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

"The earth's inhabitants will worship the beast, 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) ✞

Names Written There

Open BookThe 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." Translators note that "the Lamb's life book" may mean "the life book belonging to the slain Lamb," emphasizing who owns it. Revelation 17.8 says, "All who do not have their names written in the life book from the creation of the world." 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" had 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 from his ledger. "The Lamb's life book" registers only those belonging to God through Jesus Christ.

Before the Creation

CreationSaint Peter wrote of Jesus' pre-creation existence and sacrificial death in 1 Peter 1.20a. "He was chosen before the world's creation but revealed in these last times for your sake." It was God's predestined will that "Christ was the Lamb slain from the world's foundation." Jewish mythology held the traditional belief that the Archangel Michael originated before the world's creation as the predestined mediator between Israel and God. Many Jewish people also believed that Moses came before time's beginning. There would be nothing unfamiliar in Jewish thought in saying that Jesus was before the world's creation as God's predestined will.

God's Predetermined Will

Lamb of GodPredestination acknowledges that God wills all events into being, but this belief 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 predetermined or predestined will. It reads, "if anyone is to go into captivity, they will go. If anyone is to die with the sword, they will die." Several manuscripts write, "if anyone is to die" as "if anyone kills," adding a cause and effect to this verse. If you say that something is predetermined, God has already decided and will not prevent or change it. 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."'" There is an Old Testament principle in Exodus 21.23. It says, "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 principle seems to exemplify the concept 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."

Selfless Love

BridgeI am reminded of a Saturday evening in Piccadilly Circus in London, England, giving out tracts and street preaching one Saturday evening with two colleagues, Captain Ken Weaver, and a friend. As we stood on the corner opposite the Eros statue, a crowd of football fans passed by, and one suddenly stepped out and punched our elderly friend in the face, and he went down. Slowly, he got back on his feet, and not complaining, stood up and continued as if nothing had happened. He turned the other cheek. It was particularly appropriate for the Statue of Eros, the Greek God of love, was before us! Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934) designed the aluminum statue called 'The God of Selfless Love' to commemorate Anthony Ashley Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885). He was known for his selfless efforts to reform child labor practices, improve the care of 'the mentally challenged,' stop the use of young boys as chimney sweeps, reform the education system, and put an end to the opium trade. He died in 1885, and though he was offered a state burial in the prestigious Westminster Abbey, he declined, expressing the wish to be buried in St Giles church on his family estate in Dorset. His was a selfless love.

Free Will

Jesus Arms WideThe controversy between predetermination 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 predetermined will. We are both Calvinist and Arminian simultaneously, which is OK, even if somewhat challenging for our tiny minds to comprehend!

God's Balloon String

Colored BalloonsWe can imagine a relationship between the Deity and human beings. The balance between Calvinism and Arminianism is like a balloon on a string with a person in it. God holds the line and leads it along, but humans can move around freely within this space. It is right to say that we have some choices to move, but God ultimately determines where we will go. The balloon's direction and speed are determined entirely by the one holding and pulling the string. You and I have numerous life choices, yet God predetermines the overall trend. Calvinism has been the Church of England's underlying belief system since the 16th century Protestant Reformation, of which it was and still is a part.

Patient Endurance

Prison BarsChristians 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, all we have to do is be patient and keep 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 with Andrae Crouch (1942-2015),

"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." ✞

"Lamb's Life Book"
by Ron Meacock © 2021

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