The Day the Books Were Opened
With thanks to David Roper
By Paul Robison

Today's sermon is not original.  The credit goes to Bro. David Roper.  He first preached this sermon many years ago, but it is still very relevant.

“The Bible plainly says in Acts 17:31: “... [God] has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.”  [On this day, each person's final encounter with Jesus will occur.]  This is the story of that Day—and how it affected one man and his friends.
The man's name was John Green—an ordinary sort of person like yourself. 
John Green also lived in an ordinary sort of town—like yours.  And in a neighborhood like thousands of others all over the country.  For instance, down the street aways lives Mr. Andy Andrews, a balding middle-aged man who taught in the little college at the edge of town.  Prof. Andrews didn't think much of religion and was fond of saying, 'Religion is a crutch—needed only by those who can't get along without it.'  And on the subject of [Jesus' coming again], the good teacher would snort and say, 'The concept of a literal Judgment Day and a literal Heaven and Hell went out with the hoop skirt!'  Mr. Andrews was very progressive in his views.
Right next door to Mr. Andrews was Miss Brown, a sweet little spinster in her early sixties, who could have had per 'pick of the crop' at one time, but she never found the right one.  And now she spent her time giving herself to others.  Anytime there was sickness or death or just trouble in general, you could count on Miss Brown being there.  And with that pleasant, cheerful way of hers, everyone said, 'Miss Brown is better than a whole [room] full of medicine.'  The only trouble was that this was Miss Brown's 'religion'.  She didn't put much store by church-going and obeying Jesus' teachings.  'Churchianity,' she called it.  Occasionally, some good-meaning person would try to talk to her about her soul, and she would just smile that sweet smile of hers and say, 'Now, honey, don't you worry about me, I'm all right. ' One just couldn't help loving Miss Brown.
Then right across from John Green lived an old bachelor name Charlie Crane. Everybody called him 'Brother' Charlie because that's what he liked to be called.  He was a real church-goer, and every conversation was sprinkled with scripture quotations.  Sometimes it was 'chimney-corner scripture,' but that didn't matter.  Hardly anyone ever knew the difference.  When he could get anyone to listen, 'Brother' Charlie's favorite sermon went something like this: 'Honesty and sincerity, those are the important things.  Yes-sir, just as long as a man is honest and sincere and lives by those things he believes right, he's going to make it right through those pearly gates.'  And he would generally slap his thigh at this point, and folks would nod in agreement.
Occasionally, 'Brother Charlie talked to another of John's neighbors, who lived down the block in the other direction: a young married man named Dick Denison.  Dick had the sweetest wife named Darlene and a little baby boy, who was the [apple of his eye]: Dick Jr.  The only thing that marred their married life was that Darlene was a Christian—a real Christian—while Dick was not.  Dick went with her to services, but he would not give in to commit his life to Christ.  Funny thing, though, was that Dick would 'argue religion all day long.'  He could really tie 'Brother' Charlie in knots on his 'honesty-and-sincerity-are-enough' sermon.  But 'Brother' Charlie always had the perfect conclusion.  The old man would hold himself as straight as he could, point a skinny finger at Dick, and say: 'Then how come you ain't a Christian?'  And there was not much Dick could say to that except drop his head.
There was another young couple in John's [part of town], although a little older than Dick and Darlene.  Their names were Ed and Edith Edwards. 
They were both supposed to be members of the church, but they didn't go now or take an active part.  One of the big reasons was their little two year old girl: Evelyn.  When Edith had been expecting, she hadn't felt much like going.  And now she felt like it was just 'too much trouble' to get herself and little Evie ready.  Ed had thought some about going back by himself and being restored, but then he would rationalize and say, 'I want to wait until Edith and I can go down the aisle together to rededicate our lives to God.'  So neither one of them took the first step.
There was one other couple that were John's neighbors that figure into our story.  This was the old couple that lived right next to John: the James Jenkins.  Everybody called him 'Old James,' however, and her, 'Mrs. James.'  Mrs. James was bedfast now and had been for years.  Old James loved his wife very much, though, and managed to take care of her just fine.  Both of them were members of the little church on the corner, and before Mrs. James got sick, you could always see them going to church for every service, rain or shine.  Now Old James had to go alone.  He would make sure his wife had everything she needed, kiss her on the cheek, and left saying he wouldn't be long.  Even though his wife now took a great deal of time, Old James still found time to help others and to talk to others about Jesus.  Some time or another, he and Mrs. James had talked to about everybody in their section of town.  As a result of their efforts, a dozen people had been immersed in the little church's baptistery.  These were John's friend and neighbors.  As we said, just an ordinary neighborhood—no better and no worse than your own.
But now we come to the Day God appointed.  It just happened that there was a special service going on at the little church on the corner that day.
Old James was there, along with Dick and Darlene Denison and Dick Jr. 

Of course, Mr. Andrews was home, as was Miss Brown, and Ed and Edith Edwards and their little one.  'Brother' Charlie was elsewhere.  And John?  Well, John was where he always was when there was a special service.
The Day of Judgment began with the coming of Christ.  'Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him ... (Revelation 1:7).'  'For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God ...' (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
When that shout shook the neighborhood, Mr. Andrews ran out the door and looked up.  His mouth dropped open like his mouth had become unhinged.  He didn't say a word.  Miss Brown could talk, however, she began to flutter her hands and say: 'Oh my, oh my.'  Edith Edwards had been rocking Evie when it happened.  When she heard the noise outside, she set Evie down and ran to the door.  Almost instantly she perceived what was happening and turned back.  But she was too late.  Evie was gone.  At the little church on the corner, the preacher had just concluded offering the invitation.  The song-leader had started the song: 'There's a great day coming, a great day coming ...'  Dick had been struggling with himself as usual.  He knew he should go forward, but he just couldn't get up the nerve to do it.  He had even given some thought to pinching the baby so he would have to take it out.  Just then the shout came, and the roof of that little building was split right down the middle.  Every uplifted startled face was bathed in the light from the glory above.  From here and there in the congregation, people began to rise into the air.  Up, up they went, through the flaw in the roof and up into the sky and into the presence of Jesus.  [What an encounter!]  Among them were Old James and Darlene Denison and Dick Jr.  Dick panicked.  He began to shout to the ascending preacher, 'Wait, wait, just a minute!'  And he shouted at the ascending song-leader, 'Just one more verse!'  But it was too late.  The invitation was over forever.  In Mrs. James' little bedroom, the heavenly light suddenly shone all around her.  She looked up and said simply, 'I was waiting for you, Jesus.'  'And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air' (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). 
After both the righteous dead and the righteous living had gone to meet the Lord, the sky gradually darkened and a period of great catastrophe began. ... And then the earth caught on fire.  '... the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up' (2 Peter 3:10).  
The physical universe was now void of light except for one little speck—the world burning up. ... But then that small spark dwindled and burned itself out.  Now all was darkness and silence.  John had been launched, his friends had been launched, all people had been launched—into eternity, into the presence of God, into judgment.
When John lifted up his eyes, he saw that he was in a vast throng of people [from all nations and from all eras].  And John knew that the number of people went far beyond his vision ... because present was every person who had ever lived!  'For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ' (2 Corinthians 5:10).  John was there—and around him were his friends.  Mrs. James was now standing straight and strong without support.  All present.  All accounted for.  Now John became aware of a throne rising majestically out of the crowd—rising so high its top was lost in the clouds.  The glory of that throne's Occupant was so great that John had to lower his eyes.  Then every person bowed before that throne and worshiped Him who sat upon it.  Mr. Andrews, the teacher, started to bow, but his knees were shaking so badly he simply collapsed into a quivering heap.  It seemed to John that he kept saying: 'I didn't mean it; really I didn't.' ...  'For it is written: “As I live says the Lord every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God”' (Romans 14:11).  And then the time had come.  It would seem an impossible thing in so vast an assembly, but a hush fell.  There was complete silence.  It was as billions upon billions of breaths were held simultaneously.  Every eye was on the Lord.  And then, at the throne, there was movement.  From the mist came a Hand—and the Hand reached down and began to bring into view the Books.  'Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away.  And there was found no place for them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the books were opened. ...' (Revelation 20:11-12). ... Every person who came from the 20th century had seen those writings day in and day out: on coffee-tables, in bookshelves, on motel dressers, in hospital night-stands.  But nevertheless they were still present.  Even without the familiar black binding ... and even at a distance, it was easy to tell these were those writings that had made up the book they knew as the Bible.  '... Jesus cried out and said: ... 'He who rejects Me and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day' (John 12:44-48).  No words of men were produced, just the Word of God.  The Hand was still moving.  A large volume now came into sight—a huge worn book stained with celestial tears: '... and another book was opened, which is the book of Life' (Revelation 20:12).  The cover flew back for just an instant, and the crowd got a glimpse inside.

Its pages were filled with names.  John recognized some of them: Moses, David, Peter, Paul.  This then was the record of the faithful.  And it seemed as if every heart was beating the same question: 'Is my name written there?'  Finally, the Hand slowly brought into view one last record.  And there was a gasp as the assembly saw it ... for it was the record of all their lives—a record of all their thoughts, all their deeds, all their unguarded words.  The good things and the bad, including every sin not removed by the blood of Christ. 'And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books' (Revelations 20:12).  This record was also placed by the side [of the Lord as He sat on the throne].  Everything was ready.  The judging began.  In the life on earth, there had been so much injustice.  Now all wrongs were to be righted—and all scores eternally and righteously settled.  One by one, the names were called.  One by one each stepped forward [to encounter Jesus].  One by one, they watched as the record of their life was compared with the Word of God.  One by one, each saw the Book of Life checked.  One by one, they went either to the right or the left. ... Whatever the verdict, every person knew it was right. 
And finally the time came for John's friends and neighbors to be judged.
John stood to one side and watched.  The Voice said: 'Miss Brown, Miss Betty Brown.'  Sweet little Miss Brown.  Helpful little Miss Brown.  Unprepared little Miss Brown. ... The Finger of God points to its teachings: instead of trusting in her own goodness, she should have trusted in Jesus for salvation.  '... if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins' (John 8:24).  The Finger of God continues to move.  That faith in Jesus should have been expressed in repentance and baptism: 'Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”' (Acts 2:38).  The record of Miss Brown's life showed no such trust and obedience. ... As little Miss Brown went to the left, John thought he heard her say, 'I tried to save myself; I tried to save myself.'  The Voice spoke again: 'Charlie Crane.'  As the judging had progressed, John had cast a few glances in  'Brother' Charlie's direction.  As it became more and more apparent that it did make a difference what one believed and what one did, Charlie had become more and more nervous.  And now he stepped forward with a shaky step, but with a defiant look.  He waited stoically while the comparison was made; he knew what would be found.  When it was finished, he said (with a quivering voice that lacked real conviction): 'But, Lord, you know I belonged to a church.  And Lord, you know I prayed to You.  And remember, Lord, all the good works I did  in my church!'  But it really was no use.  Almost before he received the answer, he too went to the left.
'Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven' (Matthew 7:21).  The Voice said: 'Ed Edwards.'  The comparison began.  The record showed that he had trusted in Christ and had been baptized, and there had been genuine love in his heart as he had done so.  But the comparison did not end there.  The Finger continued to move, and Ed turned pale.  It seems that there were certain responsibilities after becoming a Christian: attend faithfully (Hebrews 10:25), live the Christian life (Romans 12:1-2), use one' talents in the service of the Lord (Matthew 25:14-30), grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18), teach and save others (Matthew 28:18-20).  The record of Ed's life showed neither a compliance with Christ's will nor repentance over his failures.  Somewhere along the line, the affairs of life quenched out the spark of love.  The Book of Life was opened.  There was a space where his name had been, but now there was only a blot.  '... whosoever has sinned against Me, Him will I blot out of my book' (Exodus 32:33).  
The Finger pointed to the left.  It was then Edith's turn.  She did not pay too much attention to the proceedings, but from time to time she would hold her arms as if she were cradling a baby and a tear would form.
When the comparison was complete, she asked just one question: 'Where's my baby?'  And the Voice gently replied: 'We will take care of her.'  '… of such is the kingdom of heaven' (Mark 10:14).  Used as an excuse—and now gone forever.  John watched them all.  He saw Mr. Andrews judged.  He saw Darlene Denison go to the right to join Dick Jr., while Dick Sr. went to the left.  And he saw the nail-scarred hands reach down from the throne and encircle Old James and Mrs. James and the Voice said: '… well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things.  Enter into the joy of your Lord' (Matthew 25:23).  And finally the judging was ended. 
... The huge throng [on the left] moved to the vast yawning pit that opened before them.  From it came the smell of sulfur and smoke of a million fires.  With heads down and with stumbling gait, the masses fell over the edge.  Some fell with a muffled cry, but most fell silently into the darkness. ... Eternal darkness.  The Figure on the throne closed the books that had been opened. … All had been judged.  The Judgment Day was now over.  Eternity stretched before.  What's that you ask?  What happened to John?  Wasn't he judged?  Yes, John was judged.
Yes, the Word of God was compared with his life and the Book of Life was checked as the final authority.  And what was the result?  Only you—and God—can answer that question.  You see, John is YOU.  It was your name John heard as he stood in that throng.  It was your encounter with Jesus he experienced.  [Was it a final encounter or an initial encounter?]  Beloved, think, think soberly.  If you need to come, do so immediately.