Janet Smith – 7-4-17 ©gardenministries.org
There are 7 churches addressed in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. These churches can be divided into 2 sets of 3 churches, plus 1. Set 1: Ephesus-Smyrna-Pergamum. Set 2: Sardis-Philadelphia-Laodicea. Plus 1: Thyatira.
Each of the 2 sets has 1 church in the middle that stands out from the other 2 on each side. In both sets, we find 2 churches that are fully overcoming evil and are sandwiched between 2 other churches that are missing the mark. In the Revelation 2 – Set 1, the fully overcoming Smyrna church sits between the Ephesus and Pergamum churches. In the Revelation 3 – Set 2, the fully overcoming Philadelphia church sits between Sardis and Laodicea. And finally, sandwiched between the two sets of 3 churches is yet another church that is drastically missing the mark; the 7th church of Thyatira. This 7th church, sandwiched between sets 1 and 2, hosts an abundance of interesting revelations however, this article focuses mainly on the 2nd set of 3 churches found in Revelation 3—especially the Church of Sardis. [Note: this might be a good time to scroll to the end and read Revelation 3 included in this article.]
In an effort to avoid the crucified-with-Christ, death-to-self path of God-assigned deeds that mark and define the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the Sardis church creates their own list of do-good deeds. Still using scripture-based principles, the focus is changed from developing an intimate relationship with the Person of Jesus to joining feel-good programs that elevate and stimulate the human soul but deny the wonderful work of the cross upon the human’s born-again spirit. The attraction to this soul-stimulating “life-like” looking church means that a person can be entertained by the program, agree to a portion of do-gooding from the substitute Sardis church list of deeds, and still be considered a successful Christian by the church without ever really getting to intimately know the Person of Jesus, who all the programs are supposedly drawing from! This program-based Sardis church becomes renown and draws quite a crowd.
It seems that the Sardis church did not like the price that their God-given deeds would cost them and developed their own “work-around” way of doing self-made “good deeds” for God through their church programs. Rather than joining the Person of Jesus Christ, who daily calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him, the Sardis church targets the pleasure-center of the soul with entertaining programs that make a person feel alive in their souls but do little to transform and mature them. It is not the stimulation of a self-centered soul that changes us to be more like Christ, it is the death of that soul-life and the resurrection of the Christ-life within that changes us into Christ’s new-man image. The death to soul-life means we deny stimulations and the elevation of our old-man nature, not indulge them. Programs that stimulate the soul but do not lead the person into a deeper walk with Jesus Christ will not grow that person up.
Minus a few folks in the Sardis church, who keep God’s original instructions, Revelation 3:2 tells us that the bulk of the Sardis church is completely missing the mark and with little left to draw from, the Sardis church is close to being declared uselessly dead. Even under their own Sardis church roof, sits a sign of their departure from their God-given deeds. Those few folks who did not soil their garments and are holding fast to their original instructions from Christ serve as a direct confrontation to rest of the Sardis church that it is quite possible to fully follow God’s list of deeds without substitution.
Substituting programs for the Person, doesn’t work because God knows and remembers the deeds He has assigned us to complete while we are here on earth. He also knows when we are making up our own substitute list of deeds, thinking that He will still approve of our substitutes. God is not obligated to take responsibility for anything He does not Author. Not only are the Sardis church programs declared “dead,” the people in this system are in grave danger of completely missing Jesus when He comes and even worse, not even realize that they missed Him! Why? Because they did not do the work of God’s deeds that are specifically designed to lead them into an intimate knowing of Jesus.
A good example of a Sardis church candidate can be found in the New Testament story of the rich young man. Having already gained many possessions, this hard-working, wealthy young man wanted more. He wanted to gain the ultimate prize of eternal life. He asked Jesus how to get it and then asked for the checklist of deeds he must do to get credentialed for it. Jesus quickly points out that it is a Person he seeks, not a ‘do-good’ list, and then emphasizes His point by painting the picture as “entering into life” through that Person rather than “performing a checklist and getting credentialed.”
Finally, Jesus leads the ambitious young man toward the final nail in the coffin in their conversation when He touches the temporal pleasure center of the young man and reveals where his body and soul are attached and stuck to the pleasures found in his temporal life. Jesus knew what was in his heart and knew what it would take for this young man to become free from these hindrances and fully enter into God’s Life. He gave the man his God-deeds list and described his cross to bear and the man walked away from it. He did not want to give up his way OF life in order to enter into God’s way TO Life.
Matthew 19:16-22 (NET version) Now someone came up to him [Jesus] and said, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?”17 He [Jesus] said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 “Which ones?” he asked. Jesus replied, “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,19 honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.
Revelation 3:2 commands the Sardis church to “wake up!” and “strengthen what little remains!” If the Sardis church would let go of the soul-life-based programs and focus on intimately knowing the Person of Jesus and return to the original God-deeds designed specifically to lead them to Christ, they would not only receive the ultimate reward of recognizing Jesus when He comes, they would also receive the rewards described in Revelation 3:5-6. For all eternity, their pure white clothes will represent faithfulness and their name, forever written in the Book of Life and spoken of by Jesus Himself, will be declared before the Father and His angels. Can we see a little better now what our soul-stimulating, avoid-the-cross-life church programs are costing us?
In direct contrast to the Sardis church, the church of Laodicea seems to redefine Biblical Christianity altogether and virtually grows their own “bible.” Drawing from numerous religions and humanistic resources, the church of Laodicea’s aggregate, lukewarm religion of organized unbelief stimulates the human soul experience through its own set of programs that temporarily release a false sense of contentment that deceives it members into thinking that they need nothing more or different, when in Truth, they are considered by God as poor, blind, and naked—and worse, they are completely clueless to their impoverished spiritual state.
Sandwiched between the soul-life-seeking churches of Sardis and Laodicea is the Spirit-Life-seeking Philadelphia church. The fully overcoming Philadelphia church is evidence that there is no way around the enduring experience of being crucified with Christ and that there is no other gospel but that of the 66-books of the Bible. All 66-books of the Bible point to the Person of Jesus Christ and continually provoke the reader to intimately know Him and to know Him crucified and resurrected. In direct contrast to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea, the Philadelphia church stays directly connected to their Holy Spirit-led instructions and though graced with “little strength,” they hold fast to the Truth of their identity in Christ and faithfully keep His Word until they are fully transformed into Christ’s likeness by the resurrection power of Jesus Christ at work within them.
The remarkable God-like character within this last-days Philadelphia church is directly rewarded with an intimate, Christ-Life fullness that, like an uncapped wellspring, supernaturally exudes Life from within during the time of earth’s greatest shakings. Transfigured into Christ’s image and raptured by His Presence, the Philadelphia church is residing within middle-heaven and is going to or has already entered the descending city of New Jerusalem. This Philadelphia church serves King Jesus as witnesses who come and go in their secured and transfigured state throughout the earth. They are fully empowered to deal with and confront the unleashed evil that comes upon the earth in the last days and bring about the will of Father on earth just as it is in heaven.
When the religion of the antichrist fully emerges from the serpent’s Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and its evil fruit fully matures, we will see the final unrepentant, counterfeit version of the 7th church of Thyatira emerge. The serpent’s final harlot-religious system will offer a spiritual experience created through a fusion of flesh-and-soul stimulants and demonic affliction that will elevate these two human drives to levels never yet humanly experienced. The devil’s harlot religion will fully embrace and promote all forms of sexual immorality and create worship centers for the god of the stomach and the god of image. Various cocktailed stimulants will be quickly offered to anyone who is even remotely curious. Upon perceiving any interest whatsoever, the harlot is instantly ready to custom-mix and serve up stimulants for all who so much as show even a little interest.
These chemical and digital stimulants are designed to activate and stimulate all human senses and be ingested through any and every human body-and-soul orifice: the eyes (visual mediums), ears (music/words/sounds), mouth (food, drink), nose (scents), blood (injections), and private parts (sexuality, excrement, fluids of all sorts). The human who indulges the harlot’s stimulants instantly develops intense craving-and-consuming cycles. And each cycle awakens the need for more than before. The short, ecstatic experiences target the pleasure center of the human soul and quickly turns into the next level of the addiction-compulsion cycle that can and will never will satisfy its consumer. It is exclusively designed to drive the user into more and more consumption until finally, complete insanity is threatened. Once this stage is reached, a final false remedy to the distress of looming insanity is offered.
To avoid insanity, the person is offered, and can choose to take the serpent’s mark upon their forehead or wrist and is told that they will finally find “lasting peace.” This is a lie and the mark of the serpent should never be taken, no matter what they are told they will get from it. Instead of getting respite from the threat of insanity, by taking the mark, those who take the serpent’s seal or mark upon their forehead or wrist are sealing their eternal doom.
When we see the big picture behind all of these spiritual and human progressions—either toward or away from Jesus—can we better understand why Jesus is asking us now, while it is still light, to embrace the cross and through His redemptive transformations, get our soul’s vulnerabilities as far away from the serpent’s reach as Christ is leading us? We are being offered the Life of Christ for all of eternity now. As devoted, first-love believers in Jesus Christ and through the path of dying to self and all our soulish compulsions, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ is transforming us from the inside-out. We can look forward to the ever-increasing and lasting fruits of the Holy Spirit which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).
If we are not purposing to move in first-love devotion toward Jesus and believing in and obeying His Word—the Bible, rest assured that there is no neutral. If we are not moving toward Jesus, we are moving away from Him and we growing the nasty fruits of the flesh which are: “… obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing, and similar things (Galatians 5:19-21).”
As we choose to respond to the Holy Spirit’s leading, we are being progressively pulled out of these insatiable, soul-based, old-man, flesh-and-soul cravings, and are entering the peace-giving, peace-keeping Life of the Spirit while advancing the kingdom of God on the earth. This wholehearted response to Jesus is setting us free to become fully clothed in Christ’s fullness and protected from what is coming. Sealed with God’s name and His city, the last days Christ-filled overcomers will advance the kingdom of heaven on earth and be empowered to directly confront the harlot religion and the systems of the antichrist until God’s final judgments are released and the millennial reign of Jesus Christ and His Bride begins!
Scripture: REVELATION 3 – NET Version
To the Church in Sardis
3:1 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a reputation that you are alive, but in reality you are dead. 2 Wake up then, and strengthen what remains that was about to die, because I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3 Therefore, remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come against you. 4 But you have a few individuals in Sardis who have not stained their clothes, and they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be dressed like them in white clothing, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will declare his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
To the Church in Philadelphia
3:7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Holy One, the True One, who holds the key of David, who opens doors no one can shut, and shuts doors no one can open: 8 ‘I know your deeds. (Look! I have put in front of you an open door that no one can shut.) I know that you have little strength, but you have obeyed my word and have not denied my name. 9 Listen! I am going to make those people from the synagogue of Satan – who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying – Look, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my admonition to endure steadfastly, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is about to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have so that no one can take away your crown. 12 The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never depart from it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God (the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven from my God), and my new name as well. 13 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
To the Church in Laodicea
3:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following:
“This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: 15 ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! 16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! 17 Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! 19 All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! 20 Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. 21 I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Revelation 17:1-5 The Harlot: Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke to me. “Come,” he said, “I will show you the condemnation and punishment of the great prostitute who sits on many waters, 2 with whom the kings of the earth committed sexual immorality and the earth’s inhabitants got drunk with the wine of her immorality.” 3 So he carried me away in the Spirit to a wilderness, and there I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. 4 Now the woman was dressed in purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls. She held in her hand a golden cup filled with detestable things and unclean things from her sexual immorality. 5 On her forehead was written a name, a mystery: “Babylon the Great, the Mother of prostitutes and of the detestable things of the earth.”