110911AM CLW-20 Sardis.doc Christ’s Last Word to His Church SERIES: Sardis: Where the Great Physician Felt their Pulse and Declared Them Dead Revelation 3:1-6 This morning Revelation 3 begins with the second shortest letter of Christ’s Seven, written to Sardis, hometown of Aesop’s Fables and Midas’ Touch. When we read these words we are […]
The last book of the Bible seems to be the most fascinating and revealing of all the books of the Bible[i]for believers. Nowhere outside of the first three chapters of Revelation is there such a concentration of church-related truth and they are the single most important source of understanding Christ’s present focus and work of any Book of God’s Word.
In the Four Gospels we find a quadrophonic symphony of Christ’s Earthly life and ministry. Acts shows what the Spirit of God, using the Word of God, can do through normal people. Romans through Jude records the doctrinal truths and foundation for everything in our new lives as believers, when we become a part of Christ’s Church.
When Jesus Christ introduces Himself to those precious and faithful saints in Revelation 3:7, He makes one of the greatest promises ever made. They, like us, lived in an uncertain world, and more than to any other church, Jesus explains His power in a way we all can grasp and hold onto today.
We each need to hear and understand and hold onto by faith:
The Most Amazing Promise
In a world of uncertainties, lurking disasters, constant unknowns, and endless potential dangers-Jesus Christ told these believers so much like us: here is truth you can hold tightly.
This morning we are looking back at where we’ve been. Much like getting home from a trip and spending time looking at the pictures that you took while traveling.
We have invested the past year, looking at the only part of God’s Word dictated by Christ, for the express purpose of: being sent to His Church, being read by His Church, and being obeyed by His Church.
There is no part of the Bible so clear, so personal, and so direct: as these three chapters. What exactly did we find in Revelation? We found that:
Posted a Picture
One of the things I love about the Lord is that He always saves the best for last. Unlike the world whose joys run out and fade, God’s path that shines brighter each day we walk it (Pr. 4:18).
Just like when Jesus turned the water into wine, all the guests said that the best had been saved for the last. Just like the promise to those who stay close to the Lord in Psalm 92, our God is the God who gives better and better joys so that those at the end surpass all others. As we turn to Rev. 3:21-22 we find that once again, our God has saved the best for last.
One of the greatest works of God in salvation was opening our blind eyes to see.
Protecting spiritual sight is the final of the three elements we are to deliberately pursue, according to Christ’s Last Words. Jesus counsels His Church in life-long, spiritual vision-care, promoting healthy eyes.
Christ Desires Us
To See Clearly
Please open with me to Rev. 3, and listen again to Jesus, telling the church at Laodicea what they needed to have lives that pleased Him. Please give attention to the public reading of Scripture.
There’s only one portion of God’s Word, specifically written to the Church, by Jesus Christ: Rev. 2&3. Join me there as we to continue systematically exame Christ’s challenges to this, the seventh and final of the churches.
If you had traveled to visited friends or family in Laodicea, three things would have stood out to you in the First Century. These three unique features to this city, are the framework of Christ’s words we are examining today in Revelation 3:18. These could be called:
Laodicea’s Three Key Industries
As we open to Revelation 3:17, we are opening to Jesus the Christ of Christmas, talking about something so timely to Christmas, so relevent to our choices this season, and so right where we are today that it is uncanny.
Jesus is addressing the condition that the believers at Laodicea had gotten themselves into. They were simply described by Christ as: loaded down with stuff.
They could afford all that stuff, they bought all those items with their hard-earned money. They stored their possessions carefully, and used them regularly. But, what the Laodiceans are confronted with by Christ is not that they had so much, but the danger that comes when we have too much stuff.
Perhaps the most unlikely words to be uttered by the Lord Jesus Christ are in our Bibles this morning. Jesus says in modern terms of the church in Laodicea, “You make me sick!”
As we open to Revelation 3:14-22, Jesus writes a letter that all scholars conclude is the most piercing, stinging and scathing letter He ever wrote to any church. That means:
Laodicea is the Worst Church
We all need a good dose of old-fashioned “living hope”, the kind that the teaching of Christ & His Apostles caused to overflow through the hearts, minds and lives of early New Testament believers.
When Peter addressed the most heavily persecuted saints of the 1st Century living all around the area of the seven churches we are studying in Revelation, he told them a foundational truth. He told them that salvation opens to us life-long lives of hope. Look at 1 Peter 1:3.
Life for us as followers of Christ is all about Listening to Jesus. Jesus said that as His sheep we need to hear Him and follow Him.
Listening to Jesus
Jesus came on an unannounced visit to a church in central Asia Minor two thousand years ago and then wrote a startling letter back to them about their deteriorating spiritual health. They really should have listened to Him.
As we turn to Romans, think of this: Christ’s death on the Cross is the heart of our salvation. His substitutionary death paid the penalty of our sin, removed the record of our transgressions, and purchased our eternal salvation.
Christ’s life, now lived in and for us, opens to us His sanctifying power to save us from sin’s destructive power and keep us useful for his glory.
Today, and every day of our lives, the Cross of Christ is the source of our power to live in this world of sin.
Living a life that glorifies God is called sanctified living.
Sanctification means that God is leading and controlling our lives.
As we return to Christ’s Last Words to His Church, we find that His Church at:
Laodicea was not Living in the Shadow of Christ’s Cross
For two generations, all the local churches around Laodicea had savored the truths about the Cross of Christ. Today as Christ’s Church we gather to hear again for our generation His warning to: Never stop living in the shadow of the Cross.
Jesus taught such a comforting, hope-filled message of His return to rescue His Church before the Tribulation, that His disciples went everywhere teaching this same truth. When Paul had only a month in a pagan city where he planted a church, the Rapture was central to their doctrine.
The Rapture was First Taught by Jesus
The Rapture is a doctrine started and taught by Jesus, continued and spread by His disciples, and believed and passionately lived out by His Church. The early church heard and understood this doctrine of Christ’s any moment return, and radiantly lived, looking for ways to please Him when He came to rescue them.
This morning we look at what should become the model for us at Calvary. Revelation 3 introduces us to the church that pleased Jesus Christ, and thus had a His blessings poured upon all that they did for Him.
Of all the seven churches, Philadelphia, the sixth church, can be described as the Faithful Church and stands out as the model. My prayer would be that we as a church here at Calvary would be seen by our Lord as a church filled with Philadelphia-like saints, who gather and live out Christ in this faithful way.
The promises Christ gave them, the insights He shares with them, and the lessons He offers to us who listen are unparalleled in any of the other letters.
As we open to Revelation 3:1-6 we are opening to the worst report Christ has given to any of His churches. As we saw last time, this is the only time that Jesus declares that a local church is dead, non-responsive to His plans and non-functional for His purposes.
Look back over the text of the letter Christ wrote to them, which we read last time. In those words we find in an event from Sardis’ past, a key that unlocks the message Jesus gave to the saints that were alive in Christ, and listening.
All of us in Christ’s Church are called from darkness to light at salvation; and we are saved from the power of Satan; and we are being transformed into saints of God. That process in called consecration. Last week as we looked at the Church at Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29), we saw that their consecrated lives were slipping because of compromise with sin and false doctrine.
Jesus called them to repent, to have a change of mind that would lead to a change in behavior. The letter to Thyatira is a challenge from Christ for His children of faith to do what is needed: repent of compromising their lives of sanctification.
Jesus changes the tone of His Voice as we open to Revelation 3:20. After seven rebukes to the most disobedient church of the seven, Laodicea is hearing something amazing. Jesus makes them an offer that is unbelievable. Jesus invites anyone who wants to spend time with Him, face-to-face and one-on-one, to join Him for the most refreshing meal of the day: the unhurried evening meal that every laboring person longed for after a hard day’s work, and every rich person looked forward to as the best time of the day.
As we open to Christ’s last words, we have come to the last church He addresses in Revelation 3:19. Here in the last words to the last church we find a grand summary of the entire life of the believer, reflecting the theme of most of the New Testament epistles.
In other words, Jesus ends His words to His church asking us to live a life of constant repentence, we are to avoid getting lax about sin. V. 19 brings us to:
Challenge Seven: Jesus wants us to Repent of any Spiritual Laxity
v. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.
Christ’s words in Revelation 2:12-17, is addressed to the locally assembled church in the geographic place called Pergamum: a place of Satan’s seat. There we have heard Christ’s words, which contain a warning about idolatry, Satan’s plan of false worship.
From those early days after Creation, when Adam sinned and all of mankind to follow also fell into sin, God made a way for mankind to come back. The way back was to worship Him by a substitutionary, sacrificial, blood-sprinkled way.
The key to understanding all of world history since the Fall of Humanity into sin comes from God’s Word. Always remember that the only absolutely trustworthy and accurate account of the earliest days of both the Universe and the human race is found in the inspired words from God in Genesis.
As we open to Revelation 2:18-29, we come to the letter to the Church at Thyatira.
That term, Thyatira, is usually a bit foreign to us outside of this chapter. To get our bearings we could also say, we are opening to the geographic area that received more of the books (epistles) of the New Testament than any other geographic area of the ancient world.
Have you ever thought about where these letters we hold were first sent?
God Sent More New Testament Letters Here than Anywhere Else
Here’s the lineup if you haven’t stopped to do the math.
As we open to Revelation 2:14-15, and see the next section of Christ’s message to the saints at Pergamum, the story behind these words actually starts way back in the book of Genesis with the life of Abraham.
Revelation 2:14-15 (NKJV) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat thingssacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. 15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.
As we open Revelation 1:1, stop for a moment and remember how God starts this final book. We read that:
God Wants His Servants to Understand the Future
God opens the Book of Revelation by telling us that He wrote this book “to show His servants” (Rev. 1:1) things that we need to know about the future. Only followers of God and servants of Christ have the incredible insight for living that comes from knowing for sure, what will happen in the days, months and years ahead.
As we open to Revelation 2:12-17, remember that Revelation 1-3 is all about:
Seeing Jesus Gathering with His Local Churches
Jesus wants us to know He is walking among us and watching our lives.
The simple message Jesus Christ gives us is that His Highest Priority right now is gathering with His local church. Remember where John first saw Jesus in Revelation 1:12? He was walking around His local churches (that is what v. 20 says that those lampstands represent: Christ’s local churches).
As we open to Revelation 2:8-11 we are opening to the second of Christ’s seven personal letters to individual churches of the late First Century. We looked at them as a group, but now we are taking a look at each individual church.
As we read these words, the historical context is that the Church at Smyrna was going through the second wave of persecutions that the Early Church had to endure.
A Short History of Early Church Persecution
Someone told me this week they could save the first half hour of my messages by just “Google-ing” what I talk about, and implied they wanted me to just stick to reading the text of the Scripture. But for the rest of you that are willing, if you will bear with me, I’d like to give you a sanctified mind’s analysis of Church History: something that they could never get on Google.
As we open to Revelation 2:1-7, we are reading the personal message in Christ’s last words to His Church. These verses are part of a warning about what tripped up the earliest generations of believers. Jesus wanted them, and us, to stay on the right path.
These churches were real gatherings of people 2,000 years ago. That means that Jesus saw seven different types of believers gathering at that moment in the history of His church. Have you ever thought about that?
Every believer back then was like one of these seven types of believers addressed by these seven letters we are studying. In some part of the end of the First Century AD there were Ephesian types of believers (2:1-7); Smyrna types of believers (2:8-11); Pergamos types of believers (2:12-17); Thyatira types of believers (2:18-29); Sardis types of believers (3:1-6); Philadelphia types of believers (3:7-13); and Laodicea types of believers (3:14-22).
There was a church in the New Testament world that was doing all the right things for the Lord; but there was one problem: they were doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. Jesus addresses that problem in His first letter to the Churches in Revelation 2.
If you were arriving into the harbor to visit the church of Revelation 2 in Ephesus this morning, there is only one sight that would catch your eye. Not the bustling harbor teeming with boats, not the roads lined with the exotic spices and goods from the east. No: it would be the lustrous golden gleam of the Temple of Diana.
We are part of the gathering, of all His obedient children, for Jesus asked us, as believers, to keep gathering to worship Him until He comes. So, there is perhaps no portion of Scripture more vital for us as we live out our lives on Earth than the last book of the Bible. In the final book of God’s Word we find that:
Revelation is the Culmination & Conclusion
This book comes last because it is not only the Conclusion of God’s Word, it is also the Culmination of God’s Plan. We see everything that started in Genesis: the Perfect Paradise of God, the Rebellion and Fall of the Universe into Sin, the Flood of Water Destroying the rebels, and the choosing and saving of the People of the Covenant-all in their final form in Revelation.
God is a Farmer, His Word calls us His field (I Cor. 3:9), and our lives are searched by Him for fruit, so He can harvest from our lives. That is what we will see as we open to Revelation 2 this morning.
Much like the farmers all around us and the many gardeners among us, if you want a good crop this year, the field needs to be prepared and worked.
Jesus desires, from each member of His Body, a life that is plowed, planted and watered, so that we produce a harvest of fruit that pleases Him.
Have you ever noticed that whenever Jesus described us as His children in the Gospels, somewhere nearby He spoke of fruitfulness?
As we open to the Matthew 13 Parable of the Soils, He said His born-again believers bear three levels of fruit: some 30, some 60, and others 100-fold. Look at v.8 and then at v. 23.
In the John 15 Vine and the Branches discourse, He said that He is vitally interested in us bearing “more” fruit. In fact, John 15 states more clearly than anywhere else in the Gospels what Christ’s constant desire is for us as His children: glorifying God equals fruitful lives.
Most of us here today hold the most powerful device in the world; it is more jam packed with unbelievable features than the one-day-coming iPhone 5. It has the most ultimate guidance, communication and efficiency apps ever possible to obtain, and it is called God’s Word. God speaks through His Word, and we have His Voice on paper before each of us today.
As we open to Revelation we open to the longest book written specifically for Christ’s Church, containing 22 chapters, and 404 verses; all with the unique target of being given by God to show Jesus Christ to the Church.
John is flattened on Patmos when he sees Jesus. Those flaming eyes seemed so much like the ones John had seen when Jesus cleansed the Temple of Jerusalem. But this time its not the Temple of Jerusalem, Jesus is headed towards the local churches that make up His Body, His visible presence on Earth. Jesus with piercing eyes of holiness and glowing feet of chastisement is headed to stomp out the sin that is diminishing His power in His Church.
John is staggered. The churches that received the letter Jesus sent them through John were put on notice and Church History records the results. Those churches that did not repent have gone extinct. Jesus removed their lamp from the stand and He had to find others who would stay useful in His sight.
When John saw Jesus that Sunday morning on Patmos, he collapsed and was like a dead man. It wasn’t that he was old and weak, or overcome by emotion, John had seen that look in Christ’s eyes before. When he realized what Jesus was communicating, it overwhelmed him. John saw Almighty God the Son, Jesus Christ, who was displeased with His Church.
Did you know that in less than 60 years, the original edition of Christ’s Church had gotten to the point where 70% of the local assemblies were displeasing to God? That’s right 5 out of the 7 churches that Jesus had visited were reprimanded and warned. Christ’s expressed in 5 out of 7 letters His displeasure about the way that were living out God’s plan for their lives.
As we open to Revelation 1:14 this is the second set of twin descriptions of Christ: His head and hair are white, like wool and snow; His eyes are like burning flames of fire.
When John turned to see who it was that spoke to him, he turned and saw the Ancient of Days Himself, in all His power, in all His holiness, and with those eyes ablaze with an inescapable and penetrating gaze. That is how Jesus Christ the Risen Lord appears at this moment, as we gather before Him. Let that sight get imprinted upon your heart:
Christ’s Flaming Eyes of Penetrating Holiness
Revelation is God lifting the lid off of Christ, or pulling back the wrapping paper on something very special about Jesus, but not yet fully seen or known. That is what the first word of this book says.
So, chapter 1 is God holding out for us: What Jesus is doing right now.
Chapters 2-3 are God showing us what Jesus sees in His Church.
Chapters 4-22 are what God wants us to know about His plans for the future.
Each of these sections of Revelation is a disclosure and an unveiling of things not yet fully seen, or even really understood.
Open to the only book exclusively devoted to introducing us to what our Master and Savior Jesus is doing RIGHT NOW: the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
Have you paused yet today to check in with Jesus Christ? The best way to do that is through your Bible, because Jesus Christ is revealed to us as the Word of God. He is the Word, and the Word reveals Him. Each time we open God’s Word we can hear His Voice.
At Creation God the Son, the Creator spoke and made all things; and through His Apostles and Prophets, His Word has been given. As you open to the last book of your Bibles, you open to the climactic conclusion of God’s Word written down for us.