Monday, April 10, 2006

Further Debate Fodder: Revelation 22:18, 19, the Book of Life, and the Holy City

A major argument against eternal security is Revelation 22:18, 19 and Mr. Hafley used this during the debate. It didn't turn out well for him because the passage doesn't teach that someone can lose his salvation. Revelation 22:18, 19 reads: "18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Mr. Hafley used "God shall take away his part out of the book of life" to make his point. Is that teaching that we can lose our salvation, that our name can be taken out of the book of life? One of the great aspects of preparing for a debate is getting the best answers for these kinds of passages, which results in Christian growth. So what is happening in Revelation 22:18, 19?

First, the text does not say that God will take someone's name out of the book of life. It says He will take someone's "part" out of it. This verse is prospective. It is talking about the potential of someone being in the book of life, not speaking of an actual inclusion in the book of life. They could be in the book of life, but they will not be in it. Their part is taken away. You ask, how do I know it is prospective? Verse 19 goes on to say that someone's part shall also be taken out of the holy city. Is it possible that someone already in the New Jerusalem will be removed from the holy city? Of course not. Again, their part is being removed, only speaking of the prospects of their being in the holy city being taken away. A question I asked Mr. Hafley that he would not answer because it would totally expose him was: "Will people be removed out of the holy city once they are already there?" You see, if they can be removed out of the book of life, then it follows that they also will be removed out of the holy city. Neither of them is true. I asked Mr. Hafley this question at least three times and he never would answer it.

Second, whose part is removed from the book of life? It is the person who is taking away from the words of the book of this prophecy. The Greek verb behind "take away" is present tense. It is not someone who periodically takes away, but someone who does this as a lifestyle. Believers do not behave this way. We know from many places in the NT that believers will keep all of the Lord's Words, Sayings, and Commandments. A believer will behave as a believer, and an unbeliever as an unbeliever. Just as a side note---this is a serious warning about taking away from the Words of Revelation. Did you know that the book of Revelation is the book of the Bible with the most textual variants? This book has been attacked textually more than any other book, and like most who participate in textual criticism, they take away from the words. Their theory is that scribes added words through centuries in their copying, and so to restore the text to something closer to its original condition, men need to take away some of the Words. Of course, their criteria are very subjective and they make their decisions based on rationalistic, Darwinistic principle, namely that the Scriptural texts evolve, so it is man's job to make and keep making corrections to the text mainly by means of cutting out Words. They say that the shorter text is better. Interestingly enough, one of the verses that has been changed in the critical text of Revelation is this one. "Take away" in the textus receptus (the text behind the KJV) is in the present tense and in the critical text, it is in the aorist tense. Their text is more strict about taking away, making a one time take away to deserve having someone's part taken out of the book. Ironic that we who believe in the perfect preservation of Scripture believe that "taking away" as a practice is what is forbidden here.

So ask the question. Can anyone be taken out of the holy city once he is there? Well, if no one can be taken out of the holy city, then no one can be taken out of the book of life. They won't have a part there, but they can't be removed from the book or the city once they are actually in the book and in the city. Did you know that Revelation 3:5 had already guaranteed that? "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." The kings of Johns day in 90AD would, as despots, unilaterally remove people's names from the registry of citizenship. They did this to punish their enemies and one often would have this done to him during that day. Well, unlike these cruel rulers, the Lord Jesus Christ guarantees that he will not remove one of His children from the registry that is the book of life. Someone might ask: "But don't they have to keep overcoming for their names not to be removed?" The believer will overcome. 1 John 5:4, 5 teaches us that when it says, "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" The person born of God, who cannot be unborn, will overcome the world. All believers will overcome the world. 1 John 4:4 explains why: "Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world." God is greater than any person or force that could attempt to keep someone from overcoming. Therefore, no believer can have his name taken from the book of life.

It's great, isn't it?

6 comments:

reglerjoe said...

Wow. Interesting interpretation of Rev. 22: 18,19.

I was only familiar with the argument that the book of life was not the Lamb's book of life, rather it was a registry of the living...i.e., God would smite 'em dead!

Your interpretation makes better sense.

BTW, you said, "It is talking about the potential of someone being in the book of life, not speaking of an actual inclusion in the book of life. They could be in the book of life, but they will not be in it. Their part is taken away." Do you find this to be a good argument against the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination, in the sense that the number of the elect really has not been predetermined by God?

Lastly, let me say I admire your courage to debate the COC on their doctrine. I think the stress would drive me nuts!

Kent Brandenburg said...

Reglarjoe, Thanks for the comments, and yes, you are exactly right on the doctrine of predestination. Predestination only applies to the elect. Christ predestines them to conform to the image of His Son. Thanks again. The Bible is great.

Jerry Bouey said...

Did you know that Revelation 3:5 had already guaranteed that? "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."

It is interesting to note, when you study out these letters as a progression of church history, that this letter fits the period of the Protestant Reformation. Sardis means "Escaping Ones, or Those Who Come Out." Historically, when these Protestants left the Catholic church, they were threatened with the removal of their names from the church registrars - when looked at in light of the fact that the Catholic church taught it was the only way of salvation, and to be out of the church (ie. excommunicated) was to lose that salvation, this fits. Yet, as you have pointed out in another study - there is an underlying phrase (ou mai - might be mispelled) meaning "No, never". (My words, but you had commented on this in regards to John 4 about the drinking and never thirsting again.) Revelation 3:5 is not a threat, but a promise of eternal security to all true believers, all who overcome through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

A good example of this verse in practice in the Bible itself is found in John 9, where the healed blind man professes faith in the Messiah and is excommunicated from the synagogue, yet is welcomed by Jesus Himself.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this interpretation is manifold, but lets focus on the fact that believers have indeed taken words our of Revelation and other books when they produced their new versions. What happens to them in light of this verse?

Angela said...

This is an interesting interpretation, worth consideration. My question is in regards to Revelation 17:8:

"The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is."

You are proposing that there is a potential to have our names written in the book of life when we get saved. Which means that the names aren't written since the "foundation of the world". In your interpretation, everyone will "wonder at the beast", because no one's name is written since the foundation of the world.

Does not Rev 17:8 imply that those who are saved will have their names written since the foundation of the world, and not at the point of salvation? Or am I mistaken here? If so, can you please explain your position in light of this verse? Thanks!

eric chiaraluce said...

im not a real Christian and im not sure ill ever be one but tree of life is what the right thing not book of life in my opinion.