The Church in Sardis

And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:1-6 (KJV)

In chapter 3:1-6 we will endeavor to show that Jesus gives the Holy Spirit to His Church, that local churches, because they are made up of a “Mixed multitude” (a term from the Exodus), often grieve His Spirit, what happens to the Church when He is grieved, and the hope of life which only comes by His Spirit.

It appears that complacency is a problem. We get in a place where the temperature is just right, the seats are soft and comfortable, there is no trouble to speak of, and we fall asleep. Suddenly, we awake and we find ourselves plagued with problems, or we may not awake, because the enemy has crept in on us while we were unaware and kills us. If a friend does not wake us up, then, death is inevitable.

That friend of course is Jesus. In this Scripture text He reveals Himself through another one of His characteristics. He had to go away, in the ascension, before he Spirit came. Now the Spirit of God in all His fullness can dwell and habitat in the life of every believer.

Jesus’s message to Sardis is one to “WAKE UP!” to your true situation. There was still hope for Sardis, but it was by the resurrection power of the Spirit. They could have life and power with God in no other way.
Jesus is the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT” who is the giver of life and power to live a clean, holy and endless life.

In verse 1 we have Jesus revealing Himself to the church of Sardis as the One who has the “Seven Spirits” – indicating the fullness of the Holy Spirit, and the “Seven Stars”. See chapter 1:4, 16.

The Holy Spirit is the source of life for the Church. Without the Spirit there is no life. We notice that Jesus reveals each part of His character as needed by each church. The church of Sardis certainly needed to see Jesus as “THE GIVER OF THE SPIRIT’. In chapter 4:5 we have “Seven burning lamps, which are the seven Spirits of God”. In chapter 5:6 we see “Seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God…”. We have a fullness of light, power, and spiritual enlightenment, which come from the Spirit of God.

The “Seven stars” are the pastors. Jesus places pastors in each of His local bodies as it pleases Him. If the pastor is the source of the church’s problem, then, Jesus will remove him and put in a replacement. It could be the people of Sardis was blaming their pastor. Accusing him of not doing his job, or the church’s lack of growth, its complacency, its dying or death. They could have been saying, “These sermons you have been preaching are irrelevant to our need. There is no threat from without. We are not near dying”. The pastor on the other hand may have just blended in, became one of the neighborhood. “When in Rome do as the Romans do”.

Sardis was a city on a hill. it was protected by cliffs. It was virtually impregnable. However, it was overthrown at least twice by enemies while the guards slept at their post; thinking, “We are impregnable, there is no danger”.

Jesus says that this church has a name of being alive – they still have a name over the door, they are still keeping their programs going, but there is little difference in the practice of the church and the practice of the city – “But you are dead”, says Jesus. It really does not matter what the people in the community say about the church. What really counts is what Jesus says.

In verse two, it would almost seem fitting to say, that, the phrase “Be watchful” could also read “WAKE UP!”.

Consider Paul’s writing to the Romans in chapter 13:11-14. It is time for the Church to “Wake up”. Revival is needed.

Sardis could very well represent the time of the “Reformation” if we were looking at that dispensationally. During the “Dark ages” the professing church had become villianous. Killing, enslaving and conquering of land was the work of a majority of the “church” in this time. The true Church had fallen asleep. The doctrine of the church was to earn your salvation or pay for it with money. You could even pay the “Priests” to pray some poor soul into Heaven. If you could do that, why not pay them to pray an enemy into hell. The church, then, used the name of Jesus, but few within it really knew Him.
Jesus saw the need and He called out brave, and bold men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Knox, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and others to raise a mighty voice, to put the Word of God back into the hands of the people. To preach the true gospel of grace. The people began to wake up. The Church began to identified more with Jesus now, and less with the world.

Jesus’s words sound as though there is still hope…
“Strengthen the things that remain” is probably a reference to the small minority who were loving the Lord Jesus. Everytime they tried to work for Jesus the majority would stop it. The works were not perfect or complete in His eyes. Those who loved Jesus were the only possessors of the Spirit. A complacent spirit grieves the Spirit of God. The Spirit keeps us alert and aware. When we pay no attention to Him we grieve Him, and our source of power and strength erodes until ‘rigor mortis’ sets in. The Spirit never leaves the individual true believer, but He does and will leave from empowering a local church.

The only hope (v. 3) for a church in such as the afore mentioned condition is to get back to the basics. “Remember” salvation by grace through faith, hold on to it as though your life depended on it (it does), and repent. Confess your deadness, your complacent spirit, your grieving of the Holy Spirit.

If there is no awakening Jesus warns, that He will come as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:4). This would, of course, be only upon those who are not “Overcomers” as the next two verses deal with.

A living organism has … growth, repair, reproduction, and power. If these are missing in a local church that church is either dying or dead. The church needs revival. If the believers at Sardis did not obey God Jesus warned He would “Come as a thief”.

In verses 4 and 5 the judgment that awaited a majority of “church members” would be avoided by the “Overcomers”. The “Overcomer” is a saved – born again – individual who is constantly growing in his/her walk with Christ, and by God’s grace is always faithful.

White is a symbol of righteousness, purity, cleanliness. Jesus mentions only a few who “Have not defiled their garments”. Jesus says, “They are worthy”. They have been made worthy because of the Holy Spirit and the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT” Jesus Christ. The only way of righteousness or being worthy is in His Spirit.
The “Book of Life” is mentioned several times in the Scriptures. Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; Exodus32:32; Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3 just to list a few. Some believe this implies one can be saved and lose it. That would be contrary to God’s grace. If we do nothing to deserve God’s grace, then, how can we presume that we can do something to get out of His grace? The “Book of Life” has had written in it the names of everyone who was ever conceived. When a person died apart from Christ his/her name is “Blotted out of the book of life”. When a person believes and confesses that Jesus is Lord, and believes that God raised Him [Jesus] from the dead, then God writes that person’s name in the “Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27) and his/her name remains in the “Book of Life”.

Jesus says, that He will confess this individual’s name before the Father.
Some points to note about the BOOK OF LIFE:

1. Contains the names of all the living;
2. Revelation 13:8; 17:8 suggest that the names of saints are written in the book from the foundation of the world – before they have done anything good or bad;
3. Chosen in Christ before the beginning of time (Ephesians 1:4; Matthew 25:34).
4. As unbelievers die their names are removed from the BOOK OF LIFE (Psalm 69:28).

Once again, to the Church of Sardis, the message of Jesus is requesting/commanding His people’s hearing (v. 6). It is an invitation to hear the Holy Spirit speak to the heart of the true believer of Jesus. It seems especially appropriate in this letter, because Jesus is showing Himself as the “GIVER OF THE SPIRIT”. Hear His words. Hear Him and believe and do them.

In conclusion, the prophet said, “This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6). If the church is to be the Church it must operate in the presence of God. The Holy Spirit must be a continued welcome and wanted guest within the local church, and the total Body of Christ.

To “Grieve the Spirit” is to make Him an unwanted guest. Unwanted guests do not feel like staying very long, and begin to pull away any influence, and make themselves absent. God gives His people a commandment not to grieve the Spirit; “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30). The Holy Spirit will never leave a born again person, but when we pay Him little or no attention; ignore His teaching, leadership, comfort, convictions, righteousness, and judgment we will certainly be without His powerful influence.

Why do churches die? Because they neglect Jesus and His gift that He has given. He is the GIVER OF THE SPIRIT.

Only those in the local Church who heed the warnings of the Spirit and repent of their foolish deeds will overcome. Jesus’s promises to the “Overcomers” are for all those who are repentant.

The Church must stop grieving the Holy Spirit; the Church must depend on the Spirit, not the promises and promotions of the flesh and man; the Church of the 21st century must wake up out of its comfort, and lethargy, and live for God. The Church must experience revival.

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He Will Come Again… Be Ready

As I have studied the Olivet Discourse there have been several questions which have crossed my mind. Some of those questions I have written down, some I remember without writing them down, and some just continue to come to my mind. There is one thing I want to be sure of and that is that I interpret what Jesus said correctly, and “Rightly divide the word of truth” as Paul taught Timothy.
In studying throughout the Gospel according to Matthew, I am carrying the theme; because I see it in the writing, the genealogy, the tone, etc.; that of JESUS THE KING. There were some who wanted to force Him to be king; however it was not the time. There were some who refused to see Him as the King, and hated Him. The theme, JESUS THE KING, continues throughout this study of the Olivet Discourse.
Some of the questions I have asked myself in this study are obvious to most men who study the Word. First of all, To whom is Jesus speaking? Secondly, what is the Abomination of desolation? Third, when will this take place? Fourth, has it already taken place or is it yet a future event? Those are some of the questions I asked concerning the twenty fourth chapter.
When I came to chapter twenty five I asked some more.

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” Matthew 25:1-4 (KJV)

The first quesion I asked here is “Who are the ‘ten virgins’?” Secondly, “What are the lamps and what is the oil?” Thirdly, “Where is the Bride?”; “Has the groom already came and taken her to his home, and now has come for the wedding party?” My last question for here, but not exhausted, is “Could these ‘ten virgins’ represent Israel and Judah, and that 50 percent of them will believe Jesus?” Like I said they are only questions. Most of this study is going to come from my own heart, I pray fed by the Word and the Spirit of God, and not from commentaries – though that is not a bad thing – and I pray that there will nothing be written here that will lead any astray from God and His Word.

The last time I presented a study where Jesus had refered to the ‘kingdom of heaven’ was in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew. There are about seven parables which Jesus gives, and each of them (except the first) begin with, “The kingdom of heaven…” Luke mentions the “Kingdom of God”, and some ask the question; “Is there a difference between the ‘kingdom of heaven’, and ‘the kingdom of God’?” Of all the explanations I have heard on this; those who say there is a difference, and those who say there is no difference; I find confusing. It seems to me that they are dealing with the same “Kingdom”, and Luke was seeing the kingdom as being overseen by the Father, and Matthew seeing it after “All things were under His feet…”, after the cross and resurrection; and being ruled by our Lord and Savior.

In the first five verses of this chapter we have “ten virgins”. Virgins are seen as a symbol or type of purity. Here they represent what in the modern day wedding would be called bridesmaids. The largest wedding party in which I was a participant, was made of of one bride, one groom, six bridesmaids, and six groomsmen. My brother and I were two of the six groomsmen. The way I have understood the Jewish wedding is like this: The vows have been made a year or so before the consummation of the couple. Time is given for the groom to return to his home, prepare a place for he and his bride to live, and have a means of living the first year together without being apart, in order to get to know one another better, and grow in love with each other. After that year of the groom working, and preparing a home he would return for her at an unappointed time, and she was to be ready; the sound of the herald crying, “The bridegroom is coming, the bridegroom is coming” was all the warning she received. That brings me to the question, “In this picture, where is the bride?” Has she already been taken to the home? and now it is time to bring the wedding party together for the Marriage supper?

Leaving that final question unanswered, for now; I will proceed with the study. The ten virgins representing a people who should be prepared for the coming of the bridegroom; however, only half of them are ready; one half having their lamps and oil with there lamps, and half having the lamps but no oil. In this there is another question: What is this oil? Oil is necessary for the burning of the lamps, needed to provide light should the bridegroom come in the night. Some have said this is the symbol or picture or type of the Spirit of God [Holy Spirit]. If this represents the Holy Spirit does that mean the five lose the presence of the Spirit? Does it mean that the Spirit of God can be purchased since we are told later, “…but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy…”?

It seems to me that this parable likens the ten virgins to the nation of Israel, and/or maybe Israel and the nations. It could be Israel and the nations, since the number 12 seems to always represent Israel alone. In the events of chapter twenty four we looked at those signs and the times as being part of the time of Jacob’s trouble, or what is known to Christians as the Tribulation period. It seems that thought must contine here, and to be near or at the end of the Tribulation. If that is the case, then the bride is in the home of the bridegroom, and he is returning for the prepared wedding party to take them home for the wedding supper.

At any rate, there were five wise and five foolish. Five were prepared and five were unprepared. Could it be that only half of the survivors of the Tribulation will be going to the Wedding/Marriage Supper of the Lamb? What of the other half. I have written on that a little in the previous study (Matthew 24:36-44); ” Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” Here is the paragraph where I dealt with that:

“On that day it seems there will be a separation which takes place in that moment; at least in that very day. Two working side by side – one will be left to live on in the kingdom of Jesus because of their faith in Him, and the other will perish. Matthew’s gospel mentions two men in the field, and two women at the mill, and would probably cover every situation of the workers in that time to come. It leaves us to understand that no gender, or workplace, is without the separation. One believes and is left to live on in the Kingdom or our Lord, while the unbelieving perish, and await the final judgment.”

On that day no one will be able to stand before the Lord without being prepared. Prepared in His grace. If the foolish virgins would have been ready they would not have left, and they would not have needed to go seek more oil. When Jesus comes again to this earth, there will be no second chances for being prepared. What happens to the five foolish virgins, or the half who live through the Tribulation yet are not prepared for His coming? They will perish. The believing will continue to live in the Millennial reign of our Lord and Savior.
As Christians today, we must live faithfully, always be ready; for we do not know when our Lord comes. Even when it seems that He has delayed or is not coming; He will come.

LAST DAYS: THOUGH LAWLESSNESS SHALL ABOUND THE FAITHFUL WILL ENDURE TO THE END

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:12-13 (KJV)

The Spirit of God has always been at work in the world, but not as He has been working since the departure of Jesus in the clouds (Acts 1:9-11). Jesus had promised that He would send the Comforter (John 14:16; 16:5-16) when He returned to the Father. We read in the Old Testament of the Holy Spirit coming on certain individuals, however, the Spirit of God doesn’t seem to abide with them, or continue with them, it is for occasional needs that arise. The Spirit came on Saul who had just been chosen as the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:9-12), and it is seen in Samson one of the judges of Israel (Judges 14:5-6), and there are other Biblical examples of the appearances of the Spirit of God upon His chosen people. The Spirit of God came on these individuals as the need arose, and to put away evil from Israel.

There has been evil in this world since the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the garden. The Spirit of God has kept that evil in check, even through the freewill of man. We can see the power of God throughout the Old Testament in the flood, in the call of Abraham and Sarah, the bondage of Joseph to Egypt, and eventually the bondage of Israel in Egypt as slaves. We definitely see God’s delivering power as the Pharoah is confronted to let God’s people go, and by his will he refuses, thus opening a floodgate of judgment upon Egypt; until finally after the death of his son Pharoah breaks, lets the children of Israel go, only to then change his mind, sending his army after them to kill them or bring them back; and the army of Egypt perishes in the Red Sea.

There has been lawlessness, evil, and sin since the fall, and it has always been kept to a minimum by the work of the Spirit of God. That may be hard for some to see and understand, however, when we realize that human beings are totally depraved – not meaning that we are as sinful as we could be, but that if we were left to ourselves, without God, we grow increasingly worse in wickedness – we might get better understanding of the hindering of evil by the work of the Spirit of God. It is almost horrifying to think what the world would be like without God’s intervention in human affairs. Those who want that will one day see what the world will be like without God. Atheists cry for a world without God, evidently thinking the world would be a better place, without Him. Thinking mankind is getting better, progressing in knowledge [science], technology, and medicine the non-theist mind believes that mankind can solve his own ills and problems and have peace on earth. But first, in the thinking of the non-theist, there must be no God.

During the time for which Jesus is speaking, there will be such lawlessness as has never been seen before. We think that things are bad now with men killing their wives, wives killing their husbands, mothers and fathers killing their children, children killing their parents, parents and step-parents raping, molesting and killing their children, students going on murderous rampages in schools and colleges; yet, with all of this the Spirit of God reigns, rules and overrules for now. We are only seeing the introduction of what is to come, a prelude, a very small sample of the horror which will come on the world. Maybe using some exaggeration; that day will make today look like the millennial reign of Christ in comparison.

As Christians before this day comes we must be ever vigilant in proclaiming the gospel message of Jesus Christ. We don’t want any of our loved ones; family, friends, or close relatives, or even those who may have made us their enemies to go through the event that is going to try those who “dwell on the earth” and be the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). We are to love the appearing of the Lord (2 Timothy 4:8). It seems that the appearing of the Lord is getting to be the farthest thing from many professing Christian’s hearts and minds. We want to see Jesus, and to see Him face to face.

There will be a multitude who will believe in Jesus Christ after the disappearance of the Church. It will probably be the largest number of people believing in such a short period of time, that has ever happened in the history of salvation. This time will not be peaceful for those who believe. Their lives will be in constant jeopardy; any property they own will probably be lost – taken by the hater of Christ; and any business(es) owned by believers will be confiscated and given to the estate of the Christ hater. In order to live many will flee to remote areas, to the mountains and the hills, and will be trusting their lives to the hands of God. They will be unable to buy or sell, therefore groceries, and goods will be hard to come by (Revelation 13:16-17). However, no matter what comes their way, they will endure to the end. They will endure to the end of their lives. They will endure to the end of the tribulation. They will endure till Christ comes again.

Let me pose this thought or question for the Christians who are citizens of the USA and other free nations, of 2015: If I will not stand for Christ today when I have freedom, why should I believe I would stand and speak for Him when those freedoms are gone? We are losing our freedoms today. It is seen in the arrest of Kim Davis, and law suits against others who have refused to violate their Christian convictions, and conscience in the name of “civil rights” of others. If I am ashamed to speak for Him today, I will certainly be ashamed of Him when I have no freedom. In fact Jesus said, “If you are ashamed of Me I will be ashamed of you before My Father in heaven.” (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26)

The apostle Paul writes, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV).

Surely the Christian of 2015 can see that we are in perilous times for sure. We too must endure though the times be evil. Jesus is coming soon, and we need to be ready.