“…books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.” Rev. 20:12
Books are timeless. They are portable, personal, public and permanent. With many copies of the same book, they are a reliable record of an event. They existed before electricity, and can exist when the power is off. They are the bookends of history. They were around at the beginning of the world, and will be opened at the end of the world. They don’t require a password to access them, or any special training to operate.
Creation was recorded in them, the genealogies and the early history of man, and all the works of God in history. Gen. 5:1 refers to the first book written as the Book of Generations, which recorded creation and the fall. Throughout Scripture, there are references to the Chronicles of the Kings.
The Bible contains sixty six books, yet it is one Book. It has one theme. It was written over many centuries by forty authors in several languages. It has many stories or narratives, yet they are all part of the meta-narrative, the grand story of how God redeemed sinful humanity to become the Bride of Christ. All of history is His Story. These things were “written for our learning”.
God has been keeping records. Names, deeds, and words, are all recorded in books. On that awesome Last Day, the Bible says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Rev. 20:12
The main book seems to be the Book of Life, which is a list of names. “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev.20:15
But what are these other books mentioned in Rev. 20:12?
Malachi 3:16 says, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.”
This is to contrast the conversation and conduct of believers with the preceding words of murmuring and complaining by unbelievers. They said it was useless to serve God. But our delight as believers is to talk about our Saviour. The amazing thing is that He takes notice of it, approves, and records it in our favour. This is a Book of Remembrance.
Psalm 56:8 says, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?” Here we see that God is aware of our sorrows and in a sense saves our tears; none falls to the ground without His notice. He records our grief in a book. He knows. He cares. I find this to be so poignant a picture of our loving and compassionate God. I call this a Book of Sorrows.
When Job was in the midst of his suffering, he lamented, “Oh that my words were written! Oh, that they were inscribed in a book!” Job. 19:23 Job wanted a permanent record of his words. This would give some meaning to his suffering. He got his wish. Someone has taken note. His words were recorded. I call this a Book of Suffering.
Jesus warns that a record is kept of our idle words, and we will be held to account for them. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt. 12:36,37 Our words have eternal significance. The Bible often condemns sins such as insults, gossip and lies as severely as adultery and murder. 1 Tim. 1:10, Rev. 21:8
I don’t know about you, but I find that to be a sobering thought. Like Job, when he is rebuked by God, says, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.” Job 40:4 Or Isaiah, when He has a vision of God on His throne, and he is aware of being a “man of unclean lips”.
We tend to downplay those sins as somehow less heinous than adultery or murder, but God takes them very seriously. Whether there’s another book for our idle words or not, the idea is that there is a record. Ultimately, every facet of every life is “stored” in the mind of God. He doesn’t forget. The information doesn’t need a backup.
While judgment is a fearful thing, it is also comforting to know that in that Great Day all injustices will be made right, that God has seen our suffering and sorrow, our fellowship and deeds. He inscribed our name in His Book of Life even before we trusted in Christ. Perhaps the tears He wipes from our eyes in Heaven will be after He has reviewed our lives. When it’s all over, we are secure in Heaven because of Christ, and the efficacy of His blood to cover all of our sin.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Rev. 21:4
First Published in the June 2014 issue of Barnabas magazine.