Summary: Lists are significant when they are connected with the power and authority to preserve or give live in the face of death. In today’s passage, we read about a Book of Life that lists the names of all the people who will be given eternal life with God forever. Through His one, perfect sacrifice, Jesus has written our name in the Book of Life and erased any record of our weaknesses and failures. Therefore, we live with courage.
Key concepts in this passage:
- The Book of Life: A heavenly register of those who will be given eternal life (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27). It is also referred to in the Old Testament as God’s book, scroll or record (Exo. 32:32, Ps. 69:28; Dan. 7:10; 12:1).
- Resurrection of the Dead: Is taught in the Old Testament (Job 19:25-27; Ps. 16:10), but in a much fuller way in the New Testament. It was expected that a general resurrection would happen at the end of time, but Jesus’ resurrection was not expected because it happened before the end of time. However, Jesus’ bodily resurrection is our guarantee of our future resurrection. “He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died” (1 Cor. 15:20).
- The Final Judgment: At the end of time, all will be raised from the dead and then judged. It will be a time of vindication for those who believed in Jesus, for it will be shown that believing in Jesus, even though it may have resulted in suffering or death in this life, was the right faith to have.
Background: The events of this passage happen after Jesus has returned to this earth in a visible way, defeated Satan and all his evil forces in the Final Battle and banished them from all creation forever.
Opening Question: What is an example of something that is wrong that you hope will one day be made right?
Read: Revelation 20:11-15
- In verse 11, the writer, John, tells us that he saw a great white throne. When you think of a large throne, what thoughts come to your mind?
- When John tells us in verse 12 that he saw the dead standing before the throne, he is describing the resurrection of the dead. Such a thing would be an incredible miracle of immense proportions. Who could do such a thing?
- Given what we read in this passage, are all people raised from the dead, or only those who believe in Jesus?
- As everyone is standing before the throne, there are two different kinds of books that are opened. There are books in which people’s deeds are recorded (Books of Deeds), and there is another book which is called the Book of Life. What are the Books of Deeds used for?
- On what basis are people judged?
Explanation: (a quote from Louis Brighton’s commentary on Revelation)
While Christians also sin and thus could have had their sinful deeds recorded in the “books” of God’s judgment in 20:12, other passages suggest that God keeps a record only of their good works, the deeds done out of faith and by the love of Christ (see Mt 25:34-40). So then John not only sees the books of judgment, but also “the book of life.” All whose names are written in “the book of life” are recorded in the heart of God as ones who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 3:5; 7:9-17). For this reason, in the books of judgment only their good deeds are recorded and not their sins, for their sins have been blotted out of God’s mind and so will not be the object of his righteous anger and judgment. God lists the good deeds of his saints, and they will be recalled as visible demonstrations of their saving faith in his grace, wrought for them by Christ, the victorious Lamb (cf. Mt 5:16; 7:15-20.
- After all the people are judged, what happens to death and the grave? (Note: Some translations will say “Death and Hades.” Hades was the name for the place of the dead in ancient times).
- If the lake of fire is called “the second death,” then that implies that there is a first death. What do you think is the first death? What is the difference between the first death and the second death?
Note: The term “lake of fire” would have reminded people of Gehenna, a term in Judaism and early Christianity for hell and the fires of hell. Gehenna is also connected to the Valley of Ben-Hinnom near Jerusalem where children were sacrificed by burning during the reigns of Manasseh and Ahaz. Therefore, it was considered to be cursed.
- If we were separated from God forever, what are some ways that we would suffer?
- What happens to those whose names are not written in the Book of Life?
- How can Jesus’ promise to end death give us courage to work with other Christians to tell others about Jesus so there are more names in Jesus’ Book of Life?
This Bible Study focuses on the same passage as the sermon on Nov 17/19 from Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC.
 Louis A. Brighton, Revelation, Concordia Commentary Series (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 584.