The Church in Sardis
The letter to the church in Sardis follows the message to Thyatira. The city of Sardis was located 30 miles south east of Thyatira in Asia Minor. It was the capital of the Lydian kingdom in the 7th century BC. At about this time, coins were first invented and used as currency in Sardis. Sardis was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 AD and was still in process of rebuilding when John wrote this letter to the church in Sardis.
"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)
"He that hath the seven Spirits of God" is a reference back to the seven spirits mentioned in chapter one as being before the throne of God:
"John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;" (Rev 1:4)
A separate page takes a closer look at the meaning of the seven spirits of God.
"He that hath ... the seven stars" is another reference to the description in Revelation 1 of Jesus:
"And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." (Rev 1:16)
The seven stars are defined later in chapter 1:
"The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches." (Rev 1:20)
This is explained in more detail in a study of the seven stars of Revelation.
The church in Sardis is said to have a "name" or reputation but, while physically alive, they are spiritually dead. This suggests a state of hypocrisy.
"That thou livest, and art dead" sounds like physically alive but spiritually dead as in the this verse:
"But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." (1 Tim 5:6)
"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)
"Be watchful" - Sardis was built on a hill which provided natural fortification and a good vantage point against enemies. Their overconfidence in its strength resulted in the city being captured twice by surprise (by the Persian general Cyrus in 549 BC and by Antiochus in 218 BC) when the walls were left unguarded.
The word translated "perfect" in this verse is from a Greek word that is translated this way only in this verse. It is most often translated "fulfil." The meaning could be that they did not fulfill the work assigned to them or expected of them.
The works of the church of Sardis were not fulfilled or complete as many versions render it but there is the suggestion that there is yet hope - they are not dead yet, although getting close.
"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 3:3)
Here is a similar verse:
"But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." (1 Thess 5:4)
It is not that God is trying to sneak up on us and take us by surprise - He wants us to be ready for His coming but whether we are ready or not, He will come. Since we don’t know when that will be, we should be always ready.
"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. ... Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." (Matt 24:36, 44)
"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)
The "few names" could be equated with the remnant. To not be defiled is more than not tainted by sin or wrongdoing; it also includes doing what is right or good deeds.
"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (Jam 1:27)
"And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." (Rev 19:8)
"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)
The change of raiment was described in Zechariah:
"Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." (Zech 3:3-4)
It is implied that names can be blotted out of the book of life. To have your name in the book of life essentially equates to having the right to eternal life.
"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." (Rev 3:6)
He who has an ear should hear and pay attention to what the Spirit says to all the churches? There is something in each message for us.The next (sixth) message is to the church of Philadelphia. Download a PDF chart of the messages to the seven churches of Revelation.
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