The Bible speaks about the "Book of Life". It seems that those whose names are written in it will have life and spend eternity in heaven whereas those whose names are not written in it will be cast into the lake of fire.

"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. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire".

However, the Bible also talks about not blotting people's names out of the book of life.

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. Revelation 3:5

So, are the names of all people originally in the Book of Life? And then are the names of those who reject Christ blotted out of it later? If so, what are the implications of this?

The Bible also speaks of those whose names have not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life.

Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, 8and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. Revelation 13:7-8

So, which is it?

  • 1
    This looks like a case for the anagogical sense!
    – Peter Turner
    Oct 18, 2011 at 14:18
  • 6
    In my opinion, God is not bound by time. The book of life could have been written before the earth was formed, with all of the names of all of the people that obeyed God, and none of the names of all of the people that didn't obey God. God already knows what happens. We don't know what happens. Oct 19, 2011 at 13:49
  • @GilbertLeBlanc: How depressing that viewpoint is; we don't have free will at all. Our actions, from the beginning of our life to the end, have already been mapped out for us in excruciating detail. Nov 4, 2011 at 18:59
  • @Robert Harvey: Yes, God knows our actions from the beginning of our life to the end. What gives us free will is that we don't know our actions. Remember, God is not bound by time. Nov 8, 2011 at 9:37
  • @GilbertLeBlanc: That sounds like the illusion of free will, not free will itself. Dec 21, 2011 at 0:02

5 Answers 5


As with many issues I start with the Summa Theologica (Summary of Theology), by Thomas Aquinas. Here is one section of use: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1024.htm#article3.

Here is an interesting quote:

"Let them be blotted out from the book of the living" (Psalm 68:29).

So, yes, people can be blotted out of the Book of Life.

We may think we know who should be in that book, as we feel that person is achieved a particular level of holiness, but, God knows all, so there is information He will have that we don't. So, we may feel someone is definitely going to Heaven, but later they do something that casts doubt on that, so we say they may have been removed from the Book, when they may never have been in there in the first place.

This also leads to the idea of predestination, that Aquinas covers in two parts that help here, but that goes beyond the answer to this question, so I will just give references. This one deals with whether the Book of Life is predestination http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1024.htm#article1

And whether those predestined for Heaven are chosen by God. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1023.htm#article4


I like to think about this as matter of perspective.

Everything agree that God is omniscient, so He knows everything in the space and time. "Before the foundation of the world", God knows and write in the book of life the names of the saints. But that names are no reveleated to anyone, men or angels. Note the verse that you cited:

and another book was opened, which is [the book] of life

opened = the contents were revealed.

It's obvious that God knows the contents, but all creation don't know it.

From our viewpoint the names are writen and erased over time, just because we don't know the original contents... And it is the better (and safer) thought that we need:

Matthew 24:13 KJV
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

In short, from God's viewpoint the book is immutable; from creature's viewpoint, the names can be added (on salvation proccess) or removed.

  • Isn't Matthew 24:13 talking about physical salvation for those that survive through the tribulation without the mark? Nov 1, 2011 at 1:35

Regarding Psalm 68:29 -- it is an illogical premise to suppose that because scripture refers to "not blotting out" that there is the ability to blot out.

Clearly, scripture indicates that the names of God's people were written in the Book of Life before the foundations of the world. God is sovereign. Scripture indicates He choose whom He wants, not based on anything they do. We are born again via God alone, not by human will or desire. These are the names in the Book.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site. As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page and How we are different than other sites?. I agree with your answer, but it would be better if you could cite Scripture or doctrinal statements supporting it. See What makes a good supported answer? Aug 31, 2013 at 16:53
  • My apologies! The scriptures originally stated in the first comment clearly indicate God's people were written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8)
    – Sandrajune
    Sep 2, 2013 at 14:09
  • My apologies! -The scriptures originally stated in the first comment clearly indicate God's people were written in the Book of Life from before the foundation of the world (ex: Rev 13:8) -We are born again via God alone, not by human will or desire. (John 1:13, Eph 1:4,11, Acts 13:48, Romans 8:29-30, John 15:16) Therefore, God alone chooses, He writes the names in the book, and promises that He will not blot out. Psalm 68:29 is a promise, not a threat. Praise God!
    – Sandrajune
    Sep 2, 2013 at 14:15

There is a difference in the translation of my bibles Revelation 13:7-8:

"It was permitted to wage war with the holy ones and conquer them, and it was given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. 8 And all those who dwell on the earth will worship it. From the founding of the world, not one of their names has been written in the scroll of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered."*

My bibles translation implies that from the founding of the earth up till Armageddon, that the book of life isn't finished. This means then that based on decisions we make that we can be wiped out of the book of life.

God knows our very thoughts and intentions Psalms 139:1-3:

"O Jehovah, you have searched through me, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You observe me when I travel and when I lie down; You are familiar with all my ways. 4 There is not a word on my tongue, But look! O Jehovah, you already know it well."

So God can see our motives. He knows what we are going to do before we do it because he knows our intentions. Does this mean that every action is predestined? Not exactly, to illustrate this think of a man who had caught on fire. It hurts and he doesn't want to be burned. You are then reasonably assured he will put it out. Does this mean that because you knew he would do so that you caused him to put it out?

This makes sense when you consider free will and Jesus' sacrifice. God can give us his holy spirit so that we can take in knowledge of him. God doesn't force us to follow him. He gives us the choice and the 2 roads are in front of us for us to choose.

An example of this is Exodus 32:32&33

"But now if you are willing, pardon their sin; if not, please wipe me out from your book that you have written.” 33 However, Jehovah said to Moses: “Whoever has sinned against me, I will wipe him out of my book."

This shows that the disobedient Israelite's had been in the book of life before this took place. Because of their actions, or sin, God was going to wipe them out of the book.

So rather than everything being already written, I would imagine that the book of life is being constantly updated according to our actions. Another example is Revelations 2:10:

"Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of you into prison so that you may be fully put to the test, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life."


In regards to the free will comment above, let me use an example to illustrate my point. If I, as a father, know my son's favorite ice-cream is vanilla, and I am taking my family to the ice-cream store, and I right a note to my wife with a grin and say in the note "he's going to get vanilla." Then we get to the store, he is given the choice as to what to order, and he looks at all the flavors and he orders vanilla. I did not make him order vanilla. He ordered it because he wanted to. But I knew what he was going to order. God is not contained by time, He is omniscient. He is also omnipresent, all-powerful and all-knowing. God just is. He is right now at the beginning of the world. He is right now also on the cross of Calvary. He is right now also at the end of the world. 1 trillion years from now... God is! So, just because God knew what each person would decide, does not remove the choice from each person, it just means we serve a God who is all-knowing. He can look at the end of the story of our lives and see the choices we made and... without moving... write our names in the Book of Life before the foundations of the world! What an awesome God we serve! If we had no free will, there would be no need for Jesus to have died to save us. He would have already decided who was going to heaven. But because He wanted to make the choice that we do have even easier, He died for us. Because He wants us to make the right choice knowing that He loves us that much.

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