THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE

book of lifeLast week while having lunch with a couple of pastor friends our conversation surprisingly turned to spiritual matters. One pastor threw on the table for discussion the topic of the Lamb’s Book of Life. There are many opinions on what exactly the Lamb’s Book of Life is and its purpose. In this blog I will share with you what I believe the Bible teaches and what I believe about the Lamb’s Book of Life.

1.  WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE LAMB ‘S BOOK OF LIFE.

A. There are seven passages of Scripture in the New Testament that mention The Book of Life     or Lamb’s Book of Life: Philippians 4:3, Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12-15 and 21:27.

B. Sometimes we read in the Bible of the Book of Life and at other times we read about the Lamb’s Book of Life.

C. Believers cannot have their names blotted out of the Book of Life. We read in Revelation 3:5   of the Lord promising the over-comers at Sardis He will not blot out their names. The totality       of Scripture teaches the Christian has an eternal security. This passage is often used in                 defending this position. Luke 10:20 seems to speak also of the Book of Life and our eternal         security. Look at what Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 10:20 (HCSB), “However, don’t                 rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” “Written” is in the perfect tense and gives the idea of a permanent record. Jesus is telling His disciples to rejoice that their names are permanently recorded in heaven.

2.  WHAT WE SPECULATE ABOUT THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE.

A. Some speculate there are two books, one being the Book of Life and the other being the Lamb’s Book of Life. Under this interpretation everyone who is born has their name written in the Book of Life. When a person is saved they have their name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In this interpretation a person will have their name removed from the Book of Life upon their death. This interpretation is probably the most traditional and certainly is the view of our Calvinistic brothers who embrace limited atonement and view the Lamb’s Book of Life as containing only the names of the people Jesus died to redeem. In the Calvinist view those names not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are people for whom Jesus did not die.

B. Others, myself included, view the Lamb’s Book of Life and the Book of Life as being one book. Examine a few passages that influence my thinking. One is the Messianic Psalm, Psalm 69. This Psalm describes the suffering that Jesus would endure. In describing the enemies of Jesus who tormented our Lord, David makes a statement in verse 28, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” David appears to be praying not merely for their death but their names not be recorded or remain in the Book of Life along with the righteous. Those who crucified our Lord were not struck dead when He died so physical death is not what is in view in this Psalm. David’s prophetic eye did not see the enemies of Jesus dying; he saw them as unbelievers and Christ rejecters whose names were to be removed from the Book of the Living. He prayed their names would not remain recorded next to the righteous.

A second passage that leads me to believe the Book of Life and the Lamb’s Book of Life is one book is Revelation 3:5. The Lord promises the overcomers in Sardis He would not blot out their names. There is an implication in this verse that names can be blotted out of the Book of Life. So it is my speculative opinion that everyone Jesus died for has their name written in the Book of Life. According to John 3:16 and I John 2:2 He died for the sins of the entire world. As unbelievers die they have their names removed from the Book of Life and this book becomes the Lamb’s Book of Life at the end of time. Some do not have to die in order to have their names removed from the Book of Life. Revelation 13:8 reads in the KJV, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” A group of people during the tribulation will worship the beast rather than the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world which is Jesus. According to Revelation 13:8 their names are already removed from the Book of Life. Some translations, in my opinion in error, attach “from the foundation of the world” to names not written in the Book of Life thus making it seem that these people have not had their names written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. I believe that is a mistake. This verse is teaching those who worship the beast and take the mark of the beast have crossed a line and cannot be redeemed. Therefore their names are removed from the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world.

3. FINAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE.

A. Your name must be in this book if you are going to have eternal life in the presence of God. Revelation 20:11-15 teaches of the Great White Throne Judgment. On this day everyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into the lake of fire.

B. God knows your name. I will never get over the fact that God knows my name. I have met some people who the world says are fairly important. I am convinced seconds after these important people heard my name they had forgotten it. GOD KNOWS YOUR NAME AND HAS IT WRITTEN DOWN!

C. The emphasis of the Book of Life is on the redeeming work of Jesus and not human efforts. We can do nothing that merits our names being recorded in this book for eternity. Some are trying to be honest enough, loving enough, faithful enough, good enough to have a relationship with God. Praise be to Jesus for what He has done on Calvary to redeem us. Through His redeeming work followers of Christ have their names recorded forever in the Book of Life.

 

What’s Wrong With The Rapture?

A belief that I hold dear has been rejected by many of my dear brothers and sisters in the church today. I grew up in the ministry listening to great preachers of yesteryear preaching on the rapture of the church. All of my heroes in the ministry from my younger days held the belief that the church would be raptured from the earth into the air when Jesus comes for the church. This belief has never been universal among Christians by any means but today many seem to loathe the idea of the rapture of the church. In this blog I want to answer a few of the criticisms against the rapture.

  1. SOME SAY THE BELIEF IN THE RAPTURE IS HURTING THE WORK OF THE CHURCH.

I read articles and hear sermons regularly that claim the church today is not effective in ministry or evangelism because of the belief in the rapture. Some critics say the rapture is “escapism,” that is Christians avoid all tribulation while the earth and its population go through hell on earth. They further contend that those who hold this escapism belief have several flaws in their belief system. Here are some accusations I have read.

A) Opponents of the rapture say believers in the rapture are missing the point of the New Testament that we are commissioned to transform this world into God’s Kingdom rather than looking for an escape from this world and its troubles.

B) They further hold that those who believe in the rapture of the church have a perverted view of the earth. Because it is not our home and we are looking for the return of Christ we will not be good stewards of the earth and her resources. Some claim we see the earth as a holding station until we get to go to heaven.

C) Some see those who believe in the rapture of the church as people who have thrown their hands up and quit and are accomplishing nothing while they wait on the return of Christ. I recently heard a very dear friend of mine claim that if Christians don’t quit looking for the rapture we are going to lose all the ground we have claimed for Christ.

D) Some argue that the descriptions of Christ’s return in the Bible are images of a returning victorious king to his capital. They view the return of Christ as a localized event and not a universal or worldwide event.

2.   I HAVE AN ANSWER FOR ALL THESE ACCUSATIONS.

A and B above are just logically flawed. Simply because we are looking for the return of Christ does not mean we are not trying to transform this world into God’s Kingdom. The Apostle Paul made at least 3 missionary journeys in the face of many dangers in an attempt to share the Gospel of Christ with the entire world. No reasonable person will argue that Paul was not attempting to transform the world for Christ’s sake. However, listen to what Paul says in II Timothy 4:6-8, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.”

The crown of righteousness that Paul speaks of is for the person who lives a righteous life motivated by a love for the return of Christ. Some believers are so in love with Jesus that they long for His return and keep themselves righteous and productive until He returns. The Lord’s appearing is motivation for living out the Gospel and thus transforming this world.

Also, it is flawed logic to argue that because we do not believe this world to be our final home we will neglect it and fail to be good stewards of the resources planet earth provides. I have a couple of friends who have built and sold many houses in their lives. Often when they sell the house they are living in they will rent a house while building a new home. The rental home is not their final home so this logic dictates they will never cut their grass or sweep or vacuum. They will not take care of the house for it is not their final home. I can assure you that may be the case with some but not with my friends who kept up each rental home they have lived in very well. This reasoning is an attack on the rapture that is fabricated simply to bolster an argument. It has no merit.

In C above we see some say we who believe in the rapture have quit serving while waiting on Jesus to come get us. This argument is not valid. Read Acts 1:9-11, “After He had said this, He was taken up as they were watching, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. 10 While He was going, they were gazing into heaven, and suddenly two men in white clothes stood by them.
11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up into heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you have seen Him going into heaven.”

The angels tell the disciples that the Lord is returning as He departed (seems reasonable to mean in the clouds) and the disciples should not be standing around gazing. The return of Christ is seen as motivation for faithful service in this passage.

Finally, in D above we see some argue that the return of Christ is a localized event. They see Him returning to one place, like Jerusalem, and His disciples there receive Him. This makes no logical sense whatsoever. Let’s say that Christ’s return is a localized event in Jerusalem, this would mean that those of us who are believers in other parts of the world would have to buy airline tickets or boat fare to come see our Lord. Some believers would get to see Him years earlier than others. Some believers might have to sell their homes or save for years to have enough money to travel to see Jesus.

I Thessalonians 4:13-18 is clear and offers a better thought. Look at verses 16 and 17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.”

The church in Thessalonica was concerned about Christians who have died before Christ’s return. Paul assures them that at the rapture they will be raised first. This statement is to comfort those believers who have seen loved ones die in Christ. Then we who are alive shall be caught up in the clouds with those who have been raised and then we will always be with the Lord. Localized event? That is just nonsense.

We may debate when the rapture takes place: before the tribulation, during the tribulation or after the tribulation. We may debate where believers go after the rapture: off to heaven for a season or immediately back to earth. However, I don’t see any reason for debating the rapture of the church. To be honest, I know why some hold to this view, they have a dislike for the nation of Israel and most of those who hold the view that the church will be raptured also embrace a pro-Israel theology. The replacement theologian believes that the church has replaced Israel in God’s heart and plans. For this reason some find it necessary to throw out the rapture because many who hold the belief in the rapture believe God removes the church in order to finish His business with Israel. I feel like a dinosaur sometimes but I still believe in the rapture and that Israel is God’s chosen people.

 

A God Who Can Heal Your Body, Soul and Mind, Part VIII

cancer curedThis will be my last blog on the wonderful experience of the Lord healing me of cancer by supernatural means. This is the eighth blog on this healing and I do pray that God will use it to help someone who is in need of encouragement. Through the years I have shared this experience many times and I have it condensed in a short sermon form. It has been my honor to have the doctors who treated me through the years call me and ask me to come to the hospital or their offices to speak to a young cancer patient or a patient who has been diagnosed as terminal. I know God healed me when doctors said there was no chance of medicine healing me. I want to share just a couple final thoughts about my healing.

I. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT ANYONE TODAY HAS THE GIFT OF HEALING.

I know that this will surprise many that a man who was supernaturally healed of cancer does not believe in the gift of healing. I am what is known as a cessationist. Well, I am a modified cessationist. I believe there were some gifts given to the apostles to identify them as apostles and caused people to listen to their words as the Word of God in the first century. One of the gifts that I believe ceased was the gift of healing. I do believe God heals. He healed me of cancer. However, I do not believe anyone today possesses the gift of healing like the apostles had. Read Acts 5:16, “There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks and them which were vexed with unclean spirits and they were healed EVERY ONE. [emphasis added]  New translations read, “And ALL of them were healed.” [emphasis added] You need to note that in this verse everyone that was brought to the apostles were healed. This passage teaches not a single time was a person not healed by the apostles. Today I know some people who have a way of getting a hold of God in prayer. These people know how to pray and I often share with them my prayer requests. However, I know of no one who can pray for the sick and healing take place every time they pray. There are sheep in wolves clothing who put on great productions and claim to have the gift of healing but not a single one of these guys is willing to travel to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis and pray for the healing of the heartbreaking cases that can be witnessed in this wonderful place of treatment. I believe in healing but I do not believe anyone has the gift of healing today.

II. I DO NOT KNOW WHY GOD HEALED ME AND HE DOES NOT HEAL OTHERS. 

I want to be honest and transparent, I do not grasp why God heals some and not others. In particular, I do not know why God healed me and others have died. I know of a couple great pastors who have been diagnosed with cancer and heart disease at a young age and tremendous people of faith poured out their hearts for God to heal. Yet, in spite of these prayers I watched as these great men of God passed into eternity. As they died I carried the knowledge that God had healed me. I know in my heart I am not as dedicated as they were, I am not as faithful as they were, I am not as effective as they were and yet I live and they died. Some will say things like, “God had more for you to do or God was not through with you.” I am appreciative of the sweet words but I also know that God can use the next person in line to accomplish far more than He will accomplish with me. The fact that God heals some and not others is nothing new. Read I Kings 19:14 as Elijah speaks, “I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword…” Elijah stated that Israel had slain the prophets. We also read in Daniel 6:22 that God shut the lions’ mouth when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. Acts 12 is a fascinating chapter for me. In verse 2 we read that Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword. It seems that God did nothing to spare James, one of the sons of thunder, from death. However, we read in verses 5-19 where God supernaturally delivered Peter from prison. James dies and Peter is spared. Some prophets die while Daniel was spared. One apostle is killed while another is supernaturally freed. Only God has the answer for why this is. There are several reasons why God does not heal every person that believers pray for: 1) Unconfessed sin hinders our prayers according to James 5:16. 2) A lack of faith impacts our prayers. James 5:6 tells us to ask in faith not wavering  and verse 7 says a man who prays wavering can expect to receive nothing from the Lord. 3) God has bigger plans. Sometimes when we pray for a healing God has something bigger in store than a healing. C.S. Lewis in, “The Problem Of Pain,” wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pain, it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf ear.” The truth is sometimes in suffering and death God produces greater results than in healing. We are to pray like our prayers have everything to do with the sick being healed. We are to trust God is sovereign and wise when He chooses not to answer those prayers with healing. There are other reasons in Scripture given why prayers are hindered but I will list just these three.

III. I DON’T KNOW WHY THE JOY OF THE HEALING HAS FADED THROUGH THE YEARS. 

Again, I am going to be honest and transparent. In the days following the miraculous healing of my body from cancer I never had a bad day. If I had a flat tire I thanked God I was healthy enough to change the flat. When I played golf it didn’t bother me if I shot 72 or 82 I was healthy and happy. Something terrible has happened, the farther away from the miracle the less appreciative of it I have become. I have enjoyed writing about this miracle and I often preach on the miracle during one service when I am preaching revivals but I don’t constantly thank God for the healing like I used to in my prayer life. I do have bad days. Sometimes I am a grouch. I must confess that my life has even had times of less consecration after the miracle than before. I made a determination to very seldom mention the cancer that gripped my body while I was preaching to my church family. I have kept that commitment. I do preach the sermon form of the miracle testimony at least every other year in the church that I pastor but I have always been afraid of sharing about the disease too much. I am so grateful for the miracle but through the years I have come to understand the weakness in miracles. Revelation 13:13 says of the future false prophet, “And he doth great wonders so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.”  II Thessalonians 2:9 says the Antichrist will come with power and signs and lying wonders. Satan and his henchmen can imitate miracles. Miracles can’t build your faith like the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” As a student of the Word of God I know that miracles can’t build faith like the Holy Bible. However, that Holy Bible teaches me to have a grateful heart. I am ashamed that sometimes I forget to thank God for the miracle He performed in my life almost 16 years ago now. All of you dear brothers and sisters who prayed for me to be healed deserve better from me. God deserves better. I hope I say it everyday the rest of my life, “Thank you God for extending my life. Please help me to glorify you with this life you have extended.”