The Book of Life

Introduction

The Bible reveals that God keeps a record of the activities of every human being. The most important record is called the Book of Life. Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, and John all bore witness of the Book of Life. The most important factor in this life is to determine and know one’s name is in the Book of Life. The following study examines the scriptures which concern this book.

The Texts

Moses: Exodus 32.32-33

Several biblical texts speak of the Book of Life. The first mention of it is in Exodus 32. This passage is the account of how Israel made and worshiped the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Decalogue. It seems almost beyond belief that Israel could have fallen so far so fast. God had demonstrated His superiority and power over all the gods of the Egyptians and freed them from the power of Pharoah, who headed the most powerful nation in the world. Instead of following the God who had freed them from slavery, they chose to return to slavery by worshiping a false god.

God told Moses that because of this sin He would destroy them and start a new people with Moses as the head (Exodus 32.9-10). But Moses argued with God and asked Him to change His mind. Moses recorded:

11 Then Moses entreated the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil intent He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about doing harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants to whom You swore by Yourself, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heavens, and all this land of which I have spoken I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people (Exodus 32.11-14).

Notice that Moses called Israel “your” people when he appealed to God and reminded Him of His promises. Moses knew his Bible! His case was that God’s honor was greater than the nation’s sin (Exodus 32.11-14). This much have delighted God for his argument revealed how much Moses had matured in his understanding and appreciation of God. When Moses came down from the mountain to see for himself what his people had done he was furious but asked God to forgive their sin. He offered himself as a substitute for God’s wrath. Moses recorded:

32But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” 33The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book (Exodus 32.32-33).

Moses asked God to blot him from His Book of Life if the Lord would not forgive Israel’s sin. In effect, what Moses’ offered was that he would be sent to an eternal doom if God would forgive the people. God refused Moses’ sacrificial offer and responded that He would blot out from the Book of Life those who had sinned against Him.

Moses: Deuteronomy 29.20

In Deuteronomy, Moses warned his people about the fate of those who turned away from God to follow other gods and idols. Moses declared:

The Lord shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven (Deuteronomy 29.20).

David: Psalm 69.28

Psalm 69 is an imprecatory psalm. David revealed his innermost thoughts about his sufferings from his enemies as a result of his faithfulness to God. He prayed that God would judge them. Part of the Psalm is clearly prophetic about the Messiah. David wrote in verse 26:

For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, and they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded.

As a result of such persecution the decree is:

May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous (Psalm 69.28).

The “Book of Life” in this passage is מִסֵּפֶר חַיִּים and is formed by סֵפֶר, “book,” “document,” “decree,” etc. and חַי, the normal word for “life,” “living.” Since the word is plural, it literally means “living,” or “lives.” So it is the “Book of the Living” or the “Book of Lives.”

Daniel: Daniel 12.1

Daniel is the great prophetic book of the Old Testament. God gave Daniel tremendous revelation as to what will happen to the nation of Israel as well as the rest of the world during that period of time known as the Tribulation. Daniel wrote:

Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued (Daniel 12.1).

The “book” is obviously the “Book of Life.” We know from Revelation that millions will die during this period. The “rescue” is equal to the “overcoming” the Lord spoke of in his message to the seven assemblies. The rescue equals eternal life.

Paul: Philippians 4.3

Many women helped the great apostle Paul in his ministry. Contrary to what some maintain, Paul deeply appreciated women and acknowledged their contributions to furthering the gospel. In recognition of their faithfulness, Paul asked an unknown helper to assist these women. He recognized all of his co-laborers as being in God’s Book of Life. Paul wrote:

Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life (βίβλῳ ζωῆς, Philippians 4.3).

John

The book of Revelation contains the most references to the subject of the Book of Life. This is logical since the Book of Life falls under the category of last things.

“Overcoming” is the great charge the risen Lord gave to the Jewish congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation 2.7, 11, 17, 26, 3.5, 12, 21). The “overcoming” of which the Lord spoke was refusing to worship the False Christ (a.k.a. the Antichrist, the Beast) by trusting in the true Christ.1 Jesus had taught the Twelve that during this period of tribulation the one who endured until the end would be saved (Matthew 24.13). The “end” is either physical death (martyrdom) or the return of Christ. During the Tribulation, the gospel of the kingdom will once again be proclaimed (Matthew 24.14). Salvation during this period will not be based upon Paul’s gospel of grace (Acts 20.24; 1 Corinthians 15.1-4) which is that Christ died for his sins and rose from the dead but upon believing in the name of Christ, i.e., believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (Matthew 16.13-20; John 11.23-27; Acts 2.21, 28, 3.16, 4.7, 10, 12, 17-18, 4.30, 5.28, 40-41). This was the gospel of the kingdom (not Paul’s gospel of the grace of God) that Jesus declared would be proclaimed throughout all the nations and then the end would come (Matthew 24.14).

Revelation 3.5

As noted above, Jesus’ message to each of the Jewish assemblies in Revelation 2-3 was one which instructed them about “overcoming.” Each warning was coupled with a promise of eternal life as the result. To the assembly at Sardis, Jesus described salvation with reference to the Book of Life. He said:

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Revelation 3.5).

Revelation 13.8

John wrote of how the vast majority of the world will worship Satan and the Beast, the False Christ. They will not be “overcomers.” Because of this, their names will not be found in the Book of Life. This passage specifically identified the Book of Life as the Lamb’s Book of Life, i.e., the Lord Jesus Christ. Such designation is appropriate for Jesus revealed that He is the One who will judge men (John 5.22-23). John wrote:

All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain (Revelation 13.8).

Revelation 17.8

This passage is confusing to many but is really quite straightforward. The Beast is the False Christ. He “was,” i.e., he was in alive and in control, then “is not,” i.e., he is killed, then “will come,” i.e., returns to life and “is” again (Revelation 17.11 cf. Revelation 13.3, 12). He is the “eighth” king who was of the original “seven.” Satan is the great deceiver and counterfeiter. It is in the nature of Satan to replicate what the Lord has done. As Jesus arose from the dead, the Beast will similarly, in some fashion which we cannot now know, rise from the dead. He will successfully deceive those whose names are not in the book of life. They will be deceived by his seeming resurrection power.

“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come (Revelation 17.8).

Revelation 20.12

In this passage, John described what is popularly known as the Great White Throne judgment. The Lord Jesus Christ will act in His role as the judge of unsaved humanity. Two sets of books are present at the judgment: the Book of Life and the Book(s) of Works. John recorded:

And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds (Revelation 20.12).

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20.15).

The Book of Works contains all of an individual’s deeds: good and evil. Both evil and good deeds will demonstrate that the person on trial does not have sufficient righteousness before a holy God. Good deeds will serve the purpose lessening one’s punishment in the lake of fire but that punishment is eternal. Only by having the righteousness of God can one escape this punishment. The way of escape is to believe Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. When trusts Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection rather than relying upon one’s own righteousness God gives that person His own righteousness (Romans 3.21-22). On this basis, one can be assured that his name is in the Book of Life and that he will never experience this judgment. This passage is the most somber and sobering of all the Scriptures.

Revelation 21.27

Chapters 21-22 in Revelation describe a new heavens and a new earth (cf. Isaiah 65.17, 66.22-24; 2 Peter 3.13). The new heavens and new earth are eternal. This new state of being will require an entirely different physics. In our present universe time is integral to space and matter. In the new heavens and earth time will not exist. Hence, this future, new universe will consist of entirely new properties.

The Revelation concludes by describing that in the new heavens and new earth there will be no Temple, no sun, no moon. God Himself will fill all in all with His presence and glory. Those who will participate in this new universe are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. 25 In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; 26 and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; 27 and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21.27).

Conclusion

The scriptures examined above seem to indicate two different things regarding an individual and the Book of Life. One one hand, they seem to indicate every person begins life with his name in the Book of Life (Exodus 32.33; Deuteronomy 29.20; Psalm 69.28; Revelation 3.5). But on the other hand, two scriptures seem to indicate that the names of the lost are not recorded (Revelation 13.8, 17.8). What is correct? This is a matter in which is difficult if not impossible to reach a firm conclusion. The best course is to simply have to leave it in the Lord’s hands. The important thing is to know one’s name is there. One can know that his name is in the Book of Life by trusting in Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Those who have chosen not to believe Paul’s gospel will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ with their works and their own righteousness to commend themselves to God rather than on Christ’s work and His righteousness.

The Scriptures call the Book of Life the Lamb’s Book of Life (Revelation 13.8, 21.27). Thus, it is the Lord Jesus Christ’s book. He is the source of all life (John 1.4) and He gives life to whomever His wishes (John 5.21). All judgment is under His authority (John 5.22; Revelation 1.17-18). The greatest comfort one can have in this life is to know that his name is in the Book of Life.

1 The word “anti” ἀντί carries the senses of “against” and “in place of.” The Antichrist will be against Christ. But more, he will be in place of Christ. His whole program on earth will be to deceive humanity into believing that he is the Messiah sent from God (Matthew 24.24). This period of time will be the zenith of Satan’s deception and power to rule the world. The whole world will worship Satan and the Beast (Revelation 13.3-4, 8).

©2013 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.


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30 Responses to The Book of Life

  1. This is wonderful but there was no q&a which I love….

  2. Theresa says:

    So when you say the whole world will worship the anti Christ… At that point all the believers are no longer on earth?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Theresa,
      A few believers will be present although most will be martyred as soon as they believe (cf. Revelation 7.13-14). God will also protect the 144,000 Jews sealed by God as witnesses. God will also protect 1/3 of the Jews in Israel who flee to the mountains as Jesus commanded them in Matthew 24 (cf. Zechariah 13.7-9). This is a case where “all” means the vast majority–probably about 99.9%.

  3. Joe says:

    First, I appreciate your articulation of the gospel each time you reference I Cor 15:1-4.

    Second, I appreciate your time. This site must take a lot of time. If you don’t mind me asking, how do you support yourself? Gifts?

    ….if I understand he sin issue…it’s settled! If we read Rev 20 it says the unsaved are judged for their deeds….not sins. I’m I reading/understanding that correctly?

    Joe

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      I am able to support doctrine.org through my labor. I have low overhead. Yes, John makes no mention of sin.

  4. Joe says:

    A follow up comment/question if I may…

    If it’s mid 50’s- mid 60’s A D and I’m an unsaved Jew alive in Asia Minor and I’ve heard Paul preach the Gospel of Grace and I’m considering it and then I hear of a letter that John has sent over from Patmos about ‘overcoming”…what am I to think?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      Difficult to understand. God’s judgment did not fall on the nation until 70 A.D. So, theoretically, the nation could have repented. But the die was cast with the stoning of Stephen. God knew they wouldn’t repent. Paul expected the Lord to come for the Church in his lifetime. Theoretically, Nero could have been the Antichrist. Theoretically, John the B. could have been Elijah. Many questions about the 7 Jewish assemblies. Who were they? Why did the Lord address Jewish assemblies in Asia Minor and not in Israel? Just have to wait and ask the Lord when He comes.

  5. jim says:

    You say 2/3 of Jews will be saved? I read Zechariah 13:8 saying 2/3 would be struck down and perish and 1/3 will be refined by fire. Am I understanding this right?

  6. Tom says:

    Hi Don,
    Thank you for your article on the book of life. Have you any comments on how (or if) this book has any connection to the tree of life that we see on several occasions through Scripture?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Tom,
      I do not find a correspondence between the book of life and the tree of life. One provides healing to the nations and the other contains the record of one’s salvation.

  7. Don,

    Thanks for your hard work. Regarding the passages in Revelation, I might offer a couple of solutions.

    In Revelation 13:8 I am going to suggest that it is the “lamb slain since the foundation of the world,” not that their names were not written since the beginning of beginnings. God’s plan for the slaying of the lamb can be seen throughout the Scriptures, even from Abel’s sacrifice from the firstborn of the flock, Genesis 4:4, and a few other passages that tell of the eternal nature of the plan for salvation in Jesus.

    With regard to Revelation 17:8 a different condition may apply. Notice relative clause “whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world.” This clause gives more information about those who dwell on the earth, needed to distinguish them from other earth-dwellers at the time. In the time of Revelation 17, near the end of the Great Tribulation, the second half of the final seven of Daniel’s seventy, the earth dwellers are both human and angelic, the fallen angels having been cast down to earth, Revelation 12:7-9. These earth-dwellers are namely those whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. This may indeed apply to fallen angels, as Matthew 25:41 at least alludes to a prior judgment of those fallen ones.

    I hope this serves as food for thought.

    In Christ Alone,

    Mark

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Mark,
      Thank you. Good points. There are several exegetical issues. The Greek word order of Revelation 13.8 suggests your reading. But does 1 Peter 1.19-20 correspond to this? It reads, πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, while Revelation 13.8 reads ἀπὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου. Thus, “before” vs. “from”. As for Revelation 17.8, the subject appears to be “inhabitants” or “those” yet τὸ ὄνομα is singular. But if the subject is the “beast,” a singular noun τὸ ὄνομα fits. Thus, we would have a rendering something like, “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth will be astonished when they see the beast, the name not having been written in the book of life from the creation of the world, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.” I have not done sufficient study of these passages to come to a definite view.

  8. Bruce W says:

    Don,

    Do any of these passages speak of predestination? Romans 9 tells us God created vessels of honor and dishonor. What I’m getting at is as harsh as this sounds to many apparently not everyone created was intended to be saved. Another words, their names were never written in the book of life from the fountain of the world.

    And was Not the Egyptian pharoh a type of AntiChrist? A vessel of dishonor? God hardened his heart so he couldn’t repent so his name was never written in the book of life?

    And aren’t demons, the the disembodied spirits of the nephilim who were the offspring of fallen angels and humans already here? Which by the way we see increasing activity by these entities in these last days and Revelation alludes to these entities during the tribulation as being out of control. Christ cast many of these demons out of people while he walked the earth. And since they were never intended to exist, their names are not and would not ever be found the book of life.

    In just throwing this stuff out for general discussion. Thanks for any and all insight.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Bruce,
      Paul wrote of predestination (προορίζω) with regard to believers. In wrote believers are predestined to a position. My article, Predestination, may be helpful. Apart from God’s grace and mercy we are all “fitted for destruction.” Many years ago someone handed me a tract. On the outside it read, “What do I have to do to go to hell?” On the inside it was blank.

  9. Raymond Armstrong says:

    What then are the comparisons and contrasts between the Book of Lives and the Book of Life? Do they amount to the same thing?
    Is everyone recorded in the Book of the Living before the foundation of the World (Psalm 139) if so is their place in the Book of Life conditional on them believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation i.e. they obtain everlasting life while those who do not believe are deleted forever ( their names are not found written in the Book of Life)

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Raymond,
      I don’t think one can make an ironclad Scriptural case when names are written in the book of life or lives (same thing). What one can state categorically is that all who respond to God’s plan of salvation (in whatever age) will be in the book.

  10. Dee says:

    The main point that most people miss it’s the fact that Jesus nor the Apostles were christians they were Jews every born again believer must be converted to being a Jew spiritually in order to be saved The most high God knows no Christian, Christianity come from the Catholic Church

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Dee,
      Christian is a Biblical word, not a Roman Catholic word. See Acts 11.26. The term “Christian” evolved into meaning anyone who was a follower of Christ. This was long before the Roman Catholic Church existed. The Most High God knows all who have placed their trust in Him. Today, this is done by believing Paul’s gospel, 1 Corinthians 15.1-4. Salvation is by faith in Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection.

  11. Jim Borley says:

    Great exposition, Don; you and I are at 100% agreement doctrinally. In the section on Revelation 17:8 it is said: “And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder…” What is your thought on who these ‘dwellers’ are? Since ALL human names are recorded in the book of the living from the beginning until they are blotted out for unbelief at death, whom is being addressed here who are still alive and wondering? As you know there are a bunch of theories and conjectures bantered about as to their identity, even being other than human in origin and design. I try to stick with traditional (sane) opinions but this one really picks at the imagination. Keep up the good work in your needed ministry. Jimms

  12. Joe says:

    Thinking ‘outside the box’ and not necessarily related to the above question I’m wondering if angels have the ability to reason. Can you site any passages that suggest that angels are rational beings? I was taught the GUAM time line….God,Universe,Angels, Man. Is it possible that rational man is an extension of an irrational form of creature that was incapable of understanding the consequences of their actions? Satan, the leader, ‘ordered’ many of those he led to act. They did. God condemned Satan and those he led. Satan plead that even beings with free will and foreknowledge of His punishment would still reject Him. To be fair and to prove Satan wrong humans were provided to settle the question.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      Sure. Angels sing, praise God, act as protectors, warriors, messengers, examine the Scriptures, etc. They have wills. They are rational beings. Lots of verses reveal this. We have no evidence Satan ordered angels to act in the way they did. Man was created in the image of God. Man has mind, will, emotion, etc. because he is a reflection of God Himself. God’s proof in His case against Satan is that even man in his fallen state will choose God. By this means He will resolve the problem of evil and defeat the angelic conflict.

  13. Joe says:

    Good answer. Thank you.

    I’ve noticed over the years that ‘smart’ people (B.F. Skinner, Margaret Mead types) who argue against the existence of freewill are always non-believers? I think it boils down to them wanting to believe that Jesus Christ did not choose to go to the cross….

    Just an observation/not a question.

  14. Wayne Sheffield says:

    is the book of life in the mind of god or a litteral book

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Wayne,
      It is a literal record. The text says, “books were opened” and records were “written” (Revelation 20.12, 15).

  15. Brandon says:

    Hi mister Don,

    Awesome article once again. I really appreciate the effort you put into all of this and thank God for you.

    One question: does revelation 22:19 imply a christian can lose salvation?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Brandon,
      It’s a difficult verse but think the warning is for those who will go through the Tribulation. Revelation 22.18 seems to provide support for this explanation. We do not really know what is meant by how one can add or take away from the book. How would one do this today? Those who go through the Tribulation can lose salvation if they take the mark of the Beast and worship him. This is why Jesus warned them to overcome and endure till the end. It may be that during this period an attempt will be made to tamper with the book to deceive the world that the Beast is the Messiah. For those who have believed Paul’s gospel, our salvation is certain. It cannot be lost.

  16. Brandon says:

    Hi mister Don,

    I think I understand.

    The Body of Christ already has eternal life and wont be present in the tribulation, so to receive the plagues mentioned in the book you would have to be present in the tribulation.

    It seems reasonable to say that it applies to those who will attempt to hinder people from believing that Jesus is the promised Messiah and everything else the book says. Especially regarding the mark of the beast.

    Thank you for your time and effort Don.

    Saludos

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