Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

The Lamb's Book of Life

I've heard it proposed, by some liberal theologians, that God will never send anyone to Hell, by which they mean the Lake of Fire 1. Of course, this assertion is easily refuted by citing the scripture, "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire," (Revelation 20: 15). This passage is unambiguous. If your name is not found written in the Lamb's Book of Life, you will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.

And in the very next chapter, referring to the New Jerusalem (with the streets of gold and what are colloquially referred to as the Pearly Gates), we read, "And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life," (Revelation 21: 27). Again scripture is clear. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will enter Heaven.

So we have seen that those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life will go to Heaven, and those whose names aren't will be cast into the Lake of Fire. And that pretty much covers everyone. Either your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, or it isn't. We use a number of phrases to describe being reconciled to God, and all of them are scriptural. But whether we talk about being saved, or being born again, or being an over comer, ultimately we are talking about having our name written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

So let's you and I now consider a question. Exactly when does one's name get written into the Lamb's Book of Life? Is it written when you accept Christ as your Lord and savior? That may seem to make sense to us, but what about those who came before Jesus? I don't know anyone who believes that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, just to name a few, were not saved. Of course they were saved. But when were their names written in the Lamb's Book of Life? Was it when they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior?

Don't misunderstand. Of course they were saved by the blood of the risen savior. Jesus' blood was the propitiation for all sin, ever. But when were their names written into the Lamb's Book of Life? When, not how, were they saved? Did they die lost, only to be saved later when Jesus finally completed His work on earth? Were they saved while they were still alive? 

I could go on with a litany of rhetorical questions, but we would be no closer to the truth. So rather than speculate, relying on our own understanding, let's consider what is written in scripture.

"...: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundations of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is," (Revelation 17: 8b, emphasis added).

So apparently those names which are written in the Lamb's Book of Life were in fact written therein from the very beginning.

"Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them," (Psalms 139: 16).

Before you even existed, even the parts from which you would be made were written in His book.

But wait one minute. If those whose names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life were written from the beginning, and those not written therein are the ones which are condemned to an eternity in the Lake of Fire, does this mean that God predestined some of us to Heaven and others to Hell? Does this mean that it doesn't matter what any of us do, that our fates are sealed? It may appear so after a cursory look, but a closer examination of scripture reveals the truth.

"He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels," (Revelation 3: 5, emphasis added).

"And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophesy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book," (Revelation 22: 19, emphasis added).

"Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous," (Psalms 69: 28, emphasis added).

"And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book," (Exodus 32: 33, emphasis added).

Now it is becoming clear. Everyone who exists, or ever did exist, or ever will exist in this world was written in the Lamb's Book of Life from the beginning. But who ever sins against God shall be blotted out. In other words, everyone is saved from the beginning, bound for Heaven. But at some point they choose to reject God, they choose sin over God and eventually God says, "That's it. No more chances for you." Then one's name is blotted out of the Lamb's Book of Life and the Lake of Fire awaits them.

Think of a contractor constructing a building. He doesn't just go out, slap up some boards, pour some concrete and then start thinking about where to put walls. He doesn't make it up as he goes. He doesn't do anything, until he has a blueprint. And then, if it isn't in the blueprint it doesn't get built. Likewise, not a single person is ever conceived but that they were first written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; ..." (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, 2a).

So even the lost are written in the Lamb's Book of Life to begin with, lest they would never be born. Stated differently, we all start out saved, but some (okay, most) of us choose damnation instead of righteousness. We all sin, as is our nature, but some of us knowingly, with knowledge of good and evil, choose rebellion and sin instead of repentance and submission to God's will. Most of us choose rebellion and sin over repentance and salvation.

I don't know about others, but I find this comforting. This means that those who lived before Christ were saved or condemned in exactly the same way as you and I. The rules were no different then than today. Why would the rules for Noah or Abraham or Moses have been different than the rules for you and I? If God is (and He is) "... the same yesterday, and to day, and forever," (Hebrews 13: 8b), then the rules would not be different then and now, only the things that had been revealed (and consequently the context of their accountability).

I also find this comforting with regards to that age-old question, "What happens to children who die?" Whether an infant dies of crib death or at the hands of an abortionist, if they have never, with knowledge of good and evil, chosen to reject God's will, if they have not sinned against God, then I do not believe that their name is blotted out of the Lamb's Book of Life. This is why I say that it is the abortionists and their clients that we need to save, to bring to repentance, not the babies.

To be sure, there is some point (that thankfully neither you nor I need discern) when a child gains enough knowledge to become accountable to God. (Even in the Garden of Eden, man became accountable when he gained knowledge of good and evil). In such matters we can only do as Abraham did, and trust that "...: Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Genesis 18: 25b).

And so this brings us finally to a wholly new question. Instead of asking when one's name gets written into the Lamb's Book of Life, we must ask instead when does one's name get blotted out? Many assume that this happens when one dies. In point of fact I am one of those people. I believe, for reasons that I will explain directly, that one's name is not blotted out of the Lamb's Book of Life so long as you live. However, it is important to understand that I assume this to be true without the benefit of any scripture that specifically says it is so. This is a classically penumbrous doctrine.

So let me restate for both clarity and emphasis. I can find no scriptural assurance that any of us have until our death to accept God's will, to repent and accept Christ as our Lord and savior. Instead, what I find in scripture implies that many, if not most, people do not die until long after it is too late for them to be saved.

"No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day," (John 6: 44).

"And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father," (John 6: 65).

Scripture, once again, is unambiguous. The Word is plain. One can not simply go to God at one's convenience to accept Christ. One can only respond to God, ...well, response to God. If He is not offering, you can not accept. If He is not calling, you can not answer.

Wait a minute! Would God really stop calling to anyone? Clearly if He does not call, no one can answer, but will He really stop calling anyone while they're still alive? We might not like to think so, but scripture says otherwise.

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened," (Romans 1: 21).

What does it mean that one's heart is darkened? Simply that one's heart is without light. Bear in mind that God is light. If He leaves, then your heart will, by definition, be darkened (without light).

Many read the end of the first chapter of Romans (verses 16 - 32) and conclude that it is an expression of God's hatred of homosexuality. It is not. Read the chapter again and you will notice that it is an expression of God's hatred of secular humanism, worshipping and serving the creature rather than the creator (Romans 1: 25). The very next verse, verse 26, states that "For this cause, ..." for the cause of secular humanism, God gave up on them. Homosexuality is merely the consequence of His leaving people to their own designs. It is a consequence, not a cause, of a darkened heart.

So from all of this we must conclude that there is a good reason that scripture warns, "... : behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation, " (II Corinthians 6: 2b). If you feel God calling you to repentance, do not put off your response until tomorrow. Tomorrow may well be too late. Even if you live another 50 years, if God doesn't call again, you can't answer.

Some who read this may be worried. Let me reassure you that if you fear that it may already be too late for you, then it is not. If it were too late for you, the thought would not bother you. That is not to say that it would occur to you and then you would quickly sweep such concerns out of your mind. Instead the concern, the thought, would never enter your mind to begin with. But if such a thought does enter your mind, and you do sweep it away, putting it off until tomorrow, then every time you do will be easier than the last until finally, one fateful day, it will be too late.

So if there is even a glimmer of concern, an instant of worry, in the back of your mind, do not extinguish that last flicker. Answer God now while you still can, before it is too late.

"Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:" (Isaiah 55: 6).

Finally, let's consider the implication of these things to those of us who are Christians. Just as Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom's sake (Genesis 18: 20 - 33), so too should we plead for the lost around us. And make no mistake, Abraham was not interceding on behalf of the righteous, but the rest. He was citing the possibility of some being righteous, but he was interceding on behalf of the adulterers and homosexuals. Likewise, we should intercede for those who are lost around us. We should intercede for the abortionists and the murderers and the adulterers and the homosexuals and all who willfully, with full knowledge of good and evil choose rebellion over repentance. No, they do not deserve God's forgiveness, but then neither did you or I.

It is not our place to either decide or discern whose name may or may not already be blotted out of the Lamb's Book of Life. And we certainly can not assume, since scripture does not say, that once God leaves a person with a darkened heart that their name has necessarily been blotted out of the Lamb's Book of Life as yet.

Instead, I absolutely believe that God waits until the last possible moment to blot anyone's name out of the Lamb's Book. I absolutely believe that if there is even a chance that one of us might intercede for a person, God will stay His final judgment. And I firmly believe, I am convicted, that we should pray for all of those around us who are lost, even (perhaps especially) those that God has already left with a darkened heart. I absolutely believe that He will, at our pleading, once again call that person to repentance and salvation, giving them one last chance, even if for no other reason than because of our persistence (Luke 11: 5 - 8),

On that note I will close with a quote from Charles Spurgeon.

"If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for."

[1] It is worth noting that Hell and the Lake of Fire are not the same place (Revelation 20: 14), but we'll save that discussion for another day.

John 3: 1 - 6
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Romans 1: 16 - 32
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31 Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Genesis 18: 20 - 33
20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
23 And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes:
28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.
32 And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

Luke 11: 5 - 8
5 And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
6 For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
7 And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
8 I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.