What is the Lamb's Book of Life?

What is the Lamb's Book of Life?

Question
What is the Lamb's Book of Life?
Answer
From the outset let me say that while we know quite a lot about the Lamb’s Book of Life (LBL), we don’t know everything. Also, there is more than one "book of life" mentioned in the Bible. For instance, there was an Old Testament book of life that was a register of citizens in Israel (Exod. 32:31-33; cf. Psa. 69:28; Isa. 4:3) and, of note, it was possible to be blotted out of this book. There was a book in which the days of a man’s life are ordained and written (Psa. 139:16; cf. Heb. 9:27), and there also appears to be a book of deeds (Rev. 20:12; cf. Dan. 7:10). However, none of these books seems to be the Lamb’s Book of Life (LBL).

The LBL is a book in which believers’ names were (past tense) inscribed from the foundation of the world. It is a complete list of all who are saved and those that shall be saved. It lists all those given to Jesus by God the Father (cf. John 6:37, 39; 10:29; 17:6, 9, 12, 24; 18:9). So, the LBL is another way to describe God’s elect (Eph. 1:4): heaven’s roll call for the inhabitants of the new heavens and new earth (Heb. 12:22-23) and of which John wrote, "But 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. 21:7).

The LBL contains a definite number of people. Before the Fall, Adam was instructed to be fruitful and multiple and fill the earth with the then unfallen seed of God (Gen. 1:28). Even though we are presently in a momentary pause because of the Adam’s Fall and our own sin, ultimately each and every one of those pre-Fall seeds are the elect and will be in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:27; cf. Isa. 14:26-27; 46:9-10; Dan. 4:35; Eph. 1:11). Of course, after the Fall, Eve became the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20), and the non-elect, or Satan’s seed (Gen. 3:15), came into existence. They will have no part in this blessing.

The LBL holds the names of the elect from "the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matt. 24:31). The number is absolutely certain. The number cannot and will not be changed (cf. John 6:39) and contains all written there "before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain" (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; cf. Phil. 4:3).

Since this number was predetermined and specific names were written from before the foundation of the world, God doesn’t add a name when one is saved. Rather, one is saved because God has already inscribed their name in his book well before they even existed. Therefore, it should be apparent that no one deserves to have their names written in the LBL. No one ever earns a place in this book. It is by grace alone that any are in the book. And God has not seen fit to state who and who isn’t in the LBL.

The Lamb of God too was also foreknown before the foundation of the world! (1 Pet. 1:20). And he was predestined to die by "the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:22-23; 4:27-28) for this same elect seed.

Because of Revelation 3:5 some maintain that a person’s name may be removed from the LBL.

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.

However, this verse doesn’t appear to be referring to the possibility of losing one’s salvation. First, Revelation 3:1 speaks of the people at Sardis as having a "reputation" (or "name,"NASB, NKJV, KJV) for "being alive." So, in context Revelation 3:5 would seem to point to the fact that those who don’t overcome will lose any hope of an otherwise noble position in the consummation of God’s kingdom. They are saved, but will experience dishonor at the last day; that is, God’s "fire will test what sort of work each one has done" (cf. 1 Cor. 3:11-13). So, this doesn’t speak of the forfeiture of salvation, but rather of the loss of a certain quality of eternal life that otherwise could have been attained and enjoyed.

In addition, Revelation 3:5 is a promise and not a threat. It is the assurance that those who overcome will never be blotted out of LBL. It says the one who conquers will be clothed in white and refers to these being the garments of overcomers (Rev 2:7; cf. Zech.3:5-6; Rev. 7:14). White symbolizes holiness, purity, righteousness, or joy (Rev.7:9, 13-14; cf. 2 Chron. 5:12; Psa. 51:7; Eccl. 9:8; Isa. 1:18; Dan. 7:9; 11:35; 12:10; Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:3; 16:5; Luke 9:29; Acts1:10; Rev. 1:12-14; 3:4; 3:18; 6:11; 19:8, 14; 20:11). These garments are the righteous deeds of the saints (Rev. 19:8). These conquerors have their names confessed before God the Father and his angels (Matt.10:32; Luke 2:8; 2 Tim 2:12).

But who are these conquerors? There are at least two texts in the Book of Revelation that assist in telling us who these saints are.

Revelation 13:8: And all who dwell on earth will worship it [the beast, Rev 13:3-4], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
This means that those whose names are written in the LBL from before the foundation of the world will not worship the beast. So, having your name in the book of life speaks of God working in his people according to his good pleasure (cf. Phil. 2:13) as well as the elect's faithfulness in doing such (cf. Luke 10:20; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23).

Revelation 17:8: The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
Those whose names are written in the book of life from the foundation of the world (the elect) will not marvel at the beast (cf. Eph. 1:4). So, having your name written in the LBL speaks of the Spirit-given ability to discern what is and is not from God.

In both these texts, God is seen protecting his people by keeping them secure in his book of life (Rev. 13:5; cf. Isa.49:16). The promise of "I will not erase his name" contains no mention of the names of the truly saved ever being erased. It's an assurance that they will not be.

Moreover, the book of life (Rev. 3:5) is in contrast to the books (plural) of judgment of the non-elect (Rev. 20:12-13; cf. Dan. 12:1-2; 7:10-14). Unbelievers are never identified positively with the book of life! In John's thinking it would be impossible to envision the elect being erased from the book of life, because their names were put there since the foundation of the world. They are part of God’s decree! The saint’s perseverance is real because it is God-given (cf. Rom. 8:35-39), and they overcome "by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death" (Rev. 12:11; cf. John 16:33; Rom 8:37; 1 John 2:13).

One of the elements of true saving faith is that it perseveres (cf. Rom. 8:35-39; Phil. 2:13; cf. Eph. 1:5; Heb. 13:21). Any hint of salvation without perseverance is not genuine salvation (cf. 1 John 2:19). Overcoming or conquering is what perseverance looks like!

Among the references to churches in the Book of Revelation, conquering is spoken of in positive terms (cf. Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26-27; 3:12, 21). Only "the dwellers on earth" (Rev. 13:8. 17:8), or the reprobate (see below), worship the beast. So, being in the LBL means one won’t and can’t apostatize (cf. Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22), because no matter the trial, God strengthens his people and keeps them (cf. Matt. 24:22).

Again, Jesus never says that anyone will be erased from the LBL. Rather, he says the conquerors will not be erased. This is a statement of assurance and not meant to be understood that someone could ever lose their salvation.

Saints, rejoice that your names are written in heaven! (Luke 10:20).

Related Topics

What is Reprobation?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).