Revelation 3:1b, "I know thy works, that thou has a name that thou livest, and art dead." Revelation 3:2b, "For I have not found thy works perfect before God." Now here, indeed, is a very strange thing. In every age to this point the Spirit has first of all praised the true believers, and then denounced the false vine. But in this period there is evidently such wanton disregard for the Lord and His Word that the entire message to this fifth age rings with condemnation.
"I know thy works." What were these works that came up before the Lord and caused His displeasure? Well, you know that each age lapped over into the next age, so we have a continuation of the works of the fourth age into the fifth. These works as you are well aware were:
1.The leadership of the Holy Spirit was superseded by a human hierarchy.
2. The pure Word of God and its free benefit to all men was deposed for creeds, dogmas, church orders, etc.
3. The worship in the Spirit and Gifts of the Spirit and all that which pertains to true community fellowship of the saints was cast aside for liturgy and literal idol worship, pagan feasts, etc.
4. Maryolatry was assuming a greater place in the Christian worship, until she had actually assumed a place of Godhead and the Son was brought from His lofty position of over all to being subservient to a man called the pope, who termed himself the vicar of Christ.
Those who fought this terrible anti-Christ church were destroyed. Those who stayed with it found themselves the pawn of the church whether they be peasants or kings. Their lives were not their own, and neither were their lives Christ's, but they belonged body, soul, and spirit to the Church of Rome. They talked about the blood of Christ, yet they purchased their salvation with money, and bought forgiveness of sins either by gold or penance. The wealthier of them found it a happy situation when Pope Leo X allowed them to buy indulgences for sins not yet committed so that they with ease of conscience could plan their awful crimes and then proceed to carry them out, knowing that the pope had already remitted their sins. The Word of God was kept from them, so who was to know the truth! Since truth comes only from the Word, the people were shut up in a dungeon of the Roman Church, awaiting death, and after death the judgment. But the great whore, drunk with the blood of martyrs and with no thought of the judgment, reeled savagely on to kill men with both spiritual and physical death.
Now toward the end of the fourth age which would be the beginning of the fifth age also, the invasion of Constantinople by the Turks sent the learned scholars of the East with their Greek manuscripts to the West. The purity of the Word and the teachings of true believers were thus disseminated. And not only were these fine teachers of great importance but also the invention of what became the basis of our modern printing presses was discovered, facilitating the production of books. Thus we find the great hunger and demand for the Bible could be answered. God raised up many mighty men of which Luther was but one. Calvin and Zwingli were two other luminaries and besides these were many, many more who are not so well known. However, though all this was not in vain, the mighty work of God was actually hindered by these very men. For one thing, they did NOT oppose the Church-State marriage of the Nicene Council but actually fostered that union. The defense of the Gospel by the state was welcomed though there was no Word for it. And though we can see "the wrath of man praising God," in such events as Henry the Eighth taking up for the reformation and the rejection of papal authority, it was a far cry from the truth of Pentecost and protection of an omnipotent God.
In spite of Luther's constant teaching against outside interference in local church matters he was not able to clear men's minds of the "Bishop, Archbishop" concept of church government. Thus the church took one step in the right direction but still remained shackled, so in short order she was again imprisoned in the same dungeon whence she had attempted to escape.
Still the cup of the abominable works was not yet full. Not only did Luther through poor judgment incite to battle and thereby cause the death of multitudes; but Zwingli's party persecuted unto prison the godly Dr. Hubmeyer, and though it did not commit him to the stake, it was actually responsible in great measure for his eventual death by fire. And Calvin did no less, for he demanded the arrest of Servetus who had seen and taught the oneness of the Godhead. The State then tried this brother, and to Calvin's dismay he was burned at the stake.
If there was ever a time of denominational zeal it was at this tragic time. The words of Comenius describe much of this era. Comenius wrote the "ONE THING NEEDFUL." He compares the world to the labyrinth, and shows that the way out is by leaving what is needless, and choosing the one thing needful - Christ. The great number of teachers, he says is the reason of the multitudes of sects, for which we shall soon have no names left. Each church reckons itself as the true one, or at least as the purest, truest part of it, while among themselves they persecute each other with the bitterest hatred. No reconciliation is to be hoped for between them; they meet enmity with irreconcilable enmity. Out of the Bible they forge their different creeds; these are their fortresses and bulwarks behind which they entrench themselves and resist all attacks. I will not say that these confessions of faith - for we can admit in most cases that they are so - are bad in themselves. They become so, however, in that they feed the fire of enmity; only by putting them away altogether would it be possible to set to work on healing the wounds of the Church. "To this labyrinth of sects and various confessions another belongs; the love of disputation... What is attained by it? Has a single learned strife ever been settled? Never. Their number has only been increased. Satan is the greatest sophist; he has never been overcome in a strife of words... In Divine service the words of men are usually heard more than the Word of God. Each one chatters as he pleases, or kills time by learned disquisitions and disproving the views of others. Of the new birth and how a man must be changed into the likeness of Christ to become partaker of the Divine Nature (II Peter 1:4), scarcely anything is said. Of the power of the keys, the Church has almost lost the power of binding, only the power of loosing remains... The sacraments, given as symbols of unity, of love, and of our life in Christ, have been made the occasion of bitterest conflict, a cause of mutual hatred, a centre of sectarianism... In short, Christendom has become a labyrinth. The faith has been split into a thousand little parts and you are made a heretic if there is one of them you do not accept... What can help? Only the one thing needful, return to Christ, looking to Christ as the only Leader, and walking in His footsteps, setting aside all other ways until we all reach the goal, and have come to the unity of the faith (Ephesians 4:13). As the heavenly Master built everything on the ground of the Scriptures so should we leave all particularities of our special confessions and be satisfied with the revealed Word of God which belongs to us all. With the Bible in our hand we should cry: I believe what God has revealed in this Book; I will obediently keep His commands; I hope for that which He has promised. Christians, give ear! There is only one life, but Death comes to us in a thousand forms. There is only one Christ, but a thousand Antichrists... So thou knowest, O Christendom, what is the one thing needful. Either thou turnest back to Christ or thou goest to destruction like the Antichrist. If thou art wise and wilt live, follow the Leader of Life.
But you, Christians, rejoice in your being caught up,... hear the words of your Heavenly Leader, 'Come unto Me.'... Answer with one voice, 'Even so, we come'".
Now I just said that this era gave tremendous growth to the denominational spirit. If the Corinthian attitude of "I am of Paul, I of Cephas" was ever exhibited, it was now. There were Lutherans, Hussites, Zwingli's party, etc. Such fragmentation of the Body was deplorable. They were living a name but were dead. Certainly they were dead. They died the minute they organized. The great groups organized and tied themselves in matrimony to the state. That did it. They were finished. Here were those Lutherans who had criticized the Roman Church. They knew the un-righteousness of political and spiritual unions - yet Luther (as when Peter was overbalanced by the Judaizers) went right ahead and made the state instead of God, the defender of the faith. This is the first denomination of repute that came out of the harlot, but when Luther died it was not long until it had a hierarchy like the one it had fought. This move of God, by the time the second generation came along was right back under the wing of her mother. She had gone back and did not even know it. They had taken on their own name above His Name. They were living their own name, too. And all the denominations are doing that very thing today. They are living their own name, and not the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is easily seen for every church is known by the way it worships but none are known by the power of God. There is your test. And I want you to notice right here that this era did not have the signs and wonders amongst them. They gave up the power of God for the power of the state. They clung to their own name; they made their names great. It was that old spirit of getting everyone into its fold. Today the Baptists want the Methodists to come over to the Baptists. The Methodists are out to proselytize the Presbyterians. And the Pentecostals want them all. Each claims to offer the most and to hold out the greatest hopes - a sort of door to heaven, or at least, the way to a more abundant entrance. How tragic it all is.
This denominational spirit has made all the denominations write their manuals and teach their creeds, set up their offices and church governments and then each claims that she, and she alone, truly speaks for God as she is the best qualified. Now if that isn't exactly what the pope and the Roman Church are doing! They are right back there with their mother, the harlot, and don't know it.
In closing our comments on this verse, "thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead," I cannot impress upon you too strongly that this age, though it brought the reformation, was most sternly rebuked by God instead of being praised, because IT SOWED THE SEED OF DENOMINATION THAT ORGANIZED RIGHT BACK TO THE HARLOT, after God had opened a door of escape. When the move away from the Catholic Church took place, it was not truly Spiritual as a whole, but more political. Most of the people took up with Protestantism because as I have stated, they hated the Roman system of political and financial bondage. Thus, instead of this being a great Spiritual move with all the earmarks of Holy Spirit influence as when God used purely Spiritual means to accomplish His ends at Pentecost, it was indeed a WORK WHEREIN THE WRATH OF MAN PRAISED GOD, and the results paralleled the history of Israel when she left Egypt and wandered in the desert, not making it to Canaan Land. However, much was accomplished in that where the yoke of Rome was even partly broken, men could now receive the Word of God and yield to the influence of the Spirit without such great fear as formerly. This opened the door to the great missionary age that followed.
The Jezebel of Thyatira was in no mood to give up her hold upon the people, and thus we see her daughter Athaliah raise her head in the Sardisean Age with the hopes that she would be able to strangle the true seed by her schemes of organization. 7ch036.htm
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