The Book Of Life

Q. I have a question regarding Revelation 3:5 and the Book of Life. My pastor recently preached this verse to say that all the names of every human being who ever lived has their name written in the Book of Life, then if they die without faith in Christ, their name is blotted out. However, when I look at this verse it speaks of not blotting out names. I have always understood that the Book of Life has only ever contained the names of the elect, and that this verse assures us that we cannot lose our salvation: if we have repented of our sin and accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then we can never lose the promise of our eternity with Christ, we can never be blotted out of the Book. Can you please clarify this for me?

A. Jewish tradition holds that a person’s place in the Book of Life depends on their obedience to the Law. Each year on Rosh Hashanah the Book is reviewed and those deserving are inscribed for another year of life. Those who are not deserving have 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to right every wrong they can. If they’re successful, their names will be inscribed for another year before the book is closed on Yom Kippur. A common greeting among Orthodox Jews during that time is,”May your name be inscribed in the book.” What that means is life is only granted on a year by year basis and is dependent on obedience. Obviously this was only intended for Jews and is not meant to be universal. (Otherwise all Gentiles would die in their first year of accountability.)

Also, the context here is physical life. When Moses offered to have his name blotted out of the book to pay for the sins of the people (Exodus 32:32) he was offering to give his life to pay for their disobedience. God refused his offer but later sent His Son to accomplish a similar but much grander purpose. Jesus gave His life to pay for our disobedience. But His death didn’t didn’t simply buy us another year of physical life. Those who believe in Him won’t ever perish but will have eternal life (John 3:16). This is what He meant in Rev. 3:5 when He said He would never blot our names out of the book. We who are His never, ever, ever have to worry about having our names blotted out of the book of life, because thanks to our belief in Him we have eternal life.

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