I know your works that you have a name that you live, and are dead

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 (NA28)

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 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 the late 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 our 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 talked 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 through the roof, 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 my blog’s 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. He then contacted me and said he had no choice but to not allow any posts about eschatology on CRN by anyone, which is still in place to this day.

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 are the ones who are right and everyone else false and 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 ἀλλʼ ἔχεις ὀλίγα ὀνόματα ἐν Σάρδεσιν ἃ οὐκ ἐμόλυναν τὰ ἱμάτια αὐτῶν, καὶ περιπατήσουσιν μετʼ 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 (NA28)

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 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)

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 them 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 others ahead of self, while standing firm in the Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

11 thoughts on “I know your works that you have a name that you live, and are dead

  1. Amen, brother! Keep discerning the truth… the wolves will continue to attack, however, we have been set free by the truth. Thank you for this EXCELLENT ministry!

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  2. White space theologians are normally very defensive and divisive; not able to tolerate those who cling to the words rather than the white space between them. It seems Darby’s disciples are among the most rabid of these white space folks, along with the free will peeps.

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  3. Manfred, have you noticed how Darby’s disciples are also adamant how News about the Middle East is interpreted and are always trying to fit what is there with what Scripture says and woe to you if you question them?

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  4. Yup – it’s as if the Bible is a crystal ball and world news is the interpretive guide. On a related note, I was in a 1689 church for a while and one of the elders mentioned how he had been denied a position in a Darby church because he did not align with them on eschatology (it’s a larger issue than that). He was puzzled. And yet – he refused to ordain a couple of us he had trained as elders because we didn’t align with the 1689 view of the “Christian Sabbath.” And he did not see the irony.

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  5. Yes brother. You know I am Reformed in my theology as you are so I suppose that makes me a Calvinist, but I have been so ostrasized by the smug members of the Calvinist club so many times I have come to understand that Calvinism may indeed be the correct understanding of theology, but there are many brothers and sisters in Christ who have no clear understanding of theology having come to Christ, like I did, in a non-Reformed church. These holier than thou hypocrits in the Calvinist club believe correctly, but their exclusivity is in error because it negates the Grace and Mercy of our Lord. I doubt if the thief on the Cross, or Cornelius the Centurion or countless other converts we read of in the New Testament had any understanding whatsover of these good doctrines before our Lord saved them. I know I didn’t.

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  6. And I was recently listening to Luke and heard (chapter 9) the Lord rebuke His disciples for wanting to stop a man who was driving out demons in His name because he did not follow them. Jesus told them not to stop him because whoever is not against you is for you. And we bite and devour one another over our pet theology rather than accept one another in Christ. He alone has perfect theology.

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  7. Thank you for this message. Can you help me understand the Luke 9 reference above… Who would this be today? Would it be Protestant denominations?

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