Has God already written your name in the Book of Life?
The writer is pastor of Global Church of God congregations in Portland, Ore.; Seattle, Wash.; and Alaska.
By Rex I. Sexton
LA CENTER, Wash. -- On display in the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial in Israel is one of the most famous pieces of paper of the 20th century. It is a simple list of names, 1,100 of them. Obviously typed years ago on an old manual typewriter, the list would appear to be nothing out of the ordinary. But this was no ordinary list; this was Schindler's list.
For the Jewish laborers of the Plaszow work camp during the Nazi occupation of World War II, being on the list meant the difference between life and death. During the fall of 1944, as the war was nearing its final stages, the camp was closed and its laborers sent to other camps. Those who where chosen to be on this list of workers requested by industrialist Oskar Schindler were sent to his Brinnlitz work camp and survived the war. The majority of Plaszow laborers were not on the list. They were lined up, loaded into cattle cars and sent to their deaths at Auschwitz.
As horrible as that time was, Jesus Christ has prophesied of a time yet future that will be far worse. Responding to His disciples' inquiry about events at the end of this age, Jesus said, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be" (Matthew 24:21).
Jesus Christ predicted even greater wars and human suffering to occur just before His return to earth. During this coming time of war and turmoil, will there be another "List of Life" similar to Oskar Schindler's that will mean deliverance?
This may astonish you, but the Bible's answer is yes! In God's Word this list is called the Book of Life. As the momentous events foretold by Jesus Christ unfold, it will prove to be the most important list of names ever written.
Many Bible readers may not even realize it, but the concept of the Book of Life is found in numerous scriptural passages. It seems that the men God used to write His words for us took for granted that the Book of Life was a concept their readers were already familiar with.
We don't hear much about it in today's world. Nevertheless, according to the Scriptures, God is writing this most important of all lists.
Matter of life and death
In Revelation 20:14-15 we are told: "Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
So God's Word plainly states that, if our name is not written in the Book of Life at that time, we are doomed. For, just as those not on Schindler's list were sent to the death camps, anyone not on God's list will meet his end in the "lake of fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8)-eternal death. But having one's name on the list will mean eternal life.
The stunning story of Schindler and his list-made famous around the globe by a book and movie-should cause us to stop and realize: In a matter of years we ourselves could be living out the roles of the Plaszow prisoners.
The lake of fire is the place of punishment for the beast, the false prophet, Satan the devil and those who have the mark of the beast (Revelation 19:20; 20:10). These are not good company to be in when Jesus returns to judge the earth. This plain teaching should inspire everyone to search the Scriptures to find out how he can have his name added to the list that will mean life as the events unfold.
Knowledge of God's Book of Life goes back a long way. It is first mentioned in the Bible by Moses as he is praying to God on behalf of the disobedient people of Israel. At that time the Israelites had made and worshiped a golden calf and were about to be severely punished for their idolatry.
"Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, 'Oh, these people have sinned 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).
It is important to understand here that Moses knew his name was written in God's Book of Life and that he was willing to forgo his own eternal life to save the rebellious Israelites.
What real love Moses demonstrated here! This is ample evidence that the Spirit of Jesus Christ was in him. He deeply cared for these people and was willing to give up everything for them. Centuries later the apostle Paul would follow this example and feel the same way about his fellow countrymen (Romans 9:1-5). What examples for those who shepherd God's people!
God's answer to Moses was to acknowledge that He has a book, but that the only way a name can be erased once it is written there is by willful sin.
God told Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book" (Exodus 32:33). To "blot out" means to completely remove.
This agrees completely with the New Testament teaching in Hebrews 10:26-27: "For if we sin willfully [that is, deliberately, without temptation] after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries."
So God says plainly that the names of Spirit-filled people that are now written in the Book of Life can have their names removed if they return to a life of sin.
So, once our names are written in the Book of Life, we need to live a life of obedience to God to keep them there. The next big question, then, is how is a name added to this most important of all books?
Adding a name
When Jesus Christ first sent out His disciples to preach and teach about His coming Kingdom, they returned excited about the miracles they had seen in their ministries (Luke 10:17).
However, He cautioned them not to rejoice in miracles they could see, rather to rejoice in a miracle they could not see: "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven" (verse 20).
So Jesus said that having their names written in heaven was something to rejoice over, then went on to explain that this can happen because of having their minds open to understand the precious truths of God.
"He turned to his disciples and said privately, 'Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it' " (verses 23-24). So the miracle of God opening one's mind is the first step in the process of having a name added to God's book (John 6:44).
The next step is to realize the severe impact of our sins and repent-accepting Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. Real repentance is a complete change of heart and actions. Then, if we are willing to obey God's command to be baptized, we can receive the gift of God's Spirit.
The example we must follow occurred on the Day of Pentecost in A.D. 31. Those listening to Peter's sermon "were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' " (Acts 2:37-38).
When you are begotten by God's Spirit, you have real life (1 John 5:12-13)-another way of saying that your name is written in God's Book of Life.
However, as we saw, the apostles were "written in heaven" before receiving the Holy Spirit within them. Yet they had responded to God's calling, repented and were baptized and had, thus, already begun the conversion process.
Laboring to do God's work
After initial conversion, true Christians get to work! No longer are we preoccupied with ourselves. Instead, we dedicate ourselves to accomplishing God's work here on earth.
Paul seems to imply that this is evidence of our names being written in heaven. He writes, "I urge you also [to] . . . help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life" (Philippians 4:3).
The Bible also says that the list of those who are truly in God's church is written in heaven, not in member files on computers. Paul wrote in Hebrews, "To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven" (Hebrews 12:23, KJV). Indeed, God Almighty reserves for Himself the right to decide which names are entered into or deleted from the Book of Life.
Prophecies for our time
Jesus Christ promised that His church would never die out (Matthew 16:18). Even though the vast majority of mankind is now and always has been deceived (Revelation 12:9; Matthew 24:5, KJV), there have always been true followers of Jesus' teachings ever since the apostolic era, and they are prophesied to be on the job teaching so that names will be added to God's book until shortly before Christ's return.
The prophet Malachi was inspired to predict, "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 mediate on His name. 'They shall be Mine' says the Lord of hosts, 'on the day that I make them My jewels' " (Malachi 3:16-17).
So the Book of Life in heaven is open, and your name can be added to it. The invitation is being extended, but the decision to accept it is yours.
The Bible also foretells that many who call themselves Christians in this end time would be spiritually asleep and in danger of having their names removed. In the book of Revelation, John recorded a startling warning for our time in the message to the church at Sardis.
Speaking to this group of Christians who had become spiritually lethargic, God's words thunder: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die . . . He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life" (Revelation 3:2, 5).
So we are plainly told that in the last days some new names will be added to God's book, while other names that are written there will be in danger of being blotted out. This should be enough to awaken any who call themselves by the name of Christ but have gotten lazy and lost their zeal. If this applies in your case, then you need to realize that you may have but a short time to seek God and repent of letting the cares of this world come between you and your Savior.
The choice is coming
The Bible foretells that the great "beast power" will soon arise and subdue most of the earth (Revelation 13). This prophecy states plainly that all those dwelling on the earth will worship this beast except for those whose names have been written in the Book of Life (verse 8).
So a time is coming when humanity will be divided into two categories: (1) those who worship the beast and (2) those whose names are written in the Book of Life. The choice is yours as to which category you would like to be in. Perhaps you can make an educated decision by looking at what will happen to each group.
Those in the first and largest group are promised, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength . . . He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (Revelation 14:9-11). Does this sound like something anyone would want to experience? Not if he could prevent it!
On the other hand, those who are written in the Book of Life "are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" during this time (verse 12). If that includes you, then you'll be in the first resurrection and rule the earth with Jesus Christ for 1,000 years (Revelation 15:2; 20:4-6). The choice is yours to make.
Roster for New Jerusalem
The Book of Life is also the official list of those who will be part of the New Jerusalem far in the future. Consider carefully how this will happen: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away . . . Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:1-2).
"But there shall by no means enter it 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).
Incredible as it sounds, those whose names are written in that wonderful book will have life for all eternity and be a part of the New Jerusalem.
What an awesome opportunity we have before us! If we truly seek God with understanding, come to repentance and baptism and dedicate our lives to obeying God and doing His work, then we can have our names written in God's Book of Life. No greater opportunity has ever been afforded anyone. This decision is up to you: Which category do you want to be in?
There is one more piece to this fabulous mystery of the Book of Life. God promises that those who have their name written in His book will understand the events of the end time and be protected from the plagues to come.
The coming beast will baffle and mislead the world, but not God's true servants:
"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 [which is] from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is" (Revelation 17:8).
So the coming "beast" will only be understood for what it is by those few who are worshiping the true God and have their names written in His book. The vast majority of humanity will be confused and won't know what's happening (Revelation 13:3).
Most people will be deceived and receive the mark of the beast because they do not have their names written in the Book of Life.
More than 2,500 years ago an angel told the prophet Daniel that at the time of the end "none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10).
So there would be some on earth who would understand the events at the end of this age and wouldn't be surprised or baffled at the rise of the beast power.
These are obviously the true followers of God who have their names written in His book and are given the understanding of prophecy.
But the rest of the world-the vast majority of mankind-will not know what's going on and will be terrified when these awesome events begin to embroil the earth.
Concerning this soon-coming time, the angelic messenger from God told Daniel, "There shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation . . . And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1-2).
So God promises deliverance to those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Isn't that where you want your name to be in the tumultuous days ahead?
Is it not incredible to realize that your name can be added to God's Book of Life? You can have all these blessings-understanding and protection now, eternal life and reigning with Him forever-if, but only if, your name is written in heaven.
Is it not also incredible to think that God is watching us every day and keeping a record of our deeds? Even though we fail often, God is anxious for that moment when He will welcome us into the New Jerusalem as our name is read out of the Book of Life.
Some of the survivors of Labor Camp Plaszow recall the time in the late autumn of 1944 when the workers were divided into groups and sent to other camps. Somehow most knew that those whose names were called out to be on Oskar Schindler's list would be the ones to live.
Eyewitness accounts tell of desperate men and women trying to be added to the line for Schindler's train. They tried bribery, pleading, pretending-anything they could think of-to be added to that list that meant life. A few were successful. But for most it was too late.
Now and for at least the next few years the way is open to have your name added to God's Book of Life. The book of Revelation tells us that a time is coming when it will be too late for many. But those who have submitted their lives to God the Father and Jesus Christ will experience joy unspeakable as they are welcomed into the family of God.
Jesus Christ Himself gave us a description of what that time will be like. In Matthew 25:31-34 He said: "When the Son of man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats . . . Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' "