A couple weeks ago I published The Rapture of the Church in which I hoped to encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we enter these last days.  As is always the case, God’s timing is perfect.  Right around that same time, I began reading the book of Revelation as I have been studying the New Testament this summer.  The comments I made in my Rapture post were still fresh in my heart and mind as I read through chapters 2 and 3 about the 7 churches.

To refresh your memory, the letters to the 7 churches are meaningful in a number of ways.  First, they were 7 letters written to 7 actual churches of the apostle John’s time, and addressed concerns and praised their good works.  Second, they are a message to individual churches all throughout the Church Age.  At some point or other we can see our own congregations in one or more of the Revelation churches.  Third, they also speak to us individually.  Who of us cannot read those letters and feel the conviction and/or hope from the Holy Spirit?  Finally, they are prophetic.  Each of the 7 churches represents a stage of the global Church throughout the whole Church Age, from the first to the last, in order.

In my rapture post, I pointed to the 6th church, Philadelphia, as the one who will be raptured to Heaven before the Great Tribulation, also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble.  And, I pointed to the 5th church, Sardis, as the age we are in now.  The Church looks like it is doing good, but it has fallen asleep and needs to wake up and prepare for Messiah’s return.

Revelation 3:1-4 (TLV) – To the angel of Messiah’s community in Sardis write:  “Thus says the One having the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:  I know your deeds–you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up, and strengthen what remains that was about to die.  For I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God.  So remember what you have received and heard–keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you. But still, you have a few people in Sardis who have not stained their clothes.  They will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy.  The one who overcomes thus will be dressed in white clothes; I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life, and will confess his name before My Father and His angels.”

We are a church today who has fallen asleep.  We walk into church on Sunday, and out the exact same person.  We do not change.  Our words and deeds are hollow because we have tainted everything we do with compromise with the world.  Divorce, homosexuality, abortion, sexual impurity, the worship of money and false idols (and before you deny that, consider how many Christians idolize celebrities in Hollywood, the music industry, sports…simply observe their reaction when one of them dies).  The church today reeks of the contamination of worldly influence.  We do not fear God.  We have turned Him into a loveable, cuddly, caregiver.  The cold, hard truth of that is far too many in the Church today worship a god of their own making…he is an idol.  The God of the Bible, the One True God, YAHWEH, is to be feared and revered!  Yes, He is the God of the New Testament who loves us so much that He sent His son to die for us so that we could have a restored relationship with Him.  BUT.  He is also the very same God from the Old Testament who is holy and righteous and demands righteousness from His children.  The same God who opened the earth and swallowed the men and their families who dared to stand against Moses.  The same God who destroyed Sodam and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone for their sin.  We have lost sight of exactly who YAHWEH, the God of Israel is.  It is evidence in how we live, what we do, what we say.  Just turn on the local Christian music radio station.  I can hardly listen to it anymore.  There are a great many songs of worship and praise, but there are also many that are feel good, mushy songs.  There is little to no teaching.  No call to repentance.  Everything we do, whether good or bad, is understandable.  We think it is okay because the god we know wouldn’t ask us to live differently than what is comfortable for us.  We don’t know God.

The 6th church in Revelations 3 is the church in Philadelphia.  Prophetically speaking, it is the church that comes out of the Sardis age.  It is the people who do not stain their clothes, who overcome; the ones who wake up and repent, who strive to make their deeds complete in the sight of God.  This is the church who is rewarded for their faithfulness by being saved from the Great Tribulation.

Revelations 3:10-11 (TLV) – “Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.  I am coming soon–hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.”

I have always believed that the Rapture would take the church and there would be no one left, except the people who attended church, but never had really given their hearts to God and received His salvation.  But as I continued to read the rest of chapter 3, I felt a hard thunking in my soul from the Spirit.  The Rapture comes during the time of the 6th church, but there are 7 churches.  A part of the church is left behind.  As soon as I understood this word from the Spirit, I began praying for further understanding.  It came from a number of different places, and each time, God gave me an ah-hah as I understood another piece.

The first question is who will be left behind.

Revelation 3:15-17 (TLV) – “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  Oh, that you were either cold or hot!  So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spew you out of My mouth.  For you say, ‘I am rich, I have made myself wealthy, and I need nothing.’  But you do not know that you are miserable and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.”

A new friend, and sister in Christ, gave me the word for this: the carnal Christian.  Paul talks about them in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 (TLV) – “And I, brothers and sisters, could not speak to you as Spirit-filled but as worldly–as infants in Messiah.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready.  Indeed, even now you are not yet ready, for you are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and strife among you, arent’ you worldly and walking in a human way?”

Did you catch the word that connects the 7th church to the 5th church?  Deeds.  The part of the Church that is left behind are the Christians, and yes, I say Christians for such they are, who have not bothered to grow or striven to deepen their faith or relationship with God.  They believe, and they have received Yeshua’s (the Hebrew name of Jesus) salvation from their sins; that is salvation from judgement, but they have done nothing with it.  They still live in a way that looks exactly like the rest of the world.  There is nothing that sets them apart as different.  Paul calls it worldly.  They are content to live their spiritual life on fluff and cotton candy; milk, as an infant does.  The feel good music on the Christian radio station, and quite frankly, sung in our churches every Sunday.  Do we need the praise and worship songs?  Absolutely!  And I am in no way saying that we don’t.  Probably the thing that stands out the most to me is the listeners who call in giving the radio station credit for getting them through the day or even their salvation. That is a very tricky attitude of heart. The messages from the pulpit today refuse to call sin sin.  The Bible that sits on the shelf collecting dust.  Who even bothers to bring one to church anymore?  It used to be that people at least would do that much…it made them look like they were good Christians after all.  Prayer is said only at meals, and maybe in emergencies.  I hope that what I’m getting across is that this is the part of the church, unfortunately the growing part, that is content being a lukewarm, baby Christian; in it for the salvation, but not for the life.  If this doesn’t scare you for yourself, it probably scares you for someone you love.  And if it doesn’t at all, it should.

Jesus’ famous end times passage is in Matthew 24.  He follows that with warnings and instructions in the form of parables in chapter 25.  The first is the parable of the 10 virgins in which 10 young ladies are waiting for the Bridegroom to come for the wedding feast.  Five of the virgins have oil in their lamps, they are prepared, watching and waiting for the Bridegroom to come.  When He arrives, they are ready and are able to enter into the wedding feast.  The other 5, however, did not have oil, were not prepared, were not watching, and they were left outside.  When they asked to be let in, the Groom told them He didn’t know them.

The second parable is that of the talents.  A man goes on a journey.  He leaves a certain amount of talents (coins) with each of 3 servants.  While He is gone, the servants with 5 and 2 talents, respectively, both double the amount they are given.  However, the servant with 1 talent buries it and does nothing with it.  When the master returns, the 2 who doubled what they were given were told to enter into their master’s joy.  But the servant who did nothing with what he was given was thrown out into utter darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The master, of course is Yeshua.  The servants are the believers, and the talents represent the knowledge of God and His salvation.  What I want you to note is that it didn’t matter how much the servants were given, what mattered was that they did something with it, whether great or small.  Something was rewarded.  Nothing was punished.  It is the carnal Christian, who has the knowledge and salvation of God, but does nothing at all with it, who will be left behind.  If you are a slow grower, but are still growing, you are doing something.  Don’t let that be an excuse to not do more, though.  Continue daily to seek the Lord and strengthen your relationship with Him.

So what will happen to this part of the church, who remain to live out the 7 years of the Great Tribulation?

Revelation 3:18-22 (TLV) – “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may dress yourself and so the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed, and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline.  Therefore, be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.  To the one who overcomes I will grant the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I myself overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Ruach [Spirit] is saying to Messiah’s communities.”

There are a couple of things I need to point out here.  First of all, Messiah’s communities refers to the Church.  Also, note that Yeshua says that He rebukes those He loves.  So this is definitely to part of the Church, believers who have received salvation.  But they were not taken in the Rapture because of their carnal/worldly ways.

The second is this: “buy from Me gold refined by fire,” and “the one who overcomes…just as I myself overcame.”  For this I need to take you ahead in Revelations to chapter 13:7-10 (TLV) – He [the beast, Satan] was also permitted to make war against the kedoshim [the saints, Christians] and overcome them, and he was given authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation.  All who dwell on the earth shall worship him–everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life of the Lamb who was slain.  If anyone has an ear, let him hear.  If anyone is meant for captivity, to captivity he goes.  If anyone is to be killed by the sword, by the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the kedoshim.”

This is the refiners fire, and the way the Christians who remain will need to overcome, as Jesus overcame at the cross, through persecution, imprisonment and death.

Brothers and Sisters, I urge you, please, seek the Lord.  The end times are here.  We are seeing the evidence of it all around us every day.  Jesus said that we would know them when the world is like the times of Noah, when every thought and intent of man’s heart is evil.  The world glorifies violence, murder, deception, blasphemy, all kinds of messed up sexual immorality, and they are desperately trying to become gods themselves (changing the gender of people, rearranging DNA in a fetus to create their own life, cloning, etc.). Yeshua said that the times would be like the days of Lot when Soddam and Gomorrah were destroyed after the men of the city insisted on having sex with the men (angels) who came to see him.  Wars and rumors of wars, natural disasters abound.

Jesus also said the following in Matthew 24:14 (TLV) – “This Good News of the kingdom shall be proclaimed in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  We just recently had a guest at our church who is part of a mission outreach that gets the Gospel message presented in other languages through film, but also through translated Scriptures.  He reported that it is estimated that the Gospel message will be available in every language in 5-7 years, and the Bible in every language by the year 2033.  That is only 16 years away.  16!!!  Possibly only 5, if the Lord raptures the Church when the Gospel message has been shared.  We cannot say exactly when Yeshua will return, but the point is that the time is short, and if we are awake, and paying attention, like the 5 virgins in Matthew 25, prepared with the oil in their lamps, we will see the Bridegroom coming.  We will not be caught unawares, as though He is a thief in the night, as He warned the church at Sardis.

The time is here, and we MUST wake up and prepare!  The Spirit is on the move, placing in the hearts of His people the urgency to prepare themselves and the church.  I am a witness to that in myself, but I am also witnessing it in others in my own congregation as well as globally.  God is giving us that wake up call, the one Yeshua gave to the church at Sardis, the 5th church, right before the church that is saved from the hour of trial.  The time for the rapture is near.  The Bridegroom is coming to take His bride.  If we are not ready, we will be left behind, and must then face the refining fires if we are to overcome and ultimately reign with Jesus on His thrown.

The words of an old song, based on Isaiah 55:6, comes to mind:

Seek the Lord, while He may be found.  Call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thought, and let him return to the Lord, and to our God.  For He will abundantly pardon.  He will abundantly pardon you.  Return to the Lord.