One of the richest promises and one that has been a great source of encouragement to believers for centuries is Psalm 68:19: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah” (KJV). And anyone who knows the Lord and has walked with Him can testify to the truth of that verse because he knows that in times of testing and even of chastening the Lord is doing for him what is good, and right, and blessed. But if we think that knowing the Lord now fills us with blessing, we may be assured that the blessings of eternity will be infinitely sweeter and richer. Were the gifts of God dependent on our faithfulness (unlike rewards, which are the fruit of our service), the church in Sardis would have been devoid of gifts. But these gifts are the product of God’s grace, and so they and we are the beneficiaries of God’s unmerited favor. The fifth gift of grace comprises three parts. And though to some, these gifts might appear to be anticlimactic, they are in some regards the richest and most wonderful of all.
In the first place, John records the Lord’s promise that those “who have not soiled their garments” (i.e., those who have been cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ), “will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4b). He reiterates the promise in the next verse: “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments” (v. 5). For obvious reasons, most commentators focus on the white garments. In one way or another, most agree that white garments would have been worn on festive occasions (such as a wedding) and in celebration of a victory in battle—both of which are applicable to believers who are depicted as the bride of Christ and as overcomers of sin through Christ’s redemptive work. And without doubt, white betokens purity and holiness (wrought in the believer by Christ). Most commentators, however, seem to pass over what seems to be the crux of this gift, namely, to walk with the Lord. This part of the gift seems to be a promise of intimate, personal, unceasing fellowship with the Lord Jesus. And anyone who has experienced the absence of a loved one and longs for face-to-face fellowship with that one may have an inkling of what will be the ineffable joy of living forever in the presence of the Lord.
In the second place, the Lord promises that He “will not erase his name from the book of life” (v. 5a). Many view this as a threat. But we must note that it is a promise. And when we realize that it was given in the first instance to the church in Sardis, a church so filled with sin that it was urged to repent (see: 3:1-3), we may recognize both the grace and magnitude of God’s salvation. Without giving false hope to those who are in sin, this gift assures those who are saved that they are saved eternally. Salvation is God’s work from beginning to end. We cannot work our way into God’s favor, nor can we sin our way out of it. Saints who sin will be chastened—as severely as necessary—but those who are genuinely saved by faith in Christ’s work for them will never be lost. We can never undo God’s eternal purpose and work in bringing us to salvation.
In the third place, John quotes the Lord as saying: “I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels” (v. 5b; cf., Matt. 10:32). This third part of the gift underlines the idea that the dominant thought regarding this gift involves fellowship resulting from worthiness. Those who are holy and perfect through the work of Christ will be declared as such by Christ before the Father. Much like someone having his name read at a commencement ceremony, there is a sense now that the saint’s earthly days as a “student” have ceased and that he has “graduated” into the full presence and fellowship of the Father and the Son. No longer a learner, he has become a colleague, if you will, a joint heir with Christ. Christ will not be ashamed to call us brethren because His perfect redemptive work will have completed its sanctifying work in us. No longer will the vestiges of sin or remnants of the flesh prevent us from basking in the full glory and fellowship of the Father and the Son. We will be one in and with Him (John 17:21).
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