“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before the throne; and the books were opened: and a another book was opened, which is (The Book) of Life; and the dead were judged by the things written in the books according to their works …And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire (which is the Second Death).”
This is the most awesome scene, yet at the same time the most divinely gracious, in all of Scripture. Surely, no child of Adam, great or small, could hope to escape the all-consuming fire on That Day on the basis of his works alone. All have fallen far short of God’s glory, perRom 3:23.Yet just as surely, every penitent sinner trusting in Christ’s vicarious death on that day will find his name in the Book of Life. On that day he will inherit eternal life, the gift of God’s grace and mercy, and sing Toplady’s immortal lines: “Nothing in my hands I bring; simply to thy Cross I cling!” Certainly then the Book of Life on that Great Day should be looked upon, and recorded by every theologian and every Creed worthy the name, as the greatest symbol of God’s sovereign grace,- next only to the Cross itself, in all human history.
Yet what do we find:
(1) It is totally ignored in Calvin’s “Institutes” of 1536, the author reputedly the great champion of God’s sovereignty in salvation.
(2) It is also ignored in the Lutheran,Swiss, Dutch, and other Reformed Catechisms and Confessions, such as Heidelberg, Dort, etc.
(3) It is likewise ignored in the Westminster Confession (see below), supposedly the epitome of Reformed orthodoxy; likewise in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Anglican reformed orthodoxy; and of course ignored in the “Great Creeds” of Romanism (as one might expect), even though manyevangelicals are taught to look upon these Roman Creeds (Nicea, Constantinople, Chalcedon, etc.) as sacro-sanct.
(4) More surprising is the fact that the Book of Life is ignored by the great Baptist Confessions, of London 1689, Philadelphia 1720, and New Hampshire, and even omitted in Spurgeon’s catechism. Instead, all these Confessions and Creeds, describing the Judgment Dayscene, follow Rome in portraying salvation vs. damnation as determined by the Books of Man’s Works on that day. And ignoring the crucial statement in Rev. 20:15 cited above, they use the language of Jn. 5:29 alone to excuse such a shocking oversight.
B. THE WESTMINISTER CONFESSION TOUCHING the LAST JUDGMENT
(Typical of Other Reformed and Baptist Confessions)
Chapter XXXIII: Of the LAST JUDGMENT.
NOTE: Biblical references are cited in the original at the points marked*,but nowhere is there any reference toRev. 20.
1. God hath appointed a day,wherein He will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ”, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father”. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged”, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body,whether good or evil”.
2. The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of His justice in the eternal damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient.For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord: but the wicked who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power*
3. (A paragraph solely to warn men of the need to be prepared and watchful, since none know the hour at which the Lord will come. Again no reference to Rev. 20 is given.)
C. SUMMARY OF REASONS FOR THE SILENCE OF THE CREEDS ON THE BOOK OF LIFE
Let us summarize some possible reasons for (and then some of the deadly consequences of) this near-conspiracy among the leading voices of orthodoxy, and their creeds, for the last 500 years.
1. God’s Grand Plan of Redemption for His Saints demands a final test that magnifies, in one great Act, both His perfect justice and sovereign grace.
2. His justice and grace must be seen by all, (first) at Creation, (second) at the Cross, but most of all, (third) at the Grand Assize on Judgment Day,when all of mankind will be present for the first and only time in history.
3. The Book of Life, on that day, is the ultimate symbol of His grace and forgiveness to every saint in Christ Jesus, and passport into the New Heaven and New Earth; and not until That Day will any saint hear from Jesus’ lips those precious words “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!”
4. Why then is this great truth not even found in the great evangelical Creeds and Confessions since the Reformation:
(a) The Book of Life is the centerpiece of God’s action on Judgment Day. A name found written there, or missing there, overrules all else that might be found in the record of a man’s works. And, in keeping with perfect jurisprudence (of which Almighty God is the paragon), His public verdict on every soul awaits That Day, and the opening of That Book. Therefore the role of the Book of Life demolishes all cherished theories of “Instant Rapture to Heaven at Death” based upon Platonism and Rome, which still prevail in the major denominations.
(b) The central place given to the Book of Life in Rev. 20:15 makes the Romish doctrine of the perpetual torture of the lost in hell a crowning insult to Almighty God! Why? Because, since every name written in that precious Book is there by God’s sovereign choice and grace, with no merit in the sinner to earn it, it follows that, if perpetual torture is to be God’s continuing activity for the remainder of mankind, every name omitted from that Book therefore means that God has chosen to torture that person forever. It is no wonder then that Pelagian Romanism shudders at Rev. 20:15! But there is no explanation for the Book of Life being erased from “Reformed theology”whose banner is God’s sovereignty in salvation! – except for it being a threat to the Romish doctrine of perpetual torture, which reformed theology and many other church creeds strangely cling to.
D. THREE CONSEQUENCES OF OMITTING THE BOOK OF LIFE FROM CREEDS AND CONFESSIONS
1. It thereby protects the unbiblical view of death, innate immortality, and final punishment imported from the Gnostics by Romanism and adhered to in the Reformed Creeds and, in Baptist Confessions of Faith also.
2. It thereby protects the consequent unbiblical view of “going to heaven when you die” found in most evangelical creeds (and going to “purgatory”, found in Romanism); a view whose deadly effect is to make Resurrection Day of no importance,- as Tyndale so often hammered at in debating the Romanist monks, and later the “famous theologian” Sir Thomas More, in his day.
3. It subtly also protects the perverted (Romanist) view of Divine Justice,and of man’s sinfulness. That view is that Man is a sinner only by act, not by nature (contrary to Mt. 7:18; 12:35,15:18, et al.). Therefore the Book of one’s Works (Rev. 20:12) will surely record one’s in abilities and ignorance, and must surely enter into the justice God metes out to the young, the poor, and the ignorant,- opening the “door of heaven” to most of mankind except the grossly wicked. On this view, the Book of Life becomes secondary, merely a record of the degree of punishment due to every man, and only the most wicked of men (or those unbaptized by Mother Church, said Rome) not found written there are slated for the Lake of Fire. Thus, ignoring the biblical doctrine of the Book of Life opens the door little by little to quasi-universalism.