May I say at the outset, I believe that salvation is all of Divine grace (God’s unmerited favor to sinful, undeserving man) from beginning to end. In regard to the matter of salvation, the words of Jesus are emphatic, “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). Jesus who saved us possesses the power to keep us. Scripture clearly teaches that salvation is a work of grace, is dependent on God’s grace, and is secure in God’s grace. Now if it is possible for one to lose that which is of grace, then ultimately salvation is not of grace but is dependent on one’s works. And the Scripture is clear, no man can be saved by works of righteousness which they have done (Titus 3:5). While fruit or works are proof of the genuineness of one’s profession, works can never earn or secure salvation.
Those who contend it is possible to for one to lose their salvation, will often turn to the words of Jesus to the church at Sardis, found in Revelation 3:5, as a proof text that a saved person can have their name blotted out of the Book of Life even after it has been written there by the blood of Jesus. Jesus is addressing the believers at Sardis and assures the few who are remaining faithful that He “will not blot out [their] name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess [their] name before my Father, and before his angels.” Now the question is, does Revelation 3:5 teach/imply that someone can lose their salvation? In other words, can someone be saved one day, have their names written in the Book of Life, and then at some future day have their name blotted out?
Let us examine what Jesus is seeking to say to the Sardis Christians. Is Revelation 3:5 a verse which issues a warning about losing one’s salvation or does the verse set forth a promise that one’s salvation is secure?
The context and focus in Revelation 3:5 are not about one losing their salvation, but on the assurance one is secure in Christ! In the Greek text it is a strong double negative meaning “I will not, no never blot out…” Also, it is in a future tense, meaning it will not be blotted out in the future. The verse has nothing to do with the possibility of what one could lose, but it has everything to do with giving assurance that one’s name is secure in the Book of Life and will not be erased!
In the first century, Christians who were loyal and faithful to Christ were under constant threat of being branded political and social rebels of the Roman Empire. If they were branded as enemies and insurgents of the Roman state, they would then be stripped of their citizenship, their names being blotted out of the citizenry roles. In light of the fact that many in Sardis might lose their Roman citizenship because of their allegiance to Christ and have their names blotted from the rolls of earthly citizenry, the Lord assures them their names will not be erased from heaven’s citizenship roll. Christ offers the believers at Sardis an eternal citizenship in the everlasting kingdom without fear of removal. While one’s name could be removed from a cities registry roll of citizens for reasons deemed legitimate by that city or imperial authorities, Christ is giving those first-century believes assurance that for their loyalty to Him their names were permanently inscribed in the Book of Life. As Robert Thomas notes, ” The promise here is positive, that these [Sardis believers] will not in any way have their names blotted out.”
Revelation 3:5 is given to Christians going through difficult times as an assuring promise. The promise is directed toward believers, assuring them of their security in their salvation. The verse does not indicate or imply that God blots out anybody’s name out of the Book of Life. One who is saved and counted righteous in God’s records, and one who is changed and made into a child of God, a partaker of God’s nature, can be assured their salvation is secure in Christ. Notice this verse promises that God will NOT blot out one’s name. Christ in seeking to comfort those who are striving to overcome the spreading paganism and imperial worship of the day, promises He will NOT blot out the believers names. We must not read into the verse more than it says. We must not add to the Bible. God said what He meant. Had He meant more, He would have said more. God does not say and does not mean that He will blot out the name of any child of His from the Book of Life. The verse speaks to assurance for the believer whose name IS written in the Book of Life.
Philip Schaff succinctly writes, “What we are told in Revelation 3:5 is, not that some names shall be blotted out of the Book of Life, but that names shall NOT be blotted out.” A true believer’s name shall not be erased from the roll or register of the citizens of the Kingdom of God. A believers name was put into the Book of Life by grace and it will be forever secured upon the heavenly parchments by grace.
Albert Barnes adds, “The expression ‘I will not blot out’ means, that the names would be found there on the great day of final account, and would be found there forever. It may be remarked, no one can have access to that Book but He who keeps it; therefore, there is the most positive assurance that the salvation of the redeemed is secure.”
Knowing our names are secure in the Book of Life should bring us great joy, for Jesus said, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). Knowing we have received from Christ assurance that our names will NOT be blotted out of the Book of Life, should fill our hearts with such overflowing thankfulness. The verse is not a license to live as we please, but it should fill our spirits with such assurance we are compelled to live faithfully for Him in surrendered gratitude for His amazing saving grace.