What Is the Purpose of the Book of Life?
Do you remember being in school as a student growing up? The teacher would do a roll call from the attendance list, and you might respond, “here” or “present.” She would check off your name and move on to the next student who was supposed to be in her classroom. You were not technically allowed in her class unless you were in the roll call.
On a grander scale, God has a “roll call” for Heaven. The Bible mentions the term, “Book of life” in both the Old and New Testaments. There are eight references to the book of life in the Bible. Today we are going to break down each one to gain a greater understanding of what the book of life is.
What Is the Purpose of the Book of Life?
Essentially, the book of life is used to share that those who are believers in Christ – sealed for eternity – are permanently written in the book. Their names can never be erased; they are God’s children forever. As we study through each verse and apply it to our lives, may we remember the gospel within its core message. If we reject Jesus, our names will not be written down. However, if we accept His gift of salvation, not though anything that we have done, our names are immediately written and eternally secure.
Is the Book of Life Figurative or Literal?
The truth is that we do not know if the book is a real physical book where God somehow writes our names with permanent ink, or if it is a figurative language used to relay a concept of salvation. However, this is unimportant, the lesson within is what is significant to us.
Psalm 69:28 - “May they be blotted out of the Book of Life and not listed with the righteous.”
In this Psalm, David is crying out to the Lord in prayer. He is praying in his anguish and calling out the frustration towards his enemies. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers shares that the Book of Life is an image that plays a major role in Christian poetry. He shares, “It is connected with the civil lists or registers of the Jews” (Exodus 32:32; Jeremiah 22:30, Ezekiel 13:9). In this case the concept of blotting out would be tied to removing someone’s name legally due to death. In thinking about the eternal book, whether we have eternal life and the privileges of heaven or eternal death and exclusion from God’s presence depends on if our names are in the book.
Philippians 4:3 - “Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.”
As Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he includes the book of life to encourage all who are believers working together to share the gospel. Even though Paul does not reveal the names of those serving the Lord in the Bible, he emphasizes that their names are in the Book of Life to come.
Revelation 3:5 - “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.”
In Revelation 3:5 we see eternal security mentioned by the words, “I will never blot out.” Jesus gives victory over sin and death. We read that He will be our provision to reunite with the Father. He will acknowledge those who acknowledges Him as Savior. This comes back to the reminder that we cannot write our names in eternity, only God can. Jesus is the one true God and He has made a way for everyone who believes.
Revelation 13:8 - “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.” (Also see Revelation 17:8)
This verse makes it very clear who will not be written in the book of life. All who worship the devil and not Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God who died and rose for all who believe. However, all who do not believe will not have eternal life. We get a say in if we want our names in the book, we just cannot be the ones to put them there (John 3:16-17).
Revelation 20:12 - “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”
One day will be the last day, time will be up, and the Lord will judge. Jamieson-Fausset Brown Commentary says, "Besides the general book recording the works of all, there is a special book for believers in which their names are written, not for their works, but for the work of Christ for, and in, them…” Revelation mentions the books with the works of individuals, however the book of life is given special attention. It is only by Jesus in which we are saved. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Revelation 20:15 - “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.”
Unfortunately, we read again that anyone who is not in the book of life is destined to hell. This is a sad truth that is often skipped over in today’s often grace heavy church culture. Where we definitely need to be sharing grace and love, we also need to teach the hard truths in compassionate ways. Revelation 20:15 reminds us of the urgency of the gospel to all people.
Revelation 21:27 - “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Revelation 21 discusses the new heaven and the new earth. The book of life is essentially the roster of heaven.
In looking at each of these verses and pondering our own salvation today, may we be reminded of the great grace we have been given in Christ. May we ponder that our names alone do not get us into heaven, but only by the name of Jesus may we enter (John 14:6). We can be grateful to the Lord because He knows our name and He has called us His (Isaiah 43:1). We can be confident in the security of our salvation (John 10:28-29). We can be motivated to share with as many people as possible the hope we have – and they too can have – because of Jesus (Mark 16:15).
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Emma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, inspiring young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew for over two years and mom to baby Graham. Drew and Emma serve with Upstate CRU college ministry in South Carolina. Emma is an avid writer for Salem Web Network and provides articles on the Bible, life questions, and on the Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 viewed article on Crosswalk for the year 2021. All the glory to the Lord! She had the joy of hosting Her Many Hats podcast where she explored the many roles that women play while serving One God. Most recently, Emma has released her first Bible Study Book, Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness.
Emma enjoys singing/songwriting, fitness classes, trying new recipes, home makeover shows, and drinking tea! During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Emma also had the privilege of having been a national spokesperson for Mukti Mission based out of India. Mukti has been working to restore shattered lives in India for over 120 years. You can view her articles through her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com