Before I begin, yes. Yes, I realize the irony of titling this post in this way directly after posting a piece entitled, "Do Something." I promise the two are not related. I'm switching gears today, away from my series on experiencing God and ministry. So here we go...
The Bible says things, and we read them, and we know they are true, but sometimes, we have to put the pieces together. One such case: Revelation.
There's a lot of worry in the world about who's going to Hell. It seems there are two camps - the people who fear they are going to Hell and the people who seem to know which other people are going to Hell. What if...we all go to Hell? (Stay with me. I promise.)
I'm in the book of Revelation, a book that doesn't make much sense to a lot of people but has a great deal to say about what happens when God redeems the world for good. For good. Now, there's a whole series of events that unfolds that you have to put together if you want to see the real promise of Heaven.
We all know we're getting new bodies, that we will be completely restored and fulfilled as we were intended to be. But bodies don't get into Heaven. Names do. And Revelation tells us we get a new one of those, too. I will also give each person a white stone with a new name written on it, a name that is known only to the person who receives it. (2:17)
That's step 1: When God returns, you get a new name. Don't forget that.
Skip ahead to chapter 20. I saw the dead, both important and unimportant people, standing in front of the throne. Books were opened, including the Book of Life. The dead were judged on the basis of what they had done, as recorded in the books. (12)
When God returns, you stand before Him and He opens the Book of Life. What do the Scriptures tell us are written in the Book of Life? Names. On the basis of names in the Book of Life, your dead man will be judged.
That's step 2: Know that there are names listed in the Book of Life and that by that name, you will be judged.
In the next chapter, John describes the new Jerusalem, the restored Temple, the place of Heaven itself. He concludes that chapter with this truth: Nothing unclean, no one who does anything detestable, and no liars will ever enter it. only those whose names are written in the lamb's Book of Life will enter it. (27)
When God returns, gives you a new name, opens the Book of Life, and judges you by it, don't you kind of hope your name is in there? I mean, if it's not, you don't get to enter into the new Jerusalem. Translate that the way we so often do - if your name is not in the Book of Life, you don't get to go to Heaven. Think of the countless theologies based on this very scary reality. Think of the movements of God's church that have been built around this concept of your name being in the Book of Life.
You know what? I'm kind of betting it won't be. At least, I don't think mine is.
Because it's a system. Do you see it developing yet? What are you in your present form? You are the very things God says will not enter into His holy city - you are, by nature of your fallen flesh, unclean and detestable. Sorry. Them's the dice. We all are. But thank the Lord, it is not by this name that you will be judged. Think about that.
The reference to your new name comes first. From the first moment you meet God, He will give you a new name. Then He will look in His Book of Life for that name, and on the basis of who you were created to be, you will be judged. And you know what? You were created to be good. So don't worry about it. Everything God intended, and created, is good. He said so Himself. It is your old name, the one you die by, that isn't any good. It is your old name that isn't in the Book of Life. Which means when you die, your old name is the one condemned. Your fallen flesh is cast out. Your detestable, unclean, lying nature is gone. When you come into God's redemption, your old name has to go...to Hell. We all go to Hell.
Go back to chapter 20. (I love this stuff.) Death and hell gave up their dead. ...Death and hell were thrown into the fiery lake. (The fiery lake is the second death.) Those whose names were not found in the Book of Life were thrown into the fiery lake. (13-15)
Your old name, which is not written in the Book of Life, the name by which you sinned and died, the name by which you called yourself in your fallen flesh, is thrown into Hell. And together with Hell, is thrown into the fiery lake. It dies two deaths, to make sure it's good and dead. Which means in the final days, when you are judged and found lacking by your old name, your sinfulness is not even relegated to Hell! It is not damned to eternal separation; it is damned to destruction. God separates it from you, and from Him...and then destroys it anyway. In favor of a new name. That He's written in the Book of Life.
Welcome to the Holy City.