The Book of Life!
All of us had cried with God. We cried now not only for our lost loved ones, but for the Heart of God which, we now understood, had been broken for so long.
“Beelzebub, Beelzebub!” God had moaned, looking towards our former leader and encompassing his present followers in his thoughts. “How often I wanted to gather you under my wings, like a Seraphim gathers her Cherubim, but you would not!”
I have just got to try to meet with Beelzebub.
VerseScout: Matthew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. 39 For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.
We had all cried.
I was surprised at its effect on our joy. Our ecstasy was not the same. But it did not quite leave us. Rather, it deepened. It moved from emotion to something greater: a fullness.
Not that the suffering of our loved ones was what we needed to make our lives really full! Rather, the breaking of our hearts on their behalf stretched our hearts, by cramming them with greater love; and it was that which added fullness to our lives.
Or perhaps it was partly that, and partly because when tears tore off the veneer of superficial happiness we had enjoyed, exposing the bare love beneath it, we had a clearer glimpse of what it was that had really filled our lives.
God gave us a new word to refer generally to the entire mental and emotional process we had observed in our brothers: “evil”.
After our hearts had broken into tiny pieces and there were no more pieces big enough to break, God smiled upon us all with affection and announced, “Now we must take the next step in a plan which, through further thorns and trials, will finally lead to a Heaven in which every soul will be eternally safe from rejecting my Love!”
We all stared at God, of course. But that doesn’t cover our reaction. We thought God might have more to say about His plan, but He just got busy, leaving us to wonder.
Wonder we did.
A Heaven safe from more rebellion? We hadn’t even thought of the possibility of more rebellion! The rebellion we had already seen was unlikely enough! That it might happen AGAIN?
Yet the very moment in which so horrible a possibility invaded our relative calm brought with it God’s Promise that He had not only anticipated the danger, but brought it under control before harm could occur! And what a promise! That never again will any soul leave Heaven for Hell!
Or, wait a minute: he specified “every soul [in] heaven”. What is “heaven”?
But what “next step” might we anticipate? More education? Is there something more God can tell us that will better inoculate us against such a choice? Actually I couldn’t comprehend ANY of the remaining faithful Host needing any further education! But God knows.
When I looked again, I saw that God was writing on some pages He was getting ready to bind into a new Book. Maybe the Book contained the information we needed to inoculate us against rebellion.
I came close. The hard cover, laying separately on the edge of His desk, said “Book of Life”. In the pages I could see He was writing names. Except that I had never heard of ANY of the names I saw Him writing! I thought I knew all the Host! Yet God was writing down the names of souls I had not met!
I looked at the fly leaf. It explained that these are the countless names of the countless souls He would create on the Earth! Earth? What does that word mean? New souls? Baby brothers! We have never before had the thrill of watching a soul being created!
The fly leaf explains how every soul created will be entered into the book, meaning God will offer each soul Life. But no soul will be forced to accept it. It will be theoretically possible for any soul, by his choice, to have his name erased. “Theoretically possible”, we told ourselves; but as we nervously eyed our fallen brethren, we wondered: would any of God’s newly created souls actually choose not to live?!
VerseScout: Exodus 32:31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin – and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. 33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Revelation 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not [any longer] written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Revelation 17:8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world [up through the moment the beast ascended from the pit], when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
VerseScout Relevance Report: Modern translations are evenly divided on whether Revelation 13:8 means there are people whose names were never written in the Book of Life.
But Exodus 32:31 and Revelation 3:5 say names are entered in the Book of Life which can later be blotted out. This must mean that the names of everyone were originally entered in the Book.
(Continued in Appendix I, the Book of Life)
God has lain down His Book, but now He looks even busier. Why, in fact, I have never seen God concentrating so hard on anything! Now it looks like He’s getting ready to say something. But whatever it is, it must be one of the hardest things He has ever had to say! What tension! What power is moving! What brightness is flashing!
What is that sparkling on His arms and legs? Why, I’ve seen that on my body and bodies of angels who work very, very hard, but never on God before! Why, those are beads of sweat! What could possibly be hard enough for God, to make Him exert Himself so? If God keeps working this hard for very long, He may actually need to rest afterward!
VerseScout: Luke 22:44 And being in an agony [just before Jesus was crucified] he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. 3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.
Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed. (Compare with Exodus 23:12, 2 Samuel 16:14.)
Isaiah 40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.
VerseScout Relevance Report: When Jesus died for us was not the first time He exerted Himself for us. When He made the universe for us, that had to take infinite concentration and effort. He sweated as He prepared Himself to die for us; He very likely sweated as He prepared all creation for us.
It is common to assume Genesis 2:2 does not mean God actually rested in the sense of refreshing His tired body – it is commonly thought that such a conclusion would demean God, because full respect for God would assume nothing could come close enough to His capacity to tire Him in the least. Isaiah 40:28 is taken to confirm that reasoning. So 2:2 must mean God merely ceased his creating.
But the Bible says God “ceased” his creating at the beginning of the seventh day, and then adds that he “rested” the entire seventh day. The use of two distinct words tells us “rested” means something distinct from “ceased”.
Exodus 31:17 adds that God was “refreshed” in the same way that people are “refreshed”. Some translations say “rested”, “relaxed”.
Anyone inclined to think this demeans our respect for God’s omnipotence, only needs to take another look at the virtually infinite accomplishments of those six days! DNA alone should restore anyone’s respect for God’s majesty!
However, no one doubts that when Jesus suffered on the cross, that was very taxing, even for God. We also have the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, in which a requirement of Heaven is that we work to accomplish twice as much as we thought we could. Can God desire that quality in us, and not have it in Himself?
Isaiah’s declaration that God does not “gasp” for breath, the literal Hebrew meaning of “weary”, justifies rejection of a scenario in which God had to check Himself into a hospital for extreme exhaustion.
But the popular assumption that God was not tired even a little simply is not in the Bible. The assumption certainly seems reasonable, but it falsely suggests that Jesus on the Cross was the first time God suffered for us. To the contrary, the very existence God gave us, and the glories of the universe God gave us to dominate, was costly. Our debt includes that cost, also.
Now He looks like He is opening His Mouth to Speak, while simultaneously He is picking up the components of the Book of Life and is beginning to bind them. As He takes a breath, all power and glory seems to be sucked into His lungs, and now He exhales! His voice roars with all the Fire of the Almighty! As it sweeps all creation, a throbbing and glowing possesses every particle of our bodies! I see it in the other angels, too, both here and in Hell.
Are we going to die? Are we going to be reborn? What is happening? I saw Beelzebub, terrified. Why have I put off meeting with him? Is it too late?
Our eyes met. In his eyes were a plea for reassurance. In mine was apology for not offering it sooner. What could I do? It was too noisy for words.
I waved at Beelzebub. I waved and smiled a smile of longing for fellowship, like in the old days. He half smiled in return. Gone, for the first time in so long a time, was his scheming, self-confident, in-control, calculating look. I had found him in a vulnerable moment. He was terrified! He was sure his time was up! Would there be another time like this again? But this is a bad time to talk. Way too noisy.
“Time”? What is this new word in my vocabulary? What does it mean?
All the Host looks like it is waving; like it is all part of a great flat surface marked with moving ripples. Nothing to do but watch, and ride this one out!
God’s Voice continues to roar! Blinding light flashes from His Mouth! We are forced to bury our eyes in our arms! For a long time – that word again – the roaring and light flows around us. But finally a new force pulls us “down”! What in the world is “down”? What is “world”?
We are aware that the terrible light has dimmed, so we open our eyes towards the source of this unidentified force. And there, hanging in nothing, is the hugest thing I had ever imagined! And yet it was such a tiny thing! How could a thing be so huge, and simultaneously so tiny? What new rules govern this new creation of God?
There is something familiar about that thing.
I must have passed out of consciousness. Here I am again. Awake. Fully alert. The roaring is gone, the blinding light dimmed.
The rolling waves have stopped, of the Host, but now the Host seems frozen in one of those waves, a majestic grand complex slope, rounded – no, words fail. But at the center of its focus was the huge sphere I saw before I passed out.
There was something fundamentally different about this sphere. Yet familiar. Well, yes, it was different in appearance from any sphere God had previously shown us. But its difference was more than mere appearance. It had something to do with that first impression I had, that it seemed huge, yet at the same time small. “Huge” and “small” came into my vocabulary with its creation. What is this new way of thinking, of attributing “size” – another new word – to created things?
Could it be – ? Nah.
That sphere. And the one growing in God’s Workshop – ? I had to know. I flew quickly back to God’s Workshop. The ball of tears was gone.
Framing the sphere was the Book of Life, as if the sphere were the picture on the cover of the Book.
Chapter Nine: The Beginning of Time