The Thursday series on “Butchered Bible Verses” continues today with Revelation 3:5-6. One of the reasons for this blog series is that as a pastor, I am constantly reminded that people use Bible verses to further their agenda rather than seeking to study it within its proper context. It may be an agenda to sin or a doctrinal agenda that they are unwilling to part from, but in the end, they have misquoted and misinterpreted the Word of God. That is extremely dangerous.
Today’s topic is based on the doctrine of “Perseverance of the saints.” Is it possible to lose your salvation? Is it possible to be justified by God and then condemned later through some sin you commit? If the “once saved, always saved” view is correct, why does the Bible teach that we must “strive to enter God’s rest” – Hebrews 4:11? If all true believers always persevere to the end in the faith – why does the Bible suggest that God will not erase our names from the book of life? Did some people have their names erased from the book of life?
Revelation 3:5-6 – The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Explanation of how this text is misused
Many people who reject the doctrine of perseverance will use Revelation 3:5-6 as a means of suggesting that it is possible to fall from grace. They will point to the line that says, “I will never blot his name out of the book of life” and say that it’s proof positive that God will not blot out THOSE people, but it’s apparent that SOMEONE is being blotted out of the book of life. Is that really what this text teaches?
Explanation of the text
Revelation 3:1-6 is devoted to the letter sent to the church at Sardis by Jesus Christ. Sardis was a city full of pagan gods and sinful living. In the middle of this city, God had raised up a church. Over time, the church became sick and full of sin. The people of the church had gone back to the ways of the world and it was a very serious thing that was addressed by Jesus Himself. The letter received by the church at Sardis was a serious rebuke and in that rebuke we see the verses of warning and encouragement for the true believers (5-6).
When Jesus rebuked Sardis, He provided a warning and encouragement at the same time for the genuine believers. The warning was found in the condition, “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments.” The point is clear – if you conquer – if you continue to the end – if you overcome the sinful tide of Sardis – you will be given the white garments and you will have the promise of not having your name blotted out of the book of life. As always, when these words were heard, they would have been heard with a warning! I can’t fall away and I must continue in the faith and strive toward the finish line of faith because if I fail – I forfeit this promise.
The encouragement is found in the reward. The finish line provides rest from running and striving. The white garments symbolize the purity of Jesus Christ Himself and would have made a huge impact on the believers in Sardis since their city was full of wool dying trade. True believers have their name in the book of life – and it will NEVER be removed. That would have served as a tremendous encouragement to the believer in Sardis, but it would not have served as a license to sin. Remember, many professing believers were living in sin, so these words would have encouraged but also warned against such lifestyle.
Blotting Out Names?
If the believers of Sardis had the promise of their name remaining in the book of life, does that mean that others in Sardis had their names removed? In order to consider this question, we must interpret the text within the context, which we have laid the ground work above. We must also interpret this text by other relevant texts within the Scripture – especially within the book of Revelation.
Q: When was our name written down in the book of life?
A: Before the foundation of the world.
Revelation 17:8 - The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.
Revelation 13:8 - and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.
When God the Father elected (chose) a people unto Himself from every kindred, tongue, tribe, and nation on planet earth – that process took place before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6). That was a choice the Father made based on His will and for His glory rather than a decision based on foreseen faith or obedience. All of humanity is under the bondage of sin and unable to come to God apart from a work of grace. That work started in the plan of God before the foundation of the world. It was there that He chose people and penned their names down in the book of life.
Based on Revelation 17:8 and 13:8, it’s clear that those who have their name written down in the book of life will never fall away! So, if a person has their name written down – it will never be blotted out. That’s proof that names are not written down and later blotted out. Those people in Sardis and people that we know of in our present day who have claimed the name of Christ and then walked away from the faith should never be seen as genuine believers who lost their salvation. They should be viewed as genuine unbelievers who never came to faith in the first place. 1 John 2:19 says, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
John 10:28-29 reminds us of the fact that we have ultimate security in the salvation that our God has provided us. John 6:37 tells us that all that the Father has given the Son will come to the Son, but that the Son will never cast one away. The ultimate section of verses that deal with this truth is found in Romans 8:28-30. If a person has been foreknown (foreloved) by God – they have also been predestined. If they have been predestined they have been called. If they have been called, they have also been justified. If they have been justified, they HAVE BEEN glorified. Although the future state of glorification has not yet occurred, Paul referenced it in the past tense as if to show that it was a guaranteed event for everyone who is a genuine believer.
John Piper writes, in his book A Godward Life – Book II p. 203-204, in his article titled, “Can The Regenerate Be Erased From The Book of Life” the following:
Romans 8:30 says, “[Those] whom He justified, these He also glorified.” In other words, between the event of justification by faith at the beginning of our Christian life, and the even of glorification at the resurrection of our bodies (Philippians 3:21), there will be no dropouts, bailouts, or pushouts. ”Those whom he justified, he also glorified” – all of them. God will keep and sanctify those whom he has justified and make sure they keep the faith and endure to the end and are saved.
Whatever phrase in the Bible the skeptics want to use to disprove the ultimate security of God’s children in salvation must be interpreted through the lens of these verses. No verse in Hebrews teaches that a person can fall from grace. The entire book of Hebrews is teaching perseverance in the faith. That is exactly what Revelation 3:5-6 is teaching. Revelation 22:18-19 does not teach that a person can fall from final salvation through sin. Once again, like Revelation 3:5-6 – it’s a warning to persevere and never use God’s amazing grace as a license to sin.
Persevere in the faith to the end and strive to enter His rest!
Pastor Josh Buice