My computer died and went to heaven…or, at least, I hope it did! The body remained, but the spirit (in the form of my hard disk) suffered mortal injury and had to be replaced. The resurrection of its memory caused me serious consternation and some reflection on Rob Bell’s latest best seller, Love Wins.
Let me explain. In 2009 my computer was stolen, and I lost about 6 months of writing and photographs (which I’d forgotten to back up before leaving). Vowing never to allow such a tragedy again, I bought a “Lacie” backup system, so that my computer automatically backs up my files every day. So, when the hard drive on my new computer slowed down to a near standstill and the computer genius pronounced it dead, I was alarmed but not totally devastated. Days later, I was able to take my computer home with a new hard drive and resurrected memory. To my dismay, I discovered that every item that had ever appeared on my desk top was now sitting on my desktop again, waiting to be seen, considered, and judged (if you will). It took me hours and hours and hours to go through the painstaking process of looking at each file and deciding whether or not it was worth keeping and filing (and where???) or trashing. Thus…the meditations on what happens to us after death.
Rob Bell seems to think that God would lose if he allows anyone to be “trashed” (by not making it into heaven) after they die (if I understand him correctly, and I may not). I have to confess that the thought of everyone who ever lived being able to live happily ever after has great appeal to me, and so I wondered if he could possibly be correct. I’ve been mulling it over for months as I meditated on the Bible day by day. Here’s my conclusion, and it’s based largely on what the scriptures teach about an esoteric volume called “the book of life.”
1. Not everyone’s name has been written in the book of life: “the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast…” (Revelation 17:8, KJV).
2. Those whose names are not written in the book of life will worship false gods: “And all who dwell on earth shall worship it [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints” (Revelation 13:8-10, ESV).
3. After we die, we will all be judged: “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12).
4. The Bible makes it crystal clear that the only “good work” that will justify us on judgment day is believing in the “good work” of Christ, who lived a sinless life and died a sacrificial, substitutionary death for us: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him [Jesus] whom he [God] has sent” (John 6:29). “But as many as received him [Jesus], to them gave he [God] power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his [Jesus’] name” (John 1:12). “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). “And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
5. The good news is that God offers salvation as a free gift to anyone who will believe: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:46). (The wording “as many as were ordained” gives the distinct impression that not everyone will believe and receive eternal life.)
6. The bad news is that not everyone will believe, and those who do not believe will neither be kept on the desktop nor filed away into heaven. “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15).
7. This is a very sobering, sorrowful fact. God chose to give us a free will, and with that choice comes the freedom to accept or reject God’s claim on our lives and his provision for our salvation. We can choose to accept Christ or reject him, but I believe it will be us—and not God—who loses if we fail to surrender to his love and accept his grace. God loves us and provided the way for us, but we have to take it. The fact that God “is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9) is an explanation for his incredible patience in waiting for us to respond to him, but it is NOT grounds for assuming that God will somehow magically make us all believe after we die “whether we want to or not.” After we die, we will see God. The opportunity for salvation by faith will have ended because the reality of knowing the truth about God will have begun. Love wins, but disbelief loses. If you’re not yet sure, would you say with the distraught father in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”