"All the earth's inhabitants will worship the beast - all whose names not written in the Lamb's life book, the Lamb slain from the world's creation. He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, they will go. If anyone is to die with the sword, they will die which calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people." (Revelation 13.8-10)✞
The Book of Revelation frequently mentions the Lamb's book of Life or the Lamb's life book. Revelation 13.8 has the phrase "Written in the Lamb's life book, slain from the world's creation." "The Lamb's book of life" may be translated as "the book of life belonging to the slain Lamb." A parallel passage in Revelation 17.8 reads, "the earth's inhabitants whose names written in the book of life from the world's creation." Saint Paul also writes in Ephesians 1.4a, "For he chose us in him before the world's creation to be holy and blameless in his sight." Amazingly, God chose Christians to be holy before the world's formation. Nothing in life or death, in time or eternity, nothing the Devil nor a secular society can ever do can pluck Christians from his hand nor remove them from the Lamb's life book. Those names not written in "the book of Life" are given over to the beast. Keeping a "book of life" has perhaps a parallel in a rulers' ancient practice of maintaining citizens' registers in their realms. When a man died or lost his citizen's rights, the ruler removed his name. "The Lamb's life book" registers only those belonging to God through Jesus Christ.✞
Saint Peter wrote of Jesus' sacrificial death in 1 Peter 1.20a, "He was chosen before the world's creation, but revealed in these last times for your sake." Jesus Christ was the Lamb slain from the world's foundation, God's predestined will. The Jews held the traditional belief that the Archangel Michael originated before the world's creation as the predestined mediator between Israel and God. The Jews also believe that Moses originated before time's beginning with a similar function. There would be nothing unfamiliar in Jewish thought in saying that Jesus was before the world's creation as God's predestined will to be our Redeemer.✞
Predestination believes that God wills all events but is often set opposite to human free will where people do as they wish. However, these two sides often seem contrary to God's omniscience or all-knowing nature. Revelation 13.10 describes God's predestined will, "if anyone is to go into captivity, they will go. If anyone is to die with the sword, they will die." Some manuscripts write, "If anyone is to be killed" as "If anyone kills." This natural law seems to exemplify the Old Testament principle of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," but Jesus repudiated that idea in Matthew 5.38-39 saying, "you have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." This passage seems to be closely related to Exodus 21.23, saying, "but if it is unclear who was to blame, then you shall pay life for life, an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." This passage has the same impact as Jeremiah 15.2, which reads, "And if they ask you, 'Where shall we go?' tell them, 'This is what the Lord says, "Those destined for death, to death; those for the sword, to the sword; those for starvation, to starvation; those for captivity, to captivity."'"✞
The controversy between predestination and free will has engaged the church periodically over the centuries. Many devout men and women died for their cause on one side or the other. In sixteenth-century Reformation times, John Calvin (1509-1564), the French theologian and reformer, led the "predestination argument debate." Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), a Dutch Theologian, presented the "free will argument." It asked, "Is all we do God's predestined will, or do we make our own choices?" The question arises, "can we genuinely choose between one belief and another?" Each argument is only partially valid, for as we talk and read about free will and choice, we also believe as Christians in God's predestined will. We are both Calvinists and Arminians simultaneously, and that is OK, even if somewhat challenging for our tiny minds to comprehend!✞
We can imagine a relationship between the Deity and human beings or the balance between Calvinism and Arminianism. We can visualize a balloon on a string and something within that balloon. God holds the line and leads it along. Humans are within the balloon and can move around within this space. It is right to say that we have some choices within that confined space to move, but God ultimately determines where we will go. The balloon's direction and speed are determined entirely by the one who holds and pulls the string. You have numerous life decision choices, yet God predetermines the overall direction. Calvinism has been the Church of England's underlying belief since the Protestant Reformation, of which it was and is a part.✞
Christians are required to submit to God's will with patient endurance, even if that includes inevitable captivity or death. There is an unavoidable certainty in life. Even the time of our death cannot change if that is God's will. Because we know that God will inevitably do his will, then all we have to do is be patient and keep the faith through it. Endurance is not passive but a powerful reaction. We are not fatalists, for God fills us with the hope that whatever comes, he will overrule on our behalf. We can sing,
"I've had many tears and sorrow,
I've had questions for tomorrow,
There were times I didn't know right from wrong,
But in every situation,
God gave me blessed consolation.
That my trials only come to make me strong."
"Through it all, Through it all,
I've learned to trust in Jesus,
I've learned to trust in God,
I've learned to depend upon his word."
Lyrics and music Andrae Crouch (1942-2015)✞