The Book of Life
Revelation 2:17; Luke 10:17-20; Matthew 16:16-18.
On Lord's Day, we spoke of the books in Revelation, and the book of life impresses me as being the most important of these. There are all these other books that have to do with God's judgment upon this scene, and with the good and bad things that people have done during their lives, but there is one book — the book of life — which has to do with our eternal destiny. And I believe that is the most important book in God's library. The most important record in God's library is the set of names written in the book of life, and these three scriptures bring home to us the importance of having our names written in the book of life.
The Lord Jesus is spoken of in each of these sections in relation to persons: to the overcomer in Revelation 2, to the seventy disciples in Luke 10, and to one disciple, Simon Bar-jona in Matthew 16. In each transaction, the Lord has to do with persons' names. What He does in giving a person a name is most important. We have the examples of Saul of Tarsus being given the name of Paul, and of Jacob's name being changed to Israel, wrestler or prince of God. I believe that the way in which the Lord Jesus has a transaction with us is the way He conveys to us our name. He says to him that overcomes in this assembly in Pergamos, "To him that overcomes, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he that receives it." This is a very secret transaction: the hidden manna, and a new name which no one knows, but he that receives it. That's a secret transaction with the Lord Jesus.
Whereas in Matthew 16, Simon's transaction with the Lord was known to the other disciples. Jesus demanded of his disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?" Here, the Lord converses with His disciples. They said, "Some, John the baptist; and others, Elias; and others again, Jeremias or one of the prophets." But then the Lord asks, "But ye, who do ye say that I am?" And Simon Peter comes forward with the answer: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Simon Peter received this answer directly from heaven. The Lord says to Peter, "flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in the heavens." In a way it's like Saul of Tarsus who, after he was converted, took not counsel with flesh and blood, and it shows the importance of not just looking at persons in flesh and blood, for their ideas and thoughts, but having a direct, personal transaction with God.
So, dear brethren, our relationships with divine Persons are being tested very deeply at the present time. What are our links with the Lord Jesus Himself? Are our links in fellowship based on the fact that we have attended meetings for many years and that we may have been brought up in a Christian household? Is that the way our links in fellowship are formed? Is that the basis of our links with one another? Well, I trust that our links are based on something deeper than that! Because our parents' faith can't save us. Paul writes of the faith that dwelt in Timothy's grandmother and his mother, but then he says, "and I am persuaded that in thee also." Each of us must have our own transaction with the Lord Jesus. Each person must have his own link with the Lord, and have His assessment, whether it's the stone with a new name written on it, which no one knows but he that receives it, or whether it's what the Lord says here: "Thou art Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly." The Lord distinctly and publicly names Peter in saying, "Thou art Peter."
Simon Peter had three names — Cephas, Simon, and Peter — he is called all three of these names in scripture. But here the Lord definitely gives him a name. And that name means "a stone." So there's a real link with Revelation 2: "I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he that receives it."
Well, in Luke 10, the seventy returned with joy. They had been out in service and wrought many signs, and the Lord spoke of giving them "the power of treading upon serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy." These are overcomers, aren't they? Just as we have in each of those seven assemblies in Revelation! And here, the Lord says to these seventy, "I give you the power ... over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall in anywise injure you." Then He goes on to speak of their names: Don't rejoice in any great works that you do, He says, or in any service that you perform — don't glory in that, but rejoice that your names are written in the heavens - in God's book in which our eternal destiny is recorded!
At the end of Revelation, we read of the great white throne, and the book of life is opened. How solemn, that in that final day of judgment, at the great white throne, it says, "If any one was not found in the book of life!" Let's just turn to Revelation 20, verse 12. "And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is that of life. And the dead were judged out of the things written in the books according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged each according to their works: and death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire." But then, how sobering is this last verse: "And if any one was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire."
That is the sobering side of God's word. The apostle says, "Behold, then, the goodness and severity of God", and the book of life is, to use a common expression, where it's all at: whether our names are written there or not determines where we go eternally: whether we go into the lake of fire, or whether we enjoy heaven, life with Christ eternally, in the presence of God.
Oh, beloved brethren, let us have a real transaction with the Lord Jesus, and know, in the consciousness of our souls, that our names are written in the heavens, and be conscious of having a white stone given to us, and a new name written on the stone. We are all given a name by our parents when we're born, but it is a wonderful thing to have a new name given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. May we all have this experience with Him!
For His name's sake.
S. E. Hesterman