What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 3:14-22 – The Danger Of A Lukewarm Church

We are studying verse-by-verse through the Book of Revelation and this morning we will finish chapter 3 as we examine the last of the seven churches of Asia Minor.  Unfortunately, this last church is the worst of the seven.  It has often been called “the lukewarm church,” the church that makes Christ sick.

Perhaps the most helpful thing for us to know about the city of Laodicea 2000 years ago is to know something of its poor water supply.  In fact, it really had no water supply at all.  The irony is that it was geographically situated between two cities known for their water.  To the north lay the city of Hieropolis, known for its hot, bubbling waters that were sought out for medicinal purposes.  To the south, lay the city of Colossae, known for its nice, cold drinking water.  Then, in the middle was located Laodicea, a city with no water supply at all.  Laodicea had to pipe-in water from some hot springs located six miles away.  The problem was, when the water finally traveled through the six-mile long aqueduct, it did not have enough time to cool.  To this day, people living in the area store water in jars so there is time enough for it to cool.  When water does not have time to cool, it is lukewarm and nearly impossible to drink.  Add to this the fact the water is heavy in minerals, you have a situation that makes for some very unpleasant drinking water.  If you are expecting nice, cold water and you got a big gulp of lukewarm water your first reaction is to spit it out of your mouth.

The Lord Jesus Christ says that is the way He regards the church that was situated there in Laodicea.  He says the church is living up to the infamy of its poor water supply.  It had become a church that would make one sick.  That is a pretty harsh indictment, isn’t it?  We will learn this morning from Christ’s words to this lukewarm church. 

There are three main lessons . . .

I.  We Must Acknowledge Our Steadfast Creator – Verse 14.

We have been saying that our Lord Jesus Christ is going over His X-ray report with each church.  He can see right through the superficiality of the church and can see what is wrong on the inside.  As He begins each report, He identifies Himself in a way that helps us understand Him a little better.  He identifies Himself in verse 14 with three designations, “the Amen,” “the Faithful and True Witness,” and “the Beginning of the creation of God.”

He is our Steadfast Creator.  He is the “amen,” which means truth.  And He is the “faithful” and “true” witness.  That is, He is reliable, dependable, steadfast.  Then, He says He is “the Beginning of the creation of God.”  The word “beginning” there is the Greek word, “arche,” a word that means “beginning” or “source.”  Jesus Christ is the source of God’s creation.  This reminds us of John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”  We also think of what the Bible says in Colossians 1:16-17, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”

It is important that we get this correct so as not to commit the error of Mormonism or the error of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  God did not “create Christ.”  The Bible teaches that God is One.  God is One in essence, three in persons.  He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Son of God has always been.  He was in the beginning with God the Father.   There was never a time the Son was not.  He is eternal.  Our Lord Jesus reminds us of that truth right here.  He is “the beginning of the creation of God,” the “source of God’s creation.”  All things were created through Him and for Him.

II.  We Must Analyze Our Spiritual Condition – Verses 15-17.

I hope this morning we will all do this.  We do not want to be like the guy who always came out of the service telling the preacher, “You really gave it to ‘em, today!”  Every time the guy came through the line that is what he would say.  One Sunday there was a terrible snowstorm so the only two people in the church were the preacher and this man.  The preacher preached as hard as ever.  At the end the man came out of the sanctuary and said, “Preacher that was a tremendous sermon . . . and if only they had been here you would have really given it to ‘em!”

Jesus identifies the “works” of the church in Laodicea as “neither cold nor hot.”  The city was not known for hot water like the hot healing springs to the north, nor was the city known for its cold water like Colossae to the south.  The city’s water was lukewarm and Jesus says that was indicative of the church in the city, as well.  He says, in essence, “Your empty works make me sick.  Like taking a drink of lukewarm water I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

He then describes what is wrong with their spiritual condition in verse 17, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”  The Christians at Laodicea believed they were rich and wealthy and in need of nothing.  The city certainly felt that way.  Laodicea was a very prosperous city.  Coins minted from Laodicea had the image of the cornucopia on them, the symbol of wealth and affluence.  Laodicea was so prosperous that when the city was leveled by an earthquake in AD 60, rather than turning to the Roman government for help, the entire city was re-built by its own citizens.  The people were smugly self-sufficient and self-satisfied.

The problem is that this smug self-sufficiency and self-satisfaction found its way into the church.  The church members viewed themselves as rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing, and Jesus says, “In point of fact, you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.”

Let’s analyze our own spiritual condition.  One of the benefits of a storm such as the one that hit our town Friday evening is that it reminds us of just how dependent we are upon God.  When things are going well, we may feel “rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing.”  All it takes is a good storm to show us just how poor we really are.  We depend upon God and His grace for everything.  Our dependence upon God for physical needs reminds us of our dependence upon God for spiritual needs.  Without God we are hopelessly lost.  Our sin makes us “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” in God’s sight.  We must turn to Him for Help.

We must realize that we are spiritually poor, spiritually blind, and spiritually naked in the sight of God before we can be saved from our sin.  So long as we think “we are okay” in His sight, we are not going to experience His forgiveness of sin, because we do not think there’s any need for it.  The fact that we may enjoy nice homes, nice clothes, and nice automobiles does not mean that we are spiritually okay in the sight of God.  We must regularly get honest before God, analyzing our spiritual condition and seeking His grace.

III.  We Must Apply Our Savior’s Counsel – Verses 18-22.

Jesus counsels us as to what we need to do to fix our situation.  In verse 18 He says, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.”  In essence, Jesus is saying, “You need to start shopping at a different store.  Buy gold that lasts, buy clothing that lasts, the righteousness of Christ – that is what you ought to be wearing, and “anoint your eyes with My eye salve, so that you may really see.”  Laodicea had gained some notoriety for an eye salve called, “Phrygian Powder.”  People bought it and anointed their eyes with it, believing it would help them see better.  Jesus says, “You are spending too much time shopping at the wrong store.  Come buy from Me the things that last.  You are so worried about your physical sight that you have totally neglected your spiritual sight.”

So many of us understand this truth and that is why we can sing with feeling the words of John Newton, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

Jesus says in verse 19, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.”  God says, “I love you, church.  That’s why I am rebuking you and punishing you.  It’s so that you will be zealous and repent.”  God does that to us in His love.  He often allows some pain and suffering our way so that we will turn back to Him.  We must regularly turn back to Him.  He seeks fellowship with us.  You see that in the image painted in verse 20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

This is an interesting picture, isn’t it?  Jesus Christ is outside of the church building trying to get in!  It reminds me of that story about the janitor of a big fancy church who was seeking membership in the church.  He was already a Christian and he felt led to talk to the pastor one day about joining the church.  The pastor sort of looked down upon the janitor and said something like, “Well, why don’t you take some time to pray about it.”  The janitor said he would.  Several months passed and the pastor one day saw the janitor and wondered why he had not asked him about membership again.  The pastor said, “Did you pray about joining the church?”  The janitor said, “Oh, yes.  I talked to the Lord about trying to get into this church and the Lord said, ‘Don’t worry about it.  I, too, have been trying to get into that church for years!’”

The words of Jesus are directed at the church, but His words apply to both the Christian and the unbeliever: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”  In the Ancient Near East, to speak of “dining” with someone was to speak of sharing intimate fellowship with a person.  Time was spent talking, encouraging, and fellowshipping. To share a meal was to share a life.

If we will apply the counsel of our Savior we will enjoy fellowship with Christ and reconciliation with God the Father.

Jesus says in verse 21, “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”  The New Testament speaks often of the Christian’s future reign with Christ.  The time will come when we will reign and rule alongside Jesus Christ.  The point again is eternal fellowship with our Lord and Savior.  Christians will share in the glory of Christ for eternity.  Eternity is at stake.  That is why Jesus concludes with the familiar phrase in verse 22, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  This phrase has now occurred seven (7) times in chapters 2 and 3.  The implication is that it is possible for Christ to be speaking and yet we do not hear.

Dr. Vance Havner used to say, “The big question today is not, ‘Is God speaking?’  The really big question is, ‘Are you listening?’”

May God deliver us from ever being a lukewarm church, lukewarm about Christ, lukewarm about the cross, lukewarm about our condition, and lukewarm about the condition of others.  You know, if there’s one major lesson we’ve learned this week in the face of the tragic death of a much beloved teenager in our community, it is that time is short.  None of us is promised the next moment.  For that reason, we want to be busy telling others about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our study of the seven churches ends with the phrase that has occurred seven times, “He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  Again, the implication is that it is possible for Christ to be speaking or the gospel to be shared and yet we are not listening.  While the phrase is directed to Christians, the same is true with respect to our evangelistic efforts.  We even speak of our efforts “falling on deaf ears.”

The older we get, the harder of hearing we become.  Now that’s not just true for senior adults.  Actually the process of “presbyacusis,” or “hearing loss” begins at an early age.  I came across a fascinating story about a new ring tone being used by teenagers on their cell phones.  It is usually called either “Teen Buzz” or “Mosquito Ring tone.”  It is popular with the teens because most adults cannot hear it.  They will put it on their cell phones and then text message each other in school.  The tone is 14 kilohertz and is a high-pitched tone that most folks find difficult to hear with advancing hearing loss beginning somewhere around their 20s.  The older we get, the more difficult it becomes to hear.  The same is true in the spiritual realm.  We do not always have “ears to hear.” 

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 3:7-13 – Being Faithful In The Midst of Trials!

If god brings you to it he will see you through it  We are continuing our series of studies, verse-by-verse, through the Book of Revelation.  We have been focusing upon the seven churches of Asia Minor and this week we are looking at the church in Philadelphia, what most scholars refer to as “The Faithful Church.”  Remember, that our Lord Jesus Christ is doing the talking here.  He is instructing the angel of each church to write down some things He has to say to each church.  One of the things that I have been emphasizing is that we must learn from these churches as the Spirit of God speaks to us through these messages, too.

Two words sum up much of the Christian life: “Keep Moving.”  When things get difficult and you think you’re ready to throw up your arms and quit, ready to say, “Maybe I will just sit this thing out, maybe I will take it easy now,” the answer often comes from that helpful little sign, “Keep Moving.”  Just keep moving.  Keep going.  Persevere.  Stay faithful.  Keep on keepin’ on.

The church at Philadelphia is a church that just kept moving.  All indicators suggest that the church was small, yet strong.  They could easily have thrown-in the towel.  They could have given up.  But they just kept moving.

As we have read about these seven churches we have noted that most of them have some things wrong with them that Jesus addresses.  There are only two exceptions to this pattern: the church at Smyrna and the church at Philadelphia.  There is no rebuke from our Lord Jesus Christ, only words of encouragement.

As we study this church, we learn three actions to take concerning our response to the Lord Jesus Christ . . .

I.  We Must Consider The Final Power of Christ – Verse 7.

In verse 7, we read of the absolute authority of Jesus Christ.  He is the final power.   There is none higher than He.  That is what we read in verse 7, “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, ‘These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.’”  Jesus is described as the one “who has the key of David,” a key with which “He opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.”  In the Bible, keys represent authority and power.  This statement of our Lord’s is an allusion to Isaiah 22:22.  In this verse, King Hezekiah appoints Eliakim as the chief steward of Hezekiah’s household.  Eliakim had access to the king and his palace.  If you wanted to get into the king’s household, then you had to go through Eliakim.  He held the keys.  He opened and shut the door.  He was the only way in.  He was the final authority and power.

In the same sense, Jesus Christ is described as the one “who has the key” to the house and kingdom of David.  Jesus Christ is the Davidic Messiah, the one who controls entrance into God’s kingdom.  He alone “opens and shuts” the door.  He is the only way in.  No one else has this authority and power.  This was probably very encouraging to the faithful Christians at the small church in Philadelphia.  They were no doubt persecuted time and again and were very likely excommunicated from the local synagogue of Jews.  They may have been shut-out of the synagogue, but Jesus Christ will never shut them out of the kingdom.  He is the sole “key-carrier” to the kingdom.

There is no authority higher than the Lord Jesus Christ.  He alone controls the keys to the kingdom.  He alone opens and shuts the door.  Mohammed does not open and shut the door.  Buddha does not open and shut the door.  No priest can open and shut the door.  No New Age Guru can open and shut the door.  Only the Lord Jesus Christ can open and shut the door to the kingdom.

The Bible says in 1 Timothy 2:5, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men; the Man Christ Jesus.”  In John 10:9, Jesus says, “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”  And just in case you have not heard it in awhile, Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes unto the Father except by Me.”

I read recently about Charles Weigle, an itinerant evangelist and gospel songwriter.  He returned home one day from an evangelistic crusade and found a note left by his wife of many years.  The note said that she had had enough of being the wife of an evangelist.   She was leaving him.  That event sent Weigle into the depths of despair and darkness. There were even times when he had contemplated suicide.  But, over time, his faith grew and he once again became active in Christian ministry.  It was the hard experiences such as his wife’s leaving him that shaped his thoughts to pen these words to a popular hymn:

I would love to tell you what I think of Jesus,

Since I found in Him a friend so strong and true;

I would tell you how He changed my life completely,

He did something that no other friend could do.

No one ever cared for me like Jesus,

There’s no other friend so kind as He;

No one else could take the sin and darkness from me,

O how much He cared for me.

There is no one like Jesus.

 He is holy.  He is true.  He alone holds the keys to the kingdom of God.  He alone can take the sin and darkness from our lives.  He alone is Master.  We must yield to Him and bow before Him.  We must consider the Final Power of Christ. 

Secondly . . .

II.  We Must Commit To Faithful Perseverance For Christ: Verses 8-10.

The church at Philadelphia teaches us about the faithful perseverance for Christ.  Verse 8 tells us, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it (again, a reference to Christ’s control of the kingdom of God); for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”  Jesus says to this church, “You have a little strength.”  This statement is not to be understood as a weakness.  This should be translated as, “You have but just a little power, just a little strength.”  It refers to a church that is a small church, a struggling church, a church that was not very impressive on the outside, just a little power, just a little influence, just a little strength; a church persecuted and yet, faithful.   Jesus is commending the church for her faithfulness even in light of the fact that she is relatively small and has little power and influence.  The church had committed to faithful perseverance despite her little strength.

Jesus goes on to say, “You have kept My word, and not denied My name.”  That is, “You are faithful.”  Jesus never calls us to be successful.  He calls us to be faithful – Just keep moving; Keep going; Keep on keepin’ on.  Commit to faithful perseverance for Christ.

Verse 9 says, “Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie – indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”  Those “who say they are Jews and are not, but lie” refers to those who reject Jesus as the Divine Messiah.  These are the Jews who live in Philadelphia who have excluded the Christians from worship at the synagogue.  They have excommunicated the Jewish Christians.  Jesus calls them “the synagogue of Satan.”  That does not sound very good, does it?

Jesus promises to bring vindication to the Christians.  He promises to vindicate them.  He promises to “prove them right.”  He says, “I will make them come and worship (better, bow down) before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”  In this, Jesus promised that He would vindicate His people and make sure that their persecutors recognized they were wrong, and that Jesus and His followers were right. The idea is of vindication before self-righteous “spiritual” persecutors. God promised that the church in Philadelphia would be vindicated before their persecutors.

God promised Israel that Gentiles would honor them and acknowledge their God (Isaiah 45:14).   Now the tables were somewhat turned, and these Jewish people will play the role of the heathen and acknowledge that the church is the Israel of God.  1 Corinthians 14:24-25 speaks of unbelievers falling down in the midst of Christians to worship God. This establishes that it was not Christians who were being worshipped, but God was worshipped in the presence of Christians. 

This is a picture of submission, not worship.  The Jews who had excluded the Christians would one day come and bow down before the Christians in submission to the truth that Jesus Christ really is the Divine Messiah.  The Christians will be vindicated.  Jesus will “prove them right.”

The same is true for you.  You keep being faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ.  One day our Lord Jesus will “prove you right.”  Allow God to take up your case.  You will be proven right in the end.  The Bible reminds us in Philippians 2:10-11that the day will come when, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  In the meantime, we must commit to faithful perseverance for Christ.

Jesus goes on to conclude, “And to know that I have loved you.”  As those who were once their enemies worshipped alongside them, they now knew that Jesus had loved these people they once persecuted.  The best way to destroy the enemies of the Gospel is to pray that God would change them into friends.

Persecuted people often long for justice against their persecutors (Revelation 6:10).  A passage from a second century Tertullian, a Christian historian shows this, “What sight shall wake my wonder, what my laughter, my joy and exultation?  As I see all those kings, those great kings… groaning in the depths of darkness!  And the magistrates who persecuted in the name of Jesus, liquefying in fiercer flames than they kindled in their rage against the Christians!”

In verse 10, Jesus says, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Jesus also promised them protection from the hour of trial coming on the whole world.

Most Bible scholars see this hour of trial as a prophetic reference to the Messianic woes, the Great Tribulation, which precede Jesus’ earthly kingdom. Jesus promised to keep these Christians from that hour of trial.  The phrase, “To test those who dwell on the earth: The test is directed against those who dwell on the earth” is used nine times in the Book of Revelation, and it speaks of those who are not saved in Jesus.  Revelation 17:8 makes the term synonymous with the lost, “And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world.”  This test is for unbelievers, not Christians.

The phrase, “Those who dwell on the earth” refers not to believers but to unbelievers who are objects of God’s wrath” throughout Revelation.  Christians are different.  Though we walk on this earth, our dwelling place is in heaven. We have been seated in heavenly places in Jesus (Ephesians 2:6).  We do not “dwell on the earth,” our life is hidden in Jesus (Colossians 3:3).

Some have questioned if the phrase “keep you from the hour of trial” means an escape before the Great Tribulation, or a promise protection in it?  Each side believes this passage easily supports their position.  Those who believe the church will be here on earth during this time of Great Tribulation focus on Jesus’ command to persevere, and say the context demands seeing this as protection that enables the faithful to persevere in the period.  Those who believe that Jesus will come for His church before this time of Great Tribulation note that protection is promised from the very hour of trial, not just the trial itself.  They also point to the worldwide, inescapable cataclysm predicted in the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21 and Revelation chapters 6, 8-9, 16).

The word “persevere” is in the past tense, showing it is something that the Christians had already done before the hour of trial, which has not yet come upon the world.  

The promise is a reward

For past perseverance,

Not the equipping to

Persevere in the future.

As far as the Philadelphian church was concerned, the rapture of the church was presented to them as an imminent hope.

In addition, the ones tested by this “hour of trial” are not primarily believers, but “those who dwell on the earth” – whose home is this earth, who are not citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20).

The sense of these words is much like in the Gospel of John where Jesus prays for His disciples.  In John 17:15, Jesus says, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.”  God will always protect His people and “keep them from the evil one.”  You remember reading how God did that during the 10 plagues of Israel.  The Egyptians suffered the wrath of God, but God’s people were protected.

God does not have to take His people out of the world in order to protect them.  Again, Jesus prays in John 17:15.  That is the sense here in Revelation 3:10.  Jesus says, “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.”  We must commit to faithful perseverance for Christ.

Jesus has words of high praise for Christians who keep on keepin’ on in the midst of trials and difficulties.  Remember, God has not called you to be successful.  He has called you to be faithful. Commit to faithful perseverance for Christ.  Someone said it was by faithful perseverance that the snail made it to Noah’s ark.  He just kept on keepin’ on!  If you are faithful then you will benefit from the third actions.  Remember, we must consider the final power of Christ.  We must commit to faithful perseverance for Christ. 

Verse 11 shows us what Jesus wants the church of Philadelphia to do, “Behold, I am coming quickly!  Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” 

1) They are to be looking for His soon appearance.  The phrase, “Behold, I am coming quickly” speaks of these believers remembering the imminent return of Jesus, and that they must prepare for His coming.   The expression “quickly” is to be understood as something which is sudden and unexpected. 

2) The phrase, “hold fast what you have” means that the church at Philadelphia must not depart from its solid foundation, as described in Revelation 3:8 . . .

· Evangelistic opportunity – “I have set before you an open door.”

· Reliance on God – “You have a little strength.”

· Faithfulness to Jesus – “Have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”  These things can and must continue among the believers in Philadelphia, but it will only happen as they hold fast what they have.

Number three . . .

III.  We Must Claim the Future Promises in Christ – Verses 11-13.

Jesus states in verse 11, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”  In the phrase, “that no one may take your crown” Jesus is not talking about the possibility of losing our salvation.  The idea is . . .

Do not get your eyes off the goal. 

Stay focused and you will receive

The reward of a crown of blessing.

This was not a crown of royalty, given because of royal birth.  This was a crown of victory.  Jesus encouraged His saints to finish their course with victory, to “play the second half” just as strongly as they “played the first half.”  The Bible says in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”

God will reward your faithfulness.  Do not get tripped up by the attraction of the world around you.  The Christians at Philadelphia kept on in the mist of much difficulty – Some lost their jobs; some lost relationships, but they continued to persevere.

Following Jesus Christ is not always easy.  Sometimes it can get pretty tough.  Sometimes just living in this world can take its toll on us.  We get in a bind financially, we face difficulties at the workplace, we get sick, someone hurts us, we face worries and temptations all the time.  Jesus says, “Remember your future.  I am coming quickly!  Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”

Jesus goes on and says in verse 12, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.”  That promise was particularly meaningful for the Christians at Philadelphia.  The city of Philadelphia frequently suffered earthquakes.  When a building collapsed in an earthquake often all that remained standing were the huge pillars.  Philadelphia had suffered a particularly bad one in AD 17 which totally devastated the city.   The only things left standing in the city were the “huge stone temple columns,” the pillars of the temples.  Jesus offers us this same strength, to remain standing in Him when everything around us crumbles.

Also, because of the earthquakes, the citizens in Philadelphia were often forced to move outside the city limits and start over.  Jesus is speaking of the stability and permanence that is found only in Him.  “He who overcomes,” that is, “the true believer, the one who perseveres to the end,” Jesus says, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.”  We are secure, we are stable, in Him.  The overcomer would have a place of permanence and stability with God, in contrast to an uncertain place in this world.

Remember that when you are shaken.  We will face difficulties in this world.  We will be shaken around a lot.  Some of you may have experienced some “shaking” in your home life, or you have moved a lot, having to “start over” again and again.  Just remember that the day will come when you will be shaken no more.  We will move into a permanent home, a place that remains secure forever.  It will all be worth it then.

In verse 13 Jesus about names that He will write upon the Christian, “And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

The overcomer will also receive many names.  These names are marks of identification because they show who we belong to.  They are marks of intimacy, because they show we are privileged to know Him in ways others are not.  This works together well with the image of “a pillar.”  In the ancient world, sometimes they would add a special inscription added to one of the temples to honor a faithful city servant or distinguished priest.  Someone has said, “Philadelphia honored its illustrious sons by putting their names on the pillars of its temples, so that all who came to worship might see and remember.”

Verse 13 ends with this statement, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  A general exhortation to all who will hear.  We all want to hear the praise and encouragement Jesus gave to the church at Philadelphia.  If we will be like this church, we must stay on their foundation, which was Jesus’ name and Jesus’ word.  We must also depend on their source of strength which was Jesus, not themselves.

Unlike the majority of the membership at the church in Sardis who were ashamed of Christ, the Christians at Philadelphia were unashamed of Jesus.  Because they were proud to be identified with Christ, Christ is proud to be identified with them. 

We may speculate on exactly what all these names are in the literal sense, but doing so may cause us to miss the point . . .

The point is that Christians

Belong to Jesus. 

The point is that

He knows us and has a home for us.

All we are asked to do is to be faithful.  When the going gets tough, the true Christian keeps going.  So, as they hymnwriter says . . .

“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war; with the cross of Jesus going on before.  Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe; forward into battle see his banners go.  Onward to the prize before us!  Soon His beauty we’ll behold; soon the pearly gates will open; and we shall walk the streets of gold.  When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!  When we all see Jesus, we’ll sing and shout the victory.”

This is God’s Word

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

What Is The World Coming To: Revelation 3:1-6 – When Churches Die

Grace For The Journey

We are early into our series of studies through the book of Revelation.  We are going verse-by-verse through this Book, and we are currently looking at the seven churches of Asia Minor.  Thus far, we have studied the church at Ephesus, Symryna, Pergamum, and Thyatira.  This week we are looking at the church at Sardis.  Most commentators refer to the church at Sardis as “The Dead Church” or “The Dying Church.”

I had to be careful in assigning a title to this study.  I always try to think of how that title will appear on the church marquis out front or in Saturday’s newspaper ad.  You know my sermon titles are always listed there each week.  So I didn’t think it would look too good to see, “First Baptist Church: ‘The Dead Church!’”  I happen to think our church is alive, but even if I believed otherwise I wouldn’t want to advertise it.

Going to an airport these days can be an adventure.  I remember one time I was returning home from visiting my sister and day.  I was making our way through the check-in line just outside the gate.  Those of you who travel know the drill – You have to place your carry-on items on the conveyer belt so that it can go through an X-Ray machine that allows airport security workers to see inside your stuff so they can make sure nobody boards the plane with guns and other weapons.  I placed my shoes, billfold, briefcase, keys, pocket change, and cell phone on the belt.  You have to take your laptop out of your carry-on bag, and your pocket change, and cell phone, and so forth.  You have to take off your shoes, too.  As my briefcase went through the X-Ray machine I saw the workers become tense and raise their eye brows as they’re trying to figure out what was inside that briefcase.  I could not figure out what the problem was – the brief case contained some books, papers, and other work and study items.  They took my briefcase aside and asked my for the combination to open it so they could search it.  They tell me to step aside while they search the bag.  Now I am trying to figure out what is inside that bag.    I learned from the airport security that there is a pocket knife in the suitcase and they will not allow me to board with it.  I had forgotten that I put my pocket knife in it, it was suppose to be in the checked-in luggage.  I could just picture these guys arresting me, throwing the cuffs on me and taking me away.  Fortunately, they believed the truth, which was that I had just plain forgot all about that little knife.  Fortunately also, that my sister who had dropped me off had not left the airport,  I called here and she back in and met me so I could give the knife to her for safe keeping until she could get it sent to me. I went through security again, this time all was clear and I was allowed to board the plane.

Our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to these seven churches in Asia Minor – It is He who is speaking to each of these churches.  What Jesus is sharing with each church is the results of what He has seen with His all-seeing eyes.  Jesus has X-Rayed each church and He sees things that either the church has covered-up or the things the church has forgotten were there.  Then He says at the end of each X-Ray report, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  That is our invitation to perk-up our ears and to listen with attentive hearts, asking God to speak to us where we are.  I want to share with you some things we can learn if we will listen this morning to the Spirit who teaches us.  Three things . . . What we can Hear the Spirit Saying to the Church . . . Number one, we can hear . . .

I.  How The Church’s Faithless Are Rebuked: Verse 1.

The church at Sardis was a church that was dying on the inside.  Like diseased cells in a physical body, these bad cells were attacking the good cells and the body was becoming affected to the point that Jesus actually calls the church “dead.”  He is using that word to describes the general condition of the church at Sardis.  It does not mean the church is full of unbelievers, though we can be sure there were a number of folks on the church roll who were not really saved.  They were what we will call the faithless.   They were the bad cells.  Every church is comprised of good cells and bad cells.  There are the faithful and the faithless.  The problem at the church at Sardis is that there were many more faithless than there were faithful.  We read how the church’s faithless are rebuked in verse 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.’”  Do you see the rebuke?  Jesus states that, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”  You have the reputation in your city of being a good church, but inside you are a spiritually diseased people.  You are dead.

Remember that Jesus is the one doing the speaking.  He refers to Himself as “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.”  We have said before that the seven Spirits of God is a reference to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Seven symbolizes fullness and perfection.  There may also be an allusion to the Isaiah 11:2, where God lists the seven workings of the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord Jesus also has “the seven stars.”   Remember that the “star” in these passages refers to the angel of each church.  The star is the representative of each church.  It reminds us that Jesus possesses each church.  Jesus is the Lord of each church.  He holds each church in His possession and He Himself has what this dead church at Sardis so desperately needs:

The presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

Now the normal formula we have been observing in the way Jesus speaks to these churches of Asia Minor is that Jesus says, “Here are some good things you are doing and then here’s the bad stuff you’re doing.”  But Jesus does not begin that way here with the church at Sardis.  He does not begin with any good things this church is doing because the church as a whole had stopped doing good things.  They were dying.   He says, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”  They had a “name” that they were alive.  They had a reputation from a bygone era of glory days.  They were once a living, thriving church, but no longer.  They were now dying.

The city of Sardis had a well-known necropolis, or cemetery just outside the city gates and the church at Sardis was becoming an awful lot like that cemetery.  You could not see it on the outside.  It looked okay on the outside, but on the inside it was dead.  Vance Havner said, “[The church] had it all in the show window, but nothing in stock.”  This church was like a cemetery with a steeple in the middle.

Given the context of what was problematic with many of these churches in Asia Minor, the Christians at Sardis were very likely giving-in to the temptations of the world around them.  They compromised their beliefs for the praises of man.  They so wanted to be esteemed by the non-Christian community that they tip-toed around them doing their best to offend no one.  They had compromised their doctrine to the point they could not even remember exactly what they used to believe.  That is why we read nothing here of persecution.  This church at Sardis was not persecuted as was the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamum because they lived no differently than the culture around them.

Chuck Swindoll gives us five (5) main reasons churches die:

  • Worship of the past (“the way we were”).
  • Greater concern with cosmetics than with character.
  • Love of tradition over love for Christ.
  • Inflexibility and resistance to change.
  • Losing evangelistic and missionary fervor.

As a church we must continually examine ourselves and inspire faithfulness among the membership or we, too, may hear the rebuke of the Lord.  What can we hear the Spirit saying to the churches?  We can hear how the church’s faithless are rebuked. 

Secondly, we can hear . . .

II. How The Church’s Fellowship is Restored: Verses 2-3.

There are five verbs in verses 2 and 3 that will tell us how the church’s fellowship with the Lord is restored.  Remember as you study your Bibles that verbs, in particular, are helpful at getting at what God is saying to us.

In verse 2 Jesus says, “Be watchful . . .”  That is a poignant Greek word.  It is a word that refers to the idea of “keeping watch, as a person guarding a city.  Stay awake.  Be vigilant.”  This word is particularly helpful to the Christians at Sardis because they knew their city’s history.  The people of Sardis were proud of their citadel, located high atop the slope of Mt. Tmolus.  There was a fifteen-hundred-foot precipice on three sides and a steep approach to the South.  It was a fortress that was virtually unassailable and unconquerable.  But twice in the city’s history a man climbed to the city and went through the gates while the watchman was not looking.  So Jesus says, “Be watchful, church!”  Stay awake, never stop being alert.  Never forget, Christian, the tendency to become sleepy and lazy with regard to spiritual things.

This is one of the points that we raise regarding the importance of having a daily quiet time.  We must beware of hindrances to spiritual growth.  We can get distracted from having a regular time of Bible reading and prayer.  We can begin to think that we are okay; that we are stronger than we really are.  Like the citadel in Sardis, you may feel secure and unconquerable in your Christian faith, but Jesus says, “Be watchful.”

Jesus also says in verse 2, “… And strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.”  There are some things that have not entirely died.  Jesus says “strengthen them” for I have not found your works “perfect” before God.  The word “perfect” there is better translated “complete” or “completed,” so that the text reads, “strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works complete before God.”

These works are likely works such as mentioned in previous churches, like the church in Thyatira, chapter 2, verse 19, works of love, service, faith, and endurance.  These are works that were started, but remained unfinished.  Interestingly, the city of Sardis had a temple that was built in honor of the goddess Artemis.  But it was an unfinished temple.   I imagine whenever people passed by that temple, they would shake their heads and wonder just when in the world that temple was going to be completed.  Well, it never was.  That half-built, unfinished temple was emblematic of the church at Sardis.  So, Jesus says, “Get busy with these works of love, faith, and service.”

Then in verse 3 Jesus says, “Remember therefore how you have received and heard …”  Here the Lord tells the church to remember its teaching and doctrine.  Remember the truths you heard and received.  Remember the teachings of the apostles.  Do not forget your Christian doctrine.  The word is in the present tense.  It means, “continue to remember.”  Continue to remember the things you have learned.  This speaks to the importance of regular attendance to the worship service and Bible studies.  By doing so God’s people continue to remember what we have learned.

Next, Jesus says “… Hold fast …”  That is, “keep,” “hold tightly too,” or “guard” the truth as a precious treasure.  Do you love the things of God?  Do you have a Bible and read it regularly?  That is the idea here – Hold fast the truth in your hand and in your heart.  Do not let it go.  Regard it as the precious treasure that it is.

Then Jesus says, “… And repent … “  The word “repent” covers the previous four verbs in verses 2 and 3.  The word speaks of “turning back to God, change the way you think about God and spiritual things, and change your behavior.”  Get back to doing the things you know you should be doing.  Do not become apathetic or fall asleep spiritually; be watchful and wake up. 

An important question to ask right now is, “What happens if I don’t?”  Jesus says, “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.”  This is not a reference to the Second Coming, but rather a soon coming of judgment upon the person who does not wake-up spiritually.  If you and I persist in just going to church and just going through the forms of worship without the fire burning in our hearts, then we are ripe for judgment.

What can we hear the Spirit saying to the churches?  We can hear how the church’s faithless are rebuked; we can hear how the church’s fellowship is restored and; number three, we can hear . . .

III.  How The Church’s Faithful Are Rewarded: Verses 4-6.

Verse 4 says, “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.”  There are a few in the church who are not dying.  There were not many, but there were a few.  They are the church’s faithful.  They have “not defiled their garments.”  Their garments are “white” and so they will “walk with the Lord in white, for they are worthy.”

The faithless had soiled their garments by giving-in to the culture around them, by contaminating themselves with the worldly behavior of the non-Christians in their city, acting just like they were acting, going to the same places, thinking the same way, talking the same way, participating in the same things.  By accommodating themselves to the environment around them they had “defiled their garments.”

Then there were the faithful few.  They had not defiled their garments.  They stayed faithful to the Lord, and you could tell it.  Like gloriously white clothing, they really stood-out as being different than the non-Christians around them.  Their behavior was attractive.  They really stood-out in a positive way.  They are rewarded with the promise of “walking with the Lord,” enjoying the unceasing fellowship of Christ for eternity.

Jesus goes on to say in verse 5, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments …”  The faithful to Christ will be forever clothed in white garments.  This phrase reminds us of our need for forgiveness.  If I am not a Christian, God looks at me and sees my sin.  But if I trust Christ as my Lord and Savior, God looks at me and sees me clothed in Christ’s righteousness.  It is as though I am clothed in white garments, wearing the righteousness of Christ.

Jesus goes on to say, “… And I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.”  This is not to be taken as a warning, but as a promise.  When we receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, our Lord writes down our name into the registry of heaven.  Our Lord has a registration book called the “Book of Life” and in that book are recorded all the names of the faithful Christians.  Is your name written down in that book?

Verse 5 ends with these words, “… But I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”  Jesus alludes to what He had said to His disciples in the Gospels, such as in Matthew 10:32-33, where He says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

If we have truly been saved, truly born-again, we will let others know about it.  We will not be ashamed.  We will be as Paul who said in Romans 1:16-17, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”  Do others know about your Christian faith?  Do you regularly confess Christ before your family, friends, and co-workers?  If so, the Lord Jesus will confess you before His Father and before His angels.  You will die and stand before the God of judgment.  Jesus will say to the Father, “He is mine.”  And Jesus will say to the angels, “He is mine.”  And Jesus will say to everyone, “He is mine.”   I am so grateful that I know I belong to Jesus.   I belong to Jesus.  He is mine and I am His.

Verse 6 says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ‘

Do you hear the Spirit this morning?  Do you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ?  Do you confess Him regularly and unashamedly before others?  The church at Sardis “had a name that they were alive, but were dead.”  What they were on the outside did not accurately reflect what was on the inside.  On the outside, they looked okay to everyone else.  But like a security worker at the airport, Jesus can see right through the superficial and look inside of our hearts.  He sees your sin and He sees my sin.

If we remain in sin, we remain separated from God.  If we die in sin, we spend eternity separated from God in a place called hell, a place where judgment of sin takes place forever and ever.  The good news is that Jesus Christ is in the resurrection business.  Just as the church in Sardis could be resurrected from the dead, so can you.  The Bible says in Ephesians 2:1 that while we are dead in sins, Jesus Christ makes us alive.  You say . . .

  • “What do I do?”  You must know that you need your sins forgiven. 
  • “And then what?”  Then you come to Jesus. 
  • “How?”  If you are coming to Jesus in this morning, all you need say is, “I want to go God’s way.” 

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”


Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”