Bible Question:

What is the difference between the books and the book of life in Revelation 20:12?

Bible Answer:

Revelation 20:7-11 teaches us that every non-Christian will stand before God’s white throne someday for the purpose of being judged. The message begins in verses 7-10 where we are told that the nations of the world will try to destroy Christ and the Christians during the millennial kingdom, but God will destroy every non-Christian with fire from heaven. Then Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire. Then verses 11-15 tell us what will happen to these non-Christians, who were burned up by the fire from heaven, and to every non-Christian from past history. So, what is the difference between the books and the book of life in Revelation 20:12?

Stacks of Books — Book of Revelation

Verse 11 says,

 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. Revelation 20:11 (NASB)

The phrase “no place was found for them” refers to the non-Christians who were destroyed by the fire (v. 9). Then verses 12-13 tell us that all of the remaining non-Christians from past history will be resurrected. They will be resurrected from the land and sea. Death and Hades will give up their dead, which is where unbelievers wait until the judgment. All of these non-Christians will be judged as described in Revelation 20:12-13.

We are told they will be judged according to the deeds recorded in “the Books” and “the Book of Life” (v. 12-13, 15).  The books mentioned in this passage contain the deeds of every unbeliever. The books will be used to reveal to the unbelievers why they deserve to spend eternity in the lake of fire. Their deeds will be reviewed with everyone from past history listening. Each person will have to endure a review of their evil thoughts, words, and deeds. That is the message of these verses,

For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NASB)

On the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. Romans 2:16 (NASB)

But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36-37 (NASB)

To execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. Jude 15 (NASB)

Especially note Jude 15. As a result to this review of their sinful behavior, God will demonstrate to each non-Christian why they deserve to suffer forever in the lake of fire, which burns forever. Check out Luke 10:13-15 and Luke 11:30-32. Those passages reveal that everyone will be watching each unbeliever be judged. Here is Luke 11:30-32,

The Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation at the judgment and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11:30-32 (NASB)

This judgment will be an embarrassing and humiliating event, followed by the unbelievers being thrown into the lake of fire. Then their torture will follow forever because they rejected Jesus Christ. For not only did they love their sin, love their sinful life, but they blasphemed Christ.

The book of life is mentioned in verses 12 and 15. Notice that verse 15 says,

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NASB)

The verse reveals that those who will be thrown into the lake of fire are non-Christians. Why? Because their names were not found in the book of life. That means the book of life contains the name of Christians. Christians will go to heaven and not the lake of fire.


Christians will also be judged, but their judgment will be much different. They will be judged at the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-10. The study series the “Bema Seat – Judgment of Christians” will describe this judgment.

Suggested Links:

What is the Lake of Fire in Revelation 20:10-15?
Did the people who crucified Christ go to hell or the Lake of Fire?
What is the Book of Life and the Book of the Living?
Would God blot someone’s name from the Book of Life?
Judgment of All the Ungodly Apostates