The Great White Stone Judgment

by Michael Fischer


I'd like to talk to you today about the Great White Stone Judgment, found in Revelation. And before I begin, I'd like to see an honest show of hands: how many of you think I made a mistake when I said "Great White Stone Judgment?"

Those of you who raised your hands probably thought I was referring to the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation. Just so everyone understands this, please open to Revelation 20:11.

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The Great White Throne Judgment is the final court case for everyone whose sins are not covered by the blood of Christ. Christians won't be here; they'll stand before the judgment seat of Christ instead, and there they will be rewarded for all that they did for Jesus in this life. But at the Great White Throne Judgment, there will be no rewards. There will be no slick lawyers, no technicalities, no plea bargains, and no appeals. There will be no paroles, no suspended sentences, no time off for good behavior. The verdict will always be the same: guilty. And the sentence will always be the same: eternal imprisonment in a maximum-security prison called the Lake of Fire. This prison has no air conditioners, no weight rooms, no TV lounge... and no guards, because there's no way out. Modern liberals would call it "cruel and unusual punishment." But to a perfect God, it's a perfectly just punishment for everyone who denied that Jesus' sacrifice is the only way to Heaven.

And if you are not 100% sure that Jesus is your Savior and you won't be called to stand before that great white throne, please see me, or some other faithful man or woman in this church, before you leave here. Our life is a vapor; not one of us knows how long we have. And as soon as this life is done, our eternal destiny is sealed forever.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Turn back to Revelation 2:17.

Rev 2:17 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.'

That beautiful promise was given to the church at Smyrna, but it applies to every Christian. If you overcome the flesh, the world, and the devil in this life, then in the next life, Jesus will give you a stone. Is that because you asked Him for bread? (If anyone didn't catch that reference, your homework is to read the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 through 7.)

The thing to focus on isn't the white stone, it's what is written on that stone. A new name. A new name chosen and given by God Himself. Now that's something to talk about.

How did we get the names we bear? Most of us inherited our last name from our parents, so we had no say in the matter. Married women usually take their husband's last name, so they get to choose part of their name. But the first name, and the middle name, are picked out by our parents and given to us at birth. How do they pick a name? Sometimes they'll name the child after a relative. Sometimes they'll choose a name that they like the sound of. Sometimes they'll close their eyes, flip open a book of baby names, jab their finger at the page, and whatever they're pointing at, that's the name the poor kid will wear for the rest of his life.

But some people will pick a name based on what that name means in its original language. And they will give the child that name as a blessing, in the hope that the child will grow to take on the meaning of the name. For example, my name, Michael, is from the Hebrew and means, "like the Lord," or, "Godly one." This blessing isn't working, is it? I read somewhere that the archangel Michael prefers to interpret his name as a question — "Who is like the Lord?" I like that interpretation a lot better.

But God takes names very seriously. There are hundreds and hundreds of them in the Bible; there are sections, like the beginning of I Chronicles, that are nothing but long lists of people's names. These people, like us, got their names from their parents. But there are a select few who were given new names by God Himself. And when God gives a new name, you can be sure it's important. Let's look at a few.

Gen 17:3 Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, 4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 "No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.

The name "Abram" means, "high father." Abram's father, Terah, probably hoped his son would grow into this name. But by the time Abram was in his 90's with no children, there wasn't much fatherly about him. God was about to change all that, and He began by changing Abram's name to Abraham, which means "father of a multitude."

Father of a multitude? For a 99-year-old man whose wife can't have children, that makes even less sense than "high father." But notice what God said in verse 5: "For I have made you the father of a multitude of nations." For Abraham, it was still in the future, but to God, it was a done deal. And it was about a year later than Abraham's son Isaac was born, and Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob had twelve sons, and those sons became the patriarchs of a great nation indeed. Add in the nations that came out of Abraham's other son Ishmael, and out of his second wife, Keturah, after Sarah died, and out of Jacob's brother Esau, and there's your multitude of nations. God said it, that settles it.

At the same time as Abram's name was changed, we see a few verses down that God also changed the name of his wife.

Gen 17:15 Then God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 "I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother ofnations; kings of peoples will come from her."

Sarai meant, "ruler," in the sense of someone who achieved their position by their own efforts. Now she will be called Sarah, which means "princess," someone who was born into a royal position. A member of a royal family. Pretty good for a the wife of a nomadic herdsman with no children. But that's exactly what she became, the great-grandmother of the twelve patriarchs, princes of the nation of Israel. Considering that God picked that name out for her, and He makes no mistakes, that shouldn't surprise us.

Our next name change is a few chapters further on in Genesis, namely, chapter 32.

Gen 32:24 Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. 25 When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, "Let me go, for the dawn is breaking." But he said, "I will not let you go unless you bless me." 27 So he said to him, "What is your name?" And he said, "Jacob." 28 He said, "Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed."

Jacob means "the supplanter." Literally, "he who grasps the heel." You may recall that Jacob and Esau were twins, and when Esau was born first, Jacob followed right behind him, holding onto his brother's heel. We use the same expression today for a trickster, but instead of saying, "You're grasping my heel," we now say, "You're pulling my leg." Same thing, right? In this case, Jacob grew into his name like few others. He deceived his brother, his father, and his father-in-law, many times over.

But as he made his way through this life, there were times when he showed great faith. There were times when he knew he couldn't get out of trouble by his wits, and he didn't hesitate to call on the name of the Lord. Now he's got two wives, two concubines, twelve sons, a daughter, great riches... and a new name, Israel, which means "he will rule as God."

He didn't see that name fulfilled in his own lifetime, but that new name was given to the nation that his offspring founded, and it was God's design that the nation of Israel would be His instrument for ruling over the world. Israel has not lived up to that high destiny ... yet. But when Jesus returns and sets up His thousand-year kingdom, it will have Jerusalem as its capital, the Jews will be the bulk of its initial population, and God will rule through Israel. Just like He said He would when He changed Jacob's name.

In the New Testament, the best-known name change was Simon son of Jonah. Anyone remember Simon son of Jonah? Turn to Matthew 16 -

Mat 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." 15 He *said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Jesus did a name-change on Simon Barjona, Simon son of Jonah, and it wasn't because Peter was such a rock at this time. This was the same Simon Peter who would deny Jesus three times. In fact, just a few verses down, Peter showed so little faith that Jesus did another name-change and called him Satan. Fortunately for Simon son of Jonah, that name didn't stick. But once the Holy Spirit had come, He turned weak, cowardly Simon into a man who stood up in the middle of the city that had just crucified Jesus and preached about Him, and 3000 people got saved. A man who looked the Jewish leaders in the eye and told them point-blank that their religion couldn't save them, that their only hope was in the innocent Man they'd put to death. A man who defied all law and custom to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles for the first time. Peter had to grow into his new name. But the Lord definitely made him into a rock before He was done.

Another changed name in the New Testament was Joseph the Levite. You all remember him, right? Turn to Acts 4:36 -

Act 4:36 Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement)

You'll note that this name change wasn't directly from God; it was done by the apostles. But the apostles had a certain measure of authority from God, did they not? And the evidence of that is that, in the rest of Scripture, Joseph the Levite from Cyprus is never mentioned again. It's always Barnabas from here on in.

Why do you suppose the apostles changed Joseph's name? Wasn't "Joseph" a perfectly good name for a follower of Christ? It was good enough for the eleventh son of Jacob, and for the stepfather of Jesus. But remember the principle, "new name, new nature." It's more than likely that Joseph was not a son of encouragement before he got saved. He was probably a son of discouragement, a legalist, an accuser. A lot of the Levites had problems like that, according to Jesus. And when the apostles saw what kind of man he was becoming in Christ, compared to the kind of man he used to be, they gave him a new name to reflect his new reality. He wasn't acting like the old Joseph, so nobody called him Joseph anymore.

And that brings us to the other famous name change in the New Testament, Saul of Tarsus. You want to talk about a new name for a new nature? My concordance wasn't clear on what the names "Saul" and "Paul" mean. But Paul knew the difference. And he wrote it down for us in II Corinthians 5:17 -

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Saul was a Pharisee, a self-righteous legalist, and one who inflicted great suffering on the church. Paul was an apostle, a humble sinner saved by grace, and one who suffered greatly for the church. If anybody had a new name coming, it was Saul.

And that brings us back to the main theme of this message. The Great White Stone Judgement. And what is the Great White Stone Judgement? Just this: The white stone contains a new name, given by God Himself. If God changes the names of His saints based on the nature of their life in Christ, then if He gave you a white stone today, if He changed your name today, what would your new name be?

Let's consider a few possibilities. These names are taken from characters in the second-greatest book ever written, in my own opinion, Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Bunyan understood the meanings of names; every character in the book has a name that reflects the person's nature, for better or for worse.

What if God changed your name to Old-Man? It's an appropriate name for someone who hasn't changed since they became a Christian. Their habits are the same, their language is the same, their thoughts are the same, their lifestyle is the same. This is the kind of person whom other Christians look at and ask themselves, "Is he really saved?" I really hope none of you would get that name. But each of you, ask yourselves: does the name fit?

What if God changed your name to Talkative? You present a good picture of what a Christian should be. You look the part. You say all the right things. But when other Christians aren't looking, you become someone else entirely; you revert to who you used to be, back when Jesus was just a word you used when you hit your thumb with a hammer. That's not a name I'd want to sign on every check I wrote. But does this name reflect who you are?

What if God changed your name to Lukewarm? There's nothing badly wrong with your Christian life. But there isn't much good to say about it, either. You try to get to church once a week. You put something in the offering plate most of the time. You almost never fall asleep during the sermon. Sometimes you even pray during the week. But that's about it. No commitment, no servanthood, no sacrifice. And how long has it been since you shared the Gospel with somebody?

What if God changed your name to By-Ends? That's an old expresson for someone who thinks a worthy goal justifies whatever you do to achieve it. People named By-Ends started the seeker-sensitive movement, where church is a place where sinners feel comfortable, instead of convicted of their sins. Hey, they're coming to church, and that's all that matters, right? (no) People named By-Ends think it's good to be unequally yoked with unbelievers to achieve social goals like opposing abortion and gay marriage. I oppose abortion and gay marriage, but if God's people have to cooperate with Catholics and Mormons to get the job done, that means the God we serve is too weak to do it Himself. I don't buy that. People named By-Ends have a one-word motto: "Compromise." That's no stance for a Christian to take.

What if God changed your name to Turn-Away? That's someone who is totally on fire for the Lord... until things get tough. Then he turns away. Difficulties in life, persecution of any kind, even an unanswered prayer may be all it takes to get someone like this to forsake the truth and go back to his old ways. Was he ever really saved? I don't know. Either way, it's a sad thing to see.

But, on the other hand, if you've lived your life for Christ, what kind of new name might you receive? Here are some names that wouldn't be a curse to receive.

Would you like to be known as Stand-Fast? One who doesn't fold up and run when things get tough. One who endures temptation and persecution, one who puts on the full armor of God and, having done all, is still standing when the battle is over. Enduring the first attack isn't that tough; enduring attack after attack without wavering... that's another matter entirely.

Would you like to be known as Valiant-for-Truth? One who loves the truth of God and hates falsehood. One who exposes the lies of the devil and gives his all to keep people from being blinded by the darkness. In Pilgrim's Progress, Valiant-for-Truth fought off three low-life thieves named Wild-Head, Inconsiderate, and Pragmatic — three against one. Those three are still alive and well on the earth today. Wild-Head organizes meetings for Benny Hinn and others who strive for an exciting meeting instead of a Godly one. Inconsiderate is a prime mover in the KJV-Only movement and similar schemes to turn Christians against each other. And Pragmatic was the ghost writer of The Purpose-Driven Church and its sequels. We need more saints like Valiant-for-Truth.

How about Faithful? That just means one who is full of faith. Great faith was one of the two things that amazed Jesus while he was on this earth (the other was great unbelief). It takes faith to pray, it takes faith to witness, it takes faith to do anything at all for Jesus. Without faith, it is impossible to please Him. I wouldn't mind being known as Faithful.

Here's a good name: Evangelist. One who is best known for spreading the Gospel at every opportunity, with success as the Holy Spirit empowers him or her. I've seen too many so-called evangelists who are pushy, rude, confrontational, and offensive. They give evangelists a bad name in the world. But there are a lot more who give their lives over to telling the world about Jesus. That is our highest calling. That's a fine name.

Perhaps the most underrated new name would be Christian. A follower of Christ, one who belongs to Christ, a little Christ. This planet is filled with people who call themselves Christian. But if Christ Himself called me Christian, one of His true followers, that's all the eternal reward I'd ever need.

So, in conclusion, let me ask you again: if you went to Heaven today and the Lord gave you a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but you and the Lord, what kind of name would He give you? Do you like the sound of that new name? And if you don't like the sound of that new name, what are you going to do to change it?

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