Revelation – The letter to the dead church in Sardis – (5) Conclusion

In Part 5 of The letter to the church in Sardis, we’ll see the conclusion of this letter. It includes what I’ve called the “Hear” section, which is almost always identical in both words and placement in all seven letters. For the church in Sardis, it includes being dressed in white and having their names in the Book of Life.

Revelation – The letter to the dead church in Sardis – (5) Conclusion is article #23 in the series: Seven Letters to Seven Churches. Click button to view titles for entire series
divine knowledge for the church in Pergamum

The question here then is whether the people in this church will die spiritually, or will they overcome, turn back to Jesus, and be acknowledged by God?

Before we resume with the letter to the church in Sardis, here’s the breakdown for this particular letter.

Tothe angel of the church in Sardis
Fromhim who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
Divine KnowledgeI know your deeds;
...
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
But -I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
So -Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

HearHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To those who overcome....
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.

Hear:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

As with all the other churches, this means the letter can only be understood via the Holy Spirit.  As we saw in the letter to the Ephesian church, it goes back to a prophecy in Isaiah.  If you haven’t read it yet, it’s right here – Revelation – The letter to the loveless church in Ephesus.

The psychology of the letter to the church in Smyrna

Before we reach the conclusion, let’s return to the graph at the beginning.  After reading all this, where would you put the church in Smyrna now?  Do you still like your original positioning?  Of have you learned some things that cause you to want to put it someplace else?

Click to see my placement of the Church in Sardis

hype cycle for church in sardis

Once again, I feel like we have two groups of people in this church. Both of them feel like they’re in a good place.  That’s represented by the single gray marker at the Plateau of Walking in Faith.  But as you can see, there are two red markers.  Jesus doesn’t agree with one of the groups.

The one Jesus tells you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead is represented by the first red marker.  They are in big trouble.  Jesus told them to Wake up!  And as we’ll see in the final section, this group is in grave danger.

On the other hand, those who have not soiled their clothes are in a good place.  I considered putting both markers for them slightly below the ideal spot on the Plateau of Walking in Faith.  That’s mostly because, as far as we can tell, they might not have done much to help those who are “dead”.  But we don’t know.  There’s just not enough to go by.  Also, Jesus didn’t give them anything else to do.  He said they are worthy.  If Jesus says that to them, who am I to put them below an “ideal” spot?  Obviously, they are in a good place.

To those who overcome:

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.

OK – wearing white – that’s a good thing.  They were worthy, and they will be cleansed.

Jesus acknowledging our names before the Father and His angels?  Also a very good thing.  Especially given the alternative is something from what I think is the scariest verse in the Bible, Mt 7:23 below.

A Tree and Its Fruit

Mt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

Mt 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

A changeable Book of Life?

But what is I will never blot out his name from the book of life about?  Is that even possible?

Well, as with most things, it depends.  Are we talking Old Testament or New?  Old, Old Testament or newer Old Testament?  Predestination or Free Will?  And probably more things.  But the bottom line here – it depends.  Let’s look at why I say this.  And then we’ll see what this probably means, at least to me.  

Christians likely know about the Book of Life, from one or more of several verses.  We’ll go through at least some of them to see that they don’t all seem to be about the same thing. 

There’s nothing explicit about a book of death for Christians.  Not explicitly anyway.  But for Muslims, there is something called the Sijjeen,  Not quite a book of death, although it does seem to be very much like one.

So let’s see what’s recorded in the Bible and then try to move on from there.

Just how many books are there?

As we just saw, the first thing to look at is how many or what kind of “books” exist.  There’s obviously the Book of Life that we read in the letter to the church in Sardis.  There’s also a book of God’s that Moses Speaks of.  And David writes about the book of life, and possibly a separate list of the righteous.  Paul also wrote about the book of life.  And Jesus talks about the book of life belonging to the lamb, later in Revelation.  Another portion of the revelation to John talks about the book of life from the creation of the world.  A bit later in Revelation, there’s the book of life, as well as other books.  Finally, later in Revelation there’s another reference to the Lamb’s book of life.

Are they all the same?  At first glance, it doesn’t sound like it.  So let’s look at the passages to get more info on these various book references.

The Book of Life from the Letter to the church in Sardis

Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5 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.

This is our starting point.  From this passage, we’ll look at the others to try to see if they’re talking about the same book.  Furthermore, to try to determine what that book is about.  There’s also a possibly question of whether these are in fact real books, or just a way of expressing a concept in a way that we can understand.

The Book of Life in Exodus

This takes place as part of the golden calf incident.  Moses was on the mountain with God, getting the first set of Ten Commandments tablets.  Aaron was leading the people in making the golden calf idol.  When Moses realized what was going on, he threw the tablets to the ground and they broke.  What follows is a conversation between Moses and God right after that.

The Golden Calf

Ex 32:30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”
Ex 32:31 So Moses went back to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”
Ex 32:33 The LORD replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 

Although not explicitly called the Book of Life, Moses is clearly asking God to take his life if the people won’t be forgiven.  A very noble action on Moses’ part.  Before we get into it though, I want to bring up anther translation.  The ESV shows something of the possession of this book that’s not as obvious in the NIV.

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses returned to the LORD and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

33 But the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.  [1]The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ex 32:30–33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

This is reflective of the Hebrew, which specifically shows God as both the author and the owner of this book.

But remember, I asked if this was really a book, or if it might be more of a concept of something we can relate to.  Here’s what the Hebrew word we read as “book” means.

5612 סֵפֶר, סֵפֶר, סִפְרָה [cepher, ciphrah /say·fer/] n f m. From 5608; TWOT 1540a, 1540b; GK 6219 and 6220 and 6225; 184 occurrences; AV translates as “book” 138 times, “letter” 29 times, “evidence” eight times, “bill” four times, “learning” twice, “register” once, “learned + 3045” once, and “scroll” once. 1 book. 2 missive, document, writing, book. 2A missive. 2A1 letter (of instruction), written order, commission, request, written decree. 2B legal document, certificate of divorce, deed of purchase, indictment, sign. 2C book, scroll. 2C1 book of prophecies. 2C2 genealogical register. 2C3 law-book. 2C4 book (of poems). 2C5 book (of kings). 2C6 books of the canon, scripture. 2C7 record book (of God). 2D book-learning, writing. 2D1 be able to read (after verb ‘to know’).  [2]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Notice – it can mean learned + 3045.  Here’s 3045:

3045 דָּעָה, יָדַע [yadaʿ /yaw·dah/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 848; GK 1977 and 3359; 947 occurrences; AV translates as “know” 645 times, “known” 105 times, “knowledge” 19 times, “perceive” 18 times, “shew” 17 times, “tell” eight times, “wist” seven times, “understand” seven times, “certainly” seven times, “acknowledge” six times, “acquaintance” six times, “consider” six times, “declare” six times, “teach” five times, and translated miscellaneously 85 times. 1 to know. 1A (Qal). 1A1 to know. 1A1A to know, learn to know. 1A1B to perceive. 1A1C to perceive and see, find out and discern. 1A1D to discriminate, distinguish. 1A1E to know by experience. 1A1F to recognise, admit, acknowledge, confess. 1A1G to consider. 1A2 to know, be acquainted with. 1A3 to know (a person carnally). 1A4 to know how, be skilful in. 1A5 to have knowledge, be wise. 1B (Niphal). 1B1 to be made known, be or become known, be revealed. 1B2 to make oneself known. 1B3 to be perceived. 1B4 to be instructed. 1C (Piel) to cause to know. 1D (Poal) to cause to know. 1E (Pual). 1E1 to be known. 1E2 known, one known, acquaintance (participle). 1F (Hiphil) to make known, declare. 1G (Hophal) to be made known. 1H (Hithpael) to make oneself known, reveal oneself.  Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

“learned” plus any of the definitions is a far cry from a literal book.  It’s more like learned2 – you know, learned-squared?  Considering that God is all-knowing, the need for a “book” isn’t for Him – it’s more a device for us to realize that He knows and remembers everything.

On top of that, the oldest known “paper” – papyrus – dates back to 2700 BC.  That’s long after Moses and God talk about God’s “book”. 

For the technical people out there, instead of a book, today’s analogy would be memory.  The question is – read-only or read-write?  For the not-so-technical, think about your old CD’s.  You’d buy music on one, and you couldn’t change it.  You got what you bought.  That’s read-only.  But now, you get mp3’s and with the right software can remix and change them to your hearts delight.  That’s like read-write if you overwrite the original with your mix.

David and the Book of Life

The next instance of the Book of Life is Psalm 69.

Psalm 69.  A plea for God to have mercy and to save from a host of enemies: the prayer of a godly king when under vicious attack by a widespread conspiracy at a time when God had “wounded” him (see v. 26) for some sin in his life (see v. 5). If, as tradition claims, David authored the original psalm (see the superscription), the occasion is unknown.  [3]NIV Study Bible Notes.

The Book of Life reference comes in verse 28.  I included some verses prior to it, in order to give a flavor of what was going on.  Also a couple verses after that, to show how David always includes praise to God, no matter what his situation, even if he thinks God has turned away from him.

Psalm 69

For the director of music. To the tune of “Lilies.” Of David.

Ps 69:22 May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
Ps 69:23 May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
Ps 69:24 Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
Ps 69:25 May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
Ps 69:26 For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
Ps 69:27 Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
Ps 69:28 May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous.

Ps 69:29 I am in pain and distress;
may your salvation, O God, protect me.

Ps 69:30 I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.

Unlike Moses, David is asking for God to blot someone else out of the Book of Life.

The Hebrew word for “book” is the exact same one Moses used.

However, we do pick up one additional piece of information here.  The word life, or living in some translations.  Here’s the Hebrew word behind it.

2416 חַי, חַי, חַי, חַיָּה, חַיָּה, חַיָּה [chay /khah·ee/] adj n m f. From 2421; TWOT 644a; GK 2644 and 2645 and 2646 and 2651 and 2652 and 2653; 501 occurrences; AV translates as “live” 197 times, “life” 144 times, “beast” 76 times, “alive” 31 times, “creature” 15 times, “running” seven times, “living thing” six times, “raw” six times, and translated miscellaneously 19 times. 1 living, alive. 1A green (of vegetation). 1B flowing, fresh (of water). 1C lively, active (of man). 1D reviving (of the springtime). 2 relatives. 3 life (abstract emphatic). 3A life. 3B sustenance, maintenance. 4 living thing, animal. 4A animal. 4B life. 4C appetite. 4D revival, renewal. 5 community.  [4]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Psalms – again

David while he was fleeing from Saul.  See 1 Samuel 21:10-15.

Psalm 56. A prayer for help when the psalmist is attacked by enemies and his very life is threatened. It is marked by consoling trust in the face of unsettling fear. Structurally, the prayer is framed by an urgent appeal to God (vv. 1-2) and a word of confident assurance (vv. 12-13). An inner frame, vv. 3-4 and vv. 10-11, confesses a sure trust in God in a form that is almost a refrain. The prayer itself is developed in the intervening verses (vv. 5-9).  [5]NIV Study Bible Notes.

 

 

Psalm 56

For the director of music. To the tune of “A Dove on Distant Oaks.” Of David. A miktam.When the Philistines had seized him in Gath.

Ps 56:1 Be merciful to me, O God, for men hotly pursue me;
all day long they press their attack.
Ps 56:2 My slanderers pursue me all day long;
many are attacking me in their pride.

Ps 56:7 On no account let them escape;
in your anger, O God, bring down the nations.
Ps 56:8 Record my lament;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?

Ps 56:12 I am under vows to you, O God;
I will present my thank offerings to you.
Ps 56:13 For you have delivered me from death
and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
in the light of life.

Notice in verse 8, the NIV uses “scroll”.  Other translations use the word book.  In any case, the Hebrew word is once again the same as the previous OT instances.  And once again, we can ask a question like – does God’s record really need to be something physical?

Daniel – the Book of Life in the End Times

This appears to be the point at which the Book of Life wither picks up two meanings, or is actually conceived of as two different things.  Culturally, the early Israelites seemed to view the book of life as a record of who was physically alive and what happened to them during their lives.  Clearly, what we see in the Daniel Prophecy is life after death – and a record of that.

The End Times

Da 12:1 “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. 2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

Da 12:13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance. ”

Scroll of resistance in Malachi

The final instance of something like a book of life in the OT is in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament.  It’s in a section where God tells the people they are stealing from Him by not tithing.

Robbing God

Mal 3:6 “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. 7 Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
Mal 3:8 “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.
Mal 3:13 “You have said harsh things against me,” says the LORD.
“Yet you ask, ‘What have we said against you?’
Mal 3:14 “You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty? 15 But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.’ ”
Mal 3:16 Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.
Mal 3:17 “They will be mine,” says the LORD Almighty, “in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. 18 And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.

We see in verse 16 – A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name.  The 1984 NIV uses the word scroll.  Other translations use book.  But the Hebrew word being translated is, once again, the same as the other instances.

How many Old Testament books of life are there? 

One? Two? More?  Since we’re talking Old Testament, let’s look to the Messianic Bible Study Collection to get the Jewish point of view.

There are two key books that should be distinguished: the Book of Life and the Lamb’s Book of Life. The Book of Life contains the names of everyone who has ever been born (Ps. 56:8; 139:16). If a person dies unsaved, his name is blotted out of the Book of Life (Ps. 69:28), but the names of believers are retained (Rev. 3:5). The Lamb’s Book of Life contains only the names of those who are born again. In other words, it is possible to be blotted out of the Book of Life, because that book contains names of believers and unbelievers alike. It is not possible, however, to be blotted out of the Lamb’s Book of Life, because only believers have their names inscribed in that book. Since this book of remembrance gives the names of them that feared Jehovah, and that thought upon his name, therefore, it is the same as the Lamb’s Book of Life.  [6]Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 96, p. 24). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.

So the Messianic Jewish point of view is that there are two “books”.  The one that keeps track of everyone ever born can have names blotted out of it if they die unsaved.  On the other hand, only believers have there names in the Lamb’s Book of Life – and they cannot be blotted out.

Before we get into the question of whether “once saved always saved”, let’s look at the New Testament.

Jesus spoke of names being written in Heaven – Luke

Jesus didn’t specifically refer to a book of life.  However, He did talk to his disciples about their names being written in Heaven.

Jesus Sends Out the Seventy-two

10:4-12 pp — Lk 9:3-5
10:13-15, 21, 22 pp — Mt 11:21-23, 25-27
10:23, 24 pp — Mt 13:16, 17

Lk 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2 He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3 Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4 Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

Lk 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
Lk 10:18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Lk 10:23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Verse 20 – rejoice that your names are written in heaven.  Presumably, that’s the book of remembrance from the Old Testament. 

But which one? 

Is it the one that keeps track of everyone ever born can have names blotted out of it if they die unsaved?  That’s probably a denominational question today.  For those who believe it’s possible to lose our salvation, there’s no cause for rejoicing until we die and find our names are still there.

Or is it the one where only believers have there names in the Lamb’s Book of Life – and they cannot be blotted out?  Those who believe that salvation cannot be lost want to be in this one.  

But which one was Jesus talking about?  Are there even two of them?  Or is it just one Book of Life?  Was the Jewish view from the Old Testament incorrect?  Does it really matter?

Let’s go to Revelation’s books.

The Lamb’s Book of Life

This one’s from Revelation 13:8.

The Beast out of the Sea

And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. 2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. 3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. 4 Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
Rev 13:5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6 He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Rev 13:9 He who has an ear, let him hear.
Rev 13:10 If anyone is to go into captivity,
into captivity he will go.
If anyone is to be killed with the sword,
with the sword he will be killed.

This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.

Check out verses 8 and 9.  Both of them are incredibly relevant to what we’re talking about.

8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Rev 13:9 He who has an ear, let him hear.

He who has an ear, let him hear.  Straight out of the seven letters.  And out of many things Jesus spoke of during His time on earth.  There’s a deeper meaning here.  It’s not just about captivity and death in this life.  It’s about the next life.  About Heaven or Hell.

Therefore, the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world has meaning beyond just who’s alive here on earth.

Also, that phrase – belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world – points out something that maybe we’ve forgotten.  Or haven’t really thought about.  In God’s view of time, Jesus was sacrificed on the cross even before the very first act of creating our world.  For that matter, Satan’s eventual (to us) ending in the lake of fire also took place before the first act of creating our world.

It’s our view of time that causes us to think that these things are yet to come.  In God’s time – it’s already a done deal.

With that thought in mind, it’s time to address the question of how many books of life there are.  Is there an Old Testament book of life?  Or maybe 2 different ones?  And possibly a book of remembrance?  Is there something different in the New Testament?

Or are all of these apparent differences and / or conflicting descriptions just our view of one Book of Life, changing as God reveals more to us?

There are a few more instances where something like the Book of Life is brought up, but let’s bring this to a close with one last passage.  The last reference to this Book of Life.

The Dead Are Judged

Rev 20:11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

So many books!  

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened

The Greek word for books in that passage is plural.

Another book was opened, which is the book of life

Yes – the Greek word for “another book” is singular.

Think about the implications of that.  Remember when Jesus healed the ten lepers.  Also remember that only one of the ten was saved.

Ten Healed of Leprosy

Lk 17:11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

Lk 17:14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

Lk 17:15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Lk 17:17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

Interesting.  Ten healed, one saved.  Multiple books for those who ever lived.  But only one Book of Life.

And here’s where it gets really interesting.  In the end, when all is said and done, here’s the Greek word (yes word) that we read as “book of life”.

2222 ζωή [zoe /dzo·ay/] n f. From 2198; TDNT 2:832; TDNTA 290; GK 2437; 134 occurrences; AV translates as “life” 133 times, and “lifetime” once. 1 life. 1A the state of one who is possessed of vitality or is animate. 1B every living soul. 2 life. 2A of the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical, which belongs to God, and through him both to the hypostatic “logos” and to Christ in whom the “logos” put on human nature. 2B life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last forever. Additional Information: For synonyms see entry 979, bios.See entry 5821 for comparison of synonyms.  [7]Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

Wow.  It’s not a book.  It’s a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed, in the portion even in this world of those who put their trust in Christ, but after the resurrection to be consummated by new accessions (among them a more perfect body), and to last forever..

One book of Life.  And it’s not a book.  It’s what God knows.  What God knew even before He created this world we live in.

As for the question of predestination or free will?  I’m not going there today.  That’s in the Predestiny versus Free Will series if you’d like to check it out.

To those who overcome – back on the original topic

OK – let’s get back to the purpose for which we made that journey to study the Book of Life.

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.

This is a big deal.  In this church where most are in big trouble, having your name in the Book of Life is just what needs to be heard.

And remember, all seven letters are read by all seven churches.

Throughout the Bible, from Exodus to chapter 19 of Revelation, we get various views of this Book of Life.  Whether it’s one book, different books, whatever – we can get lost in the weeds of the details.  But here in Rev 20:12, Jesus tells us what it is, through this revelation to John.  It’s God’s knowledge.  Knowledge that He had even before Genesis 1.1.

That’s amazing comfort for those who overcome.  It doesn’t matter which of the seven churches we’re logically in.  The church in Sardis, or any of the others.  It doesn’t matter.  God already knows if we’re going to overcome.

The fine details of that knowledge aren’t known to us.  Yes, various denominations teach what they think it is, often as if it was certain knowledge.  I find it impossible to believe any of us have certain knowledge about God, beyond what He Himself has revealed to us.

But I’m happy knowing that if I overcome, I’m secure, blessed and joyful, knowing that He knows it.

Postscript from history, regarding the church in Sardis

I’m surprised to read this, but also very happy about it.  I didn’t expect this church would survive.  The fact that it did must be of great hope for us.

The Church in Sardis

The Christians whom the glorified Christ chastened in the fifth of the seven oracles that opened Revelation appear to have taken heed to Christ’s warning. The church continued its living witness into the second century and beyond, until the Sassanid invasion destroyed Sardis and scattered all its inhabitants in 616 ad. The most dramatic archaeological witness to this is the fine Byzantine chapel in the southeast corner of the precincts of the temple of Artemis. Worship of Christ significantly outlasted the worship of Artemis in this city. A smaller church structure has been uncovered in the near vicinity of the shrine to Cybele, another sign of the growth and, indeed, the victory of the Christ-cult over the others that had enjoyed such widespread devotion in the city and surrounding region for so long.  [8]deSilva, D. A. (2019). The Social and Geographical World of Sardis (Revelation 1:11; 3:1–6). In B. J. Beitzel, J. Parks, & D. Mangum (Eds.), Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through … Continue reading

Footnotes

Footnotes
1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ex 32:30–33). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
2, 4, 7Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
3, 5NIV Study Bible Notes.
6Fruchtenbaum, A. G. (1983). The Messianic Bible Study Collection (Vol. 96, p. 24). Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries.
8deSilva, D. A. (2019). The Social and Geographical World of Sardis (Revelation 1:11; 3:1–6). In B. J. Beitzel, J. Parks, & D. Mangum (Eds.), Lexham Geographic Commentary on Acts through Revelation (p. 673). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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