The Book of Life
A study of the "book of life" is a fascinating study, revealing much about the will, values, and the way in which God operates. When it comes to ascertaining particular information regarding God, the Bible is our source. The Bible claims inspiration and contains the proof to substantiate the claim (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17). The primary scriptures from which we extract information relative to the book of life are the following scriptures: Exodus 32: 32, 33; Psalms 69: 28; Daniel 12: 1; Luke 10: 20; Philippians 4: 3; Revelation 3: 5; 13: 8; 17: 8; 20: 12, 15; 21: 27; 22: 19. First, I submit to you that the book of life is a biblical fact.
"3: And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life" (Phili. 4).
It is called the "book of life" (biblo zoes) because those recorded therein possess life. Some believe the book of life idea is the same as that of the ancient practice that originated with God of keeping a book of record relative to physical life (Nehe. 7: 5). Let us see what we can learn by briefly examining the above mentioned scriptures.
God adds and removes from the book of life. As we have seen, there is a book of life. Perhaps its existence is more for the accommodation of man and something to which man can relate; albeit, it is presented as a reality. Since there is such a book that contains valuable entries, there must be one responsible for such entries. Consider the following statement:
"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" (Ex. 32).
Please observe that it is God who "blots out of my book" (it is inferred from this that God also adds). Simply stated, man is not in charge of the book of life. Man can and does count some saved when they are not; and some not saved, when they are (cp. 2 Tim. 2: 16-21; 3 John 9). Hence, man is not qualified for such a job, God only has this task.
God removes those who sin against him from the book. God is not a capricious record keeper, but only removes those from the book of life who sin against him (Ex. 32: 33). Sin is the failure to keep Godís law, either going beyond what God has said or failing to do what is written (2 John 9-11; Jas. 4: 17). When we rebel against Godís word, we are going against God and, thus, sinning against God (Rev. 22: 19).
The Righteous are in the book of life. Consider the following statement regarding those whose names are in the book of life:
"28: Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous" (Ps. 69: 28).
Righteousness is a state that has always involved manís participation, contrary to the doctrines of men. One who humbly submits to Godís word is said to be righteous (cp. Ps. 119: 172, Luke 1: 6). Hence, the entry into Godís book of life is not arbitrary, but based on manís proximity to Godís law. One evidences love by the way in which he keeps Godís laws (I John 5: 3). The disobedient have no place with God (Matt. 7: 21-27).
Deliverance is experienced by those in the book of life. Consider the following statement pertaining to those who enjoy deliverance:
"1: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Dan. 12).
Godís providence is clearly presented in the Bible, but it is available for those who look to God for direction and deliverance (I Pet. 3: 12). God has promised a way of escape and what a blessed assurance such a promise is (I Cor. 10: 13). Again, though, the promise is seen applicable to those in the book of life.
Having oneís name in the book of life is cause for rejoicing. It was in the context of Jesus commissioning the seventy that he told them the following:
"20: Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10).
People today often look to the shallow and temporary as the source and cause of rejoicing. These causes do not stand up and people are disappointed often to the point of disillusion. However, being in Godís book of life will not cause disappointment. Such does not depend on the transitory affairs of this life, but on God who is faithful and cannot lie (I John 1: 9; Heb. 6: 18).
Those in the book of life will be removed if they do not overcome. Perhaps one of the most disabling extant false doctrines is the teaching that man has nothing to do with or in his salvation, it is altogether of God. While it is true that man cannot merit salvation and that compared to Godís grace, manís part is minuscule, man must participate (Phili. 2: 12, 2 Cor. 6: 1).
It was to the church at Sardis that these words pertaining to the book of life were addressed:
"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" (Rev. 3).
Please observe that the promise of oneís name not being blotting out of the book of life is conditioned on one overcoming. What happens if one succumbs to temptation? The answer is obvious; one will be removed from Godís book of life. Salvation is promised to those who endure, even to the point of forfeiting their life for Christ (Rev. 2: 10).
Those in the book of life were placed there before the foundation of the world. God is not a being of spontaneity, as some think. He carefully and perfectly plans out matters anterior to their event.
"8: And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain" (Rev. 13, ASV).
Some might object to the above by saying, "Revelation 13: 8 only says that those not saved will be forced due to circumstances to revere God, but it does not prove that the saved are entered from the creation of the world!" I believe that the time of the entry of their names is proved by necessary inference. If this is not the intended understanding, why would the verse even read as it does? Besides, it is clear that God determined the saved before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1: 4). God in his foreknowledge is able to look ahead and determine beforehand those who shall be his children (Acts 18: 9, 10).
The book of life is especially associated with Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Revelation 13: 8 not only shows the point in time of Godís entry into the book of life, but also mentions, "Öbook of life of the LambÖ." (see also Rev. 17: 8).
It is Jesus who is the author and finisher of the Christianís salvation (Heb. 12: 2). It was he who gave his blood for the remission of sins and sacrificed himself as the once for all sin offering (Matt. 26: 28; Heb. 7-10). Therefore, it is only fitting that the book of life be especially associated with Jesus.
Based on Revelation 20: 12, we learn that the book of life containing the names of all the saved of the earth for all times will be present on the Day of Judgment. Consider the statement:
"12: 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" (Rev. 20).
What an august day it shall be, all the necessary and pertinent books will be present and opened to reveal the appropriate destiny of all men!
Those not in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire. Just a few verses following the statement of the presence of the book of life at the judgment, we read:
"14: And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.15: And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev. 20).
There are no "ands, ifs, or buts," if one is not found in the book of life, one will suffer everlasting punishment. There shall be no additional circumstances or chances offered.
We have not arrived at the final reference regarding our scriptures for study, Revelation 22: 18, 19. Regarding the book of life, we read thus:
"18: For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22).
Those who count lightly the tampering with Godís book, the Bible, either by means of addition or taking away from Godís words, need to realize that distorting Godís word can and will lead to their removal from the book of life (cp. Deut. 4: 2, Gal. 1: 6-9).
In closing, indeed, God has a book, the book of life. God and God alone maintains this book. There are no pretenders or hypocrites in Godís book. The question that should arrest our attention is if you and I are in the book of life? Yes, we can tell based on our sincerity and conformity to Godís teaching (I John 2: 3-6).