The Dead Church

by Mike Ratliff

1 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Σάρδεσιν ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας· οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ὄνομα ἔχεις ὅτι ζῇς, καὶ νεκρὸς εἶ. (Revelation 3:1 NA27)

1 And to the angel of the Sardis Church write,’ These things says the one having the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. “I know your works that you have a name that you live, and are dead.”’ (Revelation 3:1 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

My brethren, the message from Revelation 3:1-6 goes contrary to most of what is taught in Evangelicalism today. The church at Sardis had a name that it was alive yet our Lord bluntly said that even so, they were spiritually dead. Since 2006 since I have been in this ministry, I have seen my good friends like Ken Silva along with all of those associated with him, denigrated because we stand firm with what God’s Word says about what constitutes real Christianity and what doesn’t. Then when we point out that certain ministries do not measure up we are called divisive, haters, and many other ugly things and then some of them resort to worldly things like lawsuits and denial of service attacks on Ken’s websites. Excuse me, but how can anyone justify that sort of behavior as Christian in any shape or form?

In my own experience, some of those same fellows stalk me on twitter, Facebook, and other blogs making sure to denigrate everything I do or say, always looking to ambush. However, in my own case, most of the ugliness has been in twisting what I have written and taking those things out of context then attempting to discourage me with an attack from behind or from the side… You get the idea.

However, the absolute worst was when I was coaxed into writing a series on eschatology by a former reader. She was flattering and kind. I researched it and took my time. I did the book of Daniel verse by verse then I started my way through Revelation. As we went through the introduction of our Lord appearing to John on Patmos it was thrilling to be able to go so slow and just study what all of that meant. Then we went through each of the seven churches. The problem happened when we got to the end of Revelation 4 and the beginning of Revelation 5. Since my millennial view did not match her millennial view, she turned on me. She did not just disagree with me, she became vicious. Not only that, but she brought in dozens of her friends to do the same thing.

My hits for the next few days went way up, but I was simply stunned. You would have thought I had attacked the doctrine of the Trinity or the deity of Christ because the attacks were personal. With each personal attack, I enforced the rules I have in place for that sort of thing on this blog. The largest number of people in the blocked list came from this episode and the lady who instigated the whole thing was probably one of the more vicious and one of the first to be blocked. I did not complete the series because some of these same people complained so hard to Ken Silva that if he did not stop me from posting about eschatology that they would quit supporting him.

What is the point I am making? In our studies of real Christianity and how real Christians love one another as they love the Father and Christ, is what I just shared an example of that? No, it is an example of man-centered religiosity based on fables that pretends to be all about Christianity. There are some of those blogs or websites mired in that stuff that if you go there, do so at your own peril. Pray for discernment and if you try to express any wisdom from that discernment be prepared for a huge pushback from people mired in strongholds of darkness. The thing is, they think they are Christians. They think they are the ones who are alive and everyone is wrong. However, our Lord said that we shall know the false from the true by their fruits and how is that? How do real Christians treat each other?

Let’s look at the church at Sardis, the dead church.

1 Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Σάρδεσιν ἐκκλησίας γράψον· Τάδε λέγει ὁ ἔχων τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας· οἶδά σου τὰ ἔργα ὅτι ὄνομα ἔχεις ὅτι ζῇς, καὶ νεκρὸς εἶ. 2 γίνου γρηγορῶν καὶ στήρισον τὰ λοιπὰ ἃ ἔμελλον ἀποθανεῖν, οὐ γὰρ εὕρηκά σου τὰ ἔργα πεπληρωμένα ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ μου. 3 μνημόνευε οὖν πῶς εἴληφας καὶ ἤκουσας καὶ τήρει καὶ μετανόησον. ἐὰν οὖν μὴ γρηγορήσῃς, ἥξω ὡς κλέπτης, καὶ οὐ μὴ γνῷς ποίαν ὥραν ἥξω ἐπὶ σέ. 4 ἀλλὰ ἔχεις ὀλίγα ὀνόματα ἐν Σάρδεσιν ἃ οὐκ ἐμόλυναν τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν, καὶ περιπατήσουσιν μετ᾽ ἐμοῦ ἐν λευκοῖς, ὅτι ἄξιοί εἰσιν. 5 Ὁ νικῶν οὕτως περιβαλεῖται ἐν ἱματίοις λευκοῖς καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς καὶ ὁμολογήσω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρός μου καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ. 6 Ὁ ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα λέγει ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις. (Revelation 3:1-6 NA27)

1 And to the angel of the Sardis Church write,’ These things says the one having the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. “I know your works that you have a name that you live, and are dead. 2 Be watchful and strengthen the things remaining which are about to die, for I have not found your works perfect before my God. 3 Remember, therefore, how you have received and heard and keep it and repent. Therefore, if you do not watch, I will come as a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you. 4 But, you have a few persons in Sardis which did not soil their garments and they will walk with me in white because they are worthy. 5 The one who overcomes in similar manner will be clothed in white garments and I will never blot his name out from the Book of Life and I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ (Revelation 3:1-6 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)

Sardis was a wealthy city and this church probably had a name for being a leading church, however, the church in Sardis was dead, that is, unredeemed unregenerate people, for the most part, populated it. That does not mean they were irreligious. They considered themselves Christians, but that was not based on Christ’s criteria. What were Christ’s criteria? We have our answer in v2, “Be watchful and strengthen the things remaining which are about to die, for I have not found your works perfect before my God. ” The Greek word that I translated as “perfect” is πεπληρωμένα or peplērōmena the Accusative, Perfect, Participle of πληρόω or plēroō, “fulfill, complete”. In other words, their “works” were of the flesh not of the Spirit, which they would be if they were in him. However, notice that our Lord reminds that they have heard the gospel and now they need to repent and obey it. Notice also that there are a few there who are found worthy. These are genuine Christians so not all are dead.

Here is Charles Spurgeon’s take on this passage from Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning for December 8th.

“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.”-Revelation 3:4

We may understand this to refer to justification. “They shall walk in white”; that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, that they have all been washed and made whiter than the newly-fallen snow.

Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses among the Jews. They who have not defiled their garments shall have their faces always bright; they shall understand what Solomon meant when he said “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Let thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works.” He who is accepted of God shall wear white garments of joy and gladness, while he walks in sweet communion with the Lord Jesus. Whence so many doubts, so much misery, and mourning? It is because so many believers defile their garments with sin and error, and hence they lose the joy of their salvation, and the comfortable fellowship of the Lord Jesus, they do not here below walk in white.

The promise also refers to walking in white before the throne of God. Those who have not defiled their garments here shall most certainly walk in white up yonder, where the white-robed hosts sing perpetual hallelujahs to the Most High. They shall possess joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire hath not reached. The “undefiled in the way” shall have all this-not of merit, nor of works, but of grace. They shall walk with Christ in white, for He has made them “worthy.” In His sweet company they shall drink of the living fountains of waters.

The promise in v5 is not only for these found worthy but for those who are being warning if they repent and believe.

My brethren, yes, the visible church in our time is worldly and full of spiritual darkness. The world loves it so we know that it cannot be doing what is supposed to be doing. However, even in Sardis there were a few found worthy. I believe that this is the remnant that our Lord always has no matter how bad things get. Again, look at the warning, yes those people were pretenders. They were unregenerate and unredeemed even though they had a name that they were alive. That is called hypocrisy. That is rampant in our time my brethren. We tend to look at how popular a Christian leader is or what their doctrine is before we look at their fruit, that is, how are they doing in the Christian fellowship department? Do they love one another at their Church? How about how they treat Christians from other churches? How’s their humility doing or are they way too arrogant? You get the idea.

In any case, we must examine ourselves first, put everyone else ahead of self,  while standing firm in the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

27 thoughts on “The Dead Church

  1. I’ve read quite a few articles by Ken Silva – good hermeneutics. I love blogs that honor Jesus Christ as Preeminent and God’s word as final authority -Soli Deo Gloria. Most of all Christians that are hospitable. God as our heavenly Father is the ultimate one to show us such hospitality that he adopted us to just STAY with him forever. There are many Christians and many professed Christians who are introverted I’m afraid and homogeneous within their bubble rather than diverse within the unity of God’s original intent of what it truly means to be ONE.
    Probably the internet has conditioned many that they can spill swill since they don’t think they are accountable to someone they’ve never met personally. If we truly are born again bona fide believers, we will love God’s word, love Jesus Christ for saving us, love the bretheren and let God’s love transcend and be transparent to others. God’s love is what compels us to love unconditionally and selflessly. In 1 John 2 it gives us several points that we should examine to see if we are truly born again or not. If a person is not loving the bretheren and hating them they are still in darkness -1 John 2:9. Jesus said, love your enemies and pray for them. So, if they are hating who they think are their enemies then why aren’t they following the Lord Jesus and what he said?

    I’m so sorry you and others are being attacked. Maybe that’s why you are so kind and gentle with your family because you’ve learned from the poverty God allows to find true riches in Christ and thus true joy, peace, love. Jesus Christ must love you so much to entrust you with such a great and mighty task. Doesn’t seem like it while being reamed. Hang in there dear brother because you are tres a propos and I just began coming here.

    Thank you for letting me post and enjoy your blog all for God’s glory Mike Ratliff. Just look to the Captain of our faith

  2. Very encouraging, and true Linda! I too thank you for your encouragement to Mike, which encourages me too!

  3. Just wondering…did you present a premillennial or a an amillennial or another point of view?

    The 7 churches of Asia are interesting aren’t they? The gospels that aren’t known as gospels.

  4. Mike – Corneilis Van Til loved to quote the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism: What is your only comfort in life and in death?

    That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto him.

    These verses tell us a lot:
    1 John 2:10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
    11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

    We can’t see the heart but the scripture tells us the difference between the Christian and the non-christian. I think I’ll rejoice with Cornelis and you when we get to glory – amen

  5. Mike, it is sad when those who claim the name of Jesus act like the devil. Romans 14 ought to be required reading for anyone who behaves like that. Here’s a link to a recent sermon by Voddi Baucham from Romans 14:10-12: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=125111024317

    May it convict and encourage all God’s children to walk humbly before man and God, for the glory of our Lord and the good of His people. Press on, my dear brother!

  6. lol, when I said family I meant (family of God) Mike sorry. I’m hoping it was tacit.

    Lev 19:17 “‘Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt.”

    Jesus hated the Pharisees as enemies of the truth-impersonal. Jesus loved the Pharisees on a personal level just as we love false teachers and people caught up in false teachings. Does anyone love God’s word more than life or not?

    Ive seen people defending their enemies, their false teachings that will send you straight to hell and keep you in bondage more than defending the truth, the faith, the Gospel, the Only Way -to having eternal life. who is really hateful here? You know, that’s about as loving as giving an inmate on death row a nice hot meal, brand new clothes, just before you execute him. Satan just egregiously laughs. God’s word is what set us free and led us to JESUS and gave us eternal life. If we truly LOVE people we will defend the TRUTH just like Jesus did because it is the truth that sets people free not false teachings.

    Just be careful on those false teacher blogs. I recon it’s like approaching a dog you just hit with your car that’s still alive. You’d better not try and help him because he will misunderstand you and BITE you thinking you are hating him with the pain that’s afflicted.

    Proverbs 9:7 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

  7. Hey Mike, You stick to your guns. You stand for truth. I believe you will. We sure live in a hostile world don’t we. ‘Red Clover’ who is a fb friend of mine posted you and Kens article. I hope plenty read it. Dead church? Can we say twice dead.

  8. I know this post isn’t about eschatology, but what I don’t understand is what about that subject is so so touchy with people. Why can’t we just talk about it? What is so horrible about just having discussions. Why do we take that subject so personally…as if our theories are God given themselves????? What should be an exciting, fun subject…the second coming of our God, is used as just another method of division. It’s gross. I’m sorry you got bamboozled that way. I would have liked to see what you had learned from scripture on the subject. Too bad. If that woman was a hyper-dispy, I would hate to have heard what she might have said about my own views… :) at least you’re premillenial, pre-wrath yes? (I think that’s what I remember reading you say at some point or maybe assumed that based on links on this site or something)? Crud, she still gets raptured before the really bad stuff…what, she couldn’t show a bit of grace over the on a matter of a few years??? Shoot, we’re not even talking about an issue that has anything at all to do with salvation. ;)

    I know in my own walk, I have slowly gone the gammet as I learn more about it every day and honestly, the more I read and learn…from scripture and what other believers are noticing, I find that every major view out there has holes and there is so much being revealed in this time. There are just some things you can’t be dogmatic about. I find it disheartening when people can’t admit that because they think their theory, good as it might sound…is fact, when it’s NOT! People have made the subject so emotional and teachers have written such fancy books and made pretty little graphs…lots of money involved in this subject for sure in these days of apocalyptic paranoic. I myself have been told to come out of Babylon, I’ve been called a dominionist, a radical left winger, a liberal, a jew hater…. all because I’m historical in my take, and am amillenial. Apparently, my views on eschatology define my faith in the eyes of some folks.

  9. Agree totally Dawnmarie. I am willing to discuss this with anyone and not separate, why do they insist on it? I used to be a deacon in church in which there was another deacon there like that though. He would actually insist on having no fellowship with anyone who did not agree with his eschatology.I found that very disturbing. I know of exactly what you have experienced and it should not be that way.

  10. Dear Mike,

    This is only for anyone who is curious or interested in different end times positions. In my personal experience I was extremely uninformed and lacked any understanding of the amillennial position (for example). So, I was referred to a book “Amillennnialism Today” by William E. Cox copyright 1966. This book was very helpful in clearly explaining what an amillennialist view point is, which I had completely misunderstood.

    Anyway, it seems a lot of the confusion is caused simply by not knowing enough about the different positions.

    Hopefully, as God allows we can be Bereans and search the Scriptures and basically outline the sequence of events that relate to Christ’s return and formulate from there which end time view best reflects what the Word reveals.

    In gratitude for your ministry, charisse

  11. Thank you for this post, Mike. It has certainly been an enlightening year for us as we moved to a “doctrinally sound” church…….but sadly found out there was no love. It was full of pride and arrogance. Oh, they know their Bible, they know their doctrines of grace. But living it out in humility and love is sadly absent.
    I read an excellent quote by Paul Washer recently which you brought to mind: “For many years I had a lot of hope, the last ten years, looking at all the young men, they were studying good theology and reading good books and going back to the old stuff. I had a lot of hope.That hope has been dashed against the rocks, because I’ve realized, it’s gone to the head – but they’re still cool. They’re still worldly. They’re basically saying, “Look, I can be worldly and theologically correct at the same time.”
    Thank you again for your doctrinally sound and yet humble and clear teachings.

  12. You are welcome joyfulheart and I think what you shared there is the reason so many are confused by the many Christian leaders who have the right doctrine, but who say and do very unwise things. Then, when they are confronted with the problem, they refuse to repent revealing arrogance rather than humility. Yes, there is a lot of that going on right now and if we are not both wise and discerning, we can become quite discouraged. Let us pray for our leaders and ourselves that God will teach us and our Pastors and leaders to be be both strong in his word and humble in our obedience to it.

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