Judged By the Book
Read Revelation 20:11-15 (ESV)
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and 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 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.
Does the promise of this final judgement and punishment for sin give you mixed emotions? Why or why not?
If you have ever watched a true crime cold case documentary, then you have seen family members of the victim pleading for help in solving the case because they want just one thing—justice. We all want justice to be served. We want wrongs to be made right. And in today’s verses, that is just what God promises. Justice will be served and evil will be punished.
John described the scene that he saw in his vision from the Lord. He saw Jesus sitting on a great white throne. Everyone who had ever died stood before Him awaiting their judgement. Books were opened that recorded everyone’s actions and all of the dead were judged according to their deeds. For all of their sins and for their rejection of the Lord, many were thrown into the lake of fire, which as we discussed yesterday means eternal torment. Jesus, the perfect Judge will throw the book at them. They will receive the most severe punishment possible. After generations of patience and warnings to repent, they will get what they deserve.
But there is one group that escapes this eternal punishment—those whose names are found in the book of life. Who are these people? The redeemed of the Lord. Those whom He has saved.
Malachi 3:16-17 says: “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between the one who serves God and the one who does not serve him.”
Notice that the people who are spared are described as belonging to Him like children belong to a father. They are also described as “righteous” and ones who serve God. But what makes them God’s children and what makes them righteous? We know that everyone has sinned and that no one is righteous (Romans 3:10,23). All of us deserve the lake of fire. We deserve eternal punishment. But those whose names are found in the book of life will not get what we deserve because Jesus took upon Himself the punishment for our sins. Jesus took what we deserved.
Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Philippians 3:9, Paul wrote, “...not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”
Those who trust Jesus as their Savior have been made righteous and they have been adopted into God’s family. “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…” (John 1:12). Just as a father is merciful to his beloved children, so God is merciful to His beloved children.
Friends, those of us who have received Christ and have accepted His gift of salvation are the only ones who will not get what we deserve. If we were judged according to the deeds that are recorded in those books, none of us could stand. But thanks be to God for sending His Son, Jesus, who bore our sins on the cross to make us righteous in God’s sight.
For those of us in Christ, we will be spared. Our names will be found in the book of life. Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If not, I encourage you to make that commitment today.
Lord, thank You for taking the punishment that I deserved. I know that apart from You, I am not righteous. But in You, I am made holy! Thank You for the gift of salvation and eternal life that I have in You. Amen.