Today I received an actual typed letter. It was from Martin. He asked about a famous verse in Exodus 32.
That chapter deals with the golden calf incident. While Moses was up on Mount Sinai meeting with the Lord (preincarnate Jesus Christ) and receiving the law, Aaron, at the insistence of the people, made two golden calves for Israel to worship. Moses ended up destroying the two tablets of stone on which Jesus had written the Ten Commandments. Then he sent the Levites into the crowd. Three thousand were killed, quite possibly the ringleaders.
Then Moses begged for God to forgive the people. He added, “Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exod 32:32).
Martin says, “Most people equate the book of life with the Book of Revelation.” I think he means that most people think that God’s book in Exod 32:32 is the same as the book of life, mentioned six times in Revelation (3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; and 21:27). The only other reference to the book of life is in Phil 4:3.
In the seven NT references to the book of life, it refers to those who have everlasting life, with the possible exception of Rev 3:5, where it might refer to those who not only have everlasting life, but who are overcomers. See this 13-minute podcast that Shawn and I recorded regarding Rev 3:5. See also this 1989 article by me on that verse.
Martin, it is important to recognize that Exod 32:32 does not refer to the book of life. Instead, it refers to God’s book. In the very next verse, God says, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of my book” (Exod 32:33). What that meant is made clear in v 35: “So the Lord plagued the people because of what they did with the calf which Aaron made.” The issue in vv 32-33 is physical death, not eternal condemnation. God’s book in those verses refers to the book of the living. That same idea is found in Ps 69:28. In fact, I wrote a blog a few weeks ago on this idea in the imprecatory psalms (see here).
When you are reading the Bible and you come across some verses that seems to contradict John 3:16 or other clear verses, I suggest you do the following:
- Reject right away the idea that there is a contradiction. God’s Word does not contradict itself.
- Hold fast to the truth of John 3:16 and other clear promise of life verses.
- Ask God to show you what this puzzling verse actually means.
- Consult the free search bar on our website (www.faithalone.org) and see if we discuss that verse or topic.
- Realize that words and phrases have ranges of meaning and that the problem may well be that you are imposing one meaning for a word or phrase that is not the correct meaning for the passage which you are reading.