Previous: Revelation 3:1b-e

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. - Revelation 3:2


We come now to Our Lord's critique of the Church at Sardis. First He said, "Be watchful." The Greek word translated "watchful" is gregoreo. It means "stay awake; watch; be awake, vigilant." Jesus used this word in His great Olivet Discourse. When His disciples asked when He was going to return to Earth, He said,

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. - Matthew 24:42

In the same sermon, after giving the parable of the five wise and five foolish virgins, He warned,

"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. " - Matthew 25:13

It is also interesting that in the next chapter, when Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray, he took Peter, James and John with Him,

Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me." - Matthew 26:38

This brings up the wonderful concept of Revival. When the Church (or even an individual) is in spiritual decline, or complacency, it is like falling into a stupor or a deep sleep. But like a call to "get up" in the morning, it is possible for the comatose believer to be restored to His "first love" for Christ (see notes on chapter 2, verse 4).

There is so much need for revival in our days. Thankfully, there are many signs that God is at work, hopefully planning to send a great in-gathering of young people who have been raised in secular homes and subjected to an anti-Christian education and an immoral culture.

The spiritual atmosphere today reminds me of some of the disappointing trends in the 1960's, when I first began to pastor a church in East Los Angeles. They were the days of hippies, psychedelic drugs, free-love, and riots. I wrote a little book just for our congregation. It was called "Reveille: Arise and Conquer." Reveille is the bugle call used to awaken the troops to prepare for battle. We were seeing signs of revival around us: massive Billy Graham crusades, the birth of Campus Crusade for Christ, and the early days of the Jesus People Movement. We mobilized into small groups to study, pray, and be a part of what The Lord was doing in our needy world.

Jesus continued His instruction for those who would be willing to be revived: and strengthen the things which remain, thatare ready to die. The things that remain were the good things about the Reformation: The return to God's Word, the rejection of non-Biblical ideas, the amazing zeal and courage that infused the church. However, as good as those things were, if they were not revived, even those gains would be lost.

There is good reason to believe that there was a revival there in Smyrna. John MacArthur mentions Melito - a 2nd Century apologist from Sardis, who also wrote the earliest known commentary on the Book of Revelation. He became a martyr, probably under Marcus Aurelius about a.d. 177. He had told Antonius Caesar:

It is not easy, speedily to bring into the right way the man who has a long time previously been held fast by error. It may, however, be effected: for, when a man turns away ever so little from error, the mention of the truth is acceptable to him. For, just as when the cloud breaks ever so little there comes fair weather, even so, when a man turns toward God, the thick cloud of error which deprived him of true vision is quickly withdrawn from before him. For error, like disease and sleep, long holds fast those who come under its influence; but truth uses the word as a goad, and smites the slumberers, and awakens them; and when they are awake they look at the truth, and also understand it: they hear, and distinguish that which is from that which is not. (

There is something encouraging about our Lord's warning for His Church to wake up. Even if the majority of Christians at Sardis were in a spiritual coma, and were not walking in the Holy Spirit, this situation could evidently be reversed. Jesus' call to revival implies strongly that they should, and more importantly, that they could, have an awakening!

To God's glory, the Reformation Period of history, which the Church of Sardis prefigured, also had its revivals. The Anabaptist movement and all the martyrs of the period from various branches of the Reformation bear witness to revivals, big and small, during those years.

C.S. Lewis, John Stott and others in our generation - from old-line reformation churches - are examples of renewed thinking and teaching. The charismatic Catholic movement is also an encouraging development.

Then Jesus said, "for I have not found your works perfect before God." The word for "found" in the original Greek is heurisko, meaning "to discover." From this word we derive "Eureka," - "I found it!" from the gold-rush days in California.

The Lord is looking for the hidden gold in our lives. Good works are not enough. Deeds can't save, but they are the inevitable result of a changed life (Ephesians 2:8-10); walking in the Spirit. We noted earlier that this was the greatest failure of the Reformation age.

The word for "perfect" is the Greek pleroo, which means to be full, complete. This should not be thought of as sinless perfection, but of a generally godly and productive life.

Next week we will participate in the funeral service of a close personal friend and long-term missionary to Brazil with Youth for Christ. Paul Overholt, in his eighties, was still organizing teams to go there to improve the YFC camp even more! He was seriously ill and weakened, but he still hoped to go there again next summer. Paul was responsible for the salvation of many thousands of Brazilian young people. He was so venerated there, that when I saw him in action and noted the reverence Brazilian Christians had for him, I started calling him "The Pope of Brazil." Was he perfect? He would be the first to say "no!" But his deeds proceeded from a life of personal commitment to Jesus Christ and a dependence on the filling of the Holy Spirit.

Next: Revelation 3:3a-b


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