Revelation 3

Revelation 3

I said in the previous blog “Revelation 1-2

If salvation means that sin and death will not have the final say over you – then yes, your salvation is secure.  It was secured for you two thousand years ago.  If salvation means “going to Heaven when you die” then I would argue that these scriptures seem to indicate otherwise.

The same rings true for Revelation 3.  Once again, we see conditional promises (3:4-6),

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis who did not defile their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, because they are worthy.  He who is overcoming — this one — shall be arrayed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the scroll of the life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before His messengers.  He who is having an ear — let him hear what the Spirit saith to the assemblies.

It is interesting that garments are mentioned here.  Certain terms repeat throughout the text, so we get a better understanding of what they might mean as we read along.  Some of the terms to pay special attention to are “second death” and “overcome.”  And now we can add to that list, “garment.”  So far, we know that overcomers are “not … injured of the second death”, will be given “hidden manna” to eat, will be given “authority over the nations”, will be “arrayed in white garments”, and this last bit seems pretty significant – the overcomer won’t have his name blotted from the scroll of life (aka the book of life), and Jesus “will confess his name” before His Father.

Now, traditional teaching says that the book of life contains the names of those who are “saved” and consequently, “going to Heaven.”  If these are the real implications of whether one’s name is found in that book, then we are left with two ideas – either people can lose their salvation, or the book of life is not about eternal destiny.  Perhaps there is another option that I am not considering.  If you feel this is the case, then please share your thoughts.  The way I see it, this writing is directed toward the believers in Sardis, some of whom apparently have their names blotted out of the book, who do not get white robes or have their names confessed before the Father.

Moving right along – to the believers in Philadelphia, who seem to get a better report than the others

Because thou didst keep the word of my endurance, I also will keep thee from the hour of the trial that is about to come upon all the world, to try those dwelling upon the earth.  Lo, I come quickly, be holding fast that which thou hast, that no one may receive thy crown.

Notice that the hour of trial is “about to come” and they are warned to hold on, so that no one receives their crown.  This demonstrates that God takes away from one person or group of people and gives what used to belong to them to others.  Although the particular “crown” in this passage may not be relevant to us, I believe the concept of reward (or lack of) is applicable to people in all ages, just as the concept of God’s sovereignty applies to all ages.  God can, and does, give and take away as He sees fit.

Again, we see a promise for the overcomer, “He who is overcoming – I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of my God…”  What does it mean to be a pillar in the sanctuary of God?  Since believers are the sanctuary of God, then being a pillar in the sanctuary must refer to a specific function that the overcomer has, compared to the believers who are not overcomers (at least until they become overcomers – more on that later) as part of the universal Church.  What is this function?  Well, a real pillar distributes the weight of the structure to the foundation, it resists outside forces such as storms or earthquakes, and it can also serve as a decorative element, adding beauty or symmetry along with other columns in the structure.  The spiritual implications here are obvious.

The warning to the believers in Laodicea is very interesting for several reasons.  It says,

I have known thy works, that neither cold art thou nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot.  So – because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth; because thou sayest – I am rich, and have grown rich, and have need of nothing, and hast not known that thou art the wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, I counsel thee to buy from me gold fired by fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white garments that thou mayest be arrayed, and the shame of thy nakedness may not be manifest, and with eye-salve anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see.  As many as I love, I do convict and chasten; be zealous, then, and reform; lo, I have stood at the door, and I knock; if any one may hear my voice, and may open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

First, God really has a problem with “lukewarm” spirituality.  What does this mean?  Thankfully, unlike so much of the rest of Revelation, we get an explanation, which is found after the word “because” in the above quotation. People who are spiritually lukewarm think that they already have everything they need, spiritually.  We saw (2:9) that the believers in Smyrna were complimented for being rich, so we know that the riches here (riches is the same Greek word as in 2:9) are spiritual riches.  Jesus says (3:18) believers should buy gold that has been tried by fire in order to be spiritually rich.  I think it is important here to pause and look at what spiritual riches are, that way we can know whether we possess them.  Here are a few passages that speak of spiritual riches:

Romans 11:32-33 “…for God did shut up together the whole to unbelief, that to the whole He might do kindness.  O depth of riches, and wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways!”

Ephesians 1:7-10 “…in whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of the trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, in which He did abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence having made known to us the secret of His will, according to His good pleasure, that He purposed in Himself, in regard to the dispensation of the fulness of the times, to bring into one the whole in the Christ, both the things in the heavens, and the things upon the earth – in him…”

Ephesians 1: 18 “…the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, for your knowing what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what the exceeding greatness of His power to us who are believing, according to the working of the power of His might…”

Ephesians 2:7-9 “…that He might show, in the ages that are coming, the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, for by grace ye are having been saved, through faith, and this not of you – of God the gift, not of works, that no one may boast.”

Ephesians 3:8-11 “…to me – the less than the least of all the saints – was given this grace, among the nations to proclaim good news – the untraceable riches of the Christ, and to cause all to see what [is] the fellowship of the secret that hath been hid from the ages in God, who the all things did create by Jesus Christ, that there might be made known now to the principalities and the authorities in the heavenly [places], through the assembly, the manifold wisdom of God according to a purpose of the ages…”

Colossians 1:26-28 “…the secret that hath been hid from the ages and from the generations, but now was manifested to his saints, to whom God did will to make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this secret among the nations – which is Christ in you, the hope of the glory, whom we proclaim, warning every man, and teaching every man, in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus…”

Colossians 2:2 “that their hearts may be comforted, being united in love, and to all riches of the full assurance of the understanding, to the full knowledge of the secret of the God and Father, and of the Christ.”

I hope that you read through each of these carefully, because in them is, indeed, a jackpot of spiritual riches.  Please note that these riches are repeatedly associated with the following concepts:

  1. God’s Plan of the Ages (secret, unsearchable, untraceable, hath been hid) revealed to those who believe now.
  2. God’s intentions toward mankind (kindness “to the whole”, bring in Christ “into one the whole”, “to cause all to see”, “present every man perfect”).
  3. God’s attributes – knowledge, wisdom, grace, good pleasure, purpose, glory, power, might, and kindness.

It is my firm belief that the institutional church has systematically shut out those who have “full assurance of the understanding”, who have “full knowledge of the secret” because these true riches are a threat to the doctrine of fear which is the power of the hierarchical clergy/laity system of buildings, programs, paychecks, and positions of illegitimate authority.  Here, the riches are plainly associated with the Victorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, the real Good News that puts the doctrine of eternal torment to shame and shows it for the blackest darkness that it is.  Please notice that when Jesus says, “I have stood at the door, and I knock; if any one may hear my voice, and may open the door, I will come in unto him, and will sup with him, and he with me,” Jesus is speaking to the BELIEVERS in Laodicea.  He still stands at the door of believer’s hearts and knocks, because frankly, they know very little about God’s knowledge, wisdom, grace, good pleasure, purpose, glory, power, might, and kindness to all mankind.  They do not yet understand Who He is and what He does.  It is not likely that being found “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked,” that they will be able to “overcome.”  Like the Rich Man and Lazarus – they think they already know everything they need to know, but are blind to the truth.  They think they possess everything they need to possess, but they are poor.  They believe they are covered, but they are naked.  They shun and look down on those who they deem “spiritually poor” or “spiritually sick”, but in His Reign the roles are reversed.

Those with eyes to see and ears to hear know what I am talking about.

I challenge you to put your current understanding of Who God is and what God does (your “gold”) under the light of scrutiny (in the “fire”) to see what becomes of it.  If it is truth, it will withstand the challenge.

“He who is overcoming – I will give to him to sit with me in my throne, as I also did overcome and did sit down with my Father in His throne.  He who is having an ear – let him hear what the Spirit saith to the assemblies.”





  • Mary Vanderplas May 9, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    You point out that if having one’s name in the “book of life” refers to being among those who are saved, then the implication of verse 5b is that it is possible to lose one’s salvation. From a logical perspective, this is true. But in my view, this is another one of those texts that can’t be interpreted using logic. It presents us with a picture of God’s ways that is paradoxical. On the one hand, God has written the names of God’s own in the book of life, implying that their destiny is wholly a matter of God’s sovereign purpose and grace; on the other hand, they are erased from the book by their actions, implying human responsibility in salvation. It is impossible to harmonize the two; all we can do is to acknowledge that John affirms both truths. I don’t agree that having one’s name in the book of life is a reference to something other than salvation. In the Old Testament, the book of life represents a register of God’s covenant people. To be blotted out of it meant to lose the privileges of covenant status. Based on this, it seems clear that the book of life is a metaphor for salvation, i.e., that those whose names are written in it are those who will be welcomed into God’s kingdom at the end of the age (eschatological salvation).

    Regarding the message to the church in Philadelphia, I agree that the concept of eschatological reward figures prominently in the admonition to hold fast. However, to say that “This demonstrates that God takes away from one person or group of people and gives what used to belong to them to others” is to go beyond what the text says or intends. If the reward is future, which seems clear from the text, then there is no (present) taking away and giving to another. What is intended, in my view, is: “Don’t let anyone cause you to lose faith and in so doing rob you of the prize that awaits those who remain faithful to the end.”

    Regarding the promise, “I will make you a pillar in the temple of God; you will never go out of it…,” I think you press the metaphor beyond what is intended by saying that it “must refer to a specific function that the overcomer has, compared to the believers who are not overcomers…”. The intent, I think, is that all who are faithful to Christ, who hold fast to their confession, will be a part of God’s final temple, where God makes God’s home.

    I agree that the message to the church in Laodicea reveals God’s disdain for lukewarm spirituality. And I think you’re right in saying that what made them lukewarm was that they saw themselves as being spiritually self-sufficient, having everything they needed (on their own). Whether this attitude was tied to their status of being wealthy in material things or to something else that blinded them to their dependence on God is unclear. Some have suggested that their boasting was focused on their being well endowed with charismatic gifts. Whatever it was, it hindered their living as those who are followers Christ, submissive to his Lordship.

    I like the tour you give of “riches” in the New Testament – a cause for praise for God’s lavish grace in Christ. I have real trouble, though, with an interpretation of God’s mystery/secret as anything more than Christ, who has been revealed already. It isn’t some esoteric gnosis that Paul is referring to in Colossians. It is one thing to believe firmly in universal salvation; it is another thing to claim to have superior knowledge that is accessible only to those to whom God has chosen to reveal it at this time. I don’t disagree that the institutional church has done much to suppress honest truth-seeking and even to obstruct the gospel. But I think it is going too far to say or imply that the riches of God’s grace in Christ are known only by those who embrace the doctrine of universal salvation. As far as the image of Christ knocking on the door is concerned, I agree that this is addressed to those who are already believers (and to them collectively, not individually). Christ’s wanting to come in, though, is not motivated by their ignorance of and need for full knowledge of God’s secret, but by their failure to live out their confession in faithful discipleship.

    • admin May 9, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      As always, great comments. Of course I disagree with much of it, but it is good to have more than one perspective to consider. I am not entirely sure about the book of life just yet, but I do not believe it is about eternal destiny or salvation as traditional teaching goes. The reason for this is the blotting out according to behavior/performance. It simply can’t be about salvation if salvation is entirely separate from works or earning God’s favor. Right now, I am leaning toward the Book of Life being the Life of the Ages, where some are granted to continue (not sleep) through whatever God has in store for the age(s) to come, the priest/ruler thing. Since everyone is resurrected (we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed), this discounts the idea that those not in the book of life do not have life restored to them. I am still a bit sketchy yet, but I just can’t see how the book of life could be about salvation or eternal destiny. If it is, then we are all in big trouble.

      • Mary Vanderplas May 10, 2011 at 5:06 am

        We would be in big trouble if the Bible said only that we are judged by our works. But it doesn’t. It affirms both that God saves by grace and that we are judged by our works – a paradox. I don’t pretend to understand how both things can be true. I can understand where you’re coming from. You say that this can’t be about eternal destiny because it would mean being judged by our works, which doesn’t harmonize with being saved by grace. I say that the text presents a picture of how God works that cannot be understood logically and that it is about salvation. You’ve given me more to think about, though, which I always appreciate.

  • Lanny A. Eichert May 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    “I think it is going too far to say or imply that the riches of God’s grace in Christ are known only by those who embrace the doctrine of universal salvation.” WELL said Mary, so Alice, pay attention, because you said you listen to Mary, now do it. Again Mary wrote, “It is one thing to believe firmly in universal salvation; it is another thing to claim to have superior knowledge that is accessible only to those to whom God has chosen to reveal it at this time.” Are you listening to Mary? Alice, PLEASE.

    Mary also writes, “is to go beyond what the text says or intends” so again, Alice, listen to Mary and avoid so doing.

    I really have a hard time with this idea of not overcoming or not enduring to the end or not persevering. After all, King David really lost big time with Uriah, Bathsheba, and the child; but he was restore! Do you really think David was a special case? Don’t you believe that when God saves a soul, He does it completely?

    Man alive! When I received the Gospel, I need a Lord to govern my life, not just a Savior. And yet I DID respond to that Divine Love that sent Him to the death my sins merited and I can passionately sing that song that asks “Why should He love me so?”

    • admin May 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm

      Thank you for your comments. I just wanted to clarify one thing – I do believe that God saves completely. King David is a good example of God’s grace. David still had to live some pretty severe consequences, though.

  • Rachel May 10, 2011 at 9:01 am

    “It affirms both that God saves by grace and that we are judged by our works – a paradox.” To me this means that ALL men are saved by grace and ALL men are judged by their works. If the judgement is not eternal damnation, like some believe, then judgement will not interfer with salvation. I see it as a means to and end, not the end itself.

    P.S. Mary I really enjoy reading your insightful comments. As always Alice your blogs are food for thought.

  • I Boast in Him « May 10, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    […] Revelation 3 […]

  • […] wrote a blog on chapter 8, if you would like to read more about Revelation: Revelation 1-2, Revelation 3, Audio/Visual Revelation, Like a Stone, Despite My Amazing Ignorance, He’s Called “God […]

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