A Question I Was Asked:

Can You Explain The Book of Life? Can We Be Blotted Out Of It?

What is the explanation of names written in Lamb's book of life from the foundation of the world? Can the names be written today and taken out today, or later. How about Revelations 17:8? Are some soul destined for damnation? Are there two sets of Books in Rev. 20:12? Thanks.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Wow - that's quite a lot of questions! Nevertheless, I have decided to give this set of questions a comprehensive reply.

Okay. Revelation 17:8 states this:

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 whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.

So, from this, it would appear that those whose names appear in The Book of Life written from the foundation of the world will understand how Satan is able to organise worldly events through the power of the Beast. Others will not comprehend, whether they have been taught false teachings, including atheism, or for some other reason. Nevertheless, it has not been granted to them to fully understand at the present time. Now let us consider Revelation 20:12:

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.

'The books' (rather than 'The Book of Life') seems to be a reference to a divine record existing in Heaven right now of what every living soul upon this earth has done during their lifetimes. So we have mention here of two books, or perhaps we should say, a Book of Life, and a group of books which exist in Heaven. Unpalatable though it might be for some, there is no question that those who will be saved from this world are entered into The Book of Life: I mean, those names are already entered! This is so, even if some of those people have not even been born yet! That might seem strange to some but God is not like us and we must consider the following plain teaching:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment - to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:4-14; NIV throughout).

Now, humanly speaking, it might seem that those in The Book of Life are only entered therein because of the behavioural record to be found in 'the books,' but plainly that is not so. God works differently to the way we might work. He has already decided, or elected, even from the foundation of this world, who is in The Book of Life! He foreknew us (Romans 8:29-30). Don't forget that our God has past, present and future always before Him! However, He did not elect us because He saw we would be "good," that is unbiblical.

My questioner also asks, "are some destined for damnation?" Actually that concept is not biblical but came from the later Calvinism. The Bible only ever teaches the predestination to Eternal Life. Those who do not enter into Eternal Life do indeed 'earn' their own failure to enter therein. So eternal separation from God can, it would appear, be 'earned,' but salvation cannot be earned, it is only according to grace. We must keep this correct biblical distinction because many do not. Neither are we saved by how "good" we have been, we are only saved through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, imputed to us through grace and faith.

However, on a few occasions the Bible does seem to hint that there will be a lower level salvation to come later for others. The earlier Ephesians quote mentions those who have been believers during the present time and age as, "the first to put our hope in Christ" - this begs the question, 'who will be the later ones?'Elsewhere we are described as the "firstfruits" (Revelation 14:4), but when was there ever a 'firstfruits' of a crop without a 'latter fruits' to come later!? We know little about this because the New Testament wants us to currently focus on broadcasting the Gospel to all during this present age. Also note that in Revelation 20:12 which we just looked at, when a consideration of "the books" might have led to condemnation, the Book of Life is also opened. Nobody entered therein will be condemned. For sure, our God is a God of mercy and forgiveness, not a God who will happily torment millions for eternity as some like to teach.

The Bible also seems clear that most will finally be saved. Consider the following:

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:15-17).

Rather than the teaching one so often hears that most are on a one-way track to hell, this emphasizes that the work of Christ upon the cross means that Christ will be the great victor and Saviour of mankind. Christ will be the great conqueror, He won't 'come in a valiant second.' Yet the pessimistic approach to salvation which Augustine inherited from Manichaeism taught that hell will be the final destination of most of the human race. Obviously if that were so, Christ would not be the great conqueror of Satan and his evil ways. As Neil Punt has written:

The leading early church fathers taught that the "good news" was that almost all persons will be saved (Origen 185 - 254 AD) or that all persons will be saved except those who reject the salvation that had already been given to them (Athanasius (293 - 373 AD). The early church accepted such inclusive views of the plan of salvation for a period of more than 350 years immediately following the writing of the New Testament....A change only came in the later part of the fourth century when Pelagius (about 350 - 418 AD) began to teach that all persons will be finally lost except those who live in obedience to the law of God, following the example of Christ. Augustine (354 - 430 AD) taught that all will be lost except those who were chosen (elected) to salvation. Ever since then, the mainline theologians have mainly followed their example...

Augustine's more gloomy view of salvation went straight into the 'western philosophy/theology' of both Roman Catholicism and evangelicalism. In contrast, even today Eastern Orthodox theology continues to be much more 'open' on salvation. For a fuller, and more detailed view of evangelical inclusivism go here.

Okay, I have digressed a bit but to get back to the main questions:

1. The Book of Revelation teaches both a Book of Life (in which the saved are already entered; this is according to God's grace, such people cannot 'earn' a place).

2. Revelation also reveals a group of 'books,' which detail how many of the unsaved (and maybe those to be saved later) have lived their lives. The Bible states that they will be judged, but does not say they will all be condemned. Those who finally lose out on salvation never wanted it in all probability; these are unrepentant scoffers, atheists and perverters of the truth; also people who have lived their lives in gross wickedness and evil. Not merely sinful under temptation, they have chosen evil as a way of life. They will have earned their place outside of the mercies of God, but they were never 'predestined' for hell, they 'earned' it.

3. To reiterate: those saved right now are not saved because of their works but because of divine, eternal election. These people are not perfect but are under grace, when they do wrong they are punished but not taken out of the Lamb's Book of Life. The Bible contains many examples of the lives of these people, such as Abraham, Ruth, David, Rahab, Daniel, Elijah, Samson and many, many others. They are saved because they are under election, not because of their own 'righteousness.'

4. Those saved at the present time have been through the 'furnace' of living through an age when Satan was active, possibly some will have a higher place of salvation because of this for the Bible does reveal a grading of the saved. None are saved but for the grace and unmerited kindness of God, nevertheless, the saved will have different positions in His kingdom. The Bible does reveal this on several occasions, the parable of the talents, for example.

5. As already noted, the Bible - on a few occasions - does suggest that others too will finally be saved, though possibly at a lower level. For sure, any finally saved are only able to be saved because of Christ's work upon the cross and God's grace, but God being God He is able to set His hand and save wherever He wills. Because He is a supremely merciful God, I believe He will do this.

Now two final questions which could be raised about all of this...

1. But Can We Be 'Blotted Out' of the Book of Life?

As we have seen, everyone destined for salvation was chosen before the foundation of the world. Ephesian 1:4 and Revelation 17:8 confirm that the Book of Life was written before the foundation of the world. But what about Revelation 3:5?

The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.

Strangely, some read this as a possibility that one could be taken out of the Book of Life, yet this verse actually says that cannot happen, so why consider it a possibility?

So God denies that he will blot out names from The Book of Life. Yet in Exodus 32:33 we read this:

The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book."

However, we don't know which 'book' this is, or whether this is merely a statement to deter evil-doing under the Old Covenant. Maybe it is theological accomodationism, that is, a statement in which the Lord uses a more human approach and human reasoning in order to help us understand better. Finally, Psalm 69:28 also states the following:

May they be blotted out of the book of life, and not be listed with the righteous.

But here the Psalmist was writing of people who probably were never in The Book of Life. In any case, this is a statement of anger and emotion and not a statement of biblical doctrine.

So these Old Testament texts do not indicate that an elect person can be blotted out. No elect person can ever be blotted out of the book. And in fact, Moses asked God to blot him out for the sake of the Israelites who had sinned, and God said no; He would not blot Moses out (Exodus 32:32-33). The bottom line is that God predestines the elect in love, and with the purpose that they praise his glorious grace (Ephesians 1:4-6). As a full and complete confirmation that those in The Book of Life will never be blotted out from it simply read Romans 8 in its entirety.

2. But Doesn't The 'Straight and Narrow Gate' Scripture (Matthew 7:13-14) Teach That Few Can Be Saved?

Only when it is misapplied. That Scripture is a description of this world as a current reality in which many reject God. The disciples, who may have anticipated that the great majority would accept the Gospel, were warned that many - the majority - would reject their message, however, that is not - and cannot be - an eternal truth in the light of several Scriptures including Romans 5:15-17 which we looked at earlier.

The Bible is clear that Jesus Christ will ultimately be the great victor and conqueror - not Satan, it does not teach that our Saviour 'tried his very hardest' but could only come in as a 'valiant second' to Satan, since His very best was never quite good enough!' How amazing it is that some believers teach this!

In this, I stand by the earliest Christian teaching of the 'church fathers,' a teaching which began to be lost from the time of Augustine. Note the following:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11).

Compare this picture of the complete triumph of Christ with the comment of a leading Canadian evangelical who stated a few years ago that he believed that millions would be in hell for eternity but probably "completely free to go on sinning!" Yes, he stated this in all sincerity! Where would be the final complete victory of Christ in that? And notice that the final complete victory of Christ extends to those "under the earth." (Philippians 2:10).

Also, Jesus warned the disciples that they were in danger of misunderstanding the 'camel and eye of a needle' scripture:

Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:24-28).

Jesus was saying, 'look, fortunately this whole thing is from God and in His hands. With Him all things are possible! He chided them when He noted they were developing a gloomy view of just who can and will be saved; this is very important to note. Other Scriptures worth noting in this connection are Romans 14:11, Colossians 1:20 and Isaiah 45:23-24.

One final point to note is that the Book of Revelation describes those who are finally redeemed as "a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language..." (Revelation 7:9-10), this can be contrasted with Calvinism's old view that few will finally be redeemed, with the great majority "doomed" to destruction in hell!

Robin A. Brace. December 14th, 2014.

See Also:
Where Are the Scriptures to Show the Wideness of Jesus' Atonement?