There is only one authoritative source for this small but profound doctrine. It is God’s Word. The text is II Sam.12:7-23. Instead of being with his army, for some unknown reason David was back in Jerusalem. From his vantage point, David gazed upon the beautiful young Bathsheba as she bathed. Eventually lust gave way to fulfillment.
As the war progressed with David’s army even a greater one grew back home. When Bathsheba announced of her pregnancy to David he devised a scheme to rid himself of dealing with her husband and facing open shame as king. Little did he realize this only compounded matters between him and God. God sent the prophet Nathan to expose David’s sin and to pronounce God’s immediate future upon him because of it. Part of God’s plan was for the baby not to survive. [Stay with me now!] Soon after the child’s birth, the infant became seriously ill and David started fasting on the child’s behalf. On the seventh day the child finally died. The servants went in to tell David but were afraid of his possible reaction. After learning that the child had died David arose, cleaned himself, worshipped, and sat down to food. His actions confounded those around. Listen as David responded, “And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell [whether] GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. (2Sam.12:22-23)”
Rest assured that not only is death a one-way door but God has special provision for innocent children and others who are born with mental limitations that prevent them from understanding sin. Their destination is not some type of baby limbo but rather it is the same place as the rest of the redeemed. In many ways, the work of the Holy Spirit was vastly different in the Old Testament from that in the New Testament. Although time will not permit us to examine this in detail, please remember that one functions of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is that of permanently sealing the redeemed. However, in the Old Testament we observe that the Holy Spirit came upon people to accomplish things (like delivering a message) and then departed. The only Old Testament exception to this is with David. David was completely aware of this and I believe that it is one reason we find it mentioned in David’s lament about this entire mess in Psalm 51. Note carefully verse eleven
Even Moses, thousands of years ago, had a tremendous theological understanding of such a book. Listen to what he expresses to God after realizing Israel’s terrible sin. “…Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. 33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.” (Ex.32:31-33)” From this we note several important things in regards to the book. This book is real and that resides in Heaven. God designed it, and to this very day, retains a perfect record within its covers! Thus far, we have established that God removes the first time anyone sins, even once, his or her name.
As we move to the New Testament, clues about this book add to its splendor! “And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life (Phil.4:3).” Paul considered those who served with him as having their names in, what Moses referred to as “thy book”, Paul now calls “the book of life”.
Without a doubt, another glorious fact about this most intriguing subject is recorded the last New Testament book. “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 (Rev.3:5).”
Now we must add, to our little growing doctrine, the eternal truth that God promises never to remove the name of anyone who overcomes. The prevailing question is – and how does one become an overcomer? The answer – “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (IJn.5:4-5) The object that needs overcoming is our sinful condition and the way we come over to God’s side is by accepting The Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. In Revelation 13:8, we note, “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” A time is rapidly approaching unlike any before. During this era, all, with the exception of those in this book, now referred to as belonging to the “Lamb,” will be forced by earthly powers to worship a satanically possessed false messiah. Since “all” on the earth will be required to worship him and those in the “book” will not, we must conclude that the latter will be far beyond all earthly searches. In Revelation 17:8, we note a reference to this “book” in events during this great tribulation period. “The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.” It is noteworthy that not only will this member of the satanic trinity be cast in “perdition” but also all those on the earth do not have their names recorded in “the book of life”.
Although there is no general judgment described in Scripture, every soul, who has or will tread upon this earth, will at one point pass by the creator and face judgment! In the following passage, we read about the great white throne judgment. “And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. (Rev.20:11-14)” The text reveals a number of things but please follow along as I point out only a few. At this judgment only the unredeemed will be present, God’s record “books” will be present, “the book of life” will be there, all passing by will be judged out of the “books” not out of “the book of life”, and all present will have the same destination. Without question, God keeps perfect records and pronounces perfect judgments!
Revelation has two final references. “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. (Rev. 21:27)” “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, 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.(Rev. 22:19)”
Now let us tie all of this together. God has a book called “the book of life.” Scripture teaches us that at birth every soul has their name recorded by God in this book. At some point, a child’s indwelling sinful nature comes alive and causes that soul to rebel against God. When this rebellion occurs so does sin and with sin comes the erasing of that person’s name from God’s book. From that unknown point onward, that same soul needs God’s redemption in order to have his name placed back into God’s family register.
Without any question, the Bible clearly teaches that prior to salvation, one must one must acknowledge their sins, repent of their sins, and trust the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, children who die in a state of innocence have not sinned, therefore, they cannot, and need not, be redeemed. Once a sinning soul is redeemed, or bought back, God re-enters that soul’s name back into His book and assures the recipient that, not only will he never be removed again but also that He was granted eternal citizenship in His city with Him, His entire family, and all the celestial beings! Only those in God’s book have God’s gift!
Compiled by Dr. R. L. Luther