The power God gives to the beast to make war against the saints and conquer them does not mean that they are in danger of being snatched out of God’s hand, but that their persecution here will lead to their death and martyrdom.
Are the saints supposed to resist this persecution? Certainly, only if we understand resistance as meaning defending the faith and proclaiming the gospel to our persecutors so that they would have no excuse in the court of Christ. They ought to hear the gospel because we do not know if we are preaching to an elect brother or sister caught up among our persecutors. It might be our very profession of faith in Christ, in the face of death, that causes them to cry out to God for mercy. In verse 10 we will further look into this matter.
Some refer to the beast as the Antichrist as if he is only person who fits that title. Scripture teaches us that an antichrist is anyone who denies that Christ is the Son of God. The only references to antichrists are found in the epistles of John.
I John 2:18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour.
I John 2:22 Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son.
I John 4:3 But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
II John 1:7 Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist.
From this it is perfectly appropriate to speak of the beast as the antichrist because he surely conforms to the definition John is giving here. Should we look out for someone who is the antichrist? How will we know when we see him? These questions can be answered from Scripture. In I John 2:18 we read “…this is the last hour, and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming…” From the simple language of these words of the passage, it appears as if the antichrist is a single person that we ought to expect, announcing the “last hour. This is how we know it is the last hour.”
John, however, qualifies this line of thinking by adding, “…even now many antichrists have come…” In I John 2:22 John asks, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist…” So, any man who denies that Jesus is the Christ is not only a liar, but an antichrist. John confirms this deduction in chapter 4:3, “…every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus … is the [spirit of the] antichrist …”
If antichrists publicly deny Jesus it would be easy to identify them, but how much of an antichrist are those who subtly deny Christ in their actions, furthering the cause of the beast? Perhaps Christians who are living lukewarm lives not bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit and not loving God and neighbor, as they ought?
Let us see what Scripture teaches us about this.
James 2:8 - 11 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. 9But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it, 11for he who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker."
James teaches us that nobody can claim merit by holding to most of the precepts of the law. Break one and all of the precepts are broken.
Romans 2:22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
Romans 13:9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
By this, not one of us can claim complete innocence from participating in the campaign of the beast, furthering the cause of the antichrist. That is why even the saints have to pass through the furnace of affliction handed down by God as He sets the boundaries of the spontaneous evil of the beast closer to us. Scripture teaches that there is no opportunity beyond the grave for repentance and sanctification, which means that all our sanctification must be completed and our faith perfected before we leave this world for the bosom of Abraham. Our entire affliction, therefore, should be viewed as loving discipline from the Father, as loving sanctification, refining, and perfection, setting us apart from the beast and his henchmen. We ought to celebrate the Father’s loving hand in our lives even if the extent of the beast’s evil overlaps our realm.
The beast’s masquerading as Jesus Christ and his mimicking of Christ’s wondrous signs mesmerize all the inhabitants of the earth and they worship him; all those whose names have not been written in the book of life.
Some believe that the phrase “… belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” refers to God’s predestination that the Lamb would be slain. Although it is true that Christ’s slaying was predestined from before creation, this passage does not refer to that fact. This passage rather refers to the fact that the names were written in the book of life before creation and that this book of life belongs to the Lamb.
Other passages that support this interpretation are:
Revelation 17:8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.
This passage puts it in the correct perspective. It is the book of life that was recorded before the creation of the world.
Revelation 21:27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.
This passage confirms that the book of life is the Lamb’s property just as the saints are his and cannot be snatched from his hand.
The following passages prove that the elect’s names have been written in the book of life or that they were chosen or predestined to be adopted as his sons before creation.
I Peter 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Ephesians 1:4, 5 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-
II Timothy 1:9 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.
Titus 1:2 A faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.
The words “… all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world ...” could use additional punctuation:
“…all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb, that was slain, from the creation of the world.”
“…all whose names have not been written before the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain.”
We read about the destiny of those whose names are in the book of life and those whose names are not in the book of life in several passages in the book of Revelation.
Jews and some charismatic movements believe that God writes names into the book of life and deletes names from the book of life on an ongoing basis, depending on someone’s choices in life. They mostly base their faulty doctrine on the following passages:
Exodus 32:32, 33 But now, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written. 33The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book."
Deuteronomy 9:14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.
Psalm 69:28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.
Revelation 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
The language of Scripture showing the appearance of mutability of the names in the book of life, such as “may they be blotted out of the book of life,” “then blot me out of the book,” and “I will never blot out his name from the book of life,” mislead those who subscribe to a living, breathing book of life.
It is impossible to reconcile an open book of life with God’s Divinity. God’s omniscience and omnipotence make his foreknowledge creative in nature and not observant. This means that there is nothing that God can perceive in either the present or in the future that He has not created. If God, speaking in human terms, peers into the future, his foreknowledge has already created whatever would be, assuring that it will come to pass. Nothing that any creature can devise or think can come to God unexpectedly or surprise Him. It is, therefore, a denial of God’s Divinity to believe that He would wait on man’s actions before determining whether his name belongs in the book of life. Or that man is capable of doing anything that would compel God to remove his name from the book of life, after having had reason to write it in there in the first place.
As we read here in this chapter of the book of Revelation, there is no mention of faith in Jesus, fruit of the Holy Spirit, commission of sin, repentance, or any other human action that forms the basis of whether the beast is followed into the abyss or not. There is only this one requirement: your name must be in the book of life. If it is not, you will willingly and gladly follow the beast into the abyss. If it is, you will not follow the beast but follow the Lamb. Any argument that proposes that God waits on man before making this critical entry into the book of life is absurd. To propose that God did not know before the creation of the world already whose names should be in the book of life is equally absurd.
Scripture contains many passages, especially in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians, where the choosing of a people was fixed before the creation of the world. If the presence or absence of one’s name in the book of life is the only criterion by which one would either follow the beast or follow Christ, then one can be sure that God would not leave the matter in the hands of sinful men, elect or otherwise.
This revelation from Scripture on the matter of the book of life, further explains the importance of having to experience this life to its fullest. It is in this life that our faith ought to be perfected. When we speak here of 'perfection' in this life, we don't mean to infer that such perfection is possible outside of the merits of Christ. To put it more accurately, but having the same effect, is that our sanctification would be completed before we enter into eternity by finally 'bolting' Christ's merit onto our lives. The union with Christ will be finally consumated rendering us perfect in every way. Our sanctification cannot be continued in the life hereafter, as the Roman Church believes. If our sanctification has to be completed before we die, then, perhaps, one can understand why God has pegged the boundaries of the beast’s influence so close to us and sometimes allow great affliction to befall us. We do not have to look far to find instances of mysterious happenings, such as a faithful servant of Christ being horrifically injured in an accident; evil men that kill thousands of innocent people setting off the explosion of global terrorism at a scale never before seen; children and old people suffering greatly because of unjust governments, disease and poverty.
The beast is truly roaming to devour anyone in its path, yet unable to reach the woman, spewing forth a river of evil to destroy and kill the saints. But because their names have been recorded in the book of life, the Holy Spirit perfected their faith before they passed through the grave, so now they freely follow the Lamb, desiring to glorify him.
Let us read some passages from the first epistle of Peter in which he explains the context of the abundance of this life:
I Peter 1:1 - 13 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance. 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, 5who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
6In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials, 7These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 10Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11Trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
This abundance, some believe, manifests in material wealth.
I Timothy 6:5 And constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
False teachers and preachers sprung up at the sight of the power that the Holy Spirit works through believers. They mislead people by promising God’s blessings if they contribute towards their so-called ministries. Simon tried to buy the gifts of God from the Apostles,
Acts 8:18 - 21 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit." 20Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money. 21You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God."
Scripture does not teach that wealth is sinful, but that we ought to “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.” (I Timothy 6:17).
The doctrine of the book of life is one of the fibers with which the entire Christian experience is bound together. Anything short of the prophecy of John in the book of Revelation would leave the impression that our account with God has not been fully settled, leaving us with doubt and incessant attempts at redeeming ourselves, like the Jews are. The doctrine of the book of life has its origin with the Father who recorded certain names in the book of life before He proceeded with the creation of the world. After the world is destroyed at the end of time, this book is again opened and those whose names are found in this book follow Christ into eternal glory. This book’s influence stands on both sides of creation spanning it with a binding nature, which is nothing short of the revelation of a Supreme Being, knowing exactly who He would want to be with him in his kingdom. Factor in the omnipotence and omniscience of God and the entire history in between falls into perspective.
Some disagree with Scripture that there is such a thing as predestination but to question it is to question whether God truly has omniscience and omnipotence. To the believer, knowing that all events are in the hands of God the Father is comforting. Some say that it makes man an irrational being or fatalistic. But nothing can be further from the truth.
Romans 8:29, 30 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
It is clear from these passages, and others, that predestination is the counsel of God, with reference to the salvation of the elect. It is the eternal, most righteous and unchangeable counsel of God concerning the creation of man, allowing him to fall into sin and eternal death, sending his Son in the flesh that He might be a sacrifice, that His new body might be the first to live in the place which He prepared for the elect, and their salvation by true faith and conversion through the Holy Spirit.
God was not moved by anything or anyone to select those whose names He recorded in the book of life. Although the reason why He chose this one and not that one is a mystery and we ought not to inquire about God’s moving causes in that respect, God made it known to us why the whole exercise was put in motion in the first place. It is so that He might gather for himself a people who desire to glorify him.
See in the following passages how the free will (desire) is mentioned when speaking about worshiping God:
I Chronicles 29:18 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.
Psalm 40:8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.
Isaiah 26:8 Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.
Malachi 3:1 "See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come," says the LORD Almighty.
II Corinthians 8:10 And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so.
Hebrews 13:18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.
Ephesians 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires.
II Timothy 2:22 Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
The desire of the heart is not only to glorify God but it is also capable of desiring evil.
James 1:14, 15 But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
II Peter 2:10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings.
Nobody can claim either fatalism or compulsion when the heart’s desire is exercised. God respects and has patience with the heart’s desire, not only that of the elect but also those who choose to do evil.
God himself came down to Cain to warn him of the sin that is crouching at his door before he went and killed his brother, Abel. He chose, in spite of this ultimate Counselor’s advice, to go ahead and commit the world’s first murder. (Genesis 4:7.)
Pay attention to how God admonishes Israel in these passages and how they are commanded to choose life and not death that they may live and love Him.
Deuteronomy 30:19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Does this imply that man has a choice in his salvation? The answer is yes, but it is a sterile choice because man will always act according to the desire of his heart and unless the Holy Spirit replaces the heart of stone, there is no chance that that person can choose Christ.
Ezekiel 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
If Cain had no choice, God would not have offered him the only possible escape from impending death. In the verse immediately preceding the passages quoted above in which God puts before Israel the choice between life and death, He said this,
Deuteronomy 30:18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
God is open, fair, and just by telling them in advance that they are trapped by their evil desires and natural hatred and that they will choose destruction instead of life.
Proverbs 11:6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires.
Romans 8:5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
He then spells out to them what their blessings would be if they make the right choice.
This choice is misunderstood by the adversaries of the doctrine of predestination by believing that man can alter the outcome of God’s resolve to record only some names in the book of life. There are some who believe that, since their names are in the book of life (a fact which is not known and they assume this at best) they may use their security in Christ as a reason to sin. In the following passages, focus on the choice that is put before us, not a choice affecting our salvation, but our sanctification.
Romans 6:12 - 16 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey--whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
Romans 8:13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
Titus 2:12 It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
I Peter 4:2 As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God, 3for you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
Jude 1:16 These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage
When men propose that their choices will move God to either remove or enter names into the book of life, they deny the ultimate and chief final cause of predestination, which is the manifestation of the glory of God, by saving the elect by his grace.