The Lamb’s Book of Life

In Brad’s sermon on Hebrews 1:1-4 this last Sunday at Stonebrook Church, he started off by reading Revelation 20:11-15, in order to help us understand God as a sovereign judge, which is probably the closest thing we in America experience in terms of absolute authority.

Reading this text blew my mind and sent me on a tangent that lasted for most of the sermon. I’d like to share with you some thoughts I’ve had after stewing on this for several days now.

Revelation 20:11-15

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.

Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done.

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.


Once we are done reeling at the magnitude of the scene presented here (which may take a couple years of processing), we start noticing details. Walk through the scene with me.

  1. All the dead are resurrected and stand before God’s throne.
  2. The books, containing a record of everything everyone has done in life are opened. (That’s a lot of books.)
  3. Another, separate book is opened. The Book of Life.
  4. Everyone is judged according to the content of the first set of books.
  5. Anyone whose name is not written in The Book of Life is thrown into the lake of fire.

Whoa again. I can never read this or think through it without feeling a bit like I’ve been punched in the stomach. After we catch our breath, we can make a few observations. I deduce the following from these events:

Judged by our deeds: Guilty.

  • Everyone is judged to be guilty according to the content of the first set of books and is headed for the fire.
  • Anyone whose name is found in the book of life is, for some reason, spared (saved from!) this fate.

There is one other logical possibility if we focus solely this passage: some correlation between the contents of the books (your deeds in life) and the presence of one’s name in the book of life. A plain reading of Romans will quickly negate this, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus..” (Romans 3:23-24) This passage in Romans also gives us some clue as to the nature of the Book of Life.

Quick summary: We will be judged by our deeds, and found guilty, deserving punishment in hell for eternity. If our name is found written in the book of life, however, we will be spared this fate.

What is this Book of Life?

It is mentioned several other times in the New Testament, notably in Revelation:

Revelation 13:8

…and all who dwell on earth will worship [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

Revelation 17:8

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.

Key characteristics of the Book of Life

  • It belongs to The Lamb who was slain (Jesus Christ)
  • It was written before the foundation of the world.

This second characteristic is mind-blowing to me. Your name was written in the book of life before the world began. You were chosen for salvation from the lake of fire (the just punishment that you deserve for the content of your life) before the world began.

And it has this ultimate effect

Revelation 21:27

But nothing unclean will ever enter [the new Jerusalem], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The brackets here are my words. It is with pain that I excerpt this verse from the magnificent description of the new Jerusalem, heaven on earth, God making his dwelling with man.

It is only the presence of your name in the Book of Life that grants entrance to the new Jerusalem, what we typically call Heaven.

This IS The Gospel!

Your deeds in life earn you torment for eternity in the lake of fire. This is true for all people. If your name has been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain, you will be spared this fate.

How do you know if your name is written in the book?

This is the obvious question that results from the above (I hope). The question is answerable (at least partially).

You see, your name (if it is there) was not easily written in this book. In a poetic sense, this book is written with blood; Jesus’ blood.

God would be unjust, and therefore unrighteous, (and therefore not God!) if he let your sin go unpunished. He did punish your sin. The punishment you earned with the deeds of your life was carried out upon Jesus 2000 years ago at the cross. He was accused of deeds he was innocent of, but you are guilty of. He was punished for things you deserve to be punished for, so that you might not receive punishment.

Do you believe this? Does this stir your soul to a life of gratitude to Christ? Does this gratitude lead to a self-sacrificial attitude of service to others in word and deed in order to bring God glory for this? This is what is meant by “faith in Christ”. Faith and belief are the same concept (I wrote about this earlier.)

If this describes your life, I would wager that your name is written in the book.

If this is not the posture of your life, I would urge you to consider the historical fact, the reality, of the above message, and let it change your mind about God, because if you do not accept this reality, you are still headed toward that lake of fire.

The life of belief/faith in this message (acceptance of this message) is marked by repentance. Repentance means a turning away from, and change of mind about the way you are living your life (without God). It means that you put away striving after, thinking about, and working toward anything harder than you work toward knowing God and doing His will.

But what about…

This article may raise more questions than give answers, which is fine. It borders on issues of:

  • Free will
  • Can one’s name be removed from the book? (see Rev. 3:5)
  • Evangelism (if their name is written, why evangelize?)

And probably many other issues better left to another time. Leave a comment and debate away if you’d like. If you consider yourself a believer and have an opposing argument, GREAT! But please argue from scripture (chapter and verse are helpful) rather than simply launching your opinion.

Our days were written in his book before any of them were…

I am in love with Psalm 139 along this line. Read the whole thing when you get a chance, but I’d like to close with verses 13-16

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.



6 responses to “The Lamb’s Book of Life”

  1. Brian Warshaw Avatar
    Brian Warshaw

    Right on the money, sir. I’m glad a happened upon your site.

    Judged by our deeds, we are all, like Pharaoh, objects destined for wrath. But judged by Jesus, we are clean and accepted. Praise God for his grace.

    Thanks for writing, and writing well.

    1. mheerema Avatar

      Glad you liked it! Curious how you found the site, I haven't even really launched yet :) Working on moving my theology writing over to here from I appreciate the encouragement though. Will continue to post. More to come!

      1. Brian Warshaw Avatar
        Brian Warshaw

        I found a job ad for cramerdev on authenticjobs. While checking out their body of work (before applying–their stuff looks great and I'd love to work with them), I came across, where there was a link to content on this site (which, incidentally, was not found).

        So, yeah–I had to crawl through a tunnel to get here, but here I am :-)

        1. mheerema Avatar

          What a great story. I used to work for Cramer Dev back in the day. Josh is a good friend still. The blog you were clicking through to does not exist any longer, (I used to host blogs for friends at this domain). I am re-purposing the site (as mentioned above). Stick around :) Nice to meet you here.

  2. Dave Daggett Avatar
    Dave Daggett

    I was getting some scripture together for our small group Monday night. We are in Hebrews. Hebrews 6 talks about "losing your salvation" or "falling away". Of course this isn't true. Anyway, wanted to get some ammo for any discussion that may/will arise;-)
    Simply typed book of life in for a search and your page came up with some others, and yours looked more authentic so here I am. Loved what you had to say. Will check back periodically for more good info.

    1. Matt Heerema Avatar

      Dave, sorry bro, I just found this comment in a spam folder!

      I hope your small group went well. You'll see I posted on Hebrews 6 recently as well.

      See ya around.

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