The church in Sardis represents the church of the Reformation. In a sense the Protestants of the reformed church are much better than the Catholics. However, the Lord says that, although they were reformed and revived, they were still very weak. In Revelation 3:1 the Lord said that Sardis had a name that they were living, but they were dead. In verse 2 He said they needed to be watchful and establish the things which remained, which were about to die. The striking characteristic of the Protestant churches is that they are short of life. Many things may be right, but there is little life. Nearly everything with fundamental Christianity—the prayer, the Bible reading, the gospel preaching—is weak and about to die. Actually, they have little impact. However, the Lord said, "But you have a few names in Sardis who have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy" (3:4). The defiled garments indicate the presence of death or the absence of life. To be an overcomer in that kind of situation is to keep oneself from death.
This means we have to be alive and strong, and we must have an impact. Even when we stand up to share a testimony, we should not speak in a dead way. Rather, we need to speak with our spirit strengthened and released. We need to overcome the dead situation in Protestantism. We need to overcome all kinds of death. We need to wear a white garment, with no stain of death. If this is our case, our name will not be erased from the book of life (3:5) For a person’s name to be erased from the book of life does not mean he will be lost. It relates to the matter of reward or punishment. In order to understand the Bible we must always keep the basic principles. The principle concerning salvation is that it is eternal. Once we are saved, we are saved eternally. We can never be lost. Therefore, to have our name erased out of the book of life does not relate to the losing of salvation, but to the losing of a reward from the Lord. If we would not overcome all kinds of dead situations and be living, we will suffer a loss.
The Lord Jesus did not rebuke Philadelphia for anything. Rather, He told them that because they had kept His word and had not denied His name, He would keep them from the hour of trial which was to come on the earth. This means that before the tribulation comes He will take them away. Furthermore, He will make them a pillar in God’s temple. In chapter two there is the white stone, and in chapter three there is the pillar built into the temple. All the overcomers are for the building of God’s temple, and this is for the kingdom.
The church in Laodicea is the fallen and degraded church in Philadelphia. They are very proud, thinking that they have everything, that they know everything, and that they have seen everything. But in the eyes of the Lord they are poor and naked. Therefore, the Lord advised them to buy gold and eyesalve so that they could see (3:18). They need to repent of their pride and open themselves to the Lord so that He can come in. Eventually, the overcomers among them will feast with the Lord and will sit on the Lord’s throne during the millennium.
GROWING FOR THE KINGDOM
From these seven epistles, we can see that whether we receive a reward or suffer a loss is related to the kingdom. These things are revealed so that we can fight and grow and go on for the manifestation of the kingdom. We are growing today for the manifestation of the kingdom. We are fighting today for the manifestation of the kingdom. Even the Lord Jesus’ coming back is related to the manifestation of the kingdom. We may talk much about the Lord’s coming and the prophecies related to it, but if we do not grow, He cannot come back. We need to fight the battle to gain the maturity. By the growing and the fighting, a manchild will be delivered according to Revelation 12, and there will be the declaration that the kingdom of the Lord has come because the accuser has been cast down by the overcoming ones. Today, the Lord Jesus is calling to the overcomers, and He is waiting for our cooperation. We all have to say, "Lord Jesus, I answer Your calling. Lord Jesus, I will love You, I will be faithful to death, and I will never get into any part of the great tree. I will overcome all the leaven in Catholicism and all the deadness of today’s Protestantism. I will keep Your living word and confess Your precious name. I will keep myself from spiritual pride. Lord, keep me feasting with You and You with me." If we will grow, we will overcome and will bring in the manifestation of the kingdom. The manifestation of the kingdom will not come in an accidental way, but in a gradual way by our growth. Hallelujah! Today we are on the way to the harvest of the manifestation of the kingdom in Revelation!
(The Kingdom, Chapter 46, by Witness Lee)