Lesson 8 – The Seven Churches in Revelation (2)
THE CHURCH IN SARDIS
Sardis in Greek means “the remains,’’ “the remainder,’’ or “the restoration.’’ As a sign, the church in Sardis prefigures the Protestant Church from the time of the Reformation to the second coming of Christ. The Reformation was God’s reaction to the apostate Roman Catholic Church, signified by the degraded church in Thyatira. The Reformation was accomplished by a minority of the believers, the remainder. Hence, it was the restoration by the remainder.
To the messenger of the church in Sardis the Lord says, “I know your works, that you have a name that you are living, and you are dead’’ (Rev. 3:1). The reformed Protestant Church has been considered by many to be living, but the Lord says that she is dead. Hence, in her dead condition, she needs the seven living Spirits and the shining stars. In verse 2 the Lord says to “establish the things which remain, which were about to die.’’ “The things which remain’’ are the things lost and restored by the Reformation, such as justification by faith and the open Bible. Although these things were restored, they “were about to die.’’ Hence, the Protestant Church needs revivals to keep things alive.
Speaking of those who have not defiled their garments, the Lord says, “They shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.’’ White not only signifies purity but also approvedness. White garments here signify the walk and living which are unspotted by death and which will be approved by the Lord. It is a qualification for walking with the Lord, especially in the coming kingdom. The Lord says in 3:5b, “I will by no means erase his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.’’ The book of life is a divine record of the names of those who partake of the blessings God has prepared for them. These blessings are in three stages: the church, the millennial kingdom, and eternity. All the believers will share in the blessings of the first and third stages, but only the overcomers will share in the blessings of the second stage, that is, the blessings in the millennial kingdom. Those who cooperate with God’s supplying grace and mature in life in the church age will be given the prize of the entrance into the millennial kingdom and the participation in the divine blessings in that stage. This means that their names will not be erased out of the book of life during the millennium.
THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA
In Greek, Philadelphia means “brotherly love.” As a sign, the church in Philadelphia prefigures the proper church life recovered by the brothers who were raised up by the Lord in England in the early part of the nineteenth century. Just as the reformed church, prefigured by the church in Sardis, was a reaction to the apostate Catholic Church, prefigured by the church in Thyatira, so the church of brotherly love is a reaction to the dead reformed church. This reaction will continue as an anti-testimony to both apostate Catholicism and degraded Protestantism until the Lord comes back.
The church is keeping the Lord’s word. In Revelation 3:8b the Lord Jesus says, “You have a little power and have kept My word.’’ One outstanding feature of the church in Philadelphia is that she kept the Lord’s word. According to history, no other Christians have kept the Lord’s word as strictly as those in the church in Philadelphia. The church in Philadelphia, the recovered church, does not care for tradition; she cares for the word of God.
In 3:8a the Lord says, “I know your works; behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut.’’ As the One who has the key of David and who opens and no one shall shut (v. 7), the Lord has given the recovered church “an open door which no one can shut.’’ Since the recovery of the proper church life began, in the early part of the nineteenth century, until now, a door has always been wide open to the Lord’s recovery. In verse 11 the Lord says, “I come quickly; hold fast what you have that no one take your crown.’’ The recovered church has gained the crown already. However, if she does not hold fast what she has in the Lord’s recovery until the Lord comes back, her crown may be taken away by someone. Being a reward from the Lord, this crown needs to be kept until He comes back.
In 3:12a the Lord says, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall by no means go out anymore.’’ In 2:17 the overcomer becomes a transformed stone for God’s building. Here the overcomer will be made a pillar built into the temple of God. Because he is built into God’s building, “he shall by no means go out anymore.’’ This promise will be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom as a prize to the overcomer. In 3:12b the Lord goes on to say concerning the overcomer, “I will write upon him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which descends out of heaven from My God, and My new name.’’ Here the Lord speaks of the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is not a physical city but a composition of the believers. This composition will appear first in the millennium as the totality of all the overcomers. These overcomers will bear the name of God because they have God’s nature in them; and they will bear the name of God’s city because they are God’s city. This means that the overcomers will be the New Jerusalem.
THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA
In Greek, Laodicea means the “opinion, the judgment, of the people or of the laymen.” The church in Laodicea as a sign prefigures the degraded recovered church. Less than a century after the Lord recovered the proper church in the early part of the nineteenth century, some of the recovered churches (“assemblies’’) became degraded. This degraded recovered church differs from the reformed church signified by the church in Sardis; it also differs from the proper recovered church signified by the church in Philadelphia. The degraded recovered church, signified by Laodicea, will exist until the Lord comes back.
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of My mouth’’ (Rev. 3:15-16). Once the recovered church becomes degraded, it is lukewarm—neither cold nor hot. According to verse 16b, the Lord is about to vomit the lukewarm ones out of His mouth. Once we become lukewarm, we are not fitting for the Lord’s move and shall be vomited out of His mouth. When the recovered church becomes degraded, she is in danger, unless she repents to be hot in seeking the rich experiences of the Lord, of being vomited out of the Lord’s mouth. To be vomited out of the Lord’s mouth is to lose the enjoyment of all that the Lord is to His church.
In verse 17 the Lord continues, “Because you say, I am rich and have become rich and have need of nothing, and do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.’’ The degraded recovered church (“assembly’’) boasts of her riches (mainly in the knowledge of doctrines). She does not realize that she is poor in life, blind in sight, and naked in conduct. In verse 18 the Lord goes on to say, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire that you may be rich, and white garments that you may be clothed and that the shame of your nakedness may not be manifested, and eyesalve to anoint your eyes that you may see.’’ To buy requires the paying of a price. The degraded recovered church needs to pay a price for the gold, the white garments, and the eyesalve, which she desperately needs.
The dining promised in Revelation 3:20b is not only for the future but also for today. If we are overcomers, when the Lord comes in the kingdom we shall have the special privilege of eating with Him. Before that day, however, we may enjoy His dining with us. In verse 21 the Lord says, “He who overcomes, to him I will give to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.’’ To sit with the Lord on His throne will be a prize to the overcomer that he may participate in the Lord’s authority in the coming millennial kingdom. This means that the overcomers will be co-kings with Christ ruling over the whole earth.