5. Sardis

The Remnant

        The Dark Ages came and went. A new period began. God shed new rays of light and hope upon the world. Many of God´s prophets were given insights on what would follow:

And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. (Dan 8:14 KJV)

But what was it cleansed from?

Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practiced, and prospered. Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? (Dan 8:11-13 KJV)

As stated, the entire vision focused on the “Daily.” The “Daily” ministration was a holy ministration that the Savior alone was to perform. By His death on Calvary He was found worthy to administer the antitypical duties, which the Daily was a symbol of. Through the Savior alone, man was to find forgiveness. To counter this blessing or privilege, Paganism wedged man between the sinner and God. In God´s eyes this was an abomination. It was a direct insult against all that was accomplished at Calvary. No man should have stood between the sinner and God.

But when ye shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand,) then let them that be in Judaea flee to the mountains: (Mark 13:14 KJV)

Confessional booths were erected and the sinner was instructed to seek absolution of sin from mere mortals. The words of Daniel´s prophecy were fulfilled to the letter.

Within the early Adventist movement the idea of auxiliary intercessors, contributing to the salvation of the individual, was done away with. The Sacrament of Reconciliation was recognized to be Christ´s function alone No priest or man could stand between God and the sinner. A new vision of Christ´s ministration in His Sanctuary dispelled age old heresies.

Jesus sets no man as an intercessor or to receive confessions of sins. He calls every sinner into communication with Himself, without any mortal man to interpose between God and the sinner. Jesus will accept every soul who believes on His name, and will cleanse him from all his moral defilement if he believes on Him whom the Father hath sent into the world. The E. G. White 1888 Materials p. 843 (Perils in Trusting in the Wisdom of Men)
Christ the One True Mediator. – Our great High Priest completed the sacrificial offering of Himself when He suffered without the gate. Then a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people. Jesus is our Advocate, our High Priest, our Intercessor. Our present position therefore is like that of the Israelites, standing in the outer court, waiting and looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. . . . Type met antitype in the death of Christ, the Lamb slain for the sins of the world. The great High Priest has made the only sacrifice that will be of any value.
     The incense that is offered now by men, the masses that are said for the deliverance of souls from purgatory, are not of the least avail with God. All the altars and sacrifices, the traditions and inventions whereby men hope to earn salvation are fallacies. No sacrifices are to be offered without; for the great High Priest is performing His work in the holy place. No prince or monarch dare venture within the holy enclosure.
     In His intercession as our Advocate Christ needs no man’s virtue, no man’s intercession. Christ is the only sin bearer, the only sin-offering. Prayer and confession are to be offered only to Him who has entered once for all into the holy place. Christ has declared, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." He will save to the uttermost all who come to Him in faith. He ever liveth to make intercession for us. This makes of no avail the offering of mass, one of the falsehoods of Romanism. – S.D.A. Bible Commentary Vol. 7 p. 913

The pollutions introduced by paganism were exposed by the Sanctuary truth. The Sabbath, so long forgotten, was restored. In every sense of the word, the Sanctuary was cleansed within the body of truth delivered to God´s people in the 1844 movement! For the first time in nearly two millennia a glorious light was shed on the path of the truth seeker. Once again they learned how to approach God and what He expected of them. It was an unprecedented blessing and gift from above. They also received great insights into the prophecies, which many had sought for ages prior. Indeed this was a new era for the truth.

What does Sardis mean?

  In Revelation Speaks from Seminars Unlimited we find an interesting definition for the Greek word "Sardis":

The fifth church is Sardis, meaning "that which remains." The city of Sardis lay halfway between Philadelphia and Thyatira on the main highway. It rose sharply 1,000 feet from the valley below and seemed impregnable. But Cyrus the Great in 547 B.C. conquered the city by sending a volunteer to scale the high rock walls of the mountain and open the gates from inside, while everyone was sound asleep! Then, in 218 B.C., Antiochus the Great conquered the city again, in the same way! The inhabitants – again – were sleeping! Revelation Speaks, Seminars Unlimited, p. 29

The idea of "The Remnant" comes to mind here. Many believe that prior to the Second Coming there will be a small remnant. The Savior’s own words suggest the idea.

… when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8 KJV)

Many prophets talk about it.

For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (Isa 10:22 KJV)
And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, …. (Isa 11:11 KJV)
And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries … (Jer 23:3 KJV)
Yet, behold, therein shall be left a remnant that shall be brought forth, both sons and daughters:… (Ezek 14:22 KJV)
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. (Joel 2:32 KJV)
And I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the LORD shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever. (Micah 4:7 KJV)
And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: … (Zep 2:7 KJV)
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts. (Zec 8:6 KJV)
For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. (Zec 8:12 KJV)

Finally, even John sees a vision concerning the remnant.

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Rev 12:17 KJV)

As may be anticipated, the name Sardis was not chosen haphazardly. It was chosen to convey the idea of the “remnant.” Also, the remnant church is the one who meets the Savior at the Second Coming. In this perspective we understand the counsel for this church. The Savior tells them to “Watch!”

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. (Rev 3:2 KJV)

This warning reminds us of another counsel of the Savior. Upon delivering a lengthy prophecy of the Dark Ages, He counsels those who would be living in the end days.

Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. (Mat 24:42 KJV)

Yet, though this may very well be the same counsel, how can we be sure? We need to ask the question "What needs to be watched for?" The answer is found in verse three:

…If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Rev 3:3 KJV)

The reference to the Second Coming in the Sardis counsel is difficult to ignore. The message compels the Sardis members to get ready. The same idea is presented in Matthew:

But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. (Mat 24:43-44 KJV)

Even the history of this city seems to support the context of the idea of the remnant. Interestingly enough, this city was conquered twice while sleeping. In this we are reminded of the parable the Savior told about five sleeping virgins who are left behind.

Clearly, the Savior wants this church to know that He is coming, but if they do not watch, they will not know the hour of His coming. Nowhere else is this counsel given to the seven churches.

And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (Rev 3:1 KJV)

Is our church dead?

God used Ellen White to reveal pertinent truths to the remnant. Through her visions and much study of the scriptures by the brethren the church was blessed with great new insights into the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. Our church has grown to above ten million members since 1844 and has a strong worldwide presence. Yet, though elite in prophetic insights, among the Christian denominations, our church has not been growing in its understanding of the prophecies since the time of Ellen White. This was not God’s plan, but this is the character of the day. Consider these words from Ellen White:

God intends that, even in this life, truth shall be ever unfolding to His people. … Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid discussion. – Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, 1915, p. 297

Can we really assert that our church is a faithful and continual recipient of new and greater understanding of the Scriptures? How many new biblical ideas are being taught now, which were not taught in Ellen White’s days? Clearly, progress is not happening as we may have hoped and we have much to think about here. But God anticipated this. Sister White counsels us:

"Long-cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible. … We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion, will be disappointed. – Gospel Workers, pp. 297-300 (1915)

The Savior knew what would follow the Dark Ages time. Compassionately he gives the church of Sardis a counsel:

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Rev 3:2-3 KJV)

The Adventist movement has received a great truth. Of all the denominations of Christianity, we have received a direct word from the Omnipotent through one of His prophets. These truths are greatly prized and God reminds us of this: “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard” God wants us to value these truths appropriately. We need these truths to sustain us. We also need new truths and insights to revive us from the dark sleep of tradition. The Advent movement has heard God´s counsel. It received great light.

But God knew that light is too often taken for granted. With time tradition exalted man to the forefront. The very truths which distinguished Adventism from the rest are now in jeopardy. Once again man is wedged between God and the sinner. Intercessory prayers are introduced to us as a heavenly panacea to solve all problems of humanity. Men pray for self, others, and teach Adventist members that one individual can absolve another from sin through intercessory prayer.

 An Adventist preacher introduces us to the idea of praying for other people´s sins with stunning directness.

…but let´s look at one of the most powerful promises in Scriptures, so powerful we don´t even think about this promise much, found in 1 John 5:14-16. Promises to intercessors. In fact we don´t even talk about this in the Adventist church, that it´s possible to pray for someone else and have their sins forgiven. You don´t even know that. Do you? … Tim Crosby, The uncanny power of Intercession 1998/ American Cassette Ministries (Tape# CC-9812)

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The reason that none of us know this is because it has never been a part of our doctrine. God has given us a clear light on the subject:

Has the Lord directed you to carry your burdens and difficulties to men who have no more strength than you have? Will you make them your Intercessor? Shall man interpose between your souls and God? Men in responsibility, handling sacred things, bring all your trials and perplexities to God. Turn not away from your great Counselor, to human beings. I am charged with a warning: Exchange not One infinite in wisdom for finite man.
The Lord Jesus is the Source of all power. "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. . . . " Letter 22, 1906, p.5,6 (To W.C. White, January 8, 1906)

Once again:

Jesus sets no man as an intercessor … He calls every sinner into communication with Himself, without any mortal man to interpose between God and the sinner. Jesus will accept every soul who believes on His name, and will cleanse him from all his moral defilement if he believes on Him whom the Father hath sent into the world. The E. G. White 1888 Materials p. 843 (Perils in Trusting in the Wisdom of Men)

Yet, individuals estranged from our truth speak their own mind without consideration. They teach that we may confess sin on the behalf of others:

Begin to confess the sins as to why, that caused them to be in the situation they’re in, at the time. When you are praying this ask God to show you and then say ‘Lord Jesus, cover with Your blood. Push back the evil angels that have access to this person because of these sins.’ Intercessory Prayer Power #3, by Carol Zarska American Cassette Ministries

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These are not Adventist ideas, but they have been popularized for the masses. A very popular Adventist writer goes on in this folly:

Now I asked for the mighty power of the Holy Spirit of God to surround everyone with a spiritual atmosphere of light and peace and to restore them to health if it was His will. As you will see in later chapters, I had learned through personal experience that intercessory prayers are most effective when I have made sure that sin is not separating the subjects of my prayers from God. I began my prayers in that intensive care unit by thanking God for the privilege of asking for His divine help for my fellow patients. Pointing to the infinite price He had paid at Calvary, I asked Him to forgive everyone’s sins.
…but when we pray for someone else, it permits Him to work in lives with special power. He unshackles the individual from the chains of sin so that he can use his freedom of choice to choose good. Incredible answers to prayers p. 11-12 by Roger J. Morneau

God is presented as unable to effect forgiveness in its complete form. Men, intercessors, are needed. Without them mankind would be lost. Through the lips of the brethren, Rome´s voice resounds from the abyss:

In the work of intercessory prayer, we claim the promises of God for the person for whom we are praying; we can pray for then in the same way that we pray for ourselves. We can confess the sins that we see in their lives and ask the Lord to remove the results of those sins… Carol Zarska Intercessory Prayer p. 7
Begin to confess the sins as to why, that caused them to be in the situation they’re in at the time. When you are praying this ask God to show you and then say ‘Lord Jesus cover with your blood. Push back the evil angels that have access to this person because of these sins.’Carol Zarska, Intercessory Prayer that Moves the Arm of God, tape #3 in her ‘Intercessory Prayer Power’ series. 1987, American Cassette Ministries.

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Claim the word of God for these people. Maybe it’s ‘if we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness’, that’s a simple one. And say ‘in their behalf, I confess their sins and ask that you cover with the blood and bring repentance to them’ or whatever. Get texts that are applicable for them. Claim promises. Carol Zarska, Intercessory Prayer that Moves the Arm of God, tape #3 in her ‘Intercessory Prayer Power’ series. 1987, American Cassette Ministries.

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Clearly these works are found lacking and God tells us: “…I have not found thy works perfect before God…” Anticipating the assault on the truth, delivered to His people in 1844, God counsels them ”…watch…hold fast and repent…” The precious truths we have received have lost their meaning to us. The truth about Christ in His Sanctuary needs to make a deeper impression on us.

God’s people are now to have their eyes fixed on the heavenly sanctuary, where the final ministration of our great High Priest in the work of the judgment is going forward,–where he is interceding for his people. Notes of Travel. The Maine Camp-Meeting. Second Advent Review and Sabbath Herald (11-27-83)
. . . for the past fifty years every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us, to becloud our minds regarding the teaching of the word – especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the message of heaven for these last days, as given by the angels of the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. Ellen G. White Letter 233, 1904
Any man who seeks to present theories, which would lead us from the light that has come to us on the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary, should not be accepted as a teacher. EGW manuscript 125,1907.

Yet, while sleeping we have done the very opposite. We have accepted and promoted men who speak ideas against everything that we formerly believed concerning the Savior´s ministrations in the heavenly Sanctuary. We need to vigilantly guard the eternal truths, which we have first received. We have grown secure in select or preferred ideas and have forgotten “How” we have received this light to begin with. We hear the voices of strangers and believe. Total reliance on men to gain insight into truth is not God´s plan, so He tells us “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard”. Ours is to remember that God will supply our needs and not men. The insights on pertinent truth do not come from men or elaborate education. They come from above.

And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Mat 16:17 KJV)

For the understanding of truth, we need to learn to rely on God more and more. New ideas must be looked at more closely. The idea of Intercessory praying has had a profound effect on the Christian denominations. Men strive to change the mind of God as if their ideas are better. Yet, it is nothing more than Rome´s Sacrament of Reconciliation revived for the last days. It is a pollution to the everlasting truth.

Yet, in spite of all this, a few will be found with undefiled garments.

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (Rev 3:4 KJV)

Who are these worthy few with undefiled garments?

These few, among the many, are of this dead church period, but they do not seem to be sleeping like the rest. These individuals are promised to walk with Him in white, which we know to be righteousness of character. Clearly, this is a discussion of the remnant, a part of the 144,000 who are worthy to live through the millennium under God’s special protection. Now, we know that many people from many other periods will walk with Him in white, but this message seems to focus on these individuals in particular. Why? Because they will be translated without experiencing death. This is what sets them apart and makes them worthy of mention.

These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb." (Rev 14:4 KJV)

The parable of the ten virgins comes to mind. Five of the virgins are allowed to go to the wedding and the other five are left behind. It becomes clear that the Savior was carefully designing the parables with global ideas. The numbers were not chosen haphazardly. The idea of the five virgins is a reflection of the fifth period time. The same thought is presented in Revelation´s beast that “…was, and is not, and yet is…”. The theme of these five periods is inscribed throughout prophecies.

But, aren’t we living in the Laodicean period today?

Some Adventists claim that EGW preached and believed that we live in the time of the seventh church. It may surprise you to find that she never took a firm position on that. In Last Day Events, she writes "The church is in the Laodicean state. The presence of God is not in her midst." Is this to be taken as "we are now living in the Laodicean period?" Or is it to be taken as "we are living like those who will live in the seventh period?" To clarify this, let us read what she wrote concerning future events in A Word to the Little Flock on page 12 as she discusses what will transpire in the church of Philadelphia:

You think, that those who worship before the saint’s feet, (Rev. 3:9), will at last be saved. Here I must differ with you; for God shew me that this class were professed Adventists, who had fallen away, and "crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." And in the "hour of temptation," which is yet to come, to show out every one’s true character, they will know that they are forever lost; and overwhelmed with anguish of spirit, they will bow at the saint’s feet. –A Word to the Little Flock p. 12

Most of us believe that this is a description of events around the Second Coming. But the reference “worship before the saint’s feet” comes from the sixth church´s counsel.

Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (Rev 3:9 KJV)

Though Adventists hold differing opinions of the specific dates for the church periods, we generally agree that 1844 marks the close of Philadelphia and the beginning of Laodicea.

There is general agreement among Seventh-day Adventist expositors that the year 1844 should be considered as marking the close of the Philadelphia period and the opening of the Laodicean period. –A Verse-By-Verse CommentaryOn Daniel and Revelation (Sections of Volume IV and Volume VII of The Seventh-Day AdventistBible Commentary), page 754. 1955, 1980, Review and Herald

So, how could Ellen White believe she was living during the seventh church period and at the same time discuss the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning the sixth church as a future event?

To compound the difficulty, Sister White discusses the "Hour of temptation", which comes upon the entire world, as a future event! This is most baffling, since this, also, is a feature of the sixth church prophecy. Yet, though it is not in line with the general view, this reference is quite congruent with Sister White’s own vision of these events. She spoke more about these matters. The following intriguing comments about Sardis reveal her own wonder concerning these issues:

1-5 (Matt. 22:14). A Few Faithful Ones in Sardis. – The church of Sardis is represented as having in it a few faithful ones among the many who had become, as it were, careless and insensible of their obligations to God. "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."
Who is so favored as to be numbered among these few in Sardis? Are you? Am I? Who are among this number? Is it not best for us to inquire into this matter, in order that we may learn to whom the Lord refers when He says that a few have not stained their white robes of character (MS 81, 1900)? S.D.A. Bible Commentary Vol. 7, page 959, paragraph 3

Did Sister White fully believe she was living during the seventh period? She clearly did not know who the numbered among these few in Sardis are. She asks us whether or not we are numbered among them! And she questions herself. Then, we are encouraged to inquire into this matter! For why would this matter to those living during the Laodicean period?

In reviewing the church of Philadelphia, we find a harder question, yet:, when in history was the following fulfilled?

"Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." (Rev 3:10 KJV)

The NKJV and NIV both translate the "hour of temptation" as "hour of trial." What worldwide trial or tribulation saw the sparing of God’s people? The Dark Ages? I seriously doubt that! Ellen White describes some of the events during the Dark Ages:

In the thirteenth century was established that most terrible of all the engines of the papacy–the Inquisition. … The mangled forms of millions of martyrs cried to God for vengeance upon that apostate power. – The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White, page 59.

No other option is left than to accept that the church of Sardis is today’s period of time. Sister White’s vision is on target. The living remnant from Sardis will meet the Savior. He will save His people. A remnant will be left to walk with Him in white.

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (Rev 3:5 KJV)

The book of life is mentioned because this is the period during which it is opened for judgment. In this period God sits in Judgement and seals His people.

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. (Dan 7:9-10 KJV)
Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters. (Rev 14:7 KJV)

Additional Information

For additional information on the role of intercessory prayer in Adventism, please browse to http://theotherprophecies.com/Intercessory%20Prayer

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