The Book of Life -- By: Charles R. Smith
GTJ 6:2 (Fall 85) p. 219
The Book of Life
Examination of the passages in the OT and the NT speaking of “the book of life” and related phrases reveals that early in the OT the “book” was related to recipients of conditional covenantal blessings. However, by the end of the OT period, there was the beginning of a change of significance pointing to the “book” as a list of the recipients of the unconditional blessing of eternal life. This significance dominates the NT use of the phrase.
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Several frequently asked questions provide the framework for this introductory study. These concern (1) whether the Bible mentions more than one book of life, (2) whose names are written in it, (3) when the names are written in it, and (4) whether names are blotted out of the book.
Is There Only One Book of Life?
The Bible refers to several different kinds of divine records. Some passages refer to a list of names, some to events, and some to a record of deeds. Bible students have suggested a wide variety of classifications, but the following adequately summarize the interpretive options:
- A list of elect saints, from which no names are ever removed.1
- A list of conditionally elected saints, from which those who fail to endure are expunged.2
- A list of true believers, from which the names of apostates are later removed.3
GTJ 6:2 (Fall 85) p. 220
- A list of professing believers, from which false professors are eventually erased.4
- A list of all humans, from which the names of unbelievers are ultimately blotted.5
- A “book of the living,” listing those who are physically alive.6
- A book listing those who are to be the recipients of covenant blessings.7
- Books of deeds, reserved for use in judgment.8
- Books of destiny which contain records of decreed events.9
The last two classifications describe those passages which refer to records of deeds or events, not lists of persons. Though there are other more general allusions, especially to records of future events (Ezek 2:8–3:3, Rev 5:1, You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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