Rev 3:1-6 The Church 1/27/2002

 

 

 

#1. The Righteousness of God (Rev 3:2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. The Mercy of God (Eph 5:23-25)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. The Love of God (I Cor 7:10-14)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open your Bibles to The Revelation of Jesus Christ, chapter 3. Rev 3:1. Last week I spoke about the body and the soul. I used the symbol of two concentric spheres. The outer sphere represents the outwardly visible body, and the inner sphere represents the invisible soul. A soul is a spirit. No one has ever seen a soul, but the Bible says that it exists, and the Bible says that it is the soul that gives life to the body. A daily example of two concentric spheres is an egg and its yolk.

God in His wisdom created a number of items in the Bible that can all be understood by the symbol of two concentric spheres. Today I am going to apply that to the concept of the church. There are many, many passages in the Bible that deal with the church. Today I am only going to use three N.T. passages that deal with these two concentric spheres.

Let us first turn our eyes to Rev 3:1, where God addresses one of the seven churches in Asia Minor. It is the church at Sardis. And the first question I want to put forth today is:

Today we hear a lot of rumors that the church is dead. Let us find out if any of those 7 churches is dead. The Lord Jesus is dictating this letter to the Apostle John. The letter is addressed to the messenger of the church at Sardis, in other words it is addressed to the pastor of the church at Sardis

Revelation 3:1 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.

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:3 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.

Revelation 3:4 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.

Rev 3:5 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.

Revelation 3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

This is very ominous language, and yet there is a glimmer of hope there. First of all, to whom is this letter addressed? It is addressed to the pastor of the church at Sardis. The first three verses are addressed to the pastor. The Lord Jesus said to him: "I know thy works, that thou hast a name (reputation) that thou livest, but thou art dead" (Spiritually dead) The Lord Jesus is not addressing the whole church here, because "thee" and "thou" means a singular individual. But most of those in the congregation at Sardis are following their pastor. They are busy for the Lord, but they too are dead. The church at Sardis is a representative of many churches around us today. They have a name that they really are alive, and vibrant, and on fire for the Lord, doing lots of works for the Lord. But the Lord Jesus says: "You are dead", spiritually dead.

When is a church dead? A church is dead when she has left the righteousness of God.

#1. The Righteousness of God (Rev 3:2)

The righteousness of God is the chief attribute of God. The righteousness of God is the same as His justness. God's justness, or God's righteousness refers to His administration of rewards and punishments among the beings in the universe. God's righteousness demands that all sinners must come under the wrath of God, and that He punish all sins with an eternity in Hell. When God demands that people be righteous before Him, God demands that they are perfect, like He is. The Lord Jesus said: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect". This is a requirement for every human being. Since the entire human race are sinners, and are in rebellion against God, the entire human race is condemned to Hell. The righteousness of God demands this. If we leave this aspect out of our Gospel presentation, then we have essentially left the righteousness of God, and all our striving to save people is as salt that has lost its savor: It is good for nothing.

Why is this doctrine so important? It is important because, before we can become saved we must first realize what we are saved from. We were saved from going to Hell, and we were incapable to do anything about it. Only by the grace of God were we snatched away from this slippery slide into Hell.

The Lord Jesus said to the pastor of the church at Sardis: "Thou art dead". You are not perfect before God, dead you came into the world, you have never been saved, and therefore you are still dead. In verse 2 the Lord Jesus says to the pastor of the church at Sardis:

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

The whole church is not dead yet. There is a glimmer of hope. There are some things, which remain faithful in the eyes of God, but they too are ready to die. For example, Jesus could have meant: you still have a Sunday School that remains faithful, and you still have a Bible study that is conducted faithfully, but they too are ready to die. Therefore, be watchful, and strengthen the things, which remain faithful. I have not found thy works perfect yet, and that is a requirement.

How can we do anything perfect? How can God require that from us? Humanly speaking that is indeed impossible. If God would not interfere, then indeed we all will end up in Hell. But praise God that He did interfere. Praise God that He sent His only begotten Son into this world to save sinners, just like us. Praise God that He allowed the principle of substitution, whereby the Lord Jesus Christ would take our sins upon Himself, and pay the penalty required for those sins. Praise God that He then substituted the perfect life of the Lord Jesus Christ for our sinful life, so that all our actions become perfect and righteous in God's sight. Praise God that He sent the God Holy Spirit into our life and gave us a brand new perfect soul. Were there any saved people in the church at Sardis?

Indeed there were. The Lord Jesus speaks about them in verses 4 and 5. They are the:

Revelation 3:4 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.

Rev 3:5 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.

Why are they worthy? I thought there is None righteous, No Not One! That is true. But these are the people for whom the Lord Jesus has suffered and died on the cross. They have become worthy, because they have become born again and therefore they have received the righteousness of Christ. Because Christ has purchased them, and God the Holy Spirit has given them a new soul, they have become overcomers. Their past, present and future sins have all been paid by the Lord Jesus Christ, so there is no insoluble obstacle that Satan can put in their path of life. They shall be clothed in white raiment, means symbolically that they shall wear the robe of Christ's righteousness. And they shall wear it into eternity. They have become the Bride of Christ eternally. What God has joined together, no man can put asunder.

But these people were way in the minority there in the church at Sardis. They represent the "Invisible church", or also called the "Eternal church". Just like with the soul and body, the soul is the saved portion of the human being, so in that church at Sardis the Eternal church has become the invisible portion of that church. Again think of the two concentric spheres. The inner sphere is the invisible portion. The inner sphere represents the Invisible church, or the Eternal church.

This does not mean that there are "Silent Christians". Every Christian is an outspoken person who witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not just witness with our life. We also witness with our words. There are no "Silent Christians". But in the church at Sardis the other members, who promote a gospel that is more palatable to man, have silenced the true Gospel.

However, it is the Invisible Eternal church that has received the mandate from the Lord Jesus Christ to: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature". It is the Invisible Eternal church that is being used as an instrument in God's hand for the saving of other souls whom God intended to save. It is the Invisible Eternal church which are indwelt by God's Spirit to do this work.

On the other hand, there is also a "Visible church", or an "External church", which is spir. dead.

Think of the symbol of the two concentric spheres again. The outer sphere is the visible portion of this structure. Someone looking at this structure from the outside does not see that it consists of two concentric spheres, unless God would reveal it. Indeed, God revealed in verses 4 and 5 that there is the existence of an inner sphere. When I preach to a congregation I should always remember that there is a certain portion of the congregation that is not saved. They are still spiritually dead.

How does Christ speak to this spiritually dead portion of the church? He speaks to this dead portion of the church like He does to the dead pastor of the church at Sardis. The Lord Jesus said:

Revelation 3:3 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.

Remember therefore HOW you have received and heard. HOW did you receive and hear the Gospel? It was all by grace. Did you forget? Therefore, remember this, and repent. Turn back from those works gospels. Turn back from those gospels which "have a form of godliness but they deny the power thereof". Turn back from those gospels that have departed from the righteousness of God.

As long as there is a nucleus of people saved by grace, Christ still calls it His church. Just like it is the soul that gives life to the body, so it is the Invisible Eternal church that gives spiritual life to the entire church. Without this invisible portion the entire church would be dead.

The Bible does not speak about an external church and an eternal church. But we are commanded to harmonize verses, and therefore we clearly see that there is an external church and there is an Eternal church. The external church is not a useless dead weight. Just like the body of a believer is set apart and is dedicated to serve the Lord, so the external church is also commanded to serve the Lord. The Eternal church is God's instrument unto salvation. The Eternal church is called to bring the Gospel. But the external church is not called to do the same. In fact, God says in Psalm 50:

Psalm 50:16 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?

Psalm 50:17 Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee.

The external church is under the hearing of the Gospel, but they cast God's words behind them. They take God's covenant in their mouth, they speak about grace, and about the blood of Christ, and so on, but they really do not believe the whole Gospel. They only pick and choose from the Word of God here a little and there a little, that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared.

Please turn in your Bibles now to the Epistle to the Ephesians, chapter 5. I want to talk about:

#2. The Mercy of God (Eph 5:23-25)

In our second passage I would like to focus on the Invisible Eternal church, the inner sphere of the two concentric spheres. The Bible does not make a distinction between the Ceremonial Law and the Moral Law of God. But in reading the Bible we definitely have to make this distinction wherever we read the word Law. If you do not do that you will inevitably arrive at a false gospel. Likewise, the Bible does not make a distinction between the External church and the Eternal church. But wherever you find this word church, you must decide from the context whether God is speaking about the External church or the Eternal church, or else you will arrive at a false gospel. Here in Ephesians 5:23-32 God draws an analogy between Christ and the church and the relationship between a husband and wife.

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and He is the Saviour of the body.

Ephesians 5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

God is speaking here about the entire church, worldwide, and throughout all time. Christ is the head of that church. He purchased the church, lock, stock and barrel. And because He owns the church, He can do with the church whatever the good pleasure of His will is. The church is subject to Christ. Since He is God, He can decide which of these church members He will save, and which He will not save. Therefore, as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be subject to their own husbands in everything lawful. I did not make this up. This is God's command. Let's read on:

Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Now we enter into the realm of the mercy of God. We husbands are to love our wives this much. Unfortunately, I am unable to do that. Christ loved the church so much that He was willing to endure the equivalent of eternal damnation for His Bride. I am not willing to go to Hell on behalf of anyone. Hell is such a terrible place, that it scares me to death. The Lord Jesus said that the torments of Hell are equivalent to burning in a lake of fire. It is a place where the worm dieth not, and where Satan and his demons roam around additionally tormenting the people who are in Hell. The Lord Jesus was willing to endure the torments of Hell in our place. But I do not love anyone this much that I would want to spend an eternity in such a place for that person. I do not know any person, outside Moses and Paul, who would want to do that for their fellow man. This is a sin, because I am commanded "to love my wife, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it". So, what is the solution? Christ also paid for that sin. That is the Mercy of God. When we speak about the Mercy of God, we speak about the cross at Golgotha, where the Lord Jesus Christ endured the full payment for the sins of His elect, to the extent that He had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. Let's read on. And now we can see the church:

Ephesians 5:26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

Christ sanctified the church, which means He set it apart. If you are in the church, you are set apart by the Lord Jesus Christ for His service. Christ cleansed the church with the washing of water by the Word, literally: "with the washing of the water in the Word". The metaphor here is that the words of the Gospel are like running water flowing out of the mouth of the evangelist. The message catches the ears of the one whom God intended to save, and when God makes this person hear, all this person's sins are washed away. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God".

"That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish". Which church is this speaking about? This can only be the Invisible Eternal church. Only if we truly have been saved will we stand before God without spot or wrinkle, and will we stand before God holy and without blemish. So great is the Mercy of God that He will grant to the Lord Jesus Christ all those who were in Christ when He endured the torments of Hell on the cross. All of us who were in Christ have also passed through Hell with Christ. The Bible says that we were crucified with Christ, we have died with Christ, we were buried with Christ, and we were raised with Christ. It is as if we have come out the other end of Hell with Christ. Therefore, God can never send us to Hell again, because we have, in principle, already gone through Hell for our sins. So great is the Mercy of God that on the Last Day God will allow us to stand next to Him as perfect sons of God, judging all the unsaved in the world. This can only apply to the Invisible Eternal church, the one who is without blemish because Christ has washed us from our sins.

And think of it, this is a gift that is given totally free of charge. There is not a thing we can do to earn it, or deserve it. If there would be something we must do for it, then we would share the glory with God. But that is an impossibility, because God will not share His glory with anyone. Therefore:

Eph 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

Ephesians 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

Ephesians 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

Think of it, Christ's love for His Bride, the Body of Christ, was so great that He was willing to pay for all the sins of His Bride. This is how much a man ought to love his wife. Man and wife have become one flesh. And then the words: "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones". What an incredible mercy and grace of God to extend this human analogy so far, that we can say: "For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones".

Can anyone make himself a member of Christ's Body? Can anyone make a decision for Jesus so that he will become a part of Christ's Body? Of course that is not possible. Whether we accept Him is not the main issue. The main issue is: "Does He accept us?" or it is better to say: "Did He accept us?" Did He accept us in 33AD, while hanging on the cross? That really determined whether our sins were forgiven. Therefore, we can see that it is all by the grace of God. If Christ paid for our sins in 33AD then God will draw us into the church during our lifetime. If Christ did not pay for our sins, then we will remain in rebellion against God and we will never want this salvation that God described in the Bible.

It is all by grace that we have been called into the Eternal church. Only if we truly have been saved can we be "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones". Only if we truly have been saved can we be so intimately identified with Him.

Before the foundation of the world the Father chose a Bride for His Son. The Son paid a dowry to the Father of the Bride. The dowry was His own precious life and blood. The Father of the Bride bestowed many spiritual gifts upon His daughter, and gave her to the Groom to be His wedded wife.

How can you know if you belong to the Bride of Christ? Well, do you love to hear the voice of the Bridegroom? Do you love to read His Word, or to hear His Word in church? Do you love to hear Him praised through Psalms and Hymns in church? Do you love to go to church, or is church too far? You can gauge pretty much your own self how much you love to be with your Bridegroom.

We read in the following verses in Eph 5:31-32,

Ephesians 5:31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

Ephesians 5:32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

This is indeed a great mystery. What this tells us is that there is a great wedding feast in the making. It is the wedding of the Lamb of God and His Bride. It is a wedding feast, which will last into eternity. Who would want a divorce from such a relationship? No one?

Who would want a divorce in this life? There are plenty of people who would want a divorce. But have they not read this passage? Have they not read that a man must love his wife even as Christ loved the church? According to Christ's example, to forgive your wife is much more in line than to divorce her. Besides, Would you want Christ to treat you, even as you treat your wife? Then go ahead, get a divorce, but remember that Jesus said: "Because of the hardness of your heart Moses allowed you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so". Therefore, if you do get a divorce, remember that you have a hard heart. Let me say that again: If you do get a divorce, it is a sign that you have a hard heart, and therefore Christ may divorce you the moment you commit spiritual fornication, which is in the next minute.

But if we take Christ as our example, then we must forgive, and forgive, and forgive. There is no sin that is too big to forgive. God says in the Bible that He delighteth in Mercy (Micah 7:18). And if you mean what you ask for, then turn away from that sin, and show that you mean business. Repentance is demonstrated when you turn away from your sin, which means a 180 degree turnaround.

Please turn in your Bibles to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 7. Just think of it how great the Love of God is for His church. I am now talking about Christ's love for His church, the living organism, which He purchased lock stock and barrel. This refers to the local church as well as to the church universal. The only reason the local churches in Asia and in Africa and in Europe could blossom and grow and conquer the Roman Empire was that God the Holy Spirit blessed those local churches, even though by our standards they were very deficient in their doctrine.

#3. The Love of God (I Cor 7:10-14) for His church is also shown in this passage in I Cor 7:10-14,

1 Corinthians 7:10 And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart

from her husband:

1 Corinthians 7:11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

1 Corinthians 7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Why is this passage apparently divided into two sections? We know that verses 12, 13 and 14 are also the Word of God. Why did God put here this apparent division as if only verses 10 and 11 were God's Word? I believe that God did that to lay out before us the division between the Eternal church and the External church. In verses 10 and 11 the Eternal church is in view. This is a marvelous application of the picture of Christ and the church. Since the Eternal church is the Bride of Christ, and since we have seen in Eph 5:23-32 how intimate the parallel is between the husband and wife and Christ and the Eternal church, it stands to reason that the marriage union must not be dissolved by a divorce. This is so even if one of the partners in the marriage is not saved, because as long as the unsaved partner is alive there is hope. Christ is not going to divorce His Bride.

Verses 12, 13 and 14 refer to the whole church, both the Eternal and the External church. The entire church is called to be:

1 Corinthians 7:12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.

1 Corinthians 7:13 And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.

1 Corinthians 7:14 For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.

Verse 14 has been abused by many theologians. The words "sanctified" and "holy" actually mean "set apart". One is a verb and the other is an adjective, but they both mean the same thing. Allow me to paraphrase verse 14: "For the unbelieving husband is set apart by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is set apart by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they set apart". What are they set apart for? They are set apart for service to God. The children are set apart because they are now in a Gospel home where they are under the hearing of the Gospel. Another example is when the unbelieving husband stays at home and watches the toddlers while the wife is in church. In this way he also contributes to the service of Christ. Or the unbelieving wife may attend the worship servc

and praises God in singing. In this way she also is contributing to the service of Christ.

O, the mercy of God that He would allow these family members to glorify Him and allow them to contribute to His service in an indirect way. We see here that the two concentric spheres form one whole organism. The corporate church consists of an external church, the outer sphere, and an Eternal church, the inner sphere, and God desires the two spheres to remain together until He comes or until the church becomes totally apostate. This is much like the human body and the soul, which are also commanded to stay together until death, or until the Lord comes. Just like the human body is not yet saved, but is commanded to serve Christ, so the External church is not yet saved, but is commanded to serve Christ. So, we see in summary that the church draws its life from the Lord Jesus Christ through God the Holy Spirit. The church was begotten through the Word of truth (Jam 1:18), and it is sanctified and cleansed by the washing of the water in the Word (Eph 5:26). The church passes on the Word so that others may also hear and believe (II Cor 5:19). And this is the service of the church for which we have been left here on this earth. And it is all done:

Did you know that we were made, we are saved, and we worship God for His glory? God writes in

Psalm 104:31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.

The LORD shall rejoice in his works. Infinitely great are the works of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Infinitely wise is the Almighty God in all His plans and in the way He executes His plans. Infinitely righteous is our God in all His judgments. Infinitely merciful and gracious is our merciful God in the salvation of His creatures to whom He has no obligation to save. He could simply cast us all into Hell and start all over again. But no, He has lavished on us a salvation that is indescribable in human terms, and He has lifted us up on heights that are incomprehensible. We read in Rev 21:9,

Revelation 21:9 And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife.

Revelation 21:10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,

Revelation 21:11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;

Don't think that a literal city will descend from God out of heaven. God uses parabolic language to describe to us how wonderful the NH & NE shall be. Keep in mind that God is describing this here in earthly terms something that cannot be described in earthly terms, because it is of another universe. This universe as we know it will be destroyed and will be replaced with another universe where only righteousness dwells. And God will be with us forever. Think of the glorious loving God, who will be with us forever.