It is an often touted Calvinist point to claim that people, individuals, have had their names written in the Book of Life before even the world began. It is comforting for some Christians to see themselves as eternally chosen, elect. To steal phrasing from NT Wright, it is kind of a wonderful, rhetorical flourish. But the fact is that it is just not true. The Book of Life just doesn’t work the way that the Calvinists claim.
Calvinists hinge their claim on this verse:
Rev 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Calvinists, while they are not using the verse to argue that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world, claim that individuals have had their names written in the book before the world began. A few things of note:
First, this verse is talking about unbelievers whose names “have not been written in the Book of Life since the foundation of the world.” Of course unbelievers would never have their names written in the Book of Life. This in no sense means that believers must have had their names written since before the foundation of the world.
Secondly, “from the foundation of the world” could, and does, mean the timeframe between the creation of the world and the future time. This would be like saying “all those who have not grabbed an umbrella since we opened the storage locker will get wet”. The actions are not limited to taking place before the founding event in question. In fact, the natural reading is that the actions take place between the founding event and the future event.
The Calvinist chooses to see the Book of Life as some sort of global prediction list. But the list just does not work that way. Individuals have their names added and removed. If the names were written before the foundation of the world, why would their names have to be removed?
Rev 3:5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
Rev 22:19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Jesus would not mention blotting out names unless it was a possibility. And the last verses of Revelation mention God “taking away” from the book of life. People can get blotted out of the Book of Life.
If the Book of Life represented an eternal list of names, stating who would go to heaven and who would go to hell, why would people have their names added just to be blotted out? If this was an eternal list, why would God wait for the event to happen to blot out a name? Why would he add that name in the first place? God operates in real time, not some “eternal now”. Revelation describes the Book of Life being updated as events occur. The Book of Life is further evidence against Calvinism.