Rev. 22:12 – “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done. (HCSB)
My reward is with me
Jesus speaks in verse 12: “Look! I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to repay each person according to what he has done.” The New Testament often repeats the theme of judgment based on works. For example:
- In Matt. 16:27 Jesus declares, “For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done.”
- In Matt. 25:31-46 Jesus speaks of the coming judgment of the “sheep” and “goats.” He separates those on His right from those on His left and explains that their works revealed their character. The sheep are welcomed into His kingdom, prepared for them from the foundation of the world, while the goats are banished to the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
- In Rom. 2:5-8 Paul writes, “But because of your hardness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed. He will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality; but wrath and indignation to those who are self-seeking and disobey the truth but are obeying unrighteousness …” While commentators have offered nearly a dozen interpretations of this difficult passage, the most likely one is that works are the outcome of a person’s faith, or lack thereof. Paul quotes from Ps. 62:12 and Prov. 24:12 when he writes, “He will repay each one according to his works.” The believer, indwelled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, lives a life of conformity to the image of God. The unbeliever, driven by the flesh, produces works worthy of eternal separation from God.
- In 1 Peter 1:17, Peter notes, “And if you address as Father the One who judges impartially based on each one’s work, you are to conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your temporary residence.”
- And in Rev. 20:13, as unbelievers stand before the great white throne, they are judged “according to their works.”
Rev. 20:15 – And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (HCSB)
Anyone not found
John concludes this section with the words, “And anyone not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire” (v. 15).
As the wicked pass through the gates of hell in Dante’s epic poem Inferno, they are greeted with these words: “Abandon hope, all you who enter here.” These words remind the damned that once inside, there is no escape from the fiery torments they have brought upon themselves.
As Charles Swindoll writes, “Though the details of Dante’s fictional picture of heaven, hell, and purgatory range from the fantastic to the heretical, he was right about this: the final destination of the wicked features a one-way entrance. All hope vanishes beyond; there will be no escape from the lake of fire…. The facts of eternal punishment are set forth without a hint of hope … because no hope exists apart from God” (Insights on Revelation, pp. 266-67).
Books are opened at the great white throne, and the wicked find their names there, along with details of their lives – perhaps even a full accounting of their deeds. Some may wish to be excluded from God’s record of their thoughts, words, and actions, for their lives are laden with every sort of evil. They stand before their Creator – who has revealed Himself in creation, conscience, Christ and Canon – with no excuse (Rom. 1:20). They have turned up their noses at God’s revealed love and turned their backs on His grace. And now they are reminded of every idle word, every selfish deed, every squandered opportunity as the evidence written in the books piles so high and wide it becomes like prison walls that cannot be scaled.
Rev. 20:12b – and books were opened … (HCSB)
Books were opened
As unbelievers stand before the great white throne – alone, without a defense, and with no escape – John notes that “books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books” (v. 12). What are these books, and how many are there? What is different about the book of life that it should be named, while the others are mentioned as a group without distinction?
It seems clear that God keeps a record of our lives and holds us accountable for how we manage the time, talents, relationships, and other gifts He has entrusted to us. He knows our thoughts, which form the action plans for good and evil deeds (see, for example, Matt. 5:27-28). He hears our words, which reveal the true nature of our hearts and for which we must give an account (Matt. 12:33-37).
In various places, the Bible depicts God’s record of our lives as contained in heavenly books. No person escapes the Creator’s interest or avoids a day of reckoning with Him. “Myriads of human beings have lived and died of whom the world knows nothing; but the lives they lived, the deeds they wrought, the thoughts and tempers they indulged, still stand written where the memory of them cannot perish. Not a human being has ever breathed earth’s atmosphere whose career is not traced at full length in the books of eternity” (Seiss, p. 479).
Rev. 20:11b – Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them. (HCSB)
Earth and heaven fled
John remarks, “Earth and heaven fled from His presence, and no place was found for them” (v. 11b). The idea of earth and heaven – the created order for mankind’s habitation – fleeing from their Creator seems to personify the passing away of “the first heaven and the first earth,” to be replaced with “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1).
The earth’s wicked stand in final judgment before God. They are about to be cast into hell for their sins. The redeemed already have been glorified. Therefore, God is putting an end to sin – and with it, an end to the consequences of sin in the created order. This has been His plan since eternity past and He has communicated it to us throughout human history.
The Fall results not only in death for Adam and Eve and their descendants; it results in a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17-19). Even so, before that curse is pronounced, the Lord promises a Redeemer – a virgin-born Savior who crushes the head of Satan and ultimately reverses the effects of the Fall (Gen. 3:15).
Throughout the Old Testament, we see several hundred prophecies of this promised Messiah and learn that He is to be born of a virgin in Bethlehem Eprathah (Isa. 7:14; Micah 5:2); that He is divine and will establish an everlasting kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7); that He is to suffer an excruciating death but conquer the grave (Ps. 16:9-11; 22:12-18); that in His suffering and death He is to bear the penalty for our sins (Isa. 53:3-6); that He is to heal the broken-hearted (Isa. 61:1-2); and that He is to judge people and restore the earth to its sinless perfection (Isa. 66). We see the prophecies of the Suffering Servant fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.
John Shore recently authored a commentary for Patheos entitled, “What Christianity Without Hell Looks Like.” Patheos is a website providing information about various religions.
Reprinted in TIME Ideas and complete with a photo of a dove soaring in the sunlight, the article’s main point is that Christianity without hell “would allow Christians to point upward to God’s love.”
Shore is a popular Christian blogger and author, yet his column features a string of shockingly bad theological statements that nevertheless resonate well in today’s relativistic culture.
Let’s look at just four of his false statements.