Rev 3:1-6, Sardis
Alright, so tonight we continue in our journey through the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ, which means the unveiling or revealing of Jesus Christ.
Tonight we will be studying this 5th letter to the Churches, the letter to the Church at Sardis. By way of remembrance, we have been noticing that each letter follows an outline, that includes, 1. Positive Affirmation, 2. Corrective Exhortation, 3. Eternal Motivation, 4. Prophetic Revelation.
Each letter is unique in the way Jesus introduces Himself as having one of His attributes from Chapter 1. Additionally, each letter can be applied in at least four different ways, 1. Applied Locally, 2. Ecclesiastically, 3. Personally, 4. Prophetically- 7 eras of church history.
So far we have seen Ephesus representing the early church ear from 30 AD to about 100 AD. Smyrna, the persecuted church represented the second era from 100 AD to 313 AD. Next we saw Pergamos, the marriage of church and state, and representing 313 AD to 600 AD. Finally, last week we saw the middle ages of the church representing the height of papal power in the years of 600 AD to 1500 AD. We also discovered that this church remains today and some of it will see the great tribulation. We will see tonight that Sardis also remains as does Philadelphia and Laodicea.
Video - Intro to Sardis
We have been discovering that the names of these various cities had great meaning regarding the message of the letter. Sardis means remnant or escaping ones. It historically represents the period of 1500 to about 1750, which is the time of the Reformation.
Why does this period begin in 1500 AD? Does anyone know who was born about 1500? Martin Luther, who was the the main historical figure in the Reformation Movement born in 1483.
Martin Luther, O.S.A. (/ˈluːθər/; German: [ˈmaʁtiːn ˈlʊtɐ] (📷listen); 10 November 1483 – 18 February 1546) was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excommunication by the pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Holy Roman Emperor.
Luther taught that salvation and, consequently, eternal life are not earned by good deeds but are received only as the free gift of God's grace through the believer's faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer from sin. His theology challenged the authority and office of the pope by teaching that the Bible is the only source of divinely revealed knowledge, and opposed sacerdotalism by considering all baptized Christians to be a holy priesthood. Those who identify with these, and all of Luther's wider teachings, are called Lutherans, though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical (German: evangelisch) as the only acceptable names for individuals who professed Christ. (wikipedia)
The reformation was a movement away from the Roman Catholic system and it’s extra Biblical practices and beliefs and moving back to the Word of God.
These practices included:
· Buying indulgences
· Infallibility of the Pope
· Chaining the bible to the altar
· Adoration of Mary
· Praying to Saints
As a result of the Protestant movement millions of Christians were tortured and murdered by the Roman Catholic Church.
The historical city of Sardis was in decline at the time of John’s writing about 100 AD. Sardis reminds me a lot of the US in the sense that it was known for its softness and luxury and immorality. It was seen as a place to obtain easy money and as a matter of fact the first coins minted in Asia were at Sardis.
Sardis had interesting history of being overconfident. This was due to its position on a high plateau and surrounded on three sides by high cliff walls. They only needed to defend one side and it was elevated. They got so overconfident that they stopped even watching the walls. King Cyrus who also took down Babylon eventually got in by observing a soldier drop his helmet off the cliff wall and went down a hidden trail to retrieve it. The rest is history.
Interestingly, this happened a second time a few hundred years later.
Sardis had a history, both in Ancient History and in the eyes of God spiritually, of a lack of vigilance. Meaning staying awake and alert. The Word gives strict admonition to the Watchman to be Vigilant.
1 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’ 7 “So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 10 “Therefore you, O son of man, say to the house of Israel: ‘Thus you say, “If our transgressions and our sins lie upon us, and we pine away in them, how can we then live?” ’
Note: Jesus has nothing good to say about Sardis, at least Thyatira had a number of good things to go along with the bad.
So let’s read the text,
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 4 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.” ’
Now let’s get ready to dig in and see what the Spirit is saying to the Church tonight;
V1-“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
Jesus says He holds the 7 spirits of God and the 7 stars (Is 11:2). From the picture of Christ in Chapter 1. To remind us the 7 spirits of God refer to
2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
and the 7 stars from
20 The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.
The number 7 indicates?? Completeness or perfection, he has knowledge of the whole church, even you and me. nothing is hidden from “Him who we have to give account.”
Here an important note: why would He emphasize the Holy Spirit in His description? The protestant church, main line denominations have always been extremely uncomfortable with the HS. In the beginning the church was known for its power. Things were happening, lives were being changed, people were being healed. Think about it? The God know I has so much more for us but that would cause us to give up control.
- I know your works… Jesus knows what a church is and does.
- You have a reputation or “a name” .. Greek for “name” is onoma and is where we get our word Denomination. Many are trusting in the name over the building and it’s traditions. Kind of like a branch cut from the tree. It looks alive but its dead.
- But you are dead.. no signs of persecution. One thing about dead warriors they are no threat to the enemy. Here there is no warning against false doctrine, they don’t care. I wonder do you care do I really care?
He goes on;
V2- “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
Be watchful, literally “wake up”, strengthen what remains and is about to die.
In an article from Church Leadership.org
For the last 15 plus years, we, at the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development (FASICLD) in partnership with Into Thy Word Ministries (another Francis Schaeffer vision), have been in careful, steadfast research in quest of "why so many churches are failing."
What the Statistics Tell Us
This quest started in 1992 as a Fuller Institute project that was picked up by FASICLD in 1998, seeking what had happened and why the bride of Christ was in decline. God's marvelous Church has become culturally irrelevant and even distant from is prime purpose of knowing Him, growing in Him, and worshipping Him by making disciples! This is evidenced by what is going on in our culture and in our church. Most of the statistics tell us that nearly 50% of Americans have no church home. In the 1980s, membership in the church had dropped almost 10%; then, in the 1990s, it worsened by another 12% drop-some denominations reporting a 40% drop in their membership. And now, over half way through the first decade of the 21st century, we are seeing the figures drop even more!
What is Going on with the Church in America?
The United States Census Bureau Records give some startling statistics, backed up by denominational reports and the Assemblies of God U.S. Missions:
· Every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts!
· There were about 4,500 new churches started between 1990 and 2000, with a twenty year average of nearly 1000 a year.
· Every year, 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. This translates into the realization that people are leaving the church. From our research, we have found that they are leaving as hurting and wounded victims-of some kind of abuse, disillusionment, or just plain neglect!
· From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the USA declined by almost 5 million members (9.5 percent), while the US population increased by 24 million (11 percent).
- I spite of all this Jesus never gives up on them or us.
- Jesus tells them their deeds are not complete… unfinished work.
This makes me think of Jesus with the women at the well
23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
V3- “Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Remember how you received… that is get back to the Word and Spirit.
- Obey… need we say more.
- Repent… do a 180…
- See 1 Thes 2:13, For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.
The Word of God. Not some self help opinion book.
- Warning: If you don’t watch or wake up I will come like a thief, you won’t even know it. Remind us of anything, a thief in the night?? A a side note the word for thief in Greek is kleptēs , where we get our word klepto. What is Jesus saying here? Is He referring to the Rapture of the Church or maybe just your untimely death.
16 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.
V4- “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.
Few names… thus the name Sardis or a remnant.
- Pagan deities could not be worshiped in dirty clothes.
- They will walk with Jesus in white. Fellowship and Holiness.
V5- “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.
Overcomers will be in white garments, symbolizing: purity, righteousness, and holiness. See Matt 22:11-14
- I will not blot out his name from the book of life. What does this mean?
- By this, the overcomers are assured of their heavenly citizenship. In the ancient world, death or a criminal conviction could blot out the name of an ancient citizen from the city's book of the living, which was the city register.
- Does this mean that someone can lose their salvation? That someone is saved one day - their name is in the Book of Life - and another day, they have fallen away and their name has been blotted out from the Book of Life? We need to first see the context here in Revelation 3:5. The focus is assurance, so we should not think that names are being constantly erased and then re-written. The focus here is on assurance, not the idea that Jesus sits in heaven with a busy eraser. At the same time, we should carefully consider what the Word has to say about the Book of Life.
- See Galations 5:19-21… can one lose his salvation; it’s a matter of attitude. There is a Book of Life, and there are five different references to people being blotted out of the Book of Life. This means that the idea of being blotted out of the Book of Life should be taken seriously. Perhaps it is only a symbol, and that person's name was never there to begin with. Even if that is the case, the Lord still wants us to take it seriously, because there are some who by every human appearance are saved, yet will not be in heaven.
- 5 Ref’s to Blotting, Moses in Exodus
32 Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”
33 And the LORD said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.
28 Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, And not be written with the righteous.
Our text here in Rev 3:5 and
19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
- Book of Life… There is a Book of Life, and it will be opened and referenced on the Day of Judgement. This means that the Book of Life is real, and will be read.
12 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.
- There is a Book of Life, and it determines if we go to heaven or hell. This means that the Book of Life is important.
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.
- knowing our names are written there should bring us great joy.
20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
This life is just a blip on the radar in comparison to eternity. You can be sure tonight where you will spend eternity.
He closes and we will close tonight with this,
V6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’
Note to dead churches…Jesus is an expert at raising the dead…