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.

A Day Nearer

“Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?” Revelation 5:2

The above question was asked in heaven by a “strong angel.” Opening this scroll by breaking the seals is described in this book beginning in the next chapter. The breaking of the seals is the beginning of God pouring out His wrath on the nations. God has judged people groups before. He wiped out all but eight people at the time of the worldwide flood. He judged the new population later by confusing their language and He judged the sexual immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah by destroying the whole region and only saving Lot and two of his daughters. The Bible records that God has judged nations and people groups on many occasions in the past and that He will do so again.

God’s holiness demands that sin be dealt with. People deny or disregard God’s warnings of future judgment at their peril. John records God’s revelation to him of the future outpouring of wrath in this book. Revelation 6:16-17 and 19:15 particularly reveal this warning.

Who is worthy to judge the nations? Certainly no man is worthy. Many set themselves up as judges but this “strong angel” can find no one worthy to judge the nations. Worthy has to do with character. The scribes and Pharisees believed that they were worthy judges and brought a woman they caught in the act of adultery to Jesus to see if He would agree with their judgment. His response was, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). As the Gospel records, they all left without so much as picking up a pebble. None of them was worthy to judge the woman. The “strong angel” seems to be in that kind of situation as well. Who is without sin to judge mankind?

The only one found to be worthy is the one who Himself bore the wrath of God that was due us. John made this clear in his first letter, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). “Propitiation” is the turning away of wrath by satisfying the debt.

Consequently Paul could write, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:9; cf. 1:10 & Romans 5:9).

In Revelation 5:9 we read the words of a new song sung in heaven by the twenty four elders, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood.” This is what makes Jesus Christ worthy to open the seals of God’s judgment. No one else qualifies. Every day brings us a day nearer to when the nations will be judged by Jesus Christ.

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.

Defining the Man

“Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” Luke 12:15

Quite a few years ago we took my parents on a ferry trip to Fremantle from Perth. Someone was giving a kind of commentary which almost exclusively focused on who owned which mansion and how much it cost. That person was defining people by what they possessed. It is a sad thing when a person believes that their employment or their possessions define who they are.

In this parable of a wealthy but foolish man Jesus does not criticise the fact that he was rich but that his motivation in life was to possess “treasure for himself” (v 21). In pride he then spent some of what he had on providing greater capacity to keep what he had for his own pleasure. One does not have to have great wealth to have this heart motivation.

There are three errors in this man’s thinking. First, he believes that his ability to create wealth and accumulate wealth defines him. Secondly, he won’t live to spend his wealth. The third and biggest mistake is in believing that he is the sole reason for his ability to create and retain wealth and that it is for him.

What did he have that was not given to him? Yes, he had to take advantage of his environment and his talents but these were given to him by God. No one chooses where or when they will be born or who their parents will be. No one chooses their genetic makeup that may or may not grant mental and physical capacities as well as other inheritable traits.

Jesus goes on to teach that we have no need to be anxious about our earthly needs because God will provide for us. He gives the birds and flowers as examples of His gracious provision. Since our earthly life is so brief Jesus urges us to have our minds set on things above and lay up heavenly treasure. What is His logic? “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v 32).

Whether it is one’s employment or accumulated wealth, or lack thereof, a person is not defined by these things. Some people have taken Jesus at His word, “sell what you have and give alms: provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in heaven that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.” (v 33).

A person is defined first by the fact that they are created in the image of God. Everything we think we possess is actually His and Jesus affirms that what He seeks are faithful stewards. The key error of the person in the parable is that he believed his wealth was his and for himself (v 15, 21).

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.”

Nipping At Our Heels

“Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live” Isaiah 38:1

In my teenage years I frequently and often worked in my neighbour’s dairy in school holidays and weekends. He had a black and white border collie dog named Rastus that had a particularly useful skill for rounding up the cows. At considerable risk he would nip the heels of a cow and then drop flat on the ground to avoid the inevitable hoof flashing over his head. For extra fun he would also have a swing on a cow’s tail. He lived to a ripe old age without ever being hit by a hoof. King Hezekiah had a dog nipping at his heels as well, a dog called pride.

The apostle Paul would later write, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain … I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you” (Philippians 1:21-23). Paul’s desire was to be with the One he loved but he was willing to postpone that joy for the sake of the mission Jesus had given him. Let us compare that with King Hezekiah.

When Hezekiah was told of his impending death he went to the Lord asking for more time. We can discern his motive by his prayer. It was quite different to Paul’s desire. His request was based on his earthly position. He wanted to enjoy and boast of the earthly blessings God had given him in preference to the joy of actually being with the Lord. There is no suggestion that he wanted to remain for the sake of God’s will or God’s people.

This becomes even more obvious when the messengers from Babylon came to visit. He showed them “the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armoury – all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them” (Isaiah 39:2). The dog named pride was nipping at his heels guiding him to a gate called “Stumbling” and he did not resist it. He boasted as if he had obtained all he enjoyed by his own effort. Pride will dog us all of our earthly lives so we need to learn how to recognise it and make our resistance effective.

We need to regularly check our motives as to whether we love Jesus Christ or just the blessings He gives. Hezekiah loved the worldly blessings in preference to the Giver of the blessings. Consequently he desired a longer life on earth absent from the Lord. In the end he lost it all and all the good he had previously done for Israel unravelled after he died.

What if the Lord should say these words to you today? As we consider our response we will discover whether it really is Jesus we love or whether it is just the blessings He gives. Will you respond like Paul or like Hezekiah? When it is Jesus we love we will readily receive His command to come home and ask for no delay. His timing will be perfect.