What happens beyond the grave? That's a question that most people ask. Pastor Greg Laurie addressed the question to the congregation of his California megachurch while speaking about the Great White Throne Judgment, as described in the last book of the Bible, Revelation.
The Great White Throne Judgment is for non-believers only, and is different from the judgment seat of Christ, where Christians will stand, Laurie, senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, said in a recent sermon.
Pastor Laurie, a popular evangelist and author of over 70 books, preached from Revelation 20, saying it carries the story of Satan being bound for 1,000 years.
To explain the context, the pastor said he believes that the next event in the prophetic calendar of God is the Rapture, and then will come the seven-year Tribulation followed by the Second Coming of Christ, leading to the 1,000 year millennium reign, in which we will rule and reign over the survivors of the Tribulation.
During the millennial period, he added, there will be world peace for the first time ever, there will be joy and happiness, and no disabilities, people will live long lives, the animal kingdom will be subdued, there will be universal justice and righteousness, the curse of sin will be lifted, and holiness will prevail.
However, Revelation 20:7-10 talks about one more battle, Laurie told the congregation, explaining that that's when Satan will be released from his prison.
Satan will deceive the descendants of the survivors of the Tribulation who still have sinful nature, he added. But then Satan will face the final judgment, which takes us to the Great White Throne Judgment.
The Bible teaches that there are two deaths, physical and spiritual, Laurie explained. "Jesus warned that we should fear the second death more than the first death… It is spiritual separation from God."
The pastor then said, "Eternity to the godly is a day that has no sunset. Eternity to the wicked is a night that has not sunrise."
Laurie explained, "The white throne is called great because of its power and ultimate purpose. It's called white because of its purity."
When a Christian dies, she or he goes to heaven, and when a non-believer dies, she or he goes to Hades, Pastor Laurie said, referring to Luke 16:22, 23.
People in hell suffer; the suffering is a real thing in the afterlife, the pastor added. "People in Hades are fully conscious and in pain… Once you're in hell, you cannot cross over to heaven."
Physical death is the separation of soul from the body, wherein one moves from the physical to the invisible, he explained, adding that you are conscious and fully aware of where you are.
The pastor then warned, "The only reliable account of afterlife is the Bible," and not people who have described their alleged out-of-body experiences in various books.
Who will be there in the second death? "All those who have rejected God's offer of forgiveness," Laurie said, adding, "Notice, I didn't say bad people."
Both out-and-out sinners and self-righteous people will be there in hell, Laurie went on to say. Procrastinators will be there, too, because they may never believe, and unsaved church members will also be there, he added.
Why are they there? Because "they did not believe," Laurie answered, quoting John 3:18.
The purpose for the final judgment is to let the non-believers know why they are condemned, he told the listeners.
"One day every person on earth will meet Jesus Christ. Even if they don't believe Christ exists, they'll meet Jesus Christ. He is inescapable and unavoidable. And if they don't believe Him as Savior, they'll meet Him as Judge," Laurie warned.
"Hell is a prison in which the prison doors are first locked from the inside by us, and therefore are locked from the outside by God," the pastor said, concluding that we choose to go to hell, as God wants us in heaven.