Revelation 3:5
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
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(5) He that overcometh.—The promise is repeated to all who overcome; all, not who have never fallen, or failed, but who conquer, shall be clothed in glistening white raiment. On this glistering appearance comp. Dante’s words, “robed in hue of living flame,” and the description so frequent in the Pilgrim’s Progress—“the shining ones.” Trench, who reminds us that this glistening white is found in the symbolism of heathen antiquity, says: “The glorified body, defecated of all its dregs and impurities, whatever remained of those having been precipitated in death, and now transformed and transfigured into the likeness of Christ’s body (Philippians 3:21), this, with its robe, atmosphere, and effluence of lights, is itself, I believe, the white raiment which Christ here promises to His redeemed.” Professor Lightfoot thinks (see his Epistle to Col. p. 22) that there may be a reference to the purple dyes for which Sardis, as well as Thyatira, was celebrated.

I will not blot out . . .—The negative is emphatic, “I will in no wise blot out.” This figure of speech—a book and the blotting out—was ancient. (See Deuteronomy 32:32; Psalm 69:21; Daniel 12:1; comp. also Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3.) The name shall not be erased from the roll or register of the citizens of heaven. “A process of erasure is ever going on, besides the process of entering. When the soul has finally taken its choice for evil, when Christ is utterly denied on earth and trodden under foot, when the defilement of sin has become inveterate and indelible, then the pen is drawn through the guilty name, then the inverted style smears the wax over the unworthy characters; and when the owner of that name applies afterwards for admittance, the answer is, ‘I know thee not; depart hence, thou willing worker and lover of iniquity’” (Dr. Vaughan).

But I will confess his name.—Another echo of Christ’s words on earth (Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9).



Revelation 3:5.

The brightest examples of earnest Christianity are generally found amidst widespread indifference. If a man does not yield to the prevailing tone, it is likely to quicken him into strong opposition. So it was in this Church of Sardis. It was dead. That was the summing up of its condition. It had a name to live, and the name only made the real deadness more complete. But there were exceptions: souls ablaze with Divine love, who in the midst of corruption had kept their robes clean, and whom Christ’s own voice declared to be worthy to walk with Him in white.

That great eulogium, which immediately precedes our text, is referred to in the first of its triple promises; as is even more distinctly seen if we read our text as the Revised Version does: ‘He that overcometh, the same shall thus be clothed in white raiment’; the ‘thus ‘pointing back to the preceding words, and widening the promise to the faithful few in Sardis so as to extend to all victors in all Churches throughout all time.

Now the remaining two clauses of our text also seem to be coloured by the preceding parts of this letter. We read in it, ‘Thou hast a name that thou livest’; and again, ‘Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.’ Our text catches up the word, and moulds its promises accordingly. One is more negative, the other more positive; both link on to a whole series of Scriptural representations.

Now all these declarations of the blessedness of the victors are, of course, intensely symbolical, and we can but partially translate them. I simply seek now to take them as they stand, and to try to grasp at least some part of the dim but certain hopes which they partly reveal and partly hide. There are, then, three things here.

I. The victor’s robes.

‘He that overcometh, the same shall {thus} be clothed in white raiment.’ White, of course, is the festal colour. But it is more than that: it is the heavenly colour. In this book we read of white thrones, white horses, hairs ‘white as snow,’ white stones. But we are to notice that the word here employed does not merely mean a dead whiteness, which is the absence of colour, but a lustrous and glistering white, like that of snow smitten by sunshine, or like that which dazzled the eyes of the three on the Mount of Transfiguration, when they saw the robes of the glorified Christ ‘whitened as no fuller on earth could white them.’ So that we are to associate with this metaphor, not only the thoughts of purity, festal joy, victory, but likewise the thought of lustrous glory.

Then the question arises, can we translate that metaphor of the robe into anything that will come closer to the fact? Now I may remind you that this figure runs through the whole of Scripture. We find, for instance, in one of the old prophets, a vision in which the taking away of Israel’s sin is represented by the high priest, the embodiment of the nation, standing in filthy garments, which were stripped off him and fair ones put on him. We find our Lord giving forth a parable of a man who came to the feast not having on a wedding garment. We find the Apostle Paul speaking frequently, in a similar metaphor, of putting off an ancient nature and putting on a new one. We find in this book, not only the references in my text and the context, but the great saying concerning those that have ‘washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,’ and the final benediction pronounced upon those who washed their robes, that they may ‘have a right to enter through the gate into the city.’

Putting all these things together - and the catalogue might be extended - we have to observe that the signification of this symbol is not that of something wholly external to or apart from the man, but that it is rather that part of his nature, so to speak, which is visible to beholders, and we may translate it very simply - the robe is character. So the promise of my text, brought down so far as we can bring it to its primary element, is of a purity and lustrous glory of personal character, which shall be visible to any eye that may look upon the wearer. What more there may be found in it when we are ‘clothed upon with our house which is from heaven,’ if so be that ‘being clothed we shall not be found naked,’ I do not presume to say. I do not speculate, I simply translate the plain words of Scripture into the truth which they represent.

But now I would have you notice that this, like all the promises of the New Testament in regard to a future life, lays main stress on what a man is. Not where we are, not what we have, not what we do or know, make heaven, but what we are. The promises are clothed for us, as they must needs be, in sensuous images, which sensuous men have interpreted in far too low a sense; or sometimes have not been even at the trouble of interpreting. But in reality there are but two facts that we know about that future, and they are smelted together, as cause and effect, in the great saying of the most spiritual of the Apostles: ‘We shall be like Him’ - that is what we shall be - ‘for we shall see Him as He is.’ So, then, purity of character, when all the stains on the garments, spotted by the flesh, shall have melted away; purity of character, when temptations shall have no more food in us and so conflict shall not be needful; purity like Christ’s own, and derived from the vision of Him, according to the great law that beholding is transformation, and the light we see is the light which we reflect - this is the heart of this great promise.

But notice that the main thing about it is that this lustrous purity of a perfected character is declared to be the direct outcome of the character, that was made by effort and struggle carried on in faith here upon earth. In this clause the familiar I will give ‘does not appear; and the thought of the condition upon earth working itself out into the glory of lustrous purity in the heavens is made even more emphatic by the adoption of the reading to which I have referred: ‘Shall thus be clothed,’ which points us backwards to what preceded, where our Lord’s own voice declares that the men who have not defiled their garments upon earth are they who ‘shall walk with Him in white.’ The great law of continuity and of increase, so that the dispositions cultivated here rise to sovereign power hereafter, and that what was tendency, and struggle, and imperfect realization upon earth becomes fact and complete possession in the heavens, is declared in the words before us.

What solemn importance that thought gives to the smallest of our victories or defeats here on earth! They are threads in the web out of which our garment is to be cut. After all, yonder as here, we are dressed in homespun, and we make our clothing and shape it for our wear. That truth is perfectly consistent with the other truth on which it reposes- that the Christian man owes to Christ the reception of the new garment of purity and holiness. The evangelical doctrine, ‘not by works of righteousness which we have done,’ and its complement in the words of my text, are perfectly harmonious. We cannot weave the web except Christ gives us yarn, nor can we work out our own salvation except Christ bestows upon us the salvation which we work out. The two things go together. Let us remember that, whilst in one aspect the souls that were all clad in filthy garments are arrayed as a bridegroom decketh his bride with a fair vesture, in another aspect we ourselves, by our own efforts, by our own struggles, by our own victories, have to weave and fashion and cut and sew the dress which we shall wear for ever.

II. Notice here the victor’s place in the Book of Life.

‘I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life.’ I have pointed out that in the former clause the characteristic ‘I will give’ is omitted, in order that emphatic expression might be secured for the thought that in one aspect the reward of the future is automatic or self working. But that thought is by no means a complete statement of the truth with regard to this matter; and so, in both of the subsequent clauses, we have our Lord representing Himself {for it is never to be forgotten that these promises are Christ’s own words from heaven} as clothed with His judicial functions, and as determining the fates of men. ‘I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life.’ ‘That is a solemn and tremendous claim, that Christ’s finger can write, and Christ’s finger can erase, a name from that register.

Now I have said that all these clauses link themselves on to a whole series of Scriptural representatives. I showed that briefly in regard to the former; I would do so in regard to the present one.

You will remember, perhaps, in the early history of Israel, that Moses, with lofty self-devotion, prayed God to blot his name out of His book, if only by that sacrifice Israel’s sin might be forgiven. You may recall too, possibly, how one of the prophets speaks of ‘those that are written amongst the living in Jerusalem,’ and how Daniel, in his eschatological vision, refers to those whose names were or were not written in the book. I need not remind you of how our Lord commanded His disciples to rejoice not in that the spirits were subject to them, but rather to rejoice because their names were written in heaven. Nor need I do more than simply refer to the Apostle’s tender and pathetic excuse for not remembering the names of some of his fellow workers that it mattered very little, because their names were written in the Book of Life. Throughout this Apocalypse, too, we find subsequent allusions of the same nature, just as in the Epistle to the Hebrews we read of the ‘Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven.’ Now all these, thus put together, suggest two ideas: one which I do not deal with here - viz., that of a burgess-roll - and the other that of a register of those who truly live. And that is the thought that is suggested here. The promise of my text links on to the picture in the letter of the condition of the Church at Sardis, which was dead, and says that the victor will truly and securely and for ever possess life, with all the clustered blessedness’ which, like a nebula unresolved, gather themselves, dim yet radiant, round that great word.

But what I especially note here is, not so much this reiteration of the fundamental and all-embracing promise which has met us in preceding letters, the promise of a secure, eternal life, as that plain and solemn implication that a name may be struck out of that book. Theological exigencies compelled our fathers to deny that, but surely the words of our text are too plain to be neglected or misunderstood. It is possible that a name, like the name of a dishonest attorney, shall be struck off the rolls. Do not let any desire for theological symmetry blind you, brother, to that fact. Take it into account in your daily lives. It is possible for a man to ‘cast away his confidence.’ It is possible for him to make shipwreck of the faith. Some of you will remember that pathetic story of Cromwell’s deathbed, when he asked one of his ghostly counselors whether it was true that ‘once in the covenant, always in the covenant? ‘He got the answer, ‘Yes’; and then he said, ‘I know I once was,’ and so died. Brethren, it is the victors whose names are kept upon the roll. These people at Sardis had a name to live, and they thought that their names were in the Book of Life. And when it was opened, lo! a blot. Some of us have seen upon the granite of Egyptian temples the cartouches of a defeated dynasty chiseled out by their successors. The granite on which this list is written is not so hard but that a man, by his own sin, falling away from the Master, may chisel out his name. A student goes up for his examination. He thinks he has succeeded. The pass-lists come out, and his name is not there. Take care that you are not building upon past faith, but remember that it is the victor’s name that is not blotted out of the Book of Life.

III. Lastly, the victor’s recognition by the Commanding Officer.

‘I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.’ There, too, we have a kind of mosaic, made up of previous Scripture declarations. Our Lord, twice in the Gospels - and on neither occasion in the Gospel according to St. John - has similar sayings; once about confessing the name of him who confesses His name ‘before the Father’; once about confessing it ‘before the holy angels.’ Here these are smelted together into the one great recognition by Jesus Christ of the victor as being His.

Now I need not remind you of how emphatically, to this clause also, the remark which I have made with regard to the former one applies, and how tremendous and inexplicable, except on one hypothesis, is this same assumption by Christ of judicial functions which determine the fate and the standing of men.

But I would rather point to the thought that this promise carries with it, not only Christ’s judicial recognition of the victor, but also the thought of loving relationship, of close friendship, of continual regard. He ‘confesses the name’ - that means that He takes to His heart, and loves and cares for the person.

Is it not the highest honour that can be given to any soldier, to have honorable mention in the general’s despatches? It matters very little what becomes of our names upon earth, though there they be dark, and swift oblivion devours them almost as soon as we are dead, except in so far as they may live for a little while in the memory of two or three that loved us. That is the fate of most of us. And surely ‘the hollow wraith of dying fame’ may ‘fade wholly,’ and we exult, ‘if Jesus Christ confess our name.’ It matters little who forgets us if He remembers us. It matters even less what the judgments pronounced in our obituaries may be, if He says, ‘That man is Mine, and I own him.’ Ah! brethren, what a reversal of the world’s judgments there will be one day; and how names that have been blown through a thousand trumpets, and had hosannas sung to them, and been welcomed with a tumult of acclaim through generations, will sink into oblivion and never be heard of any more, and the unseen and obscure men who lived by, and for, and with Jesus Christ, will come to the front I Praise from Him is praise indeed.

Now, brethren, the upshot of it all is that life here derives its meaning and its consecration from life hereafter. The question for us is, do we habitually realize that we are weaving the garment we must wear, be it a poisoned robe that shall eat into our flesh like fire, or be it a vesture clean and white? Do we brace ourselves for the obscure struggles of our little lives, feeling that they are not small because they carry eternal consequences? Are we content to be unknown because well known by Him, and to live so that He shall acknowledge us in the day when to be acknowledged by Him means glory and blessedness beyond all hopes and all symbols; and to be disowned by Him means ruin and despair? You know the conditions of victory. Lay them to heart, and its issues, and the tragical results of death; and then cleave, with mind and heart and will, to Him who can make you more than conquerors, who will change your frayed and dinted armour for the fine linen, clean and white, and will point to you, before His Father and the universe, and say, ‘This man was one of Thy faithful soldiers.’ That will be honour indeed. Do you see to it that you make it yours.

Revelation 3:5-6. He that overcometh — That is finally victorious over his spiritual enemies; shall be clothed in white raiment — In the habit of victory, joy, and triumph; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life — Like that of the angel of the church at Sardis. See on Php 4:3; Daniel 12:1. This passage plainly implies, that some names shall be blotted out from the book of life: that is, some who, in consequence of their adoption and regeneration, were entitled to and fitted for eternal life, shall, through falling from grace, lose these blessings, and come again under guilt, condemnation, and wrath. But I will confess his name — Who overcomes to the end, as one of my faithful servants and soldiers; before my Father — In the great day of decisive judgment: and as he was enrolled among my believing, loving, and obedient people, he shall continue for ever in their number. He that hath an ear, &c. — Let everyone that hears this be animated by so glorious a hope to exert his utmost efforts in this holy and honourable warfare.

3:1-6. The Lord Jesus is He that hath the Holy Spirit with all his powers, graces, and operations. Hypocrisy, and lamentable decay in religion, are sins charged upon Sardis, by One who knew that church well, and all her works. Outward things appeared well to men, but there was only the form of godliness, not the power; a name to live, not a principle of life. There was great deadness in their souls, and in their services; numbers were wholly hypocrites, others were in a disordered and lifeless state. Our Lord called upon them to be watchful against their enemies, and to be active and earnest in their duties; and to endeavour, in dependence on the grace of the Holy Spirit, to revive and strengthen the faith and spiritual affections of those yet alive to God, though in a declining state. Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground. Thy works are hollow and empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God. There are not inward affections suitable to outward acts and expressions; when the spirit is wanting, the form cannot long remain. In seeking a revival in our own souls, or the souls of others, it is needful to compare what we profess with the manner in which we go on, that we may be humbled and quickened to hold fast that which remains. Christ enforces his counsel with a dreadful threatening if it should be despised. Yet our blessed Lord does not leave this sinful people without some encouragement. He makes honourable mention of the faithful remnant in Sardis, he makes a gracious promise to them. He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment; the purity of grace shall be rewarded with the perfect purity of glory. Christ has his book of life, a register of all who shall inherit eternal life; the book of remembrance of all who live to God, and keep up the life and power of godliness in evil times. Christ will bring forward this book of life, and show the names of the faithful, before God, and all the angels, at the great day.He that overcometh - See the notes on Revelation 2:7.

The same shall be clothed in white raiment - Whosoever he may be that shall overcome sin and the temptations of this world, shall be admitted to this glorious reward. The promise is made not only to those in Sardis who should be victorious, but to all in every age and every land. The hope that is thus held out before us, is that of appearing with the Redeemer in his kingdom, clad in robes expressive of holiness and joy.

And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life - The book which contains the names of those who are to live with him forever. The names of his people are thus represented as enrolled in a book which he keeps - a register of those who are to live forever. The phrase "book of life" frequently occurs in the Bible, representing this idea. See the notes on Philippians 4:3. Compare Revelation 15:3; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; Revelation 22:19. 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, that as no one can have access to that book but he who keeps it, there is the most positive assurance that it will never be done, and the salvation of the redeemed will be, therefore, secure. And let it be remembered that the period is coming when it will be felt to be a higher honor to have the name enrolled in that book than in the books of heraldry - in the most splendid catalogue of princes, poets, warriors, nobles, or statesmen that the world has produced.

But I will confess his name, ... - I will acknowledge him to be my follower. See the notes on Matthew 10:32.

5. white—not a dull white, but glittering, dazzling white [Grotius]. Compare Mt 13:43. The body transfigured into the likeness of Christ's body, and emitting beams of light reflected from Him, is probably the "white raiment" promised here.

the same—Greek, "THIS man"; he and he alone. So one oldest manuscript reads. But two oldest manuscripts, and most of the ancient versions, "shall THUS be clothed," &c.

raiment—Greek, "garments." "He that overcometh" shall receive the same reward as they who "have not defiled their garments" (Re 3:4); therefore the two are identical.

I will not—Greek, "I will not by any means."

blot out … name out of … book of life—of the heavenly city. A register was kept in ancient cities of their citizens: the names of the dead were of course erased. So those who have a name that they live and are dead (Re 3:1), are blotted out of God's roll of the heavenly citizens and heirs of eternal life; not that in God's electing decree they ever were in His book of life. But, according to human conceptions, those who had a high name for piety would be supposed to be in it, and were, in respect to privileges, actually among those in the way of salvation; but these privileges, and the fact that they once might have been saved, shall be of no avail to them. As to the book of life, compare Re 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; Ex 32:32; Ps 69:28; Da 12:1. In the sense of the "call," many are enrolled among the called to salvation, who shall not be found among the chosen at last. The pale of salvation is wider than that of election. Election is fixed. Salvation is open to all and is pending (humanly speaking) in the case of those mentioned here. But Re 20:15; 21:27, exhibit the book of the elect alone in the narrower sense, after the erasure of the others.

before … before—Greek, "in the presence of." Compare the same promise of Christ's confessing before His Father those who confessed Him, Mt 10:32, 33; Lu 12:8, 9. He omits "in heaven" after "My Father," because there is, now that He is in heaven, no contrast between the Father in heaven and the Son on earth. He now sets His seal from heaven upon many of His words uttered on earth [Trench]. An undesigned coincidence, proving that these epistles are, as they profess, in their words, as well as substance, Christ's own addresses; not even tinged with the color of John's style, such as it appears in his Gospel and Epistles. The coincidence is mainly with the three other Gospels, and not with John's, which makes the coincidence more markedly undesigned. So also the clause, "He that hath an ear, let him hear," is not repeated from John's Gospel, but from the Lord's own words in the three synoptic Gospels (Mt 11:15; 13:9; Mr 4:9, 23; 7:16; Lu 8:8; 14:35).

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; he that overcometh in the spiritual fight, shall be honoured as a triumpher.

And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; that is, I will give him everlasting life: the phrase is an allusion to men who use to keep books, and in them the names of persons to whom they will show kindness. The book of life; applied to God, signifieth his eternal predestination, or purpose to bring some to heaven; out of which book, though none can be blotted out whose name is once wrote in, yet those whose names are in this book may be under some fears and apprehensions to the contrary. Christ assures them to the contrary, that they shall certainly be saved, but lets them know that this assurance depends upon their perseverance; of which also some make this phrase a promise.

But I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels; in the day of judgment I will own them, and acknowledge them as mine before my Father and all the angels, Matthew 10:32 Luke 12:8.

He that overcometh,.... The deadness, formality, and imperfection of this church state; gets over these things, and is among the few names in it:

the same shall be clothed in white raiment; the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, read, "thus shall he be clothed in white raiment"; he shall have abundance of spiritual peace and joy, great success and prosperity, both inward and outward, in himself, and in the church; and triumph over all his enemies, sin, Satan, the world, death, and every other enemy; and not only be clothed with change of raiment, the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ, but shall enjoy eternal glory and happiness! the allusion seems to be to the custom of the Jewish sanhedrim in judging of priests fit for service (l),

"they examined the priests concerning their genealogies and blemishes; every priest in whom was found anything faulty in his genealogy, he was clothed in black and veiled in black, and went out of the court; but everyone that was found perfect and right, , "he was clothed in white", and went in and ministered with his brethren the priests.

And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; by which is meant the choice of persons to everlasting life and salvation; and this being signified by a book, and by writing names in it, shows the exact knowledge God has of his elect, the value he has for them, his remembrance of them, his love to them, and care for them; and that this election is of particular persons by name, and is sure and certain; for those whose names are written in it shall never be blotted out, they will always remain in the number of God's elect, and can never become reprobates, or shall ever perish; because of the unchangeableness of the nature and love of God, the firmness of his purposes, the omnipotence of his arm, the death and intercession of Christ for them, their union to him, and being in him, the impossibility of their seduction by false teachers, and the security of their persons, grace, and glory in Christ, and in whose keeping this book of life is; which respects not this temporal life, that belongs to the book of providence, but a spiritual and eternal life, from whence it has its name,

But I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels; which shows that Christ has an exact and perfect knowledge of all the chosen ones, he knows them by name; and that he has a strong and affectionate love for them, and is not ashamed of them, of their cause, of their persons, and of their relation to him; and that he does and will own, acknowledge, and approve of them, both here and hereafter: and the confession he will make of them will be in their praise; in praise of their persons and the comeliness of them, which he has put upon them; and of their graces, though they are his own; and of their good works as the fruits of grace: and this will be made before his Father, who chose these persons, and gave them to him to preserve and save; and before the angels, who rejoice at their salvation and happiness; and this will be at the last day; see Gill on Matthew 10:32.

(l) Maimon. Biath Hamikdash, c. 6. sect. 11, Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 3. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 19. 1.

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis {3} which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in {4} white: for they are {d} worthy.

(3) That is, who have with all religion guarded themselves from sin and moral corruption, even from the very show of evil; Jude 1:23.

(4) Pure from all spot, and shining with glory. So it is to be understood always hereafter, as in Re 3:5.

(d) They are suitable and proper, that is, because they are justified in Christ, as they have truly showed it: for he who acts righteously is righteous in the same way that a tree bears good fruit; Ro 8:18.

Revelation 3:5. ὁ νικῶν. This designation recurring uniformly at the close of every epistle, and therefore not of a conception to be united by means of οὕτως, results from what precedes. Here is meant the energetic manifestation of the life received in faith, which cannot occur without a victorious conflict with the world and one’s own flesh. An express pointing backward to what precedes is made by the οὕτως, which makes the promise here bestowed upon the victor (οὕτ. περιβ. ἐν. ἱμ. λευκ.)[1382] appear to coincide with that which (Revelation 3:4) was given to the one whose garments were not defiled.[1383]

The second promise, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄν. αὐτ. ἐκ τ. βίβλ. τ. ζωῆς has likewise reference to what precedes, because not only he who has the name that he lives, but he who besides actually lives,[1384] can remain written in the book of life. The figure of the book of life[1385] is not derived from “the genealogical records of the priests,”[1386] but from lists such as, e.g., the magistrates kept, and from which the names of deceased citizens were stricken.[1387] A man is not written in the book of life[1388] when he becomes participant of new spiritual life (cf. Revelation 3:1), when he receives the quickening truth (cf. Revelation 3:3), or becomes a child and heir of God through faith in Christ.[1389] This ethical accommodation referring to the temporal conduct of man is actually not present. In the book of life, which according to its nature is eternal, there is from the beginning of the world[1390] God’s attestation of the eternal salvation which those written in the book are to experience. The rejection of what is deterministic, and the maintenance of what is ethical, lie in the further declaration whereby the of course not to be realized possibility of the erasure of the name from the book of life is stated. Yet it is in reality by the free conduct of the believer, that his name may remain in the book. The name of the victor remaining faithful and walking worthily, will not be blotted out of the book of life; the victor, therefore, will receive hereafter the heavenly gracious reward of eternal life with the Lord, while those not written in the book of life will be rejected by the Lord.[1391] [See Note XXXVI., p. 183.] Still, in a third way, is the promise given the victor expressed: καὶ ὁμολογήσω κ.τ.λ. This stands, of course, as the recurrence of τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ already signifies, in connection with what immediately precedes, yet not as Eichh. states: “And as often as recitation is made from it, I will declare his praises.” With the idea of the book of life, that of the frequent reading of the name is not in itself consistent;[1392] and the ὁμολ., κ.τ.λ., can only[1393] have the sense that the Lord, speaking as Judge, expressly testifies that he knows the name of the victor (written in the book of life) as the name of one of his own, and, therefore, that the one named belongs to him, the Lord, and on this account shall have part in the glory of his kingdom.[1394]

[1382] Cf. on the ἐν, Matthew 11:8. Winer, p. 361.

[1383] Cf. also Ebrard, Volkm.

[1384] Cf. Revelation 3:1.

[1385] Revelation 13:8, Revelation 17:8, Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15, Revelation 21:27. Cf. Psalm 69:29; Isaiah 4:3; Exodus 32:32 sqq.; Daniel 12:1; Php 4:3; Luke 10:20.

[1386] Vitr., Schöttgen. See on Revelation 3:4.

[1387] Cf. Wetst.

[1388] As was said here in the 2d ed. So also Klief.: cf., on the other hand, Gebhardt, p. 154.

[1389] “In baptism.” C. a Lap.

[1390] Revelation 13:8, and often.

[1391] Cf. Revelation 20:15, Revelation 21:27.

[1392] Cf. also Revelation 20:12 sqq.

[1393] Cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8.

[1394] Cf. Revelation 21:27, Revelation 19:9; Matthew 7:23; Matthew 25:12.


XXXVI. Revelation 3:5. τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς

If an erasure from the book of life be regarded possible, the inscription cannot refer to election, as this is indefectible. But it seems to be pressing the passage too far, to derive from it such meaning; as the expression is, in fact, simply a litotes whereby to emphasize the certainty of salvation, i.e., an assumed, but not a real, possibility.

5. the same shall be clothed] Read, shall thus be clothed. Perhaps the sense is not so much “thus, as I have promised to the holy remnant in Sardis,” but “thus as I am now.” The colour of Christ’s priestly robe (Revelation 1:13) was not stated (and see Pseudo-Barnabas, there quoted) but we are probably to understand that it was white, cf. Daniel 7:9.

I will not blot out his name] See Exodus 32:32 sq. (which it seems hard to tone down into meaning no more than 1 Kings 19:4 : compare rather Romans 9:3), Psalm 69:29 (28) (which can more easily be taken in the milder sense), and Daniel 12:1. The image seems to be, that everyone on professing himself Christ’s soldier and servant has his name entered in the Book of Life, as on an army list or census-roll of the kingdom. It remains there during the time of his probation or warfare, even if, while he has thus “a name that he liveth,” he is dead in sin: but if he die the second death it will be blotted out—if he overcome, it will remain for ever. See Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15.

I will confess] A repetition of Matthew 10:32.

Verse 5. - He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments. It is difficult to see on what principles of criticism Alford retains the reading of the Textus Receptus, οῦτος, instead of that rightly accepted by the Revisers, οὕτως. The latter has a very decided balance of external evidence in its favour; the former is a corruption very likely to occur either accidentally or in order to introduce a construction very frequent in St. John (John 3:26; John 6:46; John 7:18; John 15:5; 2 John 1:9). The change from "clothed" (Authorized Version) to "arrayed" (Revised Version) here and elsewhere is no doubt made in order to mark the difference between περιβελημένος and ἐνδεδυμένος. But neither the Authorized Version (John 17:4; 19:8) nor the Revised Version (John 11:3; 15:6) is consistent. The Authorized Version generally renders both words "clothed." The Revised Version generally has "arrayed" for περιβελημένος, and "clothed" for ἐνδεδυμένος. The Authorized Version is singularly capricious in having "garments" for ἱμάτια in ver. 4, and "raiment" for the same word in ver. 5. The construction, περιβάλλεσθαι ἔν τινι, occurs again in Revelation 4:4, and once or twice in the LXX. (Deuteronomy 22:12); the usual construction is with the accusative. The promise in this verse is again threefold, the last of the three promises in ver. 4 being repeated here as the first in this triplet. Repetitions of a similar kind are very frequent in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1, 5; John 10:11; John 13:20; John 15:19; John 17:9, 16, etc.). I will in no wise blot out his name. The negative, as in vers. 3 and 12, is in the strongest form. Here we seem to have a figure borrowed from the custom of striking the names of the dead out of the list of citizens. But the figure is a very ancient one, as is seen from parallels in the Old Testament. The present passage, Ἐξαλείψω... ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς is singularly close to the LXX. of Psalm 69:29, Αξαλειφθήτωσαν ἐκ βιβλίου ζώντων; and to Exodus 32:33, 'Αξαλείψω αὐτὸν ἐκ τῆς βίβλου μου; comp. Psalm 109:13; Daniel 12:1; and for the exact expression, "the book of life," see Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; and (without articles) Philippians 4:3, where Bishop Lightfoot comments as follows: "The 'book of life' in the figurative language of the Old Testament is the register of the covenant people (comp. Isaiah 4:3; Ezekiel 13:9). Hence 'to be blotted out of the book of the living' means 'to forfeit the privileges of the theocracy, to be shut out from God's favour.' But the expression, though perhaps confined originally to temporal blessings, was in itself a witness to higher hopes; and in the Book of Daniel first it distinctly refers to a blessed immortality (comp. Hermas, 'Vis.,' 1:3; see also Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23)? And I will confess his name. Without the smallest manuscript authority or any encouragement from previous versions, Latin, German, or English, the Genevan and Authorized Versions here render καί "but"! The simple connexion with "and" is thoroughly in St. John's style: "He shall be... and I will... and I will" (comp. vers. 12, 17; Revelation 2:26-28, etc.; John 1:4, 5, 10, 11, 14, etc.). This is the third of the promises:

(1) he shall be in unsullied glory;

(2) he shall never lose his heavenly citizenship;

(3) he shall be publicly acknowledged as a citizen by the Judge.

This third point is a combination of Matthew 10:32 ("before my Father") with Luke 12:8 ("before the angels of God"). "We may observe of this epistle that in great part it is woven together of sayings which the Lord had already uttered in the days during which he pitched his tent among men; he is now setting his seal from heaven upon his words uttered on earth" (Trench). Revelation 3:5Book of life

Lit., the book of the life. For the figure, see Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Philippians 4:3. Compare Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23.

I will confess (ἐξομλογήσομαι)

Openly confess (ἐξ). See on Matthew 11:25; see on Acts 19:18; see on James 5:16.

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