God’s Writing 7: Restoration
This series has followed a journey through salvation history by considering references in the Bible to God’s writing. We have seen how God wrote intelligence into our nature in creation, both through DNA and in our conscience. We saw that God remains intimately involved in our world and in our lives in His providence. We considered how He has revealed Himself in words in Scripture and how He records our deeds as the righteous Judge. We have also encountered the forgiveness inherent in the not guilty verdict that is ours in Jesus and the transformation that the Spirit brings about as He writes God’s Law on our hearts. In this episode we reach the end of the story, or perhaps the beginning of the new story, as we reach the book of Revelation. In last week’s post, I emphasised that the gospel is not just about us being saved to go to heaven – it is also about our transformation so that we can serve God on earth. It is important to remember, however, that this world is not our ultimate home. The restoration of all things is necessary and it will take place at the end of time when Jesus returns as Judge.
I mentioned Revelation 20, with its account of the final judgement, in Part 4 of this series, where I said that God records our deeds. The judgement comes after Jesus has returned in person to defeat the enemies of God and the dead have been raised to life. It takes place before the New Jerusalem – a picture of the bride of Christ, the people of God – and the new heavens and earth are revealed in Revelation 21. The account of the judgement is brief, so I will quote it in full (Revelation 20:11-15):
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. 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. 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. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
The books that are opened provide ample evidence to condemn every individual to the lake of fire, but there is another book in the scene, referred to as ‘the book of life’. According to Jesus’ promise in Revelation 3:5, the names of those who conquer will be permanently recorded in this book, never to be blotted out. Those who have faith in Christ, a true faith that endures despite trials, will be saved not on the basis of what they have done (not because the record about them in the books is better than that about others), but on the basis of what He has done. 1 John 5:4-5 explains that conquering, or overcoming, the world is something that happens because of our faith in Jesus through which we are born again. This resonates clearly with Paul’s declaration in Romans 8:37 that we are more than conquerors through Christ.
Only those whose names are in this book of life, which is said to belong to the Lamb, will have a place in the new restored creation (Revelation 21:27). The final judgement is decisive – the eternal destiny of people will be decided on the basis of their response to God. Either eternal condemnation (the lake of fire) or eternal union with God among His people and in His service. When I was a child I remember a question seemed to go round about whether or not we would know each other in Heaven. The question was based on a great deal of ignorance and misinformation about our eternal destiny. Revelation (and other parts of Scripture) describe it in terms of a new world which seems to be similar to our present world but with all of sin’s effects stripped away. It isn’t some disembodied existence floating on clouds. We will have new bodies and we will serve God and know Him. We will take our place among God’s redeemed people, but we will also retain our individuality. Two other references to God’s writing in Revelation emphasises this. They come within the letters Jesus writes to the churches. In Revelation 2:17, Jesus promises that:
To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.
Here is the completion of the work the Spirit has already begun in us. We are finally perfectly transformed into Jesus’ likeness and we have a new identity which is personal to us alone. Christ will write our own new name and give it to us – it is our true name, the name He alone knows, our purified, sin-free self. We are restored people ready to inhabit a restored cosmos.
The other mention of Jesus writing, with which we end this series, is in Revelation 3:12:
The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the nameof my God, and the name of the city of my God, the newJerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
This statement does much further than the one in Revelation 2:17. Not only will Jesus reveal to us our true identity – the person He has saved us to be – but our identity will include three other dimensions – three other things that Jesus will ‘write’ on us. The first is the name of God. We belong to Him as His child and treasured possession. Our identity is as people of God. The second is the name of the New Jerusalem. Salvation is not an individual reality alone – we are saved collectively to be part of the people of God (as mentioned above, this city is a representation of God’s people under Old and New Covenants – this is clear in Revelation 21, where it is synonymous with the bride of Christ and the twelve apostles and twelve tribes of Israel are both mentioned in its description). Our identity is not only as isolated sons and daughters of God, but as the family of God’s people, the Church. The third thing to be written on us is Jesus’ name itself – in fact, His ‘new name’, whatever that means. Our identity is as people who are bought by Jesus and whose lives are in Him.
As we live in the present age, facing opposition and temptation, we must hold on to this glorious vision of our future. We stand secure in Christ, knowing that we belong to Him, but we need to remember our true identity and allow it to shape every aspect of our lives. We need to live out the reality of our inclusion in the Church as we do this. This requires us to have fellowship and share together, imperfect as our churches might be. We also commit ourselves consistently to being God’s servants in this world, holding forth the gospel and doing God’s will until Christ comes. Let it be as it is written! Amen.