How do explain the verses that seem to say you can lose your salvation?
I am going to tackle some difficult passages. People ask me, why are verses of the Bible so challenging? I want to give you 3 reasons.
- In order to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from kids to scholars. Due to its ability to reach all levels it can challenge us as we grow in our Bible knowledge. We can never reach the point where we say we know it all. In fact it seems the more we know the more we know we don’t know.
- Tough passages humble us and make us study more.
- Difficult Scriptures drive us to prayer. We realize our utter dependence upon God and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. God through the Holy Spirit illuminates the Scriptures but doesn’t interpret them; that is our job.
- You can have your name erased from the book of life so therefore, you can lose your salvation.
Revelations 3:4, 5 – [Jesus states] “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall 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.” Here in Revelations John is writing to the church in Sardis. Jesus is referring to believers whose names are written in the book of life.
The argument: If God will not erase a believer’s name from the book of life then the opposite is true; God can erase your name.
First, what is the book of life and who is it for? Philippians 4:3“Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Here we see Paul’s fellow workers in the book of life. Only believers are in the book of life. And what is it?
John in Revelation 20:11-15 points to the great white throne judgment that will occur at the end of time. Those people who are not written in the book of life will be judged according to their sins and cast into the lake of fire. We read in Revelation 20:15“And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” Unbelievers are not written in the book of life. The names in this book are for those going to heaven. Revelation 21:27 “and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.”
Second, those who believe you can lose your salvation say, “See a person can have his name written in the book of life and then walk away and God will erase or blot his name out of the book of life.”
However, my question is, does this passage say this? To move from the statement, “I will not erase his name from the book of life” to God can and will erase a name from the book of life is a large jump. Even if God could erase a name, nowhere in the Bible does it say He ever did. If this is such an important teaching it would have been emphasized throughout the Bible. And yet it is never taught.
I believe instead the focus is on eternal security of salvation. Revelations 3:5 actually says God will not erase our names from the book of life. Eternal security and not insecurity is John’s focus.
Third, there is a passage from the Old Testament that also refers to God’s book of life. We read in Psalms 69:24-28 “Pour out Your indignation on them, and may Your burning anger overtake them. 25 May their camp be desolate; May none dwell in their tents. 26 For they have persecuted him whom You Yourself have smitten, And they tell of the pain of those whom You have wounded. 27 Add iniquity to their iniquity, And may they not come into Your righteousness. 28 May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.”
Who is David writing about? He is writing about how he wants God to deal with his enemies. He is not writing about individuals who were once right with God and now have walked away. Instead these are individuals who hate David. They mock him and he says in verse 27 in the NIV “…do not let them share in your salvation.” He is crying out to God for judgment against these wicked individuals; don’t let them into heaven! Then he says in verse 28, “May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.” He is simply asking God not to save them; not to make theses enemies righteous or right with Him. He is not saying they once were right with God and now have become enemies. Nothing in this verses indicate these individuals had their names written in the book of life only later to have their names removed.
My conclusion is Revelations 3:4, 5 is talking about eternal security and not insecurity. These verses actually support a true believer cannot lose his or her salvation.