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Scripture reading – Revelation 3; Revelation 4
Our study of The Revelations of John the Apostle brings us to Revelation 3 and 4, and the last three of the seven churches of Revelation. Our former devotion considered the churches at Ephesus (2:1-7), Smyrna (2:8-11), Pergamos (2:12-17), and Thyatira (2:18-29). Today’s devotion will consider the Church in Sardis (3:1-6), and look forward to addressing the church in Philadelphia (3:7-13), and Laodicea (3:14-22) in the future.
As you read the passage written to the three churches, notice the style and format by which each was addressed in chapter 2 continued in chapter 3. The churches named were actual congregations in John’s day; however, the letters addressed to them were prophetic in nature. In other words, the seven churches also served as “types” of future churches and congregations. Another similarity is seen in how each church was addressed: namely that an “angel” acted as the Lord’s messenger. Notice also, the congregations were commended and affirmed for their virtues, yet rebuked for tolerating sin (with two exceptions, Smyrna (2:8-11) and Philadelphia (3:7-13)
The Church in Sardis (3:1-6)
Notice the message of the angel concerning Sardis: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (3:1). Living, but dead…what a tragic summation of a congregation that was busy about religion with its traditions, while being totally unaware they were spiritually dead. The believers of Sardis were working; yet, they were condemned: “I have not found thy works perfect before God” (3:2). Is that not the case with many congregations today? Churches are busier than ever, but how many are busy living the truth?
A little lesson from history: Some scholars compare the church of Sardis with the church period known as the Dark Ages (began around the 4th century AD). There are Biblical historians who identify the works attributed to Sardis with the Roman Catholic Church. Catholicism with its rituals (many derived from ancient paganism), traditions, and extrabiblical teachings, drew the world of the 4th century into a millennium of spiritual darkness. That dark veil shrouded the world, particularly Western Europe, until it was challenged during a period known as the Reformation. The Reformation, was used by God to slowly disperse the spiritual darkness of the “Dark Ages.”
While the majority of believers of Sardis were spiritually dead (as were churches in the Dark Ages), there were a few who remained faithful. Those few, many of whom became martyrs, were said to “have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (3:4). In other words, in spite of the backslidings of the majority, there were a few who did not defile themselves with sin. They were spiritual overcomers, victors, and the Lord promised: “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” (3:5).
Closing thought – What a wonderful statement! The Lord declared He would not be ashamed of the believer who kept himself unspotted by sin, and said of him: “I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (3:5).
Can the Lord say that of you?
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