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Can Someone’s Name Really Be Erased from the Book of Life?

The words of Scripture are a promise directed to true believers; to trust we are secure in our salvation. If we have given our lives to Jesus Christ, we have been promised that we are sealed for the day of redemption.

Updated Dec 13, 2023
Can Someone’s Name Really Be Erased from the Book of Life?

“The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:5).

How many of us know or have heard of someone we admire seemingly suddenly abandoning their faith? Today, we are seeing many people — friends we know or even pastors — throwing away perhaps years of belief and devotion.

Apostasy — or a falling away, a renunciation, from God or any religious beliefs — is becoming rampant in our generation. Atheists never believe, but apostates believe and then turn away.

And let’s face it; it is disturbing when we see supposed shepherds of God’s flock question or deny the foundational elements of Christian doctrine. Of our own faith.

Others we know were once active believers. Active in their churches on Sundays and in Bible study groups, or even small assemblies such as men’s or women’s groups. Yet, they have now fallen away for one reason or another.

In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul predicted this “falling away,” this apostasy, as one of the warning signs of the coming End Times (2 Thessalonians 2:3, MEV).

But what does it mean? What is at stake for those who, once claimed to be committed believers, suddenly give up their faith or fail to live out their faith?

The Book of Life

There are multiple references in the New Testament to the Book of Life or to the Lamb’s Book of Life, many of which are found in the Book of Revelation.

Paul referred to the Book of Life in his letter to the Philippians when asking for help for two women who had contended for the gospel with him:

Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life(Philippians 4:3).

The Book of Life is also mentioned as early as the Book of Daniel when he was given a vision and detailed description of the End Times to come (Daniel 12:1).

While references to the Book of Life can be found in Revelations 20:12, 13:8, and 21:27, Revelation 3:5 gives a perfect description of what the book represents, as well as God’s intent:

The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.

The purpose, then, of the Book of Life is quite simple — the names written in the Book of Life are those who have attained eternal life; those who belong to God.

Clearly, references to the Lamb’s Book of Life refer to those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Christ Jesus; thus, both references are to the same Book of Life.

But how does one’s name get written there? We know the answer to that one — repent of your sins and believe in your heart in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior.

Believe in your heart.

Why Are Some Turning Away?

Many years ago, our church was blessed with a visit from Henry Orombi, an archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda. During his sermon on that Sunday, many of us were quite surprised to hear Bishop Orombi say, “It is very difficult to be a Christian in America.”

Personally, I more or less assumed being a Christian in America was easy, but the bishop cleared that up. “In America, you have everything — you don’t need God. In Uganda, we need God for each and every day, for each and every meal.”

Over time, it has become clear what the bishop meant. In America, calling yourself a Christian is easy. It, indeed, is far more difficult to be a true believer. It is easy to sayyou believe, but to truly live it in our hearts was much more of a challenge.

Here in America, we are overwhelmed with the temptations of the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life…” (1 John 2:16). Here, many of us are raised as “religious Christians” from birth — went to church, Sunday school, the whole nine yards.

It was then and is now easy to think we are believers…but that faith never traveled the short distance from our heads to our hearts.

James made the difference clear:

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder (vv. 18-19).

Our deeds — our good works and good words — alone are useless without true faith. We can say we believe, but that doesn’t mean we are saved. That does not mean our names are written in the Book of Life.

He Never Knew Them

Those who have fallen away — or chosen to turn their backs on God — have perhaps failed to let Jesus Christ into their hearts. Those so-called believers whom we see falling away are like the demons who believe and shudder. Their faith was possibly a facade in their deeds but was not anchored in their hearts.

In the Bible, we see several examples of some who thought they were believers. In John 15:1-7, Jesus describes them as branches that did not remain in the true Vine, therefore, did not produce any fruit.

In a section of the Gospel of Matthew appropriately titled “True and False Disciples,” Jesus said this:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

Peter offered his own explanation:

It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud” (Peter 2:21-22).

The author of Hebrews describes these well:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace (Hebrews 6:4-6).

While many argue this verse is an indication that a believer can lose salvation if they fall away, a closer study proves otherwise.

Referring to “Those who have once been enlightened…” — those who have received some amount of biblical instruction. “Those who have tasted…” — those who have had a sampling of the heavenly gift.

Despite this, they remained far from being regenerated by the Holy Spirit and the spirit dwelling in their hearts.

This group is those who have tasted the truth but have not come to faith and fallen away even after the revelation they have received. They came to some realization of the truth but could not give their hearts to Christ.

Can a Name Ever be Erased?

Do we know for absolute certain about all things we read and interpret in the Bible? Of course not. But this one seems abundantly clear.

The words of Scripture are a promise directed to true believers; to trust we are secure in our salvation. If we have given our lives to Jesus Christ, we have been promised that we are sealed for the day of redemption(Ephesians 4:30).

Even more powerfully, Jesus himself promised us:

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one” (John 10:28).

While the fate of the ungodly is sealed — their names not written in the Book of Life — so too is the fate of God’s own. Nothing can snatch us from his hand.

If that wasn’t evidence enough, Revelation 3:5 makes it clear — once your name is written in the Book of Life, it can never be erased.

As true believers, we need never doubt our eternal security in Christ. We need never doubt that our names are indelibly written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Now and forevermore.

For further reading:

What Is the Book of Life? And the Lamb's Book of Life in Revelation?

What Is the Purpose of the Book of Life?

Can a Christian Lose Salvation?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Pheelings Media


SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of "In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins" — an easy-to-read search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Greg is an everyday guy on the same journey as everyone else — in pursuit of truth. You can reach Greg by email [email protected]  and on Facebook

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Christianity / Theology / Salvation / Can Someone’s Name Really Be Erased from the Book of Life?