to be so, lacking the sense of God's presence and all true knowledge of Him]. I say this to your shame.

35 But someone will say, How can the dead be raised? With what [kind of] body will they come forth?

36 You foolish man! Every time you plant seed, you sow something that does not come to life [germinating, springing up, and growing] unless it dies first.

37 Nor is the seed you sow then the body which it is going to have [later], but it is a naked kernel, perhaps of wheat or some of the rest of the grains.

38 But God gives to it the body that He plans and sees fit, and to each kind of seed a body of its own. [Genesis 1:11.]

39 For all flesh is not the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for beasts, another for birds, and another for fish.

40 There are heavenly bodies (sun, moon, and stars) and there are earthly bodies (men, animals, and plants), but the beauty and glory of the heavenly bodies is of one kind, while the beauty and glory of earthly bodies is a different kind.

41 The sun is glorious in one way, the moon is glorious in another way, and the stars are glorious in their own [distinctive] way; for one star differs from and surpasses another in its beauty and brilliance.

42 So it is with the resurrection of the dead. [The body] that is sown is perishable and decays, but [the body] that is resurrected is imperishable (immune to decay, immortal). [Daniel 12:3.]

43 It is sown in dishonor and humiliation; it is raised in honor and glory. It is sown in infirmity and weakness; it is resurrected in strength and endued with power.

44 It is sown a natural (physical) body; it is raised a supernatural (a spiritual) body. [As surely as] there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.

45 Thus it is written, The first man Adam became a living being (an individual personality); the last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving Spirit [restoring the dead to life]. [Genesis 2:7.]

46 But it is not the spiritual life which came first, but the physical and then the spiritual.

47 The first man [was] from out of earth, made of dust (earthly-minded); the second Man [is] the Lord from out of heaven. [Genesis 2:7.]

48 Now those who are made of the dust are like him who was first made of the dust (earthly-minded); and as is [the Man] from heaven, so also [are those] who are of heaven (heavenly-minded).

49 And just as we have borne the image [of the man] of dust, so shall we and so let us also bear the image [of the Man] of heaven.

50 But I tell you this, brethren, flesh and blood cannot [become partakers of eternal salvation and] inherit or share in the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable (that which is decaying) inherit or share in the imperishable (the immortal).

51 Take notice! I tell you a mystery (a secret truth, an event decreed by the hidden purpose or counsel of God). We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed (transformed)

52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the [sound of the] last trumpet call. For a trumpet will sound, and the dead [in Christ] will be raised imperishable (free and immune from decay), and we shall be changed (transformed).

53 For this perishable [part of us] must put on the imperishable [nature], and this mortal [part of us, this nature that is capable of dying] must put on immortality (freedom from death).

54 And when this perishable puts on the imperishable and this that was capable of dying puts on freedom from death, then shall be fulfilled the Scripture that says, Death is swallowed up (utterly vanquished forever) in and unto victory. [Isaiah 25:8.]

55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? [Hosea 13:14.]

56 Now sin is the sting of death, and sin exercises its power[upon the soul] through[the abuse of] the Law.

57 But thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory [making us conquerors] through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be firm (steadfast), immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord [always being superior, excelling, doing more than enough in the service of the Lord], knowing and being continually aware that your labor in the Lord is not futile [it is never wasted or to no purpose]. AMP

In 1986, East German Communist party boss Erich Honecker declared that the Berlin Wall would stand for at least a hundred more years. Three years later that wall was pulled down in pieces. Beginning in the spring of 1989, the winds of reform and freedom swept through East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Romania.

As I watched these exciting, world-shattering events unfold on the evening news and on the front-page of my newspaper, I was reminded of the winds of reform and freedom that swept through Europe more than 400 years earlier during the Protestant Reformation. In the days of the Reformers Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin in Switzerland, and John Knox in Scotland the gospel of Jesus Christ spread like wildfire throughout Europe, and the cruel walls of spiritual bondage fell before the power of God's Word and God's Spirit.

What many people forget about the Reformation, however, is how rapidly its fire was quenched. Many of the churches founded by the Reformers began to die even within the lifetimes of the Reformers themselves. Why? Because the leaders of the Reformation made a serious error!

Yes, they had correctly and wisely steered Christendom back to a focus on salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But they made a grievous mistake when they linked the authority and oversight of the church with the civil government of the country in which they lived. Luther looked to the German princes for protection against the power of Rome. Zwingli tied the church to the ruling state in Switzerland. Calvin attempted to establish a theocratic government in the city of Geneva. So also did Knox in Scotland.

The result was a system of state churches spreading across the continent of Europe. Today these state churches are almost uniformly dead, like the church in Sardis.

I had an opportunity to see what the spiritual life of a state church is like when I toured northern Germany, Denmark, Holland, England, and Scotland in 1965. I met many laypeople and clergymen in these countries. The laypeople were uniformly dissatisfied with the stagnant atmosphere in their churches. The clergymen were frustrated by the fact that their duties as state-employed civil servants robbed them of time to prepare sermons and preach the Word of God.

"I simply have no time," said one pastor in Copenhagen, tears brimming in his eyes, "I have to baptize all the babies that are born, marry all the couples, and bury everyone who dies in the parish. I have no time to study." As someone put it, these state-employed pastors are so busy "hatching, matching, and dispatching" their parishioners, they have no time to feed them the life-giving Word of God! I'm sure there are a few genuine believers in these cold and lifeless churches, but I am equally certain that most of these parishioners are people with a reputation for being alive, yet who are spiritually dead.

In the historical overview provided by the seven letters of Revelation, the church at Sardis represents that period of church history from the last half of the sixteenth century (immediately following the Reformation) to about the middle of the eighteenth century, the beginning of the Great Awakening. It was a time of great darkness and death in Christendom. The light was not entirely gone, but it was failing until the moment the Spirit of God rekindled the light through men like the Wesleys and George Whitefield.

In every age in history and in Sardis-like "dead" churches, there are usually a few faithful believers. It is to these faithful few that the Lord delivers a special promise.

3:4-6 "Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

White garments are always a symbol of redemption in Scripture. In Revelation 7, we will read of a great multitude who emerge from the great Tribulation, and who have "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Clearly, white garments are a sign of being redeemed
and saved by the grace of God. Remember the words of the Lord in Isaiah 1:18 "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Revelation 7

7:1 AFTER THIS I saw four angels stationed at the four corners of the earth, firmly holding back the four winds of the earth so that no wind should blow on the earth or sea or upon any tree. [Zechariah 6:5.]