The Lord Jesus Christ loves His Church and speaks correction to and chastens those within the local churches that supposedly make it up (Revelation 3:19). This is the why and what for of His end of the first century specific messages to seven churches of Asia and their messengers in His Revelation I wrote about to open this New Year (Revelation 1:9-11, 19).1 The mere fact the Lord has something to say about what goes on in the churches demonstrates not only His knowledge, but concern that things be done in accord with His will, way and Word! He did not go away back to Heaven and turn the business of the Church over to us. He is Lord (Ephesians 1:15-23)!
In exercising His ever active Lordship over His Church from birth, the Lord Jesus presents Himself to the messenger of the church at Sardis as “He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars.” With authority granted by His Father (Mathew 28:18), the Son asserts His control over the fullness of the Holy Spirit represented as “the seven Spirits of God” in His activities among men and church messengers as “the seven stars” He earlier interpreted to John (Revelation 1:20). Then, after declaring He knew Sardis’ works, He drops a spiritual bomb shell on them with shock waves that reach to this very hour: they had “a name” for being “alive,” but were “dead” (Revelation 3:1, NKJV)!
The church in Sardis had a name or reputation for being alive whatever that meant for them at that time. Perhaps like some churches that were before and many that have followed them down through the centuries, professed Christians in the Sardis church were intensely engaged in sensational spiritual practices such as speaking in tongues which the apostle Paul warned against over emphasizing (1 Corinthians 14:1-19). Maybe it was passionate preaching or spirited singing and dancing that were carried out as a telltale sign God was present. Possibly too, it was all of these elements that are found variously in numerous churches among the ethnicities on earth today.
Few however, would argue with me that among the ethnicities, those of my own either on the African continent or scattered among the world’s countries including this one engage in all or most of what is described in the foregoing during any given service of what we call worship. The reputation for being alive among black Americans in their churches draws tourists to observe us from all over the world. And we typically do not disappoint; putting on emotion charged performances sometimes that are hard even for the most stoic of souls to resist being caught up in.2 I do understand such services have been historically cathartic for us and in loving empathy have written about why.3
Nevertheless, without the Holy Spirit whose living, working presence the Lord Jesus controls, none of what professed Christians do in the churches lives now or eternally before God (John 6:63). Clearly, from the Lord’s judgment of the church at Sardis, sensational activity and high energy emotional worship are not surefire indicators of the Holy Spirit’s living presence and work as many want to falsely believe. By default, works not empowered by the Holy Spirit are of the sinful flesh. Those acting in the flesh do not please God (Romans 8:5-8). And while there may be “liberty” when the Holy Spirit is present, such times are never a license to sin (2 Corinthians 3:17, NKJV)!4
The verdict of the Lord Jesus on the reputation of the church at Sardis was that they and their efforts were spiritually dead as is the case in every church where the Holy Spirit is not actually operative in what is going on! Apparently though, the church was not completely dead since after pronouncing them so, the Lord commands them to “Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die;” He not finding their works complete “before God.” Then, He exhorts them to go back in memory to what they had been originally taught, grip it tight and repent from their departure. If they don’t, He warns, He will come upon them suddenly for what will surely be retribution (Revelation 3:2-3, NKJV). The Lord says the same to guilty churches today.
Always in God’s economy there is a faithful remnant. At Sardis, there was one that by implication in their life and deeds were alive through the authentic work of the Holy Spirit. The Lord acknowledges them and promises a reward for their faithfulness--“for” He says, “they are worthy.” They will also never face the possibility of Him blotting their names out of “the Book of Life.” They will be alive in the Spirit forever! The Lord will also confess the names of these faithful saints before His “Father and before His angels.” He urges every individual in the church at Sardis and the one you attend too, if you will, “to hear what the Spirit says to the churches,” (Revelation 3:4-6, NKJV). The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
1 See the two-part post that begins January 5, 2020, Revelation’s Seven Churches In Time, under the category, Bible Prophecy.
2 Save attempting to shame me for telling the truth on “us” since I have been black all of my life and even before I was a believer, as a child I witnessed how we do. And
as it concerns performing, while I know a relative few individuals among the musicians and audience may be having a genuine encounter with God, my teen years
were mostly spent in bands entertaining; I know performance, entertainment and being moved by the music when I see and hear it as still happens to me in all trans-
parency when I allow it (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Just because you are feeling it in what is called worship, does not mean God is and it is idolatry to think so, since He made
us in His image not the other way around (Psalm 50:16-23; Isaiah 1:10-20)!
3 Read the two-part repost beginning February 8, 2015, Strong Through God, Not Religion, under the category, Black History.
4 Examples occur whenever an assembly is thrown into disorder by folk lacking self-control and women in disobedience and defiance of God’s written Word are allowed
to lead worship where adult men are present (1 Corinthians 14:20-40; 1 Timothy 2:11-14). Women freely empowered by the Holy Spirit to prophesy (Joel 2:28-29,
Acts 2:1-18, 21:8-11) are not free to do so as they please or as sinning church leaders command in disobedience to God’s perpetually set order of mankind. Or are we
now blasphemously teaching that the “Holy” Spirit sanctions sin in rebellion against Himself? Knowing this not to be the case, no wonder the false escape is to lie on
God and declare He has spoken (Jeremiah 23:30-32), changed His mind (Malachi 3:6), updated His Word (Matthew 5:17-20, 24:35) or abandoned the temperance of
His eternal nature He wills to display in us (Galatians 5:22-23)! It is not nor will it ever be the Holy Spirit that pushes the guilty into sin, but the prince of darkness and
the lusts of their sinful flesh draw them into it (James 1:12-18).
In the Lord’s Revelation to the churches written down by His apostle John, reference is made to a curious feminine character, “The Mother Of Harlots,” (Revelation 17:5, NKJV). While the Lord has already had me specifically disclose and discuss what is also called “Mystery: Babylon The Great,”1 in this post He leads me to explain the reason this prophetic enigma is not only described as a harlot, but the mother of them. Plainly, this harlot and her daughters have such significance to Christianity as a future development that warning was merited among and beyond the original seven churches of Asia the Lord’s Revelation is first sent to I wrote about earlier this month.2
What is a harlot? Encarta Dictionary and most other dictionaries will say a harlot is the same as a prostitute which is typically a woman (but historically has also included men) paid to provide sex or related acts. Interestingly, Encarta further defines a prostitute in noun form as one “who degrades talent for money;” using “a skill or ability in a way that is considered unworthy, usually for financial gain.” As a transitive verb, to prostitute is to “misuse something for gain” or offer somebody or oneself for sexual or others favors “in exchange for money.” The Bible uses harlot in these ancient, commonly defined ways (Genesis 38:11-18; 1 Corinthians 6:16), but also applies the term spiritually.
Spiritually, God warns Israel in the aftermath of His first two of Ten Commandments and the gold calf affair not to act toward the heathen nations and their gods as one to be serviced by or be to them a harlot (Exodus 20:1-6, 32:1-6, 34:10-17). Israel was also never to incorporate the use of ritual harlots in their worship practices (Deuteronomy 23:17-18). For Israel to invent and/or bow down to worship any so-called god, was not only considered disobedience by God, but also unfaithfulness in spiritual adultery. Israel, however, did not listen and repeatedly played the spiritual harlot as God charged through her prophets (Isaiah 1:21-23; Jeremiah 3:1-10; Ezekiel 16:1-34; Hosea 6:4-11).
In the same way it would be adultery if a married man’s wife prostituted herself, so, Israel married to God spiritually committed adultery against Him--a reality God had Hosea the prophet live out as a true to life demonstration (Jeremiah 3:14; Hosea 1:1-3, 3:1-3). God confronted Israel with her sin and labeled her persistent spiritual adultery “harlotry;” pronouncing her captive to “the spirit of harlotry” (Hosea 2:2-5, 4:11-19). The Lord’s use of “the spirit of harlotry” is not just a descriptive figure for Israel’s continual spiritual adultery, but identifies the very real demon behind it as well since the first unfaithful creature to God was Satan (Ezekiel 28:14-18; John 8:44; Ephesians 2:1-3, 6:12)!
Obviously, to become unfaithful to God, one has to first be close to Him in some way. Satan was once close to God as a trusted chief cherub who rebelled. Israel spiritually was chosen by Him to be His “special treasure above all people” (Exodus 19:5-6). As already stated, their intimacy of relationship in human terms is spoken of as marriage with God as Israel’s Husband; family with God as Father and Israel as sons. And so it remains as Christ returns to fulfill God’s announcement through the prophets to restore the remnant of Israel and relationship with Him after judging them for their unfaithfulness and apostasy (Ezekiel 16:35-43; Hosea 1:4-2:1, 2:6-23, 3:4-5, 4:1-10, 5-6:3).
No other people ever enjoyed the status of the Jews with God until individual Gentiles were saved by grace through faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and like them, brought into His New Covenant; giving rise to the Church He builds (Romans 1:16-17, 9:1-5, 11:1-36; Ephesians 2:11-22). But as the spirit of religion has always deceitfully done cooperating with the spirit of harlotry, corruptions of and departures from God’s Word with ties to pagan practices (such as mother-son cult worship) were introduced to and took hold among many churches.3 By the end of the second century A.D., a great act of harlotry also occurred when priests and a related liturgy of Communion were formalized.4
By the fifth century, this new form of Christianity foreign to the New Testament had become entrenched among the churches of the Western and Eastern Roman Empire, the Middle East and North Africa. The church at Rome soon after exalted herself above all others and became dominant as a mother to them and certainly all that would later come into being as rebel offshoots during the Protestant Reformation. She was Christ’s self-appointed bride and queen on earth. When Rome fell, she took up its place in the world; elevating her head priest to represent her in ruling over kings and engaging in all manner of political intrigue, social engineering and wars of conquest that gained much property and wealth for her as a global empire; murdering saints and prophets along the way.5
As with the mother harlot, so, her daughters; the Lord calls all in the grip of spiritual harlotry to repent! Without repentance, spiritual harlotry leads only to apostasy and judgment as with Israel (Hosea 6:4-7:4a, 8:1-14).6 While in her own eyes “The Mother Of Harlots” sits an untouchable queen favored by her ostensible Husband, He has already exposed her harlotry in His Revelation and announced her end before she came to be (Revelation 14:8, 16:19, 17:1-19:4). Time is nearly up. Therefore, let every guilty professed Christian take heed to the Lord’s warning among “the churches” and repent for He is soon to appear for His faithful and true Bride (Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 22:12-17, NKJV). The risen, living Christ continues His cry among American churches, "Who is on the Lord's side?"
1 Read the August 23, 2015 post, Babylon Is Falling, under the category, Bible Prophecy.
2 See the two-part post, Revelation’s Seven Churches In Time, beginning January 5, 2020 under the category, Bible Prophecy.
3 Read the January 18, 2015 post, Worshipping God Without God, Pt. 3, under the category, Call To Repent and the two-part post beginning August 21, 2016, Chris-
tianity The Religion Of Men, under the category, Instruction.
4 Read the Encyclopedia Britannica article on the origin of priests in Christianity. It does not matter what form or act of disobedience used in Satan’s scheme to se-
duce God’s people into harlotry, the end is the same: destruction by God! Indeed, take for example, the Nicolaitans Christ spoke of in His Revelation. While it
may be that the Lord was expressing hatred for “the deeds of the Nicolaitans” in Revelation 2:6 as the sins listed in vs.14, these sins were not actually “the doctrine
of Balaam” as the influencing source of the Nicolaitan’s “doctrine,” (vs.15, NKJV). The doctrine Balaam taught Balak was “to put a stumbling block” (vs.14, NKJV)
before Israel through seducing them to commit those sins against God who would be forced to destroy His people in judgment (Numbers 25, 31:14-16). This is a
strategy Satan has repeatedly employed from Eden (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:1-6). Compelling is the translation of Nicolaitans from the Greek by scholars as “people
conquerors.” Men as a formal, ruling class of priests with a supporting hierarchy in the churches is nowhere taught in the New Testament and is a corrupt, hereti-
cal mimicking of Judaism’s priesthood from the law Paul, the apostle to us Gentiles, would have surely condemned (Galatians 2:1-5, 3:1-14)! An eternal spiritual
priesthood of all believers serving God and each other is taught in the New Testament (Mark 10:35-45; 1 Peter 2:4-10; Revelation 1:4-6). With historic idolatry and
rampant sexual immorality mixed in, the manmade Christian priesthood as with all other religious inventions of men has proven to be disastrous to professing
Christianity and conquered many.
5 Saints and prophets were persecuted and murdered at the hands of those professing to represent Jesus Christ as His church after not being willing to back down
from standing up to and crying out against the corruptions they saw and endured. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs tells many of their stories.
6 Read the June 10, 2018 post, God’s Judgment Upon His House, under the category, Bible Prophecy and God’s Creatures.
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