to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfectHebrews 12:23 ASV
The general assembly and church of the firstborn is a designation for the whole community of the redeemed in heaven and on earth; and because of the classes of beings, other than people, mentioned here as being citizens of that place, “the general assembly” possibly has a much wider inclusiveness than usually thought of in this matter.
The description of the scene of the divine kingdom to which Christians are come is followed by a description of representative persons who are included in it, with whom believers are brought into fellowship.
This view would make the “general assembly” and the “church of the firstborn” to be actually two entities, the latter a component of the first, yet distinct from it.
“Who are enrolled in heaven” is a reference to the Book of Life and to the names of the redeemed of all ages written therein.
THE BOOK OF LIFE
In the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York City, the tourist may see a golden book, encrusted with precious stones and handsomely engraved, where certain names are inscribed.
The book was a gift from a wealthy family and is an excellent example of beautiful and extravagantly expensive books to be seen all over the world; but how far beyond all earthly books is the Lamb’s book of Life.
O to be written there!
One of the consolations of scripture is in this very thing, that the names of Christians are indeed written there in the book of life, there where God has inscribed it and where none but he may blot it out.
Paul actually gave the names of some, that is, Clement and certain faithful women, whose names are written there (Philippians 4:3); Moses revealed that his own name is so written (Exodus 32:32); and the prophet Daniel mentioned that they shall be found “written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).
The apostle John spoke of that book as containing the names “written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain” (Revelation 13:8).
A study of the various references to the book of life reveals the following:
(1) Christians’ names are written in it
(2) the ancient faithful, such as Moses, are therein
(3) those whose names are not inscribed in it shall not be saved (Revelation 13:8; 20:15; 21:27)
(4) even though inscribed there, a name can be blotted out, and for sufficient cause will be blotted out (Revelation 3:5).
An incident from the gospel of Matthew strongly suggests this. Christ had previously promised his disciples that whosoever should confess him before men would also be confessed by Christ before God and his holy angels (Matthew 10:32); and the first ever to make such a formal confession was the apostle Peter, saying, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16); Christ then and there confessed Peter, saying, “Blessed art thou, Simon, son of John” (Matthew 16:17).
The parallel between the two confessions is significant and supports the conclusion that Jesus was honoring the promise to confess the souls who confessed him.
To God the judge of all reveals that in some special sense God IS in the heavenly city, although God is everywhere and is “all and in all”; nevertheless, there is a sure sense in which God shall not merely be in that eternal city, but the center of it, with his throne in the midst of it and his face as the light of it.