JRP on the Final Chapters of John's Revelation


Some preliminary bookkeeping matters:

I’ve taken the opportunity of a thread created by member “Aaron37” (not to be confused with the unitarian Aaron who also posts on our board without using a pseudonym) over in the Discussion Negative subcategory, entitled UR’s…When was our names written in the book of of life?, to compile together for ease of reference (including my own!) a number of things I’ve already written on the final chapters of the Revelation to St. John on this forum–as well as addressing A37’s argument along the way.

I will post it up in parts, since it’s pretty lengthy (at a little over 7000 words). Each part will be a different ‘comment’ in the thread below. Currently there are 4 parts.

Part 1: I explain what I won’t be critiquing A37’s argument on.
Part 2: I point out the main problem with his argument, and take a look at several possibilities he could try for defense
Part 3: I directly apply the critique of Part 2 to A37’s argument in its particular parts. (This is the shortest part I think.)
Part 4: I pull together a bunch of research I’ve already done and published on the forum into one place, regarding what happens at the end of RevJohn after the lake of fire judgment. Which, as will be shown, has more than a little to do with whether the lake of fire judgment is supposed to be hopeless or not. (Spoiler: not. :smiley:)

The mark of the beast and the seal of God in Rev.
Comparing Ezekiel 47 and Rev 21
Aaron37's Answer to Jason Pratt's challenge in Rev 21.
On the Final Chapters of RevJohn ("Hostile Witness" version)
Redemption from the lake of fire?
An example of a sin that shall not be forgiven?

Part I: clearing up some preliminary matters in A37’s favor:

While the insistence on an eternal distinction between those saved and those hopelessly lost is typically focused on by Calvinists as part of their version of the doctrine of election (namely that God chooses from eternity whom He will and whom He will not even act to save), this is not what A37 is trying to claim. He is appealing to God’s omniscience, not to God’s omnipotence, in knowing ahead of time (as it were) who He will save and who He will give up on saving (or perhaps be unable to save due to some power, or due to some love He has for those He refuses to continue trying to save.)

Those God knows He will finally succeed in saving, are thus (according to this school of interpretation) those written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Those God knows He will finally fail at saving for whatever reason, or those God knows He will eventually and finally give up trying to save, are (according to this school of interpretation) not found there.

Consequently, A37 as an Arminian is not making a contradictory appeal to a specifically Calvinist-and-not-Arminian line of thinking, and shouldn’t be critiqued as doing so.

Furthermore, whether there is literally a physical book (or scroll rather) is beside the point; if the scene testifies to any relevant truth on the matter, that truth remains whether the imagery should be taken literally or figuratively. A37’s argument does not depend on taking the imagery literally, and should not be critiqued as doing so.

A’s argument, however, is not overly coherent in its presentation at all points. To some extent this is only a fault of inept composition, and can be easily corrected without affecting the integrity of his argument.

Specifically: he stresses in his initial presentation and often afterward, the idea that no one’s name can be added to the Lamb’s book of life. Yet in the first paragraph of his initial presentation he writes, “When you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior your name is written in the book of life.” Grammatically this is a statement implying that when X happens then Y happens, i.e. when we accept Jesus Christ then our names are written in.

I think it is clear that he doesn’t actually mean this, since he goes on to ask, “So, when does this happen?” He can hardly mean, “So, when do you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?” (Unless he is promoting a doctrine of pre-existence of souls!–which I have never once seen him do, and which never shows up in this argument elsewhere that it might be expected.) He must mean, “So, when do our names get written into the Lamb’s Book of Life?”

Consequently, he should have written something like: “When you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you discover your name has already been written in the book of life.” Although it would be more accurate to his theology to put it around the other way again: “Your name has already been written in the book of life because God knew you would someday accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”

Correcting his presentation back around doesn’t hurt his overall argument, and removes ground for spurious criticism.

Slightly more problematic is his gung-ho insistence that no one’s name can be added to the book of life. After all, this contradicts directly with his insistence that people’s names have been written to, i.e. added to, the book of life!–otherwise those people’s names would not be found there at all! It must in fact be possible to add names to the book of life.

But A only means that no one’s name is ever added to the book of life other than those names which (speaking in terms of creation’s history) are found there during the judgment of the lake of fire. Tightening up his presentation on this matter would not hurt the validity of his argument, only remove ground for another spurious critique.

In any case, as I proceed along I will not be adducing such rebuttals against him.


Part 2: The most serious problem with A37’s argument, in itself.

As noted in Part 1, A37’s argument heavily features the notion that God omnisciently knows from the beginning whom He ultimately, finally will and (in one or another Arminianistic way) will not save. This is, for A37’s theology, expressed in the book of life opened at the time of final judgment. A37’s point in principle here is that it ought to be impossible for there to be any change to the book of life–so that someone’s name can be added to it, for example.

However, A. does not realize that another point he strongly emphasizes in his initial presentation runs completely against this notion in principle!

Specifically: A. treats Rev 3:5 as testifying to the real possibility that Christ may blot out a name from the book of life.

A name so blotted out would, of course, not be found there when the day of judgment comes. But then that means there has been a real change in the contents of the book of life.

This ought to be impossible, though!–one of the key points to A37’s argument is that no change can be made because God already in His omniscience knows who will and who will not finally be saved.

If no change can be made to include a name, because God has already made an omniscient reckoning of who finally is included and who is not, then on just the same principle no change can be made to blot out a name: because God has already made an omniscient reckoning of who finally is included and who is not.

Any blotting, even if only possible and not actual (so long as it is truly possible and no empty threat) indicates that the contents of the book are not final from eternity; and so the contents do not represent God’s omniscient final judgment and knowledge on the matter.

One possible defense A37 could try, would be to correct himself about the blotting being a real possibility.

The problem with this defense, is that the Lord’s message to the Sardis congregation (Rev 3:1-6) is at least partially about a call to repentance. They have a name of being living, but they are actually dead (v.1)–not that all of them are, but most of them (v.4). The others have not found their acts completed in the sight of the Lord’s God (by context the Father). (v.2) They are exhorted, then to remember how they have obtained, and hear, and to keep and to repent. (v.3) If they do not, the Lord shall be arriving on them as a thief. (v.3)

The whole context fits the concept that these people do have their name written in the book of life, but that the Lord Jesus may erase it (not just blot it out; the term in Greek is literally to erase). And other congregations are given similar warnings if they don’t shape up. (The most relevant comparison might be the congregation in Ephesus, whose lampstand the Lord will be moving out of its place if they do not repent. (Rev 2:1-6))

Another possible defense A37 could try, would be to claim that being erased out of the book of life is substantially different from not being in there from the foundation of the world. Thus there could still be hope for those who have been erased from it before the judgment, even if no hope for those whose names were not yet written into it by the time of the judgment.

Relevant to this, A. might appeal to the Lord’s qualification to the congregation of Laodicia (3:14-22), who receive one of the severest rebukes from Him in the epistolary prologue to RevJohn: it would be difficult to imagine more colorful imagery than to say the Lord is about to vomit them out of His mouth! Yet the Lord also adds, “Whosoever I may be loving as a brother (or am fond of, philos), I am exposing and disciplining.” (v.19) The Laodicians, or the significant majority of them, believe themselves to be rich, deceiving themselves when they are actually wretched and poor and blind and naked (v.17). The Lord exhorts them (among other imagery) to buy white garments to be clothed so that the shame of their nakedness will not be made manifest. (v. 18) If they do not, He will surely expose them!–so they had better become zealous and repent! (v.19) But, A37 may appeal, even if that exposure and vomiting happens, God does not punish them hopelessly, only in hope that they will repent and obtain from the Lord what they need. Thus (as it is also written in that message to them) the Lord exposes and disciplines them in love.

And if God does so for them, then by the same principle so for the Sardis congregation: being erased from the Lord’s book of life (or having their lampstand moved, for that matter, or having the Lord fall upon them suddenly like a robber), is equivalent to the Lord spewing them (actually vomiting them!) out of His mouth and exposing the shame of their nakedness. Yet the latter, by direct scriptural testimony, is not a hopeless punishment and indeed God does so in love to them; therefore, by parallel, so is being erased out of the book of life not a hopeless punishment but a loving discipline (the same word used by the Hebraist in Heb 12, as A37 might go on to point out!–where we could hardly claim that was any unloving hopelessly final punishment, though surely a frightening one best avoided.)

A37 could certainly try this defense. But this still requires abandoning the argument that the book’s contents are intrinsically final as eternally foreseen by God. At most, the contents only pertain to the question of entering into life or entering into judgment at that particular time of the lake of fire judgment. And it would require admitting that there must be the real possibility of post-mortem salvation for at least some people, namely those whose names God erased from the book of life before (or even during) the day of the lake of fire judgment. Thus, for this defense to work, it must be possible for at least some persons to be saved after (or during) experience of the lake of fire judgment. (As will be shown later, there is plenty of evidence in RevJohn itself for that anyway!)

Moreover, it will then become immediately impossible to explain why anyone whose names were foreseen not to be in the book at the time of that judgment must be hopelessly lost in punishment by God. After all, there are others in RevJohn whose nakedness shall be exposed as part of God’s punishment, not least the whore of Babylon (whatever that figure may mean). The best case for hopeless punishment would then be to abandon appeal to the book of life at all; and then so much for A37’s argument at all.

A final possible defense A37 might try, is to claim that in fact all persons’ names were in fact written into the book of life, but that along the way various people’s names are erased and so then we come to the final judgment and some are still in and others are not.

This would be very much in keeping with Arminianistic doctrine, by the way, compared to Calvinistic doctrine: by God’s choice everyone was initially included, instead of God choosing only a selection from eternity (and so choosing damnation for the rest). But it shares some of the same weaknesses as the other potential defenses.

Once again, the contents of the book must therefore be dynamic, not static; so their static immutability cannot then be appealed to for any reason.

Relatedly, it becomes impossible then to demand for universalists to explain where we get the idea that (in one way or another) everyone’s name must have been written into the book from the foundation of the world–since this defense agrees that everyone’s name was written in! The whole procedure must change, to the question of why some people’s names are no longer in the book when the judgment of the lake of fire comes around. But universalists have no problem answering that: the names were removed due to sin (just like RevJohn, among other parallels elsewhere in scripture if not exactly that same imagery, says is a real possibility). That isn’t the issue; the issue is whether the lake of fire judgment is hopeless, and A37’s argument in favor of its hopelessness requires some names never to have been written there in the first place. Changing his ground to admit that they were there, reduces this argument to nothing–although he might try some different argument for the hopelessness of the judgment.

Relatedly again, if A37 (as an Armininan might in fact be expected to do) admits that names were there and then were erased due to sin, he immediately loses all ability to claim that they cannot be added back in thanks to the grace of Christ (first and primarily, though not forgetting repentance either.) On this analogy, our names were originally in, then erased (for we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God), then are written back in by Christ when we accept Him as our Lord and Savior.

(Which, not incidentally, is exactly what A37 says happens, early in his initial post!! “When you accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior your name is written in the book of life.” The context, including the immediate context, shows he didn’t actually mean that; his whole argument would have been instantly ruined by the third sentence! But there are good reasons why it must have felt natural for him to put it that way; good reasons if either Arminianism or Universalism are true vs. Calvinism.)

It should also be pointed out that any attempt at trying to insist on a hopeless exclusion of salvation for some people from eternity, immediately and necessarily abandons the Arminian doctrine (shared by universalists of course) that God acts to save everyone, not only a fractional elect. A37’s argument does not in itself require this, only that the book immutably represents what God eternally sees as the final result (despite His actions). But A’s defense of his argument could end up reverting to the Calv doctrine of limited atonement.

Now, it’s still another thing to provide scriptural testimony in favor of those names being written in after the lake of fire judgment (or equivalent imagery!) Admitting that names can be written into the book, doesn’t in itself have to allow that names can be written in after a certain point. But, neither can an argument for exclusion then be made on the ground that the names of the book are always complete and final so that no new names can ever be entered at all (including after the lake of fire judgment).

On the other hand: according to Rev 2:17, there is apparently a sense in which everyone entering into the kingdom of heaven receives a new name from God! In that sense, one way or another we all who are finally saved must have “new names” written into the book, commensurate with the salvational change wrought in us; which may imply our names in the book are erased and changed to our new names. (However, my critique doesn’t require this line of approach.)

To summarize: A37 correctly perceives that someone’s name might (metaphorically speaking) be blotted out (or more precisely erased) from the book of life. However, at best this real possibility immediately invalidates any appeal to the book of life being a static list of finally lost or saved persons, as a way of grounding a theology of hopeless final condemnation. If the book Is not a static list of finally saved persons, neither can it be argued to be (in effect) reflective of finally lost persons (not found written in it) by virtue of it being a static and unchangeable list.

An attempt at explaining away Rev 3:5, as not being a real threat, is going to crash both immediately and extensively on the surrounding contexts. And an attempt at trying to make that erasure hopeful while claiming hopelessness for those not found there to begin with, will logically (and rather spectacularly) implode under careful examination. Whereas trying to claim that all names were originally included and then erased due to sin, introduces new problems with A37’s argument along with some old ones as well.

(Incidentally, an appeal to the saying of Jesus parallel-reported in Matthew 10:32 and Luke 12:8, isn’t going to help shore up the fatal weakness of the argument. This is aside from noting that in Luke 12:8, Jesus immediately goes on to remind His hearers that it is not, in fact, disavowing or even blaspheming Him which shall not be forgiven in the age to come, but blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. But that is a whole other discussion.)


Part 3: Application of the problem to A’s argument

In his initial presentation, Aaron37 writes:

Fair enough; I have no dissent against that, and it stands up perfectly well (so far as it goes) to the critique presented in Part 2.

To be a little more precise, the scriptures testify that, by the time of the lake of fire judgment, the names of some people have been recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life (or scroll of life) “from the foundation (or disruption or explosive outpouring)” of the kosmos (all creation). And other persons’ names have not.

Again, I have no dissent against that, and it stands up perfectly well (so far as it goes) to the critique presented in Part 2.

What it means for someone’s name to be written in that book from the foundation of the world, is rather another thing. Does it mean, for example, that the contents of the book are static and can never possibly be changed, because they represent the final knowledge of God from all eternity in regard to all people for all eternity? Or can the true Foundation of the World Himself make alterations to the list?

A37 himself (rather ironically) answers this question next!

Obviously, I have no dissent against this either! But then, so much for any claim that the book of life represents a final static tally impossible to alter. It can only represent a snapshot taken of a particular point in time of the overall situation, namely the situation at the time of the lake of fire judgment. Otherwise, names couldn’t be erased from it (which implies them having been written in).

But, as A37 himself has shown, it isn’t intrinsically impossible for the list of names to change, especially if the Foundation Himself is doing the changing.

The list, when it is looked at during the judgment of the lake of fire, is only a snapshot of what the situation will be at that particular moment. God omnisciently knows what that situation will be, so in that sense the list for that moment can be said to be already written; but God omnipotently can alter the list, at least before that point, if He in His judgment sees fit to do so. (And A37 himself has inadvertently pointed us to a place where contexts indicate God removes names from the list with an eye toward putting them back in again after those being punished are led to repentance.)

Actually, the scriptures don’t say people can only be written in before the creation of the world; they don’t even say that they were written in “before” the creation of the world. Some translations do, but those translations are reading in a particular interpretation. They aren’t translating actual Greek words there.

And A37 is the one going even farther than that, and reading in the “can only” as an inference. If it was a logically valid inference, that wouldn’t necessarily be so bad (though it still wouldn’t be accurate to the text per se). But as shown, it isn’t a logically valid inference either. His “can only” inference is grounded on the idea that the scroll’s contents must be intrinsically static: an idea he himself scripturally testifies is false.

Nothing more really needs to be said against this argument as it stands. But, me being me, I’ll go on to say some more anyway. :mrgreen: Partly because I want to collect together a number of other things I’ve already written on the forum into one place; and partly because in themselves they add substantially positive weight in favor of something other than the attempted conclusion of A37’s argument.


Part 4: The Vine and the River and the Tree of Life

The book of life isn’t the only metaphor used in regard to those who are saved by God into zoe eonian (life from God, God’s own life, the life of the age to come, only available from Him Who transcends all ages). It isn’t the only such metaphor used in scripture, and it isn’t the only such metaphor used in RevJohn. It isn’t even the only such imagery used in close proximity to the scene of the lake of fire judgment! (Which, to recap, is at Rev 20:11-15, with pickups going back at least to verse 4.)

The most pertinent imagery for our purposes, in direct relation to the lake of fire judgment, is the tree and the river of life.

(As a sidenote: in Greek the term is “the log of life”, which not only communicates the notion of it being very reliably strong, but also the notion that this is a tree which has been slain and through its death somehow gives life. It’s quite a good way to speak of Christ metaphorically!–but hereafter, for familiarity sake in English, I’ll call it the tree of life as most translations do.)

An exegetical analysis of the tree and the river in relation to the lake of fire judgment, shows some pretty unexpected things!–to those expecting the lake of fire judgment only to be hopeless.

Rev 22:17; the Spirit and the Bride (and the one who hears) are saying “Come”. To whom? “The one who hears” (i.e. the Evangelist) is saying come “to the one who is thirsty”; he is part of the Bride and acting in conjunction with the Spirit. So they must be saying come to the one who is thirsty as well. To satisfy that thirst how? By taking the water of life without cost.

Rev 22:14; those who wash their robes (i.e. in the water of life, the only place for washing in this and the preceding chapter), are blessed because they then obtain permission to enter by the gates into the New Jerusalem to eat of the tree of life. (Relatedly, on the last great day of the Festival of Tabernacles, the Feast of Water and of Light, Jesus stood up in the Temple and cried out, “If anyone should be thirsting, let him come toward Me and drink! The one trusting in Me, in accord as the scripture said, out of his belly shall gush rivers of living water!” He says this concerning the spirit, writes the Evangelist, which those trusting into him were about to be getting when Jesus is glorified. GosJohn 7:37-39)

So, who are the ones who would be thirsting and who need washing?

Rev 22:15; the ones outside: the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons, etc. (the typical list used in RevJohn and elsewhere). Everyone who still loves and practices their lying. These are the ones with filthy robes (v.11–at least many of whom are expected to keep doing wrong in the interim period once the tribulation starts.) Are they in the lake of fire at this point in the revelation?

Rev 21:8; yep, their portion is in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death. (Which, poetically speaking, might be expected to make someone thirsty!) Will they ever come into the city?

Rev 21:27; nope, so long as they remain unclean and keep practicing their abomination and lying. Does that mean the gates are closed?

Rev 21:25; nope, not in the daytime–and there shall never be a night there! Why are those gates still open?

Rev 21:24,25; so that the nations (the pagans who do not yet know God) can walk by its light (which is the glory of God and the Lamb) and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory and the glory and the honor of the nations into it. Who are the kings of the earth?

Rev 19:19; we last saw them ganging up with the beast to make war on Christ and getting their butts righteously kicked, leaving their bodies scattered for the birds of the air (which counts as shepherding them with a rod of iron, v.15–compare to the end of Psalm 23. Many English translations obscure the term in Rev there as “rule”, but in Greek it’s clearly “shepherd”.)

So, they have to go into the city first to get the water? No, the water has to be flowing out to them–just as the light (Christ Himself, compare to Rom 10) is going out to them. That the river of life coming out from under the throne of the Lamb is going out the never-closed gates, is directly implied by the exhortation for them to come drink and wash in the river freely given without cost.

(This is explicitly stated, in fact, in Old Testament scripture, of very much interest looking into. But more on this soon.)

So when they repent and wash in the river and slake their thirst and follow the light and go into the city, is that in order to be hopelessly punished, too?

Rev 22:2; nope, the leaves of the tree of life in the city are for the healing of the nations. Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, will give without cost from the spring of the water of life to those who thirst (21:6); and He shall wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who are citizens of the New Jerusalem, and there shall no longer be any death, nor mourning nor crying nor pain, for the first things shall have passed away: He is making all things new. (vv.4-5)

Notably, this scene is anticipated back in chapter 7:9-12; where John is looking forward to that which takes place “after these things”. A great multitude beyond counting from every nation and tribe and people and language clothed in white robes crying out with a loud voice, “SALVATION!” to our God Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb–for which the angels and the elders and the four living creatures fall on their faces before the throne and worship God. One of the elders asks John, “Who are these clothed in white robes and from where have they come?” John says the elder knows, so the elder answers: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation,” which hasn’t happened yet in the main narrative sequence of the revelation, “and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His sanctuary, and He Who sits on the throne spreads His tabernacle over them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd and guide them to the springs of the waters of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.”

This promise is not only fulfilled for some chosen few (the excessively vast number rules that out) coming out of the great Tribulation; and the end of Revelation shows it also being fulfilled to those still outside the city at the end, even the kings of the earth (being shepherded toughly by Christ at the end of their rebellion, in language directly resembling and paralleling the promise and hope of Psalm 23, and coming into the city afterward). They must also have conquered, as was promised to the rebels of the congregation of Ephesus if they repented and returned to their first love (notwithstanding being highly praised by the Lord for their zealousness for His sake in many ways which might have supposed to be sure evidence that they were not under serious threat from Him!)–to the one conquering, will He be granting to be eating out of the log of life, which is in the center of the paradise of God. (Rev 27:7)

In Ezekiel 47:1-17, there is a highly interesting vision of the prophet, with language echoed in this portion of RevJohn, in that there will be a river in the day of the Lord with trees on its banks that will bear fruit every month, due to that river of life, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. What is most interesting for our purposes, however, is that this river is explicitly shown to be flowing (in the imagery of the vision) out from under the threshold of the house of the Lord and is surely not retained in the city but flows out of the city into the deserts of Arabia (east of Jerusalem) and so eventually into the ocean (of what we would call the Persian Gulf, but for Biblical typology the point is that this goes toward where the Garden of Eden was originally located). And it grows ever wider and deeper as it goes; and all those who drink of it live. And most importantly, when it reaches the sea, it transforms the sea from saltwater to fresh. (Swamps and marshes are left along the coastline, but for purposes of bearing salt for proper use.)

The sea, in other words, will be healed and restored by the freshwater river of life. In Jewish imagery, there was something seriously wrong with a salt sea that could not be drunk, even though things lived in it, and so the salt sea (and by extension any really large body of water that wasn’t a river) became an image for the swirling depths of the Abyss, where God imprisons rebel spirits. This imagery is also being referenced in RevJohn, when the chiefs of rebels spirits are envisioned as coming up out of the sea. But RevJohn also reveals that in the final day there shall be no more sea; not because it has simply disappeared, but because the sea has been tamed and restored. Before the throne of God, the sea is glassy like crystal (Rev 4:6). And before the author reveals what he saw concerning the seven angles having the last seven calamities, which in them bring to fulfillment the fury of God, he looks forward (as he occasionally does) beyond this to see that glassy sea again (Rev 15:1-4). It is indeed mixed fire, but those who are conquerors out from the wild beast, and out from its image, and out from the number of its name (which is how the text reads in Greek), are standing upon the sea praising God that all shall be afraid of Him and glorify His name. Why?–for God only is good, and all the nations (the pagans who do not worship God) shall arrive and worship before Him, due to His just rewards being made manifest.

In other words, before showing us the narrative of God consummating His fury, the Evangelist shows us the end result of God consummating His fury: which is that all shall worship Him loyally for His mighty and benign justice.

This is also implied by the Evangelist telling us that this song is the song of Moses, the slave of God. It is clearly a song to the Lambkin, and about the Lambkin, but unless the reader is familiar with the Song of Moses in the Old Testament there is no apparent reason why this is called the Song of Moses, too. Moses’ song, however, is a prophecy that those whom God loves (Israel) shall rebel against Him in the most treacherous and despicable ways, and be utterly destroyed by God to the final possible extent (so that they are neither slave nor free)–and then shall repent and return to God and be restored by God. Which was God’s purpose in punishing them all along. (Deut 32:1-43, but especially emphasizing verses 34 afterward. This is also the context of the famous warning of the Hebraist in Heb 10. Vengeance is God’s so that He will bring retribution to the people and so vindicate them once they stop rebelling.)

Going back to recap a bit: the Bride (those inside the NJ) are joining the Spirit in exhorting those who are suffering the lake of fire judgment (outside the NJ) to drink freely of the freely given water coming out of the never-closed gates of the NJ (from the throne of the Lamb), slaking their thirst, washing their robes clean, and so obtaining permission to enter the city to eat the leaves of the tree of life and be healed. Some of them are certainly doing so, too, since the “kings of the earth” (who have been the staunchest human rebels against God throughout RevJohn, even the ten horns of the Beast, and last seen scattered for the birds back in chp 19) are bringing their treasures into the city where no one who still loves and fondles their sinning can enter.

These kings are not described as believers were, earlier in the narrative of the revelation, kings-and-priests-of-God; they are described as of the earth, rather than being described as reigning on the earth. Considering that RevJohn has some kind of special authorial connection with the Johannine works (which is demonstrable on other internal grounds, not just tradition suggesting so, even though the actual grammar is significantly different from GosJohn on the balance across the texts), that distinction is probably thematically important: those who are of the earth in GosJohn are not (or not yet) born from above, and there’s a running contrast between them and people who are loyal to God.

If it wasn’t for the end of Rev 21, this wouldn’t be controversial at all. The problem (except to post-mortem salvationists who don’t think it’s a problem!) is that the kings going into the city there, are described one way instead of the other. Which way? As “kings of the earth”.

So either the author forgot his previously established distinction; or for some reason he has started using a term previously reserved for villains, for people who are clearly not acting as villains in that scene; or those are the previous villains (the “Quirky Miniboss Squad” as they might be called in modern story trope terminology), now penitent (having been shepherded by Christ back in Rev 19), and leading in fulfilling the evangelical call to those still outside the city (as exemplified later in chp 22).

This is even more obvious when the Greek of the transition of the second half of that final verse for Rev 21 is checked. Because even the Textus Receptus (following fewer and generally later copies) agrees that the transitional phrase there is {ei me hoi}.

Which doesn’t mean “but only the ones”, although that’s how it’s often translated. It’s a conditional phrase; literally “if not the ones”, or as we would put it in English, “not unless they”.

So! The final two verses of chapter 21 actually translate out:

Rev: 21:26: And [or a strong conjunctive ‘now’, perhaps] they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it *;

v.27: yet [or a strong conjunctive ‘now’, perhaps] all those who are profaning may not enter into it at all, and [or ‘nor’] those making an abomination and a lie–not unless those have been written in the Lamb’s Scroll of Life!

And what is chapter 22 largely about, which immediately follows? It’s largely dedicated to explaining how it is, by God’s grace (which the redeemed are expected to continue participating in the evangel of), those who continue to fondle their sinning, outside the city, may in fact obtain permission to enter and be healed!!

There is admittedly a difference in the TR, compared to the standard text used by biblical scholars (the UBS or the Nestle/Aland) for verse 21:24. Unfortunately the UBS text and its notes list no textual variations there at all; and my copy of the TR didn’t come with a textual apparatus. (It mentions one, but didn’t supply it in my copy.) So I have no idea what the rationales are either way (though on the balance I’m inclined to think the problem is that the variants are so late and few as to be utterly irrelevant for reconstruction purposes). But the word order is rather different, along with the extra word in the TR, resulting in the meaning being a little bit different.

Here are the two variant clauses for verse 24:

UBS: and will-walk the nations by/through the light of it
UBS: kai peripatesousin ta ethne dia tou photos autes
TR: kai ta ethne ton sozomenon en t(i)o photi autes peripatesousi
TR: and the nations of the saved in the light of it will-walk

The TR treats the light of the city more literally as a mere (though important) environmental condition (even if that’s to be understood metaphorically so).

But the standard text compilation grammatically suggests that the light may have some causal effect on the nations–which totally fits with the end of the immediately preceding verse (including in the TR) where the illumination is expressly identified to be the Lamb and the Glory of God: i.e, the light is Christ, continuing to go out of the New Jerusalem forever to save those still outside.

The metaphor thus means that the nations are walking thanks to the agency of Christ. Which hugely fits what happens in chapter 22 (with the river of life, also a symbol for Christ, going out through the never-closed gates; which those still outside the city are exhorted to wash themselves in and drink freely without cost, so that they may obtain permission to enter the city and eat of the leaves of the tree of life–another image for Christ–and be healed.)

It isn’t that the TR’s version doesn’t fit the surrounding context; it’s okay. But the standard text version fits the context very much better while also being grammatically simpler. (Yet perhaps more challenging, conceptually, to natural expectations–especially to natural expectations of hopeless punishment as the most legitimate vengeance.)

At any rate: RevJohn itself testifies that the fate of those put into the lake of fire as punishment is not hopelessly sealed; but rather that hopeful and successful evangelism continues afterward, with some forward-looking revelations that such evangelism will one day completely succeed in bringing all rebels back into loyalty to God.

Nor should it be surprising if those not yet written into the book of life (speaking analogically to the image) are written in, while those included in the book of life are erased–or even if names are erased, due to their unbelief, leading to names not yet in being written in! God doesn’t spare those written in from the foundation of the world from being erased, especially if in their erasing those not yet written in may be written in. And certainly those written in, especially as a a result of others being erased, should not be haughty over those who have been erased–for if God does not spare those written in from the foundation of the world, neither will he spare those written in afterward! If those written in do not persist in love, they too shall be struck out again. And if those struck out do not persist in their unbelief, they shall be written back in, for God is able to write them in again. (Indeed, if God can write in those who, in one regard, were not written in from the foundation of the world, how much easier shall it be for Him to write back in the others!)

Does it say all this, in so many words, in RevJohn? No. But St. Paul does say all this, in so many words, in his Epistle to the Romans 11:16-24; the only difference being that he uses an agricultural metaphor (of vine-cleaning), rather than John’s metaphors of accountant book-keeping and the Tree and River of Life. If anything, Paul’s imagery would have to be stronger, since this metaphor is about a relation to Christ the Vine!–and I am not aware of anywhere (Old or New Testament) where Christ is analogized as being “the book of life”.

But as it happens, John in his Revelation scripturally demonstrates just the same hope and teaching as St. Paul in his Romans Epistle; with Paul putting it rather more concisely.

(Edited to add: Aaron37 attempts to answer one point, regarding the kings of the earth, in this thread viewtopic.php?f=11&t=931. My reply is in that thread as well.)*

UR's..When was our names written in the book of of life?


Thanks for your post. Lots of things to mull over… all in all I appreciate your commentary.

Something you said, in particular, jumped out at me:

After I had been studying UR for a while, I had a dream. I almost never think twice about any of my dreams. However, I had a particularly brief and vivid dream of a discussion with my wife (who doesn’t have a strong opinion on UR either way). In the dream, I asked her what the purpose of the lake of fire was. She responded without hesitation that the purpose of the Lake of Fire was to “dehydrate” people. If I recall correctly, I woke up immediately. I was about to dismiss the entire dream, as “just a dream” when I thought about Rev. 21:6, which says that those who are thirsty can drink without cost… As you mention above, perhaps the lake of fire is to make people thirsty enough to take that free drink.

I was just interested to see you sharing a similar idea, so I thought I would share my unusual experience.

(edit - I hope I’m not taking things off-topic here…)



Not at all–thanks for sharing!

That does seem to be how John deploys the lake of fire toward the end of RevJohn, although that shouldn’t be held exclusive to the other purposes of our God the consuming fire (from Heb 12). But the same end goal is in view for God in either case.


Might I add that this seems to fit along the teaching of the rich man and Lazarus, where the rebel asks Abraham to send Lazarus down for a drop of water on his tongue. And I was incidently mulling over this a couple of days ago, particuliarly about the fact that Abraham could not send Lazarus due to the great gulf fixed between them. Seems that the rebel was looking for water from the wrong source! (That is, he was attempting to quench his thirst on the Law when He needed to go to the Source). It seems significant that Lazarus is identified with Abraham, for whom the OT speaks about redemption for those that are poor and destitute, for which the Law has provision, as in the gleanings of Lev. 19:10, 15 and Lev. 23:22 and in which David speaks of in I Samuel 2:8, “*He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and he hath set the world upon them.” * In the end, Abraham tells the rebel that that his brothers, who risk the same fate, have Moses and the prophets, wherein if they don’t even heed to the Law, they will not heed to one risen from the dead.

You will notice of course that the rebel addressed Abraham first. One wonders what would have happened if the rebel lifted up his voice in mercy to God, whether, like the publican, he could have been justified as a repentent sinner. If the story is true, one wonders if he ever came to his senses, like the prodigal. Perhaps he is no longer thirsty.


BTW, thanks Jason for such an extended exegesis on the problem at hand.


I thought about making some remarks myself along that line in reply, Dondi! :smiley: (But then I had to go do something else.)

There are several more ways to read the Dives/Lazarus parable in light of Rev 21+, but that’s a good start.

1.) The Rich Man (in Latin “Dives”, so traditionally in discussion that’s been his nickname for ease reference) is not penitent about his sins. He doesn’t even seem to acknowledge them!

2.) As you noted, he’s asking for water from the wrong place.

3.) He only wants the water to escape his punishment. He shows no signs (yet) of wanting to be freed from his sins and his sinning.

4.) His appeal to Abraham is probably based on the contemporary rabbinic understanding (actually ratified by St. Paul) that God will save all those who are children of Abraham by race (though St. Paul, following Jesus, extends that out to Gentiles “grafted into the promise”). As John the Baptist relevantly warns the Pharisees and Sadducees elsewhere in the Synoptics, they shouldn’t just rely on being “sons of Abraham” without repenting of their sins, and certainly shouldn’t give themselves airs on that ground (seeing as God can raise sons of Abraham “from these very stones”, probably intending a rabbinic double-entendre pun for pagans = stones, though also literally true one way or another!–whether the long way or the short, we have all been made from dirt as well as water, air and fire.)

5.) He isn’t treating Lazarus as being a person, but still as only (at best) a slave for his convenience.

6.) Moreover, Dives treats Lazarus as a slave whom he thinks nothing of expecting to walk through the fire to be tormented like himself (so far as he understands the fire)!

In other words, he’s most likely appealing to Abraham on the ground of being (but only merely) a son of Abraham, yet he isn’t willing to treat Lazarus with the same dignity due to a son of Abraham: as Dives can easily see for himself that Lazarus must be!

7.) The gap between them cannot be like having them separated in some pocket dimension; otherwise we would have the notion of Dives being completely separated from communion with God, but not entirely separated from communion with Abraham!

8.) Dives ought to have been not only asking for the true water of life, but he should have been cooperating with the consuming fire, i.e. the Holy Spirit the one and only unquenchable and everlasting fire, our God. He’s still defying the fire, thus still (even literally in several ways) sinning against the Holy Spirit. And he wants Abraham and Lazarus to join him in acting in defiance against the fire.

(This is probably the spiritual meaning of the great chasm they cannot cross even if they wanted to.)

Asking for even the river of life (i.e Christ) in order to merely escape the fire (i.e. the Holy Spirit), is to seek some kind of schism in the unity of God as well (and worse, to do so for one’s own benefit). The Holy Spirit encourages those outside the New Jerusalem after the lake of fire judgment to quench their thirst, wash their robes, enter the city and eat of the tree of life; but it isn’t so that they can escape the fire. Rather they will be baptized in Spirit Who is the fire, and so (in RevJohn imagery) they will never need light for God Himself will be their light.


One huge topic I didn’t go into in my report, partly because I didn’t need to in order to establish my points, and partly because it would have greatly increased the length and complexity of the report, is how the book of life (though not always talked about using that phrase) is referenced in the Old Testament.

As Dondi points out here in a comment from the original thread that this report is an answer to, though: not only is it surely implied in Exodus 32 that having one’s name blotted out is not a hopeless situation (especially compared to the culmination of the Song of Moses at Deut 32–which, remember, is topically referenced in a scene of RevJohn as I described above); but almost the last verse of the book of the final OT prophet, Malachi 3:16 (and surrounding contexts) directly shows God adding people’s names back to the book of life (called there the book of remembrance before Him) after His exhortation of repentance to them and their repentance.

As I carefully qualified just afterward: in terms of narrative logic, this isn’t shown happening in-or-after the day of judgment which Malachi prophesied; it’s shown happening in Malachi’s day. But of course, Mal’s prophecy was about the forthcoming punishment of God (in the day of the Lord to come) being very and repeatedly emphasized as intended for hopeful refining. So in effect, the intended result of the day of judgment will be to add names back to the book, just as God added in the names of penitent rebels in Malachi’s own day. Malachi testifies that it can be done (in case anyone is unwilling to add up details elsewhere, or to accept St. Paul’s testimony on it using a different metaphor); and, in effect, that it will be done.

Thanks, Dondi, for bringing up those verses!


I thought this was a great response. Excellent job.


My pleasure. I enjoy digging up stuff. Amazing how what a simple word search like ‘book’ can come up with on biblegateway.com.


That’s a good site, true!

Habitually I use BlueLetterBible.org for doing searches. It’s a little messy trying to search in Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic) of course, but what isn’t? :wink:


Good stuff Jason!

About this:

UBS: and will-walk the nations by/through the light of it
UBS: kai peripatesousin ta ethne dia tou photos autes
TR: kai ta ethne ton sozomenon en t(i)o photi autes peripatesousi
TR: and the nations of the saved in the light of it will-walk

What’s interesting here (which I didn’t see you comment on) is that the TR adds “of the saved” to qualify the nations and thus creating two different groups of “nations,” those saved (who will walk in the light) and those not saved (those in the Lake of Fire, who will not walk in the light). I wonder if “of the saved” was added to avoid UR conclusions.



An excellent thread and thanks again Jason for your time and considerable efforts.

Most posters here will think of themselves as very definitely being inside the New Jerusalem. Speaking as one who will probably be on the outside I can say that this ‘interpretation’ (if I dare use such an emotive word) gives me hope whereas the eternal torment ‘interpretation’ makes me feel annihilation would be the greater good.


I wander if “of the saved” was taken out to assist UR conclusions? This is discussed in Aaron37’s answer to Jason’s challenge in Rev 21. :wink:


And answered, both here and there, with the observation that the phrase appears in NOT EVEN ONE RevJohn text I could find, Greek or otherwise, before the 15th century.

You certainly, neither here nor there, provided any counter-evidence otherwise. The note you found in the margin of your New King James doesn’t in the least specify what known texts the phrase is positively coming from, and doesn’t bother mentioning more than two of the UNANIMOUS PRE-15TH CENTURY TEXTS that don’t include the phrase.

(This is something TGB probably remembers, even if you do not. :wink: )


Right. The phrase “of the saved” isn’t original. It’s far easier to account for its being inserted that for its being removed.



Tom: I wonder if “of the saved” was added to avoid UR conclusions.

A37: I wander if “of the saved” was taken out to assist UR conclusions?

Aaron, are you asking a question? I can’t tell. You have a question mark there, but your words make an assertion and don’t ask a question. I think you mean “wonder” not “wander.” Or maybe you really do mean to wander about!

It’s impossible to account for the textual history on the assumption that some universalist scribe removed the original “of the saved” in order to promote his false teaching in the face of orthodoxy. The text reads “nations” and not “nations of the saved.”

And besides, I’ve spoken in tongues over this question for some time and the Spirit has revealed the infallible truth to me. I can’t possibly be wrong now. You can only choose to agree with me (and align yourself with God) or disagree and so reject God’s truth. If you’re teachable, you’ll do the former.