by A.E. Knoch

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.


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 over them.


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 present.
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 life.

"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, hence
(5) It corresponds with the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the world.
(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 book?

"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 throne.

"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 years.

"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 attached.

"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 phrasing, viz.,

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 man.

"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, not positive.

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.


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 Lord.


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!

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