The people worshipped the Roman goddess Diana at
Today, the site is the Turkish
“And to the angel of the church in
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. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 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. 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.”’ Sardis
Our Lord’s charge against the church
“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
We have a few clues from the text: “I know your works. You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” What was Jesus inferring in the statement “I know your works”? It could be a positive statement (such as “I know you do good works”) or negative (“I see through the façade and know how you really are”).He continues, “You have a name that you are alive”: the church had a positive reputation in the community, a positive reputation among other churches, or both. This was due possibly to its works. Perhaps they were known for caring for each other, ceremonial worship, giving to the church in
But then comes the bombshell: “But you are dead.” Like the church at
The Lord continues, “And strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.” The Christians at
This is an important clue to me that the church just had become complacent, perhaps ceremonial without strong, empowering faith. The thrust of Jesus statement is that it was “what you received and heard” is what they had grown to regard as not relevant, or just incidental, to their faith: the gospel, awareness of the love, grace, and awesomeness of God, the excitement of daily knowing God a little better, spontaneous worship and praise.
And they are to hold fast to what they had received and heard and to repent of their current situation. Repent means to change one’s mind and behavior. In other words, “stop doing what you are doing and start doing what I told you to do.”
Significantly, Jesus refers to the condition in
Verse 4 continues: “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life.” “He who overcomes” refers to Christians who remain true to their faith against temptations, persecutions, or even the threat of death, and the phrase “shall be clothed in white garments” indicates they shall stand holy and blameless before God and receive the promised reward, an eternity with Christ.
Jesus continues, “and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life”; that is, shall not be condemned. This is a key Arminian passage, the assumption being that one’s name can, indeed, be removed from the Book of Life (that a Christian can lose his or her salvation). The term means to obliterate, cover, or wipe off. The Calvinist response is this is figurative language, that God knew who would be His from eternity past and that to “blot out” is to reveal the truth to one who thought he or she was saved but really was not.
In the prophetic view of the letters to the seven churches, the letter to
To enforce its authority, the church instituted the inquisitions, in which anyone, including priests and bishops, could be charged and brought to trial even for expressing any ideas contrary to church. This included ideas not only about doctrine, but about science, medicine, civil laws—anything the church had a doctrine or opinion about, and the church had an opinion about everything.
Profession of faith during this period was less a profession of actual belief and more a profession of allegiance to the church and the pope. During this period, the church, like the church in Sardis, had a reputation for being true and alive, but was, in fact, dead to the gospel and the doctrines established by the Lord and the early apostles and disciples.
The only reason Martin Luther escaped the inquisition is that he hid from church authorities. It was his objection to papal authority on matters such as the sale of indulgences and banning copies of scripture from anyone but priests, as well as the church's abandonment of the core doctrines of the faith, that set him at odds with the church. His actions led to the protestant reformation.
So far, we have learned a number of details from the letters to the churches about God’s will for the church as a whole and individual Christians.
From the letter to
From the letter to
From the letter to Pergamos, we learn that it is His will that we hold fast to our faith and do not deny Him and that we must turn away from false doctrines and sin.
From the letter to the church at Thyatira, we once more learn that His will is that our works be ever increasing, that we love, serve, and persevere; and that we recognize and reject false doctrine and false teachers.
From the letter to