You are hereRevelation 3: 1 – 6 Sardis

Revelation 3: 1 – 6 Sardis

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By jcarter - Posted on 25 April 2006

by Jeff Carter
Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know about your behavior: how you are reputed to be alive and yet you are dead. Write to the angel of the church in Sardis and say, “Here is the message of the one who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know about your behavior: how you are reputed to be alive and yet you are dead. Wake up; put some resolve into what little vigor you have left: it is dying fast. So far I have failed to notice anything in your behavior that my God could possibly call perfect; remember how you first heard the message. Hold on to that. Repent! If you do not wake up, I shall come to you like a thief, and you will have no idea at what hour I shall come upon you. There are a few in Sardis, it is true, who have kept their robes unstained, and they are fit to come to me, dressed in white. Anyone who proves victorious will be dressed, like these, in white robes. I shall not blot that name out of the book of life, but acknowledge it in the presence of my Father and his angels. Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
(New Jerusalem Bible)

30 miles south-east of Thyatira, Sardis had once been a great and wonderful city; one of the oldest – dating back to 1200 B.C. It was the capital of the ancient Lydian empire and home of the legendary king Croesus. During the Persian period it was a governmental seat. And was, during the Roman period, a leading city in the province. In 17 A.D it, along with several other cities in the region, was destroyed by an earthquake. The subsequent reconstruction was largely financed by the Roman Empire. The people of Sardis showed their generosity to Caesar Tiberius by erecting a temple devoted to his worship. Coins from this time were marked with a picture of the people of Sardis kneeling before the Emperor.

To the Christians of Sardis, Christ announces himself as the one who holds the seven Spirits and the seven stars; as the Nicene Creed says the Spirit, “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” He also holds the angels- the leadership - of the churches; they are responsible and accountable to Him.

He tells the leadership of the church in Sardis that he knows of their deeds, their works and their reputation for being “alive.” They at one time had been an active congregation, vibrant and effective, but no longer. Although they had a reputation for being alive, they were in all reality, dead. They were a “city of death, a city of softness and luxury, of apathy, and immorality, a contrast of past splendor and present unresisting decline (Robertson, 313).”

In the other letters there is a word or two of praise for the Christians of the community, but in Sardis there is none. They have no spiritual life to praise. They are told to “Wake up!” This is an interesting piece of advice considering the city’s history. Sardis was built on a mountain against the edge of a deep valley; it was all but impregnable. Yet twice in this city’s history it had been taken unaware and captured by enemies. They had come to the gates during the night, and because the watchmen were asleep and unprepared, they were able to easily capture the city. If they will not wake up, Christ warns them, he will come to them like a thief in the night. And like the two previous invaders, he will take them while they are unaware.

They also need to strengthen what little vigor remains in them. Apparently they were not completely dead – just “mostly dead,” as Miracle Max of The Princess Bride might say. There were some Christians who had not soiled their robes (3:4). The Christian community in Sardis was about to die, but it could, by repentance, strengthen itself and become a living community once more; active, vibrant, and effective.

There were a few Christians (literally: a few names) who had not soiled their robes. They had remained faithful to the teachings they had received and had continued in holiness. Clothes were used as a symbol for reputations: in Zechariah’s vision Joshua’s filthy and clean clothes represented his sin and innocence respectively (Zech. 3: 3 – 5). The faithful believers of Sardis are pictured wearing “white,” they are “clothed in Christ (Gal. 3:27).” Seven times in Revelation believers are seen wearing garments of white (Rev. 3:6, 18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13; 19:14). Believers wear the priestly robes of white as they are a part of the Kingdom of Priest made to serve God the Father.

The faithful overcomers will not be blotted out of the book of life. This divine book is first mentioned by Moses in his plea for forgiveness for the Israelites (Ex. 32:32-34) Yahweh said then that those of his chosen people who had sinned against him would be blotted out of the book of life. (Ps. 69:28) It is Jesus Christ who holds the book of life (Rev. 13:8; 21:27). Those whose names are written in the book – confessing believers – must continue to remain faithful, they must keep their robes clean, or they will be blotted from the book of life. You can have your sins “erased” (Acts 3:19) or you can be erased.

The believers name will not be erased from the book, but will instead be publicly acknowledged to God the Father in the presence of His holy angels. “If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven, but the one who disowns me in the presence of human beings, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32-3; Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8 – 9).”

Robertson, A. T., Word Pictures in the New Testament vol. 6 Broadman Press,
Nashville TN, 1933

Kyle Peterson's picture

Great commentary. The snoop inside of me wants to read some of the letters God would write to some of the modern day churches.

Actually, that may not be a bad exercise for a church or individual looking to do a "spiritual audit". Write your own "John" letter to yourself (self critique). Then perhaps follow it up with a heart-felt reply?

MiddleKnowledge's picture


That's an interesting idea. Never thought of that one before.

Great article, Jeff!

Tim Martin

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