11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
I found myself again struck by the clear distinction between books and book. If you are not in Christ, your life is found in the books that capture what you have done (vs. 12 and again in vs. 13). This would include everything you've ever done: good and bad. What makes Christianity unique against all other religions is not that it holds that sins should be punished; all religions believe sin should be condemned. They may differ on what they call sin or what they believe should be judged, but nevertheless every religion and worldview casts judgment upon the behaviors or beliefs they deem condemnable. But Christianity alone holds that even your good works, your very best, is flawed and deserving not of reward, but of judgment. Our works merit us nothing. Our goodness is not credited to us as good enough. That makes Christianity unique and makes Jesus' life, death and resurrection necessary and understandable. If you don't believe that good works credit nothing to your account, the life and death of Jesus do not seem necessary, a bit showy and at worst wickedly extravagant. If you don't see your goodness as spoiled in part by badness, you won't understand the height, depth, and width of God's love displayed on the cross of His Son. So it makes sense given this understanding that the books include our works and the book includes only our name. If your name is in the book, the one book, it is only your name, nothing more. And that is sufficient to save. Your name on the lips of Jesus is adequate to completely save you. Nothing you do or don't do could add to or take away from that simple, satisfying testimony. If Jesus confesses your name before God, you are saved.
Christians experience a second judgment (1 Corinthians 3:9-15) where our works are weighed. What we do matters, but not in the matter of salvation. Jesus is anxious to reward us for whatever He can spin to our credit by His grace and that comes after our entrance into His Kingdom by the roll call of only our name. Our good works are not without value, but they can only be cashed in through the gate of faith in Jesus. They can't get you into the vault, but once in the vault, they are redeemable.
All that to say, work hard to be found in Him by name and not by your works, yet work hard to receive reward from Him who is Himself our reward.
Some time later, a message came from the Lord to Abram in a vision. “Stop being afraid, Abram.” he said. “I myself—your shield—am your very great reward.”