LIFE lies in God's love. Its first impulse flows from
Him. The amount of life imparted corresponds with the measure of the
divine affection toward its object. To all the creatures created in the
Son of His love God has given life. All mankind possesses it in some
degree. Yet to Israel God was especially loving. Hence their names are
written in the scroll of life, to distinguish them from the less favored
families of the race. Beyond this, eonian life is the special portion of
believers. Life immortal and incorruptible will be theirs for the eons of
the eons. Life becomes the precious portion of all at the consummation.
The grand truth that death will be abolished (1
Cor.15:26; 2 Tim.1:10) fills our hearts with adoration. Our own
vivification in the presence of Christ brings us consolation and
expectation. But the special place of Israel in the various planes of life
still needs to be explored. Long, long ago certain passages in Paul's
epistles led me to look upon the scroll of life as a census of the sons of
Israel, and confined to the Circumcision. Gradually this impression faded,
but when I seriously considered the subject again, I once more came to
this conclusion. If this is true it greatly simplifies some problems
connected with the judgment of the great white throne.
Some of Paul's fellow workers are described in
Philippians as those "whose names are in the scroll of life" (Phil.4:3).
In Colossians is a similar passage, "who are of the Circumcision"
(Col.4:11). It is evident that the apostle continued to associate with
his brethren according to the flesh, especially if they received the
special revelations given to him. Not all believers were of the
Circumcision, or had their names written in the book of life, or it would
be quite pointless to mention the fact in connection with particular
individuals. In writing a letter to the gentile ecclesias at Philippi and
Colossae, however, seeing that the union of the Circumcision and the
Uncircumcision is so vital a part of the truth set forth in Ephesians, it
would be most fitting to make special mention of the practical effect of
this teaching, by recording the fact that certain of Paul's fellow workers
belonged to the Circumcision. This would not necessarily imply that they
still held with the nation in flesh, but rather that they came from them.
They were still circumcised. Their names were by no means erased from the
book of life because they had become members of Christ. But, as those of
the nations who believed did not have their names in the book, this fact
became a special token by which they were distinguished.
But the evidence here is far too weak to form the basis
on which to build any teaching. It will be better to confirm it before
going farther. It seems to be implied in passages in the Hebrew
Scriptures, but the most conclusive evidence, perhaps, is furnished us in
connection with the holy city, new Jerusalem, the bride, the wife of the
Lambkin (Rev.21:9-27). At the close of its description we are told,
"under no circumstances may anything contaminating, or one who is making
an abomination and a lie be entering into it, except those written in the
Lambkin's scroll of life." On the portals of this city are inscribed the
names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel (Rev.21:12). It seems
needless to find further evidence that this is indeed the home of the
favored nation. That the other nations are not within its walls is further
shown by the statements that the nations will be walking by means of its
light, and that their glory and honor will be carried into it
(Rev.21:24,26). The situation here seems very clear. Israel within the
city, the nations without. One written in the scroll of life, the other
kept out by the lack of such an honor.
THE KINGS OF THE NATIONS
Israel is to give birth to a son, a male, who will
shepherd all the nations with an iron club (Rev.12:5). As the woman is
figurative, so also must be her travail and the son which she bears. The
epithet "male" seems to connect this company out of Israel with the
celibates, the one hundred forty-four thousand. The twelve apostles,
seated on twelve thrones, will rule in Israel (Luke 22:30), but here we
have the rule of Israel over the other nations, by means of delegates who
will have a prominent part in fulfilling the promise that they will reign
with Him during the thousand years (Rev.20:6). Although the priestly
functions of Israel cease in the new earth, their rule continues, for they
reign for the eons of the eons (Rev.22:5). Hence we should expect to find
Israelites among the nations, attending to the administration of the
kingdom, even in the last eon. And this seems to be confirmed by the fact
that the kings of the earth carry the glory of the nations into the city.
They could hardly enter its portals if they were gentiles. Their names are
also in the Lambkin's book of life, for they are not gentiles, but kings
THE SCROLL OF LIFE
Perhaps the chief difficulty of the earnest student
lies in the negative statement, "and if anyone was not found written in
the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire" (Rev.20:15). This
seems to allow a possibility that some will be found written in the
scroll and will not be cast into the lake. Much investigation and
discussion has shown that such a deduction is not justified by the facts,
but it has failed to show why the matter is stated in this way. The
explanation, we submit, is found in a closer consideration of the scroll
of life. This scroll also has to do with conduct. The striking feature
about it is that some of the names which once were in it have been erased
on account of flagrant departure from God. Even those whose names were
once in the scroll of life, if they have been erased, and cannot be found,
they also will enter the second death.
As a communication from a valued fellow worker takes up
this matter in some detail, we will introduce a part of it here and
discuss the findings later on.
"The Concordant Version has six references to the
'scroll of life' in the Unveiling, as follows:
Rev. 3: 5 The one who is conquering, he shall be clothed in white
garments, and under no circumstances will I be erasing his name from the
scroll of life, and I will be avowing his name in front of My Father and
before His messengers.
13: 8 And all who are dwelling on the earth will be worshiping it,
everyone whose name is not written in the scroll of life of the Lambkin
slain from the disruption of the world.
17: 8 And marvel shall those dwelling on the earth, whose names are not
written on the scroll of life from the disruption of the world,
observing the wild beast, seeing that it was, and is not, and will be
20:12 And scrolls were opened. And another scroll was opened, which is
the scroll of life. And the dead were judged
by that which is written in the scrolls, in accord with their acts.
20:15 And if anyone was not found written in the scroll of life, he was
cast into the lake of fire.
21:27 . . . and under no circumstances may anything . . . be entering
into it (the holy city) except those written in the Lambkin's scroll of
"The obvious details in these are:
(1) A promise not to erase is given, hence
(2) Erasure of a name is a possibility.
(3) Absence of a name leaves open to worship the 'wild beast.'
(4) The scroll of life was written from the disruption of the world,
(5) It corresponds with the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the
(6) The scroll of life has a value premillennial.
(7) Also millennial.
(8) It is in point at the great white throne.
(9) It has value in regard to entry into the holy city.
The matter around these points is wholly regarding conduct.
"Scattered through the Scriptures, almost casual and meager, are further
references to a 'book,' which may afford some evidence. In Exodus
32:32,33 we have recorded the request of Moses, arising in view of the
people's idolatry, thus:
(AV) 'Yet now, If thou wilt forgive their sin...and
if not blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.'
And the Lord said unto Moses, 'Whosoever hath sinned against me him will
I blot out of my book.'
Jehovah's answer to Moses is very notable. Are we
warranted in considering this to be the 'scroll of life?' If so, does it
not agree with the statement of Revelation 3:5? It arises in connection
with the worship of the golden calf. Were the people's names written in
"The words to Daniel in 12:1, 'at that time thy
people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the
book' (AV), introduces to millennial blessings. Does this refer to the
'scroll of life?'
"Was the Psalmist also referring to this 'scroll of
life' when he penned, 'Let them be blotted out of the book of the
living, and not written with the righteous' (AV, 69:28)? This gives us
the fact that those in the book are righteous. But on what basis are
they righteous? Is it related to the death of Christ, or to the keeping
of the law of the Lord? The character of the economy suggests that it is
the righteousness of the law.
"Agreeable to the millennial relation of the scroll
of life is Luke 10:20, spoken to the seventy, 'yet be rejoicing that
your names are engraved in the heavens.' So also Isaiah 4:3 seems to be
referring to Jerusalem in the day of the glory and beauty of the Branch
of Jehovah '... everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem'
(AV). Psalm 87:5,6 seems to speak similarly of Zion. Malachi 3:16 may
also have connection here.
"Mention may also be made of Hebrews 12:23, '... and
the ecclesia of the firstborn registered in the heavens...' This is
along the lines of Luke 10:20 and is associated with the same matter as
in Revelation 21:27, the celestial Jerusalem.
"Revelation 22:19 should be 'tree of life' as in the
Concordant Version. This was the promise to the conqueror in Ephesus
(2:7). Elimination from it is threatened, similar to Sardis in regard to
the 'scroll of life.'
"As a final reference Philippians 4:3 may be quoted:
'Yes, I am asking you, also, genuine yoke-fellow, be aiding these women
who compete together with me in the evangel, with Clement also, and the
rest of my fellow workers whose names are in the scroll of life.' Does
this refer to the 'scroll of life' as recording 'fellow workers' in the
evangel? Or is it that the 'scroll of life' records them as believers in
the blood of Christ for righteousness? The former would appear to be the
truth, indicating that the scroll of life is a record, positive and
negative, of the works meriting recognition. This is the only reference
in Paul's epistles, and the manner of reference appears to be casual,
referring to the works in the evangel.
"The just judgment takes place before the great white
throne, and the details regarding it are given in Revelation 20:11-15.
The principles upon which judgment proceeds have been stated in other
parts of the Scriptures, the most complete being in the second chapter
of the Roman epistle. Briefly stated, each one appearing before the
great white throne will be paid in accord with his acts. Yet there is
also the question of being lost because of sinning.
"The believer is blessed with salvation during the
eons, and at the time of this judgment, there is still the eon of the
eons to be. Will any who appear before this throne receive salvation and
enjoy eonian life during that eon? Or does the second death function to
obviate that possibility? It has been thought, by some students that the
last verse (15) of the above passage allows that many who are judged at
the great white throne will forthwith live during the eon which follows.
In such a case the question arises whether they will be the subjects of
vivification, or will their vivification await the consummation at the
end of the eon of the eons? The great verses (23 and 24) of 1
Corinthians 15 which deal with the subject of vivification do not seem
to allow that it can be for any who appear before the great white
"The whole passage (verses 11-15) is obviously
showing the just judgment based upon all the evidence for or against the
dead; the 'acts' of those before the throne are in the 'scrolls,' and in
accord with what is written therein, the dead are judged. In relation to
the second death the further witness of the scroll which relates to life
is taken. The 'dead,' who are these? They will be 'the rest of the dead'
who 'live not until the thousand years may be finished' (20:5). Added to
these we shall also have any who may have died during the thousand
"Since there appears to be some difficulty in the
words of the last verse (15) of Unveiling 20, and with a view to
promoting insight into it, the following considerations are set out.
"The statement, 'and if anyone was not found written
in the scroll of life, he was cast into the lake of fire,' seems to be a
peculiar way to express matters. Does it allow the conclusion that the
major number of those who stand before the judgment will be found
written in the scroll which relates to life? Is it the exception for
'anyone...' not to be found written? Or does the mode of expression
indicate the impossibility of anyone being found written in the scroll
of life, showing it to be a most remote thing? Let it be here remarked
that the verse ought not to be divorced from the passage to which it is
"Certainly the thought is prompted as to why the
negative is used with the verb in the first sentence, and not rather
with the word 'cast' to read thus: and if anyone was found written in
the scroll of life, he was not cast into the lake of fire. This
certainly would allow the possibility for anyone to be found written
therein, even though the case or cases be exceptional. But it is not so
written, and the idea must be dismissed by the student who would cling
to the actual words of our God.
"The concordance reveals three cases of similar
1 Cor. 16:22 If anyone is not fond of the Lord
Jesus Christ, let him be anathema.
2 Thess. 3:10 If anyone is not willing to work, neither let him eat.
James 3: 2 If anyone is not tripping in word, this one is a perfect
"The hypothetical character of 'if' is diminished by
the presence of the indefinite 'anyone' (Greek tis), and coupled with
the use of the verb in the indicative mood, suggests that conjectural
matter is not being dealt with, but cases which are certain to arise,
and the procedure is not left to a chance conclusion.
"In the case of Revelation 20:15 we have also to
notice that the verse begins with the conjunction 'and;' thus it is
linked to the statements of verse 14, giving added particulars as to
what is cast into the lake of fire. This seems to give the reason for
the particular position of the negative; what 'was cast' into the lake
of fire is in point in the two verses, hence the negative stands in the
first sentence of verse 15, dealing with the antecedent or condition
producing the issue stated in the second sentence. Logically we do not
reason from the negative, but verse 15 is worded as a parallelism to
verse 14, and the literary form of the latter (14) requires the negative
in the antecedent of verse 15 so that the parallel may be completed. It
does not therefore seem wise to infer a conclusion from the mere words,
but rather to adhere closely to what is actually said. We must take the
words as a definite statement of God, believe them, and make no
inferences. Alternatively it is suggested that an enquiry into the
details regarding the 'scroll of life' will be more satisfactory than an
inference on the verse in question."
Thus far my correspondent. The citations clearly show
that the scroll of life is not a list of those whom God has chosen by His
grace according to His present activities, for then no name could possibly
be taken from it. On the negative side it has a close connection with
conduct. If anyone whose name is in it sins grievously, his name is
expunged. It is therefore, to some extent, a record of men's deeds, hence
must be consulted at this judgment, in which all are judged according to
their acts. Positively, as a register of the living, for life comes not
from man's deeds, but God's power, it has no place here, but negatively,
its evidence as to those who are not living, and especially those who have
forfeited life, is the necessary complement of the other scrolls. Men are
able to kill, but are not able to give life. Thus we see the necessity for
the negative statement, "if anyone...not," for the evidence is negative,
The scroll of life has to do with service and conduct
as connected with the Circumcision. Paul, when he refers to it, evidently
has in mind those who were associated with him from the Circumcision. To
come down to a specific case, we may assume that all those in the ecclesia
at Sardis once had their names in this scroll. Yet the promise to the
conqueror, that his name shall not be erased there from, seems sufficient
to suggest that some who do not conquer will have their names wiped out.
Surely none of those who conquer will stand before the great white throne,
hence there will be no search to see whose names are written. But some
of the others, whose names were once written, will be there, and it is
important to search and see that their names are not still there.
THE DEAD AND THE SCROLL OF LIFE
It is evident that these are both figures of speech,
for the literally dead cannot stand and be judged, and the life of those
written in the book of the living (as it would be called in Hebrew) must
be life in a sense beyond that possessed by the "dead," otherwise the
names of all who appear before the great white throne would appear in it.
If we carefully resolve these figures into their literal signification, it
may help us to grasp the sense. The dead are dead to God. And those in
the book of life are those who live to God. He has come into vital
contact with a part of mankind, especially His people Israel. Through His
revelation He imparts a life which is more than the majority of mankind
receive. Today, by faith, it assures us of future immortality. But I do
not think that we are included in this figure, for our life is not
dependent on conduct. In other eras the continuance of the life depends on
the behavior of its recipients.
Various facts confirm this. No one whose name remains
in the book enters the second death. All whose names are not in it die
again. Hence it is a register of those who share divine life during the
eons. It is not used of saints of this administration, not that we will
not be made alive, but, being a figure of speech particularly connected
with the earth and Israel, it does not figure the grace which is ours in
Christ Jesus. It has a double character, as all truth connected with
Israel and the nations has. The names in it were written from the
disruption of the world (Rev.13:8; 17:8), nevertheless they could be
erased. Possibly all who came out of Egypt were once written in it, yet
nearly all seem to have been blotted out (Ex.32:33) on account of
idolatry. In Unveiling those whose names are not written in it are liable
to worship the wild beast (13:8; 17:8). The names of the conquerors will
not be erased (3:5). It is preordination, faith and works, mixed. Some of
the "dead" who stand before the great white throne had their names in it
once, but they were erased. This accounts for its appearance along with
the other books.
In the present administration future immortality is
entirely a matter of God's choice and grace, and comes alone by faith. Not
being based on works, it cannot be forfeited by evil deeds. But in other
administrations there is an interplay of works and faith, as James shows
in his epistle. We should view the great white throne judgment from the
earthly standpoint, not our own.
The "book of life" must therefore be consulted before
anyone is cast into the lake of fire to see if those present, whose names
once were in it, have really been erased. It is this element of acts, in
the scroll of life, which demands its presence at the great white throne.
The broad statement "death and the unseen were cast into the lake of fire"
covers all mankind who never came into touch with divine life, while those
who had once come into vital contact with Jehovah but had apostatized will
find their judgment in the absence of their names from the scroll of life.
There seems to be an indirect reference to the book of
life in the second chapter of Ephesians. The nations are spoken of as
figuratively dead to the offenses and sins in which they once walked. This
illustration, however, seems to clash with Israel's prior privileges, as
being in the book of life, so the apostle stops to insist that the
Circumcision also, by their conduct, had forfeited the life which should
have been theirs, and so were children of Indignation, even as the rest.
The peculiar position of the people of Jehovah
corresponds closely with the figure of a scroll in which names are
provisionally inscribed, with the condition that nothing be done to cause
their erasure. There is a mixture of mercy and demerit. God writes their
names in the scroll at their birth because of His promises to Abraham and
Israel. They do nothing to deserve this. Indeed, they do nothing, in
reality, to keep their names in the scroll. But their works do avail to
blot them out of the book, Such is the actual place of works, even when
they are mixed with grace and faith. They are negative and a menace, even
when they appear to bring blessing. It is not that those who do well
manage to get their names inscribed. Quite the contrary. Those who have
done nothing are enrolled. Life comes alone from God. Man cannot impart
it. But he can destroy it. So some, perhaps many, in Israel, lose the life
which they inherited, for, at their physical birth, all were given life,
and their doings only led them into death.
The scroll of life did not keep anyone in Israel from
the first death. It seems rather to be connected with the second. Those
whose names are not blotted out are the family of faith, who are vivified
at the presence of Christ. But the names which are expunged are subjects
of the second death. If anyone was not found written in the scroll of
life, he was cast into the lake of fire (Rev.20:15). Viewed from this
standpoint, the negative statement is the only one possible. Those whose
names are written are not in view, for they have long since become
immortal, and they could not possibly be among the "dead" who appear
before the great white throne. Only the evildoers, those who have
forfeited their place in the book, can have any place there. These are
distinguished from the rest of mankind in judgment, even as Israel is
always distinct from the nations in blessing. Their case is quite
exceptional and calls for special procedure. The scroll is examined, in
their case, to certify to the fact that their acts have condemned them.
The judgment of the living nations before the thousand
years should not be brought to support the idea of eonian life for
unbelievers. It is utterly illogical to reason from one to the other. God
rewards or disciplines nations on earth according to their treatment of
His earthly people. He has done this in the past and it will be the key to
their place in the kingdom. Those nations, at the time of the end, that
help His disciples, will live through the thousand years. The other acts
of those who compose them will not even be considered at this judgment. In
contrast to this, at the Great White Throne, all the acts of individuals
will be judged, and all wrongs will be set right. These are the dead,
not the living. Nothing is said of their treatment of Israel or the
resultant eonian life. In fact, many will be Israelites, according to our
GOD'S LAWS AND HIS INTENTION
Because we fail to see God's ultimate intention in His
dealings with mankind, and look only at His expressed will and the laws He
has laid down, we are apt to reason to conclusions quite out of harmony
with His ultimate. It is difficult for us to realize that God, in order to
humble mankind, lays before them a law and a reward, eonian life, when
humanity is by no means capable of taking advantage of it. The explicit
statements of the apostle have made this clear in connection with the law
of Moses, and also with regard to all law, yet this humbling lesson has
been obscured. Hence I would like to enforce it by means of the very
people who, by God's will, mix works with their faith, the nation that
revealed its utter ignorance of its own impotence by promising obedience
to the law, and, according to God's intention, made such an utter failure
of it. It is generally said, and rightly so, that there is a measure of
works in their evangel. Repentance and baptism are essential. Fruit must
evidence faith. Yet, in the final analysis, what do we see? Apart from
God's mercy and faith, the members of that holy nation, when judged as to
their acts alone, actually forfeit that which God gave them as a gift.
It is a humbling lesson, but a salutary one. Our own acts, instead of
winning God's favor and approval, bring down His displeasure. Only that
which God works in us is good. God made known to men His laws and His
will, not that they should keep them, but that they should learn that they
are not capable of doing so. This alone opens their hearts so that He
alone may fill them.
The same humiliating lesson may be learned from the
conduct of His saints, who are not merely inscribed in a scroll of life
from which they may be expunged, but who have the gift of eonian life, and
even the homing of His holy spirit. Should not this grace teach us to live
without sin, wholly for Him? Such is His will, and there is no lack of
provision and power on His part. But, alas! how far we fall short of the
ideal! It is an evil sorely to be deplored. Let us do our utmost to please
Him! Yet so it is, and so also must be His intention. It is evident that
something even more vital to God's ultimate is attained by the shameful,
distressing conduct of His saints, than if they fulfilled His will. And it
is not difficult to imagine the effect of it on us in the future, when we
look back upon our course from the standpoint of the glory. Our hearts
will be humbled at His feet. We will want none of ourselves. We will
desire only Him. Our failures will make room for Him in our hearts - for
Him alone, and naught of ourselves. He will become All in us, blessed be
His holy name!