Summary: The promise of heaven is a guarantee (through God’s Grace) for every person whose name is written in The Book of Life! Hallelujah! This is a short homily given at a mid week communion service.
John – the beloved disciple – the cousin of Jesus – the disciple whom Jesus loved is now well advanced in years and on the Lord’s Day – the Sabbath – he is meditating upon God – filled with the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1: 10). (Several Church writers from the 2nd century identify the author of Revelation as the apostle and I see no good reason to doubt them. For example Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Hippolytus and other anonymous writers all agree, and whilst it may seem to some an irrelevant question, it is encouraging to know that these words of scripture were authored by a man who knew Jesus personally.)
At the time of writing Jerusalem had been destroyed. For Jews the dwelling place of God had been plundered, but for those who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, these words in the Revelation of John came as words of challenge, rebuke and encouragement. These 6 verses are a wonderful encouragement.
Are you in need of encouragement today? If so, let God (through John) encourage you! In chapter one John makes it clear that the words he brings are from God. (Rev 1:8) “I am the Alpha and the Omega” Says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” By the time we get to chapter 21 the ’Books’ are opened and the dead are judged according to what they have done (20: 12); and John makes it clear that each person is judged according to what he or she has done (20: 13). However, another book is opened – the Book of Life (20: 15); and this is the Book which records the names of all of those who will be citizens of the heavenly kingdom.
In his vision John sees the future Holy city, the new Jerusalem (21:2) coming down out of heaven from God; and a voice from the throne says, “Now the dwelling of God is with men [and women] and he will live with them” (21:3). It would not surprise me if John was reminded of Jesus’ words shortly before his death and resurrection:
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you; and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14: 2-3).
Put simply, Jesus prepares a place for his friends; and we are his friends by putting our faith and trust in him (John 3:16); and when we do that our names are written in the Book of Life. That is why there is great celebration and rejoicing in heaven when one sinner repents (Luke 15:10).
What a promise this is. What an encouragement directly from the throne of God to every believer! Tears wiped away! No more death! Mourning, crying and pain ended! For the old order of things will pass away (20: 4). He who is seated on the throne promises to make everything new (20: 5), like Paul’s comments in 2 Cor 5 verse 17: “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” God is in the business of making people new right now – you and me and all of those who will respond to his call; and yet there still remains that future renewal of the heavens and the earth. The heavens and the earth are important to God, and so they must be important to us.
Our Bible reading from Revelation today ends with an invitation to the thirsty: “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life” (20: 6). It’s an invitation to all of us, but more specifically John knew that his words would be heard by people who had not yet made a decision to follow Jesus, and the same goes for today. If you are spiritually thirsty, and if you hope to be in the Book of Life, God asks you simply to put your faith and trust in Jesus and to receive the gift of life - the gift of grace - that he has for you.