What is the Scroll of Life?
info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
The first place in the Bible that speaks of the Scroll of Life (in those words specifically) is found in one of the songs of King David (Psalm 69:28), where he wrote this concerning his enemies:
‘From the Scroll of Life, may their names be erased;
Among the righteous, may their names not be written.’
However, the first actual mention of such a scroll is found in Exodus 32:33, where God said to Moses: ‘I’m going to erase [the names] of all those that have sinned against Me from My scroll.’
So we must assume that as early as the early Sixteenth Century BCE, God’s faithful worshipers had some concept of a record that He keeps of people whom He counts as being ‘the living.’
And as God Himself pointed out;
Their names can also be erased from His scroll after they had been written there.
(So much for the concept of once-saved, always-saved).
What is this Scroll,
How does a person get his or her name written in it,
And what does this mean for them?
Although God surely needs no actual written record to remember His faithful ones;
The phrase, ‘the Scroll of Life’ (or ‘of the living’) is mentioned enough times in the Bible to assume that God does remember (or record) the names of those righteous whom He counts among ‘the living,’ as opposed to those whom He numbers among ‘the dead.’
Who are ‘the living?’
They are likely the same as those of whom Jesus spoke of at John 5:24, when he said:
‘I tell you the truth;
Those that hear what I say and believe in the One that sent me will have age-long life…
He won’t have to be judged, for he has come out of the death and into the life’
So from this, we must assume that some conscious act of faith by each individual causes him or her to cross over from ‘the death and into the life’…
And that is likely the time when a person’s name is written in the Scroll of Life.
For then, as Jesus said,
‘He won’t have to be judged’ when he (or she) is resurrected.
What is this act of faith that brings us into ‘the life’?
Today, it would likely be the conscious act of choosing to be baptized.
However, since baptism wasn’t practiced during the time of David;
It appears as though all IsraEl had their names written in that Scroll when they were born into a nation that was chosen by God, and their names remained there for as long as they stayed faithful.
Notice how this concept fits into David’s words about their names having to be erased.
Then (at Revelation 20:11, 12) we read of several ‘scrolls’ being opened and of the ‘dead’ being judged by the things that are written in those scrolls.
Who are these ‘dead?’
Well, remember that according to what Jesus said at John 5:26;
Those whose names are written in the Scroll of Life will not be judged, for they are viewed as the living, not the dead. And also note that (following the order of the series of events described in the Revelation) all the resurrections will already have taken place before these scrolls are opened (see Revelation 20:4-6). So, these dead individuals aren’t physically dead any longer, for they are seen to be standing. As the result, this must mean that although they are no longer literally dead, they are still counted among ‘the dead’ in God’s eyes.
Therefore, they must undergo judgment before their names can be written in the Scroll of Life.
That this could be the correct understanding seems to be confirmed at Revelation 20:12, where we read:
‘Then I saw the dead – the great and the small – standing before the throne, and several scrolls were opened.
Then another scroll was opened, which was the Scroll of Life.
And the dead were then judged by the things that were written in the scrolls, according to the things that they had done.’
Therefore, we could assume that those who remain faithful worshipers of God have their names permanently sealed in God’s Scroll of Life upon their deaths, and they are thereafter considered ‘the living’ by Him…
So when they are resurrected, there is no need for them to be judged.
As for ‘the dead’ that the Revelation says are ‘judged by the things written in the scrolls;’
This could mean that they too will be resurrected, but that they will be judged by the things they do both during the thousand-year period that the Slanderer is bound and in the pit and after he is released from it… Which inspires the attack by ‘Gog of Magog’ upon those whom God has found to be ‘Holy’ or ‘the living.’