Revelation 3:5
(5) He that overcometh.--The promise is repeated to all who overcome; all, not who have never fallen, or failed, but who conquer, shall be clothed in glistening white raiment. On this glistering appearance comp. Dante's words, "robed in hue of living flame," and the description so frequent in the Pilgrim's Progress--"the shining ones." Trench, who reminds us that this glistening white is found in the symbolism of heathen antiquity, says: "The glorified body, defecated of all its dregs and impurities, whatever remained of those having been precipitated in death, and now transformed and transfigured into the likeness of Christ's body (Philippians 3:21), this, with its robe, atmosphere, and effluence of lights, is itself, I believe, the white raiment which Christ here promises to His redeemed." Professor Lightfoot thinks (see his Epistle to Col. p. 22) that there may be a reference to the purple dyes for which Sardis, as well as Thyatira, was celebrated.

I will not blot out . . .--The negative is emphatic, "I will in no wise blot out." This figure of speech--a book and the blotting out--was ancient. (See Deuteronomy 32:32; Psalm 69:21; Daniel 12:1; comp. also Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3.) The name shall not be erased from the roll or register of the citizens of heaven. "A process of erasure is ever going on, besides the process of entering. When the soul has finally taken its choice for evil, when Christ is utterly denied on earth and trodden under foot, when the defilement of sin has become inveterate and indelible, then the pen is drawn through the guilty name, then the inverted style smears the wax over the unworthy characters; and when the owner of that name applies afterwards for admittance, the answer is, 'I know thee not; depart hence, thou willing worker and lover of iniquity'" (Dr. Vaughan).

But I will confess his name.--Another echo of Christ's words on earth (Matthew 10:32-33; Luke 12:8-9).

Verse 5. - He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments. It is difficult to see on what principles of criticism Alford retains the reading of the Textus Receptus, οῦτος, instead of that rightly accepted by the Revisers, οὕτως. The latter has a very decided balance of external evidence in its favour; the former is a corruption very likely to occur either accidentally or in order to introduce a construction very frequent in St. John (John 3:26; John 6:46; John 7:18; John 15:5; 2 John 1:9). The change from "clothed" (Authorized Version) to "arrayed" (Revised Version) here and elsewhere is no doubt made in order to mark the difference between περιβελημένος and ἐνδεδυμένος. But neither the Authorized Version (John 17:4; 19:8) nor the Revised Version (John 11:3; 15:6) is consistent. The Authorized Version generally renders both words "clothed." The Revised Version generally has "arrayed" for περιβελημένος, and "clothed" for ἐνδεδυμένος. The Authorized Version is singularly capricious in having "garments" for ἱμάτια in ver. 4, and "raiment" for the same word in ver. 5. The construction, περιβάλλεσθαι ἔν τινι, occurs again in Revelation 4:4, and once or twice in the LXX. (Deuteronomy 22:12); the usual construction is with the accusative. The promise in this verse is again threefold, the last of the three promises in ver. 4 being repeated here as the first in this triplet. Repetitions of a similar kind are very frequent in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1, 5; John 10:11; John 13:20; John 15:19; John 17:9, 16, etc.). I will in no wise blot out his name. The negative, as in vers. 3 and 12, is in the strongest form. Here we seem to have a figure borrowed from the custom of striking the names of the dead out of the list of citizens. But the figure is a very ancient one, as is seen from parallels in the Old Testament. The present passage, Ἐξαλείψω... ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς is singularly close to the LXX. of Psalm 69:29, Αξαλειφθήτωσαν ἐκ βιβλίου ζώντων; and to Exodus 32:33, 'Αξαλείψω αὐτὸν ἐκ τῆς βίβλου μου; comp. Psalm 109:13; Daniel 12:1; and for the exact expression, "the book of life," see Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; and (without articles) Philippians 4:3, where Bishop Lightfoot comments as follows: "The 'book of life' in the figurative language of the Old Testament is the register of the covenant people (comp. Isaiah 4:3; Ezekiel 13:9). Hence 'to be blotted out of the book of the living' means 'to forfeit the privileges of the theocracy, to be shut out from God's favour.' But the expression, though perhaps confined originally to temporal blessings, was in itself a witness to higher hopes; and in the Book of Daniel first it distinctly refers to a blessed immortality (comp. Hermas, 'Vis.,' 1:3; see also Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23)? And I will confess his name. Without the smallest manuscript authority or any encouragement from previous versions, Latin, German, or English, the Genevan and Authorized Versions here render καί "but"! The simple connexion with "and" is thoroughly in St. John's style: "He shall be... and I will... and I will" (comp. vers. 12, 17; Revelation 2:26-28, etc.; John 1:4, 5, 10, 11, 14, etc.). This is the third of the promises:

(1) he shall be in unsullied glory;

(2) he shall never lose his heavenly citizenship;

(3) he shall be publicly acknowledged as a citizen by the Judge.

This third point is a combination of Matthew 10:32 ("before my Father") with Luke 12:8 ("before the angels of God"). "We may observe of this epistle that in great part it is woven together of sayings which the Lord had already uttered in the days during which he pitched his tent among men; he is now setting his seal from heaven upon his words uttered on earth" (Trench).

3:1-6. The Lord Jesus is He that hath the Holy Spirit with all his powers, graces, and operations. Hypocrisy, and lamentable decay in religion, are sins charged upon Sardis, by One who knew that church well, and all her works. Outward things appeared well to men, but there was only the form of godliness, not the power; a name to live, not a principle of life. There was great deadness in their souls, and in their services; numbers were wholly hypocrites, others were in a disordered and lifeless state. Our Lord called upon them to be watchful against their enemies, and to be active and earnest in their duties; and to endeavour, in dependence on the grace of the Holy Spirit, to revive and strengthen the faith and spiritual affections of those yet alive to God, though in a declining state. Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground. Thy works are hollow and empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God. There are not inward affections suitable to outward acts and expressions; when the spirit is wanting, the form cannot long remain. In seeking a revival in our own souls, or the souls of others, it is needful to compare what we profess with the manner in which we go on, that we may be humbled and quickened to hold fast that which remains. Christ enforces his counsel with a dreadful threatening if it should be despised. Yet our blessed Lord does not leave this sinful people without some encouragement. He makes honourable mention of the faithful remnant in Sardis, he makes a gracious promise to them. He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment; the purity of grace shall be rewarded with the perfect purity of glory. Christ has his book of life, a register of all who shall inherit eternal life; the book of remembrance of all who live to God, and keep up the life and power of godliness in evil times. Christ will bring forward this book of life, and show the names of the faithful, before God, and all the angels, at the great day.He that overcometh,.... The deadness, formality, and imperfection of this church state; gets over these things, and is among the few names in it:

the same shall be clothed in white raiment; the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, read, "thus shall he be clothed in white raiment"; he shall have abundance of spiritual peace and joy, great success and prosperity, both inward and outward, in himself, and in the church; and triumph over all his enemies, sin, Satan, the world, death, and every other enemy; and not only be clothed with change of raiment, the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ, but shall enjoy eternal glory and happiness! the allusion seems to be to the custom of the Jewish sanhedrim in judging of priests fit for service (l),

"they examined the priests concerning their genealogies and blemishes; every priest in whom was found anything faulty in his genealogy, he was clothed in black and veiled in black, and went out of the court; but everyone that was found perfect and right, , "he was clothed in white", and went in and ministered with his brethren the priests.

And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; by which is meant the choice of persons to everlasting life and salvation; and this being signified by a book, and by writing names in it, shows the exact knowledge God has of his elect, the value he has for them, his remembrance of them, his love to them, and care for them; and that this election is of particular persons by name, and is sure and certain; for those whose names are written in it shall never be blotted out, they will always remain in the number of God's elect, and can never become reprobates, or shall ever perish; because of the unchangeableness of the nature and love of God, the firmness of his purposes, the omnipotence of his arm, the death and intercession of Christ for them, their union to him, and being in him, the impossibility of their seduction by false teachers, and the security of their persons, grace, and glory in Christ, and in whose keeping this book of life is; which respects not this temporal life, that belongs to the book of providence, but a spiritual and eternal life, from whence it has its name,

But I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels; which shows that Christ has an exact and perfect knowledge of all the chosen ones, he knows them by name; and that he has a strong and affectionate love for them, and is not ashamed of them, of their cause, of their persons, and of their relation to him; and that he does and will own, acknowledge, and approve of them, both here and hereafter: and the confession he will make of them will be in their praise; in praise of their persons and the comeliness of them, which he has put upon them; and of their graces, though they are his own; and of their good works as the fruits of grace: and this will be made before his Father, who chose these persons, and gave them to him to preserve and save; and before the angels, who rejoice at their salvation and happiness; and this will be at the last day; see Gill on Matthew 10:32.

(l) Maimon. Biath Hamikdash, c. 6. sect. 11, Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 3. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 19. 1.

Revelation 3:4
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