The Church at Sardis: Part 5 of 5 (series: Lessons on Revelations)
by John Lowe
If the names of believers (the elect) are written from the foundation of the world, and if God knows all things, why would He enter the name of somebody who would one day fall and have to be removed from the book? We are enrolled in heaven because we have been born again (Hebrews 12:23), and no matter how disobedient the child may be, he or she cannot be “unborn.”
As unbelievers die, their names are removed from the book; thus, at the final judgment, the book contains only the names of believers (Revelation 20:12-1513). It then becomes “the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27), because only those saved by the Lord Jesus Christ have their names in it. All the others have been blotted out, something God would never do for any true child of God (See Exodus 32:32; Roman 9:3). It is a book of life, and lost sinners are dead (Ephesian is 2:1).
It is interesting to note that in the genealogies there are only two books which are identified: (1) “the book of the generations of Adam” (see Genesis 5:1) – we are all in that book, but it is a book of death—and (2) “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (see the Matthew 1:1). The phrase, “the book of the generation,” is an unusual expression. It occurs only in connection with Adam and then in connection with Christ.
The book of the generation of Jesus Christ is the Book of Life. I believe that you get into that book by faith in Christ. This, then, raises the question: Is it possible for you to be in the Book of Life and then have your name blotted out? Can you lose your salvation? If that is true, then the Lord Jesus should not have said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Again and again, throughout Scripture, we have the assurance given to us of our salvation.
I would like to give you now an excerpt from Dr. John Walvoord’s book The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which is a very good explanation of what is meant by this verse:
Some have indicated that there is no explicit statement here that anybody will have his name blotted out, but rather the promise that his name will not be blotted out, because of his faith in Christ. The implication, however, is that such is a possibility. On the basis of this, some have considered the book of life not as the roll of those who are saved but rather a list of those for whom Christ died, that is, all humanity who have possessed physical life. As they come to maturity and are faced with the responsibility of accepting or rejecting Christ, their names are blotted out if they fail to receive Jesus Christ as Savior; whereas those who do accept Christ as Savior are confirmed in their position in the book of life, and their names are confessed before the Father and the heavenly angels.
Some have identified the two books in chapter 20, verse 1213, as the book of profession and the book of reality. They hold that names are erased from the book of profession but not from the book of reality. Others have suggested that all names are placed in the Book of Life at the beginning, but some are removed. A person’s lack of decision for or rejection of Christ causes his name to be removed at the time of death. Both of these views propose serious objections as well as having good points to commend them.
I am confident that the whole thought is simply that it is amazing that anyone in Sardis would be saved but that there were some whose names He said would not be blotted out of the Book of Life. But he didn’t say that anybody had been blotted out; He just said that even in Sardis there would be some saved. May I say to you, the important thing is whether or not your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. I do not believe that after you are saved you would ever be able to lose that salvation. Because of the consistent teaching of the Scriptures that salvation is by grace, not by works, and because of the clear statements that the true believer is eternally secure (John 3:16; 5:24; 10:27-29), verse five cannot imply the possibility of a child of God ever being lost.
The warning here is that we do not grow comfortable in our churches, lest we find ourselves slowly dying. The encouragement is that no church is beyond hope as long as there is a remnant in Him, willing to strengthen the things that remain.
• Jesus Christ will confess their names before his Father and the angels, and announce
that they are His. It was Jesus’ promise that, if a man confessed Him before men, He would confess him before His Father; and if a man denied Him before men, he would deny him before His Father (Matthew 10:32, 33; Luke 12:8, 9). Jesus Christ is for ever true to the man who is true to Him. Believers can have no greater reward than to stand in heaven with Christ and have Him announce to the entire assembled host—“They are mine”—and they will be allowed to enter into Heaven.
6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Again Christ emphasizes the importance for the readers of Revelation to listen and understand. He closes the message to the angel of the church in Sardis with the admonition to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The message in this letter is also for you. God help us to be again reminded that we are individually responsible to the Lord God Almighty. We are to hear what the SPIRIT says—not what man says or teaches.
End Notes: 1
(Revelation 1:4, NIV) “John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne.” This book is a revelation of the things which are and the things which shall be. “John is the writer, but Jesus Christ is the author,”2
(Colossians 2:8-10, NIV) “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Verses 9 and 10 are a stunning rebuttal of the false teachers who encourage submission to the “elemental spiritual forces of this world” (v. 8) as a means of overcoming fears of not being acceptable before God. As outlined in the following verses, the “fullness” of God that the false teachers pretend to offer resides in Christ and is obtained only through Him (Colossians 1:19, 20).3
(2 Timothy 3:5, KJV) “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” Having a form of godliness—That is, they profess religion, or are in connection with the church. This shows that the apostle referred to some great corruption in the church; and there can be little doubt that he had his eye on the same great apostasy to which he refers in 2 John 1:10-11;4
Soiled, as it is used here, means “to stain or defile morally: corrupt.”5
Garments, as used here refers to “character.”6
(Colossians 1:27, KJV) “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:”7
(Revelation 7:14, NLT) “And I said to him, “Sir, you are the one who knows.” Then he said to me, “These are the ones who died in the great tribulation. They have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and made them white.”8
(Revelation 2:27, RSV) “and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received power from my Father;”9
(Revelation 21:27, WE) “Nothing that is not holy will ever go in. People who do wrong things and tell lies will never go in. Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will go in.”10
(Psalm 69:28, NKJV) “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous.”11
(Revelation 13:8, NKJV) “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”12
(Ephesians 1:4, NKJV) “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,”13
(Revelation 20:12-15, NKJV) “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”