Revelation 3:1 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Sardis was located in modern day Sart. It was a city that was the center of several important trade routes and therefore a lot of money was brought into the city from all over and easily made Sardis a very wealthy city. Sardis also had a very bad reputation of apathy and immorality. This in combination with the fact that the city brought in easy money made it a very soft and pleasure loving city. The Greek historian Herodotus told about the story of Sardis in the days of King Cyrus in 549 B.C.: “King Cyrus had come to Sardis, and found the position of the city ideally suited for defense. There seemed to be no way to scale the steep cliff walls that surrounded the city. He offered a rich reward to any soldier in his army who could figure out a way to get up to the city. One solider studied the problem carefully, and as he looked he saw a soldier defending Sardis drop his helmet down the cliff walls. He watched as the soldier climbed down a hidden trail to recover his helmet. He marked the location of the trail and led a detachment of troops up it that night. When the easily scaled the cliffs, and came to the actual city walls, they found them unguarded. The soldiers of Sardis were so confident in the natural defenses of their city they felt no need to keep a diligent watch. So the city was easily conquered. Curiously, the same thing happened almost 200 years later when Antiochus attacked and conquered the overconfident city that didn’t set a watch.”
Jesus here presents himself as the one who holds the seven spirits and the seven stars. If you remember from our earlier study in chapter one (see study on 1:4), the seven spirits speaks of the fullness of the Holy Spirit which personifies the very characteristics of God. Jesus says that he holds the seven spirits because he is God and he personifies each and every characteristic of God. He also holds the seven stars which, if you remember back from chapter one (see study on 1:20), are the angels of the seven churches which represent the churches themselves. Seven is a number of completeness in the Bible and here it represents the fullness of the church, not only in that day but all the way to today. He has the whole church under His watch and under His control.
Being under the watch of God, Jesus knew all of what the church of Sardis was doing, all their deeds and works. This church had a reputation among others of being an alive and busy church. From the outside looking in they showed signs of life. But remember, Jesus knows all. He knew deep down they were not alive in their faith at all. In fact, they were dead. It’s not that they just had a little life, they didn’t have any at all! They were d-e-a-d dead in the faith! If you notice in Jesus’ address to this church, He doesn’t encourage them to stand strong against persecution or false doctrine. This is probably because there wasn’t any. Satan doesn’t attack something that isn’t a threat. They were busy acting like Christians and Satan wouldn’t have it any other way.
Revelation 3:2 – Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
Jesus screams to them with an emphatic Wake Up! The phrase used here that is translated “wake up” literally means “be watchful”. They were not to follow in the pattern of the city’s history and be conquered and sent to eternal damnation when Christ comes back.
They were to strengthen what remained. What did remain? The one thing they had was their deeds. They did good deeds in the eyes of the world but Jesus found them incomplete. Why you may ask? Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 for the answer. Only Jesus Chirst can give you that love. They were going through the motions of Christianity but without the relationship with Christ.
Revelation 3:3 – Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, 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.
They were to heed the warnings of Jesus and obey his commands and repent of their ways before comes back again. For if they did not wake up (keep watch), Jesus would come like a thief or like the armies that conquered Sardis before and they would have no excuse before the judgment seat of God. Read Matthew 24:36-51 and 25:31-46. What lesson can we take from these scriptures?
Revelation 3:4 – Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
With all of the spiritually dead souls around the church in Sardis, there was still a small remnant of true believers who had not turned away from the salvation that Jesus provides. They will walk side by side with Jesus himself and they will be dressed in white. White speaks of purity. A purity we are covered with when we give our lives to Jesus and He clothes us in His righteousness and covers our transgressions at the moment of salvation. The others in the church, had obviously soiled or defiled themselves with impurity. Read Galatians 6:19-21. Even though they did some good deeds, they were still delving into the sinful life and would pay the eternal price if they didn’t repent.
Read Matthew 22:1-14. In Jewish tradition, it was customary for the father of the groom to provide proper attire to all the wedding guests. If a guest didn’t wear the provided clothing, it was an insult to the father of the groom for rejecting the covering that was given. With this information, what can we gather from this parable?
Revelation 3:5 – He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
The people in the church of Sardis that do overcome their spiritually dead state and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and repent of their ways will become like the small remnant of true believers there and will be dressed in the righteousness of Jesus and also their names will not be blotted out of the Book of Life. What is the Book of Life? Let’s look ahead and read Revelation 20:12-15. It is a book in which has written all the names of people that will be in heaven, and if a person’s name is not in it, they will be cast into the lake of fire. How do you get your name into the Book of Life? Read Acts 16:30-31 and Romans 10:9-10.
This brings up the question, can a person lose their salvation? One would assume that in order to have your name blotted out of something, it had to be in there in the first place, and there are other scriptures too numerous to mention that would point towards a Christian having the possibility of losing their salvation. But the Bible also gives numerous scriptures which teach eternal security in your salvation. Truth is that I don’t know the correct answer and neither does anyone else know for sure except for One. There are 5 scriptural references that mention being blotted out of the Book of Life:
- Exodus 32:32
- Exodus 32:33
- Psalms 69:28
- Revelation 3:5
- Revelation 22:19
Revelation 3:6 – He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
This message goes for all true Christians and professing Christians in churches everywhere and not just in Sardis. Let us be watchful and always ready for the coming of our Lord and Savior. Let’s end with a word from God through the apostle Paul. Read and reflect on 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11.