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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 3

Epistles to the Three Angel-Stars of the Ecclesias

in Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.


To the Angel of the Ecclesia in Sardis.




1. Also to the angel of the ecclesia in Sardis write: These things saith he having the Seven Spirits of the Deity and the Seven Stars: I have known thy works, that thou hast the name that thou livest, but thou art dead.

2. Become thou vigilant, and strengthen the things remaining which are about to die: for I have not found thy works perfected in the sight of the Deity.

3. Be mindful therefore what thou hast received, and heard, and strictly keep it, and be changed. If then thou have not been vigilant, I shall be come upon thee as a thief, and thou mayest not at all have known at what hour I shall come upon thee.

4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments: and they shall walk with me in white robes, because they are worthy.

5. The victor, he shall be clothed in white garments; and I will not at all obliterate his name from the scroll of the life, and I will openly confess his name in the presence of my Father, and in the presence of his angels.

6. He that hath an ear let him hearken to what the Spirit saith to the ecclesias.

In this writing the Revelator introduces himself to the Star-Angel, or Eldership, of the ecclesia in Sardis as "HE having the Seven Spirits of the Deity and the Seven Stars." He that hath these spirits and stars in possession and at his absolute disposal is the resurrected, exalted, and glorified Jesus, who at his last interview with the apostles said, "All authority hath been given to me in heaven, and upon earth." This was not so before his crucifixion, for he was not then "in the right places of the power divine," or "on the right of the Majesty in high places;" or, as it is also expressed by Paul, "sitting on the right of the throne of the Deity;" all of which are kindred to that of Stephen's who said, when the heavens were opened to him, and he saw God's glory, and Jesus who had stood out from the right (or heavenly places Eph. i. 20) of the Deity, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man who has stood out from the right places of the Deity" (Acts vii. 55,56; Matt. xxvi. 64; Heb. i. 3: xii. 2).

"All authority hath been given to him," although "the power" of the Deity, or Theos, has not yet been exerted to put all things in the heavens and earth political in subjection under him. This was very plainly taught by Paul some thirty years after Jesus declared that all authority was given to him, in Heb. ii. 6-9, where, in commenting upon part of the eighth Psalm, he says, "We see not yet all things put under the Son of Man; but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of the death, crowned with glory and honour." The possession of all authority and power, though not necessarily exercised because possessed, is intimated in the writing before us by the declaration that "he hath the Seven Spirits of the Deity" at his command. As we have seen elsewhere, "seven" is the symbol of perfection; and consequently expressive of the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of the Spirit -- the Holy Spirit -- in inseparable combination with the exalted Jesus; who has thereby become "the Image of the invisible Theos;" the Image, in whom "all the fulness dwells;" "the Anointed in the Theos," or Deity the "Theos manifested in Flesh "by the Effluent Logos; and the King of kings and Lord of lords." All these sayings are apocalyptically represented by "the Lamb that had been slain, having Seven Horns, and Seven Eyes;" which are interpreted as representing "the Seven Spirits of the Deity sent forth into all the earth."

The exalted Jesus then, is now the embodiment of the Seven Spirits, also represented by "Seven Lamps of Fire burning before the throne" (Apoc. iv. 5). Hence also, "he holds the Seven Stars in his right hand." These seven stars, the reader will not need to be informed, are no longer upon earth. The Embodied Seven, in present individual development, has exercised his authority, and withdrawn them from the corrupt and faithless constituents of the defunct presbyteries of the ecclesias. The starry fires have been extinguished, as threatened in the epistle to the Star-Angel of Ephesus. "Be changed, and do the first works," saith the Spirit; "but if not, I come to thee speedily and will remove the lightstand out of its place except thou repent" (ii. 5). But instead of an alteration for the better, the pre-Constantinian Christendom became worse, until it attained the condition typified in that of the ecclesia in Sardis, which had only "a few names who had not defiled their garments." There are now no presbyterial stars in Asia, nor elsewhere. "The Spirits," or gifts, have been withdrawn by him who gave them, when he had ascended and received gifts for men; and will be withheld until "christendom " arises from the death into which it has sunk to the life of the coming Aion.

The Spirit still shone in the angel of the ecclesia in Sardis, to which John was ordered to write. But, though "the Angel" had the gifts, these did not perfect the works of the members of "the Angel," nor preserve them from death in trespasses and sins. The Angel-Presbytery had "the name," or reputation, among its contemporaries, of being alive, but, in the estimation of the Eternal Spirit they were pronounced to be "dead." There must have been a very general corruption, and departure from first principles, at the close of the first century, for the Eldership of the ecclesia in Sardis, which was really in a dying state, to be regarded as living in health and power. This was, doubtless, the opinion of Nikolaitanes, false apostles, Balaamites, and the children of Jezebel, constituents all of the synagogue of the Satan, whose "depths," "teaching," and seductions, had swamped the truth in Sardis. They proclaimed "the Angel" there to be a star of living brightness; for had not they of the angel the gifts; and if they had not a living name before the Deity, would he not withdraw them? But these spiritual gifts only remained because of "the few names which had not defiled their garments;" with these exceptions, "the Angel" was dead. The presence of this few constituted it a body "about to die," or a dying body, so that in their absence, it was "dead." They were the only living element in it, and when they should be removed, the extinction of the Spirit-Light in their midst would come upon them "as a thief."

How different is the Deity's judgment of men and things from that of the thinking of the flesh. The case of the Star-Angel in Sardis proves it. The general christian public regarded it as flourishing in spiritual life, while the Spirit pronounced it to be actually dead. This diversity has obtained ever since. ln our day, the dead bodies of "the religious world," styled "names and denominations of christians," all consider themselves to be in the enjoyment of the health and vigour of spiritual existence, and high in the favour of the Most High. They call themselves "the churches of the living God," and their temples, the houses of God, They glorify themselves as the especial favourites of heaven, and their clergies as the ambassadors and ministers of the Lord. But, were the Spirit to write to them as he did to Sardis, he would say, "I know thy works, that thou hast the name that thou livest, but art dead." They do, however, differ from "the Angel" in Sardis in this, that whereas the Sardian body was once alive, they never were. However, so much the worse for the Sardians, for, as Peter says, "It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." They "had received and heard" what the clergies and peoples of the pious world of this day have no conception of. They had "received" "the things of the kingdom of the Deity, and the name of Jesus Anointed;" and had heard them to "the obedience of the faith" in immersion into and for the name of the Holy Ones. But "it had happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. ii. 21). The moderns are "dogs" that have never turned from their vomit, and "sows" that have never been "washed" from the native mire. Their end will therefore be less bitter than that of "the Angel" in Sardis. This body has passed away, and so will our contemporary names and denominations, by the judgments of the Lord; but the professors constituting "the Angel" must rise again, and stand in the presence of the Deity, who will condemn their works as "not perfect," and expel them from his presence, to be "hurt of the Second Death" (ii. 11). Not so, however, the constituent members of the sects and parties of this day. These have never lived. They have always been "dead in trespasses and sins," and, however pious, have been always hopelessly ignorant of the truth. The people and the "reverend" Sin-spirituals who "guide" them, are a region of the shadow of death, into which the light cannot shine, so as to dispel the darkness, until "the Lord the Spirit" is revealed in his glory. Like the helpless heathen in Paul's day, who found the God of Israel without seeking after him, because he forced himself upon their attention, the moderns are living under "times of ignorance," which "God winks at." They have the scriptures, it is true, but the traditions of the schools, dogmas and institutions, imposed upon our generation by its darkminded progenitors, have enslaved the minds of clergy and people, so that they cannot and dare not think in opposition to established opinions; and being so thoroughly imbued with these, the scriptures to them have become sealed and unintelligible. They are dead, and consequently "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them." The Angel in Sardis was "twice dead," and since "plucked up by the roots;" but the moderns, never having had spiritual existence in God, will be less sorely dealt with; yet they will not rise to life, the primary sentence upon our race binding them hard and fast with chains of darkness in the dust (Gen. iii. 19; Isa. xxvi. 14; xxxviii. 18,19).

Sardis was once a great and splendid city, but now as dead as "the Angel-Presbytery" through which the light of the Seven Spirits shone for the divine illumination of its Jewish and Gentile inhabitants. It was the renowned capital of Croesus and the rich kings of Lydia. It was about thirty three miles to the south of Thyatira. It is now no more than an ignoble village of low and wretched cottages of clay, with no other inhabitants than shepherds and herdsmen, who feed their flocks in the neighbouring plains. The Turks call it Sart, or Sard. The surrounding ruins are of great extent and grandeur, and abundantly show how large and splendid a city it was formerly. There are a few living in the place called "christians" by their Turkish masters. They do not, however, represent "the few names which have not defiled their garments," but contrariwise, the "dead" after "the things remaining which were about to die" had actually become defunct. Even their temple has become a Mohammedan mosque, and they, with senseless stupidity, sustain a miserable servitude. Their predecessors contemporary with the apostle John, were exhorted by the Spirit to "become vigilant, and strengthen the things remaining which are about to die, or he would be come upon them as a thief." Had they done so, and continued faithful in all future generations, Sardis would doubtless have been a bright exception to the surrounding desolation. But the fate of the city is indicative of the persistency of their apostasy from what they "had received and heard." The Saracen locusts and the succeeding Euphrateans, have consummated the evil which began to afflict them in the extinguishing of the Spirit-Lightstand in the primitive ecclesia of the city. In the desolation, moral and material, which exists in the Turkish Sard, we have an illustration of what are the consequences of the Eternal Spirit "having come upon" a people "as a thief." Gloom, misery, and death, ignorance and superstition, now reign over this once populous, wealthy, and enterprising capital of the Lydians. The Spirit came upon them as a thief, and swept them with desolation, because they would not be mindful of his word. And such is the fate prepared for all who similarly offend.

The presbytery in Sardis was exhorted to "become vigilant." This implies that it was not so when the Spirit caused John to write. It was even then "about to die," but, from the exhortation, evidently not so far gone but that it might recover. Their "works" were not such as the Deity approved. Heretical opinions subversive of the faith had crept in. Though the particular heresies are not specified as in former epistles, whatever they were they were of a nature to defile. This appears from the fact, that they who "kept strictly" what they had originally "received and heard," had preserved their garments from defilement. Others had not been mindful to do this; but had received and heard something else, so that their garments were defiled. Whatever the dogmas were, though it might gratify curiosity to know, it matters not; this, however, is certain, that they worked death in those who received them. This is the sure influence of all thinking not in strict accordance with "the law and the testimony." Whatever is not of the truth is defiling before God. Every "reasoning," lofty conception, and thought not according to the knowledge of God, is polluting, and engenders disobedience and apostasy. The faith is perverted, and the practice marred. Such was the condition of the presbytery in Sardis -- defiled by human tradition and dead; a type of all "christendom" at this day.

But even in this city of the dead there were "a few" living ones -- a remnant, that "contended earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints," and kept it. These were of the same class as "the rest among the Thyatirans" who held not the teaching of Jezebel; nor had acknowledged the depths of the Satan as they taught. They watched and kept their garments, that they might not walk naked, and be exposed to shame, at the coming of the Lord (ch xvi. 15). "Blessed" are such; for, saith the Spirit, "they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy."




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