MY DEAR BROTHER, — I am glad that you wrote me about the difficulty which you felt as to the reference to the book of life in the “Outline of the Revelation” and it gives me pleasure to send you a few fines on the subject, though I do not know that I can add much to what is said on pages 48, 49, 213 of that book.
The book of life seems to be brought before us in two ways. That is, in connection with God’s eternal purpose on the one hand, and in connection with His righteous government on the other. It is in connection with God’s sovereign purposes and electing love that names are “written from the founding of the world in the book of life of the slain Lamb”, Revelation 13:8 ... There is no possibility of such being lost, for their blessing and preservation are the fruit of God’s immutable counsel, and of the redemption work of the slain Lamb.
God’s purpose and grace are made good to His people by divine calling (see Romans 8:30; 2 Timothy 1:9) and by the work of His Spirit in their souls. So that they are brought to know their lost and ruined state as in Adam, and to abhor themselves and repent, and believe in God as the Raiser up of the Lord Jesus, so as to be justified in Christ by faith, and to have the Spirit. They are put on a new and divine line, and they have the Spirit as life. There is no life in power in the soul except by the Spirit, but to have the Spirit as life according to Romans 8:10 puts the soul on the line of righteousness in contrast with sin, so that the new moral character attaches to the called and justified person. If a person professed to believe, but was still characterised by the old man and his deeds, we should not have much confidence in his profession.
If Scripture clearly suggests the possibility of persons being blotted out of God’s book, as it does, we may be sure that this cannot refer to the reversal of God’s purpose and grace given to His foreknown, predestinated, called and justified saints in Christ. So that evidently in certain passages the book of life is not viewed in connection with God’s eternal purpose, but as a register of those who appear in this world in the place of “the living”. In the passages which speak of blotting out of the book of life, it is not viewed as the secret record of persons foreknown of God, and marked out by Him for blessing in Christ, but rather as the public list of those who profess faith, and who appear as “the living” in this world. This aspect of the book of life refers to God’s government rather than to His grace. He keeps a record of those who appear in this world as “the living”, but the fact that they have a place in that record does not ensure that their names will not be removed. If such as have professed to know God in works deny Him, and prove “abominable, and disobedient, and found worthless as to every good work”, Titus 1:16, they will be blotted out. J.N.D. says, “In a general way we have God’s book as a registry ... they are supposed to be true, unless shown to be otherwise — as one on the list of voters, unless proved to have no right”. If people turn away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12) their names may be blotted out as no longer entitled to remain on the register. But this has nothing to do with eternal security of those divinely called, and blessed in Christ according to God’s purpose. It is the striking off the public register of those who are proved not to have the characteristics of life.
All this raises exercise that we should not merely take the place of believers, but that we should have to do with God in a real way, and be preserved through continual dependence from the things that would turn us aside, daily finding Christ more indispensable to us, and learning His worth and glory and blessedness as an abidingly satisfying Portion and Object for our hearts. Thus shall we know the path of life, and there will be no question as to the removal of our names from the book of life. Our security lies on the divine side in the unchangeable faithfulness of God to His own purpose and grace given to us in Christ. But on our side it lies in the fear of God, and in cleaving with purpose of heart to the Lord.
There is divine wisdom in all the solemn warnings and admonitions of Scripture. They would not be put there if there was not need for them. They serve not only to awaken those who may have professed faith in Christ without any real work of the Spirit in their souls, but also to preserve godly exercise in the consciences of true children of God. There is ever the necessity for us to make our calling and election sure according to 2 Peter 1:5 – 11.
With much love in the Lord,
Yours affectionately in Him,
MY DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD, — I gladly send you a few lines in answer to your letter of January 8th, 1943. I am thankful to know of some who have been converted, and are coming on to the meetings at –. May they be greatly helped, and led on in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ! No doubt they will need building up in grace, and this will be a happy service for you and others.
The paragraph on pages 48 and 49 of the “Outline of Revelation” simply calls attention to certain statements of Scripture with reference to the book of life. We may be quite sure that all that Scripture says is true and very profitable for us, and if there is anything we do not understand we can pray about it, and also get help from others.
The first time the book of life is mentioned in Scripture, indeed, the only time in the Old Testament (Exodus 32:32, 33 refers to it simply as God’s book) is in Psalm 69:28, which speaks prophetically of those who hated Christ without a cause, and who would destroy Him, being His enemies wrongfully (verse 4), and who persecuted Him (verse 26). It is said of them, “Let them be blotted out of the book of life”. To understand this we must remember that the Jews and their leaders were in a place of great privilege as having the oracles of God, the promises, the service of God, and even having Christ amongst them. They were in the book of life as having great divine privilege, in contrast with the dark heathen world; Christ owned them as “his own”, John 1:11. But by their wicked rejection of Christ they forfeited all right to the privilege which God had conferred upon them, and they were blotted out of the book of life. Many today are in a place of light and privilege, but if they neglect the great salvation, and perhaps even persecute Christ in His people, it will come true, if they do not repent, that they will be blotted out.
The first mention of the book of life in the New Testament is in Philippians 4:3, where we read of certain fellow-labourers of Paul — “whose names are in the book of life”. They were not at all the kind of persons to be blotted out.
Then in Revelation 3:5 the promise, “I will not blot his name out of the book of life”, is given to the overcomer in Sardis. If we watch, and do not defile our garments, there is no fear of our names being blotted out.
It will be noticed that the above scriptures have a certain reference to our place as in responsibility here. They raise the question as to whether we are really in the list of the living, or have we merely, like those in Sardis, a name to live? But the simplest believer who knows the Saviour’s love, and who knows that his sins have been washed away by the blood of Christ, is entitled to know that he is one of Christ’s sheep and that he will never perish. But he also knows that he cannot keep himself, and that his security lies in keeping near the Shepherd; he does not, and dare not, trust himself.
But in the closing chapters of the Bible the book of life is spoken of in a different way. It is called “the book of life of the slain Lamb”, and we learn that the names written in it were written “from the founding of the world”, Revelation 13:8; 17: 8. The book of life in these scriptures has clearly to do with God’s purpose as made sure on the ground of redemption. Nothing in that connection depends on man’s responsibility. It is purely of God’s sovereign love and mercy that names are written in the book of life of the slain Lamb. There can be no thought of blotting out in that connection. Those written in that book are God’s elect, and will be surely kept by His power through faith. None of the names written in that book will ever be blotted out.
If we take Scripture simply as it stands we shall not get into any difficulty. We shall see that the book of life is sometimes viewed as containing the names of those who have a place of privilege and responsibility in relation to God, such as Israel had in Old Testament times, and such as the Lord’s bondmen have now. This may be illustrated by the fact that the name of Judas is on the list of the twelve apostles, Matthew 10:2 – 4. He was numbered amongst the apostles, but he was never converted or saved, and by transgression he fell, and his name was blotted out.
Yours affectionately in Him,