We have seen that hell is the place people choose, even if unknowingly, when they go their own way instead of listening to God. We have also noted that hell is a place that will forever tell the truth about the real character of those who have rejected and resisted God’s provision for their salvation. We are now ready to consider a third fact, that hell will be a place of fair treatment. Before anyone goes there, he will stand at a final judgment to determine the exact degree of punishment he will receive.
The final judgment is depicted graphically in Revelation 20:11-13. This is the great white throne judgment. The Judge is none other than Jesus Christ (John 5:24-30). All the unsaved will receive new bodies and will stand to be judged. Then the books containing the life record of every person and the one special book of life will be opened. The opening of these books shows that those who rejected God’s gift of salvation will receive perfect justice.
In Romans 2:1-16, Paul pointed out that God will look at what people have done with their privileges and opportunities, and that He will be completely impartial and fair (Romans 2:5-11). Those who possessed His Word, the law of verses 12-15, will be held accountable for their response to it. Those who never received special revelation will be held accountable only for what they know (14-16).
Jesus taught this same principle when He said that the servant who knew his master’s will and disobeyed would be beaten with “many stripes,” but that the servant who had less knowledge would be beaten with “few” (Luke 12:47-48). No judge or jury fully understands the person on trial. No human being can evaluate the exact degree of accountability in himself or anyone else. We are all profoundly influenced by hereditary and environmental factors beyond our control. Yet we make choices after weighing options. Therefore, we are all accountable, at least to some degree. And God understands to what extent. He also know how much we need His mercy.
When the young man who died in a gang war stands before Jesus Christ, he will find that the Lord understands all the circumstances of his short, violent, and troubled life- his absent father, his immortal mother, his disadvantaged peers, his complete ignorance of the gospel message, and his despair. The Lord Jesus will take all these factors into consideration. He knows exactly the degree of responsibility of this young man and will give him a sentence that perfectly suits his offence.
The rich, respectable landlord who died without Christ may receive a far more severe sentence than most of his tenants, even those who had many brushes with the law. The Lord Jesus will take into account their respective privileges. He will see perfectly the underlying greed, selfishness, pride of this man. He will understand the sense of despair that was a factor in some of the wrongs done by the tenants. All will receive fair treatment. God, the holy moral Governor of the universe, will dispense perfect justice to all wrongdoers.
The awesome picture of final judgment in Revelation 20:11-15 led Thomas Carlyle to exclaim: “What a magnificent conception is that of a final judgment! A righting of all the wrongs of the ages.” The Lord Jesus Christ will take into account every circumstance, overlooking nothing. He will be the Supreme Court of the universe. No one will be able to appeal His decisions. In fact, no one will feel the need to do so. Every person will acknowledge Him as Lord and admit His verdict has been absolutely fair and right. It is at this time that everyone will recognize Him to be all He claimed to be, fulfilling the words of Philippians 2:9-11. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.