The Time Period - 1520 AD to 1750 AD.
The Messenger - Martin Luther
The Bible Reference - Revelation 3: 1 - 6
The City - Sardis
The Message To The Fifth Age - Sardis
The Sardisean or fifth church age lasted from 1520 to 1750 - a total of 230 years. In Church history, this period of time is usually referred to as The Reformation. But more than reformation, it was the beginning of a "restoration", a restoration of the Truth of the Word which was taken from the people during the Dark Ages.
The messenger to this age is the best known messenger of all the ages because history identifies him to be the one who spear-headed the Great Spiritual Reformation of the Church - a church that had been given over completely to the false doctrines of the Nicolaitans, Balaam, and that woman, Jezebel. The organized church was riddled with man-made ritual, dogma and paganism. Into this mess came a man named Martin Luther. And the Protestant reformation was on.
Luther was a brilliant scholar of gentle disposition. He was studying to be a lawyer when the lingering illness and death of a near friend caused him to become serious concerning the spiritual condition of his own life. He entered the Augustinian convent at Erfurt in 1505. There he studied philosophy and also the Word of God. He lived the life of severest penance but all the outward acts could not banish his sense of sin and alienation from God. He said, "I tormented myself to death to make peace with God, but I was in darkness and found it not."
The vicar-general of his order, Staupitz, helped him to gain the insight that his salvation would have to be the experience of an inner work rather than a ritual. Staupitz encouraged Luther with these words: "Look away from yourself Martin, and look to Jesus as your sin-pardoning Saviour. Instead of torturing yourself...throw yourself into the Redeemer's arms. Trust in the righteousness of His life and in the atonement of His death. He became man to give you the "assurance" of Divine favor".
Though it wasn't fully quickened to his understanding, Luther was tremendously encouraged by it and found a "measure" of the peace he sought, but not the fulness. He continued his search, eventually, becoming a priest, hoping that this path would lead to the "abiding peace" for which he so desperately yearned. There was a "deep calling to the deep" [Psalms 42:7], calling for the "assurance" of Salvation.
Still trying to satisfy that "deep call" witnin his soul he became an avid and deep student of the Word of God and of the great theological works which had survived the "Dark Ages". He was sought out as a teacher and preacher for his depth of knowledge and great sincerity. Yet, In spite of his in-depth study of the Word, the full revelation which would give him the "peace" he sought was still hid from his eyes. The hour was not yet for it to be revealed to his heart. He must yet "prove" by experience the futility of all "good works" to obtain "peace with God".
Like millions before him he made a pilgrimage to Rome - fulfilling a vow he had made to himself. Beholding the City which sits on seven hills he prostrated himself upon the earth, exclaiming: "Holy Rome, I salute thee!" But, he discovered the city was anything, but certainly not holy. He was filled with astonishment and horror at the iniquity which existed among all classes of the clergy. He winessed debauchery on a scale he had never witnessed before. In the place of sanctity he found only profanity. Later he wrote: "What sins and infamous actions are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. Thus they are in the habit of saying, 'if there is a hell, Rome is built over it; it is an abyss whence issues every kind of sin".
But Luther, himself was sincere and he determined to perform all religious duties customary for a pious visitor in Rome. One of those duties was to avail of an indulgence offered by the Pope to all who would ascend upon their knees "Pilate's Staircase", said to have been descended by our Saviour on leaving Pilate's judgment hall in Jerusalem. And according to one of the Roman Church's many fairy-tales, the staircase was miraculously conveyed from Jerusalem to Rome. One day, Luther found himself on his kness, with hundreds of other pious visitors, devoutly climbing step after step. While climbing and meditating on the things of God, a Voice, like thunder suddenly echoed in his soul the words of Romans 1:17: "The just shall live by faith". The spiritual lightening of God illuminated his soul, showing him the futility of the church's imposed ritual, dogmas and works that were to bring salvation. The Word of God struck home to his heart - it was finally quickened, made alive - a living reality in his soul. He sprang to his feet, rushed back down the staircase, turning his back on all the deception of the Roman church.
His eyes had been opened, and were never to be closed again to the delusion of the papacy. From that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connections with the papal church. He clearly saw the fallacy of trusting in haman works and religious ritual for Salvation. Now, he saw only the absolute necessity of constant faith in the merits if Christ.
On his return trip from Rome the evangelical truth of Romans 1:17 flooded his mind and he was set free from sin and born into the kingdom of God - fianlly, he had found "peace with God" through faith in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Soon after this he was elevated to Doctor of Divinity and commissioned, "to devote his whole life to study and faithfully expound and defend the holy Scripture." This he did, and with such effect that his heart and the hearts of those around him were deeply fixed upon [not the church] but the truth of the Word. Luther was no longer a mere monk or professor, he was now "A Messenger to an Age" - the Sardis Age. The torch in his soul was lighted with the eternal fire from of the Altar of Almighty God - it would not be extinguished.
It was only a matter of time and the Revealed Word to God's Messenger soon came into open conflict with the abuses of church creeds and doctrines. Thus when Leo X become pope, and John Tetzel came to sell indulgences for sin, Luther had no choice but to rise up against this anti-Scriptural teaching. First, he thundered from the pulpit against it and then wrote his famous 95 theses which on October 31, 1517 he nailed to the door of Castle Church. In a short time Germany was ablaze and the reformation was on.
Of course Martin Luther was not the only one who had protested the Roman Catholic Church. He was but one of many. Others had denied the popes their self-granted temporal and spiritual power, and even amongst the popes there were minor temporary reforms. Yes, many others had raised some of the same issues which Luther had raised. But in the case of Luther, God's time was ripe for the beginning of a restoration of the church spiritual, which would, many years later mature into the revelation of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, restoration of Spiritual gifts, and be crowned with the prophetic ministry of Malachi 4:5-6.
Martin Luther, himself, was a sensitive Spirit-filled Christian. He was definitely a man of the Word for he not only had a profound passion to study it but to make it available to all in order that all might live by it. He translated the New Testament and gave it to the people. This laborious work he did himself, correcting a passage as much as twenty times. He gathered around him a group of Hebrew scholars amongst whom were Jews and translated the Old Testament. He a Messenger indeed, and he did the works which the Messenger was ordained to do. In one or two areas where he sewed to the wind, God dealt with His Messenger and he reaped a whirl-wind.
His translation of the Scriptures, enabling the common man to read it became the work upon which all successive works of the Scripture in Germany have rested. He was a mighty preacher and teacher of the Word, and insisted, especially in his first years of public eminence, that the Word of God was the sole criterion. Thus he was against works as a means of salvation and baptism as a means of regeneration. He taught the mediation of Christ apart from man as was the original and Pentecostal concept. He was a man given to much prayer and had learned that the more work he had to do, and the more sorely he was pressed for time, the more of his time he gave to God in prayer in order to ensure satisfactory results.
He knew what it was to battle with the devil and it is said that Satan one day visibly appeared to him, and he flung the ink well at him, bidding him go. Another time two fanatics came to him to induce him to join with them in banishing all priests and Bibles. He discerned the spirit within them and sent them off.
It is recorded of Dr. Martin Luther in Sauer's History Vol. 3, page 406 that he was, "a prophet, evangelist, speaker in tongues, interpreter, in one person, endowed with all nine gifts of the Spirit." Luther's ministry and the revealed Truth of "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BE FAITH" was the springing forth of a little green shoot, signifying the "rebirth" of the Church Spiritual which had been marytred by the millions, during the Dark Ages. Truth was "beginning" to be restored to the true Sons and Daughters of God. He will be forever known as the instrument in the hand of God who revived this truth. He was the fifth messenger and his message was, "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
His marvelous understanding of sovereignty, election, predestination and other truths show him to be a great man in the Word, yet I say again, as do historians, God used him to bring to the people God's standard against works - 'The just shall live by faith." Now as I mentioned already, he spear-headed this Period of Reformation, making him a "reformer", not a prophet. A prophetic ministry was reserved for the "last" church. Martin Luther did not qualify as a prophet, nor did his ministry fit the profile of that of a Bible prophet. He was a fine teacher with some of the manifestations of the Spirit in his life and we praise God for that. So he was not able to lead the church back to the whole truth as would a man like the apostle Paul who was both apostle and prophet.
Now, as time went on other influences came into play in Luther's life causing him (from time to time) to falter in his steps. We find a great change in the way he conducted the affairs in which he was involved. At first he had been so gentle, so fearless, so patient and constantly waiting on God to work out the problems. But then vast numbers began to come to his banner - not all came with right motives and objectives. On the contrary, some had political motivations. They wanted to break the yoke of the pope. They disliked sending money to Rome. Then there were the fanatics, which of course follow every revival. At one point Luther cried out to God: "Lord, deliver me, from mine enemies and my friends".
Soon he was dragged into political affairs and decisions that actually lay outside the realm of the church Spiritual. The responsibility of the church was, through prayer, preaching and conduct to set a standard to guide man in all the affairs of life including political affairs. The Church was not to make political decisions, but rather, pray for those making those decision. These problems of politics mounted until he was forced into an untenable position of mediating between lords and peasants. His decisions were so wrong that an uprising took place and thousands were killed. He meant well, but he had to reap the whirlwind. He was learning lessons - the hard way.
But for all that, God did use Martin Luther. Let it not be said that his intentions were wrong. Let it only be said that his judgment failed. Truly if the Lutherans could get back to his teaching and serve God as this gracious brother served Him, then that people would surely be a credit and praise to the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sardis was the capital of ancient Lydia. It passed from the hands of Lydian monarchs to the Persians, Alexander the Great, Antiochus the Great, the kings of Pergamos and finally the Romans took over. In the time of Tiberius it was desolated by earthquakes and plagues. Today it is a heap of ruins and uninhabited.
This city was at one time very important commercially. Pliny said that the art of dying wool was invented here. It was the center of wool-dying and carpet weaving. It had a goodly amount of silver and gold in the area and it is said that gold coins were first minted there. It also had a slave market.
The religion of this city was the impure worship of the goddess Cybele. The massive ruins of the temple may still be seen. In the Pergamean Age we discussed the Babylonish concept of "mother and son" known as Semiramis and Ninus. This same concept carried over into Sardis in the worship of Cybele and Deoius. Notice the attributes attached to the pagan "mother and son" deities:
He was the sun god; she the moon goddess.
Under the influence of "that woman Jezebel" which raised it's head in the Thyatirean Age this Babylonish concept of "mother and son" worship was eventually introduced into the Roman Catholic Church. The sun-god is given the title of our Lord: he is called the "Son of God", while she the woman (Mary) is called the "mother of God". But now notice that even as it was back in Babylon that the worship of the son began to lose out in favor of the worship of the mother, so, she literally began to take the place of the son. We see in this age that the pagan worship of Sardis was the worship of the woman. It is Cybele alone, not Cybele and Deoius. The mother has literally taken the place of the Son, endowed with the merits of Godhead. Whether in Sardis or in a "so-called" Christian Church the concept of "mother and son" worship is pagan to the core.
Without a doubt the reformation started in this Sardis Age caused the Jezebel false-prophetess Church to consolidate and emphasize her doctrine of Maryolatry in opposition to the Protestants who denied her any part whatsoever in the plan of Salvation apart from her favor with God as the virgin chosen to bear the Babe. As Luther crystallized the doctrine of justification by faith the false church held to works, penance, prayers and other unscriptural means. And as the freed Christians glorified the Son, the Roman Catholic church increased their deification of Mary until the twentieth century saw (in opposition to most high ranking Roman theologians), Pope Pius literally exalt Mary to glorification in a resurrected body. That doctrine is absolutely the Babylonish concept of the son carrying the mother bodily into heaven.
No wonder that the Lord will kill her children with the "second death" in the lake of fire, where the Great Whore and her Harlot children are killed. One other interesting thing to note is that Cybele was the Astarte that Jezebel was priestess to, and caused Israel to stumble by the licentious rites that she conducted.
Again, as in the previous four ages, we are seeing an ever-increasing revelation of the attributes of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this Age he is introduced as the One with "the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;". We already know that according to Revelation 1:20 the "seven stars" are the messengers to the Seven Church Ages. We also know that the Bible teaches that "God is a Spirit" [John 4:24]. But, what is meant by "the Seven Spirits of God"?
This same phrase is found four times in the Book of Revelation.....
First in Revelation 1:4 - "...from the Seven Spirits Which are before His throne."
Secondly, in Revelation 3:1 - "These things saith He that hath the Seven Spirits."
Thirdly, it's in Revelation 4:5 - "And out of the throne proceedeth lightenings and thunderings and voices; and there were Seven Lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the Seven Spirits of God."
And the fourth reference is in Revelation 5:6 - "And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as It had been slain having Seven Horns and Seven Eyes, which are the Seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth."
In these references the "Seven Spirits" of God are also referred to as "Seven Lamps of fire", and the "Seven Horns" and "Seven Eyes" of the Lamb. It's still a mystery to us, but Scripture interprets Scripture; and since John used Old Testament symbols in the Revelation we must go to the Old Testament to find understanding.
In Proverbs 20:27 it is written that "the spirit of man is the "lamp" of the Lord". Of course, in John 5:35 John the Baptist was called a "burning light" which should actually be translated as "burning lamp". From these two portions of Scripture we know that the "Seven Lamps of fire" burning before the throne represent "seven men" - the seven messengers of the seven church ages.
To more fully understand the "Seven Horns" and the "Seven Eyes" we go to Zech. 4:10. There, it is written: "For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabal with those seven, they are the eyes of the Lord" It is clear that the word "they" refer to men - of course they will be anointed men, full of the Holy Ghost.
Putting the Scriptures together we discover that the "Seven Spirits of God" refer to the continuous ministry of the Holy Spirit of God in the lives of Seven men with whom God, through the Church Ages, identifies Himself very closely. They are His eyes, His lamps, and His Seven Stars giving Light, through the Revelation of Jesus Christ for their particular age. Praise the Lord for His great plan of Redemption.
Therefore, the Seven Spirits actually refer to the One Spirit of God working out the Will and Word of God in different generations. It's like the Spirit of God on Elijah moving to Elisha, then to John the Baptist, next the Malachi 4 endtime prophet to the Gentiles, and finally to the Jews during the Tribulation period. It's the same Spirit of God all the time.
The Bible also says that the seven stars, or seven Messengers to the seven ages are "in" His hand. He is holding them. The "right hand" signifies "power" and "authority". The Messengers are under HIS power and authority and anointed with the same.
All through the Ages the Lord has focused on the "works" of each age, praising the True Vine and denouncing the False. In all previous Ages He would acknowledge and offer a word of "praise" for the endurance, faithfulness and patience, etc. of the True Believer. But, here, in this Fifth Age we find "hope" for a few and rebuke and warnings for many, including Roman Catholicism and the budding Protestant Reformation.
Why do we find such rebuke and condemnation in this Age which witnessed the beginning of The Reformation - the "breaking of the Roman yoke"? One would expect just the opposite. The answer to this question lays in the Scriptures. In Exodus we find the Children of Israel coming out of Egypt - the Egyptian yoke was broken and the Israelites were out of Egypt but "with many of them God was not well pleased" [1st. Corinthians 10:5] because the carnality of Egypt was still in them.
Evenso with the budding Protestant Church - of all who, with Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etc., came out of the Roman Catholic Church System "with many of them God was not well pleased" because the "spirit and leaven" of the old "religious system" was still in some of them. God saw what man could not see. Before and after Luther's passing this "spirit and leaven" of the old "religious system" made itself known. In spite of Luther's constant teaching concerning the sovreignty of the local church many other Protestant leaders were not able to completely get away from the idea of the "Bishop, Archbishop" concept of church government and leadership.
Thus, in the Reformation (coming out of the Church of Rome) the Protestant church took one step in the right direction but faltered in it's steps by not "Purging out the old leaven, that they may be a new lump [dough]...", pliable in the Master's hands. They failed to realize (in spite of Luther's warnings) that "Your glorying [is] not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?" [1st. Corinthians 5:6-7]. Through the Reformation the Great Truth of "Justification by Faith" was established through God's "chosen" Messenger - Martin Luther. But "grievous wolves entered in among the people, not sparing the flock." [Acts 20:29]. While still in it's infancy the Reformation split up into numerous sects, persecuting each other and establishing denomination after denomination, becoming in structure, spirit and even some doctrines, like the very thing they came out off - the Church of Rome.
In the formation of the Roman Catholic System the leardership of the Holy Spirit was usurped by human leadership in a human hierarchy, the Pure Word of God was replaced by man-made creeds, dogmas, church laws and bi-laws, etc., worship in the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit were cast aside for a "form of godliness" liturgy, literal idol worship (of Saints) and pagan feasts; and Mary was made to replaced Christ as intercessor and HIS "Headship" over the Church was ursurped by a man called a pope who (falsely) had made himself to be the vicar of Christ.
In our study of the last three Ages of the Protestant Church we will see that the same Nicolaitan spirit which led to the formation of the Roman Catholic system would follow the Protestants and they also would fall to the influence of 1: Nicolaitanism - bringing the laity into bondage to a priestly order of clergy; 2: Baalism - defiling their separation with worldliness and paganism; 3: the Jezebel false prophetess spirit - privily bringing in damnable heresies [2nd. Peter 2:1] - putting a church creed above the Truth of the Bible. And the "spiritual death" seen by our Lord here in Sardis is seen again in the last Age.
"...thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
We find that at the end of the Protestant Ages the "Headship" of Jesus Christ is usurped and HE is found on the outside of the Protestant Church calling to His Elect children [Revelation 3:20]. No wonder our Lord issues a rebuke and warning to the Church in this Sardis Age.
that are ready to die:"
Their works hadn't come to perfection or complete fulfillment yet. This was the Age of Reformation not Restoration. The Last Age, the Age of Restoration would bring the perfection and complete fulfillment of all things, climaxing with the Second Coming, Resurrection and Rapture. Luther's message of "Justification by Faith" was a beginning, a coming out of darkness into Light, pointing to the perfection and complete fulfillment of Scripture in the time of the Promised "Evening Light" [Zechariah 14:7].
At no time, or in any Age do the True Seed of God ever put a "period" or "exclamation point" behind what God reveals. Since the beginning of time God has been "progressively" revealing Himself and His plan to man. The individual ceases to go any further with God, and fails to come to perfection when he insists on putting a "period" or "exclamation point" behind what God had revealed in his or her Age.
Again, we're reminded of the Words of our Lord Jesus in John 8:31-32, "If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." In his epistle John shows us the absolute importance and necessity of "continuing to walk in the Light as God reveals it to us: "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." [1st. John 1:7]. THE BLOOD WILL ONLY ATONE FOR OUR SINS AS WE CONTINUE TO WALK IN THE LIGHT OF THE WORD AS GOD REVEALS IT. May the Lord help us to continue to move toward perfection that our works may one day be found "perfect with God", exactly according to His Word.
The Wuest translation of the verse reads as follows:
The Truth God had given to the Sardis Age and ALL Ages is given as a permanent deposit - not to be changed or altered in any way. It is given, not to debated, made into a creed, organized or denominated - it is given to be believed and obeyed - to be the Lord of our lives. The Saints in Sardis had been given the basic truth of the whole Gospel, "The just shall live by faith", "Salvation is of the Lord."
The Truth preached to them in that Age cast aside the doctrines of Rome and set at naught all papal authority. In no uncertain terms the Lord plainly showed them the truth that the church does not save. They understood the Lord's supper. They had light on water baptism. They put out the images. There never was an age with any more men with so much light to shed. They had enough illumination to completely overhaul the old system or start out fresh and let God lead them, line upon line and precept upon precept. They received the truth. They [the Elect] wanted it and heard it.
These Elect Ones in Sardis were told to "remember how they had received and heard" the Truth - Remember the spiritual bondage and corruption they were in and remember how God brought them out of it. By HIS Grace he delivered them. It didn't come by a church creed, the will and intellectual learning of a theologian, or a seminary - but by spiritual revelation it was revealed to the heart of a Messenger and the hearts of those who heard and recognized his message. God had by-passed the established organized church and caused His Word to be made flesh in simple everyday people - even babes, such as would learn the ways of God, hold fast, repent and obey Him.
It's one thing to "recognize" what God does and speaks, but it's another thing to "hold fast", maintain your zeal and enthusiasm for it. And it's still another thing to allow the revealed Word to bring you to "repentance", immediately changing your mind and with genuine humility acknowledging your error.
A warning from the Lord to the Saints of Sardis - if they failed to watch and be on their guard against error HE said that he would come as a thief and no doubt do as He warned the Ephesian Age in Revelation 2:5: "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."
We have an example of this in the Old Testament. We find that two of the twelve original Tribes of Israel lost their position among the Tribes. The Tribes of Dan and Ephraim were cut off because of idolatry. From the time that Ephraim and Dan joined themselves to idols, they died, and those tribes have no more recognition. Note particularly that the punishment for idolatry was that the name of that tribe was to be blotted out 'from under heaven.' [Deuteronomy 29:20]. It does not say that it would be blotted out 'in heaven,' but from under heaven.
Note that in Ezekiel 48:1-7 and 23-29 all twelve original tribes are mentioned. But in Revelation 7:4-8 John makes reference to the 144,000 Elect seed of the Tribes of Israel who are sealed during the time of the Great Tribulation - Dan and Ephraim are replaced by Joseph and Levi. Here in the Sardis Age our Lord is warning the Saints in the Sardis Age that He would come as a thief and remove their "candle stick", and the light they had would become darkness, like unto the religious system out of which they had been delivered [Matthew 6:23].
and thou shalt not know what hour I will come unto thee."
Always, "as a thief" He comes - the exact timing is not announced. But sufficiient warnings are given to keep the people on their toes, in preparation for His arrival. Unfortunately, only a very few indeed heed those warnings, while the majority are like those in Scripture who live under the self-induced impression that "my Lord delayeth His coming" [Luke 12:45-48]. But the True Seed of God, continually walking in the Light of the Word, not fainting nor growing weary in well doing, they remain on their toes, watchful - standing for righeousness, less that day overtake them as a thief. In 1st. Thessalonians 5:2,4 Paul wrote: "For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
The Bible exhorts all Saints of all Ages to be prayerful, watchful and sober [Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38; Luke 21:36;Colossians 4:2; 1st. Thessalonians 5:4-8; 1 Peter 4:7]; and " Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: " [1st. Peter 5:8-9]. Why does God demand such vigilance? The answer is in Hebrews 9:28: ".......unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."
This statement is a "Light" at the end of the tunnel of spiritual darkness in the Sardis Age. A "few" of the Saints were found to have kept themselves "free" from the fervor of the many man-made Protestant churches which were springing up everywhere in this Sardis Age. As the Lord revealed His Word to these "few" faithful ones, they heard it, recognized and acted on it without succumbing to the temptation to put a "period" behind it, write a religous creed or make a denomination out of it.
If these "few" faithful ones in Sardis fell to the temptation to mix the Word with tradition and their own ideas, or join themselves to a denomination they would be quilty of defiling their garments by committing spiritual adultery and fornication against the Lord. In His Message to this Age the Lord acknowledges that they "had not defiled their garments". Therefore, HE counted them worthy to walk with Him in white - in righteousness - in glory, at the end of all Ages.
In looking back to this Age most Protestant church leaders view it as the "great age" of the Church. They saw only the breaking of the Roman yoke and a man named Luther blasting forth his Message on "The Just Shall Live By Faith". What they didn't see was the continuing influence of Nicolaitanism and Baalism on the heels of this new powerful Protestant move. They failed to see that influence causing the early Protestants to make religous denominations with a clergy hierarchy ruling the people, bringing in false doctrines and implementing a way [form] of worship that would exclude the people from any part in a Holy Spirit ministry in the congregation.
The Church of Rome had become a "mother". Many of the Protestant groups having been set free from denominational bondage were now making their own denominations and taking the people back into bondage again. The name of the church was different but the spirit was the same - sad, but true.
Again, the emphasis is put on the "overcomer". In his epistle, John speaks of the "overcomer"... "For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith." [1st. John 5:4]. In Revelation 21:7 it is written: "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son." The overcomer in Sardis receives a three-fold promise: 1. to be clothed in while raiment; 2. his name would remain on the Book of life; 3. his name would be confessed before the father and the angels. In an Age over-shadowed with death there was still hope.
These few Sardis Saints "had not defiled their garments" [verse 4]. They had "kept their skirts clean" and un-spotted from the Nicolaitan, Baalim and Jezebel spirits which was already overtaking most of the young Protestant groups which had come out of the Roman System. To these faithful ones the Lord promise "white raiment", even the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. In this Age of death-like darkness and waning Light the "bleeding Word" for this Age prevailed, imputing the righteousness of the Lamb of God to a few in Sardis. Praise the Lord! IN Romans 4:8 Paul said, "Blessed [is] the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin."
Secondly, God promised that "He would not blot out their names out of the Book of Life". Many consider these few words to be a most difficult portion of Scripture. There are many schools of theological thought in all of Christianity but all can be narrowed down to three - 1. the Arminian idea; 2. the Calvinist teaching; 3. the 'middle of the road' Spiritual Bible Revelation. In this link we will only briefly expound on the three schools of thought concerning the Book of Life, the names on it, WHEN names were put on it; and CAN names be removed from the Book? For a more in-depth study I suggest you obtain a copy of the book "Exposition Of The Seven Church Ages"; obtained from The Voice Of God Recordings, P. O. Box 950, Jeffersonville, Indiana USA 47131.
Arminianism focuses on the Love of God for all men; and rather than "God chosing man", as free moral agents "man choses God" and His Salvation. But Arminianism went further to say that Salvation is maintain by good works, thus taking the people out on the limb of "legalism", making Salvation dependant on our "works", rather than on the Grace [unmerited favor] of God. They teach that "any" name can go on the Book and "any" name can be blotted out of the Book of Life. They overlook the Scriptures wherein it is written, "[God] ...called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began..." [2nd Tim. 1:9]. In Romans 4:6 Paul, quoting King David said, "Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works...".
On the other hand Calvinsim takes the people out on the limb of "Grace", making Salvation dependant on "Grace", regardless of our works - once in Grace ALWAYS in Grace. In this they ignored the Scriptures wherein it is written that "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them [Ephesians 2:10]." Ignoring also James 2:17, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. ". Eventually the Calvinistic teaching led the people into "dis-Grace", falsely thinking that they could walk after the desires of the flesh and still please God.
Both these schools of thought are contrary to what the Bible teaches. The only school of thought that will give us a clear understanding will have to balance with all Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. First of all the Book of Life and the Lamb's Book of Life is one and the same Book - God has only ONE Book. In Exodus 32 the Lord referred to it as "My Book", saying, "And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.". According to Revelation 13:8 the Book was written before the foundation of the world. That's Bible teaching. According to the above reference in Exodus there are names on that book which can be removed.
The Bible also tells us in Revelation 17:8 that "...and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world,". Therefore, there are names that have never been written in God's Book of Life and there are names that have been written and then removed. But there is one more group - the Elect - their names are put on the Book and NEVER removed. From the foundation of the World the Lord, by His foreknowledge, knew that they would endure unto the end. 1st. Peter 1:2 states, "Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:"
Concerning these Elect Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.....And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. [John 6:37]." Without question, the names of these Elect children will NEVER be removed from the Lamb's Book of Life.
To the undefiled Saints in Sardis the Lord promised that He would not blot their names out of the Book of Life. He foreknew them before the foundation of the world and before the foundation of the world He gave them to Christ, a part of His inheritance from among the Gentiles to bear His Name [Acts 15:14]. Praise the Lord!
Finally, our Lord promises to confess their names before the Father and the angels. They stood for Him and in end HE would stand for them. In Luke 12:8 Jesus made this promise: "Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:" To "confess" HIM is to "say only what HE says" in His Word - without denominational influence or man-made religious creeds. May the Lord grant us Grace to "sit our faces as flint, with a strong determination to "stay with the Word".
He that hath an ear, let him bear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.