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Revelation 20:11-15



Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

(verses 11-12, 15)

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Judgement. We will stand before God with our lives completely laid bare before his all-seeing gaze. What hope could anyone possibly have of surviving such exposure?


Well, read on.


In this passage we find ourselves ushered into the scene of the final judgement. Some argue that believers and unbelievers alike are not present on this particular occasion, that believers will have appeared before Christ at a previous time. But the process is the same in either case, for all inhabitants of planet Earth, from every period of history, will have their own moment to stand before the Lord, the Judge of all the Earth.


On what basis will judgement take place? Here it is: “The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”This will be the moment when everyone – the “good,” the “bad,” the seemingly “righteous,” the obviously “unrighteous” – will discover the truth of the Scripture’s teaching that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Romans 3:23). That word “all” is completely expansive, absolutely inclusive, and leaves no one out. Based on their own actions, attitudes, thoughts, and motives each person falls short.


Jewish apocalyptic writings of the time also referred to books in which God kept a record of each person’s deeds. In some versions, an angel held a scale, weighing good against bad, or subjecting deeds to the fire to see if any goodness would survive. If there was enough good, a person would be declared righteous.


But that’s not the case here. No one standing before the white throne survives because of their own deeds recorded in the book.Indeed, ultimately, the only saving criterion is found in a very different book altogether. “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” The reference is to “the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). It is the Lamb’s sacrificial death that makes all the difference, indeed the only difference. The hosts of heaven worship him, declaring what he has accomplished: “You are worthy … because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).


The powerful effect of that purchase is shown forth on the Day of Judgement. Any who did not avail themselves of the Lamb’s sacrifice are left to be judged solely on their own record. The horrific consequence is the lake of fire.


But those who trust the Lamb, who receive his sacrifice, who rejoice that their name is written in his book rather than trusting what is written in their own – these are the ones who are saved. Only these survive the Judgement.


As John wrote in his Gospel: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). And “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).


Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.

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Lord Jesus – Lamb of God – praise be to your name. You took sin upon yourself at the cross so that people from every tribe and language and people and nation – and all time – could be redeemed, washed clean, and forgiven. Thank you that you purchased me. I am forever grateful.

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Reflect:

If you have trusted Jesus’ sacrifice for yourself, reflect on what it will be like to stand before God on the Day of Judgement. Peace. You are declared righteous in Jesus. Soak in the full wonder that your name is written in the Lamb’s Book.


If you have never yet trusted Jesus, consider doing so now.

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Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

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