by Les Aron Gosling, Rebbe (e-mail: email@example.com, of:
Copyright © BRI 1996
All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Many readers of BRI literature and Study Manuals celebrate what they call "Easter." Others keep the "Passover." Most participate in some form of the traditional Christian Eucharist, or the Mass. Some solemnly take part in what is known as "the Days of Unleavened Bread" and a few might even wash one another's feet in an annual ritual of humility. On the other hand, our BRI Yeshiva students will realise how utterly impossible it is for true believers in Yeshua today to appropriately observe the correct Passover (i.e., as to the proper legal requirements pertaining to its observance as haShem laid down in the Torah). They will no doubt know that the yearly Passover, in contradistinction to the frequent weekly or monthly or quarterly partaking of the "Lord's Supper" or "Communion" (sometimes referred to as the Mass and the Eucharist) is diametrically opposed as to both function and mood of celebration. As to the certainty of the time period for celebrating Messiah's death and resurrection we can only be aware of the general seasonal approximation. Christ was crucified and resurrected in the Spring. Our problems associated in knowing the exact time of these events (as far as calendar dating is concerned) stem from the fact that the Jewish people, of the period marked by the Fifth Procuratorship of Judaea, were keeping different religious calendars as far as Passover (and Pentecost) were concerned, than Yeshua and his disciples. While some few will argue over this last statement, there can be no doubt about it. The Sadducees differed from the Pharisees who differed from the Essenes with their own peculiar agriculturally-based calendrical systems. Not only so, but the brilliantly designed artificial Jewish calendar observed today (called "the Sacred Calendar" in some quarters) is not only against the natural seasonal cycles which God originally gave to Israel to be for signs, but it is totally illegal and originated around 360 CE with Hillel II. [BRI has provided a Study Manual on "The Festivals of Israel" and the problems of the Jewish calendar.]
Assurance For The Believer
But there is an associated topic which needs to be given our complete attention, for it relates specifically to the Passover Lamb.
Our Lord Yeshua (Yeshua) made a number of absolute statements of assurance relating to a believer's present and future salvation. Some Christians do not believe Messiah's very own words. It seems they are more intent on believing the doctrines of their own sect rather than the unequivocal certainties that ushered from the very lips of the Messiah! Please consider these clear, plain and simple unqualified words of Christ, who cannot lie:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through him should be saved" (Jn 3.16,17).
"All that the Father gives me shall come to me: and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out" (Jn 6.37).
"And this is the will of him that has sent me, that of all which he has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of my Father, that every one that sees the Son and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn 6.39,40).
"The sheep, those that are mine, hear my voice and I know them and they follow me: and I give [present continuous tense, NOT 'I will give'] unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; and none is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand" (Jn 10.27-29).
After characterising his sheep Our Lord Yeshua gives this word of everlasting assurance and eternal security which has brought true and LASTING PEACE to many believers. But let's not stop here, for there is more.
"Yeshua said...I am the resurrection and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn 11.25,26).
Note that Yeshua asks "Do YOU believe this?" Can you answer a loud resounding "Yes! I do believe"? Or do you, like a lot of people brow-beaten into an attitude of sullen unworthiness by cults and sectarianism, answer a feeble, whimpering "I hope so." If the latter, then do yourself a huge favour: break the chains in which others have enslaved you and open the BOOK and read these wonderful words of life for yourself! After all, YOU deserve it. Messiah died for you.
"I came," said Yeshua, "not to condemn the world, but to save the world" (Jn 12.47). Was Messiah's mission fulfilled satisfactorily? Is he a Satisfied Saviour? And again: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me" (Jn 12.32). Is Yeshua a collectivist fauilure?
And what of the theology of Rav Paul? Compare these refreshing and compelling, compassionate words of the Messiah with those of Paul concerning the love of God in the Christ event.
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Messiah Yeshua" (Rom 8.1 Greek).
The KJV translators did not like what Paul wrote here so they decided to change it, adding words which the holy Spirit did not inspire. This is why the Authorised Version continues in the first verse to read, "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." But these words are devilish and ought to be scribbled out of your KJV (if you own one).
"[Yeshua] shall also confirm [sustain] you unto the end blameless in the day of our Lord Yeshua Messiah. God is faithful, by whom you were called unto the fellowship of his Son Yeshua Messiah Our Lord" (1 Cor 1.8,9).
Our salvation does not depend on our works, good or bad. If God has called you into a genuine conversion experience then he is faithful toward you as an individual. And Yeshua will sustain you blameless until his return! This is what Paul is saying. We are already blameless in God's sight. We may have our faults and weaknesses (which we should be identifying in ourselves and attempting to over-come in this life) but Messiah's perfect life, death and resurrection has been legally imputed to us so that when the Father looks at us he only sees Messiah's perfection. This is what it means by the biblical phrase to be "in Christ."
What JOY we should RADIATE with this knowledge about our salvation.
Yet even here our beloved KJV translators again tried to upstage what Rav Paul was writing. This is why (if you own an Authorised Version of the Bible) verse 8 will read "that you may be blameless" and not that you already are. Do you grasp the devilish subtlety of such an inSINuation? At least the words italicised in verse 8 show us they were not in the original. So why implant them in the first place? Maybe to clarify the 1611 Roman Catholic Church of England's theological view of salvation by putting such a concept into Paul's mouth! What a terrible thing to suggest about the motives of the dour and sour Anglican translators! But Paul again writes, "Being confident of this very thing, that he [God] which has begun a good work in you will perform it [this is a promise to bring you to a perfect completion in your character] until the day of Yeshua Messiah [right up to the time of the end and including the return of the Lord in the clouds of heaven]" (Phil 1.6).
Now these statements of Christ and the apostle Paul seem very precise, and of course they are. Yet there are many believers who have a haunting insecurity concerning their spiritual salvation which seems at first glance to be justified when one reads references in the Apocalypse relating to the mysterious "Book of Life," or, as it should read, "the Scroll that relates to Life."
The Scroll That Relates to Life
This strange "Scroll that relates to Life" is designated no less than a total of six, or maybe seven, times in John's Revelation. There can be little doubt that some of these references appear to imply that a believer can have his or her name removed from that "Scroll of Life" -- that is, that a believer can lose his salvation. But it is always beneficial to study closely the texts concerned. Let's consider these now.
TEXT ONE: "He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment: and I will not blot out his name [Gk. erase his name] out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev 3.5).
TEXT TWO: "And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him [the eschatological "Beast" or "Antichrist"] whose names are not written in the book of life of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev 13.8).
TEXT THREE: "The beast that you saw, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit [Gk. abyss] and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and shall be" (Rev 17.8).
TEXTS FOUR and FIVE: "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life [Gk. which is of life]: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works...And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev 20.12,15).
TEXT SIX: "And there shall in no wise enter into it [the New Jerusalem] any thing that defiles, neither works abomination or a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life" (Rev 21.27).
TEXT SEVEN: "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life [Gk. from the tree of life] and from the holy city and the things that are written in this book" (Rev 22.19).
Concerning "Text Seven" many of the ancient manuscripts favour, as we have already pointed out in the verse itself, the rendering "tree of life" rather than "book of life."
But it is apparent from the texts themselves that the Book or Scroll refers to a symbolic register of the names of all those who are Messiah's people, and who thus belong to God. It is vital to note, however (and this is most often overlooked), that the Scroll of Life is said to belong to the Lamb.
This is most important to notice.
Because the reference to the Lamb is to one that has been slain. And not only slain but slain from eternity (Rev 13.8 Expanded Gk, Wuest).
This Lamb is not just any ordinary old lamb.
Significantly it is the Passover Lamb. Christ was symbolised by that Lamb more than any other. Only the Passover Lamb has been given -- given, not offered -- by God to a lost mankind. Remember, the Passover Lamb was in no way a sin-offering made by man to God through a priest (or even a High Priest). The Passover Lamb, on the contrary, was solely from God to mankind. It was provided by Grace. It's vital we remember this point. Therefore, when we read about the "Lamb's Book of Life" we should think in terms of the Passover Lamb's Book of Life!
Messiah is our Passover Lamb. Not only is he our Passover Lamb, for it is written that this Lamb bears away the sin of the entire world. The sacrifice of this particular Lamb was not merely for the Church of God but for the entire world, according to the apostle John (1 Jn 2.2). And this was also the opinion of his radical tutor, the Essene, John the Immerser (Jn 1.29).
Now some questions at this point must be asked. WHEN were you saved? When were you justified? When were you chosen by God?
Why, Paul tells us it was from before the very foundation of the earth! It was in eternity, in Christ. "...[T]he power of God who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Messiah Yeshua before the world began [Greek, before times age-abiding]" (2 Tim 1.9).
Therefore, concerning the Church, it seems obvious that God is not now, presently compiling a record of names! The "Book of Life" (as far as pertaining to we Christians today is concerned) has already been written. This was well and truly done before the foundation of the world. Certainly, the only immunity from an eternal death we can have is to have a place (prominent or otherwise) in the Passover Lamb's Book or Scroll of Life. And if we are Messiah's then we are all assured by God himself that we are in that heavenly Book.
Now we have that Life! Yeshua said so. We have already read it. He stated plainly in John 5.24 that we are "passed from death and judgment to THE life" (Greek). And again, in Revelation 3.5, this Book of Life is called, when transliterated from the Greek correctly, "the scroll of THE life." It's eternal life being discussed. And we have been given (not merely "offered") that eternal life! Messiah has saved us NOW.
The Divine Register
It may come as a surprise to some of our readers but the Bible contains many references to a figurative divine register. The first occurrence of such a divine register, or ledger, appears in the Torah in Exodus 32.32,33. Here in this section of Scripture Moses alludes to the Book of Life when he pleads to God on behalf of his people, Israel. Moses asks to be blotted out of the Book in order to save sinners. God replies that those who rebel against him will he erase from that Book. And, as most of Israel failed to enter into the Promised Land (a type of the Messianic Kingdom of God), but perished in the wilderness, it appears they were blotted out of the Scroll. The Psalmist states that with many of Israel God was not pleased, and their names were erased from the Book (Ps 69.28).
The idea of a Scroll of Life is universal in Judaism and is considered to be a metaphorical Book in which the names of the faithful of Israel are inscribed. Essentially the Book was a central register of all those who held citizenship in the theocratic community of Israel. The idea was not exclusive to Israel, but was common in the secular world as well. Kiddle writes that "when a criminal's name was removed from the civic register of an Asiatic town, he lost his citizenship" (Martin Kiddle, The Revelation of St John, 1940,47).
The Jewish apocryphal works (apocryphal = hidden wisdom, the term did not originally mean "spurious" or "fraudulent" as it does today) of 1 Enoch 90.20; 2 Baruch 24.1; 2 Esdras 6.20 all speak of scrolls in which the deeds of men (good and ill) are recorded for judgment. It also appears that God has written in advance all human destinies. Compare, for example, Psalm 56.7,8; 139.16; Malachi 3.16. As to the latter text, the prophet Malachi's pertinent reference to the Register of Remembrance of those "that feared the Lord," who "spoke often with one another" about God, and contemplatively "thought upon [God's] name" is substantiated by Daniel's vision of a time of God's judgment during which Scrolls are opened (Dan 7.10; 12.1). Isaiah the prophet makes mention of those who had been recorded for life in the city of Jerusalem (Isa 4.3).
Negatively, the Talmud also refers to the Book of Life, and requests that God takes out the names of Jews who apostated by becoming Christians. In the 18 Benedictions it reads: "May the Nazarenes and heretics disappear in a moment; they shall be erased from the book of life and not be written with the faithful" (Berakoth 28b-29a). Likewise the apostle John refers to those who will be erased from the Book of Life, or perhaps from the tree of life, for interfering with the pages of the sacred record (Rev 22.19).
The Overlooked Eschatological Element
In Revelation 20 we read of a period of time when the "books" (plural) are opened as well as the Passover Lamb's Book of Life. If the Lamb's Book is a register of Israelites (and recall that the entire Bible, including the Apocalypse, is primarily a Jewish book) and logically includes those who are engaged in ministry involving Israel, we may safely suppose that these other books contain the names of Gentiles. But really, we are dealing here without doubt with emblematic language. Yeshua Messiah does not need to pull out a copy of the latest angelic "Who's Who Directory of Faithful Believers" from some musty (or "spick and span") heavenly State Library, in my humble opinion. The Lord knows those who are his. For instance, if we turn to Paul's second letter to the Church in Corinth we can see at once that the apostle views the church as a letter of Christ not written with ink (2 Cor 3.2). In the same vein compare Phil 4.3; Heb 12.23; Lk 10.20.
Having now provided a background for comprehending a Book of Life, we need to concentrate on the fact that there is an eschato-logical element to this Scroll. After all, it is referred to often in the context of the reign of the Beast and the False Prophet at the end of the age.
"And at that time [referring to the previous half a dozen or so verses of the preceding 11th chapter] shall Michael stand up, the great prince who stands for the children of your people [the Jewish people]: and there shall be a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time [of trouble, tribulation or travail] your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Dan 12.1).
Some believe that the people spoken of by Daniel in this verse could very well be the mysterious "144,000" Israelites mentioned by the apostle John. Certainly they are sealed by God at the time of crisis at the end of the age (Rev 7.4-8). And when we read what John has to say in the counting of the tribes we can gain a better grasp of what this book's register is all about! For, when we consider this section of Revelation we find that two tribes are missing! And who are they? Dan and Ephraim. There is a reason they are not included in the Book of Life.
In Genesis 35.23-26 we find the sons of Jacob listed and they are 12 in number. These 12 patriarchs gave rise to the 12 tribes of Israel, or Jacob. Joseph, of course, did not have a tribe named after him as he had two sons (part Egyptian) and God included them in Jacob's heritage because the Lord wanted the nation of Israel to finally number 13 tribes in all. This was because Levi was separated to God's service in the priesthood. And historically, when Israel was brought out of Egypt we find Levi ministering at the tabernacle to the 12 tribes in the wilderness (Num 10.11-28). And here they are all listed except for Levi and Joseph. Yet when we review Revelation 7.4-8 we can locate ALL the tribes of Israel, but Dan and Ephraim are missing. Why are these tribes deleted? We are told the answer by Moses.
"You know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which you passed by: and you have seen their abominations, and their idols [Hebrew: gods of excrement], wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them: lest there should be among you man or woman, or family or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and worm-wood; and it come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart [Hebrew: stubbornness] to add drunkenness to thirst [Hebrew: the drunken to the thirsty]. The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven" (Deut 29.16-20).
Herein is pronounced the curse against idolatry, or spiritual porneia. The tribe that turned to idol worship was to have its name blotted out. The history of the missing two tribes is found in 1 Kings 12.25-33. It is in this section of Israel's primary history that we locate the story of the Ephraimite Jeroboam's successful attempts at undermining the religious unity of the nation by initiating idolatry, and centring bull worship in Dan and Ephraim. His idolatry united the northern kingdom of apostate Israel to other important bull worshipping nations in the economic world of his day, including India and what became known as the British Isles (and in which countries Israel early maintained colonies and outposts before being ethnically replaced by waves of Edomite migration and expansion). Just how successful Jeroboam was in his reforms can be seen in the carry-over of bull worship in our so-called modern nations today. Indeed, the English still call themselves "John Bull." Our English word "God" (which derives from the German "Gott") simply means "bull's penis"! When Christ returns we have the sure word of prophecy that a pure language will again be introduced to the world (Zeph 3.9). Claims by some fundamentalists that the English language is a "pure language" cannot be substantiated at all! Again, in Hosea 4.17 we read that "Ephraim is joined unto idols" with the injunction "let him alone." We have seen in Deut 29.20 the tribe that committed idolatry was to have its name "blotted out" from under heaven. And "blotted out" they most certainly were!
Names Restored in the Scroll of Life
But what is implied by this act of erasure or of "blotting out"? Did this act carry with it eternal consequences? Christ will rule, we are reliably informed, until he has put all his enemies under his feet. Every tongue shall confess, in a liberal, joyful way, that Yeshua is Lord and that to the GLORY of God the Father! (See the Greek expanded versions of Phil 2.9-11.)
For the surprising answer we need to turn to the great Restoration Prophecy of Ezekiel 48.1-8, 22-29. It is rather lengthy so we won't reproduce it here in this article, but you should conscientiously study it. The time element is right after the Great Tribulation, or Final Travail -- called in other places "the time of Jacob's trouble." Here in Ezekiel's prophecy we find ALL the tribes of Israel once more back in the Promised Land, and back in the Divine Order. And as with tribal identities, so it is also in the individual case of Judas, who had his name erased out of the Book of the Living, removed due to idolatry! He sold his Master out for 30 pieces of silver and political power!
Now when the Jewish political Sanhedrin rejected Yeshua, the apostles turned from Israel to the Gentiles (Ps 69.21-28 cf Acts 13.46-48). This was a literal turning away by the Body of Christ (the Corpus Christi) from the Jewish people (represented by the political and not religious Sanhedrin) to the Gentiles. But what do we find starting to happen now at this end of the present millennium? Well, the Jewish Messiah is calling the Jews back into their Promised Land. Prophetically, this is in accord with Paul's end-time timetable of events to transpire for Israel (Rom 10, 11, 12).
Now back to us. We have seen clearly that OUR names are already registered in the Passover Lamb's Scroll of the Living. But look at Psalm 87. Here is a Psalm with a future significance. God promises to place an entirely new record in the Book of Life. "The LORD shall count, when he writes up the people, that this man was born there" (Ps 87.4-6)! God SHALL (future tense) count WHEN he writes (again, future tense) up the people! But what do we really know about this Scroll? Well, let's review some biblical principles.
Firstly, to make the continuance of our salvation depend finally on works fails to grasp that salvation is by Grace alone (Rev 3.4-6). If salvation (eternal life deified as a Son of God) depended upon the believer's perseverance his name would not have been written there in the first place!
Secondly, the texts we examined earlier reveal that conquerors will not have their names erased from the Book of Life. Who are not conquerors? Those who will worship the Beast. And they worship him BECAUSE their names are not written in the Book of Life (Rev 13.8). There are a number of Scriptures which plainly show us that it will be especially the Israelis whose names are not thus written who will marvel at the Beast. As a matter of fact the entire world will "marvel" with "wonder" (17.8). Daniel tells us that those written in the Scroll will be delivered (Dan 12.1). Some Israelis will accept Yeshua and some will deny him. The prophetic Key of David can be used here to unlock the meaning of Psalm 87.2, "The LORD loves the gates of Zion [those few Israelis who have become Messianic followers of Yeshua] more than all the dwellings of Jacob [the vast majority of Israelis who are presently indifferent or hostile to the Gospel of God's Son]."
But the prophet Zechariah foretells a civil war in Israel which will revolutionise the entire State of Israel and spread its borders into what is presently Arab held territory. A restored Davidic Kingdom is soon to loom on the horizon, and a modern-day descendent of the family of Yeshua will one day sit on the restored throne of David their King. Believe it or not!
But back to the Scroll pertaining to Life. Even Paul seems to hint that it was his co-workers for Israel whose names are also recorded in the Book of Life (Phil 4.3). It is stated fairly clearly by John the apostle that it contains the names of those who do not worship the Beast (Rev 13.8; 17.8). And it is opened at the Great White Throne Judgment period (Rev 20.12). This will be a period or duration of some intense scrutiny in a concentration of works involving judgment. No different in some respects to what we Christians (as firstfruits) are going through. After all, Messiah does not have two separate ways of salvation -- one by Grace through him, and another by works and good deeds. In no way! Recall too, that the Throne is WHITE, symbolising GRACE and JUSTICE. It is not painted BLACK. If rebellion occurs during that particular aeon names will be blotted out -- erased. Those who thus suffer the loss of privileges attached to their name will need to undergo a severe form of love by being purified in the Lake of Fire (Rev 20.15). Whether in this age, or in the ages to come, our sins, indeed the sins of every one of us (in the sense of defects in our spirit) must be burned out. We cannot escape fiery trials even as believers (1 Pet 1.7). Our God is a "consuming fire" (Heb 12.29 cf Deut 4.24) and he will burn on and on and on until all evil is burned up completely. The fires of the historical Gehenna were originally lit to burn up the impurity and corruption of the city of Jerusalem. Every kind of decaying stench and sewerage filth was deposited there.
The point of the fires of Gehenna was simply to purify the region. Let's get it right! Gehenna, in other words, did not exist to inflict pain, terror, or anguish. That was not it's purpose. Gehenna was the local Jerusalem garbage dump and wastes were deposited there to be burned away. So did Gehenna figure in Jewish theology! In the Jewish thoughtform of the period of the Fifth Procuratorship of Judaea the fires of hell were for correction, and discipline, not damnation!
Some so-called Greek scholars (and I don't care where they got their "doctorate") who will argue with this assessment need to repent of their bias and hostility to this truth, by opening up the documents of the period of the Fifth Procuratorship of Judaea (which are now readily available) and examining them for themselves! Frankly, Greek has been done to death. It's time for Hebrew and Aramaic to be given well-deserved and long-overdue attention. Names will be erased during the Great White Throne Judgment. None can argue against this. The Scripture is explicit. But some of us fail to ask the right questions and so miss the obvious answers. Again, put another way, only the enrolled may enter the New Jerusalem, a sort of awesome heavenly Mother Ship or Space Station (Rev 21.27).
Church Will Escape Final Judgment
But none of us need fear the Great White Throne Judgment of the Book of Revelation! We shall escape it. If we are Messiah's we will be in the first resurrection which shall take place at Messiah's second coming. But even if we were not, we are assured by the apostle John that a careful search of the records will occur within the Scroll to ensure no mistake is made (Rev 20.14,15)!
But the Scroll of Life (or the Scroll that relates to Life) is opened as the DEAD stand before God. They may be alive in one sense, but the Scripture assures us they are DEAD (Rev 20.12). Have you noticed this before? Yet there are some among the DEAD whose names are in the Book of LIFE (same verse). This is not some "Book of Death." It is not some Christian "Book of the Dead" like the Tibetan Buddhist "Book of the Dead" or the Egyptian "Book of the Dead"! It is the Lamb's Book of the Living. And just who are they that are granted the quality of eternal Life? I personally haven't got the foggiest idea! And neither do you! But God does. All I know is that we will not be there, except perhaps as sharers of Messiah's awesome judgment. We are promised, after all, to sit with him in his throne and this implies a concentration of judgment (Rev 3.21). And, one must not forget that the Apocalypse contains the certainty of a promise that those Christians who are listed in the Scroll of Life will not be blotted out as can be ascertained from John's use of an emphatic double negative -- "will not" (Rev 3.5,6). Consider again that the Scroll of Life contains names of people who are DEAD but are to be given LIFE yet are not now saved. They are therefore not part of the present Body of Christ, the Church of God in this age.
This can only mean that today is not the only day of salvation! Christ is not frantically trying to save the whole world now. Let some of the astute pastors of certain religious organisations, who have actively opposed (for well over 15 years) the teaching ministry of the BRI, argue their way out of that one!!!
Finally, we might ask could there be any one who would be so evil that the shed blood of Yeshua Messiah could not possibly cover them? The answer is a plain NO.
There Are None Too Evil For Ultimate Rejection
Yeshua is the Passover Lamb of God GIVEN FREELY and decidedly not offered for the sins of the world. And the Book of Life is the Scroll of the Passover Lamb. It is the Passover Lamb's Book of Life. It belongs to him in whom all creation dwells. It is Christ, the Lamb of God "in whom...all things were created" (Col 1.14ff) and in whom "we [all] live and move and have our being" (Acts 17.28). For "out of him, and through him, and toward him are all things" (Rom 11.36). It is in the Lamb of God that the ultimate "Restoration" or "Restitution of all things" [Greek, apocatastasis] takes place (Acts 3.20,21). The expected apocatastasis was to be a time of restored perfection. The "perfect Archetypal Man" (or Metatron, the projected thoughtforms of YHWH) was expected from heaven (the vast majority expected him to be a reincarnation of one of the prophets) and the "restitution" was to image his perfection. Eden lost was to become Eden restored, in the thinking of the Jews of Yeshua's day. Further, Messiah as such had to be perfect in every way just as the Passover lamb was not to have any blemishes or deformities of any kind.
Yet while Yeshua fulfilled the Mosaic Pesach symbolism perfectly, there is also presented to us a picture so grotesque, ugly and horrifying that one almost shrinks from ascribing it to Our Lord. When we think of a lamb we visualise it so fluffy and soft and cuddly with a little wet nose and cute disposition. And that indeed is what the slain Passover lambs essentially looked like. But, and this is the point at issue, Yeshua became on the cross or tree the most vile of sinners when God the Father took the sins of the world and placed them all upon his son's shoulders as he hung helpless upon that torturous implement of death. There was no more disgusting, revolting criminal in all of this earth's history who was more worthy of death than what Our Lord became for you and for me and for the worst of humanity, indeed the entire world. Christ died for the worst of human beings and that of course must include us.
"And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne in the midst of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain having seven horns and seven eyes" (Rev 5.6).
"In the midst of the throne." This is translated by Doddridge as, "I beheld...in the middle space between the throne and the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders ...there stood...a Lamb" (Philip Doddridge, The Family Expositor: or A Paraphrase and Version of the New Testament, With Critical Notes, 1792, Vol. VI,405).
Woodhouse informs us that the Greek original of the phrase "as it had been slain" implies "that the Lamb appeared with a wounded neck and throat, as if smitten at the altar as a victim" (John C. Woodhouse in William Jenks (ed), The Comprehensive Commentary on the Holy Bible, 1838, Vol.V.,p.684).
But what an awful sight! Here is the precious Passover Lamb and instead of the image of a cute little critter any child would adore to pick up in their arms and love, we are presented with an ugly deformity with the most grotesque congenital appearance! The hideousness of sin, the most vile of sinners, is here portrayed in the power of Hebrew numerology: this Lamb is disfigured with seven horns and seven eyes. "The seven horns of the Lamb symbolise his irresistible might. His seven eyes speak of completeness of vision which leads to perfect knowledge" (Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 1977,145,146). Seven is the number of perfection, completeness. All sinners are included in Messiah's sacrifice -- and no one has been left out. Christ died for all humankind. Horns symbolise power, and eyes are typical of wisdom. Those who argue against a universal salvation are in defiance of God's salvific power, and God's salvific wisdom.
Question: So Who Loses Out?
In Revelation 22.18,19 we read that God is going to add the plagues that occur on our planet during the Day of the Lord to anyone who tampers with the vision of the Apocalypse. But how could the Lord add these end time plagues to the life of a man or woman (or even a child) who lived and died centuries ago? In the Reformation period certain men wanted the Book of Revelation changed, and one important Reformation figure wanted it scrapped altogether from the Canon! But this warning from God can only be properly understood when we realise that this is a prophecy about certain people who will attempt to rewrite the Book of Revelation during the time of the rise of the "Beast" or eschatological Antichrist. As for them being taken out of the Scroll of Life, the Greek text seems to say, rather, that "God will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this Scroll" (22.19).
The millennial "Tree of Life" supports the healing of the nations during the reign of Christ over the whole world after his second Advent. It may not be symbolic of eternal life as we know it but rather a form of life that shall exist especially in the early dawn period of the Messianic millennium. In fact, John may not have Christians in mind in this text. After all is said and done, can we imagine anyone converted to Messiah Yeshua wanting to add to or subtract from what they have PROVED is God's Word? And we are not talking about people who sincerely believe certain books should or should not be in the sacred canon. Even Martin Luther wanted Revelation, James and Maccabees right out of the Protestant canon -- and he succeeded with Maccabees (unless you are High Anglican). No, we are talking here of sinister men (and women) who will want to deceive the vast multitudes about the Antichrist by segmenting certain passages out of the book of Revelation. They will be without excuse, for they will know better!
Again, Moses interceded for the nation of Israel, and we have seen he wished his name to be erased from the Book of Life so that Israel could live. Rav Paul revealed similar sentiments (Rom 9.3). Like Moses, his request was not granted. In the case of Israel God spared the nation, at the request of Moses, but those who transgressed still died in the plague God sent. This of course was physical death, not spiritual death. How many of us ASSUME the Passover Lamb's Book of Life pertains to a purely spiritual Life? In David's Psalm 69.28 we again must exercise caution about assuming a spiritual Life when David nowhere implies that his enemies were saved in a spiritual sense. The emphasis seems to be that David wanted them to have their physical lives terminated!
To the Church of God at Sardis, Yeshua admonished: "He that overcomes the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the Book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev 3.5).
We are all negatively programmed to one degree or another. Our churches and denominations have largely made us this way. Fear and guilt have always been successful in initiating positive cash flows and in maintaining the status quo when it comes to a highly dictatorial, hierarchal sectarian government control over the flock of God. In the Jewish thoughtform, what John wrote in Revelation 3.5 really is a promise, not a warning, to the overcomer!
Some believe the Scroll of Life may contain the names of all that have ever lived and only those who are not firstfruits might run the risk of being deleted from the "pages" of this figurative Scroll. We at BRI must be honest and consider the possibility that Revelation 13.8 appears to negate this idea (as attractive as it is). Certainly we do believe that the firstfruits -- true believers in Yeshua as LORD -- cannot be removed from the "pages" of everlasting security. Christ said much the same thing: "He that hears my word and believes on him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation: but is passed from death unto life" (Jn 5.24). As to the texts at the beginning of this article, it is all a matter of how we read them for positive truth is contained in the promises to the overcomer, and not negative inferences of threats by the Lord! It is like a Christian giving a testimony of his salvation experience: "Because I have been saved I will not go to hell but I will be with Christ!"
Reading these references of the apostle John concerning the Scroll pertaining to Life is just a matter of perspective. Look at the verses one way, and we can be easily discouraged and lose heart (and many have done such a thing, making shipwreck of their faith). Looking at them more realistically along with an entourage of other biblical texts pertaining to the same subject matter keeps us on course and builds, rather than dissipates, faith. As Solomon tells us, "In a multitude of counsellors there is safety" (Prov 11.14).
"Do not forget," wrote Henry C. Mabie, "that the Atonement was made by God, and not simply to God. The initiative is with God. Then why should we preach God's reconciliation almost entirely from man's side, without realising the divine initiative as an act of God's self-reconciliation, timeless, eternal, in the 'Lamb slain from the foundation of the world'?"
Mabie asks a good question! And BRI supports his position as many of our long-time readers will be aware. God's reconciliation with mankind is ever and always rooted in the Lamb slain from eternity. God's reconciliation is not dependent on our works. How long will it take some people to recognise this fact? The Lamb was slain from eternity! Long before any of us fledgling humans could produce works of any kind -- good or bad -- that would create insecurity as far as salvation is concerned. In Revelation 17.9-17 John sees a fourfold classification of "nations, tribes, peoples, tongues" standing "before the throne AND the [Passover] Lamb." Here is an awesome vision of the untold multitudes of planet earth in mankind's eventual and complete immensity. In Hebrew numerology the numeral four represents the symbolic number pertaining to our planet and the entire physical creation. These countless human beings are wearing robes appearing to be whiter than white! John tells us "they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
Contemplative Thoughts on the Lamb of God
In the Bible the Lamb of God is many things. In the Revelation Christ in his capacity as the Lamb of God is mentioned a total of 28 times. This is highly significant. We have already noted that in Hebrew numerology the number four is representative of the entire creation. Twentyeight is comprised of four multiplied by seven. Perfection in completeness is denoted by the number seven. Through the sacrifice of the Lamb twentyeight becomes the number of nothing less than a universal salvation! This is why the Elders and Living Creatures before God's throne and beyond the vast expanse of the heavens declare to the Lamb, "Worthy are you to be taking the scroll and opening its seals! For you were slain and have purchased [or, redeemed] us for [or, to] God by your blood" (Rev 5.9). Messiah's sacrificial death was costly enough -- entirely sufficient -- to purchase back all that God had "lost" in this great game of salvation -- even things in the heavens! Then they add, "Out of every tribe and language and people and nation you also make them a kingdom and a priesthood for our God, and they shall reign on the earth" (Rev 5.10 cf this version of 5.9,10 with other modern-day texts).
So too, the Lamb in Revelation is revealed to be the Bridegroom (Rev 21.9). The Lamb is also the foundation of the New Civilisation (Rev 21.14). The Lamb is the very Temple of the living God (Rev 21.22). The Lamb is the secret radiance of the Creative God (Rev 21.23). The Lamb is the portal of life through which men redeemed may only enter (Rev 21.27). The Lamb is the cleansing power of eternal life (Rev 22.1). The Lamb is the Sovereign subjecting King of the far-flung universe and the centre of all existence (Rev 22.3). The Lamb is the Omnipotent One who, with the flickering of an eyelid, could extinguish a million alpha-stars in the awesome fury of final conflagration, setting all worlds ablaze in an ecstasy of Omega Passion (Rev 21.1,5; 22.13; 2 Pet 3.12,13; Isa 65.17; 66.22). The Lamb is all these things, and much more. But above all else the Lamb is the One that has been slain from eternity -- a sovereignty which humbly incarnated in the person of Yeshua. He is the Passover Lamb who bears away (ever present tense) the sin of the world, a blood-drained, excrement-soiled, grotesque Jewish corpse on a criminal's cross.
The Scripture that says Christ bears away the sin of the world, in the present tense (Jn 1.29 Gk), did not go unnoticed by Adam Clark. Commenting on the Messiah's appearance "as a slain Lamb" before the throne of God in Revelation 5.6, he writes: "As if now in the act of being offered. This is very remarkable; so important is the sacrificial offering of Christ in the sight of God, that he is still represented as being in the very act of pouring out His blood for the offenses of man" (Adam Clark, Commentary on the New Testament, Vol.II,991).
We are saved by his works, not ours. As God's firstfruits the Church of God stands in victory through Messiah's sacrifice! And one day the entire world -- including all those who have ever lived since the dawn of time -- will share in that same victory (1 Cor 15.21-28,47-49,54,55). This, and no other, is the central theme of the New Testament revelation!
Certainly, the Passover Lamb of God is victorious! The intertestamental tradition has the Messianic Lamb portrayed in Maccabean nomenclature as a "horned lamb" (1 Enoch 90.9). It is the Lamb in the Testament of Joseph that vanquishes and destroys the enemies of Israel (19.8f). Innocent submission may well have characterised Yeshua as he was led as a lamb to the slaughter in fulfilment of the Isaiatic Messianic Ideal (Isa 53.7 cf Acts 8.32,35). But let us not forget that John's Lamb in the Book of Revelation is a "mystic, apocalyptic designation (or title) of the glorified Christ, enthroned with God and destined to be victorious over all the opposing forces in the universe, both human and demonic" (F.C. Grant, "Lamb of God," in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible,562). The victory of Christ is the victory of Self-sacrifice, the divine nature of Grace!
Christ -- the Lamb of Grace
Christ is the Lamb of GRACE. God's plan is all about GRACE. Not of Grace? Then, decidedly, not of God! Our calling is pivoted wholly on a gracious election, centred in God's irresistible salvific will, not some contemptuous Arminian free choice of mere mortal man in salvation! No one elects themselves to salvation. "Redemption" is a slave-market word. Look up any etymological dictionary! We are redeemed at the cost of another. No slaves ever choose who will purchase them. The onus is on those who would reject the doctrine of an ultimate universal salvation, through the shed blood of Messiah, to explain how it is that some men, women and children will be finally rejected when salvation doesn't depend on our human works of any kind -- good or bad -- nor does salvation depend on some sawdust trail "decision for Yeshua" (Jn 1.10-13; 6.44,65). Only the biblically ignorant or defiant would deny it. They are usually reduced to whingeing that we must accept God's offer of reconciliation in the Passover Lamb's death. But they are rebelling against the fact that the Passover Lamb was never offered to God. The Lamb was not a sin offering. The Lamb was GIVEN unconditionally to man from God. For, if Messiah was the Lamb slain from eternity -- from before the foundation of the world -- then God knew man would sin (thus what we see around us is the salvific plan of God) before he actually did sin. This establishes a responsibility for man's salvation by a gracious God whose purpose for man is to save him. The plan of salvation is a game God is playing, and the stakes are eternal! For mankind, God has no other plan but that of salvation. God is responsible for his own plan of salvation and I hold him responsible. Faith holds God responsible. And God would not want it any other way! This is why John 3.16,17 in the Greek original is written in the ever-present continuous tense. The cyclic nature of Deity demands it.
"For God so loves the world that he gives his uniquely begotten Son, that everyone who is believing in him should not be perishing, but be having everlasting life. For God sends not his Son into the world to be condemning the world; but the world through him is being saved."
The truth in John 3.16,17 is written in the present tense. The aorist "loved" would indicate that God's eternal, changeless, unconditional love would, in fact, be finite and limited. But the apostle John who penned these words as editorial -- based on the theology of Yeshua who undoubtedly uttered them, in sentiment if not in reality -- used the present tense. The pregnant phrase "so loves" is indicative of a profound love that is infinite and immeasurable by any standard.
Turner and Mantey comment appropriately, "The so (houtos) is an adverb of degree which points toward the clause which follows and here serves to express the idea of infinity, a love that is limitless, that is fully adequate" (George A. Turner & Julius R. Mantey, The Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, The Gospel According to John, n.d., Vol IV,98).
Only the present continuous tense can adequately cater to the enormous truth of John 3.16,17 for although Christ has died once in this age for the sins of mankind, in the eternity of God's Moment Yeshua ever dies for humanity. He ever dies, he ever lives. God's eternity is the state of being. "Past," "present" and "future," if we must so define our limited and finite cosmological experience, are all ONE in the sight of God who inhabits eternity where the terms "past" and "future" defy interpretation. Even the expression "present" when referring to God should be used with caution. God exists entirely "outside" space and time. In some sense God is "above" nature, rather than "before" it. Caught in our own web of pagan dualistic language and thoughtform, to say God is "before" all things implies, by its nature, that the LORD is caught in "time." But a timeless God acts at all "moments" outside our creation of the "here" and "now" in a projection or emanation of his creative thoughtforms into our material universe. This is why some scholarly Rabbis refer to God in this material plane as the Metatron, the "little God." We shall have more to say on the nature of God in future expositions. Everlasting life (eternal life) which has been granted to God's earthly people is to be defined as the spiritual quality of the always present moment of NOW. Eternal life is not something that will be granted to us. We possess that Life already. We have entered already into God's "rest." That is the teaching of the Scriptures. The Passover Lamb's "Scroll pertaining to Life" reflects the divine nature of the Father in his eternal unchangeableness. What is in the eternal unchangeable God at any "moment" (if indeed we can justify such an expression when dealing with the eternity of God) must always be in him. Yeshua did not create -- did not bring into being -- the Self-sacrificial, salvific love of the Father. The Passover Lamb rather unveiled and disclosed it.
A philosopher once wrote down these remarkable thoughts, after giving much deep contemplation to the nature of God: "Love is not love that alters where it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove." The love of God is eternal, for God is love. That love is unconditional. Those who reject Messiah's universal salvation do not believe in unconditional love. Their sour "love" is rooted in conditions set by God that must be met by man. But if there are conditions, Authentic Man (in the Person of Yeshua) has already met them. Chronicles in the symbolic "Book of Life" can be rewritten. New entries can appear in the registry.
We should all praise God that the nature of the Author who writes the "Book" is the Nature of divine Love, a Love that cannot change and which is entirely unconditional.
It was this same Nature of God as the WORD (Heb/Aramaic, Memra or Greek, logos -- the Original Creative Idea) which incarnated in flesh and dwelt among us as the Passover Lamb.
We should all praise the Lord that it is the Word (Heb/Aramaic, memra; Greek, logos) that is imprinted on our behalf, as our sole Substitute and Representative, on the pages of the mysterious "Scroll which relates to Life."
Last Updated: March 2008
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