Reformation for the Reformed – the Bridegroom Cometh – Guard Your Lampstands

by: David Shaw

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”[1]

“That feast will be, like most other marriage suppers, the fulfillment of long expectation. Our Lord has waited long for His perfected Church. He espoused Himself to her before ever the earth was, but there was much to be done before she was prepared for the marriage. The Bridegroom, too, had to leave His Father and become one with His Bride by taking upon Himself our humanity. For our sake He quit the thrones and royalties of heaven that He might be bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh—and here He was born, and here He lived, and here He died! But still, the Bride was not ready—and it is not till you come to this chapter that you read, “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife has made herself ready.” Souls have to be saved—new-created, blood-shed, sanctified, perfected—and the whole of them must be gathered to make up the body of Christ’s Spouse. And when that is done, and she is all complete, the expectations of the Christ will be fulfilled at that marriage supper. O beloved, you do not know the longings of the heart of Christ for that day of glory! For this He lived! For this He died! For this He continually pleads that all for whom He shed His precious blood might be His in that day! That day is fast coming and when it arrives, then will be the wedding feast above.”[2]

But still, the Bride was not ready

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!  For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.” Spurgeon preached that this marriage feast, as described in Revelation 19, was the fulfillment of long expectations as our Lord waited for His perfected Church. It is in the first three chapters of Revelation that Christ Himself reveals what those expectations are for His Bride. He makes it very clear that many within the Church body were not yet ready to be invited to that feast. He also makes it clear that it is His desire that they make themselves ready. Each of the seven Churches are assessed by Christ and that assessment either leads to a commendation or a warning of a punishment. In these messages to the seven Churches He calls those that strayed to repent. These are actual Churches that were established by the Apostles. They, however, also are representative of Churches in all periods of Church history, so the commendations or warnings are being made to all Churches during the entirety of the Church age with no exception.

The Apostle Peter had forewarned the Church in 1 Peter 4:17 “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.” The Apostle Paul warned Timothy in his epistle to him. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.” 2 Timothy 2:15-19

We need to remember that Christ condemns five of the seven Churches and that each of those seven can represent any given Church throughout the Church Age. To the Church of Ephesus, the mother Church of the other six, Christ warned “You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” To the Church of Pergamum “I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”  To the Church of Thyatira “I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.” To the Church of Sardis “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” To the Church of Laodicea “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

All is not lost for those that who are victorious within these congregations as Jesus assures them, “I will give to you the right to sit with me on my throne.” To those that persevered in the faith and were victorious, even in persecution and even in those Churches that had strayed from the truth, He knew who they were, and He had promises for them. To the faithful in Ephesus He promised “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”  To the faithful in Smyrna who persevered under severe persecution, to those that remained “faithful, even to the point of death, I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” To the Pergamam saints He promised “To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” To the faithful at Thyatira He assured them that those who were “victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.” To the Church at Sardis, for those that are victorious they will be “dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.”  To those at Laodicea who remained faithful to their Lord “ I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.”

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9)

When the Bridegroom’s Wife has made herself ready only the faithful throughout the Church Age will be invited to the celebration. “There will come a time when all God’s redeemed shall be saved. There will come a day when all who have died shall have been raised again from the tomb, and those who remain alive shall have been changed, so that their corruption shall have put on incorruption, and mortality shall have put on immortality. Then will the Church be perfect and complete; no one member will be missing. There will be no spot or wrinkle remaining in her. Then it shall come to pass that Christ will celebrate this marriage supper, which will be the bringing of the people of God into the closest and happiest union with Christ their Lord in glory.”[3]

Christ has said that those saints that persevered even as they were part of a wayward Church would be present at the wedding feast. They will be those that conquered and they will be clothed in white garments, and the Lord will never blot their name out of the book of life. Jesus will confess their name before His Father and before His angels. Jesus will make them a pillar in the temple of His God. Never shall they go out of it, and He will write on them the name of His God, and the name of the city of His God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from His God out of heaven, and His own new name. If anyone, yes anyone who hears the voice of the Lord Jesus and opens the door, Jesus Himself will come in to that person and eat with him, and he with Jesus. To those who conquer, He will grant them to sit with their Lord on His throne, as He also conquered and sat down with His Father on His throne. Read these promises carefully because “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3). These will be at the wedding Feast of the Lamb.

The first three chapters of Revelation sound harsh toward the five wayward Churches, however Jesus is calling them to repent. For those that do not, yes it will be harsh. Let us not forget that Jesus is not just addressing these seven Churches He is also addressing each of the Churches that we might be attending or are members of. We see in Revelation that two of the Churches are faithful. Five are not and Christ threatens to remove the lampstands of those that are not. It needs to be understood that Jesus is judging each of these churches as he sees them at that time. The state of these churches at the time Christ addressed them did not guarantee that their lampstand would be removed, nor did it guarantee that it wouldn’t. Those that strayed and repented would keep their lampstand. Those who were commended and later strayed would lose their lampstand. The very fact that none of these churches currently exist shows that at some point all strayed and lost their lampstand. So, we see that just because a Church stands approved before Christ at one point does not mean it’s lampstand is secure. The bottom line is, whoa be it to those who do not listen to the Lord to repent.

The Reformation of Christ’s Church was well overdue when Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church.  There had been many pre-Reformation reformers prior to Luther, among them, Arnold of Brescia (1090-1155) Peter Waldo (1140-1205) John Wycliffe (ca. 1320-1384) and Jan Hus (1369-1415) Jerome of Prague (1379-1416) Petr Chelčický (1390-1460) Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498). The Church, however, did not listen to any call to repent and continued down a path not pleasing to the Lord. It can only be surmised how the Lord would have assessed His Church in 1517. It is, however, obvious He would not have been pleased.

The Church, as described in Acts 2:42-47 is the definition of the Church which met Christ’s expectation for His Bride:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

It was a Church devoted to the apostle’s teaching, the very teaching that would be handed down to the Church Age as God’s revealed truth as canonized in the New Testament. They united themselves together in fellowship and had all things in common, caring for the needs of each other with generous hearts. They attended worship together and they praised God for what He had done for them. This was a Church not yet blemished by sin, a Church that found favor with all the people, and a Church that the Lord added to their number day by day. This was the Church that met Christ’s expectation for His Bride.

When Luther nailed the Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, he started a long overdue reformation of the Church of his day. What we need is perspective to understand what would transpire within the Reformed Church after 1517 and the New Testament gives us incite. While the exact year of Pentecost is elusive, I will use the year 33 AD as probable. The coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell those that called on the name of Jesus marked the establishment of His Church. By 53-54 AD Paul was writing his first letter to the Corinthians and within the next year writing a second letter to them. Paul is addressing “divisions among you” and is pleading for them to “be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” Paul had planted the Corinthian Church and lived in Corinth for at least a year and a half to nurture it. It was not long after his departure that the Corinthians strayed from what he had taught them and became divided. As a result, a number of significant conflicts and problems arose within the church.

Paul addresses several different types of conflicts that were causing disunity in the body. In his letters to the Corinthians, he calls out rival factions within the church, lawsuits between believers, disregard toward the poor among them, and a failure to minister to the poor in Jerusalem. He also admonishes them that there is “sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans.” And he did not stop here. He continues to call them out on gender roles, the use of spiritual gifts, and meat sacrificed to idols.

About twenty years have transpired since Pentecost. The comparisons between the Church of Acts 2 and the Church at Corinth is shocking. We need to only fast forward about 42 years before we come to the Seven Churches of Revelation. And as we have seen Jesus himself indicts five of those seven. The Church of Acts 2 was the standard that He used to assess them. The Church of Acts 2 is the standard for all Churches – all Churches even if they call themselves Reformed. Only twenty years between the Church of Acts 2 and the Church at Corinth. Only sixty-six years between the Church of Acts 2 and the Seven Churches of Revelation. What I will writing about over time are the Churches of the Reformation. In the years that have transpired since the Reformation era where do these Churches stand now. I will always write with a context that Jesus knows who the Father has given Him. For those Churches that have strayed I will always acknowledge that He is well aware of those within that congregation that will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb.

[1] Revelation 19:9 ESV

[2] By Charles Haddon Spurgeon Aug 21, 1887 Scripture: Revelation 19:9, Sermon No. 2428, From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 41

[3] By Charles Haddon Spurgeon Aug 21, 1887 Scripture: Revelation 19:9, Sermon No. 2428, From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 41

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