Contributed by Richard Coords of examiningcalvinism.com
Revelation 13:8 (see also Matthew 25:34)
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
Calvinist, John MacArthur, comments: “Seven times in the New Testament, believers are identified as those whose names are written in the book of life (cf. 3:5; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; Phil 4:3). The book of life belonging to the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, is the registry in which God inscribed the names of those chosen for salvation before the foundation of the world. (This phrase is used as a synonym for eternity past in 17:8; Matt. 13:35; 25:34; Luke 11:50; Eph. 1:4; Heb. 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20; cf. 2 Thess. 2:13; and 2 Tim. 1:9.) … Believers are doubly secure, because the book of life belongs to the Lamb who has been slain. Not only the decree of election, but also the atoning work of Christ seals the redemption of the elect forever.” (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11, p.50, emphasis mine)
Thus, the Calvinistic paraphrase of Revelation 13:8, and some other passages, is to change the word “from” to the word “before,” but clearly those carry two very distinct meanings. MacArthur similarly comments on Matthew 25:34:
“The Lord designed His kingdom from before the foundation of the world and He designed who would be in it from before the foundation of the world.” (Understanding Election, emphasis mine)
Another verse that demonstrates this point is Matthews 19:8: “He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.’” Evidently, “from” the beginning does not mean before the beginning, but from Genesis.
NOTICE: All statements where “before the foundation of the world” is used, is given with reference to Christ. (John 17:24; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20)
All statements where “from the foundation of the world” is used, is given with reference to man, moving us from a point of reference forward. (Matthew 25:34; Luke 11:50; Revelation 13:8)
Question: What does “from the foundation of the world” mean, and what is the impact of adding “before” the foundation of the world?
Answer: Before the foundation of the world indicates before Genesis, whereas from the foundation of the world indicates from Genesis to present. Therefore, it is incorrect to equate “written from the foundation of the world” with “written [before] the foundation of the world.” Luke 11:49-51 states: “‘For this reason also the wisdom of God said, “I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”’” If you similarly inserted “before” [Greek: pro] then you would have to conclude that the prophets were martyred before they were born. Therefore, it’s reasonable to conclude that the names that were written into the Lamb’s Book of Life (which are said to be “written from the foundation of the world”) were written as people became Christians.
John MacArthur, along with many other Calvinists, have altered the biblical text of “from the foundation of the world,” and made it “before the foundation of the world.” The King James Version reads: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”
Question: Why does the Calvinistic leaning English Standard Version [ESV] translate Revelation 13:8 as “before” the foundation of the world, instead of “from” the foundation of the world?
Answer: Unknown. We have to suspect that the Calvinistic led committee felt it better supported their soteriological worldview to translated the greek word “apo” as “before” instead of as “from.”
The Greek word apo = since or from.
The Greek word pro = before.
The Greek word apo is used in Matthew 13:35, 25:34; Luke 11:50; Hebrews 4:3, 9:26; and Revelation 13:8, 17:8.
The Calvinist translation [ESV] seems to be erroneous at Revelation 13:8, as it mistranslated apo as “before.” What’s telling is that in the parallel verses of Revelation 13:8 and Revelation 17:8 (in which apo is used in the same exact way), the ESV properly translates apo at Revelation 17:8 as “from,” but improperly translates apo at Revelation 13:8 as “before.”
Indeed, the “Lamb” is “before the foundation of the world” [as per 1st Peter 1:20], but at Revelation 13:8, “from the foundation of the world” is not modifying the Lamb, but modifying the writing of the names.
When used of time, apo can only mean “from” in the sense of “since”, i.e., the point identified is the beginning point of the period in view. <link>
Richard’s article clearly spells out the differences between Traditionalists and Calvinists, but I also wanted to draw our attention to the problem within the ranks of Calvinism. If you have studied anything about the lapsarian controversy you will recognize right away that interpreting the passages about the Lamb’s Book of Life as being completed BEFORE the foundation of the world would necessitate a high supralapsarian position, which has typically been rejected by mainstream Calvinists (see this LINK).
I would be interested to explore how a Calvinist who is not a supralapsarian would maintain their perspective of the Lamb’s Book of Life being completed by God unconditionally before the foundation of the world.