DOES REVELATION 3:5 TEACH ONE CAN LOSE THEIR SALVATION?

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.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

IT IS FINISHED!

In John 19:30 one finds arguably the most important word that Jesus ever uttered. In the last minutes of his tortuous six hours hanging on the cross, shortly before He committed His spirit to the Father, He cried out through parched, cracked  and bleeding lips the word, “Tetelestai.”  While in the Greek it is one word, it took three English words to express its meaning, “It is finished.” O, what an utterance by the Christ of the Cross!

Never has one word been spoken which contains so much meaning. Charles Surgeon has eloquently written, “What an ocean of meaning in a drop of language, a mere drop. It would need all the other words that ever were spoken, or ever can be spoken, to explain this one word. It is altogether immeasurable. It is high; I cannot attain to it. It is deep; I cannot fathom it. IT IS FINISHED is the most charming note in all of Calvary’s music. The fire has passed upon the Lamb. He has borne the whole of the wrath that was due to His people. This is the royal dish of the feast of love.”

The word translated “It is finished” contains a wealth of meaning. Observing how the word “tetelestai” was commonly used in the ancient world serves as a doorway to understanding what Jesus accomplished on the Cross for us when he proclaimed, “It is finished.”

First, JOHN used the word when writing about Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. John 19:28 records that in Christ all things were “accomplished” regarding His fulfillment of the Scriptures. The word John uses is “tetelestai”…..all has been completed, has been fulfilled, and has been accomplished. Of the over 300 prophecies surrounding the promised Messiah, Christ fulfilled every one of the them to the letter. Scripture’s fulfillment is finished, it has all been accomplished and completed in Jesus Christ. After His resurrection, Jesus explained to the two travelers on the road to Emmaus that He was the complete and perfect fulfillment of all the Messianic prophecies found in the Law, prophets, and the psalms (Luke 24:36-45). We need not look for another Savior…He has come, all is complete and finished in Jesus.

Second, SERVANTS used the word when having obediently completed a task for their master. With the job being faithfully finished the servant would proclaim, “tetelestai”…it is finished. As Jesus uttered “It is finished” He was proclaiming that he had obediently completed the task of obeying the Law of God perfectly which the Father had sent Him to do. As the faithful Servant of God, as the Representative of humanity, Christ lived the perfect life the holiness of God demands, providing for us His perfect righteousness that enables us stand before the Lord uncondemned. “For there is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Third, PRIESTS used the word when examining before offering an animal sacrifice for someone, and upon finding the lamb acceptable would say, “Tetelestai.” When Jesus cried, “It is finished” He was proclaiming as our High Priest that His Sacrifice was acceptable to the Holy Father. God’s Holiness demands justice against sin’s violation of defying His holy standards. But not only did Christ, as our High Priest, offer the Sacrifice, He was the Sacrifice. “He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Offering Himself as the sacrificial Lamb, He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (II Corinthians 5:21). Christ’s resurrection is God’s “Amen” that His Sacrifice was acceptable and the need to offer anymore sacrifices for sins is forever finished!  

Fourth, MERCHANTS used the word when a note or bill was paid, writing “tetelestai” across the note/bill signifying that it had been paid in full. Because of Christ’s perfect life and substitutionary death, the sin debt we could never pay was PAID IN FULL. Christ paid a debt He didn’t owe to pay a debt we could never pay. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).

Fifth, PRISONERS, guilty of a crime, were put in prison a “certificate of debt” listing the crimes and the penalty incurred was nailed to their cell door. When the prisoner had paid his debt to society, authorities would sign the “certificate of debt” with the word “tetelestai”….the debt has been paid. All humanity is guilty of rebelliously not complying with the holiness of God’s righteous Law, and we are imprisoned by our guilt and sin. Erwin Lutzer has written, “We can stand with confidence despite the thunder of the law and the lightening flash of justice, for we are safe beneath the cross. He paid the very last cent of the wages of our sins.”

Sixth, ARTISTS used the word when they made the last brushstroke on a painting, exclaiming, “Tetelestai” ….it is finished, it is done, it is complete. All of the Old Treatment promised pictures of the Messiah were fulfilled in Christ. Some examples: In Genesis, the Messiah is painted as the Seed of the Woman, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Exodus, the Messiah is painted as the Passover Lamb, in Jesus the portrait is finished.  In Leviticus, the Messiah is painted as our High Priest, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Deuteronomy, the Messiah is painted as the Great Prophet, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Isaiah, the Messiah is painted as the Suffering Servant, the Heir to David’s throne and the One born of a virgin, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In Malachi, the Messiah is painted as the Son of Righteousness, in Jesus the portrait is finished. In every painting of Christ found in the 66 OT books, in Jesus every portrait is finished, completed, and hung as a Masterpiece.

Seventh, MATHEMATICANS used the word when after completing a complicated math problem, exclaimed, “Tetelistai”…..it is finished, it is done, it is complete. The spiritual math of humanity is incorrect in its thinking, believing that we can  “add” to our ledger enough good works that will add up to us obtaining salvation by our own efforts. The Bible is clear that by the works of the Law no one can be saved (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16). No one can ever do enough good works that will add up to self-justifying salvation.  Salvation, plus nothing and minus nothing, is found only in the Christ of the Cross. Our works “add-up” to nothing, but Christ’s Sacrifice on the cross is sufficient to save all who knell before Him in acceptance of his finished work.    

Eighth, CONQUERING WARRIORS used the word when victorious in battle, “tetelistai”…..it is finished, the victory is complete and victory has been accomplished. When Christ cried out, “It is finished” it was not a word of one who was defeated, but of a Conquering Savior who was victorious over sin, satan, death and the grave. As Jesus hung on the cross, the world said, “Aha” but three days later arising from the dead the world said, “Huh?” Our Champion accepted the challenge to do battle for our soul’s redemption against every evil foe… and He was victorious! He was victorious, and all those who place their trust in Him share in His victory. Halleluiah!

It is finished! What a grand utterance. We bow in awe before such majestic words. Thankfully, the redemptive work of Christ has been fully, finally and forever been accomplished.

It is finished!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan