Saturday, 3 October 2020
Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. Revelation 3:3
The Lord just said, “for I have not found your works perfect before God.” Now, He tells them of the proper path to correct this, beginning with, “Remember therefore.”
Those at Sardis were to call to mind the past, and then to consider it in light of their current situation. This is especially important because humans are prone to forgetting many things. Israel forgot their fear of the Lord when they received the Ten Commandments in a terrifying display of sound and sensational effects. No sooner had Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the rest of the law than the people fashioned a false god. Along with this they had a big party to celebrate it. Peter, in 2 Peter 1, gives a list of things to do in order to not forget their own salvation. In verse 9 there, he says –
“For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” 2 Peter 1:9
One can get so far from remembering the Lord, that he can forget he is actually saved. But… the Lord does not forget. This is seen in the next words from Christ to the church at Sardis. He says, “how you have received and heard.”
The two verbs are in different tenses. The verb translated as “have received” is in the perfect tense, indicative mood. It is an accomplished fact, and it is certain. The word translated as “heard” is an aorist verb, again in the indicative mood. It signifies the act of hearing at the time it occurred, but they did – in fact – hear. As this is the case, Jesus next admonishes them to “hold fast and repent.”
It sounds like Peter’s words of 2 Peter 1. They are to hold fast so that they will not forget. As a church, they had not followed the advice of the apostles to increase in their knowledge and so forth, and they had almost forgotten who they were as a church. In this, they are instructed to change their mind (repent) of their direction, turn from it, and head in the right direction. If they do not, Jesus says he will take direct action. This is seen in the words, “Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief.”
This goes back to the words of the previous verse, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain.” He instructed them to do so, and now, in repeating that thought, he adds in His solemn warning. The words, “as a thief in the night,” are given as a direct and unambiguous note that their time is short to return to a right path. There will not be another admonishment, but rather there will be judgment.
The term “thief in the night” is seen elsewhere, such as in 1 Thessalonians 5. It means at a completely unexpected time, and in a completely unexpected manner. When the thief comes at night, it could be at 9pm or 3am. And he could come in through the roof, or he could burrow in from underground. With darkness, these things are unknown.
It must be noted the Jesus is addressing the church as a whole. This does not mean that He is coming as a thief to steal away their individual salvation, nor could that be inferred. In fact, the very opposite of that is seen in the very next verse. He is speaking of judgment upon the church for their failure to properly handle its affairs.
With this understood, the Lord finishes the verse with, “and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.” The Lord exactingly explains what “as a thief in the night” means with these words. His judgment will not be preceded by any warning. He has given almost all of His word through His apostles. He is now giving His final words through the hand of John. When Revelation is complete, the word of God is complete. The age of such inspired prophecy will have come to an end.
Understanding this, the letters to the seven churches are our guidance. There is a time coming when the church will be taken out at the rapture. When that occurs, the focus will be on the completion of the covenant promises to Israel. This will include all of the curses upon the world that are spoken of after these seven letters. When Christ comes for His church, it will be as that thief in the night. After that, it will be too late for taking the remedial action He now speaks of –
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.” 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10
Life application: Jesus asks those in Sardis to “remember.” The subject of remembering and forgetting, and the call to remember is mentioned many, many times in the Bible. In the 78th Psalm, we read this –
They did not remember His power:
The day when He redeemed them from the enemy, Psalm 78:42
Like Israel, who was redeemed from Egypt, the church in Sardis was redeemed from sin. But they both forgot that time and strayed from God. We likewise do the same and Jesus, through His seven letters, calls each of us to “remember.” We are to remember “how” we received and heard not just “what” we received and heard.
When our individual churches were established, it was with great joy, anticipation of glorifying the Lord, and being steadfast in our pursuit of Him. Our hearts were directed to the things of God, and we had a passion for His name. Jesus asks us to revisit that moment, hold fast to it, and repent (or turn back to it). If we fail to do so, He “will come upon” us as a thief. It will be sudden, and it will be final.
Those who aren’t ready at the rapture will be left behind to suffer through the tribulation period when the world will be plunged into complete disarray. Those who aren’t ready at their death will be separated from God eternally. And those who aren’t ready at the apostasy of a church won’t even know that they are being led down a road of error which will end in destruction. We need to be ever on guard and continuously “remember” our Lord and His mighty deeds which were done on our behalf.
Lord God, as the psalmist said so long ago, “I remember Your name in the night, O Lord, And I keep Your law.” Help us to continuously ponder the great things You have done for us and to never forget Your love, grace, and mercy – all poured out on us at the cross. Thank You for Your patience and caring direction in our lives. Amen.