We may fool ourselves, but surely we cannot fool our God! Revelation 3 today gives teaching on this.
Looking here into the content of the letters to be sent by John to the fifth and seventh churches, and God’s warning to them, it appears that in the first case we cannot fool God, but that in the second case, regretfully, we can fool ourselves. Better to follow God and be faithful to his word and suffer, as the sixth church did, than to live a lie purposefully or be deceived by a lie due to the deceptiveness of sin.
The fifth church, Sardis, is told that they put on a show of being alive but they are dead. Wow. He says there are only a small few in the church who “have not soiled their garments” and this no doubt is referring to those who are not walking in sin. He speaks of blotting the others out of the book of life…hold! No he doesn’t! He speaks of NOT blotting out of the book of life. To assume the opposite is the natural occurrence for the others might be too much. Perhaps the focus is that he does not blot out and making the implied meaning greater than the explicit meaning may be a categorical error. He said in verse 2 that he did not find their works complete in the sight of God! This means that he is looking at their own personal works and not the works of the Son! He speaks plainly of people who have not been redeemed. However, there must be some kind of warning here also. Hebrews 3:12-14 speaks of walking away from the living God due to the harness that results from the deceitfulness of sin. Surely there is warning. Exodus 32:33 speaks of God blotting the sinners out of “his book” but I think this to be the book of the living, meaning that he will end their life, not that he will remove their names from the book of life of the lamb that was slain. This is supported by the fact that he first armed the Levites and they subsequently kill 3,000 of their kinsmen as described explicitly in the same chapter and then after the conversation with Moses he sends a non-descript plague upon the people “because they made the calf” and so it seems that all who were responsible for instigating this sin were either killed by the Levites or by the plague of God. The “not blotting” of revelation 3:5 is immediately followed by a statement that this person will be confessed before the Father. This sounds like Matt 6 where Jesus says that he will deny or confess before the Father according to what we do before men. But the beginning of that paragraph in Matt 6 indicated that nothing would remain hidden and that nothing covered would fail to be revealed. Real identities would be exposed. Denial or confession before the Father is therefore, in my estimation, not a change of identity but merely a true assessment and revealing of identity. God reveals the truth to the fool who has deceived himself. Not a blotting out but an exposure that it was never there.
The sixth church, Philadelphia, seems to receive a good report! They are suffering for the Gospel and it seems that they will be a means of the unsaved Jews to come to salvation by their witness. They are told to hold fast and it seems there is great purpose to their endurance.
The seventh church, Laodicea, is called lukewarm. How this differs from Sardis I do not know. Maybe their works are mixed rather than dead. Maybe this simply means there is a greater number of redeemed among them? Maybe their sins are less abominable and they are not outright heathens in view of others but are simply enjoying and trusting in riches and presuming upon the blessing of God. They think its all good because all is outwardly well in their lives. But they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. They are unredeemed. They are not saved. They are told to buy from him in order to be rich. They need still the righteousness of God applied to them. Be zealous to repent and so evidence that you are among those I love! He offers salvation to them who will let him enter and dine with them. These people are not walking in intimacy with God. I think the truth is that they are walking in false confidence in their outward conformity but their hearts are far from him. Your works are neither cold (wicked and clearly debased) or hot (faithfully seeking me and honoring me in your desires and attitudes and longings). They don’t even realize their condition because they must have a feeling that they are indeed walking righteously…I fear this is much of the visible church today!
May we not be fooled O God by religious ceremonies and by outward actions but may you win our hearts and may we be rich in you alone!