April 14, 2019 The Judgment Seat of Christ, Part 5

The Judgment Seat of Christ Part 5

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is Revelation 3:1-6. READ. PRAY.

 

The letter to the church at Sardis begins as Jesus describes himself as the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. We have already seen that the seven stars are the seven angels. These are angels who have oversight over the churches in Asia minor.

 

He holds these stars in his right hand as we saw in chapter one. This shows that Jesus is sovereign over the Angels. They are under his authority.

 

He also has the seven spirits of God. What are these seven spirits? Are there really eight spirits because there is the Holy Spirit, too? No. Numbers are symbolic in Hebrew culture. The number seven signifies either divine completion or divine perfection. Hence, the “seven spirits" represent the Holy Spirit perfect in his work among the churches. Those who constitute the churches are quite imperfect but the Spirit’s work is always perfect.

 

Jesus has the Holy Spirit. The spirit is under his direction. This speaks to his divinity for no one but God can direct the Holy Spirit.

 

As he does to each of the seven churches, he says,"I know you're works." Christ’s judgment of the saints, both in this life and at the judgment seat, is based on works. This is a judgment for rewards, not for eternal life.

 

The church at Sardis had a reputation of being alive. But the Lord says that they are dead. This characterization of being dead is corporate or collective Quality. He is describing the church as a whole. There are some in this church who are alive. Further, he is using hyperbole. He is saying that they are dead but they are not quite dead. Verse two makes this clear: "Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die…” They are nearly dead and if they heed this letter of admonition they can be revived through repentance.

 

The second half of verse 2 two is revelatory. The reason they need to wake up and come out of the process of death is because their works are not complete in the sight of God. Do you see the relation there? They're works testified, without words, to their spiritual condition! We do not like to think that way. We like to think that the way we feel testifies to our spiritual condition. So, if we have warm feelings in our heart for Jesus or if we feel a thrill when we sing songs about Jesus then we think that we are doing well.

 

I do not want to diminish the importance of emotive desires. Good feelings can and should accompany our thoughts of the Lord. In fact, if someone has no feelings when it comes to the Lord something is very wrong. But, they are not the measure of our faithfulness nor are they the measure of our spiritual life. According to this passage (and many others) it is our works which measure our spiritual health.

 

As evangelicals we sometimes run from the thought of works because of how the idea of works has been abused by the cults and Catholicism. But it may be an even greater error to abandon works as to place too much emphasis upon them. You do not correct and error by going into error of the opposite direction. What is needed is a balance and that balance is found on the lips of our Savior and his Apostles.

 

What are your works? What works can you name that reflect completion in the sight of God? If there are few or none that you can name then the Lord has a word for you this morning: Wake up! Strengthen what remains!

 

How do we do that? There are three steps that you can take to strengthen what remains.

 

1.   remember what you have received. What have the Sardinians received?

 

  • They had received a escape from the wrath of God which they (and every single person) deserved because of their rebellion and sin against His will, His ways, and His laws.
  • They had received the forgiveness of sins.
  • They had received peace of mind since the lack of peace is directly related to our own transgressions.
  • They had received the Holy Spirit to come and dwell within them.

All of these things are promised to the one who hears and receives the gospel as the church at Sardis did.

 

But we have a tendency to forget things, even important matters, and if we forget the divine benefits of the gospel we then allow the ways of the world to draw us away from Christ and His kingdom. So, the Lord charges them to remember!

 

Remembering is an important command in the NT. Paul charges the Ephesians: remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.

 

Jesus tells his disciples: “Remember Lot’s wife."

 

One reason why we partake of the Lord's Table each month is to remember the Lord’s sacrifice for us.

 

[Illus] When Josie gets upset with me she tells me that one of the things that makes things better is when she remembers the time I first came to meet her in the Philippines. Those are very good memories and they bring back to mind the strong feelings we had for one another at that time and that we still have but that are sometimes buried by the vicissitudes of life. She will even reread my letters to her from 20 years ago. It is the same way in our relationship with the Lord. Difficulties arise. The pull of other desires draws away. Or, the comforts of life beckon us into a state of inaction.

 

The way to come out of our own waywardness is to remember. I know that at times, when I'm feeling low, I have the two think of where I was when I came to Christ and a sense of gratitude raises as an me. My love for the Savior is rekindled.

 

Church, when you find your service to lord has gone by the wayside remember where the Lord has brought you from, what you have, and where you are going.

 

      II.        The second thing that this surrogacy in church was told to do was to keep it. To remember is one thing and to keep what we have is another. There are unseen forces at work around us tempting us to forsake those things that are true. We saw the same admonition to the church in Thyatira last week when the Lord charged them to ”holdfast" to what they had until he comes.

 

A. What are we to keep? Where to keep what we have received. This means that:

 

  • We must keep the reality our salvation in the forefront of our minds, knowing that we have been declared righteous by a holy God. This will give us boldness to approach God's throne of grace in time of need, that is, when we sin.
  • We must keep the peace of mind that a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ brings, trusting in his love for us.
  • We must keep the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will not leave us but we can neglect him. This is why the apostle Paul tells Timothy to fan into flame the gift of God (2 Tim. 1:6).

 

B. How do we keep it? We keep it by meditating upon the things we have received. [Illus] in Greek mythology and there were nine goddesses named the muses. 11 spoke of one of them, she was the mute. Basement much of their time thinking -thinking about the sciences and arts. So the word has come over and English meaning to ponder, to think, to consider, to meditate. When the letter"A" is put before a word as a prefix what does it mean? It means the"absence of" or the"negation of." The whole entertainment industry is built on the principle of a-musement, of not thinking, of letting the directors and actors think for us. It is an industry the Enemy uses to keep us from thinking, especially thinking about the word of God.

 

We must keep what we have received by meditating upon what we have received. We dwell upon and apply what we know of the works, ways, purposes, and promises of God. We allow God's truth to impress itself upon our minds and hearts. We talk to God while we meditate. But in meditation it is acceptable to talk to oneself. We see that David did that. We can even argue with ourselves: reasoning ourselves out of moods of doubt or moods of contrariness into a clear apprehension of God’s power and grace. This is how we keep it.

 

      III.       Thirdly, the Saints at Sardis were to repent. Oh, repentance is a wonderful thing! In Christ, it makes everything right again! To repent means to change our mind about a certain thing. It is a complete and resolute change of mind wherein the heart and will are fully engaged. We recognize that the way we have been living has not been right, it is been foolish, and we resolve to cease our foolish course of action.

 

Many in the church of Sardis needed to repent. If they failed to wake up and repent then the Lord will come to them and his coming would be a coming against them. It would be a severe discipline.

 

Some of us need to repent. God's call to repent has gone out to you more than once. If it has, then heed the call; otherwise the Lord will come to you in discipline. If we would discipline ourselves and the Lord will have no cause to come against us.

 

The letter begins with the Lord's rebuke. Then it turns to the Lord’s blessing. In verse 4 the Lord says that there are a few people in Sardis who have not soiled or garments. This is a depiction of those who have not allowed sin to overtake their lives.

 

They will walk with the Lord. This is a representation of intimate fellowship with the Lord. Notice verse 4 ends with the phrase,"for they are worthy." This is further evidence that the judgments being addressed In these seven epistles are not judgments pertaining to eternal life. For worthiness never enters for consideration when eternal life is concerned. Worthiness is only a consideration with respect to reward.

 

      IV.       Three wards are promised for the overcomer.

A."The one who overcomes will be clothed in white garments." What are the white garments? This is revealed to us later in the book but in an unmistakable way. Turn to Revelation 19:6-8. READ. the" bright, fine linen”" represents the righteous deeds of the Saints. Therefore, the righteous deeds that we have done Will somehow be made known in this manifestation for all to see is part of our reward.

B. Next, we come to a very difficult passage of scripture. We ought to come to this passage with fear and trembling. I come with humility, both before the Lord and before the church, because I think I understand it right, but I also recognize that many great men of God have disagreed upon its meaning and the stakes are high. I referred to the middle portion of verse 5 where the Lord promises:"I will never blot his name out of the book of life."

 

As far as I can fathom there are four ways and only four ways to understand this promise. If anyone knows of any other ways I’d be very interested in talking with you.

  1. One way is to say that"The book of life" is not a book that pertains to eternal life at all but is all about rewards. Well it is true that the"Book of life," which is mentioned several times in Scripture, encompasses more than just eternal life, it is certainly saying far too much to say that it does not pertain to eternal life at all. It is clear from Revelation 20 that it has to do, at least in part, with eternal destinies. Therefore, this understanding must be rejected.
  2. One way is that the potential blotting out is permanent, but the promise that he will not blot out their names from the book is applicable to all genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. This understanding is very appealing because we do know that the promise of eternal life is irrevocable from other clear passages of Scripture, such as John 10:27-29 "my sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 my father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the father's hand." However, for this to be true then one would also have to take the position that all true believers are Overcomers. We have examined this idea just recently and saw that this is not the case. Therefore, I cannot hold this view.
  3. Another way is to also say that the blotting out is permanent, but the promise is only to the overcomers and not all believers will overcome. In other words, this part of the passage says that it is possible for a true believer to lose their enternal life. Indeed, many who hold this view have held up this passage as a proof text for their position. But this must be rejected if we are to take clear, unambiguous passages like John 10 seriously, For the true believer in Christ cannot lose eternal life.
  4. The only other way to understand the passage is to view the potential blotting out as temporary. That is to say, to those who do not overcome, they may have their names erased from the book of life for a time. How much time? During the next age, before the final judgment at the end of the millennium. How long is the next age? We do not know. (the number 1000 in scripture is usually symbolic of a great number and does not mean a literal thousand. So, the next age will be at least a thousand years but likely far longer. How much longer we do not know. It could be 5000 years, 10,000 years or even longer than that.) Hence, if the erasure is temporary, the writing of one's name back in will occur before the end of the next age.

 

I believe this last option is the one that fits best with many other passages of Scripture which touch on the subject.

 

      C. The final promise to the overcomer is that his name will be confessed by the Lord himself (!) Before God the father and the Angels. Can you imagine such a reward?! That the Lord himself will say something along the lines of:"Father, my servant, (put your name here), was faithful and overcame all obstacles in her journey of faith. I give her my support and love." That is the greatest reward that anyone could ever desire.

 

In conclusion, we should be seeing a pattern now that has become evident in the letters to the churches thus far. Except for the letter to the church and Smyrna there is both a rebuke and the promise of reward. The Lord in his wisdom knows that both dire warnings and thrilling rewards are expedient to motivating us on the path of faithfulness to Him. For those who find themselves captured in sin or inactivity in the Lord’s work the warning should secure in their attention and bring them to repentance. For those who already work but are tempted to grow weary the marvelous rewards should inspire them to persevere and set their minds upon what is to come.

 

For those among us whose work is incomplete or those in a sin the Lord calls you this very day to remember where you were and what you've received, to keep it - that is, to meditate upon it, impressing God's truth upon your minds and hearts, and to repent.

 

For those among us who are active in the Lord’s service and have kept their garments unspoiled, look to what awaits: you will wear white and bright garments, your name will never be blotted out of the book of life and, most glorious of all, you will have Jesus himself confess your name to the Father and to the angels!

 

These warnings and these promises are like two tall and sturdy guard rails on a path with cliffs on either side. They keep us in the Lords way. Consider them. Thank the Lord for them. And press on with both in view!