The Orthodoxy of the Church, Chap 6, Section 1 of 3




Scripture Reading: Rev. 3:1-6

We have seen that during the time of the apostles there was the behavior of the Nicolaitans. After the behavior of the Nicolaitans, we have seen how Pergamos sinned greatly by bringing the world into the church. After the Nicolaitans came Jezebel, and at the same time idols were brought into the church. But there is a good point here: In Thyatira we see the judgment of Jezebel, the casting of her into a bed that she may not move; we also see that her followers will one day be killed. These prophecies have not yet been fulfilled; they will be fulfilled at the time of Babylon’s fall in Revelation 17. The history of Thyatira began from the time Jezebel improperly brought idols into the church and will continue until she receives judgment. Now we must see one thing: When the church, in her continuous fall from the Nicolaitans, comes to the stage of Jezebel, God can no longer tolerate it. Then Sardis emerges. “Sardis” means “the remains.” The church in Sardis is God’s reaction to Thyatira. The history of revival in the churches throughout the entire world indicates divine reactions. Whenever the Lord begins a revival work, He is reacting. God’s reaction is man’s recovery. I would like you to keep this principle firmly in mind. Sardis appears because the Lord has seen the condition of Thyatira.

In Revelation several churches are in pairs. Sardis is connected with Ephesus. Philadelphia is connected with Smyrna, and Laodicea is connected with Pergamos. Only Thyatira stands alone. In Sardis the Lord says that His name is “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works, that you have a name that you are living, and yet you are dead” (Rev. 3:1). The epistle to Ephesus says that His right hand holds seven stars, while the epistle to Sardis says that He has the seven stars. Ephesus is the slackening after the apostles, that is, the changing from something good to bad; Sardis is the recovery from Thyatira, that is, the changing from something bad to good. Having works but no love is Ephesus; living in name but dead in reality is Sardis. So these two are a pair. The Lord manifests Himself as He who has the seven Spirits. The seven Spirits of God are sent of God to the world to work, and this refers to the work of life. The seven stars in Ephesus refer to the messengers; here they refer to the illumination. The work of recovery is half in the Spirit and half in the light.

Sardis is similar to Thyatira in that she includes a long period of time, from the reformed churches until the Lord comes back again. Although the time of Sardis is not as long as Thyatira, she refers not only to the church during the Reformation, but also to church history following the Reformation.

“I know your works, that you have a name that you are living, and yet you are dead.” I believe no one will doubt that Martin Luther was a servant of the Lord and the Reformation was the work of God. The Reformation was a great work, and it was a divine reaction. Surely the Lord used Luther as a mouthpiece; he was a man especially chosen by God. When Luther first started, the Reformation was entirely Sardis. His purpose was solely for recovery. The Lord does not say that the work of Luther was not good; rather, He says it was not complete. It was good, but not good enough. In the eyes of the Lord, He has not found anything complete—everything was a beginning without an end. The Lord is a Lord of completion; therefore, He requires completion. For this reason, we must ask Him that we may see.

The problem of justification was solved following Luther. Justification is by faith, and having peace before the Lord is by faith. Luther not only gave us justification by faith; he also gave us an open Bible. In Thyatira the authority is in the hands of Jezebel—in other words, in the hands of the church. It is a matter of what the church says, not what the Lord says. It is all a matter of what the mother church says: All the people of the Roman Catholic Church listen to the mother church. So the Lord says He will kill her “children.” You say the mother, but the Lord says the children. Luther showed us what the Lord says and what the Bible says. Men can read God’s Word, and men can see for themselves what God actually says, not what Rome says. When the open Bible comes, the whole church is enlightened.

However, a problem arises: Protestantism did not give us a proper church. As a result, wherever the doctrine of justification by faith and the open Bible went, a state church was established. The Lutheran sect became the state church in many countries. Later, in England the Anglican Church came into being, which is also a state church. Beginning with Rome, the nature of the church was changed. By the time of justification by faith and the return of the open Bible, the Protestant churches had not yet seen what the church should be. Although there were justification by faith and the open Bible, the Protestant churches still followed the example of Rome and did not return to the church in the beginning. During the Reformation the problem of the church was not solved. Luther did not reform the church. Luther himself said that we should not think “justification by faith” is enough; there are many more things to be changed. Yet the people in the Protestant churches stopped right there. Luther did not stop, but they stopped and said that it was good enough. Although they went back to the faith of the beginning, the church herself remained unchanged. Formerly, there was the international church of Rome; now it is the state church of England or the state church of Germany—that is all.

© Living Stream Ministry, 2021, used by permission