Poole on Revelation 3:5, 6: The Book of Life

Verse 5:[1] He that overcometh, (Rev. 19:8) the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not (Ex. 32:32; Ps. 69:28) blot out his name out of the (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 21:27) book of life, but (Matt. 10:32; Luke 12:8) I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.


[He that overcometh] That is, not only those Sardinians (Grotius), but also as many as in like manner overcome the trials of pleasure and terror (Grotius, similarly Ribera); whether they keep the innocence of Baptism, or at any time let it slip, but after the sin repent (Ribera).


[Thus, etc., οὗτος περιβαλεῖται ἐν, etc.] Here, οὗτος, this one or the same, is superfluous, which Pleonasm is common with John; and also the preposition ἐν/in[2] (Piscator). He shall be clothed with white garments (Beza, Piscator). He shall be before me in honor, like Joseph before Pharaoh, Genesis 41:41-43 (Grotius).


He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; he that overcometh in the spiritual fight, shall be honoured as a triumpher.



[And not, etc., οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω, etc.] And I will not ever delete his name out of the book of life (Beza, etc.). It is a metaphor (Ribera), from the custom of men, who write down in a book those that they desire to remember (Cluverus); or, after the custom of cities in which the citizens were inscribed in an Album,[3] and from this they were erased if they were ἄτιμοι, deprived of civil rights (Grotius, thus Hammond): or, on account of this, that those that are chosen for anything are wont to be written in a book, like soldiers, or counselors (Ribera). Now, the very knowledge of God is called the book of life, by which knowledge He firmly maintains that He has predestined some unto eternal life: the record of those that were elected unto eternal life; or, the special and gracious knowledge of God, by which He comprehended from eternity a certain, most definite catalogue, as it were, of all those predestinated unto life, according to 2 Timothy 2:19 (Cluverus): or, the eternal predestination of God unto the heavenly country. But predestination is absolutely immutable (Pererius), and it is certain that those predestinated are not able to be deleted from the book of life. How then are some here said to be deleted? or what does this mean (Ribera)? Responses: 1. The book of life is twofold, the first according to present righteousness (because of which they were having a right to eternal life [Aquinas in Ribera]); the other according to predestination. The former is often changed, the latter never (Estius, similarly Aquinas, Lapide, Menochius). Therefore, those that are written there tentatively are deleted, but not likewise those that are written absolutely, as far as perseverance and glory (Lapide). 2. Affirmations in Sacred Scripture are wont often to be put in the place of negations, as in Exodus 7, I will harden, etc., that is, I will not soften. Therefore, to be deleted is put in the place of not to be written, as it is explained in Psalm 69:28 (Haymo and Ansbertus in Ribera). 3. They are said to be deleted not according to truth, but according to the estimation of men, who were falsely thinking that they were saints and written in the book of life (certain interpreters in Lapide, similarly Ribera out of Ambrose and Augustine, Pareus, Durham, Gomar). For often the Scripture speaks not as the matter themselves are, but as they are appraised by men (Ribera). The sense: I will not exclude him from the possession of heaven, as it will happen to the wicked, Matthew 7:23; 10:33 (Gomar). Men will not see him deleted on the day of judgment, they will not see his damnation (Ribera); I will not damn him. The antecedent is in the place of the consequent (Cameron). He will have a right to eternal life, and he himself will feel it within himself. See Luke 10:20; Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. Ἐξαλείφειν is מָחַה, to blot out. See Acts 3:19;[4] Colossians 2:14;[5] Exodus 32:32, 33;[6] with Luke 9:26; 12:8, 9 added. Now, this here is λιτότης, an assertion by means of negation (Grotius). For He intends more than He says (Ribera). Οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω, I will not blot out, is used in the place of I will diligently keep (Grotius, thus Pererius); I will give to him the gift of perseverance (Ribera, thus Pererius), even unto the end of life, lest he lose the effect of predestination, which is present grace and righteousness, or be deprived of that (Pererius): I will approve him in the day of judgment and deliver him to my Father, according to John 6:39, 40 (Durham): men will see his glorification and crown (Ribera).


And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; that is, I will give him everlasting life: the phrase is an allusion to men who use to keep books, and in them the names of persons to whom they will show kindness. The book of life; applied to God, signifieth his eternal predestination, or purpose to bring some to heaven; out of which book, though none can be blotted out whose name is once wrote in, yet those whose names are in this book may be under some fears and apprehensions to the contrary. Christ assures them to the contrary, that they shall certainly be saved, but lets them know that this assurance depends upon their perseverance; of which also some make this phrase a promise.


[And I will confess (or, but I will declare [Piscator]) his name, etc.] That is, I will acknowledge him openly and reckon him among my own (Ribera, Menochius).


But I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels; in the day of judgment I will own them, and acknowledge them as mine before my Father and all the angels, Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8.

Verse 6:[7] (Rev. 2:7) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.



[To the Churches] Namely of Sardis, and others in Lydia. What things I say to the Bishop, I say also to the hearers (Grotius).


He that hath an ear, etc.: The common conclusion of all the epistles: see the notes on Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29.


Those who make these churches typical, and the epistles prophetical of the complexion of all the churches of Christ which shall be to the end of the world, say the church of Sardis typifieth those reformed churches after the year AD 1560, that should cast off antichrist, but continue in a more imperfect state, contenting themselves with a bare disclaiming antichrist, but not rising up to a perfect reformation.

[1] Greek: ὁ νικῶν, οὗτος περιβαλεῖται ἐν ἱματίοις λευκοῖς· καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς, καὶ ὁμολογήσω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρός μου, καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ. [2] Περιβάλλεσθαι, to be clothed, takes the Dative case to show the object put on; no preposition is needed. [3] An album was a white tablet used to keep official records; its name is derived from albus/white. [4] Acts 3:19a: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted (ἐξαλειφθῆναι) out…[5] Colossians 2:14a: “Blotting out (ἐξαλείψας) the handwriting of ordinances that was against us…[6] Exodus 32:32, 33: “Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me (מְחֵנִי), I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot (אֶמְחֶנּוּ) out of my book.[7] Greek: ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ Πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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