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.

Living Godly

“Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” 2 Timothy 3:12

Paul had just listed some of his own experiences that included persecutions and afflictions and then states the principle quoted above. People who have no desire to live a godly life are already serving the god of this world and the spirit of antichrist that emanates from him. As soon as a person has the desire to live godly in Christ Jesus everything and everyone in Satan’s dominion will be in opposition to them because it is opposed to Jesus Christ.

Christians can avoid Satan’s attention by going along with the world in its ungodly way, as Lot did (Genesis 19), but how will they face Jesus without extreme shame? Peter experienced this in part and we can read of his experience of this in Luke 22:54-62 & John 21:15-19.

The world is becoming more bold in its persecution of Christians. Governments and media are unwilling to report persecution and murder of Christians and by their silence they condone and encourage this behaviour. What those who oppose do not realize is that Jesus Christ will have the last say and His judgments are perfect and just. For the unrepentant sinner He is much more to be feared than any man made religion (Luke 12:5).

Paul wrote a principle that is for the Christians of his day and is applicable to all Christians throughout the church age. It will only end when Jesus returns and establishes His Kingdom on earth thus answering a part of the Lord’s model prayer recorded in Matthew 6:10. The manifestation of persecution will vary according to culture, political ideology, the dominant religion and other circumstances, but it will always be present in some form and some degree.

In his letters to Timothy and Titus Paul points his readers to Christ’s appearing five times. This is where our focus of attention should be and it will be supported by sound Biblical teaching which he mentions nine times.

It is tragic that Christians are suffering and will continue to suffer but we must remember that Jesus allows it for His own reasons which can, to some degree at least, be determined from Scripture. One of the things Jesus said while on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Stephen followed this example when he was being stoned; “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). This is the heart attitude that we will also have toward those who persecute desiring that they will also know Christ’s forgiveness and be saved from the wrath to come.

Making the Connection

“But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” Luke 24:21

At Passover Israel looks back and reflects on the great deliverance the fledgling nation experienced under Moses’ leadership. But the Passover also looks forward to the Messiah who would deliver Israel again from Gentile dominance – and much more. The two disciples discussing this were speaking to the risen Jesus though they didn’t know that it was Him at that time.

Even though Jesus had told His disciples several times that He would die and rise again (Luke 6:44; 18:33; Mark 9:31; Matthew 16:21; 17:9, 23) they still had not grasped it even now that He had been crucified. They had not yet made the connection between the Passover and Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

One of Jesus’ statements on the cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Not only the religious Jews but also Jesus’ own disciples had not understood that the Christ must be crucified and rise again before anyone could be forgiven. The angel reminded the women, “He is not here, but is risen. Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again’” (Luke 24:6-7). These two disciples walking to Emmaus knew of the encounter the women had with the angel (v 22) yet they did not yet believe that Jesus had risen. As a consequence, instead of being overjoyed, they were extremely saddened at what they perceived a failure.

Israel is still in a similar position. They are still missing the truth that Jesus is the Passover Lamb. They have not made the connection. John the Baptist recognised Him from the start crying out, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Many people will take part in some Easter activities and may even attend a church service and yet they will not make the connection and miss the true meaning.

One of the thieves crucified with Jesus did and understood who Jesus is. He confessed his sinfulness and asked for forgiveness (Luke 23:40-43). Since Jesus had just asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him he knew he would receive a positive response. Let us pray that, this Easter, many more people will come to the same realisation as this thief on the cross. If they follow his example they will also be forgiven.

Only One Reason

“He who believes in Him 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” John 3:18

Occasionally we meet or hear of someone who is concerned that they have sinned so greatly that they cannot be forgiven or they have committed some sin that is not covered by Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary’s cross. However, the verse above makes it clear that the only reason a person remains condemned is because he or she has not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to believe in Him? The answer lies in verse sixteen. First we notice God’s love for mankind even though all mankind is born in sin and stands condemned. Verse seventeen says that God did not send His Son to condemn the world. The reason being is that it is already condemned as evidenced by bodily death and the increasing corruption in the world.

We can barely even begin to know the pain and suffering of God by committing His beloved Son to such a horrendous death. It was His love for us that moved Him to do so. “God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We see anguish of soul in parents who tragically lose a child through sickness or accident but that pales in comparison to the suffering of the heart of God.

Truly, “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved” (v 17). Sometimes we may think like the disciples who wanted to bring down fire from heaven to destroy the ungodly but Jesus corrected their error. God sent Jesus to save mankind from the existing condemnation. An illustration of this is that of a person in difficulty in the surf at risk of drowning. He is moments away from death with no capacity to save himself. Without outside help he is condemned to drown. Then a surf lifesaver arrives, plucking him from death and returning him to shore.

It is God’s love for already condemned men that sent Jesus Christ to save them. To reject that sacrificial love is to show contempt of that love. Since there is no other way to forgiveness of sin (Acts 4:12) that person remains condemned by their own choice. In Jesus Christ God has provided all that is necessary for forgiveness and salvation. What is required on our part is to receive it as a gift (Romans 6:23). That is why the only reason a person remains condemned is because they have not believed in Jesus Christ. There is no sin so great that the blood of Jesus cannot wash us clean. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

The Goodness of God

“Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

It isn’t unusual for people to justify their belief that there is no God based on the corruption they observe among people. The nature of bias is that we only see or hear what we want to see and hear. In the previous chapter Paul wrote that the invisible attributes of God are clearly revealed in His creation (1:19-20) and so people who choose not to believe Him have no valid excuse for not believing.

We see the sun rise or set for a few minutes each day and observe its beauty; but in reality God performs both sunrise and sunset 24/7. If we travelled west at the speed of the earth’s rotation we could have a perpetual sunrise or sunset. We may observe the beauty of a rose bud opening over a few hours but at any given time there are many roses and multitudes of other in full colourful bloom. We have stood in wonder and marvelled at a new baby but there are parents in awe and wonder at their new baby all around the world all the time. We live in a world that provides far more food than required for the current population. It is only man’s greed for wealth and power that prevents it being distributed to the people or allowing them to grow their own. Some people look at man’s corruption and blame God. Others look at the goodness of God and seek deliverance from the corruption of man.

The forbearance and longsuffering of God is that He holds back on the outpouring of His wrath against evil for a reason (Romans 3:25-26). Peter agrees with Paul when he writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The delay in judgment is not because God does not exist, but because He is showing His goodness in contrast to man’s corruption, so that all people may have a change of heart and come to Him.

Those who are biased toward sin look at the corruption of mankind and say there is no God. Those who are sick and tired of this corruption look at the goodness, forbearance and longsuffering of God and come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing.

For the former, Paul does not have good prospects. He writes, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are storing up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Jesus said, “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37) and John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Those who believe His word may come in absolute confidence of being received, forgiven and cleansed. Those who don’t believe His word will, because of the hardness of their own impenitent heart, choose to remain under God’s wrath.

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.

Reconciliation and Restoration

“I will heal their backsliding,

I will love them freely,

for My anger has turned away from him”
Hosea 14:4

These words were very precious to me when a man I had never met shared them with me many years ago. I had been away from the Lord but the Lord had brought me back. In a way it was a picture of God’s love for Israel. In the book of Hosea we read of God’s severe chastisement of Israel and we might wonder how a God of love could inflict such severe pain. However, it is a reflection not only of God’s anger against sin and love for the sinner but also of the hardness of the human heart apart from Christ. I don’t believe God will chastise more than necessary. That people still do not respond reveals the hardness of their heart.

So often in the prophetic books of the Bible we read this same pattern; God’s severity on Israel for turning away from Him and His gentle love for them when they return. In all of the prophecies concerning Israel’s return there is certainty that the day will come. When God says, “I will,” He means He will perform it. If He can’t then He is not the God of creation.

There is no comfort in these words for unbelieving Israel but there is enormous encouragement to believing Israel, the “remnant”. God is still on track and on time in fulfilling His Covenant promises to Israel.

Likewise there is no comfort in these words for unbelieving Gentiles but to those who have trusted Jesus Christ there is great encouragement in our walk with Him. These words from the Lord to Israel reveal the love and compassion that God has for His people when they walk with Him. For a Christian who has strayed these words show the welcoming arms of God when they return.

In 14:1 & 2 God invites the one who has strayed to return to Him. In verses 2 & 3 we see the evidence of repentance and in verse four is God’s response. Reconciliation is complete.

Another verse that was shared with me by the same person at the same time follows on from this scenario and is recorded in Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” While this verse is written to Israel and has application upon their reconciliation it reveals the heart of God toward Christians who return to the Lord after straying. We may have wasted years in going our own way but God is able to turn that to His and our benefit.

God forbid that we should ever stray from walking with the Lord but if we do, or have, the revelation from these verses and many others is that He is waiting with loving arms for our return and repentance to reconcile us to Himself and reinstate us in fellowship. To read Jesus’ words on the subject read Luke 15:11-32.