He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life…
I. THE BOOK. There is a great deal in the Apocalypse about this book of the living, or "of life." And, like the rest of its imagery, the symbol finally reposes upon the Old Testament cycle of metaphor (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Psalm 87:6; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1). Coming to the New Testament, we find, outside of the Apocalypse, comparatively few references. But see Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23). So then, to be "written in the Book of Life" is to be included amongst those who truly live. St. John, in his Gospel and Epistle, dwells with even more emphasis than the other writers of the New Testament on the great central thought that the deepest conception of Christ's work to men is that He is the Source of life. "He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son hath not life." This symbol implies, too, that they who truly live, live by Jesus Christ, and by Him alone. It is "the Lamb's Book of Life." In His character of the Lamb — that is, of the Sacrifice for the sins of the world — slain for us all, He has made it possible that any names should be written on that page. Then, again, note how this symbol suggests to us that to be enrolled in the Book is to be a citizen of heaven. The name being "written in heaven" implies that the true native soil of the man is where his name is written. He is inscribed on the register of the community to which He belongs. He lives in a far-away colony, but he is a native of the metropolis. Again, let me remind you that to be written in that Book implies being the objects of Divine energy and Divine love. "I know thee by name" said the Divine voice, through the prophet, to the Great Conqueror before He was born. "I know thee by name," saith the Lord, to each of us, if our hearts are humbly trusting in His Divine power.
II. THE INSCRIPTION OF THE NAMES. Now there are two passages in this Book of the Revelation which seem to say that the names are written "before the foundation of the world." I am not going to plunge into discussions far beyond our reach, but I may remind you that such a statement says nothing about the inscription of the names which is not true about all events in time. So, leaving that ideal and eternal inscription of the names in the obscurity which cannot be dispelled, we shall be more usefully employed in asking what, so far as concerns us, are the conditions on which we may become possessors of that Divine life from Jesus Christ, and citizens of the heavens? Faith in Christ brings us into the possession of eternal life from Him, makes us citizens of His kingdom, and objects of His care. Jesus calls us all to Himself. Do like the man in the "Pilgrim's Progress," who went up to the writer at the table, with the ink-horn before him, and said to him, "Set down my name," and so subscribed with his hand to the mighty God of Jacob.
III. THE PURGING OF THE ROLL. It seems to me that the fair implication of the words of my text is that the victor's name remains, and the name of the vanquished is blotted out. Why should we be exhorted to "hold fast our crown, that no man may take it," if it is impossible for the crown ever to drop from the brow upon which it was once laid? No man can take it unless we "let" him, but our letting him is a conceivable alternative. And therefore the exhortations and appeals and warnings of Scripture come to us with eminent force. And how is that apostasy to be prevented, and that retention of the name on the roll-call to be secured? The answer is a very plain one — "To him that overcometh." The only way by which a man may keep his name on the effective muster-roll of Christ's army is by continual contest and conquest.
IV. THE CONFESSION OF THE NAMES. There comes a time of blessed certainty, when Christ's confession will transform all our hesitations into peaceful assurance, when He shall stoop from His throne, and Himself shall say, in the day when He makes up His jewels, "This, and that, and that man belong indeed to Me." Men have thrown away their lives to get a word in a despatch, or from a commanding officer; and men have lived long years stimulated to efforts and sacrifices by the hope of having a line in the chronicles of their country. But what is all other fame to Christ's recognising me for His?
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.