What are the books opened in Revelation 20:12?


Good day.

I have an argument with a Catholic defender on social media about Sola Scriptura. I used Revelation 20:12 that the written word will judge us in the last days. But he said that the books opened are not the Bible but the record of men's deeds.

What are the books opened in Revelation 20:12?

He used NRSV, NIV, NABRE, NLT translation to prove his claim.

Please help me with this. I researched it and found some commentators proved his claim and my claim too.


"And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds" (Revelation 20:12).

The basis of the judgment is upon the writings of certain books. One book is the book of life. Moses referred to it in Exodus 32:32-33. The righteous are written in this book (Philippians 4:3; Luke 10:20). Names written in the book of life can be removed (Revelation 3:5).

The other book would be the word of God. Jesus said we would be judged by his word (John 12:48). It includes the writings of the apostles (Romans 2:16). The Scriptures form the standard of law that we are judged against.

The dead are judged according to their deeds in comparison to what was written in the books (I Peter 1:7; Romans 2:6-11; II Corinthians 5:10).

If your arguments are based on one passage, then you are in a weaker position. There are many ways to show that God wants us to use the Bible as our guide and not the traditions of men.


I used John 12:48 to prove that the word of God is the basis of judgment and to fit in men's deeds. But he told me that I missed the point in Revelation 20:12. He used the NIV and NRSV versions by the word "as." He claimed that what was written in the books are the deeds of men. So I told him if we used his claim then the dead will be judged in their work written according to their work.


"And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds" (Revelation 20:12 NASB95).

"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" (Revelation 20:12, NIV).

"And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God [the throne], and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is of the life. And were judged the dead out of the having been written in the books according to the works their" (Revelation 20:12 literal translation from The Complete Biblical Library.)

The NIV chose to move the prepositional phrase. By doing so, it brought a subtle implication that books only contain the records of what people have done. As you noted, then this verse doesn't state what standard people's lives were compared to. We would have to go to other passages, such as John 12:48 and Romans 2:16, to see what standard is being used.

However, what is overlooked is that the verse says that books were opened of which one was the Book of Life. Either there are multiple volumes being used to record the deeds of men or there is more than one thing that the deeds of men are compared to before judgment is rendered. We are told that the Book of Life records who are righteous (Psalms 69:28), which is why it is important for our names to be found in that book. Thus, at least one book doesn't contain everything everyone has done because the Book of Life doesn't contain the wicked. Therefore, the NIV's translation is misleading at best due to its moving the prepositional phrase.

What we have is that each person will be judged from the things written in the books. One of those things is whether their name is found recorded among the righteous. Other verses tell us that we will be judged according to Christ's teachings (John 12:48) and according to the gospel that Paul helped write (Romans 2:16; II Thessalonians 1:8). It is the gospel message that is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). It is the inspired words of God that teach us what is right, what is not right, how to become right, and how to stay right (II Timothy 3:16-17). Thus, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11).

The other thing we learn is that our deeds will be compared to these standards. "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation" (Romans 2:5-8). Notice that there is a standard being compared against because the wicked "do not obey the truth." The truth is God's Word (the Bible) (John 17:17). Other verses that state that our deeds will judge us are Job 34:11; Psalms 62:12; Isaiah 3:10-11; Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19; Ezekiel 18:30; Matthew 16:27; 25:34-46; I Corinthians 3:8; 4:5; II Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-8; Revelation 2:23; 22:12. But all of these passages state what is being judged. They do not directly mention what standard these deeds are being judged against, but a standard is being used.

"I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ" (Galatians 1:6-10).

"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself" (I Timothy 6:3-5).


Thank you so much for these verses. They will really help me.

They are doing their best to refute the verse in Revelation because it is very clear evidence that the Bible is all we need to obey because it is the basis of God's judgment.

Thank you so much for your time and response. God bless you.

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