God's End Game - Part 44

Series: God's End Game

December 29, 2019
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

God's End Game - Part 44 

Wasn’t our big Christmas service awesome last week? Pastor Rob said it was going to be the biggest and best Christmas service of any church ever, and I think he delivered. Thanks for that!

I trust you had a great Christmas. We certainly did. Got to spend the day with all three of my daughters and my parents came up. It’s been a long time since that’s happened. Let’s…

PRAY and get into God’s Word this morning.

I looked back to the same Sunday last year, and we were just nine messages in to the God’s End Game series I’ve been preaching ever since. Those were the good old days, weren’t they? We truly are getting close to wrapping this up, I promise — well, sort of.

They say hindsight is 20/20. That’s so true. If I could go back, I’d have done things so differently. I beat myself up because I see how I could have explained something better, or left a message out or added one. But as also they say, it is what it is.

So, let’s keep going in our study of God’s End Game, our Creator’s plan for setting all things to rights, how He’s going to wrap things up for us and the world.

As you should know by now, the major play in God’s End Game was the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And the final play is Jesus’ return, his second coming, when, “at the end of time… he will come to judge the world and usher in the fullness of his kingdom.”[1]

We’ve been coming to terms with the “bad news” part of this: “he will come to judge the world.” AKA THE FINAL JUDGMENT. 

The doctrine of the final judgment is defined this way:

This doctrine affirms that when Christ, the merciful and righteous king of the earth, returns, all human beings will be held accountable for their lives, resulting in eternal condemnation or eternal blessedness.[2]

If you’re just joining us, I encourage you to visit our podcast page and catch up if you have time, but here’s where we are in the overarching, big picture idea of what’s going to happen at the return of the King…

Those who died but at some point in their life put their faith and trust in Jesus will be resurrected to reign with him. That’s resurrection number one.

After a period of time those who died without Christ (those who never put their faith and trust in Jesus) will be resurrected to be judged by him.

This reveals a fascinating factoid about God’s End Game: everyone, saved or unsaved, is resurrected in the end. Those who die in Christ are resurrected to live forever as part of God’s kingdom in the new heavens and earth. Those who die apart from Christ are resurrected to be judged and live forever separated from God in a place called hell, AKA the second death.

Remember what Paul said as he gave his defense before Felix…

Acts 24:15 (ESV)

15 … there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust.

So in truth, one day everyone is raised to live forever, the just (those right with God) and the unjust (those not right with God). Following that the final judgment begins.

Our key text in Revelation gives us major details about this judgment…

Revelation 20:11–15 (ESV) — 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. 

These books (plural) and the Book of Life (singular), as we’ve seen, play a pivotal role in the final judgment. 

Last week we saw how the books (plural) are hinted at all throughout the Bible and are a record of every deed both good and bad for every person of all time who has ever lived. One commentator, if you remember, calls these books the “heavenly records of human deeds.”[3]

Jesus comes back to judge, and he does so by examining the charges, like all judges. These records will be used by Jesus to judge the unjust — those who did not follow Jesus — at the end of time.

Even though these books do include the good everyone’s done, the final judgment doesn’t involve a balancing act where what a persons done both good and bad is weighed out as if maybe there’s a chance for redemption. It’s too late for that. You see…

The final judgment isn’t about deciding whether people get to live forever with God or not (that’s already been decided), it’s to determine the extent of punishment the unjust receive in hell. 

What heavy, heavy stuff. But thankfully, there’s that other book, the Book of Life, and that’s what we want to look at today. Like the books of our deeds, the Book of Life is alluded to all throughout the Bible.

King David, in his plea for God to deal with his unrighteous enemies says…

Psalm 69:28 (ESV)

28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living;

let them not be enrolled among the righteous. 

We’ve already seen it mentioned in… 

Daniel 12:1 (ESV)

1 “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book.

And look at what Jesus says to the special disciples (72 of them) he commissioned to preach the gospel…

Luke 10:17, 20 (ESV)

17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!… 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

And Paul, in his letter to the Philippians…

Philippians 4:3 (ESV) — 3 Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

And then, as might be expected, the book of life is mentioned most — six times to be exact — in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation, which could also be called God’s End Game: the final play. 

In the letters to the seven churches, Jesus said to the church at Sardis…

Revelation 3:5 (ESV)

5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

And again in… 

Revelation 13:5–8 (ESV)

5 And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.

This is closely connected to the next occurrence in…

Revelation 17:8 (ESV)

8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.

We’ve already seen the references in Revelation chapter 20. But the final reference is in the last chapter of the last book of the Bible. The end of the end, where it talks of the New Jerusalem, something I can’t wait to share more about.

Revelation 21:22–27 (ESV)

22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

The full title of the book is given here: The Lamb’s book of life. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain.

Clearly, the Book of Life is a record of the all the righteous, the just, those who belong to God, the saints, the saved, and however else you might put it.

As much as it’s frightening to think God has been keeping records on all we’ve ever done, it’s comforting to know he’s also kept records on everyone from all time whoever has called on him to be saved.

Conclusion: Quite a while ago, during those three years I ran from God, I worked for an electronics repair store. We bought non-working items to fix and resell. One of biggest was PS3s. They had a bad habit of overheating so we’d buy them cheap, reflow the chips using a glorified hair dryer, and sell them for a tidy profit.

One day this fellow came in wanting to buy one. I set it on the counter for ringing up. He said he needed to call about getting the money. He kept putting it off. At an opportune moment he grabbed it and ran. I ran after him. I was in the best shape of my life at the time, but I could not catch him. He should have been playing football instead of stealing PS3s.

He was caught and booked. Not longer after I was subpoenaed to appear in court as a witness for the prosecution. I showed up and was told before entering the courtroom to tuck my shirt tail in. All those who entered had to show respect to the judge. I sat there for hours and watched case after case unfold (this guys was handled with a plea deal or something).

One thing I observed was the power that judge held. He had been given absolute authority more or less to preside over what took place in that courtroom. By his very office he demanded respect. He’d call for the charges to be read. He’d make a judgment. Those peoples lives, their futures, were in his hands

It was unnerving. I’ve never been the kind of fellow to be in a courtroom as a defendant as it is, but I sure thought to myself that day how I never wanted to be. 

But one day, I will. We all will. And the judge will be the sovereign ruler, creator of the universe. If the tension in an earthly courtroom was thick, imagine how much more so in this heavenly one.

On that day the charges against me found in the books of deeds will be more than enough to condemn me. But thank God there is the book of life, a record of all who’ve given their lives to God through Jesus. That book overrules whatever is recorded in the book of deeds.

The reason it’s also called the Lamb’s Book of Life is because it’s the work of Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, that makes it possible for our names to be recorded in it. Our names aren’t there because of anything we’ve done. They are there because of what he’s done.

Jesus lived the life we should have lived. He died the death we should have died. And when we come to God through him by faith, his righteousness is put into our accounts making us just (as if we’d never sinned). His death on the cross paid for our sins, making it impossible for us to be judged for them.

This is why Paul wrote…

Romans 8:1 (ESV)

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Let’s close with the writer of Hebrews…

Hebrews 9:26b–28 (ESV)

26… But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:26–28 (NLT)

26 … But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice. 27 And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

[1] Bray, G. (2018). Jesus’ Second Coming. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[2] Bray, G. (2018). The Final Judgment. In M. Ward, J. Parks, B. Ellis, & T. Hains (Eds.), Lexham Survey of Theology. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Koester, C. R. (2014). Revelation: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. (J. J. Collins, Ed.) (Vol. 38A, p. 780). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.

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