In Revelation 4, John describes what he sees in the throne room of heaven. It’s an amazing scene full of unimaginable beauty, marvelous glory…and very interesting creatures. Creatures with multiple faces, six wings, and covered with eyes.
Remember that God is a God of order and intentionality. He deliberately reveals His glory and His love though His word for our benefit. No words in His Word are ever wasted. Everything written has a purpose.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 says, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.” (emphasis added)
You see, this scene with these creatures may seem odd until you realize that the same scene is repeated throughout the Bible. We see it described 6 times in the book of Revelation alone; it’s referenced through the symbolism of the 4 Gospels; described in detail in Ezekiel 1; and hinted at in the way God commanded the tribes of Israel to camp around the Tabernacle in the wilderness.
God isn’t giving us a fanciful tale to impress or confuse us. He is giving us a message—the message that the entire Bible is communicating. 66 books. 1,189 chapters. 31,102 verses. All for you! All for us! All interwoven in an undeniable way to paint a vivid portrait of the central figure of all time—Jesus Christ. Out of His great love for us, He goes to the greatest of lengths to not only deliver His message for mankind but also to authenticate His authorship.
It’s only because of Jesus that we’re able to come to His throne. And our only reasonable response to such glory, majesty, and grace is to worship Him.
“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This past Sunday, we studied Revelation 4—the beginning of…well…the end (that is, the end of time as we know it on the earth as we know it). If you remember some of our first studies of Revelation, we looked at the outline God gave us for the whole book: “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this.” (Revelation 1:19)
The first section (things which you have seen) described what John had saw from his perspective—his vision and interaction with Jesus in all of His glory (Revelation 1). The second section (the things which are) were the seven letters Jesus wrote to the seven churches (Revelation 2 and 3). The third section (the things which will take place after this) are future events that have yet to occur and are described for us in the remainder of the book of Revelation (chapters 4-22).
Revelation 4 opens this exciting third section with a simple, yet significant saying: “After these things…” But what are these things? And why is this order important in light of eternity? Listen to our study of Revelation 4 to find out!
In this seventh letter, Jesus writes to the church of the Laodiceans. And it’s important to remember that He is the author of these letters. Jesus—“the Amen, the Faithful and True witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” (Revelation 3:14) He is the True Witness. He is the Real Deal.
But those gathered in Laodicea weren’t witnesses for Jesus. They weren’t real in their relationship with Him. In fact, you might say it was audacious for them to be called a church without any true loyalty to Jesus. Sadly, they had compromised their convictions. Even as they gathered in nice buildings and did nice things, the Lord of His church was left on the outside.
How did this happen? A clue might be found in the name of the city—“Lao,” is where we get our word “laity”; and “Dicea,” is where we get our word “decide”. You see, Jesus is displaced from His proper position in His church when the perceived wants of the people determine the direction of a church. What’s the result? A country club full of people who think they they are Christians…but Christ is absent from them.
And yet…in His mercy, Jesus comes to this church. He stands outside the door. He knocks with His nail pierced hands. He speaks to His beloved—the people He bought with His precious blood. And He invites them to dine with Him—to enjoy fellowship with Him, the very thing He saved them for.
Each of these letters has ended with the same phrase: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” As a body of believers, it our desire is for Christ to rule and reign in His church and in our hearts. Have you heard the Spirit speak? Have you heard Jesus knocking? Answer the door. Let Jesus in.
The church of Laodicea thought too highly of themselves. They thought they were rich, but they were really poor. They thought they were covered, but they were really exposed. They thought they could see, but they were really blind. They took pride in who they appeared to be from the outside, but had no presence of Christ within. In fact, Jesus is no where to be found in this church—He’s on the outside, knocking and hoping someone would open the door.
Where did things go wrong for this “church”? How did they end up with Jesus outside? And what can we learn from their example? Listen to our study of Revelation 3:14-22 as Jesus warns us about churches becoming Christian country clubs for nice people.
The church in Philadelphia didn’t hold an honest assessment of who they really were. As they compared themselves with other churches, their strength seemed small and their faith seemed weak. In their flawed self-assessment, they probably felt like failures. And yet, from Jesus’ letter to this church, we see that they did not realize just how successful they truly were—from God’s perspective.
Maybe you can relate to the church of Philadelphia. Maybe you feel too weak or too flawed as you compare yourself to others. But there is a danger in using worldly ways to determine success or failure in your own self-assessment. God’s word tells us that with a little strength, a little faithfulness, and an open door from the Lord, you can be unstoppable!
No matter how weak and silly and feeble you may feel, stay faithful to Jesus. As you walk though the open doors He places before you, trust that He equips those He calls. He is not looking for your ability, but your availability. Remember that He uses those who feel unqualified and overwhelmed…and won’t give up.
The church in Philadelphia probably thought they were the worst, the most foolish, and the most faithless of all the seven churches that Jesus wrote. And yet, they couldn’t be more wrong! Why? Because they were using worldly ways of determining success or failure.
It’s so important to see yourself as God sees you—not as others see you, not even as you see you! The Lord will bring into the light of day all that is presently hidden in darkness, exposing the secret motives of people’s hearts. Then God will give each person a share of His praise (see 1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
This church probably didn’t even think that Jesus would write to them. But He did—and they were the only church that Jesus didn’t correct. Though they were feeble, they were faithful. And so Jesus encouraged them through His letter.
We found encouragement in this letter too as we studied it this past Sunday. Listen to our study of Revelation 3:7-13 and learn how only God opens doors that no one can shut.
In the letters to the churches at the beginning of Revelation, the names of each city relates to the content of each letter. Sardis means “escape” or “to escape,” which speaks to the chapter of church history this letter addresses—the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants risked everything to protest the unbiblical practices and doctrines of the prevailing powers in the church of that day. They gained a name that was synonymous with courageous faithfulness and contagious loyalty to Jesus.
But something happened to that Back-to-the-Bible revival. Over the course of time, their faithfulness and loyalty lessened. They had an outward reputation, but no inward reality to match. What began as a movement of the Holy Spirit became a man-made manual, which became a monument, which ended up as a mausoleum—dead.
Could the same be said for our church? Could the same be said of you? How is your walk with Jesus? We must heed the lesson from the church of Sardis—individually and collectively. We must continue walking in the Spirit and resisting the temptation to perfect a genuine movement of the Spirit in our flesh.
If we are not careful, we can be lulled into a self-confidence that causes us to cease being watchful and strengthened through the simplicity of loyalty to Jesus and His word. If we are not watchful, the enemy can sneak right in and attack our intimacy with Jesus on the inside, even as we hold to doctrinal purity on the outside. And if we are not careful, we will find ourselves holding on to dead orthodoxy—simply going through the motions of vain repetition.
Set a watch! Be on guard! And purpose in your heart and mind to strengthen the simplicity of walking with Jesus in the Spirit.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8
The church in Sardis had an outward reputation for being alive, but their inward reality was…different. This church was dead. From the outside they seemed alive, but inside, they lacked life.
The seven letters at the beginning of Revelation have multiple layers of meaning. They speak to the actual churches of that day, individual churches of today, a personal application for us, and a correlation with church history. This letter corresponds to the period of church history known as the Protestant Reformation—which had name outwardly, but over time lost their inward reality.
But it didn’t begin this way for the church in Sardis, for the churches that call themselves Protestant, or for the churches and people to whom this applies today. Listen to our study from Sunday as we considered each of these three in our study of Revelation 3:1-6.
From Pastor Dom...
When I first gave my life to Jesus, there were friends in my life who helped me to grow in my understanding of God, through His word, and for those friends