Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Revelation 3:1-6 Sardis

Chapter 3

The next church is Sardis. Sardis was a wicked and wealthy city. It was the capital of ancient Lydia, the home of Aesop (of Aesop’s fables) and King Croesus (from where we get the phrase “rich as Croesus”). It was located about thirty miles south-east of Thyatira. The meaning of the word “Sardis” is “escaping one” or “come out”.

Verse 3:1 “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”

Again the description of Christ comes from the first chapter. In Ephesus it was the one holding the seven stars in the midst of the seven candlesticks. Here it is he that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. The Holy Spirit (seven Spirits) is apparently missing from this church, as they are said to be dead. That is why this description of Christ is used for this church. Sardis must have been doing works, but they were works of men, not works for the Lord. In the eyes of the world, they appeared to be a living church, because of their history of having been a living church and their ongoing works, but there was nothing of God in them or their works. There are many churches like this today. They are the people who go through the motions of religion. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, 2 Tim. 3:5. I personally know of a number of these kind of churches, and sadly have friends who attend them. They do a lot of good in the world, but most of the people have absolutely no relationship with Christ on a personal level or else have let that relationship dwindle away. Some do not even understand salvation by being born again. They have a head belief, which is further worsened by believing the Bible is a book of literature, or mythology, or only to be taken in the most spiritualized manner, not literally. They do not understand that a heart belief with a personal relationship is necessary. I do not even understand some of these people’s desire to be in church every Sunday (which they are), when they do not have a relationship with the Lord. It defies understanding. This is that type of church.

Verse 3:2 “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”

Up until this church, the churches were commended for their works, but this church is not. They may have had works that looked good to the world, but not to the Lord. They were not done with the right motive, even if they were works that were beneficial. The few remnant believers that did exist were about to die (spiritually) from being in such a spiritually dead atmosphere. They are warned to be watching. When one is watching for the return of Christ, it encourages one to persevere in their relationship with Christ no matter what the surroundings.

Verse 3:3 “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”

They are reminded to think back to when they originally heard the gospel and repented, and to hang on to that and to repent of their lethargic relationship with Christ. They are warned that if they do not start watching and remembering that the Lord will return, they will be like unbelievers and His return will come on them like a thief in the night. We have seen this verse about coming like a thief when we went over the scriptures in 1 Thess. 5, for the Day of the Lord and 2nd coming.

Verse 3:4 “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.”

There are a very few, who still are clinging to their faith in spite of the church they are attending. They are promised that they will walk in white, the color of garment we will be given in heaven, Rev. 7:9,14; for they have been found worthy. Not because of their own works, but because they have not fallen away from their relationship with Christ.

Verse 3:5 “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.”

Again, he mentions being clothed in white, the raiment of heaven. Rev. 19:8 “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” This is the bridal apparel for the bride of Christ, the church. Christ says that for those that overcome, he will not blot their name out of the book of life. It is important that your name be in this book, as “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” Rev. 20:15. This book is the one that will not contain the names of those who worship antichrist. “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev. 13:8. The most straightforward reading of this seems to indicate that it is possible to have your name blotted out of the book after it is already in there. That would mean that it is possible to lose your salvation once you have accepted the Lord. We need to examine this in other scriptures and see if that is possible.

Ex. 32:33 “And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.”
Ps. 69:28 “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.”
Rev. 17:8b “and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was and is not, and yet is.”
Rev. 21:27 “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Rev. 22:19 “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”

Taken at face value or literally, it does say that names can be blotted out of the book of life. Furthermore, two verses seem to indicate that those names were written in the book from the foundation of the world. God foreknows who will accept him and who will not. Rom. 8:29. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” Therefore He wrote those names in the book of life from the foundation of the world. But what if that person after accepting the Lord does not maintain their walk? What if they fall away? If a name can be blotted out once there, does that mean a person who has been truly saved can lose their salvation? Why, if they were not going to be saved in the end, would God put there name in the book to begin with?

We need to search further for the answer to this. We already discussed several parables. In each case, there were servants (or brides) who were not ready when the master (bridegroom) appeared and they were thrown out with the wicked into where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth. This indicates that true believers can find themselves being punished with the wicked. Some feel that this is talking about posers or frauds, not true Christians, but a fraud could never get by Christ. He would not call a fraud a servant. He would be able to see into the heart and know whether or not that person had truly accepted Him.

Another parable that might shed some light is that of the seeds. Mark 4:3-9, 14-20 “Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow; and it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred. And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear…….The sower soweth the word. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts, and these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirty fold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”

This parable is saying that there are four different ways of responding to the word. The first is that it never penetrated the heart. The Holy Spirit convicts everybody at some point in their life with the truth, and it is at that moment that they have to make a decision. I believe that this is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit about which the scriptures say that there is no forgiveness. Mark 3:28-29 “Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” It is the Holy Spirit that reveals the truth to people as to whom Christ is. If they reject that truth, there is nothing else that can save them. All other sins can be forgiven except rejecting Christ as Savior. There is no other means of forgiveness available except for Christ’s blood. So to reject the revelation the Holy Spirit gives of this truth is a blasphemy that cannot be forgiven. A person cannot be forgiven for rejecting Christ as Savior. He is eternally damned.

The second person is the one who receives the message with joy and gladness, but they have no depth of character and when persecuted or mocked, or made uncomfortable, or made to suffer in any way for their faith, they do not feel it is worth it and choose to let their faith be left by the way side. It does say, though, that they did receive the message. We cannot receive it, but not really receive it, as I have heard some say. We either receive it or we do not. Christ knows the difference, even if we do not know if someone is faking it. These people cannot endure to the end. They fall away.

The third person is one who receives the word, but they are caught up in worldliness, riches, and other idols. Matt. 6:24 “No man can serve to masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” These Christians have no fruit. They are not growing in the Lord spiritually, and they are not producing works. The carnal Christian cannot expect to walk with the world and then enter into heaven as is, simply because they once made a confession of faith. We must show our faith by our fruit and our works.

Matt. 3:10 “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” If a Christian is not bringing forth fruit, it is cast into the fire. That is the lake of fire. The final punishment.

Matt. 7:16-23 “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name: and in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Not every one that has called the Lord their Lord will enter into heaven. This does not necessarily mean that they have never been Christians. This says they have not been doing the will of the Father. They have been living their lives for themselves in spite of what they say they have been doing for the Lord. Their motivations have not been pure in their works. Their fruits have been corrupt. What are the fruits? Gal. 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Matt. 12:33 “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.” A Christian is known by his fruits. We have seen that fruits are a serious factor in determining the final destination.

John 15:1-6 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth (prune) it that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” If someone is not abiding in the Lord and producing fruit, he will wither and be lopped off and cast into the fire. This is speaking of a Christian, for an unbeliever is not grafted into the vine (Lord) to begin with. It says they are “in me“ or in the Lord. You cannot be “in the Lord” if you are not born again. When it says they will be cast into the lake of fire, it is speaking of casting Christians into the lake of fire or eternal damnation. There can be no other way of understanding this verse without twisting it. It is very clear that Christ is talking about a Christian. A non-believer is never “in the Lord.”

James 2:17, 20, 22, 24, 26 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone…But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?…..Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?….Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only……For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” We can see that works are needed along with faith. A Christian who accepts the Lord and leaves it at that, living a life for themselves, will not be sufficient to make it into heaven. We demonstrate our faith by our works. Without them, our faith is as dead as the faith of the church at Sardis.

The last seed or person is the one who hears the word, receives it, and brings forth fruit. Some much more so than others. This is the person who endures persecution, affliction, who does not let the world and its things become his idol, and who is producing fruit and works. This is the only seed that actually makes it.

Now we must look to find if there are scriptures other than parables that teach that we can fall away from the faith and have our name blotted out of the book of life.

1 Cor. 9:24 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” This indicates that all Christians have to run the race that has salvation as a prize, but that not everyone will get that prize.

Heb. 6:4-8 “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: but that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing whose end is to be burned.”

This passage, as hard as it is for some to accept, says that it is impossible for those “who were once enlightened” and have “tasted of the heavenly gift” and were made “partakers of the Holy Ghost.” and have “tasted of the good word of God” and the “powers of the world to come”. Here are five different statements qualifying this person’s condition and each one of them can only be experienced by a true born again Christian. I do not care how people try to make this not mean that, it is clear from the description that this can be no other than a Christian. Only a Christian is “enlightened”. Only a Christian has “tasted of the heavenly gift”. Only a Christian can be a “partaker of the Holy Ghost”. Only a Christian has “tasted of the good word of God”. And only a Christian has experienced the “powers of the world to come”. No pseudo Christian can have done any of this. This is not just a person who claims to be a Christian, but really isn’t born again. This person has had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Only a Christian can have that. For the Christian who falls away, and this is not talking of merely committing a sin, this is speaking of turning from Christ as the means of salvation (think Oprah’s gospel), they cannot come back, as that would require a second sacrifice on Christ's part as they have thrown away the first. They have embraced another gospel when they leave Christianity.

Heb. 10:26-31 “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remained no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, and unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belonged unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge His people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This is a most frightening passage. This says that if we deliberately keep on in sin, we are trampling the Son of God under foot and treating the blood as an unholy thing. There is no more sacrifice for sins other than what has already been given. If this passage is to be taken as is, it would seem that nobody would make it into heaven, as at some point, we all sin willfully. I would like to meet the person who is capable of never committing one. Under that circumstance, I don’t think we can take it that one deliberate sin will condemn us or nobody would be saved. After all David committed both adultery and murder deliberately, yet he was a man after God’s own heart. Also it would negate other scriptures that we have about forgiveness, such as 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I think the key is found in what David did, he repented. I believe the sin about which this verse is speaking in Hebrews is found in the verse that follows 1 John 1:9. 1 John 1:10 “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” This passage in Hebrews is speaking of unrepentant sin. If we keep on unrepentantly sinning, there is no more sacrifice for sin, as the only way sins are covered are by repentance through Jesus Christ. If we refuse that repentance, there is nothing else that can cover the sin. So this passage teaches us that a Christian can, if they continue to sin without repentance, forfeit their salvation.

From all of these scriptures, and there are many more, I think it is safe to say that a person’s name can be blotted out of the book of life. Why then would God put it in the book at all? There are two possibilities for this. If a person has accepted the Lord at any time in their life, they are entitled in all fairness to have their name written in there, for whatever length of time that may be. And God is fair. He will not blot out anyone’s name until He is required to do so. Or it could be that everyone’s name starts out in the book of life. This seems to be more likely, considering an infant that dies has not committed a sin, so their name should be in the book of life, yet they would not have accepted the Lord to have their name written in there. It could be that when someone rejects the Holy Spirit’s call, that their names are then blotted out of the book of life. Whichever way this works, and we are not really told, this should be a wake up call to all of us.

Now to be fair, I must address several verses that are used to refute this belief and teach eternal security. John 10:28-29 “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” Romans 8:35-39 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

These two passages are the backbone of the teaching of eternal security, and on the face of a superficial reading, one would say that indeed that must be what is being taught. But in order to accept that interpretation, one must completely ignore every passage that I have outlined above that teach differently. And not only those, but many, many more. Should two passages outweigh so many others that clearly teach the opposite? If they are in opposition, it is because one of them is not being understood correctly. I think the former ones are quite clear in their intent. So is there a way to reconcile these latter scriptures to that intent? I believe there is. In the first verse, it says that no man shall be able to pluck us out of the Father’s hand. In other words, if we want to be there, no one, nobody else has the right to take us away from the Father, where we want to be. Nobody has that power over us. However it does not say that we do not have that power over ourselves. It clearly says that nobody else can take us out of the Father’s hand. No thing, no person, no angel, no creature, nothing has the right to take us out of the Father’s hand if we want to be there. This is our eternal security. However notice it does not say that we cannot take ourselves out of the Father’s hand by turning away from Him. If we want to be with the Lord, He will give us the strength and grace to endure tribulation, persecution, famine, the sword, whatever. We will endure by His grace if we want to endure. Nobody has the right to steal our salvation from us. We, however must want that salvation enough to abide in the Lord, do the works, etc. that the other scriptures say we must be doing and having. The former scriptures clearly teach that we can remove ourselves from the Father's hand.

Now we can see that while the former passages cannot be reconciled to these two, they have to be ignored if one wants to believe in eternal security as it is usually defined; these latter two can be reconciled to the former quite easily.

Back to Revelation 3:5. Christ will confess the overcomer’s name before the Father and before the angels. We are told that if we deny Christ, He will deny us. Matt. 10:32-33 “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” We must be very careful not to deny our Savior or be embarrassed about being Christians, especially when we are in the company of the world. Denying Christ is basically what this church was doing as they were spiritually dead.

Verse 3:6 “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches.”

Again we see that the order is that the promise is given, then the statement that he who has an ear to hear, let him hear. This church falls into the same category as Thyatira. The church as a corporate entity is lost. Only the few remnant are even able to “hear” this letter. Christ is calling on the remnant who will open their hearts and minds and listen and hear and repent and escape or come out, as the name Sardis means.

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