The Book of Life - Can Your Name be Blotted Out?
Updated: Nov 2
The Stakes are High
What is the book of life, and why is it so important? The book of life is the record of the redeemed. The names written in this book are those whom God has saved. Anyone’s name found in this book, has eternal life and will not perish. Conversely, according to Revelation 20:15, if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
With so much at stake, we must ask the question, how does one get their name written in the book of life?
The answer is through repentance and faith – a turning from sin and trusting in Christ for salvation.
Many believe that once a person does that, they have eternal life, and that life cannot be lost. Personally, I am one of those people. However, not everyone shares that perspective. Some see passages of Scripture where certain names are “blotted out”, or “erased” from the book of life. They would therefore say that those people were once saved, but after their name was removed, they lost their salvation.
According to my study on this topic, I can't find a single example in Scripture of a person's name ever being blotted out of the book of life.
Exodus 32 and Psalm 69
In Exodus 32, the Israelite people corrupted themselves by fashioning a calf out of gold. Instead of worshipping God, they began offering their devotion to this golden calf and thus became engaged in idolatry.
Exodus 32:7,8: And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’”
Moses responds in verse 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.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.”
Notice in Exodus 32, the book referred to there is “the book that you have written”. God does not have just one book; there are multiple books. See: Revelation 20:12. Many assume, "the book that you have written", is the same as the Book of Life. I don’t share that perspective. It seems to me that this is the same book as the “book of the living” referred to in Psalm 69:28.
To be blotted out of this book means to die – physically. These people have lost earthly, physical life – not eternal life. When God removes someone from this book, that means He takes their life. The soul that sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:20a)
Which makes what Moses asked of God so amazing! Moses is saying if God doesn’t forgive their sin, then God should take his life. That’s what is being referred to in Exodus 32 and Psalm 69. God is saying, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will remove them from the world. I’ll take them out of the book of those who are alive.”
What about Revelation 3:5?
The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)
People will say, “If some names never get blotted out, that must mean some names do get blotted out.” This way of looking at that verse (either intentionally or unintentionally) turns a promise into a threat. In Scripture, Jesus does give warnings regarding impending danger (He does so earlier in the very same chapter.)
However, in this portion of the passage, He is making a promise. The context tells us that. The verse in question is bookended with these promises: “the one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments” and “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”
We need to be careful to not go beyond, and add to what is written. Just because He says He won’t blot out names, doesn’t mean that He does blot out names. In fact, later in Revelation we read that everyone’s name found in the book of life was written there “before the foundation of the world.” (Revelation 13:8)
The Lord doesn’t blot out anyone’s name from the book of life. That’s because it has always been God's purpose to save those people. The plan was to secure their salvation, not by what they have accomplished, but by what the Savior has accomplished for them. God doesn’t withdraw salvation from us because of something that we may, or may not have done.
In my experience, when people ask about losing their salvation, it’s usually because they have some sin going on in their life at that time. The thinking for some goes like this: “I’ve sinned; therefore, that means there's no more grace available for me. My name's been blotted out of the book of life. I was a child of God, now I’m a lost orphan on my way to hell.”
To state it plainly, I don’t think the Scriptures teach that one who has been actually born again, justified, and indwelt with God’s Holy Spirit, can ever lose that. I don’t believe those characteristics of a truly regenerated person can ever be lost. They aren’t reversible.
The question at this point is, what now? My suggestion is that we should stop and think about it like this. Broadly speaking, Arminians believe that salvation can be lost. Either through too much sin or too grievous sin – or one could simply deny the faith altogether and become apostate. Calvinists believe your salvation is secure. (Even with the understanding that we sin and when we do sin, sometimes those sins can be quite horrific.)
The Calvinist also believes that anyone who is living a lifestyle of sin, is the same as the one who denounces the faith; they are both equally lost.
Side note: The Calvinist wouldn’t say that salvation was lost, instead, they would say that person never was a Christian to begin with. They will then quote 1 John 2:19: They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.
So as we look at these two competing views, Calvinism and Arminianism, what I find interesting is that in the end, they both agree on the end result. Which is what? Those who do not persevere in faith are lost. So ironically, both the Arminian and the Calvinist agree that if you don’t continue in the faith, you don’t belong to God.
There’s even more agreement. Both groups would agree on the remedy to the problem. Repentance! So, at the end of the day, both parties (those who believe salvation can be lost and those who don’t), can agree on one thing. The words Jesus spoke nearly 2,000 years ago are as relevant today as they’ve ever been, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3)