Jesus addresses a church that was once vibrant and thriving but is now merely going through the motions, living off the reputation of their founders, traditions, and history. They claim to be alive but Jesus reveals the sober truth in no uncertain terms, telling them, "you are dead."
You know, rumors are so ugly because they're generally untrue, for example, have you heard this rumor? There are those who are saying that the Book of Revelation is hard to understand, but balderdash, say we for you see, the word revelation means that something has been revealed. And the first words of the book tell us exactly who is being revealed. The book begins with the words The revelation of Jesus Christ. And God wanted us to read this book so much that he promised those who take the time to read it and respond to it a special blessing.
And that blessing is found in Revelation chapter one, verse three. It says, Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it for the time is near. But God knew there would still be those who would claim revelations. Hard to understand. So to make this book easy to understand, he also included an easy to follow outline that's found in Revelation Chapter one, verse 19, where Jesus gives John these instructions.
Write the things which you have seen. And up to that point, John has seen the resurrected and glorified Jesus in Chapter one. Then Jesus tells John to write the things which are that refers to the church age, which began in 32 A.D. and continues up to the present day and is prophesied in chapters two and three, which we're studying today. And then finally, Jesus tells John to write the things which will take place. After this, John is told to write about the future events that will take place after the church age ends in the original Greek.
The words used for after this are the words mezza Taruta. And that's significant because in order to help us find the place in Revelation where the third act begins after the church age ends, God marked that spot with that exact same phrase Metta Talita. So all you have to do is look for the next place in the book where that phrase shows up and you will find the beginning of the third act of revelation. And that place is revelation. Chapter four, verse one.
Let me read it to you after these things. There it is. Meditator after the church is over, John writes, I looked and behold a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard, which was the voice of Jesus in Chapter one, was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here and I will show you things which will take place after this. And there it is again after this meditator. And despite appearing over 20 times in the first three chapters of Revelation, what word will never again appear in the narrative after revelation?
For one, it's the word church. That's right. And we're going to learn. That's because the church will no longer be on the earth after revelation. For one, the church like John is going to go up. And when the church goes up, what comes down? The wrath of God. And we find that in Revelation six sixteen were the time period known as the tribulation begins. And we're told the response of those who are still on the earth at that time, they said to the mountains and rocks fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne.
That's God, the father. And from the wrath of the lamb, who is the lamb in scripture, it's always Jesus. It goes on in verse seventeen of chapter six and says that the people will cry out. The great day of his wrath has come and who is able to stand there is going to be a progression. Will travel through 2000 years of church history and chapters two and three. Then the church goes up in chapter four. Verse one wrath comes down and chapter six, verse sixteen.
There will be seven years of tribulation that will take us up to chapter nineteen, at which time Jesus will return to the Earth with this church in the event known as the second coming. And there'll be even more revealed in our study through this incredible book. But here's what we know. If you love Jesus, then your story will end with the words and they lived happily ever after. Where in Revelation Chapter three today. If you haven't turned there yet in your Bible, do that.
We're studying the second act of the book, which. Jesus described to John as the things which are today, we will be studying the fifth of seven letters written by Jesus to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia. And we know that each of these letters speaks on four different levels. Each letter speaks to a local church in Asia around 96 A.D. Each letter speaks to all churches at all times, including yours and mine. Each letter speaks to all believers at all times, including you and me.
And each letter also speaks prophetically and lays out a portion of 2000 years of church history in advance in precise order regarding that prophetic layer of application, the first church, Ephesus, covered the Apostolic Church from around 32 A.D. to around 180. The second church, Smyrna. The suffering church existed from around 54 A.D. to around 313 A.D. The third church polygamists. The compromising church existed from around three 13 eighty to around 600 A.D.. The fourth church, Thyer Tiro, which we covered last time, covered the Catholic Church from around 600 A.D. to the present day.
And today we will be studying the fifth church Sardis. We learned last time that the church at Thuraya Tiro was all about a woman. They adopted all kinds of pagan practices, including a pagan priesthood. In fact, they decided that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was really someone else, a goddess known as the Queen of Heaven. Throughout history, that church grew into what we know today as the Catholic Church from roughly 600 A.D. to 14 50 A.D. The Catholic Church was pretty much the only church on earth.
If you were part of the church in that time, you were part of the Catholic Church. And despite multiple and serious criticisms, Jesus still commanded the church at Thyer Tirah for the many good deeds she has done at various points in history, such as feeding the poor, working with orphans and taking a strong stand against things like abortion. We also learned that the last four of the seven churches still exist today and will continue to exist at least up to the time of the Rapture as we deal with controversial topics in these letters, I think it's important to remember that Jesus tells every person and every church to pay attention to every letter.
There is something he wants us to learn from all these churches. So before we go, man, those Catholics or man those Protestants, we need to remember that we all need to guard against the mistakes of these churches. And we are all also capable of the good things that these churches did. According to the Greek historian Herodotus, Sardis was founded around twelve twenty B.C. by the Sons of Hercules. The Hirak ladies do with that, whatever you will, who later became known as Libyans, who made the city the capital of their mighty empire.
Modern historians tell us it could have been founded as early as fourteen hundred B.C. She was home to rich gold deposits, a phenomenon explained by the Greek myth of King Midas, who was rewarded by the God Dionysus with the power to change anything. He touched to gold and was located on the main route between the Anatolian highlands and the Aegean Sea. For these reasons, Sardis quickly became a wealthy city. But things jumped to a whole nother level when she revolutionized commerce by introducing gold and silver coins to the world.
In fact, by 560 B.C., the final Lydian King Crucis was considered the wealthiest man in the world, sparking the famous phrase rich as kenosis. Sardis was an ideal location for an empire's capital as she sat atop cliffs a thousand to fifteen hundred feet high and could only be accessed from one side because there were sheer cliffs in the other three directions. This meant only the southern side of the city required defending, and it demanded a steep climb from the valley below.
The consensus view at the time of the Lydian Empire was that Sardis was impenetrable around five forty seven B.C. on the Council of the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Crucis attacked the Persian king, Cyrus the Great in Cappadocia, it was a terrible military decision and it led to a long, protracted battle in which neither side emerged victorious. As winter approached, Cross' made the decision to return to Sardis to regroup and rally his allies before intending to return to battle in the spring.
However, an energetic Syrus got word that the army of Croissance had dispersed and quickly charged toward Sardis process, and his military retreated into the Acropolis. Confident in its impregnable reputation, Siris besieged Sardis. But after 14 days, could still find no way in. In desperation, Cyrus offered a reward to any soldier who could. One night, one of Ceressus soldiers saw a soldier walking on the city wall accidentally drop his helmet on the outside of the wall.
Both men watched as the helmet tumbled down the city walls and steep cliffs. The Persian soldier watched in amazement as his counterpart climbed over the wall and followed a specific path down the walls and cliffs, where he safely retrieved his helmet and then returned to Sardis by the same route. The soldier relayed this information to Cyrus, and after noticing that nobody was guarding that side of the city's walls, the Persian army scaled one by one the heights of Sardis like ants and took the city, bringing an end to the Lydian Empire.
History records that the city was taken as by a thief in the night, a phrase that became a proverb used in association with Sardis centuries before the phrase appears in scripture. Fast forward to around 214 B.C. and the same thing happened again when Antiochus third the Great successfully employed a skilled climber to find a route up the allegedly impregnable cliffs and walls, which were completely unguarded. Apparently, it's true that if history teaches us anything, it's that people learn nothing from history.
Unbelievably, the citizens of Sardis didn't deal with the vulnerability that led to the city's downfall centuries earlier and as a result were once again overtaken while not guarding that side of their city because they assumed they were safe and secure. As a result of this and several other successful assaults on the city across the centuries, Sardis legacy is defined by her failure to be vigilant. The city became a real life proverb, a metaphor for something that appeared impenetrable but ended up being overtaken as by a thief in the night, a city of unjustified pretensions with defenses that flattered to deceive and pride that led to repeated downfalls.
Today, all that's left of the mighty Acropolis of Sardis is a few Greek pillars a share. All that because Jesus is going to allude to that history. In his letter to the church at Sardis, the main thrust of his message will be, You're not watching and you should be. Because you're about to be wiped out again. Regarding the church in Litoral, Sardis, around 96 A.D., this letter implies that they started well, but failed to keep going in that same strength.
And we're now all about appearances rather than substance. They were an empty shell. They had likely once been a great church, but through negligence had become spiritually lifeless. The story that's going to unfold prophetically is where we're going to spend most of our time today. And the story that unfolds prophetically is likely reflected in a condensed manner. At the church at Sardis, around 96 A.D. prophetically write this down. This letter refers to the Reformation Church, the Reformation Church.
We can also refer to her as the denominational church. It's a period of Christian history that began with the Reformation around fifteen hundred A.D. and continues all the way up to the present day. Remember, the Roman Catholic Church had been the dominant church, pretty much the only church on the earth for around 900 years. The years between Pope Sergius, the 3rd and John the 13th were so scandalous and depraved that they are sometimes referred to by historians as the porn ocracy.
They include the papacy of Tavian, a 16 year old kid who's wealthy parents bought him the papacy under the name John the Seventh. And I guess that answers the question, what do you buy the man who has everything? The church had been in bad shape for centuries and would be for a few more until thirteen hundred A.D. when various sincere Catholic priests began to be convicted by the Holy Spirit as they observed the state of the church and her abject failure to represent Jesus.
One of those priests was John Wickliffe of Wycliffe Bible Translators fame. He held a doctorate of theology and was a seminary professor. In fact, he was an Oxford scholar and in his own church he began to teach against some of the things that were happening in the Catholic Church. He said things like, it's wrong for the church to steal people's property and have them burned at the stake, which is what was going on in the Inquisition. That's not of God, said John Wickliffe.
He began to teach that scripture is the highest authority, even above the pope and the Vatican. He looked back at the history of the early church and observed they venerated the scriptures. But but we're not even reading the scriptures. And as he studied further, he learned that the early church had not believed the Eucharist to be the literal body and blood of Jesus. They believed they were simply symbols, reminders of Jesus's work on the cross. And so Wycliffe continued to share his findings publicly.
He also struck out at the sale of indulgences, the excess of veneration of the saints, the sorely lacking moral and intellectual standards of ordained priests, and so on. Wycliffe was a bold, bold man, but his greatest weapon, his greatest act of subterfuge, was translating the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into English in thirteen eighty two A.D., suddenly rendering Scripture accessible to the common man. This all went over so well with the Vatican that they issued an edict to have him burned at the stake.
But why Cliff was so respected by the local populace that when the edict reached the city leaders, all they did was tell the Vatican, yet burning John Wickliffe, it's on our To-Do list. And they just happened to never really get around to it. And shortly after that time, John Wickliffe passed away. Thirty years later, a Czech priest named John, who's a follower of White Cliffs teachings, took up the mantle and began teaching similar things. The Catholic Church heard about him and said, we're not going through this again.
So they burned him at the stake. And just to seal the deal, they dug up the bones of John Wickliffe and burned those two thirty years after his death. I'm sure those looking on said we get it. You really, really didn't like John. Wickliffe noted. Those who followed whose's teachings became known as whose sites. And following his death, they rebelled against their Catholic rulers and defeated five consecutive papal military crusades that were intended to slaughter them.
Those battles go down in history as the Verse 8 wars, this sort of thing, went on for a while and more. Priest began to say, you know, something is really wrong with the church, a groundswell of discontent within the Roman Catholic Church was stirring just beneath the surface all across Europe in fourteen fifty five in Germany, the Gutenberg Bible became the first mass publication produced by the famous Gutenberg Press, which revolutionized publishing with its movable type. Almost overnight, Bibles and books were being published in common language for the common man, sparking a renaissance of learning among the populace as people began expanding their knowledge through literature.
All these things set the table for what followed in the 16th century, and it's fascinating to see how God caused all these things to come together at the same time, at the right place, at the right time. Fast forwarding to the 1400's. Our focus remains in Germany, the greatest papal stronghold outside of Italy. At the time, the clergy was in a particularly bad state. They were uneducated and often impoverished, a combination certain to breed corruption when a position of power is added to the mix.
While the Vatican had long forbidden priests from taking wives, these men still had needs, shall we say, to get around that problem. Local bishops would allow their clergy a live in concubine in exchange for a moderate annual fine. But as people began to read the Bible for themselves and became more educated, they couldn't help but notice just how messed up these kinds of things were. It was an increasingly combustible situation across Europe that only needed a spark, and God had plans to introduce just such a spark in the German church on November 10th.
Fourteen eighty three in Saxony, Germany. Martin Luther was born the son of a poor coal miner. He grew up observing his father's poverty and it motivated him to become wealthy. So he pursued a career as a lawyer in 50 when he entered the University of Erfurt. And in fifty four, near the end of his studies, he was caught in a lightning storm so severe it caused him to rashly pray and promise God he would become a monk if he lived through the storm, which he did.
True to his word. Luthor withdrew from law school and in 15 05 entered St. Augustine's Monastery, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in theology. He continued to study and earned his doctorate in theology. He began ministering in the German city of Wittenburg and soon rose to become a professor at the seminary. Despite all his accomplishments. Luther was unable to escape feelings of spiritual inadequacy and became obsessed with trying to earn God's favor and forgiveness. He would whip himself until he bled, he would crawl for miles on his knees, spend hours in prayer, sleep outside in freezing weather with no blanket, he would fast for weeks at a time, make distant pilgrimages to supposedly sacred sites and make frequent confessions, all to show his devotion and atone for his sins in the hopes of earning God's blessings.
So frequent, we're Luther's visits to confession, his Abbott is reported to have told him either commit a sin worth confessing or stop bothering me. And yet for Luthor, nothing worked. Nothing worked. He later described this period of his life this way. I had lost touch with Christ the Savior and comforter and made of him the jailer and hangman of my poor soul. In 15 09, Luther made a pilgrimage to Rome, hoping to find the peace that had so stubbornly eluded him.
His journey on foot included crossing the Alps, which almost killed him, forced to halt his journey and recover his health. At a monastery at the foot of the mountains, he encountered a wise monk with whom he shared his existential angst by God's design that Monk was well acquainted with the scriptures and its and encouraged Luthor to seek answers in the Book of Habakkuk. As shocking as it sounds, the state of the Catholic Church was such that despite Luthor possessing a doctorate in theology, he had never even considered reading the scriptures as a means to connect with God.
But he did, and it changed everything you see, like Luther Habakkuk struggled with feeling that God was distant from his trials, and as he found himself, in the words of Habakkuk, Luther came across chapter two, verse four, which seared itself into his mind and changed everything. That just shall live by faith. That just shall live by faith. Luther eventually healed up and made it to Rome, where he began to endure the rights of the Catholic Church, but he continued to be haunted by the verse is we know as Habakkuk two for as he watched men abused themselves in various ways, such as climbing the Schola Sancta, the holy stairs, until their knees bled in hopes of reducing their time in purgatory.
Luthor left Rome with deep spiritual discontent, his soul was troubled by what he had witnessed. He didn't have things figured out yet, but he knew that what was happening in the church did not line up with scripture upon his return to. He was asked by the seminary to lecture on the Apostle Paul's letter to the Romans. Luther had never studied Romans before, and as he began to, it became increasingly clear that what he was reading and what the church was teaching.
Were two very different things, the light bulb turned on and Luther saw the big picture, he recognized that the Christians hope in life is found in what Jesus has done, not what we do or don't do. On October 31st, 15 17, Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. They were 95 specific points of reform that he believed needed to take place in the church out of respect for the leadership of the church.
Luther wrote his thesis in Latin so that the common people would not be able to read them and gossip about his concerns. Luther raised specific issues like the selling of indulgences is wrong. How can giving the church money serve as payment for your sins against God? It doesn't line up with the Scriptures. How does it make sense that you can buy someone out of purgatory? Why can't we have the Bible in common language so that everyone can read it for themselves?
Luther was naive enough to believe that if the Catholic Church was shown their error in the Scriptures, they would repent and change their ways. They didn't. And they still haven't. Almost immediately, Luther received a notice from the church, threatening him with excommunication and giving him 60 days to retract his 95 theses or face death likely by burning. So in a moment of holy rebellion, Luther, burn that notice. Fortunately, the Catholic Church was unable to assassinate Luther as God had granted him favor with local princes and politicians.
What followed shortly was the cultural and religious revolution, known as the Reformation. And make no mistake about it. I would not be teaching this study and you would not be reading the Book of Revelation for yourself had the Reformation not taken place, it was that important. Luther would go on to write hymns, including A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, as well as multiple commentaries which are still considered classics. And incredibly, he would also translate the entire Bible into German.
The Reformation was a theological movement so dangerous to the Catholic Church's grip on power that it sparked centuries of wars. The Vatican assigned every resource at its disposal to the task of stamping out Protestantism wherever it was gaining momentum, resulting in the massacre of untold masses across Europe. It was a bloody and violent revolution. There was more war, persecution, persecution and martyrdom than I have space to report to you, but I'll share one example the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of 15 72.
The Jesuits were and are an extremist arm of the Catholic Church who formed around the value of absolute allegiance to the pope. Their mission was and is to destroy all opposition to the pope by any means necessary. They organized and orchestrated the assassinations of several key French Huguenots who were just Calvinist Protestants in Paris. Those murders incited the citizens of the predominantly Catholic city who quickly formed mobs and began killing every hougan they could find. The violence soon spread to the countryside, and a few weeks later, when it was all said and done, around 70000 Protestants had been slaughtered.
The response in Rome history records was great, rejoicing. The Vatican printed and sold a commemorative medal to mark the occasion, and the pope sent a cardinal to Paris to extend his personal congratulations to the French king and Queen Mother. It was war. Waged by the Vatican against Protestants. God wasn't only moving powerfully in Martin Luther's life during this time, he was doing something profound in the hearts of men across Europe, men like John Calvin in Geneva, Zwingli in Zurich, along with many Catholic priests, were also recognizing the massive conflicts between scripture and the Catholic Church.
People who followed Luther's specific teachings became known as Lutherans, while those who followed the general movement of reform were known as Protestants. Those who protest all the leaders of the Protestant movement agreed that the church was desperately in need of reform. And so they were called reformers and their movement became known as the Reformation. The centuries that followed saw the emergence of great historical mainline denominations such as the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist and Anglican churches and several more. Let's talk about the church's name.
This is all going to tie together real soon here. Sardis is a semiprecious stone, also called Citius or Sardine Stone. Sometimes it's a precious stone that was sourced from the city bearing her name. It's believed to be blood red in color and was used in the breastplate of the high priest in the days of the Old Testament. And it will also be present in the New Jerusalem, according to Revelation 21 20. Unfortunately, the names used for semi-precious stones are not consistent between Hebrew and Greek, and therefore they've sort of been lost in translation across millennia and we can no longer be sure or confident what the Sardis Saadia Stone referred to in Scripture actually was.
Get this, this is important here. While the original Sardis Stone was considered precious, the stone we identified today by that name is extremely common and not really worth anything. Today, ASADA stone is something completely different to what it was originally. We're going to discover that, like the stone, the church at Sardis used to be special, but now only has an empty name. Let's get into the text revelation, chapter three, verse one, and to the angel, or we would say to the pastor of the church in Sardis, right.
These things, says he, who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. Now, every title Jesus introduces himself by can be found in Chapter one. And if you think back to the time we studied that, you'll remember that for Jewish believers, the phrase the seven spirits of God would have recalled Isaiah 11 to where the prophet Isaiah refers to seven characteristics of the complete spirit of God. He was not talking about seven different spirits, but simply what you and I would call the Holy Spirit.
And back in Revelation one 20, Jesus told us that the seven stars represent the messengers of each of the seven churches, most likely the pastors, by introducing himself with this title. Get ready to make a note of this by introducing himself with this title. Jesus is reminding the church at Sardis that he is the one who holds the leadership of the church in one hand and the Holy Spirit in the other. Jesus is the one who holds the leadership of the church in one hand and the Holy Spirit in the other.
Do you know that the Holy Spirit has an agenda for the church? It's laid out across the pages of the New Testament and it's a tragedy when a church stops looking to Jesus and his word and instead begins looking to the world to find their mandate, vision and methodology. When that happens, for all intents and purposes, the Holy Spirit has left the building, and unless they repent, that church will soon be spiritually dead. This can happen in in any kind of church, any kind of denomination, and it's what happened to the church at Sardis and prophetically is still happening to the denominational church.
In the countries where many of us live, we've seen this firsthand, haven't we? We've seen the formerly great mainline denominations reduced to almost entirely secular community centers, increasingly departing from biblical orthodoxy in desperate attempts to gain the approval of the culture. In First Corinthians 12, one, Paul wrote, Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. In other words, you can be ignorant about a lot of things, but as Christians, you cannot afford to be ignorant about how the gifts of the Holy Spirit work.
Sadly, the modern church is still wrestling with much confusion regarding the Holy Spirit, generally, there's a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding, while heresies and misrepresentations seem to abound. Right at the beginning of his letter to Sardis, Jesus reminds the church that he and the Holy Spirit are a package deal. Let's get into smartasses report card, beginning with our commendation, I know your works that you have a name underline that you have a name that you are alive and then underline this.
But you're dead, but you are dead. And no, you didn't miss something. There is no commendation for the church at Sardis, none. Why Jesus tells us it's because they're dead, it's because they're dead. Let's not miss the gravity of what Jesus says there. He doesn't say that they're merely sick or unhealthy. He says you claim to be alive, but the truth is you're dead. And that's the first criticism, write that down, they think they are alive.
But they're dead, they're dead. Now, I had you underline I have a name because there's something interesting here in the original Greek, the word used for name is Anamur Anamur. It means to be covered by a name or to put it more simply, to have a label. It's the root of our word denomination, denomination, which was invented around the 15th century, according to Jesus. The big problem with Sardis is that they think they're alive, but they're dead.
They're still proudly pointing to their great name, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. They're still pointing to their lineage, their rich history, their liturgies, their beautiful buildings, their social welfare programs, their their founders, the reformers. But Jesus says you're dead. Your dad, the spirit has left the body, there's only a corpse left. There was a time in history, and sadly, this is still true in some places when people would identify themselves by their denomination rather than as a Christian, you you'd ask someone, what religion are you?
And they'd say, I'm a Lutheran or I'm a Baptist instead of I'm a Christian or I follow Jesus because to them they're denominational affiliation was of greater importance than even their allegiance to Jesus. Only the name of Jesus brings life. The church at Sardis had forgotten that along with the rise of denominations, the Catholic Church also spawned directly or indirectly many other state churches, such as the Church of England and people baptized into those state churches would also point to the name as proof of their salvation.
I've been baptized into the Church of England. Jesus says you have a name that you are alive. But you are debt. The church at Sardis can be likened to Samson, the once mighty warrior, who the word tells us was blinded and placed in bondage by his sin and tragically did not know that the Lord had departed from him. In verses two, Jesus says, be watchful, underline that, 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.
There's that reference to the history of the city of Sardis, historically, they weren't watchful, they were asleep at the wheel, asleep on the wall, so to speak, and it resulted in their destruction. Apparently, there are some things that this church should have been watching for but weren't. We'll come back to that in a bit. So just tuck it away in your brain for now. Whatever this church did was good. But Jesus says, I've not found your works perfect before.
God, the actual idea in the original languages, I have not found your works complete. You've left your work unfinished. And so write this down. Part of the problem was that the reformers didn't go far enough. They didn't go far enough. The denominations that came out of the Reformation considered their theological work finished when from the Lord's perspective, there was still much work to be done. As you study church history, you'll find that Calvin and Luther were still feel logically off base in several areas.
Luther held to transubstantiation. We talked about that last week, the belief that the Eucharist becomes the literal body and blood of Jesus as it's taken. And that's why he and Zwingli were unable to unite their reformation movements. Zwingli didn't believe in transubstantiation. Luthor declared that any lay pastors preaching publicly should be killed because only professionals should teach. Kelvyn was at minimum complicit in the murders of some of his theological opponents in Geneva. The reformers brought glorious clarity to soteriology, the theology of salvation, despite some differences among them.
Those same reformers dug into the scriptures and did their best to bring the church back to the Bible in other areas of faith, such as communion and church leadership. While commending them on their efforts, Jesus is saying, I wish you and those who came after you had continued to dig into other areas of theology with that same vigor, areas of study such as eschatology, the end times and new mythology. The Holy Spirit and his gifts were pursued, but with nowhere near the same level of devotion as the subjects pursued by the reformers.
In many of the denominations that emerged from the Reformation, there were still doctrines in place based on inaccurate and sometimes heretical interpretations. And Jesus says that's a big, big problem. That's a big problem. You need to keep pursuing the truth in the word. It appears every church revival. Including the Reformation follows a similar pattern. It starts with a man, that man is anointed by God in a special way and given a ministry for that specific place and time in history, the man's ministry becomes a movement.
As it grows rapidly, the movement becomes a machine. Man, ministry, movement machine. Eventually, the men who started everything disappear, they move on, they die, and all that's left is other men trying to keep the machine running. That's what's happened to too many of the great denominations that emerge from the Reformation. And when that happens, the machine becomes a mausoleum, a place to bury the dead. Man, ministry, movement, machine Muslim, that's the sad history and pattern of most denominationalism, it started with something rich, real and powerful.
But over the centuries it turned into a machine that turned into a machine that was constantly pointing back to its history, its great name. Instead of continually moving forward, pointing to Jesus. Now, Jesus tells the few true believers in Sardis what they need to do, this is their exhortation Verse 8 three, remember, therefore, how you have received and heard hold fast. Now, what does this church received and heard from the Lord that they need to be reminded of?
Well, firstly, they received the doctrine, Sola Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, which means scripture alone, write that down, scripture alone. You see, the Catholic Church had said the Bible is one way to get the truth, but we also get truth from the traditions of the church and from the present and new teachings of the church. The pope can add to what the Bible says, giving us the the total package of truth. Side note, the Catholic Church teaches and still holds that the pope can declare that he is speaking or writing ex cathedra, which imbues his statements with the same authority standing and sacred nature as scripture.
In other words, the pope can speak and what he says is considered to be equally authoritative as the words of scripture. This is how we get doctrines in the Catholic Church, like the assumption of Mary. How did that happen? Where did it come from? The pope decreed it. The reformers looked at the Bible and they noticed that it said things like this in second Timothy, three, 16 and 17. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
And this caused them to wonder, why aren't we teaching the Bible in our churches if it's inspired by God and intended to equip believers to live the Christian life? Why are we following a church that teaches traditions in the words of a man who sits on a throne as being on par with the word of God? No, Sola Scriptura. We're siding with the word of God. As they look to the Bible for theological clarity, they noticed more and more church doctrines in need of reform, and this led to additional soldiers like solar feed, which means faith alone and solar grazia, which means grace alone.
They read Verse is like Ephesians two, eight and nine, which say four. By grace, you have been saved through faith and that none of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. And they said no organization can grant salvation. It's not gained by going to mass or being baptized as an infant. Salvation is by faith in the grace of Jesus faith alone. Solar feed, grace alone, solar gracia were not saved because of anything we do no amount of good works or charitable acts.
We bring nothing to the table. God has saved us because he loves us, because that's his heart. He's a good God. The reformers realized we don't need to and we can't earn our way to a right relationship with God. Jesus has done it all. I get choked up thinking about the euphoria and joy that must have overwhelmed these men as these truths became clear to them after a lifetime of trying to earn their salvation would have been wonderful. The reformers realized that Christianity isn't about a religion or an institution.
It's about Jesus and what he has done for each of us, and out of that realization came Solla Kristo, meaning Christ alone, would you write that down? Soula Kristo, Christ alone. According to the Bible, we don't have to go through an intermediary to get to God. We don't have to have a priest, cardinal or even a pope go to God on our behalf. As we mentioned a few studies ago, Scripture tells us there's one mediator between God and Amen the man Christ Jesus.
He is the one who was completed all the work on our behalf. Our salvation was secured and is kept secure by Jesus and no one else. Soula Kristo, these four Solus logically culminate in Solley, Deo, Gloria, meaning glory to God alone, the only one who must be elevated, praised, revered and honored. The only one we must bow down before, and the only one whose presence we anticipate with longing is God. Only God gets the glory, no man, as he himself declared in Isaiah 42 eight, I am the Lord.
That is my name and my glory. I will not give to another nor my praise to carved Imagists. God is not egotistical. He knows the truth, that we all worship something, every single one of us, and if he loves us, he will instruct us to worship the best thing for us. And there is nothing better for us than him. There's nothing we can worship that leads to greater joy than him. There's nothing we can worship that leads to greater peace than him.
There's nothing we can worship that leads to greater meaning and purpose than him. If he loves us, he must command us to worship him because allowing us to worship anything else would be to our detriment. When Jesus says in verse three, remember, therefore, how you have received and heard hold fast at one time, they said if it's in the Bible, we believe it. But tragically, over time, that changed for the reformers, Jesus exhorts them to hold fast to the simple truths of scripture about which they were once so passionate, they are to stay away from so-called new interpretations of scripture that are motivated by a desire to harmonize the Bible with the values of the culture.
As that path inevitably leads to heresies, Dr. H.A. Ironside wisely observed that when it comes to theology, if it's true, it's not new. And if it's new, it's not true. The Bible counsels us to remember the former things and walk in the old paths. That's why Jesus told the church at Ephesus to repent and do the first works. Jesus doesn't tell Sardis, move on to new things. You need to become a new church for a new age.
Adopt a slogan like Open Hearts, Open Doors, Open Minds, as reads the banner outside Vancouver's oldest church. It's time you updated my outdated views on sexuality. Make sure you're not doing anything that would cause someone to accuse you of being bigoted in any way. In fact, be sure to reinterpret the Bible as needed if it means you can avoid offending the culture. Jesus doesn't say any of that, what does he say? He says, and repent.
And repent. Jesus told them they need to change direction because they're on the wrong path. From his perspective, they're not progressive, they're regressive, they're broad minded, but only in the same way that Jesus described the road that leads to destruction. If you reinterpret the Bible in such a way that anything offensive can be dismissed, why should a person believe any of it is true? And if a supposedly perfect God has to change from day to day in response to the whims and opinions of people, then how can he be God?
How can they even be real, such a God would obviously be an imagined projection of the culture. Jesus tells this church that no longer holds to scriptural authority. You need to repent, you need to repent. Now, notice this Jesus is going to tell this church what repentance looks like for them, he says. Therefore, if you will not watch, underline that word, watch. Because did you catch that he's being redundant with that word. Watch on purpose.
That's what he wants this church to do that they're not currently doing. He wants them to watch. He says, if you won't do that, I will come upon you as a thief and you will not know what our I will come upon you. Now, again, that phrase as a thief is a reference back to the history of Sardis. And when Jesus starts talking about the end times coming like a thief and people not knowing when he will be coming, our mind should drift to the only other two places in scripture that contain all three of those references.
Matthew, 24 verses 42 to 43 and First Thessalonians, five, Verse is one to 11. I don't have time in this study to go in depth on those two passages. If you want to study them, you can go to the website and listen to or watch those messages from our studies on the books of Matthew and the letters of First and Second Thessalonians. We've studied those in depth, but what I can do today is give you a summarized version of the relevant aspects in both those sections of Scripture.
Jesus comes to the Earth for his church. He's not talking about the second coming. He's talking about the rapture. And in both cases, his coming is perceived differently by believers and nonbelievers to believers to the greatest day of our lives. When the rapture happens to nonbelievers, it's a terrifying event. As hundreds of millions of people disappear from the face of the earth to nonbelievers. The Rapture will be like having your home broken into while you're sleeping. And that's because for nonbelievers, the Rapture will also shortly be followed by the tribulation, when Jesus will pour out his wrath and judgment on the earth that has rejected him.
In light of these scriptures, I believe that when you put the pieces together, the warning Jesus is given to the church at Sardis is this If you don't repent, change course and return to the truth of the gospel. The majority of people in your church. Aren't going to be taken when the rapture happens. Because the majority of people in your church aren't Safet. They're not saved, and so my coming is going to be like a thief in the night.
It's a serious warning Jesus is giving, because, again, remember what he says, they think they're alive. They think they're safe, they think they're right with God. But they're dead, they're spiritually dead, they're not saved, they don't have the Holy Spirit. There are four things the Bible specifically tells believers to watch for, firstly. We're told to watch for the coming of the Lord, as I just mentioned, Matthew, twenty four or forty two and forty three, Jesus says watch.
Therefore, for you do not know what our your lord is coming, but know this, that if the master of the house had known what our the thief would come, he would have watched. Secondly, we're told to watch for temptation. Matthew. Twenty six. Forty one. Jesus says watch and pray lest you enter into temptation. We're told to watch for false teachers in acts. Chapter twenty verse is twenty nine through thirty one. Paul says for I know this that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock also from among yourselves.
Men will rise up, speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore, watch and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. And then finally, we're told to watch for Satan. And first, Peter, five, eight, it says, be sober, be vigilant, the original word just means be watchful because your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour, be watchful for the schemes of the enemy.
It's sobering to look at that list, those four things that the Bible tells us to watch for and then look at what's going on in most of the mainline denominations, the institutions, not not all their congregants. And to also look and see what's going on in many modern, non-denominational churches. Because as we look, we see that most of these four areas are increasingly neglected in the name of being culturally relevant and palatable. Many biblical truths have been and are being laid aside or revised when it comes to Bible prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled or anything deemed too fantastical in the scriptures.
Even things like miracles. Both are increasingly viewed and taught the same way allegorically. More and more churches are teaching that any type of literal Bible interpretation of the supernatural or the prophetic is a quaint, antiquated and unenlightened approach. Their theology doesn't include any level of urgency or immediacy that would give them a reason to be watching for the coming of the Lord. And so as a result, that's not something on their radar. They can't be concerned with biblical personal righteousness because that would require holding some sort of standard of truth and righteousness, which would inevitably result in certain actions needing to be categorized as sin.
And such doctrine would be too judgmental for a modern, loving church, so it's left up to the individual to determine what they feel is right. They can't be truly concerned with false teachers because who's to say what's false, your truth is your truth. And as long as you find it, Life-Giving, you know, that's what's important. That's more important than what the Bible is actually saying. And finally, they're not concerned with Satan because after all, most of them are enlightened enough to know that Satan in hell aren't even real things.
So why bother with them? The very things that Jesus instructs believers to watch for are the very things many churches today are willingly and increasingly turning away from or turning a blind eye to. Verse 8 for Jesus says you have a few names, even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments and they shall walk with me and White for they are worthy, there were and still are some true believers in the church at Sardis who had and have not joined in their church's departure from biblical Christianity.
But there's not enough of them to change Jesus's verdict that their church overall, their institutions are dead. Verse 8 five. 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. He who has an ear. Let him hear what the spirit says to the churches. Luther and the reformers deeply desired white garments, a clear reference to being forgiven and justified through Jesus and put in right relationship with God, Jesus says to those in these church, I'll give you those white garments if you'll remember that it's Salafi day, faith alone and soul of greater grace alone.
If you remember that its faith in my grace that saves you and not your denomination, then you'll be clothed in white and justified before me to state it plainly. You can write this down. The overcomer in Sardis is promised and assured. Salvation, salvation. The doctrine of eternal security is the teaching often referred to as once saved, always saved, it's the belief that once a person is saved, they cannot lose their salvation under any circumstances. Some who don't hold to the doctrine of eternal security will point out the part of verse five where Jesus says, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.
And they will say, well, by implication, that means that some names can be blotted out from the book of life. That's not what it's saying. If you're a believer, you are an overcomer and Jesus is simply assuring the believer that their name will never be blotted out of the book of life. It's a promise that if you're a believer, you don't have to worry about that ever happening. Specifically, Jesus is assuring the true believers in the church at Sardis that they won't be lumped in with their dead church.
Their salvation is secure because Jesus never allows the righteous to be collateral damage when he judges simply because of their proximity to the unrighteous classic example being lost in the city of Sodom. He doesn't just lump a lot in with the city of Sodom and KMB. He delivers the righteous before judging the unrighteous. Always even in the church at Sardis, Jesus wants all churches to remember that it's all about him. It's all about his finished work on the cross and simple faith in his grace as revealed to us in his word.
There's also a serious reminder for all churches to be diligent and watchful, especially for the coming of Jesus. He is coming and he is coming soon, and we are to encourage each other with that hope. It might seem like a question for children or teenagers at a youth group, but it's just as meaningful, if not more meaningful, for us as adults. How would the way you live change if you knew Jesus was coming back in a year?
Six months. In a month, in a week tomorrow. Because he really could, he really could. If we believe that, then let's live lives that reflect that belief, let's prioritize the things of the kingdom, because we actually understand that all earthly things are destined to fade away and we're destined to leave. Let's pray continually for opportunities to share the gospel and for the boldness to step out and do that when the Lord opens the door. Let's pray faithfully for the lost and and let's find hope in the reality that one way or another, we're soon going to be in our true home, the presence of God.
Heaven, where all wrongs are going to finally be made, right? Finally. Do we know the gospel? Do you know the gospel? The Reformation was at its core, a war over the gospel because the gospel is that important. I must have heard the gospel a thousand times, but to this day I can't get over it. I can't get over it every year I grow in all as I understand it, just a little bit more or see it from a slightly different angle.
Do you know the gospel? Can you share it if asked if there's one story we must be able to tell, it's the story of how Jesus loves us so much that he died in our place, that we might be brought into his family and adopted by his father as sons and daughters. I'll end with this exhortation from the great reformer Young who's. He said, therefore, faithful Christian. Seek the truth. Listen to the truth. Learn the truth.
Love the truth. Speak the truth, adhere to truth and defend truth. To the death. Wherever you are, would you buy your head and close your eyes and pray with me? Jesus, thank you for your word. Thank you. That you love us enough to tell us the truth and that you love us enough that. For anyone who thinks they're alive but is really dead, you want them to know, you want them to see and recognize that they're not saved by going to church, they're not saved by any traditions.
They're saved by what Jesus has done. They're saved by his work on the cross. And you love everyone so much that you don't want anyone deceiving themselves into thinking they're alive when they're really dead. And so, Lord, if there's anyone watching or listening to this message, who who is not really saved. But thinks they are. Lord, would you just reveal that to them right now? And then, Lord, would you convict them to such a degree that they give their life to you right now and become truly saved?
That they say, for real, Jesus come into my life and be my lord and my savior and my God, Lord, would you do that right now in anyone listening to this or watching this? Who needs to hear that? And then, Lord, for the rest of us, we are we are saved by grace, not only because it's the only way, Lord, but but also because you desire a relationship with us. You desire us to know you and walk with you and live with you daily and experience your peace, abide in your love, enjoy your rest and the joy that you offer to us.
And so, Lord, help us any time we try to substitute a checklist for a real relationship with you. And I pray right now by the power of your spirit, because, Jesus, you are the one who has the spirit. You are one with the spirit. And so I pray by the power of your spirit that you will just right now supply whatever is needed for each one of us, Lord, be it Joy, be at peace, be it hope be at rest.
Be it faith, be it perseverance. Lord, may each of us just experience right now? The sense that you are filling us up with what we need because you are everything we need, we love you, Jesus, we bless you, and we're so thankful for your work. And with genuine gratitude, we declare a solid day of glory. Glory to God alone. We love you. It's in your name. We pray. Amen.