Saturday, March 31

What Is The Book of Life?

According to the dictionary, a book is "a written or printed work of fiction or nonfiction, usually on sheets of paper fastened or bound together within covers; a number of sheets of blank or ruled paper bound together for writing, recording business transactions, etc."[1] The Bible itself is a work of nonfiction. The Hebrew Bibles was written on various mediums, as well as the New Testament, including on leaves, stones, and papyrus. At the turn of the 1st century AD, the Roman poet Martial mentioned the convenient usage of a Codex (from the Latin caudex for "trunk of a tree" or book; the plural form is codices). The growth of Christianity is attributed as the major cause of the spread and usage of the codex format as opposed to scrolls.[2] A codex is essentially a bound book, what we have today. Some of our earliest complete Greek biblical manuscripts, such as the Codex Sinaiticus from the fourth century - one of the four great uncial codices (the other three are the Codex Vaticanus, Alexandrinus and Ephraemi) - are well preserved and remain in codex form. The Bible itself is a compilation of sixty six books (in orthodoxy), with thirty nine in the Hebrew Bible and twenty seven in the New. The Bible also mentions several books not found in Scripture, but for various reasons should not be regarded as canonical. There is one book mentioned in Scripture, however, that is different in nature than the others: it is called the book of life.

The book of life is a remarkable work. It is named as the "book of life" or "the Lamb's book of life" various times in Scripture, and alluded to as well. The book of life (ספר החיים or Sefer HaChaim) is essentially God's record book. Those who have eternal life by accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior have their name written in this book, and at the Great White Throne judgment for unbelievers, "All whose names were not found written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). Verse 12 notes, "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." Put in simpler terms, imagine showing up at a wedding or a party uninvited. You did not accept the invitation but decided that you could simply not respond to the offer and go anyway. However, when you arrived at the wedding, you discover that a prerequisite for attending the wedding was to accept the offer, and thus, your name was not on the list. So it is with the book of life. Unless you put your faith (which is essentially trust) in Jesus here on earth, do not expect to enter into heaven.

Now, in the past, we have devoted articles to establishing the veracity of the Christian faith. Whether through archaeological, historical, textual, scientific, geographical or philosophical evidence, the attempt has been made to provide a rational defense of the faith and provide evidence for both believers and non-believers. Surely, these articles are not the most in-depth or scholarly articles as they are generally written for the laymen or those with a foreknowledge in Scripture, however, there are some topics which cannot be scientifically or historically attested. In the case of the book of life, we cannot scientifically verify its existence nor can we hope to excavate an ancient tel to discover it. The origin and current location of the book of life is in heaven, by the Creator of the universe, and hence it is metaphysical or supernatural in nature. Nevertheless, the book of life is one of the most pertinent topics to every individual who has ever lived and ever will live. Some will call it foolish; others will thank God profusely and accept His offer. As such, we may frame this as such: God took 1600 years, working with and through forty different authors to write and compile what we have today as the sixty-six books of the Bible. Of these sixty-six books, the overall message we find is that of God's redemption for mankind. In this compilation of books known as the Bible, we read of a book called "the book of life."

To ensure that His creation would be saved from the pit, God manifested Himself in human form, becoming the "God-Man." He walked and lived among mankind, breathing the same air and drinking the same water we still have today somewhere on this planet. The account of His birth, life, death and resurrection has been reported throughout the ages. Some have scoffed, others have accepted. He engaged in ministry for several years with twelve close followers, and by His unique claims as well as political and religious reasons led to His death on a Roman cross in the 1st century AD just outside of Jerusalem. Three days later, contrary to the claims of Jewish authorities as well as modern critics, God rose from the dead. He never truly died in spirit, but His physical body died. In this physical body, the infinite and perfect being took on finite and imperfect flesh.

Having this in mind, we find that the Bible refers to another book, the book of life - a book we truly want our name to be written in. One of the first possible references to this work is found in Exodus 32:32-33, which says, "But now, please forgive their sin – but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. The LORD replied to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.'" This reference is not wholly agreed upon by scholars as referring to the book of life, but if so, it appears to be our earliest reference (c.1445-1405 BC, from Moses), along with a possible reference in Deuteronomy. Similarly, Psalm 69:28 says, "May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous" (c.1000 BC, from David). Here we find the first reference to the "book of life." This is debatable, however, as it can also be translated as the "book of the living," and it is thought to be different from the book of life, and likely the same book as mentioned in Exodus 32. Some consider the records to be metaphorical, symbolizing the fact that God remembers what people do, however, the relevant passages appear to demonstrate that God keeps written records. The two notions are not mutually exclusive, and do not contradict each other.  Two other possible references in the Psalms are found in Psalm 87:6, "The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: ‘This one was born in Zion,'" and Psalm 139:16, "...All your days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be."

An 1859 Bible (David Ball)
Interestingly, Isaiah 4:3 may also allude to this Book of Life. It says, "Those who are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem." Evidently, it appears that records are kept in heaven. This may also indicate slight evidence for the possibility that other books exist in heaven, perhaps in a sort of library. There are, at least, seemingly books in existence in the supernatural realm, and it is also possible that we will have some form of the Bible available to us in heaven as well (Psalm 119:89; Isaiah 40:8; Matthew 24:35). The next references we find to the book(s) is in Daniel. According to Daniel 7:10, as seen in a vision, "...The court was seated, and the books were opened." This corresponds to later references in the New Testament book of Revelation, as will be discussed later in the article. Daniel 12:1 makes another reference, "At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as 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." Here, we find mention of those "whose name is found written in the book." This is in the singular, not plural form. In other words, it is likely that there are books which record each decision, action and thought of an individual, and each individual has their own book - but the Book of Life records the names (and possibly more) of those who accepted salvation and are allowed entrance into heaven.

Now certainly, it is hardly possible to discuss the book of life without discussing the "book of death," or rather, the "book of the dead." This is not referred to in Scripture, but according to the Jewish Talmud, on every Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), the book of life is opened, as well as the corresponding book of the dead. Of note, the Egyptians of antiquity had a book of the dead. There is not a single text, but rather it was utilized in burials for those who could afford them, and served as a guide in the afterlife. Variants exist, one of the more infamous being the Papyrus of Ani, dating from about 1250 BC. The Tibetans also have a book of the dead, called the Bardo Thodol. It is a funerary text, as is the Egyptian work. Although a slight digression, examining things such as the book of the dead enable us to peer more into the ancient understanding of these concepts. Regardless, the important work in Scripture is the book of life, also called the Lamb's book of life in Revelation. A final reference is found in Malachi 3:16, "Then those feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name." This may or may not be the book of life, but it does give us further insight into the courtroom of heaven - where the scroll (or book) of remembrance is kept.

In between the Old and New Testament, often referred to as the Intertestamental period, various non-canonical/apocryphal texts came to be written, such as 1st Enoch, the book of Jubilees, 1st and 2nd Maccabees, among others. To be clear, these books are not Scripture (as explored in other articles), but are useful for determining the beliefs of this period in regard to the book of life. For example, Jubilees (written c.160-150 BC) refers to two heavenly books or tablets - the book of life and the book of death. Jubilees 36:10 says, "...he shall be blotted out of the book of the discipline of the children of men [or book of remembrance], and he will not be recorded in the book of life. He shall be added in the book of destruction [or perdition]." Also, in the same vein as Daniel 7, we read in 1st Enoch 47:3 (written c.300-50 BC), "In those days I saw the 'Head of Days' when He seated himself on the throne of His glory, and the books of the living were opened before Him..." 1st Enoch 108:3 also refers to those whose "names shall be blotted out of the book of life and out of the holy books." Post-New Testament, the Shepherd of Hermas (c.AD 100-160) also refers to "two Books" that are "opened before the throne, the Book of Life, and the Book of Death, in which latter the unrighteous are recorded together with their evil deeds, in order to be cast into the lake of fire." The books of records are also referred to in 1st Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch (written after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70), as well as the Ascension of Isaiah (1st-2nd century AD). 

The next possible Biblical reference is found in Luke 10:20. Contextually speaking, Jesus has sent out seventy two disciples, and the seventy two (some manuscripts have seventy) return and say to Christ, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (10:17). Jesus replies, " not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your name is written in heaven." In St. Paul's letter to the church at Philippi (written about AD 60-62), he writes, "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 written in the book of life." Clement himself may have alluded to the book of life in 1st Clement 45:8 (written c.AD 95), "But those who endured in confidence inherited glory and honor; and they were exalted and inscribed by God in their own memorial forever. Amen." Likewise, Hebrews 12:23 (written AD 60-96) refers to "to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven." Finally, Revelation refers to the book of life several times. The following references are found in Revelation:
  • "Those who are victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their names from the book of life, but will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels" (3:5)
  •  "All the 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" (13:8). The variant reading of Revelation 13:8 says, "written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain."
  •  "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... All whose names were not found written in the book of life were thrown into the lake of fire" (20:12, 15). 
  •  "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" (21:27).

What is the book of life? "The Book of Life is the set of names of those who will live with God forever in heaven. It is the roll of those who are saved. This Book of Life is also mentioned in Revelation 3:5; 20:12; and Philippians 4:3. The same book is also called the Lamb’s Book of Life because it contains the names of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lord Jesus (Revelation 13:8; 21:27). How can you be sure your name is written in the Book of Life? Be sure you’re saved. Repent of sin and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5). Once your name is written in the Book of Life, it is never erased (Revelation 3:5; Romans 8:37-39). No true believer should doubt his eternal security in Christ (John 10:28-30). The Great White Throne Judgment described in Revelation 20:11-15 is a judgment for unbelievers. That passage makes it clear that no one at that judgment has his name in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12-14)."[3]

The Truth Ministries would like to thank you for taking the time to read this article of "The Truth." Feel free to email us at or, visit our facebook page, or visit our ministry website.  It is the mission of this ministry to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (2nd Corinthians 10:5). We understand that many will disagree with our position, our claims and our ministry, and we recognize the individual's right to believe what he or she wills, and that some will disagree on our position regarding this particular topic. However, understand that we stand firm upon the Bible as God's Word, which we believe to be historically accurate and reliable, and hold to our conviction that this conclusion was arrived at based on what His Word tells us, and through a Biblical worldview, and hope that if you have not already, will come to faith in Jesus. Take care, and God bless you reader. Troy Hillman 

[1] "book." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 19 Mar. 2012.
[2] Roberts, Colin H. and Skeat, Theodore Cressy. The Birth of the Codex. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. Print. 38−67.
[3] "What is the Book of Life?." GotQuestions Ministries. Got Questions Network, n.d. Web. 19 Mar 2012.

1 comment:

  1. The book of life is the story of a true life devoted to God