24. THE CHURCH AGE OF SARDIS.
The church of Sardis represents the fifth church age 1517 to (the founding of the London Missionary Society in) 1795.
Back in the first century of the Church, during the age of the church of Ephesus, the Church is rebuked for losing it’s first love, and warned to repent and do the first works, (works out of a heart attitude of love and adoration towards God) or Jesus Christ will come quickly and remove your lamp stand.
It would appear that the Church did not heed this warning; for the lamp stand was removed and without its light, the Church began it’s decent into the dark ages, the age of the church of Thyatira. Throughout most of this church age, the Holy Bible was not available to the commoners, (the lay members of the Church). Only the priest had ready access to the Holy Bible and in the West nearly all the Bibles were written in Latten, a language that even most priests had little understanding of. Therefore, there was very little light of the gospel during the dark ages.
Towards the end of the dark ages, Bibles written in the languages of the common people became available. The Holy Bible, a treasure that had been buried for over a thousand years, had been found at great price. Then as God’s faithful servants began to dig into God’s word, they found a pearl of great price; the truth that we are saved by faith and not by works.
So, by the beginning of the church age of Sardis, once again the good seed of the gospel of Jesus Christ was being scattered far and wide, as it had been in the beginning of the church age of Ephesus. All who believed and received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour were born again into the kingdom of heaven, and the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Bright and Morning Star entered into their hearts.
However, after 1,200 years of spiritual darkness, in which great masses of people were fed false doctrine and bound by the Nicolaitans and idol worship, the hearts of most people had become very hard ground into which to sow the seed, and the devil quickly came and stole most of the good seed away from the hearts of man before it could take root.
In Southern Europe most people quickly lost their Bibles when the church enforced its ban on all Bibles not written in Latin, and very soon they became just as firmly bound by the Nicolaitans, idol worship and false doctrine as ever. While in Northern Europe, although the idols were largely removed, and most of the common people now owned their own copy of the Bible; the Nicolaitans still dominated the Church. This oppression of the common people, coupled with the teaching of false doctrines on baptism, meant very few were born again and even fewer believed and were baptized into Christ. Therefore, most never received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, necessary to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ, capable of carrying out the Great Commission.
Mark 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these sign will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
Thus it was that although the Church in Northern Europe had a reputation that it was alive, except for very few, it was just as dead spiritually as the Church in Southern Europe.
Revelation3:1 “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 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 angles.” “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Jesus introduces Himself as He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. Back at the beginning of the Church, when the good seed of the gospel was first scattered the seven stars (the pastors of the seven churches) are in the hand of Jesus Christ, but with the removal of the lampstands from the churches, the churches lost the Holy Spirit, and the stars, (the pastors) forsook the safe hand of Jesus Christ, and placed themselves unknowingly in the hand of Satan.
During the church age of Pergamos (325 – 594 AD), the church dwelt where Satan’s throne was (Revelation 2:13), and during the church age of Thyatira (594 – 1517 AD), most churchgoers knew the depths of Satan. (Revelation 2:24).
Yes, it is true; you are safe in the hand of Jesus Christ and He will not let you fall from His hand; but you can forsake Jesus Christ, turn your back on Him, and choose to leap out of the hand of Jesus and into the hand of Satan. During the dark ages, most of the pastors were not in the hand of Jesus Christ, and were not preaching the gospel of Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. They were in the hand of Satan, preaching lies that held the people in bondage to sin and torment.
By the end of the church age of Sardis, most of the pastors of Northern Europe were back in the hand of Jesus Christ, preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and the seven Spirits of God were being restored to the church.
Revelation 3:2 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 received and heard; hold fast and repent. - - - - - - - - -
This is the church of the reformation; the church that had come out of the dark ages into the light. Yes, though there was much that was not of God which had to be discarded, but there were also many good things that remained, and the church leaders and prophets of the reformation church had to be watchful and strengthen those good things.
During the reformation, the reformers threw out many wrong teachings, but on the heels of the reformation, the devil tried to steel away some basic foundational truths that were still retained by the Church. Truths like our belief in the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, that man is an eternal soul, the reality of Hell, the coming resurrection and the coming judgment.
Thus it was necessary for the church leaders and prophets of the reformation church to be watchful and strengthen the things that remained. This is also a warning to we who are the Church of this age, to be both watchful of what is taught in our churches, and to make sure that our children and new converts are all taught the truth and are well grounded in the basic foundational doctrines of the Christian Faith.
Revelation 3: 3 Remember therefore how you 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.
How did the church of the reformation received and hear the Word of God? They received and heard the Word of God with great joy, and many were willing to give their all in order to receive their own copy of the Bible.
The Spirit of Christ within me says, “Hold fast to that Word of God. For if you do not hold fast the birds of the air, Satan will come and snatch the Word of God away from you.”
Hold fast and repent. To have received the Word of God, and then not to hang on to it and repent is foolishness in the extreme. Jesus likens such a person, to someone who builds his house upon the sand (Matthew 7:24 – 29). If you build your house upon the sand, it is only a matter of time before the storms will come, and your house will come crashing down. But if you build your house on a solid rock foundation, even when the storms come, your house will not fall.
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 (Revelation 3:3).
For the man who builds his house upon the sand, on the great and terrible Day of the Lord, Jesus Christ will come upon him as a thief in the night, and he will be swept away into the pit of Hell, to burn in the fires of Hell forever and ever. But to the righteous who look forward to this day, Jesus will not come as a thief in the night, for God has not appointed the righteous to wrath (I Thessalonians 5:4 - 8).
Although the Day of the Lord will come upon the wicked as a thief in the night, the righteous will not be caught by surprise.
Some would argue, did not Jesus say in
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but My Father only.”
But let us not forget the next verse.
Matthew 24:37 “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
Two thousand years ago, neither Jesus nor the angel of heaven knew when that day or hour would be, but at some time before the Day of the Lord, God has to tell Jesus and the angels when this day and hour will be. Otherwise Jesus and the angels will miss the big day. Not only will God tell the angels and Jesus when the big day will be God will also tell His servants, the prophets.
For it is written;
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Lord. Before the rains came, Noah was told that the rains would come in seven days (Genesis 7:4). Both Noah and his family were safely on the ark before the rains came. So when the rains came, they were not caught by surprise, but unrighteous carried on eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and did not know until the rains came and took them away.
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Revelation 3:4 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 angles.”
To the church in Sardis, which represents the church age of the reformation, Jesus Christ said you have a few names who have not defiled their garments.
In Biblical language, ‘a few’ is always the minority or lesser part of, while ‘many’ is always the majority or greater part of. Therefore this verse is telling us that during the age of the reformation church, the majority of the people attending church had defiled their garments. Therefore they were not walking with Jesus Christ, and Jesus did not consider them worthy.
Unless we remember to retain the joy and the love we had when we first received and heard the gospel of Jesus Christ, and hold fast to the Word of God, that joy, love and the Word will quickly be taken from us and our garments will become defiled. We will cease walking with Jesus, we will no longer be counted as worthy, and our names will be blotted out of the book of life.
Oh yes! You may still be attending church every Sunday, singing in the choir, playing in the band, and teaching Bible lessons to the saints, but you yourself will be eternally damned, because you did not remember the joy of your first salvation and hold fast. Therefore you defiled your garments, and closed your ears to the truth, so that you can no longer hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The majority of the church of the reformation, and dare I say the majority of the church today, did not, and do not, have an ear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Let us all repent now, return to our first love and the joy of our first salvation and hang on tightly to the truths written in God’s Word.
Before we leave the church at Sardis, I would remind you that although their ways were not perfect, Christ dwelt in their midst and they had the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Why has the Holy Spirit come upon us? In John 16:13 we are told that when the Spirit of Truth comes He will guide us into all truth.
So when the Holy Spirit comes, neither the presence of the Holy Spirit upon us, nor the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are a sign that we have it all together. Paul in writing to the church in Corinth (I Corinthians chapter 13) makes it clear, no matter what gifts we have, if we have not love, it profits us nothing. Therefore we should “pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts” (I Corinthians chapter 14:1).
Jesus Christ said,
John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Most people come to Jesus Christ and invite Him into their lives, because they have a need in their lives that only Jesus can fill. Then after being born again, part of the growing and maturing process is to develop into a disciple who loves and cares for others, so that Jesus Christ through us can meet the needs of others. The sign of a healthy mature Christian church is that the brethren love one another. Which brings us to the church in Philadelphia.
Written by Kenneth Allan Clark and printed and published by
VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN MINISTRIES INTERNATIONAL. P.O. BOX 144 WYNNUM QLD 4178 AUSTRALIA.
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Scripture taken from the “Clarks English Translation” © Copyright 2011 by Victorious Christian Ministries International. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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