The Way It Happened

Revelation 20:12, The Book of Life

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.

//Here’s a fascinating topic. Everybody has heard about the Book of Life up in heaven. If your name is in it, you get through the Pearly Gates. If not, tough luck, down you go to the flames. 

Many people who have near-death experiences recall seeing a big book, sometimes sitting on a pedestal, describing their deeds. Undoubtedly the image derives from the book of Revelation in the Bible.

John, in writing Revelation, relies heavily upon the Old Testament book of Daniel, and there is a heavenly scene in that book which looks like a court of law. But when God “opens the books” in Daniel’s court of law, it is to decide upon and impose a sentence. It is never to determine guilt or innocence; the party’s guilt has been established before the book is opened. The guilty pronouncement has already been made. In Revelation, the sentence of evil men is to die a second time in the Lake of Fire.

But is this book in Daniel supposed to be the Book of Life? Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the “book of life” is better explained as the “book of the living.” It is a book full of names of people who are still alive. When it’s your turn to die, your name is blotted out of the book. Picture the gods keeping the book handy, and when they’ve had enough of you, they open it up to your name and blot you out with their thumb.

John seems to have taken these two themes–Daniel’s book of sentences and the Old Testament’s book of the living–and combined them into one. The book changes from diabolical to wonderful, and becomes a list of people who will inherit eternal life.

Much better, don’t you think?

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