By Dr. Roger Barrier, Crosswalk.com
What is the “Book of Life” and how do I know if I’m in it?
The Bible teaches that the Book of Life is the register of everyone who is going to heaven. Very simply, if your name is not in the Book of Life then you’re not going to heaven.
What is the Book of Life?
Obviously, the Book of life isn’t a real, big, physical book. Instead, the names most likely reside in a giant database on Christ’s heavenly server.
The term comes from Revelation chapter three, where Jesus spoke to the church at Sardis, saying:
He who overcomes will 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”. (3:5)
The image Jesus used refers to a king’s registry. Kings often had an official list, or registry, of all of their citizens. This list was used primarily for taxes and conscripting men into the army.
A particular name could only be removed from the king’s registry if a person died, moved outside of the king’s realm, was convicted of a crime, committed treason, or rebelled against the king.
It’s as if Christ said to the church at Sardis, “Some petty king might blot you out of his register, but I’ll never blot those who follow Me out of My Book.”
NOTE: “He who overcomes” is referring to those who have accepted the free gift of eternal life Jesus has provided for us through His birth, death, and resurrection. We become overcomers when we believe in Him as Savior and King (read John 3:16; 11:25-26).
When are our names written in the Book of Life... and can they be removed?
When we are conceived! Everyone who has ever “received the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7)—including those who are living now—has their name written in the Book of Life.
However, it is possible to have your name removed from the Book of Life if you are not “one who overcomes” (see above).
Those who die without receiving Christ as Lord and Savior are spiritually dead. In essence, they are no longer alive and in the Kingdom. These are those who will have their names then blotted out from the Book when they die without trusting Jesus Christ.
Why does the Bible talk about the Book of Life?
The term “Book of Life” is a biblical construct that helps to put in simple terms various truths throughout the Scriptures.
Let me share a few examples.
In EXODUS 32, while Moses is on Mount Sinai talking with God, the people below are dancing, drinking, and worshiping the foreign gods of Egypt. The people incited Aaron to build a golden calf so that they could see and worship like the idols that they saw in Egypt. God was more than a little upset with their behavior:
I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people. Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. (Exodus 32:9-10)
Moses gave God several reasons why he should not destroy the people and then, with great passion, he pleaded, “But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book that you’ve written” (Exodus 32:32).
Moses was offering up his place in God’s heavenly registry for the sake of the Israelites. That’s how important Moses’s people were in his eyes.
PSALM 69 is an imprecatory Psalm. An imprecatory Psalm is one where David pleads with God to wreak vengeance upon his enemies:
In DANIEL 12:1, the angel Michael is outlining for Daniel some of the events of the end times. He says that those whose names are in the Book of Life will be delivered:
At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.
In LUKE 10:20, Jesus is describing his power over Satan and then gives a word of encouragement to his disciples:
However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
PHILIPPIANS 4:3 records Paul settling a dispute between two women in the Philippian church. When things are healed, he reminds them of his own fellow laborers whose names are written in the Book of Life:
Yes, and I ask you, loyal yoke fellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
In REVELATION 20:11-15, when we come to the Great White Throne Judgment, things get really tense. Those whose names are not found in the Book of Life are cast into the lake of fire:
Then I saw a great white throne and him (Jesus) who was seated on it. … 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…. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.
Why is keeping your name in the Book of Life really important?
There will be no Christians at the Great White Throne Judgment. Christians will be evaluated and rewarded earlier at the Judgment Seat of Christ on the basis of how profitable or unprofitable their lives were while they were on earth (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
Notice that there are other books utilized at the Great White Throne Judgment. We may call these the Books of Works because they contain the records of the sins and activities of all those who don’t make it into heaven because they never received Jesus as their Lord and Savior (John 1:12).
Those whose names are not in the Book of Life will plead with Christ that they were good enough to get them into heaven. However, Jesus will use these books to show them that no life was ever good enough to earn Heaven.
That’s because entering Heaven is based on grace, not on works.
As I close, Paul, it’s a good time to ask, “Is your name permanently written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?”
Your name can be on a church register without being on the Divine Register. You can have your name placed on the membership roll of a church and not be among those who are enrolled in heaven. Your name can be included in the baptism, confirmation, and wedding registers of a church, and yet be missing from the Book of Life.
Christ’s gracious promise to the Christian overcomers in Sardis is that He will not blot the name of any Christ-follower out of the Book of Life. The Greek sentence has a double negative, as if Jesus meant, “I will never, never, by any means, blot out his/her name.”
So the question really is, have you trusted Christ as your Savior? Are you following Him? Have you chosen to be an “overcomer”?
Well, Paul, I hope I’ve answered your question.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/tomertu
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his 35-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
Editor's Note: This Ask Roger article features insights from Roger's daughter, Brie Barrier Wetherbee, a sought-after Bible teacher and conference speaker, author, analyst, and Christian theologian.
Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at [email protected].