The Book of Life

The Bible speaks of a book in heaven that lists the names of all the people who will inherit eternal life. Will your name be included in the Book of Life?

God reveals through His servants, the prophets, that He has a very special book. This is currently an open book containing a registry of names. God deems very precious the individuals whose names are being recorded in it.

This unique book was not made with human hands. Instead, it exists in the heavenly realm. It belongs to Jesus Christ and is called “the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27). To have one’s name written in this book means that one is considered righteous before God and will inherit eternal life provided he or she remains faithful to the end (Revelation 3:5). To have one’s name blotted out of this book signifies a fate of eternal death (Revelation 3:5; 20:15).

The first mention of this Book of Life is when Moses offered to have his name erased from it. Speaking to God, Moses said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:31-32).

God replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book” (verse 33). As noble as Moses’ intentions may have been to protect his fellow Israelites from God’s wrath, God will not negotiate with people’s salvation in this way.

Who is currently in the Book of Life?

The Book of Life contains the names of those who have been spiritually converted and who have dedicated their lives to the service of God. Like other servants of God, Moses understood that his name was already written in the Book of Life (Exodus 32:31-32).

Jesus said that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets will be in the Kingdom of God, so their names are certainly in the Book of Life (Luke 13:28). Jesus further told His disciples to “rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The apostle Paul wrote a letter citing the names of a few faithful brethren alive at the time “whose names are written in the Book of Life” (Philippians 4:3).

What faithful believers have in common with the patriarchs and prophets of old is that they all share the same gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:21). Having God’s Holy Spirit is the key to being granted eternal life in the Kingdom of God (Romans 8:9, 11). Those who will be in God’s Kingdom will have their names in the Book of Life (Malachi 3:16-17).

Can a name be erased from the Book of Life?

God was very clear that a person’s name can be removed from the Book of Life: “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book” (Exodus 32:33).

At the end of the book of Revelation, a warning stands as a guard defending God’s truth. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life” (Revelation 22:18-19).

In the last days, there will be a global resurgence of a false religious system. God says this system of worship of a man will be synonymous with worshipping Satan the devil (Revelation 13:4). The deception will be so great that “all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (verse 8).

Only those who resist participating in this system of worship will be rewarded for their victory over Satan (Revelation 15:2; 17:8; 20:4). See our article “What Is Babylon?” to better understand this false system.

A promise to the faithful

The prophet Daniel, while being given a vision of “a time of trouble” at the end of the age, was told: “At that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book [of life]” (Daniel 12:1).

The apostle John was given a vision even farther into the future of “the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10). It was revealed to John that “there shall by no means enter it [the holy city] anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (verse 27).

The prophet Malachi was given a message of correction and warning for God’s wayward people, the Israelites. God still loved His people, though they had strayed from His laws; but He now demanded honor, faithfulness and obedience from them.

God then inspired Malachi to share a wonderful promise of hope. God would grant to those who fear Him the reward of eternal life in the Kingdom of God. They would be identified in a registry called a “book of remembrance” (Malachi 3:16).

This “book of remembrance” is a reference to the Book of Life. As Malachi noted: “Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name. ‘They shall be Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him’” (Malachi 3:16-17).

This fear of the Lord that Malachi spoke of is a healthy respect and love for God. To fear God and to keep His commandments is the whole duty of man (Ecclesiastes 12:13). To love God is to keep His commandments (1 John 2:5; 5:3).

God remembers the faithful deeds of “those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.”God remembers the faithful deeds of “those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name” (Malachi 3:16). This means their godly conversations with each other are being listened to intently, and every act of kindness and mercy is being noted (Matthew 10:42; 25:34-40). To those who care for the needs of others, we’re reminded, “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name” (Hebrews 6:10).

What else does God keep a record of?

Even the struggles of trying to live a godly life against hardship and temptation appear to be recorded in heaven. David, who was destined to be Israel’s next king, asked God to remember his suffering during a low point in his life when he was surrounded by enemies. He said, “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle; are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8).

Nehemiah may have been making reference to a heavenly record as he prayed: “Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services!” (Nehemiah 13:14).

Is there also a record of men’s sins in heaven?

The simple truth is that we will be judged for what we do (Isaiah 66:15-16; Romans 1:18-32). Solomon said, “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

Jesus Christ, after His return and during His judgment of mankind, “will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (1 Corinthians 4:5). While here on earth, Jesus also said, “I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36-37).

While the scriptures we have just seen do not necessarily imply that there is a written record of men’s sins, the reality is that God knows everything we do. And because God has perfect memory, there is indeed a record.

Thankfully, there is a way to have our sins blotted out and remembered no more by God (Hebrews 8:12). This forgiveness is made possible by Jesus Christ paying our death penalty for us, if we repent and accept it.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God says, “Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Ezekiel 18:27-28). When a wicked man repents of his sins, “none of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him” (verse 22).

When people repent, God also declares through the prophet Isaiah: “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25). For more understanding on this subject, see the article “Judgments of God: The Real Story.”

The basis of God’s judgment

The prophet Daniel, describing the vision he was given of God’s throne room where judgment takes place, said: “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated. … The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10).  

The apostle John was also given a vision of God’s future judgment. John recounted: “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened” (Revelation 20:11-12).

These books represent the books of the Bible, which contain God’s law—the standard by which everyone’s deeds will be judged. “And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (verse 12).

John, still recounting his vision, then explained that an additional book was opened: “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life” (verse 12). When the process of judgment is finished, the record of names will be examined and “anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire” (verse 15).

Are people predestined to be in the Book of Life?

Because of the wording of several scriptures that mention the Book of Life, some have wondered if God determined at the foundation of the world, prior to the existence of any human, whether or not each person would be in the Book of Life.

Passages from which this question arises include:

  • “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, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:3-5).
  • “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is” (Revelation 17:8). 

What exactly was predestined from the foundation of the world?

From the foundation of the world, God’s plan was predestined. God the Father and the Word (the One who came to earth as Jesus) agreed, from the outset, to the plan that the latter would die for the sins of mankind so humans could be forgiven of their sins and become part of God’s eternal family. This is clearly attested to in Revelation 13:8, where Jesus is referred to as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

In addition, from the foundation of the world, God predestined that some humans would be called in this age for an opportunity to become members of His eternal family, and the majority would be called later. Additional passages make it clear that humans are free moral agents who, upon receiving knowledge of God’s expectations, have to decide whether they will act on that knowledge or not.

Our loving God is not willing that any should perish. Instead, He wants all men to repent and be saved.This is why Jesus urged people to “repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). And this is why Paul spoke of God taking vengeance “on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Noting that judgment had begun at the house of God, Peter asked, “What will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

Our loving God is not willing that any should perish. Instead, He wants all men to repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4). The warnings issued by Jesus and His disciples and the clear desire of God would make no sense if God had purposefully created some humans to fail.

The Bible teaches that we humans must choose what course of action we will take and that we will be judged by God for the choices we make. In the next sections we will consider what God expects of us if we are to have our names written in the Book of Life.

For further study, see the article “What Is Predestination?

When is a name entered into the Book of Life?

The apostle Paul explains that the initial step toward salvation is for a person to believe the gospel message of Jesus Christ. “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14, Revised Standard Version).

Upon receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, at that moment a person is begotten into the spiritual family of God (Romans 8:14, 16). When a believer receives the Holy Spirit, the seal of promise, he or she joins the “general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23). Thus, a person’s name is entered into the Book of Life.

What must I do to have my name in the Book of Life?

For God to record our names in the Book of Life, we must repent of our sins, be baptized and become spiritually converted. (See more about the process of conversion in our booklet Change Your Life.) Water baptism symbolizes one’s lifelong commitment to follow God’s way of life (Acts 2:38).

Jesus told His followers, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:27). Why is it so important for us to do this?

Jesus Christ declares, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (Revelation 3:5).

For more on this subject, see “Is Your Name in the Book of Life?” To better understand what it means to overcome, we encourage you to read the articles in the “Change” section of this website.

About the Author

Chris Moen

Chris Moen

Chris Moen currently serves as associate pastor of the combined Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Michigan, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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