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When is a believer’s name written in the Book of Life?

BookOfLife

Article copyright by Bob Rogers.

Revelation 20:15 says that everyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. From this passage, Christians conclude that God has a record of followers of Jesus Christ– the Book of Life– and that we do not have to fear Judgment Day, because if our names are written in the Book of Life, we will receive the gift of eternal life in heaven by God’s grace.

But exactly when is a believer’s name written in the Book of Life– at birth, or at the time we believe? I have always thought of it as written at the time that we believe in Christ, since it is a record of those who believe. However, I recently learned I was wrong.

We were discussing this in my Bible class recently. My friend Allen Steele pointed out Revelation 13:8 and 17:8. Both passages refer to unbelievers as “everyone whose name was not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb…” If unbelievers names were not written from the foundation of the world in the book of life, then it would follow logically that the names of believers were written from the foundation of the world in the book of life.

If we think this through, it makes perfect sense. After all, God speaks of our salvation as being “chosen in Him, before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and that “those He foreknew He also predestined” (Romans 8:29), since we are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:1-2). In other words, God in His omniscience already foreknows what we will do, so He can speak of us as “chosen,” and He already has our names in the book even before we were born.

Does this mean our salvation is predetermined, without any choice on our parts? No, we “sealed” that entry in the book when we believed. As Ephesians 1:13 says, “When you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed in Him, you were also sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” Thus Revelation 7:4 refers to believers as those “sealed.” So God foreknew who would believe, and already has their names in His book, but when we believe, we “seal” the deal.

 

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Taking it to the bank

Bank Copyright 2013 by Bob Rogers
When I went off to seminary, I moved from Woodville, Mississippi, to New Orleans, Louisiana. It was only a few hours’ drive, but the two cultures were light-years apart.

I had been serving Woodville Baptist Church as their youth minister. Woodville was, and still is, a small county-seat town located south of Natchez in the extreme southwest corner of the state. Woodville’s claim to fame was that it was the boyhood home of Jefferson Davis. Woodville also boasts the first standard-sized railroad line ever built in America, which once was used to ship cotton down to the Mississippi River at St. Francisville, Louisiana. Although it was a tiny town, they had very active Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian and Catholic churches, each one claiming to be the oldest of their denomination in the state. You could leave your house unlocked in Woodville and not worry about anybody breaking in.

I took my new bride from Woodville to New Orleans. We settled into an apartment belonging to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, and I promptly went to a big New Orleans bank to open a checking account.

The bank clerk took one look at my check from Woodville, and said, “I can’t deposit this check. It doesn’t have an account number.” I said, “That bank doesn’t use account numbers. They go by your name.” The clerk sarcastically replied, “This is 1980. Nobody does that anymore.”

I just shrugged and said, “They do. Why don’t you call them and ask them?”

So the bank clerk took my challenge and left me sitting at his desk while he went off to another room and called. In a few minutes, he came back with a sheepish grin on his face.

I asked, “Well, did they tell you that my check was good?”

He said, “Yeah, and the guy also said to tell you hello.”

It’s nice to be known by your name rather than just a number, isn’t it?

God knows your name. Revelation 10:15 tells us that he has the names of all who believe in Jesus Christ written in his Book of Life. And beside the name of each believer, that book has these words written: “Paid in Full,” because Christ made full payment for our sins upon the cross (1 Corinthians 6:20). That’s one book that I’ve made sure has my name. And you can take that to the bank!