Wednesday 15 April 2020


Which theme runs like a thread through the book of Revelation but receives scant attention over the pulpit?
The book of Revelation is mainly about the future. But having a lot of head knowledge about end-time events (eschatology) is useless without grasping its essential message, without knowing how we can prepare ourselves spiritually to meet God one day. To have great insights into the various letters, seals, trumpets and bowls are all useless if our lives remain unaffected by its warnings on one hand and messages of comfort and hope on the other hand.             

One theme runs like a thread through the book of Revelation but, unfortunately, it has received scant attention over the pulpit. It is the need to overcome, endure and persevere

Overcome what, you may ask? We need to overcome our sinful nature (flesh), the attractions of the world, snares and deception of Satan and even love for our own lives. 

Revelation’s call to believers is to overcome sin and even the fear for our personal safety and survival. During the Great Tribulation, the Antichrist  will force all to take the Mark of the Beast for no one can buy or sell at that time without the Mark on the forehead or right hand (Rev.13:16-18). What can we do in such an unprecedented crisis (which is much worse than the coronavirus pandemic)? If our faith is weak, we will bow to the Antichrist, take the Mark and thereafter lose our salvation (Rev.14:9-11). Only faithful believers will be able to resist the Antichrist, emerge victorious and claim everlasting rewards (Rev.14:12). 

The overcoming theme stated in the beginning of Revelation:
“He who overcomes will 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” (Rev. 3:5).

The overcoming theme reinforced in the middle of Revelation:
“And they overcame him (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Rev. 12:11).

The overcoming theme restated at the end of Revelation:
“He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev.21:7-8).

Unfortunately, Calvinism downplays the fact that believers need to overcome by implying that believers will definitely overcome if they are genuine believers (false doctrine of ‘perseverance of the saints’).

Calvinism downplays the seriousness of Rev. 3:5, saying that it does not mean that believers can be blotted out from the Book of Life—when this verse highlights the possibility of believers’ names being erased from the Book of Life if they fail to overcome. 

Calvinists attempt to wiggle their way out of the ‘Rev. 3:5 bugbear’ by saying this blotting out cannot be possible since we are eternally safe and secure as God’s elect.

If the Calvinist’s view is correct about Rev.3:5, the rendering of the verse could have been something like this: “All believers—whether they overcome or not—will be dressed in white garments and I will not blot out their names from the Book of Life ...” But can we twist scriptures without suffering the inevitable consequences (Rev. 22:18-19)?

Some Calvinists say that even after taking the Mark of the Beast we can ask God for forgiveness as it is not the unpardonable sin (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). This is too good to be true as the warning about the grievous, eternal consequences of taking the Mark of the Beast (Rev.14:9-11) is immediately augmented by the call to endure, obey God’s commandments and to keep the faith (Rev. 14:12).

Will believers who worship the Antichrist (by taking the Mark of the Beast in order to survive) enter God’s kingdom? No.
“For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised:

For yet in a very little while,

He who is coming will come, and will not delay.

But My righteous one shall live by faith;

And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”

(Hebrews 10: 36-39)

Will believers who choose to willfully live in sin enter God’s kingdom? No.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.”

(Rev. 22: 14-15)

This reminds me of the man who was invited to the wedding banquet but did not wear the wedding garment (Christ’s robe of righteousness) and had to be removed from the event (Matthew 22: 11-13).

Besides entering names in the Book of Life, God also updates His records, including erasing the names of believers. For He has no other choice if the soul adamantly chooses the path of evil, when Christ’s blood is being trampled upon (Hebrews 10: 26-31), when sin has become deep-rooted, heart hardened and conscience seared. The inevitable answer, then, on Judgment Day is: “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Matt. 7:23).

One may have been saved but if one continually and willfully chooses the path of evil, the end is clear: Name will be blotted out from the Book of Life.
  • Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23).

The names of some people are in their church records but not in the Book of Life. The Book of Life is not static but subject to revision. Even for those whose names are in the Book of Life, their names can be erased or blotted out if they are lackadaisical about their faith (careless about their relationship with God now though fervent once upon a time) and have chosen to deny God or willfully live in sin.

One day, believers will be presented holy and blameless before God; but the condition is that we must remain steadfast in the faith:

  • And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.(Colossians 1:21-23)
In conclusion, getting saved is merely the first step in the life of a believer. The believer has to choose to remain faithful, overcome sin and deception by staying close to God (abiding) and by depending on His ability to keep us strong in the faith. Indeed, the Christian life is like a marathon racewe will receive the prize only if we finish well.

Why do believers need to be overcomers? What will happen if they fail to overcome?

The Christian life can be seen as a race of endurance. Why was the apostle Paul fearful that he might be disqualified from the race?

Two passages on endurance and perseverance we mustn't ignore in these end times.

Can believers rest in the security that we will be raptured before the Great Tribulation? Let us re-examine first-hand the passages on rapture.

John Calvin, the great reformer, believed that Christians can never lose their salvation. That is, Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS). Is he correct?

“Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666” (Rev.13:16-18).

“Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name” (Rev.14:9-11).

“Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev. 14:12).

“Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4)


No comments:

Post a Comment