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Milepost 5: Sardis

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Milepost 5: Sardis

Primary References: Revelation 3:1-6

The church of Sardis was very much like its community. It likely shared in the city’s wealth and falls by failing to properly post watches. The church of Sardis has the reputation and appearance of life but is dead.  Jesus gives them a five-step revival program: watch, strengthen, remember, hold fast, and repent.  Jesus emphasizes their need to watch by reminding them that He is coming as a thief, unexpectedly.

The church of Sardis represents the reformation period: 1520 A.D. to 1750 A.D.  Most mark the beginning of this period with Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 Theses on October 31, 1517.  This period saw many reformers and reformation movements.  Chief of these was Martin Luther but many others where instrumental.  Reformation movements started in many quarters including Germany and Switzerland but quickly spread throughout France, Holland, Scandinavia, Bohemia, Hungary, England, and Scotland.  Eventually it spread to North America, the Dutch and English colonies, and the rest of the world.  Three fundamental principles drove it: the supremacy of the Scriptures (especially over traditions), salvation by faith (the supremacy of faith over works), and the priesthood of the believers (the supremacy of Christians over an exclusive priesthood).  In particular, they rejected several traditions including:

  • the papacy
  • the worship of saints and relics
  • transubstantiation
  • the sacrifice of the mass
  • prayers and masses for the dead
  • purgatory
  • indulgences
  • the system of monasticism
  • various rites and ceremonies, especially those perceived as superstitious

The Catholic Church responded to the reformation with the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which provided some priesthood reforms but firmly entrenched the church against the protestant reforms as the dogma of papal absolutism was established.  Later, the Vatican council of 1870 took the natural step of extending these ‘reforms’ into papal infallibility as papal directives were effectively elevated to scriptural stature.  This is a level of authority never bestowed on any group in either the Old or New Testaments.  As shown in the first chapter, Bible prophets continually had to demonstrate the validity of their works.  Long after their deaths, people still searched their works for errors that would disqualify them.  Now the papacy received authority far exceeding that of the prophets, including the greatest – Jesus.

The greatest obstacles faced by the Protestants often came, predictably, from the church and its leaders; but as various denominations formed, many of the new denominations also proved intolerant of dissenting views.  The weapons of intolerance included fire, sword, fines, prison, physical abuse, death, and property confiscations.  As Protestantism matured, persecution from religious intolerance waned and people slowly secured true religious freedoms.  The following table summarizes the church of Sardis.