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You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. 6 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."' - Revelation 3:4-6

The first part of this counsel from the Lord Jesus to the Church at Sardis was a strong warning ("hold fast," "repent," "I will come on you as a thief."). However, the rest of the message is most positive. It reminds us of the central thesis of the story that John had recorded at an earlier time in his Gospel account.

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." - John 3:17

He said, "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments." Unfortunately, there were not many outstanding Christians left there, but at least, there were a few! As we have mentioned before, there is always a remnant of true believers, even in the worst of times (See the notes on chapter 2, verses 24-25). The Apostle Paul mentioned this fact.

I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel, saying, 3 "LORD, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life"? 4 But what does the divine response say to him? "I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." 5 Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace. - Romans 11:1-5

It is interesting that Jesus said there are a few "names" who had kept the faith. Some versions of the Bible translate this word as "people," and that is an acceptable translation in this context. But the choice of the word "names" emphasizes the fact that the Lord knows the personal identity of each of those godly believers. We discussed this before in Chapter 2, verse 13, where Jesus mentioned "Antipas, My faithful martyr." Antipas is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible, but Jesus knew him by name and loved him!

Jesus said this remnant had "not defiled their garments". The Greek word for "defiled" is molyno, which means "to pollute, stain, contaminate, or defile [by sin]." The concept of stained garments was very familiar to the people of Sardis because garment-dying was one of their major industries. A garment was made more beautiful and valuable by dying it with purple or other regal colors. On the other hand, people everywhere know that it is a disappointment, or even a disgrace to stain their best clothes with an unwanted substance. Two of the many ways a person can be "defiled" by sin are illicit sex and idol worship (Revelation 14:4; 1 Corinthians 8:7). The worst stain for one who claims to be a follower of Christ is unfaithfulness to Him and His Word.

Jesus promised that members of this faithful remnant will "walk with Me in white." Walking with the Lord Jesus is a picture of the ultimate phase of redemption: going to be where He is. Most people refer to this as "heaven," but there is much to learn about heaven and hell and other places of temporary dwelling after this life has been spent. We will address these important theological aspects in our later commentaries.

There is a folk-story of a boy who heard his elders trying to sort out biblical teaching about Paradise, Heaven, the Third Heaven, and the New Heaven and New Earth. He just listened until one of them turned to him and asked him where he thought heaven was. He ended the discussion by his simple answer, "Wherever Jesus is, that must be heaven." In the light of these key passages of Scripture, the boy's answer was pretty good.

[Paul] So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.- 2 Corinthians 5:6-8

[Jesus] And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. - John 14:3

[Paul] For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

When Jesus said believers will walk with Him "in white," He was referring to imputation of His own righteousness to those who were sinners, and therefore unrighteous (Romans 3:21-26; 4:3, 6, 22-25; 6:1-23).

This divine cleansing was described in various places in the Old Testament.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
- Psalm 51:2, 7

"Come now, and let us reason together,"
Says the LORD,
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.
- Isaiah 1:18

In our future study in Revelation we will also see this symbolism of white robes for those whose sins have been washed away by faith in Jesus Christ (Revelation 7:9, 14; 19;14).

A popular Christian song by the Newsboys expresses what happens when our sins were taken by Jesus and His righteousness was imputed to us.

Doctor's coming, looking grim
"Do you have a favorite hymn?"
Check your balance through the years
All accounts are in arrears
Guilt is bitter, grace is sweet
Park it here on the mercy seat

When we don't get what we deserve
That's a real good thing, a real good thing
When we get what we don't deserve
That's a real good thing, a real good thing

He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments.

This is a re-statement of the vital truth we just explored above about the forgiveness of our sin. For a discussion about the fact that every true Christian is an overcomer, see the notes on chapter 2, verse 1.

And I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.

In chapter 2, verse 23 we considered what it meant for sinners to be judged according to their works. In contrast, true believers will be forgiven because their names are written in the Book of Life. We need to repeat a summary of our findings here because this is the primary passage for the expression, "Book of Life."

When we get to Revelation chapter 20, we will study the "Great White Throne Judgment" of unbelievers. Their recorded works will be brought up as a basis for their judgment.

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. - Revelation 20:12

True believers in Christ will already have been judged - and acquitted- on the basis that their name is in "The Book of Life" (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; 22:19). Since Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), All names were apparently written in this book "from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 17:8). True believers' names are not blotted out of this book (Revelation 3:5), but those who do not trust Jesus' substitutionary death will evidentially have their names blotted out (John 3:16-18, 36).

But I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

John had undoubtedly heard these words of Jesus when He told his disciples,

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. - John 10:32-33

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Once again, the Lord reminds the readers (and listeners) that this message is from God by His Holy Spirit (See notes on chapter 2, verse 7).

Next: Revelation 3:7a


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