We continue our study of the book of life, which we encountered in Revelation 13:8, and the context in which it was used, which is, people would be so astonished at the performance of the beast that they worship him. The only distinguishing factor that sets these people apart from others is that their names are not found in the book of life.
There are two main components in this verse concerning those who worship the beast: first, there is the choice that these people make in their decision to bow down and worship the beast. It is obvious that they are aware of the beast’s masquerade and that he is misleading them, but their hatred for the righteous Christ blinds and deafens them to the point where their conviction – that they are right – makes worshiping Christ impossible.
Second, there is the absence of their names in the book of life. It is an insurmountable obstacle, a barrier if you will, that makes it impossible for them to cross over from worshiping the beast to worshiping Christ, even though the obstacles associated with this world have been removed and they behold the Christ in his glory.
See how the following passages reveal this fatal barrier that the reprobate would not be able to overcome.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Isaiah 44:18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
I Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
II Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
John 8:43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say.
Christ even spoke in parables to prevent some from understanding his message.
Matthew 13:10 - 15 The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" 11He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 13This is why I speak to them in parables: Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.' 15For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them."
Matthew 13:34, 35 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world."
If it is impossible for some to turn and be healed, how can we speak of justice? How is what we have read here in harmony with earlier Scripture passages that clearly speak of a choice? In Matthew 13:15, second part, Jesus says, “Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” The word “otherwise” introduces this sentence, which sketches for us the antithesis of their inability to see, hear, and understand. It is clear that Jesus relates to us that their calloused hearts, closed ears and eyes are in that state by their choice: “…they have closed their eyes.” One gets the impression that even if they would open their eyes and ears and would understand with their hearts and turn, Jesus still wouldn’t want to heal them. It appears, however, as if the accomplishment of these three things – seeing, hearing, and understanding – automatically brings about healing. Jesus speaks to them in parables to prevent them from seeing, hearing, and understanding. How does that harmonize with their choice? There is a promise of reward in these three things that brings about eternal life but there is also much more at play here. It is important to remember this sequence of events, as we will deal with this a little later on.
Let us first establish some basic truths.
There are, perhaps, many more basic truths that could be added to the list, but the purpose of this list is to set the stage for the explanation of the apparent contradiction that in one sense there is a choice, and in the other there appears to be no choice.
Scripture instructs us in understanding why Jesus would, for example, speak in riddles to prevent the unbelievers from understanding what He is saying.
Satan has, in this respect, one main battle objective, namely, to grab eternal life, or to escape punishment. He first tried by misleading Eve but that plan was thwarted when God placed cherubim and a flaming sword at the tree of life. He also wants to accuse Christ of hypocrisy and misrepresentation in His court at the end of time by making a case that the reprobate should not be sent into the abyss.
Find something, even something absurd, such as falsely claiming a promise that belongs to the elect, with which Christ can be accused in his court at the end of time. If Christ cannot satisfactorily defend himself, there would be a shadow of doubt about his Divinity, justice and integrity. Once that objective has been achieved, a case can be made that the reprobate will be unjustly sent to their deaths, which translates to eternal life.
The simple language of Scripture promises forgiveness upon, what appears to be, repentance of any kind. I John 1:9 even cites Jesus’ integrity as proof that it will happen: “If we confess our sins, [Jesus] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us.” In the gospel of Mark, chapter 1:5, we read that the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem confessed their sins and were baptized. One cannot assume that all of those people had a sincere change of heart. Some were hoping to gain something from the promise without faith.
It appears that forgiveness follows repentance without qualification of the repentance offered and if wicked men could obtain the reward by asking God to forgive their sins, they have obtained eternal life without faith.
If Satan could accuse Jesus of injustice, or hypocrisy, it would be a great victory for him in Christ’s court at the end of time. One of his strategies is to feign repentance, and based on the promise of forgiveness, claim eternal life. If forgiveness is not forthcoming, and we know it will not, he can accuse Jesus of being a hypocrite, making the case that Jesus will be sending him and his cohorts to their deaths based on misrepresentation.
How do they feign repentance? They announce their charity with trumpets to be honored by men. They pray aloud and on street corners to be seen by men. They fast with disfigured faces to show everyone that they are fasting. They give a tenth of their income but neglect justice, mercy and faithfulness. They honor God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. (Matthew 6 and 23.)
And many will be astonished at them and worship them for their cunning, intellect and liberated minds.
Although we do not know who the hypocrites are, and we should not know, unless they reveal themselves by the fruits that they bear, Christ knows them individually. Christ also knows that there is nothing that will sway them from their hatred towards God and even when they see him in the life hereafter, they will rather launch their attack on him, falsely accusing him, than beg for forgiveness. If they appear in Christ’s court after this life, with Christ in full view in his glory, and they still do not waiver in their attack, how will they ever believe when they have to rely on the gospel, the prophets and the psalms, seeing as through a dark mirror? The truth is, they refuse to abandon their father, the devil, and they will continue to do so.
Just as God prevented our First Parents from having access to the tree of life with cherubim and a flaming sword, lest they eat of it and live in sin forever, so He spoke in parables preventing the wicked from having access to the tree of life through the forgiveness of sins.
Matthew 13:34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.
Parables are the cherubim and flaming sword of the gospel. They have no desire to repent or to be healed. There is no faith and no desire to glorify God when they repent. They repent solely to avoid punishment. They have a sterile repentance.
Since Satan’s goal has always been to overthrow God’s throne, the one thing that he needed most in his battle plan was eternal life. If he could get man to also eat from the tree of life and live in sin forever, God’s purpose to gather for himself a congregation that would glorify him forever, would be thwarted, and having destroyed God’s integrity by such a strategy, he would claim superiority.
God placed the cherubim and flaming sword at the tree of life to protect it from Satan and his cohorts just as Jesus used the flaming sword of the parable to keep Satan away from the promise of eternal life through (false) repentance. The elect repent because they love God and desire to glorify him above all other things; the elect repent because of a deep sorrow having offended God with their sins and they sacrifice their old natures to become more like Christ. Satan and his cohorts express repentance without faith hoping to obtain eternal life in another manner than through Jesus. They plan to accuse Jesus of an injustice by saying that they have repented but Jesus failed to forgive. “…'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'” (Matt 25:44).
Perhaps a few Scripture passages in which Jesus addressed hypocrisy and deceit will put the case in perspective. Pay particular attention to what it is that Jesus condemns here: the hypocrisy and the false attempts at repentance.
Matthew 6:2 "So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
Matthew 6:5 "And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
Matthew 6:16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full."
Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
Matthew 23:25 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence."
Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."
Mark 7:6 He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.'"
The Holy Spirit changed the hearts of stone of the elect to hearts of flesh so that they are able to discern the words of the parables and understand when Scripture teaches them the meaning of the gospel.
It would be profitable to look at the character of forgiveness and repentance. This definition is not offered from a philosophical perspective, but from what is taught in Scripture.
Forgiveness implies that no merit, work, or sacrifice precedes it but it is freely given. If it follows merit, sacrifice, or work, of the perpetrator, it is not forgiveness.
Forgiveness can be classified into two main groups, simple or complex.
Simple forgiveness has the following effects:
This kind of forgiveness is present in civil pardons for reasons other than to correct an injustice or when found innocent in a court of law.
Complex forgiveness has the following effects:
It is found in the gospel.
Similarly, repentance can be simple or complex.
Simple repentance has the following characteristics:
Complex repentance has the following characteristics:
Complex repentance is required for misdeeds in marriage, family, and the church. God’s law requires complex repentance before complex forgiveness can be given.
We see from the foregoing that the reprobate is incapable of complex repentance and thus unable to receive complex forgiveness.
Where, specifically, lies the barrier over which the reprobate cannot climb from death to life? It is spiritually genetic. The children of Satan, the seed of the serpent, cannot inherit with the seed of the woman.
Genesis 3:15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.
Jesus’ amazing conversation with the Pharisees clearly spells out the differences between the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil. In John 8:37 Jesus grants the Pharisees that they are physical descendants of Abraham.
John 8:37 I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word.
In verse 39 they assert that Abraham is their father after Jesus suggested that they have someone else as a father.
John 8:39,41 - 44 "Abraham is our father," they answered. "If you were Abraham's children," said Jesus, "then you would do the things Abraham did." 41You are doing the things your own father does." "We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself. 42Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. 43Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say."
In the following verse, Jesus spells it out for them. Even though they are physical descendants of Abraham, their real father, their spiritual ancestor is the devil.
44"You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
The following passages further spell out this divide between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent.
Matthew 13:38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one.
Acts 13:10 "You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?"
II Thessalonians 2:10 And in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
I John 3:9, 10 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
The following passages define the ultimate barrier, the very point at which the reprobate are unable to reach over to the side of Christ, repent and be forgiven:
Romans 8:7, 8 The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. 8Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
And we are able to discern those who are on Christ’s side. Not that we claim to know about all of the elect, but those who bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and have matured in his image, are clearly like a city on a hill.
Matthew 12:35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
Having been adopted as sons of God, it is incumbent upon us to study and understand God’s plan from before creation. There are these two bloodlines, the seed of the woman and the seed of the devil. To preserve and receive the descendants of the woman in his eternal temple at the end of time, God wrote their names into a book, which will be opened at the end of time and those whose names were not found there followed the beast into the abyss. If God knows every one of those whom He desires to have with him in glory, it stands to reason that God also knows every one of those who hate him with a fatal passion. It is quite clear that Jesus spoke to everyone in parables knowing that those who hate him will not understand. It is clear that their sinful minds are hostile to God, not able to submit to His law.
The elect, however, are subject to a specific, unbreakable chain that ensures their seeing, hearing and understanding of the gospel because they love God.
Romans 8:28 – 30 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
The chain: foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified.