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Whose Names May Get Blotted Out Of The Book of Life?
In His Revelation letter to the church at Sardis, Jesus concluded with an exhortation that is routinely misunderstood primarily due to the wording of one passage.
"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels” (Rev.3:5-6).
In this article we will consider the exhortation with primary focus on that reference to the Book of Life. For it does clearly signify that the Book does contain names that will be blotted out and salvation lost. And while those who misunderstand this passage take it to mean that the blessed assurance of salvation embraced by “born again” believers can be lost, I will present another explanation why it is not.
Let’s begin by understanding the exhortation.
It concerns “he who overcomes”. Who are those who overcome? Namely, those born of God who by faith find victory in the saving grace of Jesus Christ by believing that Jesus is the Son of God (1John 5:5). In other words, the exhortation surrounds promises for “born again” believers regarding that future day when all must stand before God and give an account.
The promise is that believers shall not appear naked and alone. Rather, believers shall come forward before the Father and His angels clothed in white garments made the righteousness of Jesus Christ with their names written in the Book of Life and the open declaration from Jesus claiming them as one belonging to Him.
Okay, now for the misunderstanding.
Since the exhortation concerns “born again” believers therefore the passage “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life” implies that believers can in fact be removed from the Book without the hope of salvation.
But that’s not the implication, and I’ll attempt to show you why beginning with the church whose letter contained this particular passage.
Jesus composed seven letters to seven churches in Revelation. And in each of those letters Jesus uses components intended to speak to the nature of that particular congregation’s condition.
In His letter to Sardis, Jesus admonishes them to wake up to the person of the Holy Spirit and become alive to the things of God.
"I know your works,” Jesus said, “that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Rev.3:1).
In other words, Sardis had a form of life in that they called themselves a church, but they were denying the power of the Spirit and therefore were dead because they had no manifestation of life by the Spirit.
Here’s the tragic reality at Sardis. They had the name of Christ, but without the quickening influence of His divine Spirit they had not been “born again” according to Scripture (John 3:3); nor were they teaching it. As a result, but for a few (Rev.3:4) the congregation consisted of members that were not truly saved and therefore could not claim the assurance of salvation.
It is to this condition, then, Jesus speaks. For at the same time those who have been regenerated and made alive by the Spirit could rest in the promise that their names will be found written in the Book of Life, those who deny the work of the Holy Spirit and remain spiritually dead are solemnly warned that their names shall be blotted out.
Okay, let’s consider what the Book of Life is and then reconcile how it is that names once included can be removed without contradicting Scripture.
The Book of Life
The Book of Life is a "heavenly record" held by God containing the names of all who are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ and therein become the future recipients of eternal life (Luke 10:20; Phil.4:3; Rev.21:27).
As such, the unsaved shall stand before Christ in the court of final judgment with the Book of Life opened, and by the omission of their name will serve to prove their refusal to accept Christ's gift of salvation and the forgiveness of sin and therein that will convict them to death (Rev.20:12, 15).
The Word “Blot Out”
"Blot out" means to erase and carries with it the idea to wipe out or to obliterate. Therefore when the name of someone is blotted out of the Book of Life it is completely removed and no longer contained in the Book ever again.
Okay, but how can the Book of Life, which is the record of the redeemed in Christ, also once contain names belonging to the condemned which subsequently are obliterated? The answer is found later in Revelation.
“And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy,” Jesus said, “God shall take away his part from the Book of Life" (Rev.22:19).
The keyword here is the word "part", which is a Greek word meaning "to get as a section or allotment". Why is this insightful? It tells us that the Book of Life contains “sections” seemingly allotted for names that can be ultimately taken away.
Consider an illustration.
With a reservation at a hotel you are allotted a room that is yours to occupy once you claim it. However, your name is not officially recorded in the registry as an occupant until you do lay claim. Should you fail, management will erase your name from the registry and any future rights granted you to occupy that room are forfeited.
We should understand the Book of Life in the same way.
God has reserved a space inside His Book to include each name of all who are born. For He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9). That means your name is there, as were the names of all those in Sardis, because God loves you and does not want you to suffer the eternal second death that awaits the condemned (see—Rev.20:11-15).
But your name is not yet registered as the occupant of that space until you claim it; therefore like those in Sardis it is subject to removal.
How do you claim your part in the Book of Life and therein have your name written forevermore? You must respond to His Spirit and receive Christ Jesus as Savior and thereby be “born again” (John 3:3-8).
Only then can you know that your name will be found written in the Book of Life by the blood of Jesus and His gift of salvation yours.
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for the Church to know the Revelation. His commentary is the result of having studied and taught the Book many times over the past thirty years and is considered a continual work-in-process.
Apart from Church activity, James is the owner of ProAPOD Real Estate Investment Software, father of three sons, and grandfather of four.
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