What is the Lamb's Book of Life? Does it determine who will be saved?
There are several passages in the Bible that speak about the Book of Life. Some passages speak about names being written in the Book of Life, some about names not being written in the Book of Life, and some about names being blotted out of the Book of Life.
Taken together, Scripture clearly teaches that a true believer in Christ is recorded in the Book of LIfe by God's choice from before the foundations of the earth, and believers (i.e., the elect) cannot be blotted out of the Book of Life. Therefore, unbelievers are never found recorded in the Book of Life.
First, Scripture tells us that it is God gives mercy to those He chooses beforehand. There are many passages that demonstrate this, but we’ll look at only one here from Ephesians:
Eph. 1:3 "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Eph. 1:4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love
Eph. 1:5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Eph. 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.
While this passage clearly says God chose us and predestined us, it also says that He did this before the foundation of the world. Consequently, this means that believers’ names were written in the Book of Life before God made the world.
Other Scripture explicitly tells us that unbelievers are also foreknown and therefore not found in the book:
Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him [i.e., the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
Revelation 17:8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the Book of Life the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.”
Both of these passages clearly describe unbelievers as those whose name has not been written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world. Taken together, these passages can only mean that believers’ names are written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, and can never be blotted out, while unbelievers’ names are not written in the Book of Life, and therefore were never there in the first place.
Having said that, there are three passages in Scripture that refer to names being blotted out (or erased) from the Book of Life – the first from Exodus:
Ex 32:31 Then Moses returned to the Lord, and said, “Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves.
Ex 32:32 But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”
Ex 32:33 The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book., as shown below.
Notice in this passage Moses speaks of a "book," but he doesn't name the book. Given the context of the circumstances, the natural conclusion is the book of the Law. Moses is saying that if Israel is to be cut out of the covenant, then Moses offers himself to be a sacrifice in place of Israel. God confirms that any who have sinned against Him are botted out of the book of the Law.
Since the Law is not a means to salvation, God was not saying a person was being cut off from Heaven. He was saying they would be cut out of the nation Israel, since all Israel was required to abide by the covenant of the Law. Therefore, this is not an example of a name being blotted out of the Book of Life.
A second passage sometimes cited as a removal of a name from the Book of Life is from Psalms:
Psa. 69:26 For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten,
And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded.
Psa. 69:27 Add iniquity to their iniquity,
And may they not come into Your righteousness.
Psa. 69:28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
And may they not be recorded with the righteous.
This is a Messianic psalm, where David is asking God to not let those who persecuted the Messiah be saved. Note that although he asks for their names to be “blotted out of the book of life," he also asks that “they not be recorded with the righteous."
A psalm is a poem, and in Hebrew poetry, the goal isn't to rhyme words but to match phrases of similar meaning. In Psalm 69:28 we find a matched pair of statements, which are intended to say the exact same thing in different ways. The first phrase says "May they be blotted out of the book of life," while the second phrase says "And may they not be recorded with the righteous".
Obviously, these two statements are contradictory. Either you are blotted out OR you are not recorded in the first place. This tells us that these phrases are not intended to be taken literally. Rather they are two poetic ways of expressing the same idea: hold the guilty under punishment. As we saw earlier, believers’ names are written from before the foundation of the world in the Book of Life, since they are predestined to salvation by the Lord, while unbelievers’ names are never recorded in the Book of Life.
A third passage is found in Revelation:
Rev. 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.
This verse carries the suggestion of a believer being erased from the Book of Life, but that suggestion is unintentional. Notice carefully what Jesus says and what He doesn't say. Jesus explicitly says He will not erase a believer's name, and Jesus never says He will erase a believer's name. Nevertheless, because Jesus issued His promise using a double negative (i.e., not erase) in v.5, some assume His statement implies erasure could be possible.
In reality, our translation of the Greek language into English is to blame for this wrong assumption. A double negative in Greek adds emphasis without necessarily implying that the opposite condition is possible. So Jesus spoke in a double negative to emphasize the impossibility of being erased from the Book of Life rather than to imply the possibility.
Putting it all together, we see that believers’ names have always been in the Book of Life (from before the foundation of the world), and unbelievers’ names have never been in the Book of Life (also from before the foundation of the world), and there is no scripture claiming that God adds or erases a name afterward.
Therefore, we know from scripture that God does not blot anyone’s name out of His Book of Life. All who are supposed to be written in His book are written there, as it was always God's purpose to save them. In this we should rejoice, just as Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:
Luke 10:19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you.
Luke 10:20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”
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