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The Books of Life (Sermon Notes)

The Books of Life (Sermon Notes)

What is the Book of Life? Is it different from the Lamb’s Book of Life? The Bible mentions being blotted out of the Book of Life, does this mean I can lose my salvation.

These are important questions. 1st, there is more than one Book of Life mentioned in the Bible and they are different. There is one from which your name can be blotted out but it is not the Lamb’s Book of Life. Let’s look.

Several places in Scripture refer to God’s “book” (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 56:8; 69:28; Daniel 7:10; 12:1; Revelation 13:8; 20:15). In His infinite knowledge, God does not need a written record in order to keep track of human deeds. However, when He speaks to us, He often uses metaphor or parable to help us understand (Mark 4:33). As Malachi presented God’s words to the people, they would have understood what a book of remembrance represented. The kings of Persia kept such books, records of those who had rendered service to the king, that those servants might be rewarded. The book of Esther contains a good example of this (Esther 6:1–3).

 

There was an Old Testament “book of life.”

There are a couple Old Testament references to Books of Life. There is a Theocratic Book of Life AND a Book of the Living.

In the OT one of the “books of life” was a register of the citizens of the theocratic community of Israel. To have one’s name written in this book of life implied the privilege of participation in the temporal blessings of the theocracy, while to be erased or blotted out of this book meant exclusion from those blessings. In other words, this book had reference to the rights of citizenship for the Jewish people (cf. Ex. 32:32; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3).

“So Moses returned to the Lord and said, ‘Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin – but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.’ But the Lord said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book’” (Exod. 32:31-33).

There is also a Book of the Living. Psalm 69:28: “Let them [David’s enemies] be blotted out of the book of the living.” This “book of the living” should not be confused with the Lamb’s Book of Life. David is referring to earthly, physical life, not eternal life in heaven.

 

It is entirely possible that the books mention by Moses and David are the same book but they certainly appear to be different and I tend to think that they are.

God has several  “books” and it is clear that not all of them are the Lamb’s book of life.

The concept of a “book” was also used to portray God’s all-inclusive decree; that is to say the very days of one’s life are ordained and written in God’s “book” before one of them occurs:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them” (Ps. 139:16).

But this does not appear to be the same as the Lamb’s Book of Life .

Further there is a Book of Remembrance which was written down in the sight of God. Malachi 3:16 “ Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name.” This book may be looking forward to the Lamb’s Book of Life or it may be the book itself (Fearing the Lord and honoring His Name being part of our salvation). In either case, it will most certainly be one of the books which are opened at both judgments, the Bema Seat and the Great White Throne.

 

There is also the notion of “books” of judgment in which are recorded men’s deeds. They serve as that by which or from which one shall be judged:

“And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done” (Rev. 20:12; cf. Dan. 7:10).

Again, however, this is not the same thing as believers having their names inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world. In the case of the Great White Throne, the books are the record of the deeds of the damned. Having not come to Christ for salvation, there is no chance of acquittal of the charge of sin and therefore these books give evidence of the justice of their damnation.

The Lamb’s book of life lists those who have been (and are to be) saved.

This particular book is what Spurgeon referred to as the Roll Call of the Elect.

On most occasions where the Lamb’s book of life is mentioned it refers to the register of those who have been chosen for salvation from eternity past. It is not temporal or earthly blessings that are in view, but participation in the eternal kingdom of God as recipients of eternal life. For example:

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect” (Heb. 12:22-23).

“But nothing unclean will ever enter it [the New Jerusalem on the New Earth], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Heaven is the most exclusive of all exclusive clubs. It isn’t really a club but that is certainly a metaphor which is easily understandable. Spurgeon’s moniker is quite apropos. This book is what is in view in the hymns “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder” and “A New Name in Glory.” We rightfully celebrate that our names our written down. The Lamb’s Book of Life is the proof that we have the privilege to inherit Christ forever.

Only the elect are written in this book.

It would appear from several texts that not all are written in this book, but only the elect. This is a very sobering reality. While we are not given a lot of information on how election works, it is clear from Scripture that the names in the book were written down before the foundation of the world (a euphemism for creation).

Earth Dwellers:

In Revelation, the terminology of “earth dwellers” or “those that dwell on the earth” is a standard designation for non-believers. These are the ones who “worship” the Beast (Rev. 13:8a). They are the ones “whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 13:8b).

To paraphrase Steven Lawson, your repentance and obedience to Christ does not cause your name to be written down, it reveals that is always has been written down.

It would appear that to be one whose name has been written down before the foundation of the world is simply another way of saying that he/she is elect (see Eph. 1:4).

You don’t believe in Jesus in order to have your name written, but because your name has been written.

People often ask: “What must one do to have his/her name written down in the Lamb’s book of life? Can someone whose name is not now written in the book do something, such as believe in Jesus, so that his/her name will be written in the book?” The answer to the first question is, nothing. The answer to the second question is, No. Names are inscribed in the book of life before the foundation of the world. This is by God’s sovereign and altogether gracious choice.  This is not to say that the Book of Life does not affect our temporal existence. You don’t believe in Jesus in order that your name will be written in the book. You believe in Jesus because your name has already been written down in the book. Each person will arrive at the point in time when God had already known that they will repent. At that moment, the Lamb’s Book of Life will bear its fruit, repentance.

The major thing to know, here, is that we have no clue, not one scintilla of an idea as to who’s name is written down. Therefore we can properly say, “Whomever wishes to come, come to Christ and be received.” No matter your position on Electing Grace, conditional or unconditional, the message is the same, “Whosoever will, let them come.” There will never be a time when we can look at a person and know that they are on the roster of the redeemed so we offer the Gospel to anyone who will receive Christ.

God has always known who would be written in the book. How that works out remains to us a mystery. Is grace irresistible and so we come or are we freed by grace and come of our own volition? Personally, it think it is both. I think the Holy Spirit frees us from the burden of sin and in so doing, Christ becomes so irresistible that we simply must have Him. Because our names are written, we want what is ours by Divine Grace, Christ Himself, our portion and treasure.

 

God has not chosen to reveal to us the names written in the Lamb’s book of life.

It is none of our business. We are not free to speculate about it. What he has revealed is the responsibility of each individual to repent and believe the gospel. If a person does not believe the gospel, he has no one to blame but himself. If he does believe the gospel, he has no one to praise but God. I realize that this is quite possibly the most challenging doctrine in the Scripture.

Quoting Spurgeon on the just damnation of the sinner: “Why is it that a man remains ungodly and does not fear God? It is because he says, “I like this drink, I like this pleasure, I like this sabbath-breaking, better than I do the things of God.” No man is saved by his own free-will, but every man is damned by it that is damned. He does it of his own will; no one constrains him. You know, sinner, that when you go away from here, and put down the cries of conscience, that you do it yourself. You know that, when after a sermon you say, “I do not care about believing in Christ,” you say it yourself—You are quite conscious of it, and if not conscious of it, it is notwithstanding a dreadful fact, that the reason why you are what you are, is because you will to be what you are. It is your own will that keeps you where you are, the blame lies at your own door, your being still in a state of sin is voluntary. You are a captive, but you are a voluntary captive. You will never be willing to get free until God makes you willing. But you are willing to be a bond slave. There is no disguising the fact, that man loves sin, loves evil, and does not love God. You know, though heaven is preached to you through the blood of Christ, and though hell is threatened to you as the result of your sins, that still you cleave to your iniquities; you will not leave them, and will not fly to Christ. And when you are cast away, at last it will be said of you, “you have lost your birthright.” But you sold it yourself. You know that the ball-room suits you better than the house of God: you know that the pot-house suits you better than the prayer-meeting; you know you trust yourself rather than trust Christ; you know you prefer the joys of the present time to the joys of the future. It is your own choice—keep it. Your damnation is your own election, not God’s; you richly deserve it.

 

None of us deserves to have his/her name written down in God’s book. We all deserve eternal damnation. The only explanation for why a hell-deserving sinner has his/her name written down in the Lamb’s book of life before the foundation of the world is because God is gracious and merciful and wishes to provide his Son with a Bride that will enjoy his glorious presence and love for eternity. Had God chosen not to inscribe anyone’s name in his book, he would have done no one an injustice.

 

What about names being blotted out?

Is it possible for someone whose name is written down to have it erased or removed? Some say yes based on Revelation 3:5 – “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.”

These point to a  particular custom in ancient Athens according to which the names of condemned criminals were erased from civic registers before their execution. The Greek word translated “to erase” (exaleiphein), “was the technical term for such degradation” . They are suggesting that  Jesus is saying that it is possible for a sinning, unrepentant Christian (such as were many at Sardis) to fail to overcome or conquer and thereby to forfeit their place in the book of life. Their names, already inscribed in the book, will be erased, signifying the loss of their salvation.

As insightful as this may be, it is NOT what is in view. In the message to the Church at Sardis, Jesus is not referring to the Lamb’s Book of Life. He is referring to the book of the living. Essentially, Jesus is saying that you will not be killed in divine judgment.

It is a logical absurdity, easily refuted by John 10:28, to suggest that a name could be blotted out from the Lamb’s Book of Life. Simply put, if eternal life can be lost, it was not eternal in the first place.

 

Several factors lead me to conclude that John does not envision the possibility of a true Christian forfeiting salvation.

We should begin by noting that all of the other promises to the “conqueror/overcomer” are coined in positive terms with no threat (implied or explicit) of losing a salvation once gained (see 2:7,11,17,26-27; 3:12,21). This isn’t to suggest that Christians can’t backslide and sin badly. The rebukes in these seven letters indicate otherwise. Nevertheless, the evidence of the reality of true saving faith is perseverance (i.e., “overcoming”; cf. 1 John 2:19).

If it is asked why this promise is couched in negative terms, the answer is obvious: Jesus couldn’t say “I will write his name in the book of life” because the names of the “overcomers” (i.e., the elect) were already written in the book from eternity past (see Rev. 13:8; 17:8). There is no indication in Scripture, least of all in Revelation, of additional names being inscribed in the book as a reward for faithfulness or perseverance. Rather, faithfulness and perseverance are the evidence or fruit of having had one’s name written in the book. Those who worship the “beast” do so precisely because their names were not written in the book in eternity past (13:8; 17:8).

The Resurrection and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit are the sign and seal of our names being written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

Jesus is the firstborn from the dead; He is the firstfruits of the resurrection to life. (Revelation 1:4 1 Corinthians 15:23)Top of Form

Bottom of Form

 

The title “firstborn of the dead” for Jesus is of great theological importance, especially with Easter in the background. The Greek word for “firstborn” that John uses is prōtotokos, a word that literally refers to birth order—the first child born. This is a concept of great significance in the Old Testament, where the firstborn son inherited his father’s place as head of the family, receiving the father’s blessing and a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17). After the Passover in Egypt, God told his people that every firstborn child was set aside as his own (Exodus 13:2), and the nation of Israel as a whole was referred to as God’s “firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22).

Because of the biblical significance attached to the concept, the word “firstborn” acquired a metaphorical sense and came to also refer to the special status of the firstborn as the preeminent son and heir. In the New Testament, Jesus is shown to be the “new Israel,” the culmination and fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all the nations through the offspring of Abraham (Galatians 3:7). Jesus fulfills the intended role of Israel as God’s faithful firstborn son in his perfect life and sacrificial death, and he is vindicated by God in his glorious resurrection.

 

Other references to Jesus as prototokos:

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. (Colossians 1:18)

When he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” (Hebrews 1:6)

“[The prophets and Moses said] that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:23)

 

In fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:20)

 

G.K. Beale explains,

John views Jesus as the ideal Davidic king on an escalated eschatological level, whose death and resurrection have resulted in his eternal kingship and in the kingship of his beloved children . . . . “Firstborn” refers to the high, privileged position that Christ has as a result of the resurrection from the dead . . . . Christ has gained such a sovereign position over the cosmos, not in the sense that he is recognized as the first-created being of all creation or as the origin of creation, but in the sense that he is the inaugurator of the new creation by means of his resurrection.

 

Because Christ was first to rise from the dead, He is the guarantee that we, who are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life will rise as well. Some will rise at the Rapture. Others will rise at the resurrection before the millennial kingdom.

 

We conclude with John 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

The everyone, in this verse, are those who are written down in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

 

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