I am teaching a Bible study on the Book of Revelation right now. Luckily, I have a little help from Beth Moore. (Ok, a lot of help.) Yesterday in our small group we studied the letters to the 7 churches in Rev. 2 and 3. There was one idea, the Book of Life, that we were unable to get to because of time. Truth be told, I am glad we didn’t get to it; I didn’t have any helpful knowledge about it. But some had questions about it afterward, and it is such an important concept, I went home and researched it. After looking at some commentaries and bouncing ideas off my go-to Bible scholar, here are my conclusions.
Ch. 3, vs. 5, says “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.“
What is the book of life?
It is a real book that will be opened and read on the Day of Judgment (that is, the day God decides who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell). Rev. 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Verse 15 says, “And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Having our names in the book of life is our ticket to Heaven.
How do we get our names in the book of life?
Some believe the book of life is a record of all who are born. Upon death, those who are righteous retain their names in the book of life, but those who are unrighteous are blotted out of the book of life (Ps. 69:28). Others believe that only believers’ names ever get written in the book of life, and God wrote those names there before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:18, 17:8). Either way, the fact remains that the only way sinful people like us can be declared righteous is through faith in Jesus (Ro. 3:22). All who accept Christ as their Lord and Savior are deemed righteous in God’s eyes and keep/have their names written in the book of life.
Can our names ever be removed from the book of life?
In the ancient world, the concept of “blotting out” someone’s name meant to remove a dead or imprisoned person’s name from the city’s book of the living (think census). Those who believe the book of life is a record of all who are born think that, just as it was possible to have one’s name removed from the city’s book of life, an unbeliever’s name is removed from Christ’s book of life upon death. Meanwhile, those who believe God wrote only believers’ names in the book of life before the foundation of the world necessarily say that no one’s name is ever removed from the book of life.
It is important to note that Rev. 3:5 is NOT necessarily implying that he who does NOT overcome WILL have his name blotted out from the book of life. We can imply that if we choose, but it is not necessary to assume from this one verse that we can lose our salvation. In fact, reading such an implication into the text would be irresponsible Bible interpretation. What the verse is DEFINITELY saying is that those who overcome are GUARANTEED their spot in Heaven. This verse is meant to provide assurance. The names of those who overcome will be forever written in Christ’s book of life.
Can we ever lose our salvation?
Because Rev. 3:5 brings this question to mind, let’s talk about it. This article does a fabulous job of presenting clearly many scriptures that support the idea of “once saved, always saved”. There is no point in me reinventing the wheel, so have a look at it 🙂
What’s the bottom line?
A lot of smart people have differing opinions on how to interpret this verse. We are wise to consider them all for ourselves. Whatever conclusion we come to, we are also wise to discuss our opinions humbly and with an open mind, allowing the Lord to change our opinions whenever He wants to. Also, if you focus your energy on pursuing the Lord and His Word, you won’t have to ever worry about losing your salvation 🙂