The message to Sardis, Revelation Chapter 3 Verses 1-6 (NASB)

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Sardis

The details of the letter to the angel at the church at Sardis begins in chapter 3 of Revelation. This church was located about 30 miles south of Thyatira. It was prosperous commercially and strategic militarily because of its location on the important Hermus River valley road.

The city itself was on a rock hill with the acropolis containing the temple of Artemis 800 feet above the north section of Sardis. The city had rock walls nearly vertical with the only access being from the south. This limited access turned Sardis into a fortress which had been captured only twice throughout its history (and those two times, it is said, was through deception - not outright military overrun).

On the skyline of Sardis, some seven miles away, is the necropolis or cemetery of a "thousand hills" or modern Bin Tepe. It is so named because of the hundreds of burial mounds there.

A great wool industry flourished in the region which may have lead to the comment in verse 4 about white garments. This may have had special meaning to the members at the Sardis church.

 "And to the ANGEL of the church in Sardis write:
HE who has

 1) the seven SPIRITS of GOD, and

These seven spirits have been and always will be before the throne. John says so in Revelation 1:4 that they are (today - present tense) before the throne. What are these seven SPIRITS?

 Sealer of my redemption - Ephesians 4:30
Confirmer of sonship/hiership - Romans 8:14-17
Prayer warrior - Ephesians 6:17-20
Spirit of LIFE - Romans 8:9-11
Minister of Glory - 2 Corinthians 3:4-11
Occupant of the believer's body (temple) - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Discloser of truth - John 16:13-15

2) the seven stars

John sees, in his first vision, that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches - Revelation 1:20. This indicates that the church at Sardis is being "weighed" against the things of the SPIRIT and heavenly things of worth (angels and their worship).

 says this: 'I know your DEEDS and that you have a name that you
are ALIVE, BUT YOU ARE DEAD.

Apparently the Sardis church looks very active but much activity under a religious banner means nothing. Jesus gives us a very curious passage in Matthew 7:20-23 where people are going to claim their works (all, notice, appearing very religious or supernatural) as their tickets into heaven. Not so, Jesus says "I never knew you". All our works, including religious-appearing ones, will be tested as though by fire.... 1 Corinthians 3:12-17.

The Sardis church, whether it was the proximity of the necropolis or an internal matter, was DEAD. Sure they were active maybe even included pagan death rites in their worship, but they had lost that ALIVE, GOD-GLORIFYING, and GOD-HONORING worship.

 WAKE UP

Be watchful! A few at Sardis still knew of the real God, the real Son, and the real Holy Spirit but they had been suppressed so long by "ritual" (worthless religion) that they needed to wake up. The same is true for ALL churches today.....WAKE UP!

 and STRENGTHEN the things that remain, which were about to die;

We are to

 * make wise use of our time - Ephesians 5:14-20
* examine ourselves - 1 Corinthians 11:28-32
* be alert for THE RETURN - Mark 13:33-37
* remember the 10 virgins - Matthew 25:1-13

 for I have not found your DEEDS completed in the sight of MY GOD.

The previous churches at least had good comments about their deeds. The Sardis church started things but didn't finish them.

What deeds, then, are good and completeable?

 LOVE - Thou shalt LOVE the Lord thy God with all thy
might, soul, and spirit. Reread the LOVE chapter.

FAITHFULNESS - All seven churches have a blessing for the faithful
OVERCOMERS! Find them.

PERSEVERANCE - See the churches at Ephesus and Smyrna.

KEEP HIS WORD - "Thy words have I hid in my heart that I might not
sin (and hence be DEAD) against God."

NOT DENY HIS NAME - Peter did before the cock crowed...how about us?

 REMEMBER therefore what you have
received and heard; and

From whom did they receive and what did they hear? They received instruction from the apostles and other prophets; that is what they heard...Bible was not written down as such for the church members to each have a copy. Thus, it was by hearing the truth (not the misleading religion like Jezebel was perpetrating at Thyatira).

 KEEP IT, and

The Word of God is a treasure worth holding on to - 2 Timothy 1:13-14. In Hebrews 3:5-6, Hebrews 4:10-13, and Hebrews 10:19-25, we are told to hold on to our hope of eternal life and to nurture that hope by confession within an assemblage of believers. We are to hold on to that which is good - 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22. Lastly, holding on (abiding in) the Word gives us freedom - John 8:31-36.

 REPENT.

Repentance is ALWAYS required when sin has intervened and "deadened" the church. If you are one of those "dead" Christians, the solution to becoming alive again is here: REMEMBER, KEEP IT, and REPENT!

 If therefore you will not WAKE UP, I will come like a thief and
you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.
While this may refer to Christ's return (the day of the Lord) as recorded in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, more likely this refers to the unpredictable time of DEATH. Remember this church was in view of the necropolis (burial mounds) and apparently was preoccupied with death rituals.

Furthermore, DEATH stops any chance to REMEMBER, KEEP IT, and REPENT. IT IS TOO LATE WHEN YOU DIE!!!!!

 BUT you have a FEW people in SARDIS who have not
soiled their garments; and
The FEW often seems to be the case....we are mostly followers or indifferent. It was true in Luke's time. Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth because they "walked blamelessly" (Luke 1:5-6) were given the privilege of being the parents of John the Baptist, the announcer and baptizer of Jesus Christ. Simeon, a "righteous and devout" man was one of the FEW who knew he would see the Lord's Christ before he died (Luke 2:25-26). And then there was Anna, a widowed prophetess, who for many years "never left the temple". She was given the task of speaking to all around that the Jesus is the redeemer of Jerusalem (Luke 2:36-38) that everyone was looking for.

But these instances are not that unusual. Even in very ancient times, it is recorded (Genesis 6:5-12), that Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord because he was a righteous man and blameless in his time. The rest of mankind's wickedness was very great.

In pagan religions at the time of Revelation's writing, it was forbidden to approach the gods in garments that were soiled or stained. This spotting or soiling symbolizes an otherwise pure life stained by pagan ideas or beliefs. God's word says much about the purity of the Christian life.

 * the 144,000 Jewish witnesses were blameless (Revelation 14:5)
* Food we eat does not matter, it is one God that matters
(1 Corinthians 8:4-8).
* Cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit...
(2 Corinthians 7:1).
* we should maintain the simplicity and purity of devotion
to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:1-3).
* have mercy with fear on those whose garments are polluted
by the flesh (Jude 22-23).
 they will walk with me in WHITE;
The white garments are symbols of righteousness, victory, and the glory of God.
 * in the advice to Laodicea, they were to buy white garments
to cover the shame of their wickedness - Revelation 3:18.
* the great tribulation martyr's robes were white - Revelation 6:11.
* all redeemed saints around the Throne wore white robes -
Revelation 7:9
* the ones out of the great Tribulation had their robes washed
white in the blood of the Lamb - Revelation 7:14
* the heavenly armies are wearing white (contrast that with
today's armies in camouflage!) - Revelation 19:14
 for they are WORTHY.
The faithful FEW in Sardis would walk with Him in white for they are WORTHY. No need to blame it on the church or to be a martyr to wear white; it is your own heart and life condition which will determine whether your garment is pure white or soiled. Being WORTHY is rare indeed. For example, Christ was the ONLY one WORTHY to open the seals on the scroll held in the right hand of the One on the THRONE. Read about it starting in Revelation 5:1.
 He who overcomes
* shall thus be CLOTHED in WHITE GARMENTS

John, in his earlier letter in 1 John 3:1-3, says that if He, Christ, should appear that we will be like Him. That is, the purity that the washing with His blood gives to our garment makes it white. If you really want to see how He is, look at Matthew 17:1-7.

* and I will not erase his name from the BOOK OF LIFE and

In ancient cities, the names of the citizens were recorded in a register until death. At death, their names were removed from the book of the living.

The Old Testament has the same idea. Apparently, during one of their several conversations, God told Moses about the Book of Life because Moses requests that his own name be removed from the book if God could not forgive the great sins of the people - Exodus 32:30-35.

David, says in Psalm 69:26-28, that those with iniquity should be blotted out of the book of life and not be recorded with the righteous.

Isaiah, in Isaiah 4:2-6, indicates that those left in Zion will be those "recorded for life" in Jerusalem, the Holy City.

Gradually, the book of life came to mean those people having eternal life (not just physical life). Daniel talks about the end times when those written in the book will be rescued from the time of distress - Daniel 12:1-3.

It is the greatest reason for rejoicing. Having your name in the book of life supersedes any kind of miracle performed, healing that takes place, or good deed performed - Luke 10:17-20.

The rest of Revelation refers to the book of life of the Lamb in context to those who do not follow the beast (Revelation 13:8), are not tempted by the woman riding the beast (Revelation 17:8), do not suffer the second death (Revelation 20:15), and inhabit the Holy City (Revelation 21:27).

Only a crime in ancient times could cause a persons name to be removed from the book of life (even though the person was still alive). Our place, as Christians, is more secure. Romans 8:37-39 lists all the things that might try to get our names removed from the book of life BUT won't succeed!

* I will confess his NAME before MY FATHER, and before His angels.

This is the strongest evidence of the complete and perfect work of Christ. That He will confess my name before God - Matthew 10:32-33 and His angels - Luke 12:8-10. All this while I stand there in my white, dazzling robe. WOW!!!
 He who has an ear, let him HEAR
what the SPIRIT says to the churches.
Again the general exhortation comes at the end. This time it may have had added significance. Since Sardis seemed to be surrounded by the death theme, hearing and believing the Word of God (John 5:24-29) is the way to pass from death unto life!
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 Used by permission."

References to the Revelation of Jesus Christ are in bold italics. All other references are in bold only.