment. God takes those who are in the sea and calls them forth. These dead come from tombs long ago forgotten. They come from earthquakes where bodies have been destroyed and turned into dust. God calls them forth from coffins that were lined beautifully with satin, as well as those who have died in horrendous conditions because of hunger and because of poverty.

They are all called forth. One writer said, God knows every speck of human dust and every strand of DNA, and he calls it forth from deserts, caves, jungles, seas, tombs, ghettos, and palaces, and they are all there. Their bodies have been resurrected. Judgment day has come. And then what does it say? Hades delivered up the dead, which were in them.

Well, for that, we need a little bit of review again, don't we? You remember in the first message in this series, I preached how that when the rapture comes, Christians go up because today when a believer dies, their body is put into the grave, and yet their souls are in heaven. And so what happens is they are raised from the dead and they are joined with their souls. The people in heaven today are in some sense incomplete, separate topic, but they are in some sense incomplete, and they are joined together to become fully the human beings they were here on earth with, of course, some radical changes in their bodies and their souls.

The same thing happens here. Hades, we learned from the New Testament, used several times, is the place where unbelievers go today. It has absolutely nothing to do with purgatory.

That's also a separate subject. But it is there that Jesus talked about Hades, you remember, which is a translation of the Old Testament word Sheol. And there they are today, and so because their souls are there, those souls also have to be joined now to their bodies. So the same people who lived on earth have indestructible bodies, and here they are now standing before God, fully cognizant of who they were in whatever generation they lived, and they are there standing before God because judgment day has come.

It's payday today. Now you'll notice it says that the small and great stood before God. John undoubtedly wants us to understand that this means people of different rank. A king over here is standing with those who died of poverty and sickness. Hitler is standing there, and next to him are some people who spent their lives in good work in helping the poor and raising funds for the less fortunate.

They're all standing together. There's diversity in rank. There's diversity in works, as we shall see. Undoubtedly, there's also diversity in religion.

It is chilling to think that some people who are listening to this message today someday may find themselves in this judgment if they don't take advantage of what God has prepared for them, as will become clear a little later on in this message. And so there will be Protestants there. There will be Catholics there. There will be Buddhists and Muslims and all the different religions of the world. You say, well, what is it that unites them? What unites them is that they do not have the one thing that God requires for entrance into heaven.

So there they are, lacking the one thing they desperately need. And so they're all united, standing before the throne. Well, now it's time for the evaluation. It is time for the records to be examined. So we open our scriptures, and we see here that the books were opened. We don't know exactly how many books. We know that there were at least two because there is this one book that contains all their works, and then there's the Book of Life that we shall comment on in a moment.

So they are standing there, and the books are opened. And suddenly they realize that God has been keeping meticulous records regarding their record. It is an individual judgment as indeed it must be. Everyone, singular, is judged according to his works. Obviously, if it's to be a just judgment, it has to be a singular judgment, person by person. We don't know how long it takes God to do this.

Of course, because it's taking place in another realm, time may be different as we understand it today. But every one of them has their moment before God, and the books are opened. And their works are examined.

And it's just not their works. The Bible says that their words will be examined. Jesus said, by your words, you will be exonerated or condemned. So all of their words, every word, Jesus said, every word men speak, they will give account for in the day of judgment.

Can you imagine those who really swear a lot and say base things? I mean, it's all there. I mean, there's not a single thing that's overlooked. It's there in the book. But more than that, it says in the book of Romans that there's another way that the book can be viewed. And that is that God is going to judge the secrets of man.

Oh my, now we get to motive. The people are going to see their secrets. You know those secrets that lie hidden? And all of the lies that have been told to cover up those secrets?

Guess what? They are all exposed. And God looks at it, and the person looks at it. Nobody debates what God sees because you will know intuitively it is meticulously accurate. The person you know who did good works and they even paid money because they wanted to help the poor. In effect, their motives will be exposed, and the motives were actually much more selfish than they appeared. It's just that in doing good, they felt good about themselves, and they could tell other people about the good that they did.

And what appears to us to be good may have some very base motives, but it's all there. Now, you have to understand that the principle by which God is going to judge is simply this. People are going to be judged on the basis of what they did with what they knew based on their conscience, based on the light of nature, and based on whether or not they ever heard the gospel.

All of that factors in. I mean, nobody is going to stand there who's never heard of Jesus. They've never heard the gospel, some pagan somewhere. And God is going to say to them, well, I'm sending you to hell because you didn't believe on Jesus. I mean, that would be manifestly unjust. How can you hold people accountable to respond to a message that they never heard?

So that's not going to be a part of the thing. It is going to be what they did with what they knew. Intuitively, because of conscience, they knew that lying was wrong, and yet they lied. Intuitively, because of conscience, they knew that immorality was wrong, and yet they were immoral. There was something deep within them that told this is not the way it's to be, and they squelched their conscience. The light of nature reminds them of the greatness and the grandeur of God. If they had contemplated that, they'd have known that as well. And then if they heard the gospel, my, how much more responsibility they would have. Jesus made the statement, he said that it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than it will be for those cities that rejected me when I was here on earth. Why?

Because of so much more light. Well, this is Pastor Lutzer. I want to talk with you directly, directly into your heart, from my heart to yours. Have you savingly believed the gospel? Have you received Jesus Christ as your savior and as your protection from the wrath of God? Or are you just pretending to be a Christian? Years ago, some evangelists used to preach a message, which we ought to hear today, entitled, The Almost Christian.

Is that you? If you've never repented and received Christ, now would be the time to do it. The message that you have just heard is actually based also in my book entitled, The King is Coming, Ten Events That Will Impact Us for All of Eternity.

As a matter of fact, chapter nine is entitled, The King Judges Unbelievers. If you want to be able to read this book, share it with your friends. Even as we talk about the end times, I think it'll be a tremendous blessing to you.

It will be a means of enlightenment, but more than that, it will be an encouragement and a motivation for you to live for Christ every single day of your life, knowing that someday he's coming and history is going to be wrapped up. For a gift of any amount, we're making this book available to you. I hope that you have a pen or pencil handy because this is the last opportunity, the last week I should say, when we are making this resource available. Simply go to That's or pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-218-9337. Now I'm going to be giving you that contact info again because it's so easy to hear something and you aren't ready to write it down. That certainly happened to me. But at the same time, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of this ministry.

Because of people just like you, running to win is in more than 50 different countries in about seven different languages and we continue to expand. Thank you so very, very much. But the title of the book is The King is Coming. Go to

That's or pick up the phone and call 1-888-218-9337. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. Will heaven be all gladness and light?

A listener named Gary is not so sure. He says, I know the Bible says there won't be any tears or sadness in heaven, but how can we be happy knowing that people we love are not in heaven but in hell? Well first of all, let me say this, Gary, that your question is an excellent one and we've all wrestled with it. But I think the best we can do is to understand that when we get to heaven, we are going to view things from God's standpoint. If God can be glad, if God can be content throughout all of eternity, if God can be joyful and happy. And by the way, Gary, how could we possibly rejoice in the Lord unless he were a rejoicing God? But my point is this, if God can be content with what has happened, we also will be. I think it was Jonathan Edwards, and I hope that I can quote this in a general way at least correctly. He said that we will rejoice in God's judgment in heaven, not because we are unloving, but because we are perfectly loving, just like God.

So if you think of it from that standpoint, we'll see things from God's point of view and I believe that we will be satisfied that God did right and that yes, we will be enjoying God throughout all of eternity despite the reality of hell. Time wise counsel on a tough issue from Dr. Erwin Lutzer. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337. That's 1-888-218-9337.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. It's never easy to grapple with the reality of an eternal hell. Many people find the idea of hell repugnant, but the Bible teaches that there is an ultimate lake of fire for the devil, his angels, and all those who never believed in Jesus. Next time on Running to Win, we learn about the basis of judgment for those who never heard the gospel and the basis for those who did. Thanks for listening to our series on the return of Christ. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-26 02:19:28 / 2024-02-26 02:28:20 / 9

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