| 1 ¶ And unto the angel
of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven
Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a
name that thou livest, and art dead.
2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 He that overcometh, 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.
6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Rev. 3:1 - Name of being alive, but dead
Let's think about this concept. Why didn't Christ just say, "You look alive but you are dead." The "name" must be significant. Remember that we just came out of the church of Thyatira the middle church of the seven and which I believe represents the darkest time for truth. At the end we saw a spot of brilliance in the morning star (representing Christ re2216) re0228. We recall that reformers like Wycliffe, Huss, Luther, and Calvin were prying open windows in the darkness with the light of Christ. Now we come to a time of professed life but, in reality, deadness. After the reformation began taking root, many of the churches began getting more political power and practiced what they had been taught. They began persecuting those who didn't see things as they did. The Anabaptists (protested baptism by sprinkling, etc.), the Puritans (who wanted to see the Church of England purified), the Huguenots (of France), and many other groups were severely treated. The Protestants were practicing intolerance instead of protesting against it. Their name sounded good, but they had stopped following their mission.
| After Protestantism
was somewhat established in France it spread to England. "Unfortunately,
though the Church of England denied the supremacy of the Pope and rejected
many of Rome's teachings, it retained many of its traditions. Worse, it
quickly departed from the purity and simplicity of the gospel characteristic
of the early years of the Reformation. Though Protestants only rarely employed
the horrible cruelties used so readily by medieval Christianity, they did
not understand the principles of religious liberty and denied the right
of every person to worship according to the dictates of conscience.
"All were, in fact, required to accept the doctrines and observe the forms of worship decreed by the official church. Dissenters suffered. The authorities, whether civil or ecclesiastical, expelled pastors from their pulpits for not following prescribed forms. People endured fines, even imprisonment, if they attended services, not sanctioned by church officials.
"Though free from Rome, Britain – under the rule of the Church of England – declined into its own era or great spiritual darkness. Her Protestant rulers proved no less faithful to the ancient New Testament gospel than the medieval church had. Natural religion, as opposed to clear and distinct Bible doctrines, began to infiltrate much British religious thought. Most important, too, the great truth of justification by faith alone, so clearly taught by Luther and discovered at such a great cost, had almost lost its influence." – Clifford Goldstein, The Day Evil Dies, 1999.
Then came John Wesley who, following the pattern of Luther, discovered the beauty and hope of salvation through faith. Gradually, the tide was turned in England. One of the misunderstandings he opposed was that the law of God died with Christ at the cross (1 John 3:4). The gospel, he affirmed, pointed people to the law as the standard while the law pointed to Christ as the solution — the only power that could save from sin.
We may consider Wesley as one who helped open the door to the church of Sardis.
What "hour" is referred to?
Because this is not the last church we would not see this coming as Christ's
second coming in clouds of glory. Although readiness for the final hour
is readiness each moment of life, that preparation would seem to be secondary
in the present context. For the specific "hour" here brought to view, consider
the judgment of Chapter 14.
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel . . . Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come" (Rev. 14:6, 7).
I believe that the judgment of Rev. 14 comes during the time of the Philadelphia church. I haven't yet shown that but, if I'm right, the remnant of Philadelphia would come out of the remnant from Sardis. They were being prepared to respond to the coming call to repentance.
The message is for us, too. We must remember to watch and pray. We hear much these days about assurance. We do need to feel secure in Christ, and yet we need to watch. Peter, James, and John went into the garden with Jesus. They felt their faith was strong. In their security (assurance) they fell asleep physically and spiritually. See mt2640. Compare 1pe0407.
We know how the story ends. Let us be faithful accepting the challenge given to the church of Sardis.
These verses provide insight
on the process of salvation. In the verse just quoted, a person like Moses
who once stood in purity before God, one whose name was written in the
book of the saved, may have his name blotted out. On this topic also see
verse 11 of this chapter and the passages quoted there v11.
I believe that the names become permanent at the end of the preadvent judgment
(14:6) when the work of sealing is completed 1401c.
The apparent conflict between verses 5 and 11 is clarified by realizing
that God has a plan for all of us to be saved. The names were written there
before the foundation of the world. When we choose the way of sin, they
The fact that names are subject to removal does not mean that we must be without the assurance of peace with Christ. The promise of names not blotted out is to be fulfilled later (cf. v12). The worthy ones in Sardis — those walk with Jesus in white v4 and are expected to continue to do so. The judgment and the sealing come later, as we will see in verse 12 and in the passages just cited. If we have confessed our sins and turned from them by God's grace, we may claim the promise that He will forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
"Behold, I have set before
thee an open door. . . ." (Rev. 3:8)
You may remember that the tabernacle (or "tent" in modern English) was a small structure with two rooms. It was pitched inside a larger courtyard with a white linen outer "wall." Entry to the courtyard was through an opening on the east side. Inside the courtyard was the altar of burnt offering and the laver. The the "door" to the tabernacle was the drapery, opening also on the east side. Once inside the tabernacle, the priest could see the candlestick with seven lamps (the light of the world) on the left. The table of shewbread (the bread of life) was on the right and, straight ahead, the altar of incense (prayer in Jesus' name for grace). This small altar was in front of the "door" or opening, into the most holy place where only the high priest entered on one day each year.
The people came into the courtyard to bring their sacrifices for sin offerings. Only the priests went into the first room or "holy place" and only the high priest went through the first room into the most holy place through the second door then opened.
The curtain doors were on the east side so that the people would have their backs to the sun when they bowed in worship. This was because the people, recently called out of Egypt, had adopted the cultural habits of that land. Sun worship has always been a substitute for worship of the creator. In adapting to the pagan culture during the middle ages, the church fathers seem to have forgotten this lesson. See the prophecy of this in ez0816.
The courtyard where sinners could come with their sacrifices represents the earth. Jesus came and died for our sins on earth. That is why the altar of burnt offering was outside the tent. The tabernacle itself represents heaven. Hebrews 8 helps clarify this he08.
So, in the sanctuary services, we see Jesus as the lamb living and dying for our sins in the courtyard (on the earth). Then (going left to right — east to west in the sanctuary) under the symbol of priest, he enters through the doorway into the tabernacle (heaven) to minister his blood for forgiveness by sprinkling the animal's before the closed door into the most holy place where the ark was. Finally, as the high priest, we see him enter the most holy place with more blood, for cleansing, to complete the work of atonement for the blood of forgiveness that was sprinkled daily before the veil. We see the two parts of His work in a verse I like to quote: 1jo0109.
The author of Hebrews invites us to enter, by the blood of Christ which was a substitute for our own blood of permanent death he1019f. We enter through the agency of our Saviour who died in our place. He could go in, and by His righteousness, obtain forgiveness for us. He could also go into the most holy place and obtain cleansing from sin for us. We go in through Christ. Alone we could never stand in the presence of the holy God of the universe because we are sinners. Only the sinless Son of God who became a man for us could do that in our place! Marvelous grace!
All this helps us see the imagery of one door shut when another was opened. We go through the doors with Him spiritually when they are opened just as we abide in (or with) Him spiritually jn1504. In fact, as we abide in Him, we go wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4). When the high priest went into the most holy place, no one (through their representative, the ordinary priest) could enter the holy place. To be the recipients of the cleansing work of Christ (the purpose of the Day of Atonement) we accept His offer to be our agent in the most holy room of the sanctuary. Thus we go into the holiest with Him. May we each seek the special blessing God has for us during this time of the end.
Some of the ideas we see in the seven churches are reinforced by other passages in Revelation as well as in other books like Daniel and Hebrews.
I believe the time of the open and shut door for Philadelphia represents the time when Christ entered a different phase of His intercession for us in Heaven – where the door had been opened (Heb. 8 and 9). This was the message from the One who is holy and true (Rev. 3 7) for the next-to-last church.
". . . the priests went
always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But
into the second went the high priest alone once every year." . . . (Heb.
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession . . . Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Heb. 4:14, 16).
"[On the Day of Atonement] There shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation [the door was shut for them] when he goeth in [to the most holy place through the door opened for only on that day] to make an atonement in the holy place, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel. . . . For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. (Lev. 16:17, 30; also Rev. 15:8)."
For a summary of the open and closed doors, see 0401b. Some people believe that Christ went directly into the most holy place after His ascension. We discuss that in 0308c below.
May we each follow the Lamb wherever He goes (Rev. 14:4)
The open and closed doors
has helped us see that Jesus prepares us for heaven in two ways. This reminds
us of His promise to forgive and cleanse us.
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
We usually think of forgiveness
and cleansing as the same thing, but they are not. Also notice, in the
verse that Jesus has two qualities. He is faithful (without sinful acts,
in His life) and He is just (found not guilty, in His death). Thus He offers
to help us live a pure life (sanctification) and he removes the condemnation
standing in our place before the Father (justification)
The "tent of congregation (meeting)" was the people's contact point with God. They came inside the courtyard in front of the door, or opening, into the holy place of the tabernacle (tent) (Lev. 1:3). They came there to meet their Messiah who was represented by many of the elements of the sanctuary including the priests ministering forgiveness throughout the sanctuary year (See for example le0427). The common people did not physically go inside the tabernacle. They went in through the agency of the priests who entered to sprinkle the sacrificial blood in front of the veil which closed off the most holy place.
On the Day of Atonement, that ministry was suspended until the High priest came out again. That meant that the people were not to bring their animals for sin offerings. Their attention was to be fixed on the Messiah as represented by the high priest in the most holy place. They were to humble their souls seeking the blessing of cleansing from the sins that had been forgiven. In other words, Christ begins his work by canceling the debt of repentant sinners (justification). His finishing work is to cleanse them, taking sin out of their behavior (sanctification).
". . . he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).
We also see the two-part work
of Christ in the book of Hebrews:
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. . . ." (Heb. 12:2). (And we see it in 1 John 1:9.)
The sanctuary calendar began
with Passover representing Christ's death and bringing His people out of
Egypt (slavery to sin). The Feast of Tabernacles is the feast — a celebration
of being in Heaven (or the Promised Land). Just before it is the Day of
Atonement when the hearts of people are finally cleansed and sealed before
the time of trouble and the close of probation.
So, if we can see the yearly round of feasts and ceremonies as representing Christ's ministry for us through the centuries, this change from the first room in the sanctuary to the second must represent a transition in His ministry in heaven for us. (See Dan. 8 and Heb. 8:1).
We have seen Christ as the
One who opens and shuts beyond the power of humans (verse 7) and who sets
before His people "an open door" (verse 8). It is reasonable to assume
that this time of Philadelphia includes the beginning of His most-holy-place
ministry. It is the time of this next-to-last church.
To see that this special-day ministry was in the most holy place, compare Lev. 16:2; Ex. 26:34; 1 Kings 8:6.
If the door is
shut in the final period of the world, how do we receive the ministry of
Christ's work in the holy place?
The time of the most holy place ministry represents Christ's final work for His people. I believe we live today in that time, 0610. As we have seen, the yearly cycle of seven feasts in the sanctuary system represents the whole span of time from the cross to heaven — from the lamb slain before leaving Egypt to celebration in the heavenly Canaan. The last phase before heaven is represented by the day of atonement. Seeing the two distinct ministries of Christ in separate time periods, one might conclude that only the ministry of forgiveness was available before the change and only cleansing after it.
How then do we receive the ministry of forgiveness today? While the ordinary work of the priests was stopped on the day of atonement, the morning and evening sacrifices, 1407b, were not. On entering and leaving the most holy place, the high priest passes through the holy place and could handle the ministry of the morning and evening sacrifices. Of course, he then went outside and the time for both forgiveness and for cleansing ended.
The marvelous ministry of Christ for our salvation is represented to our finite understanding through these symbols.
Returning to Philadelphia,
did you notice how Christ identified Himself to them?
"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy [with His power to forgive us], he that is true [with his power to cleanse us, keeping us true], he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." (Rev. 3:7)
Did Christ go
directly into the Most Holy Place?
Several modules have been moved to a new page to keep the file sizes down. The ideas here are worth exploring and can deepen your understanding of the sanctuary system, note 3 for verse 8. Or just click for the "second notes page" in the navigation bar below.
The holy place
ministry of Christ: note
4 for verse 8
Anointing of Christ as priest: note 5 for verse 8.
For verses 9 to 13, see the main chapter 3 page.