More Churches – Sardis
Wow, only two more to go. I started out only planning on doing two of them, but the more I studied, the more I wanted to write about all of them. So, today we are looking at the letter to the church at Sardis, found in Revelation 3:1-6.
Sardis, as with many of the cities of that day, was very wicked. They were known for being very soft. They were a very wealthy city, and very luxurious. It was the home of the Greek “mother goddess”, Cybele, and had a very large and elaborate temple to her where they worshipped with all kinds of sexual immorality. So, Sardis was a city of easy money and loose morals, sound familiar? He could have written this to the church in Las Vegas, right?
This time, in His introduction, He wrote in Revelation 3:1, “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Sardis. This is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars:”. Here, He identifies Himself as the one with the sevenfold Spirit and the seven stars. Well, we know, from Revelation 1:20, that the seven stars are the messengers of the seven churches, it says, “This is the meaning of the mystery of the seven stars you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” But what does He mean by the sevenfold Spirit, and why did He pick seven churches. In the Bible, the number seven always represents completeness, or fullness, as seen in the seven days of creation. So, what He is identifying Himself as, is the one who has the completeness of the Spirit, and the Church. In Colossians 2:9 Paul said this, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” He is God, don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.
He ends verse 1 by saying, “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” If you remember back, this is the same thing He told the churches at Ephesus, Thyatira, and Laodicea. He says, “I know all the things you do.” He wants to drive this home to all of us. He knows all the things we do, not just some of them. He knows what we do in secret, He knows the things we do that no one else knows. Then He goes on to say, “you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” Have you ever seen a church like this? From the outside, it seems alive. It is constantly growing, it may even be a megachurch, and the people seem so excited. But, when you look closely when you start listening to the preaching and what the people are talking about, you realize that there is no life there, they are shallow, empty, dead people. Please don’t think I’m saying that big churches are bad, or that they must be watering down the gospel to get people in. There are many large churches, even mega churches, that are doing a great work. They are preaching the Bible, sending out missionaries, and reaching their own communities. But there are many churches, even smaller ones, that look alive, and maybe even have a reputation for being alive, but are spiritually dead.
So, what does Jesus tell this dead church? He says in verse 2, “Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.” You see, there are a lot of churches today that just need to WAKE UP! They need to strengthen what little remains and search out their hearts. When they do this, they will realize that they are not doing the things that God requires of them. He goes on in verse 3 to say, “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again.” Again, doesn’t this sound a little familiar? In Revelation 2:4-5 Jesus told the church at Ephesus, 4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” We must go back to what we believed at first, go back to our first love, and hold it tightly! He finishes verse 3 by saying, “Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.” Again, He is telling us to repent, to turn the opposite direction, then He repeats Himself and says, “Wake Up!” Are we getting the point here…I think He wants us to wake up, and if we don’t He says He will come down on us suddenly, like a thief in the night.
But, of course, He doesn’t leave it like that. He goes on to say in verse 4, “Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” So, He recognizes that some are worthy, and He says they will walk with Him in white. So first, He says that the worthy ones will walk with Him, illustrating an intimate relationship, then He says we will be in white, which represents purity, but to the Romans of that day, it also was the color of victory. He said He will clothe us in the victor’s clothes.
In verse 5 He repeats Himself, “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine.” He tells us that ALL victors will be clothed in white. Then He says that He will write our names in the book of life in permanent marker and announce before the Father and His angels that we are His! Wow! As always, He ends in verse 6 by saying, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.” So, Listen!
I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any higher honor than to walk with Jesus and have Him announce before the Father and His angels that I am His. That must be our goal!