Can a person's name be erased from the Book of Life?
Revelation 22:19, in the King James Version, says, "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Other versions, including NIV, ESV, and NASB, use "tree of life" instead of "book of life." Can a Christian's name be removed from the Book of Life and his or her salvation lost?
Revelation 3:5 offers ample evidence that a believer will not be removed from 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." This "one who conquers" or "overcomer" is a reference to Christians.
For example, in 1 John 5:4-5, John writes, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" No Christian, therefore, will ever have his or her name erased from the Book of Life.
Also, the warning in Revelation 22:19 is aimed toward unbelievers who would seek to tamper with God's message. Verse 18 notes that anyone who adds to His words would receive the "plagues described in this book." Verse 19 notes "God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city." Both of these references are things that take place to unbelievers, not to someone who has already believed.
It is clear that those who truly believe in Christ would want to grow in Him, not change His words. In fact, believers will respond like the apostle John with urgency for Christ's return: "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).
In addition to the above, other places in the New Testament teach that a believer in Christ cannot be separated from His love. Romans 8:38-39 provides this truth in the strongest terms: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Revelation 22:19 is not a picture of God ready at any moment to erase a person's name from heaven because of shortcomings in this life, as if He is a nit-picking dictator poised to punish. Jesus took on all the punishment and our salvation is secure in Him. Rather, Revelation 22:19 serves as a warning to those unbelievers who fail to come to faith in Christ and instead seek to change His words. Because these unbelievers will be eternally separated from the Lord, believers are encouraged to urgently share the gospel with every person possible (Matthew 28:18-20).
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