The Bible mentions the Book of Life, but what is it? Who’s in it and who’s not and how do you get in it?
Two Books of Life?
The Bible mentions a book of life or a book of the living, so are these the same book or are they completely different? Moses’ mentions a book of life, but is it the same one that appears in the Book of Revelation? Are there two separate books of life in the Bible? If so, what’s God’s reason for having two books of life? To begin with, the Bible itself is a book of life; more specifically, how to receive eternal life as a free gift from God (Eph 2:8-9), but who has access to the book of life and how might we know we’re in it and who is not? And why does there appear to be two books of life in the Bible; one in the Old Testament and one in the New Testament? What are the differences between these two books, if they are different at all?
Old Testament Book of Life
After Moses had just received the Ten Commandments from God, “the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 32:7-8), so God told Moses, “let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (Ex 32:10), however Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf, pleading to God to “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” (Ex 32:32-33), so the first mention of a book of life is one that relates to a physical life and not necessarily eternal life. God has said, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book,” so it is God’s book (“my book”), not Moses’. Another point is Moses obviously knew about this book, telling God, “please blot me out of your book that you have written,” but notice it is God Who has written this book, not Moses, so the author of this book of life is God. The book Moses spoke about may be what the psalmist wrote about, saying, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous” (Psalm 69:28), so the book of life may be composed of everyone ever born and yet to be born, and then at death, their names are blotted out.
The Lamb’s Book of Life
The book of life is mentioned several times in the Bible, but it’s not “a” book of life, but “the” book of life or “the” book of the living, meaning, there’s only one of each. On more than one occasion, it’s called the Lamb’s Book of Life, but this book isn’t just about physical life. The Apostle John wrote a book where “everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Rev 13:8) will not receive eternal life, so clearly the book of life or the Lamb’s book of life doesn’t refer to this physical life like the one Moses wrote about, but rather, it refers to eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ. In the coming kingdom of heaven, or New Jerusalem, “nothing unclean will ever enter it, 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), so again, if you are in the Lamb’s book of life, you have eternal life and will be in the coming kingdom. The Lamb’s book of life and the book of life mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, talk about those who already have eternal life. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the church at Philippi, said, “Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life” (Phil 4:3). Undoubtedly, those in the Lamb’s book of life and the one John wrote about are one and the same book.
The Book of Life
When John writes about the book of life, clearly he is writing it within the context of salvation. In Revelation 3:5 he wrote, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” Based on this verse, some believe names can be blotted out of the book, but that’s not what it says. It says those who have trusted in Christ have their names in the book of life and will never be blotted out or erased, and a person’s name being in the book of life is vital as John wrote that “if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). Eternity is a long, long time to be wrong about Jesus Christ.
It doesn’t appear that the book of life mentioned by Moses and the psalmist, and the one written about by Apostle’s John and Paul are the same one. One concerns temporary life while the other refers to those who have eternal life through Jesus Christ. When did those in the book of life have their names put in it? It was from before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8), so God has been “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:9-10). Those in the book of life have “been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.