If you are a Christian, you likely have heard of the Book of Life. This is not another book of the Bible, but rather a book where God has recorded the names of each individual who received salvation through their belief in Jesus. It is promised that these people will abide with God forever on a newly created earth.
References to the Book of Life are found six times in the book of Revelation and once in Philippians 4:3. The Bible puts great importance on having your name written in the Book of Life. The book will be used at the time of judgement to distinguish between those sentenced to eternal punishment in hell versus those who will live with God forever.
As it turns out, God keeps records in a great many books. These records will be used to rightly judge each human that ever lived. “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne [to be judged], and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” [Revelation 20:12]
As the verse says, the books contain the record of every act a person has done. The idea that we will one day stand before God and He will judge us according the good and bad of our life is true. But there is a caveat that isn’t talked about.
In the Old Testament (Tanakh) we are told to be holy in the same way God is holy. “I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be hole, for I am holy.” This is God’s command to all people, “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” [Leviticus 11:45 & 19:2]
But, you say, that is for Israel. It says so clearly in the text. True, but this command is in the New Testament too. “[God] chose us in [Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” [Ephesians 1:4]
So, if we are to be holy as God is holy, if we are to be blameless before Him, that is 100%, all the time. We can’t be holy as God is holy.
So when we stand before this Holy God and the books are opened, will God see His holy perfection? God’s view of perfection is such that “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” [Isaiah 64.6] The term polluted garment represents clothing that has been soiled by an undesired bodily discharge.
In other words, to God, our best efforts to please Him are disgustingly inadequate. That doesn’t sound like a loving God, does it? This is the problem with Christianity when humans try to understand God. Our perspective is so very different from God’s that we can’t comprehend how our best efforts are viewed by God as insufficient.
The Book of Life
But there is one other book. This book doesn’t contain deeds, it only contains names. The names are those who recognize they are incapable of being holy as God is holy and trust God alone to save them from eternal destruction. God knew that His creation would fail. But He also knew that each individual who recognized their failure and relied solely on God would have a genuine love relationship with God.
The love of God is manifested in His commitment to save His people. This commitment was manifested through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Anyone who believes in what Jesus proclaimed will have their names found in the Book of Life.
Book of Remembrance
The question often arises, “What about the people who lived before Jesus? How are they saved from eternal destruction?” Four hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Malachi wrote these words, “Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” [Malachi 3:16]
The Book of Remembrance is Volume 1 of a two-volume set. The Book of Life is Volume 2. God did not change when Jesus was born. Jesus clarified and enhanced what had always been true. Those who feared the LORD in the days of Malachi recognized their insufficiency before the Holy God. The fear was the manifestation. God could justifiably condemn them. This reverence of God’s holiness is what saved them from destruction.
Questions about God and what He means to us are to be expected. How can we truly and fully understand an absolutely perfect, loving, and judgmental being? How can we understand a being with the power to speak us into existence?
God doesn’t ask us to understand. He only asks us to believe and trust.