The Book of Life

“Anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15

This unambiguous statement was written by John as a description of what God was revealing to him. The purpose of the occasion was that John record this for people to read, understand, believe and act upon. If the statement is not true then God is a deceiver and not to be trusted. No wonder John wrote at the beginning of this book, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Revelation 1:3).

Since the lake of fire is the destiny of all whose names are not in the Book of Life and only those whose names are in this Book will enter the new creation (Revelation 21:27) it is a matter of highest priority and greatest urgency for every person to be sure their name is in that Book.

In John 3:18 we read, “He who believes is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Twice in this verse it says that the dividing factor is faith in Jesus Christ. Everyone’s name is written in the “books” as condemned but upon exercising faith in Jesus Christ one’s name is written in the Book of Life. Jesus called this being “born again” (John 3:3, 7). Paul called it a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Condemnation is God’s sentence upon sin and since condemnation came when Adam sinned we are all born in sin and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), all are condemned and God’s wrath abides on us. However, the one who believes is no longer condemned because he has trusted that Jesus Christ died for his sin (John 3:36; Romans 5:8; 8:1). This is the reason Jesus came (John 3:17).

Only in Jesus Christ can condemnation for sin be removed because He bore the sentence for our sin on the cross. Forgiveness of sin and deliverance from wrath is only through Jesus Christ who died in our place (Hebrews 9:22, 26-28).

Anyone who denies this truth reveals that their name is not yet in the Book of Life. Their destiny is the lake of fire but that is not God’s desired destiny for anyone. Jesus bore the sin of everyone so that all might be saved but only those who believe Him will have their names written in the Book of Life.

Again I write, this is of the highest priority and the most urgent concern to anyone who is not assured that their name is written in the Book of Life.

Choosing a Destiny

“God is not a man that He should lie” Numbers 23:19

The basis of all the covenants that God has ever made is that He speaks the truth with no hidden agenda. To doubt or reject God’s word is to call Him a liar. An example of this can be seen in Romans 3:10 where Paul writes, quoting from Psalm 14, “There is none righteous, no, not one” and in 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There are those who reject these truths and thus call God a liar. John writes as much in his letter, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Jesus claimed to be Truth (John 14:6; cf. 1:17; 8:32) and God’s word to be truth (John 17:17). In so doing He was saying that God does not lie and therefore His word can be relied upon. Men do lie so when it comes to a choice whose word are we going to believe?

In his greeting to Titus, Paul states clearly that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). The best a man can say is that he is not lying or will not lie but he cannot truthfully say that he cannot lie. Paul gives us the reason God cannot lie in 2 Timothy 2:13, “He cannot deny Himself.” What this means is that God always speaks and acts according to His Divine Nature. We can observe this in His Creation. All creatures and plants conform to their kind and can do nothing else. In breeding animals and growing crops we rely on this fact.

When it comes to God’s covenants and promises we can rely on them because God cannot lie. If we create an image of God in our minds that is like people we will not be inclined to believe His word. As such we call Him unfaithful and a liar. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). He lied to Eve (Genesis 3:5) and he has been lying to people ever since.

In creating us in His image God has given us free will to make our own choice. We can choose to believe God or we can choose to believe Satan. Our choice will determine the course and destiny of our lives. Believe God to eternal life (John 5:24) or believe Satan’s lie to eternity in the “lake of fire and brimstone” to be “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10). We are choosing to be either in Christ’s presence or Satan’s.

Do Not Lose Heart

“For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” 2 Corinthians 5:4

In my role as a volunteer driver for the local shire I was transporting a lady to a hospital appointment. She had been employed in the medical profession for a significant portion of her life and had witnessed many people suffer terribly leading up to their bodily death. She commented that she hoped that she would have the right to euthanasia should she ever be in that situation. From the viewpoint of one who believes that there is nothing beyond the grave – that one’s existence ceases altogether at death – this makes logical sense. This is why some people, some quite young, choose suicide. They believe it will end the pain that they believe has no end otherwise. One can only imagine their great disappointment to discover their error and that they have robbed themselves of ever having the opportunity to receive new life in Jesus Christ. Of course that presupposes that someone would share the Gospel with them. We cannot know how many suicides might have been prevented if Christians shared the Gospel.

In the verse above Paul gives us a Christian view of similar situations. Yes, we do groan as our bodies age and feel all kinds of pain. Christians are also often burdened with the same slow and painful deaths that many unbelievers experience. It is necessary that our earthly tent is destroyed so that we can put on the eternal dwelling place (v 1). The how, when and where of our bodily death is God’s sovereign choice – just as was our birth.

The person without hope in Christ just wants to be rid of their pain and suffering; but the person with hope in Christ, while having no desire to cling to this body (v 8), is more focussed on the new resurrected body we shall have when in Christ’s presence. This is why Paul writes, “Not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed.” A little further on Paul writes, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (v 8).

If we only focus on what we want to leave behind, we will not have much in the way of joy. Those latter years of our lives will be a time of sadness, grief and perhaps self-pity. However, if our focus is on Jesus and what lies ahead, we will have joy in the glorious expectation of that day we see Him face to face. Yes, there will still be the groan to be free from our dying body; but our affections and desire will be upon being fully clothed in Christ (5:2).

Just before these words Paul wrote, “We do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (4:16). The perishing of our body Paul writes is a “light affliction but for a moment” and God has a purpose in it (4:17).

Eternal Life

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

Our concept of what is eternal life may actually fall short by a considerable margin. It is possible that we mention eternal life as a substitute word for salvation. In 1 John 5:11 we read, “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” Our concept is that having received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour we have also inherited eternal life. It is helpful for us to give considerable time and meditation as we read the Bible as to what that actually means. It is not synonymous with salvation or a change in our way of life but it is an integral part of salvation.

In the verse at the head of this article and reading it in the context of Jesus’ prayer to the Father for Himself, His disciples and all those who will believe in Him, we have a more clear expression of what eternal life is. It is not just about going to heaven and it is not just about being saved from sin and its consequences. It is what Paul refers to as being made alive to God (Ephesians 2:1) which means that we are now able to having a living relationship and fellowship with God.

In this prayer Jesus is not praying for our salvation. The subjects of this prayer are already forgiven and saved. He is praying that they would have the same intimate relationship with the Father as He does and with Himself also. As we read the Gospel accounts we may be inclined to be a little jealous of the disciples who saw and spoke with Jesus every day. They saw the miracles and they heard His teaching first hand. However, though He is not physically present with us, as He was with them, He is none-the-less present with us every moment of every day.

Eternal life is the experience of living with Jesus and the Father day by day. In 14:23 John records Jesus saying, “If anyone loves Me he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and make Our home with him.” This is the closest personal relationship that we can experience in this earthly life.

In the later years of his life after all the other apostles have been killed and long gone, John writes, “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Eternal life is a Gift in Christ, not apart from Christ, but it is not just a ticket to heaven that we keep in our pocket ready for future inspection. Eternal life is living in fellowship with Jesus Christ and the Father by the Holy Spirit here and now and forever. The potential has been ours from the moment we first believed. We now have the opportunity of nourishing it to maturity in readiness for that great day when we see Jesus face to face.

The Glory of God

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

This is the greatest and most desired miracle of all. It is the only miracle that is permanent into eternity. The forgiveness of sins and the destruction of the sin disposition that we inherited from Adam is the reason for Jesus being born into this world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

In the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel we can read of the restoration of life to Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, knew that Jesus is God incarnate (vv 27, 32) and that He could have healed him before he died. Neither of them, nor Jesus’ disciples, considered that He could restore Lazarus to life after he had died. Their faith was real and genuine but Jesus would stretch and strengthen their faith by revealing more of Himself. Notice that Jesus initiated the whole situation that allowed Mary, Martha and Lazarus to endure suffering and grief in the process.

Jesus had been telling His disciples that He would soon be taken and crucified. This experience with Lazarus being raised would help prepare them for that rapidly approaching day when they would need to accept that Jesus had been raised bodily from death.

We notice in the Gospels that miracles of themselves do not bring about belief in who Jesus is. Upon the resurrection of Lazarus many did believe in Jesus (v 45) but there were also many who did not even though they were well aware of the miracles Jesus had done (v 47). Indeed, it was the miracles that provoked them to want to kill Jesus (v 53). They would also try and kill Lazarus to conceal this miracle (12:10-11).

Lazarus suffered an illness until he died and after Jesus raised him to new life he was hunted in order to kill him again. All this was because Jesus desired to reveal Himself more fully to His friends and disciples. You can check with Lazarus when you see him but I am sure he has no complaint against Jesus.

Jesus came into this world to save sinners and give to them resurrection life. We can read the verse at the head of this article with immeasurable gratitude and praise. But His coming is not about us though we benefit beyond measure. Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (v 40). This whole event was about Jesus revealing the glory of God but only those who believed in Him would see it. Jesus making us alive from bondage to sin and death is so that those who believe may see the glory of God. At Christmas time it is only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who will see the glory of God.

Shipwrecked

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” Matthew 7:13-14

A few decades ago when living in Port Pirie, South Australia it was not unusual for me to take my fourteen foot bond-wood boat with putt-putt motor out into Spencer Gulf for a spot of crabbing or fishing. The gulf was relatively shallow so far north but that was not a concern for my boat. However, there was a lead smelting industry in Port Pirie and they needed large ships to be able to berth and take on board the lead. To accomplish this, a channel had been dredged from deeper water, a kilometre or two from shore, right up to the dock. This was marked by lights and signs on marker posts.

Ships coming into port must stay between the markers or they would most certainly run aground. To navigate this channel required care and concentration as it was not a particularly wide channel and neither was it straight. Any captain who ignored the markers would soon lose his ship.

There are essentially only two ways that we might seek to live our lives and please God. The broad way that leads to destruction is the one that ignores or disregards the markers in God’s word. At Port Pirie the markers were to inform the ship’s captain where it was safe to navigate and where there was danger. If we ignore our Creator’s markers and navigate where it is unsafe we can hardly expect to avoid the dangers and we will make shipwreck of our lives.

Most people will rely on human logic and in so doing make a fatal choice. Since Adam’s sin mankind has had a faulty logic. In Proverbs we read, “There is a way that seems right to a man but its end is the way of death” (14:12, 16:9) and “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes but the Lord weighs the spirits” (16:2). A captain who chooses not to follow the markers and take a short cut will run aground.

The broad way is the way that seems right to people but in following that way they miss the truth and make shipwreck of their lives. They have missed the warning markers in God’s word. The narrow way is the way that follows God’s warning markers and remains in the safe channel.

It is tragic that we observe people and nations making shipwreck of life because they have ignored God’s word and revelation in the Bible. It is even more tragic that many deliberately and defiantly rebel against God’s word. It does not bode well for our nation and it robs people of the blessing they might otherwise have had from the Lord.

If we are not to make shipwreck of our lives, either personally or nationally, we will do well to know the safety markers God has given us in His word and enjoy the freedom that we have within them.

Precious to God

“’Get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die?’ ‘For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,’ says the Lord. ‘Therefore turn and live’” Ezekiel 18:31, 32

How often do we hear people who do not know the Lord criticize Him? Because His ways are not our ways He is criticized as unworthy, unjust, unrighteous and unloving by people who do not know Him. One of the frequently asked questions is why God allows people to suffer and die. He is considered to be unjust, vindictive or cruel, one who enjoys punishing people.

God did not turn away from people first. People first turned away from Him. These days He has been cast out of our schools, government and now there are those trying to remove him from conversation – especially in the media. That same media reports the consequences almost daily.

The above words of the Lord state a principle of His Divine Nature that is fully expressed in the cross of Jesus Christ. God invites every person to turn to Him and live with Him eternally. There is no reason for any person to go to hell since Jesus Christ has died for all sin. Why should you die? says the Lord and invites everyone to come to Him. People are only separated from God because they choose not to come to Him. They have been seduced by Satan’s lie to Adam, you will be like God.” His door is always open to anyone who will turn to Him. As Paul writes, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). No one is excluded. That door will only close upon bodily death but then it closes forever.

If God found pleasure in punishing people He would never have sent the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to take away our sin. This one act is an act of love and compassion. To confirm His desire He says again, “’As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?’” (33:11). There is much passion in these words that express the heart desire of God.

On the other hand, the Lord says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). These are those who accepted His invitation to turn from their ways. These are those who know the love, kindness and grace of God. They know that He is not cruel or vindictive but rather He is a loving Father who wants His children to have all that is good and best for them. The moment believers die bodily they are in the presence of Jesus and see Him face to face. What a glorious moment that will be and it is “precious in the sight of the Lord.”