By Witri, Indonesia
Editor’s Note: When the great white throne judgment prophesied in the Book of Revelation comes up, many brothers and sisters imagine that the Lord will come inand be sitting on a great white throne, and then determine if people go up to heaven or down to hell based on what they’ve done. But is this how the prophecy will be fulfilled in reality? Witri gained a new understanding of the great white throne judgment through a period of investigation.
I’m a Christian from Indonesia; I was a Catholic along with my parents when I was a little girl. After getting married I followed my husband into Christianity and started learning to pray and read, and I threw myself into behaving according to the Lord’s words. I also watched a lot of videos about the great white throne judgment in the last days which were all made based on this prophecy in the Bible: “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” (Revelation 20:11–12). They said that the Lord would be sitting on a great white throne and judge people according to their deeds; whoever is of sin will descend into the great disaster to be punished, while those who are not of sin will be raptured into the kingdom of heaven. After watching these videos I became firmly convinced that they accurately described the judgment of the Lord upon His return. I also patted myself on the back for having accepted the Lord’s gospel and resolved to stay truer to His words so that when He returned to carry out His judgment, I could be taken up into the kingdom of heaven by Him.
There was a huge tsunami in Indonesia in 2004—a lot of people died. Every time I heard about a disaster I was aware that this was the wrath of God and that it was a warning from Him that the day of judgment is upon us. But then I thought about how I had been a believer for a number of years, and although I had been striving to put the Lord’s words into practice, wanting to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, when I encountered things in my actual life I was completely unable to do so. I had also failed to accomplish loving others as myself. For example, I would lose my temper when my husband or mother did something that I didn’t like. Plus when I heard that my mother-in-law had said something bad about me in front of my sister-in-law I felt really angry and then would say something bad about my mother-in-law in front of my sister-in-law, judging her behind her back. I was even greedy and vain, and followed worldly trends. I read this Bible verse and knew it was true: “Be you holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). God is holy, so anyone who is not holy cannot see His face. But I was constantly living in sin—how could I ever gain God’s approval? So I went to different churches and asked the pastors, “How can the issue of constantly sinning be resolved?” They all responded with, “When we sin we can come before God to confess, pray, and repent. Then the Lord will absolve us of our sins.” However, their responses didn’t resolve the issue at all—I kept living in the cycle of sinning and then confessing. Plus whenever I sinned I felt really afraid because I thought about how the Lord would sit at His great white throne in the last days, just like a judge, and then would judge us according to each one of our actions. I was always sinning, so would I be judged and condemned by the Lord? How could I possibly get into the kingdom of heaven? I felt really concerned.
In February 2018 my husband started joining online gatherings. They were all in English so I couldn’t really understand, but I saw that he was so happy every day and became more engaged in his faith than he had been before. This piqued my curiosity. One day he told me that thehad already returned and had begun the work of judgment. I was really surprised to hear him say this and thought that I hadn’t seen any signs of the judgment like it had been portrayed in those videos, so how could it have already started? My response was, “If the Lord Jesus had returned He would be sitting on the great white throne judging us, and believers would have been taken up into heaven while unbelievers would have been destroyed in the great disaster. But none of that has happened, so how is it possible that He has started the work of judgment?” “The Lord returning to do the work of judgment,” he said, “is not the way we’ve imagined it. He has now become flesh to express the truth, and He’s judging us with His words.” Feeling more and more confused, I said, “How on earth could God judge us by uttering words? I’ve never heard any pastors or elders say anything like that.” Since my husband had accepted Almighty God’s work of the last days for a short time he wasn’t too clear on it either, so he didn’t offer much explanation. He later invited me to get online and join a gathering with them, which I didn’t want to do, but I saw how earnest he was. He advised me over and over to seriously listen to it before making up my mind. I knew that he’s someone who gives thought to things and is really serious about anything having to do with his faith, so there had to be a reason for him now believing that the Lord has returned. So, wanting to get clarity on whether the Lord really had returned and was doing the work of judgment, I agreed to listen in. They then arranged for me to join a gathering with some local brothers and sisters here in Indonesia.
In the gathering, the sisters shared fellowship with me about my question. One said, “When God’s judgment in the last days comes up we think of these verses in Revelation: ‘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’(Revelation 20:11–12). Based on these verses, we’ve believed that when the Lord returns He will be sitting on a great white throne and judge us one by one according to what we’ve done over our lifetimes. We think that this is how He’ll determine whether we go up to heaven or down to hell. But have we thought about whether this understanding is in line with God’s will? Would the Lord work according to our own thinking? In fact, if we give it careful thought, we can easily see that the great white throne in the Book of Revelation is nothing more than a vision John saw on Patmos Island and is not a fact of God’s work. We cannot interpret the meaning of this prophecy based on notions and imaginings because it says in the Bible, ‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’ (2 Peter 1:20–21). Prophecies come from God and we have to maintain a heart of reverence for God in our approach to the prophecies, not interpret them at will based on their literal meanings. Think back to the Age of Law of the Old Testament—the Pharisees of the time thought, based on the literal meaning of Scripture, that the Messiah would be born in a palace and hold official power. But the exact opposite was true; the Lord Jesus wasn’t born in a palace but in a manger. He was the son of a poor carpenter and He certainly didn’t hold any kind of official power. Because of the gap between the facts of the Lord’s coming and what people imagined, the Pharisees stubbornly clung to their notions and wouldn’t acknowledge that the Lord Jesus was the coming of the Messiah. They refused to accept the truths that He spoke and they nailed Him to the cross, committing a grievous sin. So we should learn this lesson from history and not rely on our notions and imaginings for our understanding of prophecies.”
I knew it was true. Prophecies come from God and shouldn’t be distorted by us humans. This sister’s fellowship was very reasonable and in line with the Bible. I thought about how the videos I had watched before that described the scene of the great white throne judgment had really lined up with my understanding of the Bible, so I agreed with them. But thinking about it after hearing this fellowship, I saw that we are all people who are corrupted by Satan, so how could we see into the work of God? God’s thinking and God’s wisdom are more elevated than man’s and prophecies come from God, so only God can know exactly how they will be fulfilled. We can’t delimit them based on what we imagine.
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