“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life …” (Revelation 20:12)
The debate between “election” (predestination) and “free will” continues with no satisfactory resolution on either side (See my article “Somewhere in the Middle”), and no clear winner. What we can know for certain is that at the final judgment, any remaining doubts will be assuaged. In the final scene before the “new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1) are revealed, John says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life … And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12,15, emphasis added).
John saw that “the books were opened.” Clearly this thorough examination includes more than one book, and one might wonder what these might be. I believe that “the books” are the journals of the life of every individual ever created by God. The psalmist says, “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm 139:15-16). Jesus said that “the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:30). In another psalm the psalmist says, “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8). Every detail of our lives is recorded in these books: every stray thought, every word, every act whether good or bad. Sadly, the vast majority of people, from every religion including Christianity, live their lives believing that in the end, when the books are opened and examined, their good acts will outweigh the bad and gain them entrance into heaven. (See my article “Near Death.”)
Included in “the books” that will be opened is the Bible, I believe. In any court trial, the accused is judged according to a written standard – the law. Regardless of the overall good conduct of the accused, the judgment passed reflects the violation of an absolute standard. So it shall be at the final judgment. Each individuals life’s journal will be measured against God’s ultimate standard. At that final judgment it is possible, though highly unlikely, that one or maybe even two individuals lived almost flawless lives except for maybe one “indiscretion.” The Bible says, “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).
So much for getting in on one’s own merits! But wait! One book remains unexamined – the Book of Life! Considering the court scene above, a human judge has the authority to extend mercy to the accused especially if the person has otherwise been law-abiding. So, the Book of Life is opened and the roll call begins, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). In this court, if one has “yet offended in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Justice has been done, the verdict rendered, and there is no appeal.
We yet wait that final judgment, but it approaches nearer every day. Those whose names are written in the Book of Life know it without a doubt. The Apostle Paul alludes to this when he says, “And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3, emphasis added).
Those not in that camp want to know how to inscribe their names in the Book of Life. I have a theory, albeit somewhat unorthodox, but I think I can support it scripturally. I believe that every person born, with some exceptions, is recorded in the Book of Life. That is why the Bible can claim that “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis added). Every person alive can receive eternal life through repentance and acceptance of God’s grace-gift of salvation by the atoning work of Christ on the cross. But when one rejects God’s offer of salvation, God blots out his name from the Book of Life. I arrive at this conclusion from Moses’ intercession for his people, Israel. “And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book” (Exodus 32:31-33, emphasis added). Whoever thinks he can do as he pleases, “saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 29:19-20, emphasis added). Messianic Psalm 69 describes the suffering Savior on the cross, and as He cries out to God for vindication He says, “Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (Psalm 69:27-28). Note that in these examples, the evildoers are written in “the book of the living” or the Book of Life. They must necessarily be in the book before they can be blotted out.
It seems that there comes a time, after an individual rejects God’s offer of salvation for the last time, that his name is removed from the Book of Life while he yet lives. During the time of the Great Tribulation, those whose names have been blotted out from the Book of Life while still living will readily accept the Anti-Christ and worship him. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, emphasis added).
“The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Revelation 17:8, emphasis added). Earlier I mentioned some exceptions to the rule that every person to ever live being recorded in the Book of Life, and this is it. Apparently, there are some born that were never intended to be born, so their names are not recorded in the Book of Life. God knows, and God has His reasons which we cannot know. I have some thoughts about this that I cannot get into at this time. But generally speaking, everyone living has their name written in the Book of Life, unless they have ultimately rejected God’s offer of salvation. Those who know that their names are permanently inscribed in the Book of Life are secure in that knowledge. Those who don’t know or are unsure have the opportunity to have their names indelibly sealed by accepting God’s gift of Salvation. For those of us who have loved ones that are lost, while they yet live we have hope that they can be saved. So we should pray for them incessantly that their names be not blotted out of the Lambs Book of Life. The issue is not getting in, but staying in the Book of Life, and that is a choice every individual must make.