Text: Rev 2:18-3:6
Creedal Reflection*: WCF 25.5 The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error, and some have so degenerated as to become not Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there will be always a Church on earth, to worship God according to his will.
Featured Verse: Rev 3:2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Main Idea: Jesus has a strong rebuke for these two churches. Both have a surface level appearance that all is well, but Jesus is the one who searches hearts and minds (2:23). He does not tolerate hypocrisy but challenges his churches to call them back to faithfulness.
As the saying goes, "looks can be deceiving." Both of the churches in Thyatira and Sardis have a mixed record. A person looking in from the outside would likely be convinced that all was well. After all, Thyatira had "love and faith and service and patient endurance (v.2:19.)" But Jesus had concern that they were tolerating a false teacher, who like the OT figure Jezebel who was actively leading people into sexual and religious transgression (v.2:21) In a similar way, Sardis had a "reputation of being alive" but Jesus proclaimed their spiritual health to be the opposite (v.3:1.) So he calls them to "wake up" (v.3:1), lest he be forced to come against them. Similar to yesterday and the two prior churches, Jesus is portrayed as actively disciplining his churches to return to them health and vitality.
Conclusion and Application
Part of what is being revealed here is the character of Jesus. He is portrayed as one who has "eyes like flames of fire" (v.2:18), whose vision penetrates "mind and heart" (v.2:23.) We cannot fool him with an outward religious appearance.
How does it change our perception of our spiritual life if we think of the sight of Jesus penetrating our thoughts and desires ("hearts and minds")? For me, it stirs me to repentance and to fresh pray for spiritual help in the daily struggles.
The other part of what we see in this section is the persistence and active ministry Jesus has to refine his church. While there could be a situation in which God's presence leaves a church as he left his OT temple (Ez 10), it is often a case that our churches - like the churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 are mixtures of good and bad. Truth and error are side by side.
This reality should guard us all against complacency. We cannot lean into our reputation before others while indulging spiritual apathy. On the other hand, this leads us to be more gracious with others. It is often easier to see the sin and error in another person or another church. It is easy for us to assume that once we see that error we can dismiss them and wash our hands. While there are examples of Churches that have departed from the faith, it is always the case that all of our congregations are "mixtures of truth and error" as we are taught in the Westminster Confession (WCF 25:5.) Jesus does not immediately write off the congregations of Thyatira and Sardis, but engages with them, calling them back to faithfulness and life-giving spirituality. As always, Jesus cares enough to say the hard thing. He cares enough to pursue spiritual good even when it means shouting "wake up" to the Christians in Sardis that have drifted into a deep spiritual slumber.
*There is a slight change from the typical arrangement here. Usually we have an OT reading or a parallel passage from another place in the NT. Today I substituted a creedal reading from the Westminster Confession of Faith since it seemed to be so relevant to the discussion.