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Lesson 13: Atonement and Universal Harmony *

Introduction: What does the Bible say about the last chapters of human life on this sinful planet? Where does the earthly sanctuary service point us for the future? What does the Bible say about the conclusion of what Jesus has done for us as both the sacrificial Lamb and the High Priest? What is the standard for our final judgment? Let's dive into our last study on this topic and find out!

  1. The Sanctuary's End

    1. Read Hebrews 9:24-28. After Jesus finishes His work in the heavenly sanctuary, what will He do? (He will "appear a second time," i.e.,return to earth.)

      1. How does this second coming of Jesus differ from the first? (This time He is not bearing our sin for us, He is coming to rescue us. He is coming to bring our salvation.)

      2. Is Jesus bringing salvation for everyone? (No. Just those who are waiting for Him.)

    2. Read Revelation 20:11-14. What are we seeing here? Is this the sanctuary in heaven? Is the sanctuary descending to earth? (Read Matthew 25:31-33. Jesus' mediation in heaven as our High Priest has ended. This is the return to earth spoken of in Hebrews 9:28. Jesus, on the judgment seat ( John 5:22-23), returns to earth as our King and our Judge. The sanctuary in heaven is on the move towards our planet!)

      1. Let's look again at Revelation 20:11-14. Hebrews told us that Jesus was coming to bring salvation. This does not sound like salvation to me. How do you explain this apparent conflict in what Jesus is bringing?

      2. Notice that there seem to be several sets of books. How many books are there, and how many books are devoted to life? (There seem to be two groups of books. One group has multiple books. The other has only one. Recall last week that we ended our discussion with the "wages of sin." People earn their destruction. The deeds of the wicked are recorded in the group of multiple books. We don't know how many. However, for the righteous there is just one book - not a book of deeds, but simply a book recording their names.)

        1. What is destroyed in this final judgment? (Death and Hell. There is a final end to death, Hell and the wicked.)

    3. Read Revelation 20:15. What type of judgment takes place with regard to those whose names are written in the book of life? (It appears that the "judgment" for them is simply whether or not their name appears.)

      1. How can that be? Why do the righteous simply have their names recorded? (The mediation of our High Priest in heaven has resulted in our sins being covered by Jesus' blood. His perfect life is our perfect life. There is no need to record our deeds because our deeds are not the basis for our judgment. Only the name is needed for those who have already passed from death to life ( 1 John 3:14-15).)

        1. Is it safe to be judged by our deeds? (No. Those are the people who are lost!)

    4. The U.S. Supreme Court building is very impressive. In pre-terrorist days, I walked up the many broad steps in front, through the huge outside columns, and into the grand entrance hall. There, I gave my name to a person just outside the big, bronze courtroom doors. They would confirm my name was on the list of members and I would be ushered to sit up front in the presence of the justices. No one asked me whether I was a "good enough" lawyer to sit in the presence of the Supreme Court. All they looked for was my name. This is the closest thing in my experience to the Revelation 20:15 admission to heaven.)

    5. An alternate reading of Revelation 20:11-15 is that everyone - the lost and the saved - are judged according to what they have done. As they are being judged the names of the righteous are written in the book of life. Can you square that reading with the sanctuary system we have been discussing all quarter? When the sinner appeared with the lamb at the sanctuary, did the forgiveness of sins depend on the relative merits of the person's deeds? If so, why did the lamb get killed as opposed to the person being killed or punished? (The question then and now is the same: whether you have the Lamb.)

    6. If the "judgment" of the righteous is not based on their deeds, but only on whether their names are in the book of life, on what basis is your name written? Does that involve some sort of judgment? Let's look at a few texts on this.

      1. Read Revelation 3:5 and Revelation 21:27. Do these texts suggest that a simple declaration gets our name written in the book of life?

      2. Read the words of our Lord in Matthew 25:31-40. What happened to just having our names written in the book of life? Isn't this clearly a judgment based on works?

        1. Where, in the Ten Commandments, are we told about anything like this?

      3. Read what Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23. How do you explain this text? Jesus says words are not enough to have your name written in the book of life, but then Jesus says these great works accounted for nothing!

      4. Read Jesus' words in Matthew 5:21-22. Have we not gone from bad to worse? Now we not only get judged on our works we get judged on our mental process! Is it so hard to get our names written in the book of life?

    7. Let's go back and revisit a point we have studied repeatedly this quarter. Read Romans 6:1-4. When, in baptism, we died for our sins through Jesus, our name was written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

    8. Read Romans 6:5-7 and Romans 6:11-18. Friend, let's see if the parts of the puzzle can now fall into place. In the sanctuary service, there never was a judgment based on the deeds of the sinner. Everything was based on the lamb. But, seeing that lamb die must have moved the heart of the sinner. How much more should seeing Jesus die for us move our hearts! This new attitude is the new self, the old self has died. This is why in Matthew 5:21-22, Jesus tells us that anger (an attitude), not murder (a work) is the new standard for judgment. This is why in Matthew 25:31-36 Jesus talks about a judgment of the righteous based on acts of kindness, not violations of the Ten Commandments. This is why in Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus says that knowing Him, not good deeds, is the key to heaven.

    9. Read Matthew 22:36-40. Does Jesus' explanation now make sense? The wicked face a judgment based on their works under the law - their violation of the Ten Commandments. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life based on our acceptance of what Jesus has done for us in His works of unbelievable love and sacrifice. Our names remain in the book of life (see Revelation 3:5 about the possibility of having your name blotted out) when we live in this attitude of gratitude and love for what Jesus has done for us. That transforms our attitude towards others! 1 John 3:14 tells us this love marks our passage from death to life.)

    10. Can you decide today to start being loving? (No! How could you ever grit your teeth and love? This is an impossible "work.")

      1. If you think about Jesus, and the love is not happening, are you just lost? (Carefully review Romans 8:1-17. The Holy Spirit is the key to this transformation of our hearts. It is the key to keeping our names written in the book of life.)

  2. The New Earth

    1. Read Revelation 21:1-3. What is the final destination of God's throne? (The New Jerusalem, the throne of God come down to the earth made new. God and saved humans now live together.)

    2. Read Revelation 21:4. What is part of the "old order" and what is the new order of things? (Tears, crying and mourning are our reaction to pain and death. Pain and death, and all that flows from them is gone under the new order.)

      1. How can everything be so perfect when some people entered heaven not because they had perfect deeds, but because they had their name written in the book of life? Might these be dangerous neighbors? (No. An attitude of love is the key to the book of life. Imagine living in a place where everyone loved you - everyone had your best interests in mind!)

    3. Read Revelation 21:5-7. What else is a part of the new order for those whose names are written in the book of life? (You can continually drink from the spring of the water of life. You inherit all things new. You have a father-son relationship with Jesus!)

    4. Read Revelation 21:8. What is the alternative destination? Look at this list. Why would God mention being "cowardly" as a sin - the first sin, even? Why would it be mentioned before those who are "vile?") (Barnes Notes suggests these are the people who were afraid to be known as friends of God in a wicked world.)

    5. Friend, do you have the courage to be baptized and have your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life? Do you have the courage to confess your sins to God and ask the Holy Spirit to lead your life? Do you have the courage to desire a loving nature? Do you have the courage to follow Jesus? If so, I invite you to take that step and contemplate the reward which lies ahead of you! Praise God for this great opportunity? Praise Him for His amazing grace and love!

  3. Next week: We begin a new series entitled "The Prophetic Gift."
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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