Can a Christian’s name be blotted out of the Book of LIfe?
Personal Questions | VBVM Staff | Jul-29-2009
Q. I read in Revelation that Jesus said He would not blot out one of the seven church's from the Book of Life. Does this mean that it's possible for names to be blotted out?
A. There are several passages in the Bible that speak about the Book of Life. Some passages speak about names being written in the Book of Life, some about names not being written in the Book of Life, and some about names being blotted out of the Book of Life. Scripture clearly teaches that a true believer in Christ cannot have his name blotted out of the Book of Life and that an unbelievers’ names never were in the Book of Life.
First, Scripture tells us that it is God who chooses who is and who is not saved. There are many passages that demonstrate this, but we’ll look at only one here, Ephesians 1:3-6.
“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 would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
While this passage clearly says God chose us and predestined us, it also says that He did this before the foundation of the world. Consequently, this means that believers’ names were written in the Book of Life before God made the world.
These passages do not prove, however, that unbelievers’ names were never in the Book of Life and then later blotted out. Fortunately, scripture does explicitly tell us this elsewhere, as we see in the following passages.
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him [i.e., the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (Revelation 13:8)
“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the Book of Life the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.” (Revelation 17:8)
Both of these passages clearly describe unbelievers as those whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world. Taken together, these passages can only mean that believers’ names are written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, and can never be blotted out. Likewise, unbelievers’ names were never written in the book of life, and therefore were never blotted out from it.
Having said that, there are two passages in Scripture that speak of names being blotted out of the book of life, as shown below.
"Then Moses returned to the LORD, and said, "Alas, this people has committed a great sin, and they have made a god of gold for themselves. "But now, if You will, forgive their sin--and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!" The LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.” (Deuteronomy 32:31-33)
First, we have to realize that if God means here that people can be blotted out of the book of life, it contradicts the other passages above. God is not a God of confusion, and He does not contradict Himself. If we read this passage closely, Moses asks God to forgive their sins, and if not then to blot him out of God’s book of life.
We know that Moses is in heaven (he was with Jesus in the transfiguration), so we know that Moses’ name was not blotted out of the book of life. It logically follows, then, that God must have forgiven the people’s sin, and so would not have needed to blot out anyone’s name from the book of life.
“For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. May they be blotted out of the book of life And may they not be recorded with the righteous.” (Psalm 69:26-28)
This is a Messianic psalm, where David is asking God to not let those who persecuted the Messiah be saved. Note that although he asks for their names to be “blotted out of the book of life," he also asks that “they not be recorded with the righteous."
These are two different requests. One asks for erasing names, while the other asks that the names not ever be written in the book of life. As we saw earlier, believers’ names are written from before the foundation of the world, while unbelievers’ names are never in the book of life. Therefore, the appropriate way to view this is as a general request that God send these people to hell, to not let them go to heaven with the righteous in Christ.
Putting it all together, we see that believers’ names have always been in the book of life (from before the foundation of the world), and unbelievers’ names have never been in the book of life (also from before the foundation of the world). Therefore, we can safely conclude that God does not blot anyone’s name out of His book of life. All who are supposed to be written in His book are written there, as it was always His purpose to save them. In this we should rejoice, just as Jesus told His disciples in Luke 10:
"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”