The book of Revelation starts with a depiction of God the Father, sitting on His throne with a book (scroll) in His hands, and it ends with Him opening a set of books.
We are drawing very near to the end of the Revelation Revisited series and so before I explain the significance of the books of Revelation 20:12, I once again need to present a glimpse of the big picture. Actually, the part of Revelation we are currently looking at, Chapter 20, provides an excellent basis for doing just that.
John provides a graphic portrayal of a mighty angel seizing Satan and binding him for 1,000 years. The thousand years stands as a symbol for the long period of time between the first and second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The devil was effectively bound when Jesus died and rose again from the grave. From that moment onward Satan’s authority was stripped from him and he lost the right to control the lives of all who follow Jesus and are born again of His spirit.
‘You were at one time spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were Gentiles without the Law. But God has now brought you to life with Christ. God forgave us all our sins; he cancelled the unfavourable record of our debts with its binding rules and did away with it completely by nailing it to the cross. And on that cross Christ freed himself from the power of the spiritual rulers and authorities; he made a public spectacle of them by leading them as captives in his victory procession.’ TEV. (Colossians 2:13-15)
Revelation 20:4-6 presents those who become disciples of the Lord Jesus, die and go to be with Him in heaven where they reign with Him. As part of what he called ‘a trustworthy saying’, Paul wrote that ‘If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…’ (2 Timothy 2:11-12). Revelation 20:5 describes this as ‘the first resurrection’. I have written about this in a previous post but essentially the allusion is to the fact that when a believer dies physically ‘in Christ’ then he or she is then and there resurrected to spiritual life with Jesus in heaven. When Christ returns these believers will accompany Him and receive, along with all other people, transformed physical bodies (the second resurrection).
Shortly before Jesus returns to judge and reward, the devil is ‘set free for a short time’. He will deceive the world into thinking that he is The Christ and will mobilise against the true church of the Lord Jesus.
This is the period of great tribulation and great revival the book of Revelation points us to in passages such as 7:14 and 11:1-14.
When Jesus comes again it is to reward His disciples and to judge all others. This event is portrayed in Revelation as the opening of books, and another book which Revelation 20:12 describes as ‘the book of life’. God will judge all people, saved and unsaved alike, by what is in the record of our lives. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:10, ‘For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad’.
Here is how I imagine it will be. You will stand before the great throne of God and He will open the record of your life. As He does so, you will see, in vivid holographic reality, everything you have ever done, spoken or even thought.
As you review your life in the awesome presence of Almighty God you will realise with clarity that there is nothing in the records that merit your acceptance by Him and your continuing existence with Him. The prophet Isaiah proclaimed that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). This is so hard for us to own now, but we will see it so clearly then. But then The Lord will open another record, the Book of Life, and search for your name. This ‘book’ is written in blood, the blood of the Saviour, and if your name is inscribed in it then, despite your lack of earned merit, you will be deemed acceptable to God and worthy of eternal life. The entry in the book is made when you repent of self-serving rebellion against God, confess this to Him, cry out to Him for mercy, acknowledge that in Jesus Christ alone can you have eternal life, and then receive the rebirth of your spirit as a gift of grace received by faith.
This is the eternal Gospel, the Good News of salvation in Christ Jesus.