• It is only through the Spirit that the stars, the pastors, the preachers and the teachers, and the churches give light | Photo: Pixabay

The Book of Revelation – Write Number Seven

Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer - 24 February 2020

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.”
Revelation 3:1-2

The Spirit gives life, but the church at Sardis was dead. Jesus says in John 3:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” Oh, yes, it looked quite good. The modern equivalent praises would sound like this: just look at that church! It’s wonderful how they are organized. Just look at all the activities they plan. See how orderly and well prepared they are, with lots of written notes, committee meetings, church council meetings, the deacons, the workgroups and the management committees and all these great discussions about church responsibilities. They are a real example! However, Christ says to the church at Sardis: “You have a reputation of being alive, but I see through all this. It looks wonderful on the outside, but there is nothing inside—a dead church.” A Dutch expression says: like priest, like people. Meaning: the way the spiritual leadership behaves herself, in that way the people will behave themselves. Wrong example will result in wrong following.

This is why Jesus points out: “I have the seven stars. They are in My hands. Only in My hands there is life. Only in connection with Me there will be true life. Only then, by a Church that is inseparably connected to Me, there will be a powerful, living testimony in her preaching. Only when the Spirit in His fullness raises up the ’dry bones’ the Church will truly come to life.

“Jesus points out: “Only in connection with Me there will be true life. Only then, by a Church that is inseparably connected to Me, there will be a powerful, living testimony in her preaching.””

To the pastor and the members of the Church He says: ‘Come back to Me!’ ‘Return to the Lord!’ ‘Allow the revealing light to shine in your personal life and in the life of your Church.’ Both leaders and members: get down on your knees and confess your guilt. Only then is there hope. Christ gives fullness of Spirit. He sends the Spirit forth. Jesus says in John 16:7 ” But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper [Holy Spirit] will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” This demonstrates His unity with the Father as well: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also…” John 15:26-27. And Acts 2:32-33 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” It is only through the Spirit that the stars, the pastors, the preachers and the teachers, and the churches give light.

John wrote in the beginning of the Book of Revelation: “John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth… In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength… As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:4-5, 16 and 20.

Christ addresses the church at Sardis. The city’s glory lay in the past. Once the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, where Croesus was king, who, according to Herodotus, reigned for 14 years: from 560 BC until his defeat by the Persian king Cyrus the Great in 546 BC. Croesus’ legendary wealth leads to the expression ‘as rich as Croesus’ and according to Herodotus, Croesus was the first monarch to mint gold and silver coins. Lydia was conquered by the Persians and then by the Greeks under the leadership of Alexander the Great. It was bequeathed to General Seleucus and to his descendants the Seleucids after Alexander’s death. Finally it was conquered by the Romans.

Its glory was tarnished. There was indeed still commerce and industry as it was situated at a crossroads—woolen and dyed cloths in particular. There still was much wealth therefore. Its paramount deity was Cybele, the goddess of one of Asia’s most well-known mystery religions. The inhabitants of Sardis were known far and wide for their luxurious, loose way of life. There is no hint of enmity neither towards Jews, nor of open persecution, nor of heretical doctrines, only of spiritual death—deep spiritual apathy. Comp. Ezekiel 18:21–32, 37:1–14. Spiritual life was perhaps smothered by prosperity. Do the spiritual problems of Sardis not draw our attention to the church in the rich Western world? Materialism and wealth often quench the fire of the Spirit.

There is only persecution where there is spiritual life. Satan does not concern himself with those who are already his. He loses his prey if people come to Christ however, and he does everything in his power to prevent this to happen, or to pull such people back into the realm of darkness as soon as possible.

The expression ‘you have a name’ means ‘you have a reputation’. This may indicate that the church put much store in its ‘name’ and ‘reputation’. The expression ‘Christian in name only’ means Christianity as an outward religion, a set of ethics and rules on the outside. In this sense Europe is called a ‘Christian’ continent.  The name “Christendom” is perhaps derived from this: ‘…you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’ This church is more like Christendom (‘dom’ in Dutch means dumb, boring, silly, stupid, and not very intelligent) than having vibrant, intelligent ‘living’ Christian faith.

A Christian culture does not mean the manifestation of true Christianity. Although within those nominally Christian Churches and nations there can and will be ‘pockets of light’, of people that still practice true Christianity.

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.”

Solomon says that a good reputation is better than fine perfume in Ecclesiastes 7:1 “A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth.” You would do better to abandon and renounce financial gain than to lose your good reputation. Switzerland would do better to overturn the secrecy of their banking system to reveal the gold stolen during the Second World War by the Nazis from Jews and from other countries rather than lose its good reputation for the sake of temporary monetary gain. It takes much longer to get your good reputation back. However, if you have a good reputation yet there is nothing solid behind it, it is just a façade, window-dressing which is easily seen through.

When the Lord Jesus says, “I have found your deeds unfinished [not complete, ESV, not perfect, KJV] in the sight of My God,” it does not matter and it is not important what others say about you. “I have not found…” What is important is what the Lord thinks and says about you and your deeds/works. For He is the One who says: I judge you—you and your works as an individual and as a church. And when He starts to reveal the true state of affairs, then things probably will show to be completely different from how they looked from the outside with all the nice cover-ups!

Five clear commands follow:
1: Wake up! 2. Strengthen what remains! 3. Remember! 4. Hold fast! 5. Repent!

The first one is the watchman’s call: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:14 “For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” The stars, the church’s ministers, should proclaim the watchman’s call in particular. I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel, said the Lord to Ezekiel chapter 3:17-19 “Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself….” And Ezekiel 33:7-9 says the same thing.

The second one is about what is said of Jesus in Matthew 12:20: “A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory.”

The third one is: Remember! 1 Samuel 7:12 “Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

The fourth one is: Hold fast! Jesus says in Revelation 3:11 “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.”

The fifth one is: Repent! John the Baptist says: ‘Repent!’ ‘And bring forth fruit worthy of repentance!’ Luke 3:8 (KJV)

It is not only the ministers who have this responsibility however. Christ has shown the things that are to take place soon, swiftly, to His servants, to the Church —to us, to you and I. Revelation 1:1 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John… Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” He calls all of us to tell the sinners: Repent! He calls you and me. The ‘sinners’ include dead church members as well, the hypocritical church. A great outward religion and great ceremonies, but inside practically dead. Be awake! Wake up! Revival! Fire! Just shuffling along in tradition is not sufficient. Nor is being baptized and having been confirmed some time or a long time ago. Nor is attending a midnight service at Christmas from time to time, because of its happy, very cozy and nostalgic feeling enough to consider you to be a true Christian!

“Are you sure that you are really spiritually alive? Are you truly born again with the Holy Spirit living in you? Do you truly belong to Jesus?”

Are you sure that you are really spiritually alive? Are you truly born again with the Holy Spirit living in you? Do you truly belong to Jesus? Have you turned from your old life to new life in Jesus? To be born again and true conversion is all about being renewed every day. God does not want you and me to die (eternally); He wants us to be alive!

None of their works have been found to be complete and full. They were doing all kinds of things, but the Holy Spirit was absent and so their works were empty, void and dead. They had excellent and well-thought through and theologically sound doctrines in their ‘Christian Creeds’ and ‘Statements of Faith’. But it was all in their head, in their mind, but not in their heart. True faith is a matter of head, heard, hands.

Sardis had been an impregnable fortress. The acropolis, the castle, was impregnable. It had been conquered twice, however, by subterfuge, because the guards were not alert. They were asleep in fact. They put up a show of invincibility but, asleep, they were actually easy prey.


About the Author