This week we begin with Question 28 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 2 (questions 21-35), which focuses on Christ, redemption, and grace.
Question 28: What happens after death to those not united to Christ by faith?
Answer: At the day of judgment they will receive the fearful but just sentence of condemnation pronounced against them. They will be cast out from the favorable presence of God, into hell, to be justly and grievously punished, forever.
Revelation 20:11-15 presents the scene of the final judgment, when all people, living and dead, will stand before God. In verse 12, John writes, “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.” Then in verse 15 he writes, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
The plural “books” represent the record of all the deeds of all people throughout history. One day, everything we have ever thought, said, or done will be brought to the light of God’s judgment. And if that is all we have to depend on, the final judgment should terrify us, because our works have merited only God’s wrath (Rom. 3:23).
But in addition to the books, there is another book that is opened, which is called the book of life, representing God’s election unto life of the people whom he has given to his Son and for whom his Son died and was raised. If your name is in the book of life, then the many sins recorded in the books of your deeds will not be held against you. They will be brought to the light, but not for judgment or embarrassment. They will be publicly revealed as sins forgiven, sins for which your Savior died, sins that have no more claim over your identity or destiny.
One day, we will either stand before God depending on our own works, in which case we are hopeless, or we will depend on his grace alone, which through Jesus Christ will deliver us from his coming judgment.
Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Revelation 20:11-15. What do the “books” represent? What does the book of life represent? How can you know if your name is in the book of life?