The Book of Life
An envelope arrived on my mat recently containing a form for me to sign. Had I not signed this form, my name would not have been on the electoral role, and I would then have been ineligible to vote. So, without further ado, I signed the form and posted it off in its prepaid envelope, along with the cynical thought, “If you do not vote, you cannot complain.” I wonder just how many other lists our names get onto which we do not know about...
The Register of the Kingdom of Heaven
Did you know that Almighty God has a list of the names of those who are eternally saved? The evidence for the existence of this list is widespread in the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples in Luke 10:20, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In Philippians 4:8 Paul wrote of “Clement and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the book of life.” Hebrews 12:23 mentions “the assembly of the first-born whose are enrolled in heaven”, and in the book of Revelation there are frequent references to “the Lamb’s book of life”. Revelation 20:15, for instance, reads formidably: “If any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”. And Revelation 21:17 says, concerning the glorious city of God, that “nothing unclean shall enter it ... But only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
What then do these verses mean? Especially, to what do the references to lists of names refer? The Bible, remember, was written in an Eastern setting and culture, somewhat removed from our own. With this in mind, one writer explains that, in the ancient world,
It was customary to have registers of citizenship, in which were entered the names of citizens, both natural and adopted. Heaven is represented as a city, and its inhabitants are registered. Some, who have not yet reached the city, are regarded as citizens on their way home. Their names are registered with the others... Manners and Customs of the Bible, James Freeman
The “Book of Life” then refers to the roster of believers in all ages. If we truly belong to Jesus, our names are in the book of life, for it is Jesus alone who bestows on us the gift of eternal life – “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23). The most important question of all therefore is: “Is your name written in the book of life?” On this theme, another commentator is most helpful when he elucidates:
This ‘Book of Life’ ... is the register of the kingdom of heaven, wherein are enrolled the names of all the elect ... For the Scripture, employing frequently things of earth in order to represent to our minds the things of heaven, compares the list of the people of God, whom He has chosen from eternity, and marked as His elect, to a register, in which the names of all the citizens of a town are enrolled. I confess that to us this book is shut up and sealed. God knows those that are His, but will not manifest them fully until that day when the books shall be opened ... But meanwhile we may judge ... With modesty and charity, by the actions of men, and hold as the elect of God, as citizens of the new Jerusalem, truly enrolled in its register, those who display in their lives the marks of Divine adoption, such as faith, obedience, love, holiness, perseverance and other graces.Revelation, G.B. Wilson
The Eternal Register
The Bible then says that God has a book, and if we are saved, it is because our names have been written in this book in eternity past – “written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (Rev 17:8). It is God alone who decides who is written in this book – salvation is His sole prerogative – and yet, if we believe in Jesus, we can be sure that our names have been written there, for those chosen by God in eternity past, will surely and certainly come to faith in Christ in time, and so spend all eternity in God’s heavenly city, saved by his grace. Acts 13:48 tells us: “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” That is, all those enrolled for eternal salvation came to faith in Christ in due time:
Loved with everlasting love,
Led by grace that love to know.
The Register of the Lamb who was Slain
Notice carefully that Revelation 13:8 describes the book of life as “the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.” It shows that the book of life is the list of the redeemed, for the Lamb speaks of redemption. In Old Testament times Israel was redeemed from slavery in Egypt because an innocent lamb was slain and its blood applied. John 1:29 proclaims that the Lord Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Calvary could not be more central and integral to the Divine revelation and the saving purposes of God. He has his elect for sure. Yet these elect will only dwell with God in heaven because he sent his own Son to die for their sins. In the unthwartable purpose of God, he will then irresistibly draw his elect to the foot of the cross, and enable them to put their trust in the Lamb of Calvary – the Lamb slain to take away our sins and render us fit for a place in the eternal city of heaven.
The question then, in closing, is begged. Do you belong to Jesus? Are you numbered among those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? Is your name written in the book of life?
Is yours named written there
In the Lamb’s book of Life?
when you Leave this old world
With its sin and its strife?
Will you find your name there
‘Mongst the ransomed of God
In the Lambs book of Life
Through the Lamb’s precious blood.
Let me ask you again
Is your name written there?
Will you be in heaven’s bliss?
Or in endless despair?
You have nothing e to do
But the Saviour accept
But woe unto you
If His name you reject.