In heaven, God keeps the Book of Life.
According to Jewish theology, God keeps a record of everyone’s deeds – good and bad – in the Book of Life. Each year on Rosh Hashanah the Book is reviewed, and those who’ve led exemplary lives are inscribed for another year of life. Those who are not deserving have ten days, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, to tip the balance in their favor. These are called the Days of Awe. Jews go around trying to right all the wrongs they’ve done, seeking forgiveness for their sins and reconciliation with their adversaries, all in an effort to have their names inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. A common greeting among Orthodox Jews during that time is, “May your name be inscribed in the Book.” On the tenth day, Yom Kippur, the books are closed and their fates are sealed. The meaning is that life is only granted on a year by year basis and is dependent on obedience. (Obviously, as clarified above, this was meant for the Jews only and not meant to be universal.)
The Book of Life (literally Book of the Living) is first mentioned in Exodus 32 when the Lord threatened to destroy all the Israelites because of the Golden Calf rebellion (Ex. 32:10). The context here is physical life. Moses made intercession for them asking the Lord to blot him out of His Book instead of punishing the Israelites for their sins (Ex. 32:32). He was offering to die to pay for the sins of the people, offering his life for theirs, a model of the Redeemer. The Lord, instead of destroying them, said He would delay their ultimate punishment until a future time. But when that time came, He would blot out the names of all who had sinned against Him. (Ex. 32:33-34)
All our names are written in the Book of Life. Sinning against God will cause them to be blotted out. To avoid having our names blotted out immediately upon sinning – we need an intercessor. Moses was told his intercession would only postpone the judgment, and that those who sinned would eventually have their names blotted out of the book. So Moses, the Law giver, is seen here as a model of the Law. The sacrifices offered under the Law could only postpone the judgment for mankind’s sins, they could not provide a permanent pardon. This would later be confirmed in Hebrews 10:1-4 and other places. Also, God refused his offer but later sent His Son to accomplish a similar but much grander purpose. Jesus gave His life to pay for our disobedience. But His death didn’t simply buy us another year of physical life. Those who believe in Him won’t ever perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16). This is what He meant in Rev. 3:5 when He said He would never blot our names out of the book, because thanks to our belief in Him we have eternal life.
The Book of Life (literally Book of the Living) contains the name of every person who ever lived along with a record of their life and final disposition. But, the names of people who don’t inherit eternal life (because of their unbelief) are blotted out of this Book. So, then, the only names still on record are the names of all believers.
Regarding Rev. 20:12, Matthew Henry writes “The books were opened. What books? The books of God’s omniscience, who is greater than our consciences, and knows all things (there is a book of remembrance with Him both for good and bad); and the book of the sinner’s conscience, which, though formerly secret, will now be opened. And another book shall be opened—the book of the scriptures, the statute-book of heaven, the rule of life. This book is opened as containing the law, the touchstone by which the hearts and lives of men are to be tried. This book determines matter of right; the other books give evidence of matters of fact.”
“Some, by the other book, called the book of life, understand the book of God’s eternal counsels; but that does not seem to belong to the affair of judgment: in eternal election God does not act judicially, but with absolute sovereign freedom… those whose names are written in that book (that is, those that are justified and acquitted by the gospel) shall then be justified and acquitted by the Judge, and shall enter into eternal life, having nothing more to fear from death, or hell, or wicked men; for these are all destroyed together.”
The only work that God requires of us is that we believe in the One He sent (John 6:28-29). Without that nothing else matters. If it were left up to the individual Christian to overcome the world, the Book of Life would only have One Name in it. So be of good cheer. He has overcome the world. And if you trust in Him, you have, too.
The question here is a simple one. How does one overcome the world and keep one’s name in the Book of Life? “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5) Trust Jesus and do your best. He knows the difference. He keeps the Books. And He promises that when you trust in Him, your name is recorded using indelible ink. You can’t fool the Bookkeeper. And neither can the Enemy. The best that he can do is to try and fool you.
When Were Our Names Written In The Book?
Psalm 139 speaks of the relationship between God and the pre-born. It makes a strong case for life beginning at conception, saying the Lord knit us together in our mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13) and that all the days ordained for us were written in the Book of Life before one of them came to be (Ps. 139:16).
There are two pieces of important information here. The first is that before we were conceived we didn’t exist in any form. We weren’t a spirit waiting for a body to inhabit, or coming fresh from a previous life to begin a new one on our journey to Nirvana. And the second is while God knows the end from the beginning, our lives don’t consist of some tightly-controlled script we’re forced to follow. The fact that God knew all of our days before we lived one of them, simply means that He knew the history of our life while it was still future to us.
An Angel confirmed to Daniel that at the time of the Great Tribulation, all of Daniel’s people whose names had been written in the Book of Life would be delivered (Daniel 12:1). This was confirmed by Paul in Romans 11:25-26. He said that after the rapture of the Church, the partial blindness that has kept Israel from identifying their Messiah would be lifted and representatives from all the 12 tribes would accept Him as their Savior. John wrote that at the beginning of the Great Tribulation, believing Jews will be carried away into the desert to be protected from Satan for its duration (Rev. 12:14). As the time of the 2nd Coming approaches, others who have survived will also be saved (Zechariah 12:10). Together, these Jews will populate Israel during the Millennium, where they’ll be joined by resurrected Jews of Old Testament times who died in faith of a coming Redeemer. (Daniel 12:2)
The Church And The Book Of Life
In Rev. 3:5 Jesus said He will never blot out the names of those who entrust their destinies to Him from the Book of Life. In Romans 8:34 we read that Jesus is at the right hand of God making intercession for us. From this we can see that the Lord’s intercession is sufficient to give us a permanent place in the Book, while Moses could only promise temporary security.
In Rev. 13:8 we’re introduced to another book with a similar name, the LAMB’S BOOK OF LIFE. It was written before the foundation of the world and contains only the names of those who are part of the Church and inhabit the New Jerusalem. It will be complete at the Rapture.
(Next Sunday’s Post will describe the Lamb’s Book of Life)
Unbelievers And The Book Of Life
“And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:15
Rev. 17:8 says the inhabitants of the Earth whose names have not been written in the Book of Life from the creation of the world will be astonished to see the Beast because he was once, now is not, and yet will come. This tells us that not only were our names written there before we were born as Psalm 139:16 revealed, but were actually written there from the Creation.
It also reveals that those who are astonished by the beast have already had their names blotted out of the book, just as the 3rd angel of Rev. 14 had warned (Rev. 14:9-11). The Greek word translated astonished in Rev. 17:8 means to marvel at, or hold in admiration.
The Great White Throne judgment of Rev. 20:11-15 shows the dead being judged according to what is written in the books (Rev. 20:12). Several books will be used in this judgment. They contain the record of everything everyone ever born has said (Matthew 12:36-37) or done, whether good or bad, in public or in secret (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
But in concluding the passage, John wrote that regardless of their good works, if their name has been blotted out of the Book of Life they will be cast into the Lake of Fire. The only way to prevent being blotted out of the book is to allow the death of Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).
This study was not meant to cover every reference to the Book of Life, whether direct or indirect, but to give us a more complete understanding of its purpose.