Judgment by the book
... or books?

Psalms 7:11a God is a righteous judge... [See also 2 Timothy 4:8, Hebrews 12:23]

On the Day of Judgment, when God will judge all who have ever lived, the Righteous Judge will render His verdict based on perfect records. The scene of this end-times event is seen late in the book of Revelation...

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. 12 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. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (NIV)

A number of books are entered into evidence in the celestial court. One is singled out as being different than all the others and is specifically called "the book of life." While the remainder of the books are left nameless their purposes can ascertained from the passage. Notice that every person is judged by the standard of these books. This fact alone shows that further study is warranted.

In a rare Old Testament occurrence, the prophet Daniel was given a vision of this end-times judgment as well. In his vision the books (plural) were opened for judgment, even as they were in Revelation.

Daniel 7:9-10 "As I looked, "thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. 10 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. (NIV)

While no direct reference was given at this time to book of life, a later passage certainly points to its existence. We will examine that passage as part of this section on the book of life.

The book of life:

  1. It is desirable to have ones' name written in this book as only those whose names are recorded will escape the second death (the lake of fire).

  2. Jesus referred indirectly to this book, stating that it is a good thing that your name would be written there.

    Luke 10:20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."

  3. In Revelation we are told that only those whose names are written in this book will enter the New Jerusalem and have a part in the new heavens and earth that God is making to restore paradise that was lost.

    Revelation 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

  4. The book of life belongs to the Lamb which was slain, Jesus Christ (John 1:29).

    Revelation 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

  5. The names in the book were written there before the creation of the world, chosen in Christ. Others are not written in the book of life from before the creation of the world. Also note that those who are written there, having come to faith in Jesus Christ, will no longer serve or worship the false religions and leaders of the earth. Those not written in the book will be deceived as truly they welcome deception in their fallen state.

    Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (NASU)

    Revelation 17:8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.

  6. All who are in the book of life will persevere (also called "endurance", see Romans 15:5) and will overcome the world, never to be removed.

    Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

    1 John 5:4-5 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

  7. The Old Testament prophet Daniel, who had been given a vision of this end-times judgment, was also told about a book (singular). Though not specifically called the book of life, it is clear from the passage that this book pertains to the end of time, and the judgment of the righteous and unrighteous, and most certainly is the exact same book. While many in Daniel's era may have been inclined to believe it only pertained to the Jews because of the term "your people", it in reality pertains to the greater subset "your people", namely all who are written in the book of life. The understanding of this vision was committed to the future, "the time of the end", until the revelation of God's universal church, Jew and Gentile, in Jesus Christ.

    Daniel 12:1-4 "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people - everyone whose name is found written in the book - will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge."

  8. The apostle Paul recognized that those working for the cause of Jesus Christ, contended for the gospel, where more than fellow workers but also people whose names were recorded in the book of life by God's grace.

    Philippians 4:3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (NIV)

It must be noted that every unbeliever who stands before that great bar of God will have no entry in the book of life. Into this deafening silence the protests of good actions and claims of self-righteousness justly require an answer. It is now that we move to examine the contents of the other books that will reply.

The (other) books:

  1. The books are all about what a person has done. While not specifically told the contents of these books in Revelation or in Daniel, they do contain the records by which each person is judged. It is on these records the each person stands or falls.

    Revelation 20:12b The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

  2. The best of our goodness apart from Christ are as filthy rags. When compared to the perfection of God each action recorded in the books will be seen for what it is.

    Isaiah 64:6a All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags

  3. One book is the book of words. Jesus warned that everything we said would be called into judgment, including those rash and careless words spoken in anger, hast, or supposed secrecy.

    Matthews 12:36-37 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."

  4. Another book is the book of actions. Within this book would be not only what was done in public and in private, but what should have been done.

    Matthew 16:27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.

  5. While it could be associated with the last two books, another could be the book of hidden things. Herein all the things done that were intentional hidden from the eyes of man, but now shown to be seen by God (Proverbs 15:3).

    Ecclesiastes 12:14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

  6. The last book may be of thoughts and intents. The thoughts never revealed to another, the plans mulled on in secret, the real intents behind deceptive externals, all will be in view (Genesis 6:5, 8:21). Many a self-deceived person will, for the first time, see clearly the extent of their depravity.

    Hebrews 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Popular culture likes to portray heaven as a time when your whole life will be played on a video screen for all to see. I have even met believers that have feared such, often shamed by things they did before they believed, or that were committed in weakness following. Consider the truth in this matter.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ , that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Jesus, the Righteous Judge of all (John 5:22), will certainly be judging "the dead (Revelation 20:12b)" by what was written in the books, but what about the believer? In Second Corinthians it does clearly say that "we must all appear before the judgment seat" to receive what is due us for thing done while alive, good or bad. For the believer, with their name recorded in the book of life, just what is left in the books regarding the actions of their life? What is there to be read out to condemn them?

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

There is nothing left in the records to condemn a believer, and, believe me, in view of the Holy perfection of God a single sin would be all it takes. How can all this sin, error, and omission be gone from the record of a believer? By the blood of Christ!

Acts 3:19a Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out... (NKJV)

When we repent of our sins and turn to Jesus in faith, our sin is blotted out (wiped out) of the books, never to be remembered again or held against us. This same idea is pictured in regards to our robes in heaven...

Revelation 7:14 I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. [See also Galatians 3:26-27]

It is the blood of Jesus that covers our sins, leaving absolutely nothing to condemn us. For this reason we have nothing to fear in the time of judging. Since this takes care of the negative side of judgment for a believer, what about the positive side, the good we have done in the body? If the books have any entry for a believer it would have to be this...

"Done perfectly for them by Christ!"

The perfect righteousness of Christ, who never sinned, who did everything we should have, who perfectly served the Father in love and obedience, is imputed (or credited) to us. Jesus lived for us the life we (as believers) can never live. The apostle Paul spoke of this very thing in a number of passages...

Romans 3:21-24 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 4:22-25 This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." 23 The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. [credit = "imputed"]

With the imputed righteousness of Christ being recorded in our favor, this is how God can and will say to every believer...

Matthew 25:21 & 23 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

Even the repentant thief on the cross (Luke 29:39-43), and the person who makes a death-bed conversion, will be able to hear those same words in the Day of Judgment. The bottom line on all our good deeds rests in the completed work of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Revelation 22:12-13 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Only the unbeliever still clothed in his filthy rags of self-righteousness needs fear receiving just reward for his deeds. But oh how great the gratitude for the believer who owes everything to His Savior!



A couple Old Testament passages, in Psalms and Exodus, are sometimes claimed by those trying to prove that a person can be removed from the Lamb's book of life. This section will address both of those passages beginning with the one in Exodus.

Exodus 32:31-34 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, "Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin - but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." 33 The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin."

While the Old Testament law had shadows of things that were to come, namely the spiritual fulfillment, much of the focus in their day rested in earthly ordinances and observations. It is not valid to arbitrarily assume that the book Moses is referring to is the spiritual Lamb's book of life which is not fully revealed until New Testament times. In fact, the idea of being blotted out in regards to sin was earlier established...

Exodus 17:14 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this on a scroll as something to be remembered and make sure that Joshua hears it, because I will completely blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven."

The words translated "book" (Exodus 32:32) and "scroll" (Exodus 17:14) are the same Hebrew word (literally meaning "writing" or something written). In the earlier passage, God was going to blot out the remembrance of the people that were under his judgment, meaning they were to cease to exist as a people (obviously they are remembered, as such, because God had knowledge of them recorded in His word). When Moses later talks about himself being blotted out of the scroll (or book), he's using the same idea; that God would strike him rather than the rest of the Israelites. God's answer was that those who had sinned, or need to be punished, would be the ones that would be (in God's own timing). As we see throughout the law, that's exactly what God did. Notice this passage in Deuteronomy and how it quite clearly parallels the idea behind the judgment of the Amaleks.

Deuteronomy 9:13-14 And the LORD said to me, "I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they."

Still another passage...

Deuteronomy 25:5-6 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband's brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

The focus of being blotting out, in the law, directly pertained to a persons' existence within the covenant nation of Israel. Those who sinned were to be blotted out, suffering the judgment and punishment of God, cut of from the people. Multitudes of offenses were punishable by death or exclusion from the people (part of the curses of the law).

Deuteronomy 29:18-21 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the LORD our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. 19 When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way." This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The LORD will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven. 21 The LORD will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law. [Read also Deuteronomy 32:26]

In the inverse, since God promised to always have a remnant, God promised that Israel would never be fully destroyed, or blotted out of physical existence.

2 Kings 14:26-27 The LORD had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel, whether slave or free, was suffering; there was no one to help them. 27 And since the LORD had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.

Again, this passage has nothing to do with the book of life in heaven as it had a completely earthly ("under heaven") focus. Many centuries later, still under the law, David had the same perspective.

Psalms 9:5-6 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. 6 Endless ruin has overtaken the enemy, you have uprooted their cities; even the memory of them has perished.

Throughout the law was the concept that long life was for the righteous and a shortened life was for the wicked. It is for this reason that David calls on God to judge the wicked through their deaths.

Psalms 69:24-28 Pour out your wrath on them; let your fierce anger overtake them. 25 May their place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in their tents. 26 For they persecute those you wound and talk about the pain of those you hurt. 27 Charge them with crime upon crime; do not let them share in your salvation. 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.

The term translated "book of life" is quite literally, in Hebrew, the "book of the living." Once again the idea remains the same, being the physical cutting off of the wicked. While the book of life in heaven, fully revealed in New Testament times, is certainly a book of the living as well (in the fullest sense of that word), it is physical life that is in view in Old Testament times (the later book of Daniel, with its sealed up vision of the far distant future being the only exception). The book, or scroll, David later refers to in regard to his own life reveals more of this idea.

Psalms 139:14-16 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, 16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

David was saying that God had recorded all the days he would live before any of them came about. When applied to the wicked and their being blotted out, it is to say that their days (or life) need to be shortened.

Psalms 109:13-15 May his descendants be cut off, their names blotted out from the next generation. 14 May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the LORD; may the sin of his mother never be blotted out. 15 May their sins always remain before the LORD, that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth.

While the focus in the law was on physically being cut off, there was (and David certainly had) an awareness that God kept a record of sins.

Psalms 51:1-4 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight

Psalms 51:9-10 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. 10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

David clearly knew that God needed to blot out any remembrance of sins or there would be no way that He could stand before God. If sin was to remain there would be no difference between him and the wicked.

Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.

While this certainly applied to the nation of Israel, we now fully understand how God applies this to believers individually. Only with the completed work of Christ can we understand the fullness of the picture revealed in the New Testament concerning the book and the books.

 Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries. (c) 2006
Duplication permitted as long as the source is cited.