Friday, June 3, 2011

Some read the Scriptures and conclude that one could lose salvation; that is, their name could be erased from the Lamb's Book of Life. They could go to this Scripture for their support:

Revelation 3:5 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.

But is Revelation 3:5 really teaching that you 'could' lose salvation? Is it a potentiality? I have written up a brief write-up responding to this supposition by some scholars.

Read it below:

Can God Erase Your Name Out of the Book of Life?
Geoffrey R. Kirkland

Revelation 3:5 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.

The context of Revelation 3:5 consists of the letter that Jesus commanded John to write and send to the Church of Sardis. They were a dead church though they had a reputation that they were alive (3:1). They did good deeds yet they were dead, lifeless, cold, and near extinction. God called them to repent and change their ways (3:3) lest He imminently come and destroy them (3:3b).

For the small few who do overcome (3:5a) God will clothe them in “white garments” and he will not “erase their name from the book of life.” Further, Christ says he will confess their name before the Father and before His angels (3:5b).

But the phrase remains: “I will not erase his name from the Book of Life.” Some advocate that this phrase means that Christ can possibly or hypothetically erase people’s name from the Book of Life. In other words: one could possibly lose his salvation. He could go from being in the Book of Life to being erased, and thus expelled, from the Book of Life. Is this what the text says? Can one really be erased by Jesus Himself from the Book of Life? The answer is an emphatic no for the following reasons.

The historical misunderstanding of “record books” in ANE cities. In ANE Greco-Roman cities, they had a “record book”. Every Roman historian noted this and every Roman city had this. In other words, the cities kept a register of their citizens, and when a man died his name was removed from the register; or if he moved away he was erased from the register of citizens. If he was a disloyal citizen, his name was removed from the register of that city (Ramsay, Letters to the Seven Churches, 281). This phrase in Revelation 3:5 is to draw the historical parallel with which everyone who read this letter would have been familiar.

The grammatical misunderstanding of the text. In the Greek, it reads: Ὁ νικῶν οὕτως περιβαλεῖται ἐν ἱματίοις λευκοῖς καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς καὶ ὁμολογήσω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρός μου καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ. (lit translated: and I will never ever erase his name out of the book of life). The emphatic double negative (οὐ μὴ) is a way of saying that this could never—ever—happen! It’s not a hypothetical scenario where it could happen. Jesus says, in fact, the opposite. I shall never, ever—ever!—abolish your name from the Book of Life.

The rhetorical misunderstanding of the word “Name” (τὸ ὄνομα) in the Letter to Sardis. John is fond of using wordplays for rhetorical effect. The word “name” (τὸ ὄνομα) occurs in 3:1, 4, 5 [2x] and it escalates every time John uses it. In 3:1 they have a “name” that they’re alive (=reputation). In 3:4 there are a few “names” (=believers) in that dead church who have not soiled their garments. And in 3:5, Jesus says he will not wipe their “name” out of the Book of Life and finally and most magnificently, Jesus will confess their “name” before the angels in heaven. Jesus is not talking about erasing an individual’s name. He is talking about those “names” (=people) who are genuinely saved who have not defiled themselves like the rest of the church of Sardis.

The theological misunderstanding of losing one’s salvation. The Scriptures are replete with references that Christ guards his people until the end (Jude 24-25), that He will “perfect them until the end” (Phil 1:6), that “He is faithful” to bring them to glory (1 Cor 1:9), that “no one can snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28). Therefore, the testimony of the rest of Scripture most emphatically and clearly reveals that a believer’s security rests not in the believer’s ability to keep himself saved but in God’s sovereign power to keep that individual saved.

Therefore, when Jesus says that he will not “erase their name from the Book of Life” it is not a threat of losing salvation. Rather, it is as if he says, ‘some petty kings might blot your name out of their books, but I will never (οὐ μὴ) blot your name out of My book.’ He is not saying that you can lose your salvation; He is saying the opposite. No matter what anyone else would do, Christ will not blot your name out of His book if you put your faith in Him.


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