Juggling the Books

Continuing to reflect on the reference to books recording deeds and a book of life in Revelation 20 (and elsewhere), I wonder if this isn’t simply an expression of the dual emphases in some strands of Judaism and Christianity, maintaining both divine election and human freedom. And so human beings are said to be judged according to their works, and yet their lives and choices are connected with whether their names were written in the book of life, perhaps (depending on how one translates Revelation 13:8) written there before the foundation of the world. Of course, it is still said that one’s name can be removed from the book of life (22:19), and so perhaps the author doesn’t adhere to some sort of absolute, unalterable, eternal predestination. But it is also possible that he asserts both divine sovereignty and human freedom. Even if assertion of human freedom and divine sovereignty may seem to some self-contradictory, and may perhaps in fact be a logically incoherent position, that doesn’t mean that the author of Revelation could not have held such a view, maintaining the two in tension.

What do others think? In the Book of Revelation, does the “book of life” seem more likely to represent a list of those whom God has chosen, a list of those who have faith, or simply a list of those who would be shown to be righteous at the last judgment, thus indicating divine foreknowledge?

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  • Writing billions of names longhand in a book seems like an inefficient way for a deity to keep records. If his memory alone doesn't suffice, I'd recommend an iPad and some sort of database app.Silliness aside, the book is obviously metaphorical. If the question is about John of Patmos's views on the resurrection and justification, I don't know how we'd ever figure out the answer.

  • "does the "book of life" seem more likely to represent a list of those whom God has chosen, a list of those who have faith, or.."…I vote for those who have faith. I don't go along with predestination (and therefore lack of free will) per Calvin, but lean toward Wesley. "Predestination" is more like an inheritance. Everyone knows the children of parents are going to be eligible to inherit their parent's possessions when their parents die. So they are ALL predestined. But that doesn't mean they necessarily will…a child might die before the parents, or the child might grow up to be a total jerk, and the parents disown him/her. But everyone has the potential of inheritance.

  • Jesus shows Abel to have been the first martyr and object of religious persecution waged by his intolerant brother Cain. In doing so, Jesus speaks of Abel as living at “the founding of the world.” (Lu 11:48-51) The Greek word for “world” is kosmos and in this text refers to the world of mankind. The term “founding” is a rendering of the Greek katabole and literally means “throwing down [of seed].” (Heb 11:11) By the expression “the founding of the world,” Jesus manifestly referred to the birth of children to Adam and Eve, thereby producing a world of sinful mankind. The “book of life” contains the names of God’s faithful servants “from the founding of the world,” that is, the world of redeemable mankind. Notice how the Concordant Literal version renders the verse.Rev 13:8 “And all who are dwelling on the earth will be worshiping it, everyone whose name is not written in the scroll of life of the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the world."And for a Biblical interpretation of who is written in the book, it is those who overcome.Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”How do we overcome?1 John 5:5 “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (The Faith)1 John 5:3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (The Works)How do these work together?Rev 14:12 “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Can we lose this after obtaining it?Hebrews 10:36-39 “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

  • Paul, we actually talked about that in class. Not only the computerization option, but also the question (echoing Star Trek V, at least in my mind) "What need has God of books?" So this does indeed seem to be yet another metaphor, although I realize that such a claim may reersult in widespread unemployment in the angelic bureaucracy.