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The Apologists  Bible Commentary

 

 

Revelation 3

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5

He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

 

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This verse has been understood by Arminians and virtually all cults of Christianity to teach that some can indeed have their names erased from the Book of Life; in other words, can lose their salvation.  With the cults, losing one's salvation is seen as departing from the "true" faith, which usually involves some form of a  "Jesus plus" Soteriology - Jesus plus some sort of works (but Jesus tells us that the work of the Father is to believe in His Son (John 6:28 - 29)).  Paul tells that we are saved "by grace through faith....not as a result of works, lest anyone boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

But that is not what this verse says.  It teaches the great assurance all Christians can have in Christ - that He will never, ever blot out their names from His book (see the Grammatical Analysis section, below).  

The phrase, "He who overcomes" is taken by those who do not believe in eternal security to be conditional:  "If he overcomes he will be clothed in white garments.." or "He who overcomes (but some do not)..."

But the statement is a not conditional - it is a simple declarative sentence.

A comparison with two other references in Revelation to the "Lamb's Book of Life" may be found in Revelation 13:8 and 17:8.  You will see that their names were written there "before the foundation of the world" and thus God chose them as elect ones at the very beginning of creation.2  There is nowhere in scripture that we find any mention of "blotting out" one's name from the Lamb's book of eternal life.  There are references to a "book of life" in the OT (E.g., Exodus 32:32-33, Psalm 69:28), but most (though not all) commentators connect this book with another book, one that contains the names of those living on the earth.3

As the Father cannot change His mind, those names must have been decreed in the secret councils of His will and thus cannot be erased, even by His own Son.  Unlike the human rulers that kept a written record of those who lived in their cities (to whom this metaphor no doubt refers), and who would erase the names of those who had died, God makes a blessed promise that He will never erase our names that were written in the Lamb's Book before the foundations of the world.

Thus those who deny eternal security change this promise into a curse.

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ou me exaleiyw

 

OU ME EXALEIPS‘

 

I will certainly never ever blot out

 

Ou me one of the strongest forms of negation in Greek.  Both ou and me signal the negation of what comes next, with the latter being somewhat stronger than the former.  In Greek, that originally lacked most punctuation, these two were combined for emphasis. 

 Exaleipso is the first person future indicative, denoting certainty.  When combined with the double negation, this phrase means: "certainly never blot out."  The erasing is utterly denied.1

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Jehovah's Witnesses

 

objection:  The entry for "Name" in the Insight book says this about the "scroll of life:"

 

The names appearing on the scroll of life, however, are not names of persons who have been predestined to gain God's approval and life.  This is evident from the fact that the Scriptures speak of "blotting out" names from "the book of life."  So it appears that only when a person becomes a servant of Jehovah is his name written in "the book of life," and only is he continues faithful is his name retained in the book.  --Re 3:5; 17:8; compare Ex 32:32, 33; Lu 10:20; Php 4:3.  See also LIFE.

 

If we consult the entry for "Life," we find the following:

 

The writing of a person's name in "the book of life" does not predestine that one to eternal life.  His name remaining there depends on his obedience....This indicates that the list of names in "the book" undergo changes because of disobedience on the part of some, their names being 'wiped' or 'blotted' out from "the book."  --Re 3:5.

 

Response:  It must be stressed what this verse actually teaches.  It says nothing of Jesus "blotting out" the names of those in the book of life.  It says the exact opposite:  Jesus assures us that he will never, ever blot our names out of his book, once they have been written there.  And when were believers' names written in the book?  According to Revelation 17:8, the names have been there all along:  

but their names have not been written upon the scroll of life from the founding of the world (Rev 17:8, NWT)..

1.  See Wallace, pp. 468-469

2.  The Greek of Revelation 13:8 is somewhat ambiguous and may be rendered: as the KJV: "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world' (see also the NKJV, NIV, YLT, and the NWT), although the prepositional phase "from the foundation of the world probably modifies "written" and so most modern translators understand it as does the ESV: "whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain" (see also the NASB, NET, and HCSB).  In any event, the Greek is certain in 17:8, and virtually all translations read essentially the same:  "And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel" (ESV).

3.  For commentators who hold to the two-book view, see K&D, Barnes, Clarke, Henry, MacArthur; and for those who think only one book is meant, see Gill, JFB, etc.  I hold to the two-book view, primarily because in Exodus we read: "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against me -- that person I will blot out of my book'" (Exodus 32:33 NET).  But this would mean that no one could ever attain eternal life (see Romans 3:23; cf., Ecclesiastes 7:20).  Also, Psalm 139:16 indicates that the Psalmist refers to our lives on earth when the he writes:

Your eyes have seen my unformed substance:

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.