Today, on the eve of Christmas Day, when we have one eye on the 1st coming of Christ, we must always keep the other eye on His 2nd Coming.
Revelation 20 gives us the most vivid picture of the Final Judgment anywhere in the Scriptures, and, therefore, we would do well to pay attention to this picture. Nowhere are the two paths of life, the way of the wise and the way of the fool, more clearly placed in front of our faces than in Revelation 20. We see the two paths of life all throughout the wisdom literature, most notably in the Proverbs, as well as in the Psalms (Psalm 1 sets the tone here). We hear it all throughout the teachings of Jesus Christ, about the sheep and the goats, those who love mother and father above Him and those who love Him above all else, those who are for Him and those who are against Him, and those who seek to gain their life and lose it and those who lose it and thereby gain it.
But St. John is startlingly clear here, in a book not noted for its clarity.
Jesus Christ, the Christ who has been revealed in all of His power and glory and in His kingdom in the book of Revelation, is revealed to be the Judge on the Great White Throne. His face is so radiant that the old earth and heaven must flee from it: there will be no place found for them.
At the end of time, all mankind will be summoned before the Judge of the quick and the dead. Even the dead are not immune from this summons because every human is really an immortal being. Death and Hades, which is the place of the dead, will give up their dead, which they were only temporarily holding. Death and Hades, so dominant over mankind in our temporal experience, will be exposed to be only temporary places and will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Before the Judge on His Throne all humanity will watch as Jesus the Judge opens the Book of Life. I don’t know exactly what technology heaven will have, but I assume it’s far beyond what we puny earthlings will ever develop. Somehow, I get the idea that each of us will be reminded of exactly what kind of life we lived. I think all of us will be witnesses to the many times we sinned against our Lord.
At that moment in history, the end of history, all will be made crystal clear, in spite of the confusion that has reigned on the earth for millennia. No Jesus Christ in your life, no eternal life; no name written in the Book of Life, no eternal life. Alternatively, if you are united to Jesus Christ and have your name written in the Book of Life, you will live with Jesus Christ forever.
For one group of people, those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, I think it will go something like this: day after day after day of sin after sin after sin. Not just the big sins that are remembered even decades later but all of the smaller ones that were forgotten and all of the myriad that were never even acknowledged as sin, though sin they were. The weight of these sins will undo those in the first group, and they will be left utterly without excuse. And they will hear the Judge pass sentence upon them that the wages of sin left unatoned for is death, eternal death, which is separation from the Holy One.
And all of those in the first group will be cast into the Lake of Fire with the Beast, the False Prophet, the Devil, and death.
Those in the second group will also be reminded of their sins and know that each one was worthy of the Lake of Fire. They will know the many times they failed their Lord, but a strange and wonderful thing will happen. After the dead works of sin and death are all weighed and the sentence of death pronounced upon them, the Lamb Himself will stand up and pronounce that person not guilty because the penalty for those sins has been paid. And then the Lamb will reveal His wounds which healed our wounds and remind us of the blood of the Passover Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. And then all of the good works done in Christ, by Christ through that person, will also be remembered.
A word about this mysterious Book of Life. I believe that the Book of Life isn’t just an enormous book in with innumerable pages in which a list of millions and even billions of names will be written. I believe that Jesus Christ possibly is the Book of Life, just as He is the Tree of Life. If your name is hidden in His name, the name that became yours at baptism and is yours through faith and repentance, then you are in Him, Who is the Book of Life. He is the Word of God that judges all men at the end of time at the Final Judgment, and the Word which gives both life and death.
At that moment, all negotiations, all obfuscations, all distractions, all excuses, and all delusions will be removed, and each and every human being will be faced with the eternal consequences of the life he chose for himself.
“Begin with the end in mind.”
In the end, there are only two final destinations for you: Heaven or Hell. You will either spend eternity in Heaven, in the presence of the Lamb, the King of Kings, or you will spend eternity cast out from His presence, surrounded by those equally tormented and without the grace of God.
The end, that is, the ultimate goal, of mankind is to be united with its Savior, Jesus Christ, and re-united with its Creator. The goal of man is to be united to God and enjoy His intimate presence forever.
Given these ends, in both senses of the world, what kind of life should you start living today?
Behold! Jesus Christ has come, born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem us.
Behold! Jesus Christ is coming again to judge both the quick and the dead.
Prayer: Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of thy blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections we may be buried with him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for his merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. How can you use the knowledge that your name is in the Book of Life as a way to re-orient your attitude toward your life today? It might lead you to greater confession and repentance, to greater thanks and praise and joy, or to greater good works done in the name of Jesus Christ.
2. Before you fully enter into the joys of Christmas, make sure today you have prepared your heart to meet Him.
Resolution: I resolve to meditate further on the Day of Judgment and use it to motivate me to greater faith and faithfulness in one way today.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson