Revelation 13:5-10: What are the Contexts?

 

This passage is about our allegiance; whom do we trust and on what hope do we place our life. Will it be good or evil? Will our faith be in Christ or will we allow ourselves to be misled, seeking the desires of the flesh rather than faith and our Lord Jesus Christ? 

The book of life, or Lamb’s Book of Life, is a powerful and important theme for what we trust and have hope for, especially for those under persecution and oppression. It is basically a divine ledger that is first mentioned in Exodus 32:32-33 (Psalm 69:28; Dan. 12:1; Mal. 3:16; Rev. 17:8). It is a register of all the citizens in the Kingdom of Heaven, the register of the elect who will escape God’s wrath (Rev. 21:27). Those whose names are not in the book of Life are cast into hell (Rev. 20:15). Our names were written in the book before the foundations of the world (Rev. 17:8), and when one comes to faith in Christ, he or she is among those who were purchased by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 3:5; 5:9). 

Remember, God is outside of time and space, so we have to stretch our minds a bit. It was written long before we were born, and it is “sealed” when our faith become real and impacting. Some say it is erased when we are called but never respond, while others say it was never written if one never comes to faith. The Armenians see it as God looking through the corridors of time and making His decision. The Reformed position is that God elects us for His purpose, but does not damn us (double predestination); we damn ourselves as “our choice becomes His preordained degree.” (St. Augustine). The Bible teaches both, but the emphasis is on God’s sovereignty as clearly spelled out in Romans—it is to His purpose. If it were just about what we would do, then the work of salvation would be based on what we have done and not on what Christ has done; the work of Christ would then be pointless (a pure Armenian position.) 

The Book of Life was also a symbol of comfort and security for the early Christians who were being persecuted; they could look to their promise and reward and remember that this life is temporary and only a training ground for what is to come. We need to understand that God has a guarantee for us and this life is only a shadow where we learn character and maturity; we are not made for this world, but for the one to come. We are to learn and grow through all that is given to us and make the most of our lives, but our true home and reward is still to come (Rev. 17:8; 20:12 –27). To have one’s name erased from this book would seem a loss of our citizenship in Heaven due to renouncing of faith or an unpardonable sin. We get this from our English readings of the passage (Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; Phil. 4:3); however, it is more to the indication that the name was never present. “Erased” was a metaphor in the Hebrew language and culture meaning it never happened, whereas in our language, it means it was once there and now it is gone. It is a basic misunderstanding of Greek into English, but Greek scholars are still in debate over this trivial and minor area.

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