Of all the various interpretations that accompany the book of Revelation, there is a portion beginning in 20:11 that undoubtedly peers through the mists of time. This portion shows us John’s vision of the future where he witnesses the Judgment scene at the great white throne and it is revealed that “… anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (20:15, NKJV)[i]. This verse should instill in each a yearning, a burning desire to have one’s name written in the Book of Life because the consequences of NOT being listed in that book is unthinkable. Wonderfully, gloriously, mercifully, there is a trail left in the pages of the Bible that shows the method by which we are inked into that all-important book.
The path starts in the words of Jesus toward the end of Matthew 7 where this admonition is spoken, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (v.21; cf. 1 Jn. 2:17). Of all that this verse says, one can be confident of two things. First, there will be those that will not enter the kingdom of heaven even though they call on Jesus. And second, those that do enter will do the will of the Father.
What, one might ask, is the will of the Father? Jesus reveals other passages that speak to what the will of the Father is (see Matt. 12:50; John 6:39, 40), but Peter reveals in 2 Peter 3:9 that “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (cf. 1 Tim. 2:3, 4; Ezek. 33:11). Paul also makes a similar point speaking to King Agrippa, telling him that the message that was preached “… to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).
There are many works that one might mention that accompanies repentance: turn from a life of crime (Eph. 4:28), put off the old man and put on the new (Col. 3:9, 10), or even look back to John the Immerser who talked about the change that should take place in a person’s life (Luke 3:10-14). But there’s one specific work of righteousness that Peter ties with repentance on the day of Pentecost when his hearers were pricked to the heart regarding the truth. Those who were now believers in the who and what of Jesus and asked, “What shall we do?”
Peter’s answer? “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38). Repentance and baptism are tied together by Peter, and what he bound together, none will ever be able to loose (Matt. 16:19). The Scriptures reveal that those that gladly received Peter’s words were indeed baptized. These people, now baptized believers, were “added to them” (v.41), or as noted at the end of chapter 2 – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (v.47).
Now one sees that those that go to heaven do the will of the Father and part of that will is that everyone should come to a belief in God and repent. Along with repentance is tied baptism for the remission of sins and after that God adds us to the Church. So, what happens when we are added to the Church? There are certainly many blessings that come to the Christian when they are a part of the Church, but specifically to the question here, the answer comes from the writer of Hebrews.
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:22-24; cf. Luke 10:18-20).
This passage is speaking directly to those that have become the children of God. That those children have come to the “general assembly and church of the firstborn,” that great assembly of people that have submitted themselves to the will of God. See what the writer says, those that are part of that assembly and church are “registered in heaven.”
Their names have been enrolled, entered into the record of Heaven. That record is the list of those that will be admitted into heaven. As we saw above, those whose names were not written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). The same message is again given and it is recorded that nothing unclean, or those engaged in abomination, or those that are liars will enter heaven; but, those that have their name written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life” will freely be admitted (Rev. 21:27).
In this life being “on the list” can sometimes be a good thing, but there are times when it can be bad, too. It’s nice to be next on the list of names to be seated in a restaurant, especially when there has been an hour wait and one was hungry upon arrival. On the other hand, it’s not so nice to be on the list that means one’s email will be flooded with messages embedded with viruses. In heaven there is only one list, and to be on that list is to be granted access into the very presence of God and to spend eternity in the service and worship of the Creator. There is no greater mission that humanity has than to so live and so die as to ensure one’s name on the registry of heaven (2 Pet. 1:5-11; 2 Tim. 4:6-8).
[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.