Lamb's Book Life
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52. Lamb's Book Life
Revelation 13.8-10

"All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast - all whose names have not been written in the Lamb's book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, they will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God's people." (Revelation 13.8-10)✞

Names Written

Open BookThe Lamb's Book of Life is mentioned frequently in Revelation. "Written in Lamb's book of life, who was slain from the creation of the world" may be translated as "written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was slain." There is a parallel passage in Revelation 17.8b, "The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world." Saint Paul also writes in Ephesians 1.4a, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight." Amazingly, God picks us out in Jesus Christ even before the foundations of the world are formed. God chooses his own from before the beginning of time, and nothing in life or death, nothing in time or eternity, nothing that the Devil or the Roman Empire can ever do can pluck the early Christians and ourselves today from his hand nor remove us from the Lamb's Book of Life. It is given to the beast to overcome those whose names are not written in "the Book of Life." It is perhaps a parallel to the practice in ancient times when rulers keep registers of those who are citizens of their realms, only when a man dies or loses his rights as a citizen, is his name removed. "The Lamb's Book of Life" is the register of those who belong to God through Jesus Christ.

God's Predestined Will

Lamb of GodJesus Christ's death on the cross with arms held wide is revealed as God's predestined will before the foundation of the world. This passage in Revelation 13 speaks of God's predestined will. Predestination is the doctrine that all events are willed by God. Predestination is often set opposite to the free will of humans to do as they wish. However, these two sides often seem to be in conflict and contrary to God's omniscience or all-knowing nature. Revelation 13.10 describes the predestined will of God saying, "If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed." "If anyone is to be killed" is written in some manuscripts as "If anyone kills." This seems to exemplify the Old Testament principle of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," but Jesus repudiates 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.' This seems to be closely related to another saying in Exodus 21.23, "But if it is unclear who was to blame, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." "But I tell you," says Jesus, "do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." 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."'" Aside from the retaliation aspect of "a tooth for a tooth" a close parallel to Revelation 13 would be where Saint Peter speaks of Jesus and his sacrificial death in 1 Peter 1.20a as "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." Jesus Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the World and this is the predestined will of God. The Jews hold the traditional belief that the Archangel Michael is formed before the foundation of the world to be the predestined mediator between Israel and God. The Jews also think that Moses is formed before the creation of the Universe to have a similar function. There would, therefore, be nothing unfamiliar in Jewish thought in saying that Jesus was before the Creation of the world as the predestined will of God to be the Redeemer of humankind.

Free Will

Jesus Arms WideThe controversy between predestination and free will engages the church over the centuries. Many devout men and women die for their cause on either side. The debate leads in Reformation times in the Sixteenth Century led by John Calvin (1509-1564) the French theologian, reformer and pastor in Switzerland for the "predestination argument." Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609) the Dutch Theologian and his historic supporters known as Remonstrants presents the "free will argument." It asks, "Is all we do the predestined will of God or do we make our own choices?" Then the question arises, "can we genuinely choose between one belief or the other?" Each argument is only part of the truth, for while we talk and read about free will and choice, we also believe as Christians in the predestined will of God. We are both Calvinist and Arminian at the same time, and that is OK even if it is somewhat incomprehensible to our small minds!

God's Balloon String

Colored BalloonsIf we imagine God's balloon string and humans within the balloon then we have a picture of the relationship between the Deity and human beings. The balance between Calvinism and Arminianism or Predetermined Lives and Free Will is described in terms of a child holding a balloon on a string. In this theory, if God is a child holding a balloon string and we are within that balloon it is true to say that we have some choices within that confined space to move but God determines the way we will go. The direction and speed of the balloon are determined completely by the one who holds and pulls the string. You have a choice in your life decisions yet the overall direction for you and me is predetermined by God. Calvinism has been the basic belief of the Church of England since the Protestant Reformation of which it was a part.

Unholy Trinity

Unholy TrinityThe unholy Trinity in Revelation is made up of the three evil beasts, the dragon, the earth beast, and the sea beast. These stand in opposition to the Holy Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The term "Trinity" comes from "triad" meaning "threefold" and defines God as three persons together. It is also used to describe the "unholy trinity" of the three evil beasts in Revelation. The inhabitants of the earth are forced to worship the Beast. The dragon's two evil accomplices are introduced as "the beast out of the sea" and "the beast out of the earth." The power given to the unholy trinity is limited to a short time by God and even then God will still be in control. "The Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world" may be translated as "written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb who was slain." Together, the three evil beasts make up the Revelation Unholy Trinity in direct opposition to the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are in essence "three persons in one God" and though distinct from one another are of one substance. This Trinitarian relationship is seen in Jesus' command to his disciples in Matthew 28.19 to baptize, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit."

Patient Endurance

Spiritual GrowthThe times of great persecution that John sees under this unholy trinity provides an opportunity for believers to exercise patient endurance and faithfulness. Tough times that Christians face are also opportunities for spiritual growth. The beast has a fatal wound which some early Christians believe indicate that this was Nero the Roman Emperor from 37-68 AD who had come back to life. He was extremely cruel and persecuted Christians and the Christian Church relentlessly. He is responsible for the deaths and martyrdom of many thousands of innocent people. Nero committed suicide on the 9th June 68 AD and died from a self-inflicted stab wound in the throat, hence the significance of the fatal wound!

Patient Endurance

Prison BarsChristians are required to submit to the will of God with patient endurance even if that includes the inevitable captivity or death. "If anyone is to sent into captivity, into captivity he will go." This suggests a certainty of inevitable captivity or death. Even death cannot be changed if that is in the will of God. "If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed." Jeremiah 15.2 adds, "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.'" Christians are reminded that because we know that God's will shall be done in the end, then all we have to do is be patient and to keep the faith even through captivity or death. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints. This is not a passive but very active reaction. We are not fatalists but we are filled with hope that no matter what comes even death, God will overrule on our behalf in the end.

"Lamb's Book Life"
by Ron Meacock © 2019

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