“I will not erase his name from the book of life”
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ‘Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. ‘But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. ‘He who overcomes shall 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. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Of the handful of pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers, from whom I have received a sermon or a study on the church in Sardis, only one has taken the Eraser literally. Ironically enough, he had the best arguments, showed the most Scripture and took the most time. I respect him greatly as a man and pastor, however, I don’t agree wholeheartedly with his argument. That is to say, his Scripture references were spot on, and his treatment of the text was thorough, yet I don’t think we should take the Eraser to literal extremes. I believe this is hyperbole; let’s look at why, remembering the genre.
“And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” And,
“My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” John, 10.
“These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” John, 5
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John, 3
And most importantly; “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” John, 6
Yes, I only quoted John’s Gospel–many other verses actually display eternal security better, but using the CAGED method, why not look at the specific author as to other things he has written?? The Bible doesn’t contradict itself, especially the same author. We simply need better understanding of imagery, hyperbole and analogy.
Of course, being a great man of God, this pastor certainly didn’t believe that one could lose their eternal salvation. Even using pragmatic logic, it seems difficult to believe that if one cannot work their way into salvation that they could somehow work their way out. But his point was not that one could lose, nor work their way out of salvation, but that every person is born with their name written in the book of Life. But I have some difficulty believing that based on Scripture such as; “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.” Not to mention all of Romans 1, 2 and especially 3. “All have sinned.” And if that is the case, when is one’s name blotted out by the Eternal Eraser? Do you see what I am getting at? Being literally erased, doesn’t fit the narrative of the rest of Scripture.
However, notice; “But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!” The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. “But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did with the calf which Aaron had made.”
This happens in Exodus after the people gave their gold to Aaron and he threw it in the fire and magically a calf came out. Do you remember that lame excuse? Moses was begging with God to erase his name but let the people not be erased. This does seem to support a literal interpretation of Revelation 3, doesn’t it?
Problem: once again, if taken literally, everyone gets erased. Remember Romans, 3? Remember the cross? If anyone who has sinned against God is removed, we’re all removed–daily, and Jesus was crucified needlessly because we’ve all been erased. We need to concentrate on the context and let the Bible as a whole interpret the Bible.
Listened to the words carefully; “He who overcomes shall 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.”
Look back, read it again, I’ll wait…Ok, good. According to the text, who gets erased from the book of Life? Is it those that don’t overcome? Do we have to look a little bit further back in the text? Is it those whose deeds are not complete? Whose name, does the text say, gets erased from the book? You know these must be trick questions–you are an astute observer, but how astute? Incredibly astute if you answered, no one, Jesus never says that anyone will be Erased. Notice; it’s a negative statement, “I will not erase his name from the book of life.” It’s not only negative but it’s an emphatic negative. Literally, in the Greek, the statement begins, “no not.” I don’t often times write this, but in this case, the NIV translates it best, “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” It’s clearly a figure of speech, used to ensure the overcomers, that they will never be Erased. And if you truly know Jesus, you will be an overcomer.
But what about the robes of white and his coming like a thief? The white robes are imagery and coming like a thief is a simile. Is Jesus literally coming like a thief? Or for that matter is he literally coming in the clouds? No, like a thief is a representation of him coming when least expected. Look at the context–and even more importantly think about why he would say this. We seem to think of Jesus coming as Jesus rapturing his church, but the context is abundantly clear. Coming, in this context, is judgement. If he is coming to save us from the impending tribulation, why would he come as a thief?
His words hit hard. Again, notice the imagery. “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. ‘Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die.” A name that they are alive, but dead. It is the ancient version of an oxymoron. Another interesting thing that I should point out is that when writing to the seven churches, Jesus uses the singular Greek for “you.” However, when he speaks of those who haven’t soiled there garments or joined in adultery or known the deep things of Satan, he used the plural Greek. Basically, it boils down to the churches, as a whole are in danger of having Jesus come like a thief and remove their respective lampstands. Think of it as the un-gathering of the gathering. Search the Scriptures, it begins in the garden, deepens in the deluge, blows up in Babel, Assyria, Babylon, the deportations, and ultimately it happens to dead churches. Again, like Sodom and Gomorrah, one or two righteous people in a church, may not be able to save that church.
The context is clear if we understand the imagery. The Lord is not stating that one can lose their salvation. However he is absolutely proclaiming that a church that is not being a church will no longer be a church. Just because a church has a name and does certain things, it doesn’t make it a true church. Alive but dead. I truly believe that this is the difference between a church going through the motions and a church living in the Spirit. After all, this letter does begin with the statement,”He who has the seven Spirits of God.” Paul writes to Timothy, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Religion is what’s left after the Spirit leaves the church, and it appears Sardis was hanging on by a thread. It’s a heart condition.
Church isn’t a building, or a worship service–it’s a crazy thing that only true believers would ever want to be a part of. It’s caring more about others than oneself. It’s about working hard so that one has enough to share with those in need. It’s about not considering one’s possessions as his own. It’s about losing oneself, denying oneself and embracing the Spirit of God. And yet, it’s about liberty, freedom and devotion to Christ. It’s about ugly honesty, costly confession, helping, serving, laughing, crying and concern for the well being of all. Church is not a building, it’s not even people. Church is a lifestyle made up out of God’s true people. Church is like Israel.
The Apostle Paul, who quotes the same chapter in Exodus I did, gets the last word: “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.”
“Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, BUT STOOD UP TO PLAY.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”