WORD STUDY – THE BOOK OF LIFE
Luke 10:20: “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.”
Psalms 69:28: “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.”
The Book of Life was a common theme when I was growing up in the Baptist Church. We would have periodic revival meetings and, of course, in a revival meeting people had to get saved or the evangelist was not worth the page his name was written on in the Sword of the Lord newspaper. My father used to subscribe to the Sword of the Lord newspaper and as a child I loved reading the fire and brim stone sermons that were published in the paper, the latest results on the largest Sunday Schools and bus ministries and of course the list of evangelist which included the average number of people getting saved in their revival meetings. Those who averaged 50 – 100 converts had full schedules, those who had less, well they had plenty of opening dates and were affordable to the smaller churches.
But I am digressing. Let’s return to this Book of Life matter. Practically every evangelist I had the privilege to sit under always pointed his finger at us and asked: “Is your name written in the Book of Life?” As a young child sitting in that pew more terrified than sitting in a Stephen King movie, I pictured a long white haired, bearded elderly man sitting at a wooden desk with a quill pen slowing writing names in a monstrously large book. Today, of course, this centurion is replaced by a young, snaggled tooth, bespectacled computer geek sitting before a computer terminal typing names into a word processor. Nonetheless, that is scarier as all he needs to do is hit the “delete” button and your name goes off into that twilight zone of cyber space where the bearded old man had to use White Out to blot your name out and at least your name is still there somewhere.
How about it, does anyone really believe that God has a celestial bookkeeper recording the name that your parents gave you when you were born and a huge bottle of White Out to blot names out of it? Is there a literal book up there in heaven or is this some kind of metaphor?
Historically, kings would honor someone by writing their names in a special scroll. Think of Mordecai in Esther 6:2-3 where such a record saved his gizzard. In ancient times the names of individuals who were to be honored or on a fast track to promotions had their names written in the Chronicles of the kings.
In Hebrew the words for Book of life is sofar chaim. Chaim is a word we recognize as life and the Talmud teaches that in its plural form it represents both physical and spiritual life. According to the Talmud, every man has two lives, the one he lives here on earth and the one that he will live in eternity. Hence this book of life is a record of one’s physical and spiritual life, it records everything you do in the physical realm as well as everything you do in the spirit. Every time you pray, worship and express your heart to God, it is recorded. Dr. Ben Carson the neurosurgeon and former Presidential candidate said that your brain has recorded every word you read, every thing you said and every thought you ever throught. Yes it is all recorded in that little ball of matter in your head for God to download anytime He desires.
The word sofar in its noun form means a book or scroll. But it also means to write, to number, count, to speak or talk. In its semitic root sofar has the idea of committing to memory or recording something that is to be referenced at a later date. In other words we will spend an eternity reliving all those wonderful times we shared with Jesus while we lived our life here on earth. We will relive those joyous times of worship, those times when we felt the love, closeness and very presence of God at a time when we needed it most and it will be just as real as when it first happened. Not only that the angels who have no concept of redemption or in need of deliverance will be able to experience that same joy with us. No wonder they rejoice over every sinner that repents. That is just one more joyful experience they can relive over and over through eternity.
You see in heaven there will be no sorrow, no pain, no fear, and no evil. Hence we will not know that special joy of Jesus coming at that eleventh hour to rescue us, of feeling that relief of His presence during times of sorrow and pain or of being miraculously healed. In heaven such joy will no longer take place. But, soft, our names which in the Hebrew is shem meaning reputation and life experiences are recorded for eternity. Shem or name is not the name our parents gave us, it is what we are and what experiences we had, have and will have that make us what we are. In heaven these records will be downloaded for all to feel, hear and experience. We can relive them, experience the joy, the love, that special moment over and over throughout eternity. Like an old married couple going on a second honeymoon and visiting the places they spent together on their first honeymoon and reliving the joy and memories of those cherished times.
But, soft, those memories will not only be enjoyed by us for eternity but others as well. They also get to live those joyous memories over and over throughout eternity. Don’t you just love giving a testimony, well you will have a million audiences listening to your testimony over and over for eternity and the joy will only get stronger.
No wonder Jesus said not to rejoice if you can cast out demons or perform healings. Heck, that’s nothing compared to the ministry you will have in heaven when you share your testimonies from the Book of life and every one can experience that joy and love relationship you had with God through your experiences here on earth. “Count it all joy when you experience trials of every kind (James 1:2)” because, boy, you will have some great camp meetings in heaven when you can share your testimonies before millions and joy in that roar of praise that will come from countless throngs as you share how God filled you with his love during that time when you were all alone, weeping from heartbreak and rejection while on this earth.