NAMES WRITTEN IN BOOKS

All that have life owe their blessings to the eternal God and Creator. Each person in his relative freedom as a human being owes thanks to God for whatever joy and happiness is realized. Our Father "sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." "Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desires of every living thing." God's wisdom and power has fixed the principles of life, and in Him "we live, and move, and have our being."--Matt. 5:45, Psa. 145:16, Acts 17:28

The greatness of the eternal God and His interest in heaven and earth almost defy definition. His capabilities are without limit. He calleth the stars by name, He numbers the hairs of His saints, He has His eye on the sparrow. (Psa. 147:4, Matt. 10:29,30) "There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (Luke 15:7,10) It is proper that we perceive and acknowledge God as having such abilities and interests.

The promise of an awakening from the dead of all who have received life through Adam (1 Cor. 15:22,23) assures that heaven takes note of every human birth. Although there is no Scripture stating that each new born is written in a book, the Bible does use the simile of writing names in books to help us visualize God's wisdom and work. Such language assists us to more fully admire His standards and judgments.

The first instance in Scripture where writing in a book is used to represent that God remembers, was in Moses' intercession with God on behalf of Israel just after their first idolatry. The LORD had entered into covenant with the people of Israel through the blood of burnt and peace offerings described in Exodus 24. This people had been delivered from Egyptian oppression; Egypt had been given "for thy ransom." (Isa. 43:3) They had all been "baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." God provided manna. Water came from the rock. "And all did eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ."--1 Cor. 10:2-4, Exod. 16:14,15, 17:6

Having shown such interest in their care, the LORD soon proposed an even closer relationship. "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people: for all the earth is Mine: And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation." (Exod. 19:5,6) The people gladly accepted the proffered relationship (Exod. 19:8), and God gave them the law of commandments recorded in Exodus 20-23. It was written in a book so the people could learn what was required of them, as well as of the many blessings promised. "Ye shall serve the LORD your God, and He shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee. There shall nothing cast their young, nor be barren, in thy land: the number of thy days I will fulfil." (Exod. 23:25,26) God's promises of care and long life were later summarized in Deut. 30:19,20, 32:46,47.

"Blot me...out of Thy book"

But it was not long before Israel violated the covenant with God which they had thrice accepted. (Exod. 19:8, 24:3,7) When God heard of their idolatry, he said to Moses: "Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation." But Moses did not accept the proposal. Instead, he reviewed what God had already done for Israel and brought to the LORD's attention His promises to Abraham. (Exod. 32:11-14) Moses charged the idolatrous people with having greatly sinned, urged them to consecrate themselves to the LORD, and said he would speak with God on their behalf, that the LORD might keep them as His people.

The next day Moses said to the LORD: "Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin--; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written." (Exod. 32:29-33) The LORD replied: "Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book." This is a clear representation that God had a 'book' in which were written those who covenanted with Him at Sinai. God said, "So shall they put My name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them." (Num. 6:27) Amos 3:2 records God's later definition of His special relationship with Israel: "You only have I known of all the families of the earth."

"Book of Remembrance"

Malachi used the illustration of writing in a book to represent God's personal relationship with His people, also. The LORD well knew of those in the covenant who despised His law. Their selfishness was denounced. God said those who withheld tithes which the covenant required "robbed Me." The prophet reminded Israel of the abundant blessings for the nation if they brought to the LORD what they had covenanted. Even though the proud and arrogant were seen as happy, and though they that work wickedness were set up, and though they that tempt God seem to get deliverance, there was a reality of greater importance: "Those that feared the LORD spake often one to another [about their faith and hope]: and the LORD hearkened, and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the LORD, and that thought upon His name. And they shall be Mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels." The Hebrew word here translated 'jewels' means 'peculiar treasure'. It is so translated in Exod. 19:5, "ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me," and similarly in Deut. 7:6, 14:2, 26:18, and Psa. 135:4.

It is seen from the above that Scripture represents writing in two books prior to the ministry of Jesus--the writing of those in covenant with God, and the writing of "a book of remembrance." The faithful and reverent before the covenant at Sinai, and the remnant of the nation of Israel generation by generation--all referred to in Hebrews 11-- have been written in the "book of remembrance" as testimony of their assured reward.

"Book of the Living"

Consider now Psalm 69:22-28, where the prophet asks the LORD to visit wrath upon his persecutors; that they "be blotted out of the book of the living." At first glance the "book of the living" phrase may seem to support the suggestion that each member of Adam's race is written at birth in "the book of life." That concept suggests that they remain written in that book until, if proved unworthy of life, they be blotted out. But there are some objections to this concept. Death is the opposite of life. One under penalty of death, and on whose behalf no atonement for sin has been provided, would not be pictured in Scripture as having been written in "the book of life." And the two expressions--"book of life" and "book of the living"--are of different meaning. The statements of Scripture, "Judgment came upon all men to condemnation," and "Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Rom. 5:18,12), preclude that any would be enrolled in "the book of life" unless having first repented from sin and having become justified through faith.

David knew that God would in His proper and due time 'cut off' the wicked in Israel. Deut. 18:18,19 promised this. Speaking of the greater prophet like unto Moses that was to come, God had said, "And it shall come to pass that whosoever will not hearken unto My words which He shall speak in My name, I will require it of him." A few days after Pentecost, Peter said that those who rejected the teaching of Jesus would be deemed unworthy of fellowship with true Israel, and "would be cut off from among the people." Upon those who opposed God and who slew their prophets, would "come [retributive judgment for] all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias." Many of that unregenerate generation were indeed "blotted out of the book of the living" in the trouble which Jesus knew would soon come.--Luke 23:28-31

The teaching of Isaiah 4:2,3 refers prophetically to Jesus and the first Christians, whatever may have been the significance of its details to Isaiah's time. "In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." 'The branch' surely prophesies of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jer. 23:5, 33:15, Zech. 3:8) The saints who left the bondage of fleshly Jerusalem for refuge in "Jerusalem which is above" were that 'excellent and comely' fruit. The spiritual knowledge of God from that heavenly city provides the nourishment which enables such fruit. It brings an appreciation of "the exceeding great and precious promises: that by these they might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."--2 Pet. 1:4

"Quickeneth Whom He Will"

Those whom Jesus appointed to serve in the activities of the early Jewish harvest rejoiced, just as He said they should. Special authority had been given them "over all the power of the enemy." That authority from God proved His recognition of them. But additionally, using the metaphor, Jesus assured them that "your names are written in heaven." (Luke 10:19,20) What wonderful encouragement that statement must have been.

Jesus spoke wonderful truths, the full meaning of which were not understood when first heard. His teaching may be comprehended even now only through inquiry into all that He taught. Consider His words in John 5:21. "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom He will." A few days later, our Master explained how a believer is quickened. "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." (John 6:63) This means that Jesus quickeneth through the influence of His words "whom He will"-- all who will truly repent. "He quickeneth" by giving the life- containing words He received from God. (John 17:8, 3:34, 8:47, 14:10) Realizing this, Peter acknowledged that Jesus had "the words of eternal life."--John 6:68

It is because Jesus Himself had the words of God, and did speak them, that He could testify, "For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself." (John 5:26) Having received life-giving words, Jesus had life within Himself, and He quickeneth all those who receive His words through the ministry of His followers. John 5:26 is not a description of His personal resurrection nature and work.

"The Book of Life"

Inasmuch as the death penalty rested upon all in Adam, no record was titled "the book of life" until the resurrected Jesus offered in heaven the value of His sacrificed perfect human life. (Heb. 9:24) The time when any record was called a "book of life" was after Jesus became known as Savior; who "is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and incorruptibility to light through the gospel." (2 Tim. 1:10, Rotherham, Fenton; Berry, Wilson, Marshall, and other interlinearies) Thus "the book of life," into which names of believers in Jesus are now written, remained untitled until the Pentecostal blessing confirmed the new life of the new creation.

In Philippians 4:3 Paul mentions fellowservants "whose names are in the book of life." Certainly these would be those who had witness "that they had passed from death unto life" because they loved and served the brethren. (1 John 3:14) Hebrews 12:23 contains another testimony of the writing in heaven: "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven,..." Certainly the first believers in Jesus assembled in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost were written therein, perhaps 25 years before the Hebrews epistle was authored. That epistle brought to the attention of Jewish believers some of the realities which the death of Jesus and His heavenly propitiation had enabled. One of those realities was God's acceptance of all those believing in the gracious sacrifice of His Son.

The book of Revelation refers several times to "the book of life." The certainty of blessing for those who continue in their overcoming is confirmed in Rev. 3:5, where it is written that Jesus "will not blot out his name out of the book of life." During our overcoming, therefore, our name remains written in that book. A believer's name is enrolled "in the book of life" when the devotions of a sincere heart are initially accepted and the power of the holy spirit granted to assist in overcoming. Once written, one's name will not be blotted out as long as one is overcoming.

The many who worshipped the beast, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb, are noted in Rev. 13:8. This intimates that some had hearing ears, listened to God and to the Lamb, and were written in the "book of life" of our Redeemer. The negative is used also in Rev. 17:8 regarding those "whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world." This affirms God's recognition of believers under the metaphor of "the book of life."

"Foundation of the world" is represented in the Greek text by katabolees kosmou, as also in Matt. 25:34, Luke 11:50, John 17:24, Eph. 1:4, Heb. 4:3, 9:26, and Rev. 13:8. The word for 'foundation', Strong #2602, is defined as "a deposition, i.e. founding; figuratively, conception." "Foundation of the world" is thus seen to mean the time when the human creation was conceived in the divine purpose, and its disobedience and recovery were foreseen as part of that plan. Both the righteous and the unrighteous were foreseen; and a plan was made to provide a full opportunity for all for salvation through Jesus, and for special rewards to the believing firstfruit.

Before propitiation was made, and thus before the Bible calls any record "the book of life," Daniel looked forward to when "Thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book." Though untitled, that book would of course "be written with the righteous" names only. (Psa. 69:28) Daniel wrote of those righteous, justified ones, that they "shall awake...to everlasting life." (Dan. 12:1,2) This meaning is corroborated by Jesus Himself in John 5:29. "...And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life." Undoubtedly this resurrection will include all those worthies of old whose service to God was so well pleasing in His sight.

The last references to "the book of life" are in Rev. 20:12,15, where it is open for a later writing. This, too, represents heavenly acknowledgement of those whose faith and works shall be rewarded with eternal life.

This study has considered all Bible references to the writing of names in books. God does know, He is aware, of those who serve Him and those who do not. Faith is encouraged. Believe that God is and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek and serve Him. (Heb. 11:6) All are exhorted to have circumspect hearts, particularly those engaged in Christian service and labour. May all such continue in the process of overcoming, so as to attain, that they be not blotted out of that book of life into which their names have already been written.

How readest thou? It is probable that additional readings of the foregoing, with careful consideration of every Bible passage cited, will bring a deeper understanding of the thoughts presented. If you are not written in the book of life, it is hoped that your response to the goodness of God may soon enable that writing.