does not place any other burden upon them. This means that Christ does not judge and condemn them for continuing to carry those burdens. They are to hold fast to their faith as expressed by their church. If their inner desires are to please Christ, he will accept their works and reward them. Christ will gather them as part of his church, at the time of the rapture. They will return with Christ to rule with him over the nations of the millennial kingdom (verse 26-27).
SARDIS - THE REFORMATION PERIOD - A.D. 1517-1750: (Revelation 3:1-6 RSV)
(1) "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: `The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. "`I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead.
(2) Awake, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.
(3) Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent. If you will not awake, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.
(4) Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
(5) He who conquers shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.
(6) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
Because of the evil excesses of the harlot period, the church was spiritually dead. The harlot had held the people in bondage to spiritual darkness and ignorance. The papacy established periodic judicial bodies or inquisitors (inquisition ). These inquisitors cruelly persecuted, tortured and often killed people they even suspected of opposing the word and laws of the papacy. Christ exhorts his people to awaken spiritually and rebuild their biblical faith in Christ. A first step is to repent. Christ goes on to declare that he would allow those few faithful Christians to walk with him.
A time of change was approaching. By the year 1374, John Wycliffe (Wycliffe, John ), in England, translated the Bible into English so that people could read it for themselves. In addition, Wycliffe vehemently attacked the corruption of the papacy and advocated a return to the Bible as the source of Christian authority. Others like John Huss (Huss, John ) and Jerome of Prague emerged as church reformers during the 14 th century. The church of Rome burned many people, including both John Huss and Jerome of Prauge, at the stake as heretics.
During the winter of 1512-13, Martin Luther (Luther, Martin ) was meditating upon the following passage in the Book of Romans:
(Romans 1:16-17 RSV) (16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, "He who through faith is righteous shall live."
Luther was convicted that there was a gracious God. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of salvation to every person who believes, and the saved are justified by faith. Based on this conviction, Luther was compelled to attack the abominable church practices, especially the selling of indulgences , that is. selling forgiveness of sin for money (Ninety-five Theses ).
The Protestant Reformers primarily emphasized the following aspects:
(1) They rejected the human idea of justification by works and restored the biblical principle of justification by faith.
(2) The Reformers reestablished the fundamental truth that every Christian believer can pray before Christ to ask for forgiveness for sin. They do not need a priest to serve this function for them.
(3) They reaffirmed that the Bible, not the organized church, is the final authority for faith and practice.
Sadly, the Protestant Reformers generally continued to hold to the exclusive view of God's grace.
The Protestant Reformation (Reformation, Protestant ) shattered the hold of the Church of Rome over much of Europe. These events forced the Church of Rome to reassess its own spiritual failings and corruption. They aimed their efforts toward reform at responding to the Protestant Reformation. Moreover, the Council of Trent (1545-63) (Trent, council of ) did advance significant spiritual reforms.
Both the Catholic and Protestant camps had accomplished reforms. However, these reforms, while doctrinally significant, did not really shake Western Christendom free of the carnal hold of Satan's world system. Two aspects confirmed this fact. First, the Reformation movement led to open warfare between Catholic and Protestant forces from the mid-16 th to the mid-17 th century. There were many atrocities committed by both sides. Secondly, the reaction of Western Christendom to the discovery of the New World was a most dismal chapter of church history, as discussed in chapter 8.
PHILADELPHIA - REVIVAL AND EVANGELISM - A.D. 1751 TO THE RAPTURE: (Revelation 3:7-13 RSV)
(7) "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: `The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens.
(8) "`I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
(9) Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie - behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you.
(10) Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth.
(11) I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
(12) He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.
(13) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'
The original Christian mission had been to carry the gospel to the world. However, the spiritual aspect of missionary outreach had generally been set aside by the church for more than 1,400 years. It would take a spirit of revival from God to get the missionary movement going. God opened a door that Satan could not shut (verse 8). The Holy Spirit stirred certain people of God to awake the church, especially in America and England, to a wave of revivalism . Some Christian giants of this era included John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Timothy Dwight, Charles Finney, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Dwight Moody and Billy Sunday. Many great missionary movements arose during this period. These included the China Inland Mission, the Student Volunteer Movement and the Salvation Army.
Two Roman Catholic writers were the first to advance comprehensive theories of missionary work. These writers were the Jesuit Hosea de Acosta in 1588 and the Carmelite Thomas a Jesu in 1613. Significant areas of Catholic missions included Latin America and the American Southwest.
I will develop the significance of Revelation 3:9 in appendix 10. Christ also said that he would keep his church from the great tribulation that he would use to test the world (Revelation 3:10). However, the church will experience great tribulation at the hands of Satan's world system, as will be developed later.
Following World War I, the waves of revivalism and missionary outreach began to decline. The stage was being set for the final spiritual phase of church history. However, the Evangelical church is still alive. Billy Graham and others have carried it forward. Some members of this church will be on earth until the time of the rapture.
LAODICEA - COMPROMISE AND APOSTASY - A.D. 1926 TO THE RAPTURE: (Revelation 3:14-21 RSV)
(14) "And to the angel of the church in La-odice'a write: `The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
(15) "`I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
(16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
(17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
(18) Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
(19) Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.