Judged by the book
Revelation 20 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.
4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.
7 When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, 8 and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. 9 And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.
Judgment at the Throne of God
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.
Once again as we read today’s text it is the message which is what I want to focus on, not trying to interpret the times or to identify the nations. I do not try to reconcile what is spiritual imagery with what is real in this physical realm. I don’t concern myself with the physical manifestation, the appearance of Satan, whether he is a dragon, a serpent or the devil. It does not matter to me whether the chains used to bind him are literal, physical chains or the spiritual power of God. It is the message of verses 11-15 which draws my focus. The text speaks of a judgment before the throne of God. It says: 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. 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. 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. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is 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. There is a similar judgment which Jesus Himself speaks of, when discussing the end of the age. Some will argue that it is a different time and a different judgment, but the heart of the message is the same.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus says: “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
In the Revelation text it says they will be judged according to their deeds. In the Matthew text, Jesus affirms that it was according to the way they treated others, Jesus brethren, that they would be judged. Yet we know that we are not saved by our own works. Being good to others is not enough. Ephesians 2:8-10 sums it up fairly well, saying: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. We are not saved by our works but we are saved for good works. The good things we do are the result of our being saved. It is Christ in us doing the works. The Revelation text says that one of the books in which the deeds were recorded was the book of life. Those whose names are in the book of life are those who have believed in Christ. The actions, the deeds which Jesus speaks of in the Matthew text are not the reason for salvation, they are the evidence of Christ in those who are saved. They are the fulfillment of what Jesus says are the first and second most important commandments. He says: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Loving and treating others is the result and the response to loving God.
If we will be judged by our works alone, by all that we have done, both the good and the bad, none of us will measure up to God’s standard, to His righteousness. Yet because of God’s great love, because of His mercy and grace, He gave us the free gift of salvation, redemption and reconciliation through Christ. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The most important deed for any of us is the deed or action of accepting the finished work of the cross of Christ, believing in Him, to have our name written in the book of life, by the blood of Jesus. Both texts, Revelation and Matthew, agree that there will be an eternal judgment. Our deeds, the way we live, are an indication of who we live for. Do we live to do selfish acts or according to our faith in Christ and by the grace of God, do we do the good works which God has prepared for us?
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, I believe that it is only by Your grace, through the redeeming work of the cross that I am saved. Thank You that my name is written in the book of life by the blood of Jesus. My desire is that as I love You with all my heart, soul and mind, the result will be that I also love others, that I indeed do the good works of God. May I see the Christ in others, the image and likeness of God, that I may also be Christ to them, that they too may believe. Amen