Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries
The TREE OF LIFE is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life for week ending 05/20/01.
The Blessings for the Believer who doesn't have their name blotted out of the Book of Life.
REV 22:14 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city."
It is likely that the Apostle John, the writer of Revelation, had in mind the victory arches that towered over the main highways entering Rome. The gates of ancient cities were built for the purpose of honor as well as defense. To be known "in the gates" was to sit among the "elders of the land" and hold a position of high honor and authority. In the city of Rome, the victorious generals with their soldiers would march into the city through the "victory arches" after defeating their enemies. Those with special privilege and rank were the ones who would "enter by the gates [such as the one pictured on our cover] into the city." For example, the Arch of Titus near the Forum in Rome, constructed after he destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70, bears engravings showing Roman soldiers returning with treasures from their victory.
In the same manner, those Christians who remain faithful to their King will enter the New Jerusalem in victory and will be likewise honored. Since entering the city will actually be a blessing conferred on all Christians, John is placing the emphasis on how and where a believer enters the city. All will enter the city, but only a minority, those whose title is not blotted out of the book of life, will have the privilege of entering by the gates.
The Doctrine of the Book of Life is still our subject, and we have already seen the importance of this vital yet misunderstood doctrine, and all the theological questions that it answers, such as election, the free will of man, the divine decrees, eternal security, and many others.
Point 1: Definition.
We noted that the book of life is something different in eternity than what it is in time. In eternity past the book of life is a registry containing the names of every member of the human race who would ever be born. In time, it records members of the human race who are alive, and is also a registry of all believers, as well as those rewarded as winners or overcomers. In eternity future, the book of life is the registry of all believers forever and believers only, PHI 4:3;REV 13:8; REV 17:8; REV 20:12,15, 21:7.
Point 2: Passages Referring to the Book of Life.
PSA 69:28 deals with one's name being blotted out of the book of life concerning time and eternity future.
DAN 12:1 deals with the principle of divine protection during the Tribulation period for those whose names are in the book of life.
LUK 10:20 and HEB 12:23 tell us that as believers our name stands permanently written and recorded in the book of life.
Point 3: The Book of Life in Relation to Believers.
REV 3:4-5 But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.
In REV 3:1-5, which is dealing with believers, the church at Sardis had a few who had not "soiled their garments."The "garments" refer to the "righteous acts of the saints," REV 19:8. That true believers are in view is evident from our Lord's command to "wake up and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God (verse 2)." Our Lord would never tell unbelievers that their"deeds are incomplete" or that they must "strengthen the things that remain"; the only message an unbeliever needs to hear is "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved!" The phrase "were about to die" refers to cosmic death or carnality (the believer living in the cosmic system), JAM 1:15, EPH 5:14. In the church at Sardis, many of these true Christians had soiled their garments. They had not "washed their robes" by confessing their sin and performing the "righteous acts of the saints." Therefore, their inheritance (but never their salvation) would be blotted out of the book of life. In REV 3:5, the Lord says, "He who overcomes [the winner believer] shall thus be clothed in white garments [the uniform of glory]; and I will not erase his name [title, or godly reputation] from the book of life, and I will confess [acknowledge] his title before My Father, and before His angels."
This verse has been a source of a controversy for generations: "Can a believer lose his salvation?" Could one of God's children be blotted out of the book of life? Some say that those who have been saved by Christ's redemption can still fall away and be lost forever (the classical Arminian position). Scripture absolutely and categorically denies this position. The nature of the salvation provided by Christ is eternal. Our justification in God's sight is not based on our works but on the perfect finished righteousness and substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, Joh 3:16, 10:27-30; ROM 8:29-30. Blotting names from the book of life is never applicable to a believer in Christ because believers are secure in Him, being kept by the power of God (1PE 1:5) and held secure in both the hand of the Son and of the Father (JOH 10:28-30).
What then does this phrase mean ("and I will not erase his name from the book of life")? We need to study the phrase "He who overcomes" in REV 3:5. The original Greek says, "ho Nikon," which could be translated "the winner." Winners are described in Rev 2-3 by the Greek participle "nikao," REV 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21. In each case, the participle is translated as a noun ("the winner"), and it means to subdue, conquer, overcome, or get the victory. This Greek word was commonly used in reference to the victor in the games, or the Caesars; in fact, the Greek noun "nike" means victory. Nike was the name of a Greek goddess who is often represented in art as a symbol of personal superiority. To be an overcomer was to be victorious in both military and legal conflict - a perfect analogy to spiritual warfare and the appeal trial of Satan in the angelic conflict.
In REV 3:5, "The winner shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name [onoma] from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." The Greek word for "name" is the noun "onoma" which refers to a title, fame, a reputation, authority, or character and integrity. Names were very important in the ancient world, as they reflected the character and integrity of an individual; therefore many actually had their name changed as they matured. The believers of REV 3:1 who will have their names blotted out of the book of life are actually having their inheritance (or title) blotted out. They are not winner believers, and therefore they will not inherit the promises given to winners.
Winners will be able to eat of the Tree of Life in the middle of the Paradise of God, REV 2:7. Winner believers will be members of the "paradise club" forever. This includes three special privileges:
· Eating from the Tree of Life.
· Access to the Gazebo in the Garden.
· Access to the Paradise of God.
The phrase "tree of life" is found first in GEN 3:22-24. All of its other uses in the Old Testament are confined to the book of Proverbs (PRO 3:18; PRO 11:30; PRO 13:12; PRO 15:4). Its usage in all these scriptures suggests a quality of life - rich fellowship with God - rather than the idea of regeneration, and this fits well with the context of Revelation. Regenerate life comes to all "without cost" (REV 22:17), but the tree of life is presented as a conditionally earned and merited reward given to those who have not only received eternal life without cost, but who also, at great cost to themselves, have persevered and overcome. Partaking of the tree of life in REV 2:7; REV 22:14 is a conditional experience of the Christian who has not had his name blotted out of the book of life. Because the right to eat of the tree of life is conditional, this experience can not refer to regeneration, which several verses later is presented by John as being offered to all "without cost" on the basis of believing, Rev 22:17, "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes to take the water of life without cost." Obtaining the right to eat of the tree of life is conditioned upon works, and only those whose names and inheritance are not blotted out of the book of life will enjoy this privilege to the maximum.
Point 4: The Results of the Believer Whose Name is not Blotted out of the Book of Life.
Another promise given to those whose names remain in the book of life is found in REV 2:11 - the winner believer will not be hurt by the Second Death because of blessing by association. In REV 2:11, "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes [the winner, the one who does not have his name blotted out of the book of life] shall not be hurt by the second death." There are at least three different views of this verse. The first is the obvious - their reward is that they will not be personally hurt by the second death of REV 20:6,11. This, however, is true for all believers and does not appear to fit into the category of privilege.
Another view is that John is simply saying that even if someone takes your physical life, they can never touch your eternal destiny as in 1TI 6:12, 2TI 4:7. This is based on the context of REV 2:9-10, which reads, "I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you may tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life." This crown speaks of a special degree of enjoyment of eternal life as in MAT 19:29, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, shall receive many times as much, and shall inherit eternal life." This can not refer to salvation because it would be teaching salvation by works; it is actually an experience of eternal life in a greater degree.
The third view of REV 2:11 has to with understanding that God is the One who imputes soul life to the body, and therefore, under the doctrine of blessing by association, the winner believer experiences no pain from the second death, even through his loved ones. This explanation is not quite as simple as the previous two, but it makes perfect sense in categorical doctrine. Living in the certainty of heaven will make the Christian more bold and confident under persecution; the enemies of the church can kill the body but not the spirit. The overcomer will be richly rewarded for whatever sacrifices he is called upon to make in this present age. Part of the fantastic blessings of the mature believer in dying grace is found in JOB 5:25, "You will know also that your descendants will be prosperous, and your offspring as the grass of the earth." Because it is God that imputes life to the child, He will impute a soul that will respond to the Gospel to the offspring of the winner believer.
In REV 2:17, another great reward is given to the winner believer - he shall eat of the hidden manna and receive a new name on a white stone: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the winner, I will give him blessing from the hidden manna [escrow blessing for time and eternity]; also I will give him a white pebble and on that white pebble has been inscribed a new title, which no one knows [you are not only an anonymous hero during the Church-age, but you also have a personal intimate relationship with God for all of eternity]." Each winner believer alone knows his place in the eternal order of chivalry. We can not be truly certain what the "hidden manna" promised to the winner believer is; however, since the hidden manna is a reward that only the faithful Christian receives, it is likely that the white stone is also. This again relates to a custom of the Greek athletic games; a victor's prize at the games often included objects of value and gifts of gold, which fits perfectly with 1CO 3:11-15. These winners received a certificate of victory, a small tablet of white stone in which the name of the victor was inscribed by an expert carver. The winner believer will be recognized as a victor in the battle, and the Lord Jesus Christ will give him a new name, a name of honor. This name is known to no one but Christ and the one to whom He gives it. Each believer has his own particular spiritual life to live and his own particular history of struggle and demonstration of God's life in his. This special name or title given to the winner represents the personal relationship between Christ and the overcomer. God is a God of the individual as well as of the church.
REV 3:5 "The winner shall be clothed in white garments and I will never blot out his title [the winner is knighted at the Judgment Seat of Christ] out of the book of life. In fact, I will acknowledge his title in the presence of My Father and before His angels [a formal presentation]."
They have this "new title" written upon them as they follow their Lord back to earth, in REV 19:11-16.
The overcomer, the believer whose name is never blotted out of the book of life, is also granted to sit with Christ on His throne, REV 3:21.
The overcomer will also inherit fantastic blessings in the eternal state, REV 21:7.
Throughout Revelation, eternal life is offered to the believer freely, without cost, but the reward for the overcomer has a cost, a life of discipleship. Eternal life is absolutely free, but a life of discipleship costs us everything.
REV 22:14 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city."
All will enter the city, but only a minority will come in through the gates. Only the overcomer, the one who is victorious in battle, will have this privilege. These gates are memorials. This is precisely how John describes them in the book of Revelation, as memorials to the twelve tribes of Israel (Rev 21-22). We are reminded of the Roman victory arches which sat astride the main thoroughfares entering into Rome. There were thousands of entryways into Rome, but Caesar entered by the gates, the victory arch. Through these gates, according to John, "the honor and glory of the nations" will enter (REV 21:26). It is through these gates that those who have "fought the good fight"will come and go in the New Jerusalem These are the ones who discover that the word of God is alive and powerful.
HEB 4:12 The Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, of the joints and marrow, and is a critic of the thoughts and intents of the heart.