Revelation 3:5(2)


Sermon preached on January 15, 2012 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2012. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

A few months ago they a memorial service commemorating the 10 year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At the service at the World Trade Tower site family members were chosen to read the names of the 2977 people who were killed in the attack. Every name was acknowledged individually. Every one who perished had their name read aloud. Each one of them was honored. That showed that each life that was lost was important, significant. Each of them had two or three moments of that service that was just about them. Everyone who was listening heard each individual name. It was a very moving part of the service. Each individual who perished was remembered. That part of the ceremony was important and helpful to the families. Yet the whole thing was also very sad because it was about tragedy, loss, and grieving. The people they were honoring weren't there.

Our text speaks about a ceremony in the future in which there will be great joy and celebration. It won't be about loss because the people honored will be there. It won't be marking the end of a life, but will be celebrating an eternal life that is fully revealed in them. Think of it. What a day that will be!

What our text tells us is that on the last day

Jesus is going to acknowledge His faithful ones before His Father and His angels.

Jesus said to the church in Sardis, (Revelation 3:5)

"He who overcomes will, like them,
be dressed in white.
I will never blot out his name
from the book of life,
but will acknowledge his name
before my Father and his angels."

This reminds us of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32.

"Whoever acknowledges me before men,
I will also acknowledge him
before my Father in heaven."

Jesus is going to honor His people on the last Day. If you're a Christian this doctrine ought to impact your whole life. It should fill you with hope, with confidence, with joy. It should be a great comfort to you. It should cause you to love Jesus more—and make you zealous to do His will.

So what I want to do this morning is to look at our text with the hope of us possessing those qualities in ever increasing measure.

In our text we have two strong affirmations that Jesus will keep His faithful people safe forever—that He will not blot them out of the book of life and He will acknowledge them before His Father.

We began to look at the first part of this last week. Jesus said that the one who overcomes He will never blot out of the book of life. We saw that it was a very positive statement, with emphasis—that this was something that He would positively not do. We looked at other texts that showed that salvation in God's work and that He is absolutely committed to His people and that He will lose none of them.

One of the main things I want to draw your attention to is the fact that

Jesus does these things for us and it is part of His glory.

The focus of our text is on Jesus' activity. This is His work. He will never blot His people's names out of the book of life. He will acknowledge them before His Father and His angels. He is the One who does this.

His doing this on the last day is part of His glory. It will be His day. Three times in the book of Philippians the apostle Paul calls the last day the 'day of Christ'. We also know from many places in the New Testament that it is the day of His glory. For example, in Matthew 25:31 Jesus said,

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory,
and all the angels with him,
he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory."

It is the day His glory will be manifested. 2 Thessalonians 1:10 refers to,

"the day he comes
to be glorified in his holy people
and to be marveled at
among all those who have believed."

Jesus is going to be glorified 'in his saints'. There are different ways of understanding this. It certainly means that we are going to see His glory. It is going to be manifested to us. As Jesus said in John 17:24,

"Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
and to see my glory."

But there is much more to it than that. One of the possibilities is that the 'in' is causal, the idea being that Jesus will be glorified 'because of His saints'. He will be the recipient of glory in connection with them. As D. Edmond Hiebert puts it, (Thessalonians, p. 293)

"Christ will be glorified when it is openly displayed what He has wrought in His saints, now assembled with Him in glorified bodies and perfected in spirit."



We see an example of that in Luke 2. When Jesus was born in Bethlehem God received much glory from the angels who appeared to the shepherds. After the first angel appeared to the shepherds and gave them the message about Jesus' birth, a multitude of the heavenly host appeared with the angel and praised God saying,

"Glory to God in the highest…"

God received glory at the birth of Jesus for the great things He was doing for mankind. So, too, on the last day, when our salvation is complete—He is going to be glorified. What a day that will be for Him, for us. On the last day Jesus will say to the Father, (Hebrews 2:12–13)

"'I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation
I will sing your praises…"

The Father will receive glory. Jesus will receive glory. He will stand there and say,

"Here am I,
and the children God has given me."

Jesus is going to be glorified on the last day. The Father is going to glorify Him for what He has done for us. (John 8:50, 54) As Jesus said about His people in John 17:10,

"And glory has come to me
through them."

And as we read about one of the reasons for our predestination in Ephesians 1:12, Paul wrote,

"in order that we,
who were the first to hope in Christ,
might be for the praise of his glory."

As F.F. Bruce says of that verse, (Ephesians, p. 264)

"God is honored in the presence of human beings and angelic powers when men and women, redeemed from sin, live in accordance with his will and display the family likeness which stamps them as his children."



Verse 6 of Ephesians 1 puts it a little differently, telling us that we were predestined,

"to the praise of His glorious grace…"

The point of all this is that

on the last day, Jesus is going to be glorified because of us, because of what He has done for us and in us.

In Revelation 5:9–10 we read about the new song of the four living creatures and of the 24 elders. They said,

"You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals, because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased
men for God from every tribe
and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom
and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth."

Then the angels, responded and in a loud voice they sang, (Revelation 5:12)

"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth
and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"

Jesus' glory and honor are connected to our salvation. He will receive glory and honor when He acknowledges us before His Father and His angels. You'll remember the apostle Paul's words to the Thessalonians—(1 Thessalonians 2:19–20)

"For what is our hope, our joy,
or the crown in which we will glory
in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes?
Is it not you?
Indeed, you are our glory and joy."

In a similar way, on the last day we will be Christ's joy and crown.

Can you image your name being acknowledged before the Father's angels?

What glory will rebound to Jesus because of that. 1 Peter 1:12 tells us that when the prophets of old predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow, that,

"Even angels long to look into these things."

It's no wonder that they burst out into praise to God when Jesus was born. The same thing happened when you first believed in Jesus. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 15:7 how there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents? Consider how the angels are going to react when you are acknowledged before the Father. When your salvation is finally complete and you stand there before God perfect and complete in holiness and righteousness—can you imagine their praise of Jesus and the Father?

Can you imagine your name being acknowledged before the Father?

What glory will rebound to Jesus because of that. You'll remember when Jesus was baptized a voice from heaven said, (Matthew 3:17)

"This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased."

When Jesus was first identified with us, His people, in His baptism—the Father expressed His love and approval for His Son.

When Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. In a sense that prefigured the last day—when the glory of Jesus is revealed with His people with Him in glory. Again, there was a voice from heaven. The Father said, (Matthew 17:5)

"This is my Son, whom I love;
with him I am well pleased.
Listen to him!"

When Jesus acknowledges you before the Father on the last day, He will be honored by the Father and His angles because you will be there with Him. All the other instances of the Father's voice, at Jesus' baptism, on the Mount of Transfiguration—will be seen as merely leading up to what the Father will say about His Son on that Day—when you are with Him.

The last Day will be an incredible day because Jesus has completely and fully accomplished His mission.

Jesus will present His people to the Father. None of His chosen ones will be lost. In John 17:24 Jesus prayed and said,

"Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am, and to see my glory,
the glory you have given me
because you loved me
before the creation of the world."

It is Jesus' desire that those the Father gave Him be with Him in glory. Will that desire be thwarted? No, all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Jesus. (Matthew 28:18) He will accomplish His mission. As Jesus said in John 6:37,

"All that the Father gives me will come to me,
and whoever comes to me
I will never drive away."

And in John 17:12 Jesus said about His people,

"While I was with them,
I protected them and kept them safe
by that name you gave me.
None has been lost
except the one doomed to destruction
so that Scripture would be fulfilled."

Then Jesus continued, (John 17:15–19)

"My prayer is not that you take them
out of the world but that you
protect them from the evil one.
They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world,
I have sent them into the world.
For them I sanctify myself,
that they too may be truly sanctified."

Jesus' glory is tied to our salvation. Remember how Jesus began His great high priestly prayer in John 17? He said,

"Father, the time has come.
Glorify your Son,
that your Son may glorify you.
For you granted him authority
over all people that he might give
eternal life to all those
you have given him.
Now this is eternal life:
that they may know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ,
whom you have sent.
I have brought you glory on earth
by completing the work
you gave me to do.

And now, Father,
glorify me in your presence
with the glory I had with you
before the world began."

John Calvin writes, (Exodus)

"He will not have the eternal salvation of believers brought into opposition with His glory; but has rather bound them inseparably together, as cause and effect."



Objection

But someone might object and tell us that none of this can be right because even though our text says that Jesus will not blot out the names of His faithful ones from the book of life, there are other passages that speak about God threatening to do so. So even though our text doesn't necessarily imply that Jesus will erase names from the book of life, other texts have Him threatening to do so.

For example, in Exodus 32:33, when Israel made and worshiped a golden calf while Moses was on the mountain with God, God told Moses about their sin and told Moses to leave Him alone so that His anger would burn against them and He would make Moses into a great nation. But Moses interceded with God and said to Him, (Exodus 32:32)

"But now, please forgive their sin—but if not,
then blot me out of the book you have written."

But God replied,

"Whoever has sinned against me
I will blot out of my book."

And in Psalm 69:28 we have the psalmist asking that certain people be blotted out of the book of life. You'll remember that Psalm 69 is a Messianic Psalm. It describes some of the suffering of Jesus on the cross. Verse 21 says,

"They put gall in my food and
gave me vinegar for my thirst."

The verses following read thus, (verses 22-28)

"May the table set before them
become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
May their eyes be darkened
so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell
in their tents.
For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
May they be blotted out
of the book of life and
not be listed with the righteous."

The psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, asks that his enemies be blotted out of the book of life. So can people's names be blotted out of the Book of Life? Will Jesus blot out some of the names of those He has chosen before the foundation of the world?

No. The preponderance of the evidence prohibits that understanding. John Frame writes of Psalm 69, (The Doctrine of God, p. 328-329)

"Here the psalmist envisions a book in God's presence containing the names of those he has chosen for covenant blessing. Initially, it seems, the list contains everybody in Israel. But God will blot some of them out because of their sin, for not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. The image of people being blotted out of the book of life is parallel to Paul's image of natural branches being broken off from the tree of redemption (cf. Rev. 3:5)."



John Calvin adds, (Institutes)

"The words simply indicate the abandonment of those who seemed to have a chief place among the elect…"



Sometimes the book of life seems to refer to the book of the covenant, in which there may be some who are not elect.

But in other places the names in the Book of Life correspond to election. For example, Revelation 17:8 says,

"The inhabitants of the earth
whose names have not been written
in the book of life
from the creation of the world
will be astonished
when they see the beast,
because he once was,
now is not, and yet will come."

Frame comments,

"In Revelation 17:8, the names that are not in the book of life have been excluded from it 'from the creation of the world,' and, implicitly, the names that are written in it have been there from the creation. This expression precludes the notion that one could be listed in the book and later blotted out because of something that happens in history. In Revelation 17:8 (in contrast to Ps. 69:28), no one can be blotted out of the book."



No, rather than their names being blotted out,

Jesus will acknowledge them before the Father.

It will be like a great judicial scene. If you're a Christian, your name will be pronounced before the Father. Jesus will tell Him that you are His. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:11, on that day,

"you will receive a rich welcome
into the eternal kingdom
of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

Now what does this mean in practical terms?

First,

Christian, look forward to this. Anticipate it. There will be no honor like it.

To be acknowledged by Jesus—every honor in this world pales into insignificance compared to that. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. (Luke 10:20) Let this knowledge of what Jesus will do for you in the future be with you every day of your life. Let it give you strength in trials, hope in despairing circumstances and joy always. Christian, Christ's glory is tied to you, to your salvation. This is one of the greatest things ever.

Secondly,

live according to this truth—acknowledge Christ and be holy.

As one of Christ's people don't be ashamed to acknowledge Him. Be holy.

Why is this whole thing about being blotted out of the Book of Life a controversy? It's because not all those who call on the name of Jesus live for Him as they should. It's because we sin so much that people wonder whether we really belong to Jesus. If all of us who are Christians lived as we should—this about being blotted out of the Book of Life would not ever come up. How could it. We'd all be overcoming.

Thirdly, what a comfort this should be to you.

You belong to Jesus. He belongs to you. He has tied His glory to your salvation. Again, this is one of the greatest things ever.

Lastly, for those of you who haven't committed your way to Jesus.

Are you going to miss out on this greatest of all honors?

Why would you choose to do so? Is sin worth you missing out on this? No. Whatever is keeping you from this honor is not worth it.

The horror of not having your name acknowledged before the Father—because it will mean hearing words of condemnation, of being told to depart into outer darkness.

Choose life. Choose Jesus. He's your only hope.