He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father in heaven. Revelation 3:5 NKJVIn studying this verse recently in preparing for a Bible study, it presented a theological conundrum. Often I have heard many preachers after having received a new believer during an invitation make a curious statement: "Such-and-such's name has just been written in the Lamb's Book of Life." I had never really thought about it, and following suit after I began pastoring, I have used that curious phrase after having received a new believer, affirming the new Christian in their commitment to follow Christ.
However, the phrase actually does not accurately represent what the Scripture teaches about election, as it is presented in Revelation 3:5. Many Christians have the idea that God keeps a running tally of all those who profess faith in Christ and then with a divine permanent marker, He writes that believer's name in the Lamb's Book of Life. However, this is not what this verse teaches. It actually teaches that everyone's name is already in the Book.
A divine register is not a new idea in the Scriptures. After the Golden Calf incident in Exodus, Moses approaches God, hopefully to make atonement for the sins of the children of Israel. Moses says to God, "Oh these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!" Moses then beseeches God that if He cannot forgive the people, that God could just blot his name out of the book which He had written. God's anger against their sin was not sated, so He responded to Moses in Exodus 32:33, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book."
Keeping a register was also a common practice in the city of Sardis. She was one of the most prosperous cities of Ancient Greece, yet by the time the letter found in Revelation 3:1-6 was delivered, the city was declining. Foolish over keeping city records, officials kept a great city register in which the names of all her inhabitants were recorded. There were only two ways an individual's name could be removed from the register; either criminal activity or death. So, one can draw an interesting conclusion from these details.
All names are already in the Book of Life and only the ones who fail to receive Jesus Christ in repentance and faith are blotted out. This seems to follow from the idea behind "blotted out." Doesn't something need to be written down first in order for it to be blotted out? I actually remember the advent of erasable ink. If a student writing in ink were to make a mistake, grace was there so as to erase his error. Before that silly paper-saving convenience, if one made a mistake, it had to be scratched over; blotted out. This also raises a second theological conundrum; that if one's name is written in the Book of Life only after salvation, then the possibility exists that one's name could indeed be removed and salvation could be lost.
The idea of blotting out something that is already there precludes this notion. An individual's name is already written in the register and the Lord Jesus will make the final decision at the judgment seat, so if one has failed to make a genuine decision for Christ, then that is when God will use His great indelible pen, and blot that lost sinner's name out from the book of eternal election, as Matthew Henry calls the Lamb's Book of Life. Incidentally, when Jesus speaks these words for the Apostle John to record, He uses a double negative, a no-no in English grammar but perfectly acceptable in Greek syntax. He actually says, "[To] He who overcomes...I will no not blot out his name from the Book of Life." Why then would Jesus place a peculiar emphasis upon the permanence of those whose names are written in the Book if He meant not that they would be saved to the uttermost?