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THE BOOKS AND THE BOOK

(A Sermon on the Last Judgment)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, January 25, 2015

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:12-14).


When my wife and I were first married we went to Israel. On the way back we stopped for a few days in Rome. Among other places, we went to the Vatican, to Saint Peter’s Basilica, where the Pope presides and where there are many treasures of art from across the centuries. I had always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling. There Michelangelo (1475-1564) made one of the greatest pieces of art in all the world. It depicts the great epochs of the Bible, the Creation of man, the Fall of man, our first parents driven out of the Garden, and so forth, throughout the Bible. That is the great fresco that covers the ceiling. Another Pope commissioned Michelangelo to cover the front wall with a fresco of the Last Judgment. It is a breathtaking view of the Lord committing those that are damned to the underworld of Hell. One of the men who is sinking into the flames stares out at you with a look of horror and amazement on his face. I stood looking at that huge painted fresco, depicting the Last Judgment. I wondered how many times a pope or a cardinal had actually stood in front of that picture in the last hundred years, and preached on the Last Judgment. I don’t think any of them did that!

And our Baptist and Protestant churches aren’t any better. In fact we are worse. At least they have that famous picture to remind people. If it was a Baptist church, one of the important ladies, like the Sunday School superintendent or the principal of the Christian school, would have thought it was too harsh, too frightening for the children to see. One afternoon the pastor would have walked in and seen that this woman had someone come in and slap a coat of white paint over it! Michelangelo’s Last Judgment has lasted over 450 years on that wall in the Sistine Chapel. I doubt that the Sunday school ladies would have let it stay up even four years in a Baptist church! or an evangelical church!

Do you think I’m being too hard on our Baptist and evangelical churches? I’m probably not being hard enough!!!

When was the last time you heard a Baptist pastor give a sermon on Hell? When was the last time you heard an evangelical or charismatic pastor preach on Hell? No wonder we have not experienced a nation-wide revival for over 150 years!

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a great student and authority on revival. He said, “...until men and women in the Christian Church are humbled and abased, and fall on the earth before this holy, and righteous, yes, angry God, I see no hope of revival” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Revival, Crossway Books, 1987, p. 42). That is why this great preacher said, “I will do my utmost to alarm you with the sight of the terrors of hell. Eternal remorse, eternal misery, eternal wretchedness, unchangeable torment, such is the lot of all who content themselves with just agreeing with and enjoying the gospel, but who...never forsake all else and embrace it with a whole heart” (Lloyd-Jones, Evangelistic Sermons, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1990, p. 161).

Certainly any person who knows even a little about Christian history knows the name of John Wesley! Wesley (1703-1791) was what we would call “an Episcopalian priest.” But God used him as a leader of one of the greatest national revivals in history, the Methodist awakening. Listen to what John Wesley said about Hell.

“The wicked...shall be turned into hell, even all people who forget God. They will be ‘punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.’ They will be cast into the ‘lake of fire burning with brimstone,’ originally ‘prepared for the devil and his angels;’ where they will gnaw their tongues for anguish and pain, they will curse God and look upward. There the dogs of hell – pride, malice, revenge, rage, horror, despair – continually devour them. There ‘they have no rest, day or night, but the smoke of their torment ascendeth for ever and ever!’ For ‘their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’” (John Wesley, M.A., “The Great Assize,” The Works of John Wesley, volume V, Baker Book House, 1979 edition, p. 179).

At the time of his death there were eighty thousand persons in the Methodist Societies under his care (ibid., p. 45). By 1834 there were 619,771 members. This great evangelist was not afraid to preach on Hell, as well as on real conversion as a necessity for anyone to enter into Heaven. The United Methodist Church today is crumbling into dust because they gave up Wesley’s way of preaching long ago! They would have to return to the subjects Wesley preached to save their denomination. But don’t hold your breath! History shows that apostates almost always remain apostate!

Now listen to Spurgeon. Dr. John Brown spoke of Spurgeon in a lecture at Yale University in 1899. He praised Spurgeon’s ministry as “a success certainly unparalleled in England since the days of Whitefield and Wesley.” Dr. W. A. Criswell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, twice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Spurgeon was one of the greatest preachers of all time, and his message is relevant and pertinent to all generations.” Now hear what great Spurgeon preached about Hell.

“This judgment will cast both body and soul into the lake of fire...hell is a place of absence from God – a place for the development of sin, where every passion is unbridled, every lust unrestrained – a place where God punishes night and day those who sin night and day – a place where there is never sleep, or rest, or hope – a place where every drop of water is denied, though thirst shall burn the tongue – a place where pleasure never breathed, where light never dawned, where anything like consolation was never heard of – a place where the gospel is denied, where mercy droops her wings and dies...a place of fury and of burning – a place, the like of which imagination hath not pictured. May God grant that it may be a place which you shall never see...Die, sinner, and flight from hell becomes impossible; thou art lost, then, eternally...Think! Think! this warning may be the last you shall ever hear” (C. H. Spurgeon, “The First Resurrection,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume VII, Pilgrim Publications, 1986 reprint, p. 352).

I could go on and give you quotations on Hell by Luther, Bunyan, Edwards, Whitefield, Moody, Dr. John R. Rice, and many other great preachers across the ages of time. But that is enough. Let me simply say that a pastor who never preaches on Hell is not a faithful man, not true to the Scriptures, and not a man that anyone should hear. Why? Because he has not preached “all the counsel of God!” (Acts 20:27). He has not preached like Paul, or Peter, or Jesus Christ Himself – who preached on judgment and Hell more than anyone else recorded in the Bible. Do not hear such a man! If you can’t trust him about judgment and Hell, how can you trust him about anything else?

But now turn to the text. Please stand as I read it again.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Revelation 20:12-14).

You may be seated. Please keep your Bible open to this place.

This is called “The Last Judgment” because there are no more judgments after this. It is the last one. Christ will sit on the Great White Throne. Acts 17:31 and other Scriptures show us that Christ will be the Judge. Christ will no longer be the Saviour. The time of salvation will now be over. Christ will no longer be saving sinners. He will now judge lost sinners. This judgment is not given to determine who is saved and who is lost. That is decided in this life. If you die as a lost person, you will be judged at this time. Verse 12 speaks only of the unsaved dead. It says,

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

We are told that there will be “books” and the “book of life.” The “books” are a record of your “works” during your lifetime. “The dead, small and great [will] stand before God” (20:12). The rich and famous will be there. The “small” will be there as well. No unsaved person will escape the Judgment. The unsaved dead will all stand before Christ in the Judgment. Those who had drowned, or been buried in the sea, will be there in resurrected bodies. Their bodies had been dissolved in the waters of the sea. But God will put their atoms together again, and raise them in their bodies for this judgment. The graves on earth will give up their bodies, and Hell (hades), the place where lost spirits go, will “give up the dead.” Their spirits and their bodies will be joined, and they will stand before the Great White Throne. God will have no problem doing this. He is all powerful. Now listen to verse 12 again,

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).

If you are not saved now, in this life, you will be judged “out of those things which were written in the books, according to [your] works,” according to everything you did in this life.

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “A man on his deathbed said to me, ‘Preacher, you don’t need to talk to me about the future. I’ll take my chances. I believe God is going to be just and righteous and let me present my works.’” Dr. McGee said, “You are right. He is just and righteous, and He will let you present your works. That is what He says He is going to do. But I have news for you: at that judgment nobody is saved, because you cannot be saved by your works...your little works won’t amount to anything at all” (Thru the Bible, volume V, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, p. 1060; note on Revelation 20:11).

Yes, you will get a “fair” trial then. “The books” contain everything you have done in this life. Dr. McGee compared “the books” to a video tape of your life. He said, “Your life is on tape, and Christ happens to have that tape. When He plays it back, you will be able to listen to it [and watch it]. And it is not going to sound good to you, by any means. Are you willing to stand before God and have Him play the tape of your life? I think He will have it on a television screen so you can watch it, too. Do you think your life can stand the test? I do not know about you, but I [would] not make it...it was Samuel Johnson [the great lexicographer] who said, ‘Every man knows that of himself which he dare not tell his dearest friend.’ You know yourself, don’t you? You know things that you have covered up and smothered that you would not reveal for anything in the world. [God] is going to bring them out at this judgment; while you are presenting your little [good works], He is going to tell you about yourself” (McGee, ibid.). Then Dr. McGee said, “The Great White Throne Judgment is the judgment of the lost. Multitudes [of people] want to be judged by their works. This is their opportunity. The judgment is just, but no one is saved by [good] works” (ibid.).

Notice that God speaks of “the books,” and then He speaks of the “book of life.” The “book of life” contains the names of everyone who has been saved by Jesus, everyone who has been “redeemed to God by [Christ’s] Blood” in this life (Revelation 5:9). The Blood of Jesus Christ had washed them clean from their sin when they trusted Jesus in this life. Those are the only ones whose names are in the “book of life.” They are those who can sing and praise “him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). Only those who are saved by Jesus in this life, and made clean by His Blood in this life, only those have their names in the “book of life.”

Notice that there is only one “book of life” – but there are many “books” containing a record of the sins of those who were never saved! I remember hearing a preacher say, “There are many ‘books’ because most people are lost. But there is only one ‘book of life,’ because few are saved.” And, then, look at verse fifteen,

“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).

The “lake of fire” is eternal Hell, eternal torment, eternal suffering. The Lord Jesus Christ said that there are two ways, and everyone goes in one of those two ways. He said,

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Christ said, “few there be that find [the right way] that leads to life.” “Few there be that find it.” Will you be one of the few whose names are in the “book of life”? The only way to escape from judgment and Hell – THE ONLY WAY – is by trusting Jesus now, in this life. Turn from your sin and turn to Jesus! The Bible says, “Turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?” (Ezekiel 33:11). In the Book of Acts “a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord” (Acts 11:21). Turn from your selfish, sinful ways – and turn to the Lord Jesus,

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7).

The Blood of Jesus will cover all your sins, so God will not see them! The Book of Romans says,

“Blessed are they...whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).

The Blood of Jesus will “cover” your sins so God will never see them! And the Blood of Jesus will wash away your sins so God will never look upon them! Again the Book of Romans says,

“Being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).

And Revelation 1:5 says that those who are saved are saved because Jesus loves us and “washed us from our sins in his own blood.” Amen! Praise the name of Jesus! Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh preacher, said,

All the solutions of the world are insufficient to get rid of the stains of my sins, but here is the blood of the Son of God, spotless, blameless, and I feel that this is powerful.

There is power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

His blood can make the foulest clean,
His blood availed for me.
   (Charles Wesley)

That is our comfort and consolation. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Fellowship with God, Crossway Books, 1994, p. 144).

Lord, my sins they are many, like the sands of the sea,
But Thy blood, O my Saviour, is sufficient for me;
For Thy promise is written, in bright letters that glow,
“Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them like snow.”
Yes, my name’s written there, on the page white and fair,
In the book of Thy Kingdom, Yes, my name’s written there!
   (“Is My Name Written There?” by Mary A. Kidder, 1820-1905).

Could you say that? Can you say that this morning? Have your sins been washed away by the Blood Jesus shed on the Cross? Come to Him by faith and He will make you clean in the sight of God! Dr. Chan, please lead us in prayer. Amen.

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Revelation 20:11-15.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Is My Name Written There?” (by Mary A. Kidder, 1820-1905).