“I Will Not Erase His Name From The Book Of Life” (Revelation 3:5) -- By: J. William Fuller

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 26:3 (Sep 1983)
Article: “I Will Not Erase His Name From The Book Of Life” (Revelation 3:5)
Author: J. William Fuller

“I Will Not Erase His Name From The Book Of Life”
(Revelation 3:5)

J. William Fuller*

In the minds of many Christians, the possible loss of one’s salvation lurks menacingly behind the enigmatic promise applied to the “overcomer” in Rev 3:5: “I will not erase his name from the book of life.” The implication of the verse seems to be that those believers who do not overcome will be blotted out of the book and hence lose their “salvation.” This article will seek to establish the intention of the perplexing statement of this verse, an intention that, we shall see, does not include the loss of what is normally meant by eternal salvation.

I. Present Views Of The Passage

The average reader is supported in his fears by many commentators, who do indeed find the potential removal of the Christian’s eternal life in the background of the verse. Beasley-Murray appears to hold this position when he writes of the book of life in the OT:

To have one’s name blotted out from the book is to die … Extension into final destiny is made when the registry of the citizens is understood as that of the eternal kingdom of God … If the exalted Lord has power to strike out names from the book of life, this is because the book is his … The symbol thus conveys the notion that alike election and redemption are in Christ and through Christ.1

Other commentators are more explicit. Caird writes: “Yet the predestination in which John believes is a conditional predestination. A man cannot earn the right to have his name on the citizen roll, but he can forfeit it.”2 J. M. Ford writes: “The book of life then meant the list of those destined for everlasting life.”3 She continues: “Inscription in the book of life would assure the nominees of salvation and removal from it would be associated with death.”4 Other commentators could be quoted,5 but this position varies little in its details and repre-

*J. William Fuller is pastor of Hope Union Church in Rosemead, California.

sents the consensus among those whose theology is able to embrace it.

As implied in the above statement, many conservative scholars are understandably reluctant to commit themselves to a position that violates both the basic tenets of salvation apart from works and the doctrine of eternal security (positions that are, they believe,...

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