UPDATE: This is an old article. An updated and expanded commentary on this passage can be found in Paul’s book Letters from Jesus.
Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? If so, are you worried that Jesus may blot out your name? It seems that many Christians are. They are afraid that they might do something that will cause Jesus to blot out their names from His Book of Life. It’s like Jesus is sitting in heaven with a pen in one hand and a bottle of correction fluid in the other. Get saved, name goes in. Fail a test, name goes out. Re-commit your life to God, name goes back in. Phew! With all the re-commitments going on, you’d think Jesus was in danger of repetitive stress injury!
But seriously, do you fear that Jesus might remove your name from His book? Is this something that concerns you? It shouldn’t.
The most important book in the universe
If you haven’t heard, the Book of Life lists all those who are saved for eternity. Revelations chapter 20 speaks of a day when the books are opened and the dead are judged according to what they have done. But in terms of your salvation, only one book matters and it’s the Lamb’s Book of Life. If your name is not in this book, you’re cooked:
If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:15)
I don’t want to belittle this. It’s very important to make sure that your name is recorded in this book. (If Jesus knows you, you’re in!) But if your name is already recorded in His book, should you be worried about being blotted out? Under the old covenant, the answer seemed to be yes!
The LORD replied to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my Book.’ (Exo 32:33)
Under the old covenant, your performance mattered a great deal. You were blessed if you were faithful, but condemned if you weren’t. This meant that people were very conscious of their behavior. They knew that their sins could lead to dire consequences. Under the old covenant you might even pray for your enemies like this:
May they be blotted out of the Book of Life and not be listed with the righteous. (Psa 69:28)
But we don’t live under that old sin-conscious covenant. We live under the new and better covenant of God’s grace. Under grace, your performance affects your standing before God not one bit. Jesus did it all. We are not blessed because we are faithful but because He is faithful.
So why are Christians afraid that Jesus will blot their names out of His book? Their fear stems from an old covenant interpretation of a new covenant promise. I am sure you know the promise I am referring to. It is found in the exhortation Jesus’ gave to the church in Sardis:
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and His angels. (Rev 3:5)
Here Jesus gives us a wonderful assurance of our eternal salvation. He is promising that He will never blot out our names. Never means never! Yet some read this as if Jesus might yet do the very thing He promised not to do. (If Jesus has promised He won’t do something, but you think He might, isn’t that a bit like calling God a liar?)
Someone with an old covenant mindset looks at this verse and sees only conditions for salvation. They think, “I have to overcome to qualify. If I don’t overcome, I’m going to be blotted out.” To read the verse in this way is to dismiss the cross and make the grace of God of no effect.
But someone with a new covenant mindset looks at this verse in a completely different way. They think, “Jesus has overcome the world and now lives in me. I don’t overcome to qualify – I am qualified by Christ and I now carry His overcoming nature. This is not some test I have to pass, but a wonderful promise regarding my inheritance.” (See 1 Jn 4:4, 5:5, Jn 16:33, and Col 1:12.)
God has perfect knowledge. When He added your name to His book He knew everything you had done and everything you were going to do. There is nothing you can do that will surprise Him, nothing that would cause Him to shake His head with disappointment and say, “I made a mistake adopting that one.” The good news is that God doesn’t make mistakes. When He added you to His book it was for all eternity.
The new thing
There’s only one thing of yours that God promises to blot out, and it’s not your name – it’s your sins:
I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isa 43:25)
God promised to blot out all your sins and He did that already. This was the “new thing” foretold by the prophet Isaiah (43:19). Under the old covenant, men’s sins were counted against them. But when Jesus met all the demands of the law at the cross, all your sins were blotted out. Your sin is no longer being imputed to you (2 Cor 5:19). Why did He blot out your sins? He did it for His own sake, because He loves us, and so that we might be reconciled to Him.
If your name is in His book, you have nothing to fear on Judgment Day. If all your sins were blotted out at the cross, then there is no sin left that could get your name removed from His book. This is the gospel of grace. It was new news for Isaiah, is old news for us, but is still good news for everyone.
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