Revelation 20:13

"The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works." All quotes from NKJV.

From Acts 2:37-38

'"Men and brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ..'.'

If repenting and being baptised are things that people do, are they actions that may be seen as works as per Rev 20:13?

Matthew 22:37

"Jesus said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,..".

Though loving God in ones heart is internal it is still doing something. Are the "works" of Rev 20:13 always external , could they be internal?

How might the "works" [Rev 20:13] of "him who does not work" [Romans 4:5] be defined?

6 Answers 6


You ask about one specific Bible verse in Revelation 20:13, and the one specific Greek word that is translated 'works' (plural). Then you quote two other Bible verses before asking (in addition to your initial question) how the Revelation verse fits in with, "him who does not work" [Romans 4:5].

To understand what "works" everyone on the Day of Resurrection and Judgment will be examined and judged on, the need is to see that Romans 4:5 is dealing with believers like Abraham, and Christians, whose belief in the promises of God will be seen by God as the faith that pleases him. Then Paul gives an illustration of (secular) work for which a person gets paid wages. Those wages are earned, and the worker is entitled to his wages. He does not receive them as a gift, but as an obligation (vs. 4)! "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." - Romans 6:23

Back to Romans 4 vs. 5 which switches back to the matter of believing faith that pleases God. That involves no work because saving faith is not work - it is a gift of God. Nobody is entitled to a gift. It has to be received with an open hand and heart, in appreciation. Imagine if you were being offered a wonderful gift but as you held out your hand to receive it, there was a wad of notes in it, and you said, "Please take this money as a token of my appreciation." What an insult to the Giver!

Yet this is what so many people try to do with God. They do not have faith to believe that God's pardon of their sins is freely given (to those who believe that Christ was punished for their sin, in full, for them, at the cross). They think they must do something to at least partially contribute towards salvation. They do not grasp that when the gift of grace is properly accepted, they will change to want to do good things that God had foreordained for them to do, for his glory (Ephesians 2:4-10).

But this has nothing to do with the works of Revelation 20:13. For a start, every human who lived and died will be judged on their individual works. Billions have never had saving faith in God. Oh, they might have believed God exists, or that gods exist, but they did not do what they did for God's glory (especially not if they did those things for the glory of their idolatrous gods). Even the demons believe the one God exists - and shudder, knowing what eternal judgment God has in store for them (James 2:19).

No, the 'works' in Revelation 20:13 are all the things people ever did, as recorded in "the books" that are opened on Judgment Day. To quote from this exposition:

"This passage depicts the general resurrection of the dead, precisely as did that of the parable of the sheep and the goats. Just and unjust, righteous and wicked, from the beginning of time to the end of it, all stand before God in the risen body at one and the same time...

The names of the saints, of the righteous, of the just, of those dwelling in that eternal life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto the apostles, all these, every last one by name, are found written in the book of life. But this book is opened at the same time as the other books, namely those books out of which the goats, the wicked, the unjust, the contentious, are judged simultaneously.

'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.' Rev. 20:12

...a distinction is made between the book of life and the rest of the books, but this distinction makes no difference to the overriding standard of judgment, no matter which book. For the dead are judged, and all the dead are judged 'according to their works'. How is this?

You were told in the beginning of the gospel of God: 'Who will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God' Romans 2:6-11...

What was in these books? The record of all the past lives of all the dead, whilst yet they were upon the earth... How is the life of those written in the book of life recorded? The record of all who are named in this book has the like testimony: 'by patient continuance in well doing' these all sought 'for glory and honour and immortality.' That is the invariable and inevitable effect of life from God. Given that interior life, such living consequences must follow. It is the issue of life. Hence it is called 'the book of life'.

Someone will say, but are we not justified by faith? Yes; but why say it? However we are justified, John assures us that we are judged according to our works. If thou sayest, I am justified by faith, then show me your justification by your life, for that is the evangelical; criterion now and it is the standard of judgment in that day... But know this, the greater multitude who profess justification by faith have no life, and bring forth no such works at all, nor do they once seek for glory and honour and immortality with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and with all their understanding, all the days of their life. Nevertheless, whatever their false hope, the works of their lives shall assuredly be judged by the same criteria as all the number of those who were truly justified by faith, and who brought forth the living fruits thereof. Nothing in time or eternity changes these words, or can change them: 'judged according to their works' Rev. 20:12-13. The Revelation of Jesus Christ, pp. 569-571, John Metcalfe http://www.johnmetcalfepublishingtrust.co.uk/contact_us.htm

That is how the "works" [Rev 20:13] of "him who does not work" [Romans 4:5] makes perfect sense.


In Romans, Paul goes to great lengths to separate the idea of works from faith and what role each play in eternal judgment. By faith you are saved from death (Romans 6:23) and by works we store up rewards in heaven. (Luke 12:33)

Works can also be good or bad. Jesus himself tells us lustful thoughts is an act of adultery in the heart. (Matthew 5:28) By this we can gather that works are both internal and external actions. That being said, John 14:15 pretty clearly lays it out:

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

Jesus had many commandments, both of internal and external natures. In Romans 4:5, Paul is describing those who have faith but do not keep the law or commandments of Jesus.

The works in Revelation 20:13 are all the deeds of each person, both good and bad. Think of it much like a courtroom, all the charges will be laid out against you both good and bad, and you will be judged as guilty and sentenced to death (Romans 6:23). If you had your faith in Jesus, he will pardon you and you will receive the rewards of your good works that would not have otherwise been received.


The question of works vs faith is taken up extensively in the book of James. He summarizes the argument in James 2:18 -

But someone will say, “You have faith and I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.

Others have said:

Faith is the root of salvation and deeds are the fruit.

Paul said something similar in Eph 2:8-10 -

For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life.

Thus, it by God's work alone that we are saved and this is accepted and received by faith and trust in Jesus. Thus, we come to Jesus as we are, but we do not stay as we are. Saving faith is a transforming faith.

Thus, we find that while we are saved by faith in Christ alone, we are judged by the evidence of that faith - the transformed life as correctly recorded. Indeed, Paul specifically tackles this problem by saying a number of times that by grace we should uphold the [moral] law (Rom 6:15, 7:7-12, 14, etc). See appendix below.

APPENDIX - Faith vs Deeds

At first glance the New Testament appears to be confused about the status of the law. Note the following.

  • We are “free from the law” (Gal 5:1), “not declared righteous… by the law” (Rom 3:21), “not under the law” (Rom 6:14, 15), “released from the law” (Rom 7:6), “the law is powerless” (Rom 8:3), “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom 10:4), “If righteousness could be obtained through the law, Christ died for nothing” (Gal 2:21), “no one who relies on the law will be justified” (Gal 3:11), “the law was our guardian until Christ came” (Gal 3:24), “if you are led by the Spirit you are not under law” (Gal 5:18), “there is no law against such [who have the fruit of spirit]” (Gal 5:22, 23); “He has saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Tim 1:9); “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8, 9), etc
  • The moral law is not abolished (Matt 5:17, 18), “anyone who sets aside one of the least commandments and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19), “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one jot of the Law to become void.” (Luke 16:17), the law is essential because “through the law we become conscious of sin” (Rom 3:21, 7:7, 13), “we uphold the law by faith” (Rom 3:31), “the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good” (Rom 7:12), “the law is spiritual” (Rom 7:14), “the law is good” (1 Tim 1:8), keeping the law is to do right (James 2:8). “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Certainly not! Instead, we uphold the law.” (Rom 3:31). “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law, but under grace? Certainly not!” (Rom 6:15); “we are now slaves of righteousness” (Rom 6:16), or, “slaves to God” (Rom 6:22); “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the very commandment you have heard from the beginning, that you must walk in love.” (2 John 6); “And having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb 5:9); “But the one who looks intently into the perfect law of freedom, and continues to do so—not being a forgetful hearer, but an effective doer—he will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25); “As you can see, a man is justified by his deeds and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24); etc.
  • The NT sets out law-keeping as a way of life for converted Christians but only in the power provided by Christ through love. “faith that works by love” (Gal 5:6); “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:28); “without me you can do nothing … If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in his love.” (John 15:5, 10), etc.

Paul’s statements about being “free from the law” (Gal 5:1), or “not under the law” (Rom 6:14, 15), “released from the law” (Rom 7:6), clearly has the totality of Torah in view, including the 10 Commandments (see Rom 7:9-13). This does not mean that Christians are not subject to law! (The distinction between the Moral, Judicial/civil and Ceremonial laws in the Torah is never explicit anywhere in Scripture!) Paul’s intention is clearly that the Christian life is free from the chafing constrains of legalism because of the free atonement offered by Jesus. We do NOT have to be good enough to earn God’s favour because, not only do we already have it, but it is offered freely. However, Christians will live morally to reflect the life and character of Jesus, but only when motivated or “walking” by the Spirit who miraculously changes us (Rom 8:1-11).


NKJV, Revelation 20:

13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.

ἔργα (erga)
Noun - Accusative Neuter Plural
Strong's 2041: From a primary ergo; toil; by implication, an act.

Romans 4:

5 However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.

ἐργαζομένῳ (ergazomenō)
Verb - Present Participle Middle or Passive - Dative Masculine Singular
Strong's 2038: To work, trade, perform, do, practice, commit, acquire by labor.

How might the "works" [Rev 20:13] of "him who does not work" [Romans 4:5] be defined?

ἔργα and ἐργαζομένῳ are cognates. One is a noun; the other, verb. No semantic tricks here.

Now your implicit question has to do with faith vs works. Here is their logical relationship:

Let proposition F = you have faith in his heart.
W = you exhibit (faithful) deeds/works.

James 2:

17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

¬W → ¬F
⇒ F → W

Now let's look at the converse.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

Works show faith. But what kinds of works?

Galatians 2:

16 know that a man is not justified by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

Works of the law (without faith) are not good enough. Only faithful works or deeds will do.

Matthew 5:

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

My good faithful works show my faith.
W → F

Altogether, it is saying F ⟷ W.

Because F ≡ W. James 2:

24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

What about saving by faith alone as expressed by Paul?

Ephesians 2:

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of [faithless] works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We are saved by grace through faith for good works.

ESV 1 Timothy 4:

16 Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Titus 3:

5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in [faithless] righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

Philippians 2:

12b work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Right. Works apart from faith (i.e., faithless works) are useless in saving you. However, after you have been saved by faith, you will naturally show faithful deeds because F ≡ W according to James. Basically, faith and faithful works are logically the same things. You can't have one without the other. Your invisible vertical faith will produce observable horizontal works.


One should attend to different semantics of the εργον “work”, for in case of Romans 4:5 it means the works of the Law by which “nobody is justified before God” (Romans 3:20), because they only spot and check sin, not heal it, and as such are only preparatory ones before the advent of the Healer - Lord Jesus Christ. Let us call them “works of Law”, or “works 1”.

But of course Paul does not deny the necessity of works for salvation of Christians stating without any equivocality in Romans 2:6 “Who will render to every man according to his deeds”, or again in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap”. Here he means the works of the baptized Christians, and those works have a different semantics, for they are not works of Law, but works done in faith, in co-action with the grace or energy of God in us, access to which energy we have through faith (cf. 2 Cor 12:9, or Col 1:29). They can be called “works of grace”, or alternatively, “works of/in faith”. The same “works” is meant in Rev. 20:13. Let us call them “works 2”.

As to Acts 2:37-38, this “do” stands for the initial step or “leap”, if you would prefer this word, of faith, which is a condition for starting a new life in Christ, which life entails necessarily working in the sense of “works 2”. Like, if one asks: “What should I do to engage in a romantic affair?” and gets an answer: “You should risk to express your liking to that girl, which is sine qua non of any romantic affair”. Yet, this initial and necessary step does not mean that after it man would not be necessitated to engage in buying presents, inviting to cafes and cinemas, expressing the love and caring with thousands of different acts. Thus, thus initial doing of faith, the “leap” stage is still another type of “do” or “work”, very closely, even inseparably associated with the “works 2”, being their condition, so let us call it “work 2a”.

As to loving God, that is kind of a background of the entire Christian life, like a sunlight (before electricity was invented) was a background of all sports events in Greek Olympic Games, to the effect that neither faith nor works of any sort has any meaning without this background and even cannot be performed without this background, for all good works without love of God are not good works at all, for God wants “mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13). However, love of God is not something static, for it necessarily or analytically means the presence of the grace of divine love in us, and this presence implies our cultivation of this love through acting His commandments (as He Himself says in John 14:15), for to say “I love God” or, if you wish to express the same sentence in terms of your question, “I work innerly loving God”, but fulfill not His commandments, this will be a hypocrisy par excellance, for love of God is and must be expressed in cultivation of this love through keeping and doing Christ’s commandments either innerly (by fighting sinful thoughts and desires) or expressed outwardly (like openly confessing His faith at risk of losing job, or giving alms to the needful etc.). Thus, love of God and the “works 2” are inseparable and imply each other, with the love of God holding a causal superiority in the pair.


There are a number of topics discussing the meaning of works in Romans or Galatians as to when it pertains to the Law works, and when for moral works of righteousness upon which God will judge all, including the unbelievers (Rom 2:6-16). The context determines the meaning of works.

Acts 26:20: "[Throughout] all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent... and do works befitting repentance."

God doesn't command man to do one exclusive work, but to repent and do the works throughout our lives. He judges according to each man's works. Works without which we cannot earn the crown of life. Accountability however, is the biggest fear of today's 'Christians'.

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