The Revelation of Jesus Christ Pt 10, 3:1-6

JESUS’ LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS

Sardis is the fifth letter which we find in Revelation. The main theme here is death, and this is hinted at with the meaning of Sardis, which is “red.” This is clearer if we look at the other uses of red in Revelation. The Red Horseman who takes “peace from the earth” so that “they should kill one another.” And it is used to describe Satan, the one “that has the power of death,” and who is described as “a great red dragon.”

The name can also mean “those escaping” or “that which remains.”

Before reviewing this letter, look here for a brief summary on the seven letters in general.

  1. Exposition
  2. Parable
  3. Cultural Relevance
  4. Prophetic
  5. Accompanying Epistle(s)
EXPOSITION

VERSE 1a

"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..."
  1. TITLE OF THE CHURCH

Sardis can mean one of three things.

  1. Red [Ones]
  2. Those Escaping
  3. That Which Remains

All three can be applicable to this church. For within Sardis, there are three groups of members.

  1. Those who have a reputation of life but are indeed dead.
  2. Those who will escape the judgment of God upon earth.
"For yourselves know perfectly that The Day of The Lord so cometh as a thief in the night...and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief...For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Thess 5:2; 3c; 4; 9]
  1. Those “few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.” [Rev 3:4] There are a few which remain undefiled.
  1. TITLE(S) OF JESUS CHRIST

Jesus chooses to remind Sardis of two of His titles.

  • He that hath the seven Spirits of God
    • These seven Spirits are mentioned as being before the throne of God in Revelation 1:4. Here, we find that not only are they before the throne of The Father, but Jesus is holding onto them, that is, Jesus is holding The Holy Spirit (the seven-fold Spirit of God). In fact, they are portrayed as The Lamb’s eyes later on in Revelation.
      • “And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.” [Rev 5:6]
    • So the seven Spirits are also seven eyes, and in Zechariah 4:10, we see they “run to and fro through the whole earth.”
      • This represents the omniscience of The Holy Spirit and of Jesus. As David says in Psalms, “whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” [Psa 139:7]
        • “If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me…” [Psa 139:8-10]
      • Jesus sees all. There is nothing which escapes His view. As Hebrews says of The Living Word,
        • “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we must give account.” [Heb 4:13]
      • And so, Sardis cannot fool Jesus. He knows that they are dead. For it is only through Jesus that spiritual life is possible. Jesus says, “whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” [Jn 4:13-14] Through the indwelling of The Holy Spirit, Jesus imparts to us spiritual life.
    • This title emphasizes that Jesus is the source of life and that He knows who is living and who is dead. This church lacks The Holy Spirit: they are powered by programs and worldly activities. They look vibrant and alive from outside, but Jesus knows their heart, their true state.
  • [He that hath] the seven stars
    • From chapter one, when John “turned to see the voice that spake” with him, he saw that Jesus “had in His right hand seven stars” and Jesus, in the end of the chapter, explains this, saying,
      • “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the seven messengers of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” [Rev 1:20]
    • Jesus alone is the upholder of the churches and those whom He has chosen to be over them: the messengers; David says in the Psalms, referring to Christ as God’s Right Hand, Jesus being “the Man of [God’s] right hand,” says, “Thy Right Hand hath holden me up.” Jesus holds each of us up in every place; from “heaven” to “hell” to “the uttermost parts of the sea,” David asserts, “even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy Right Hand shall hold me.” [Psa 139:7-10] Jesus thoroughly inspects each member, each leader, and each local body as a whole: He has complete knowledge of them. As Hebrews says, “all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we must give account.” Those who are dead, those who are alive and thriving – Jesus knows each of them.
    • The Bible also tells us that in God’s “hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.” [Job 12:10] and that Jesus is “upholding all things by the word of His power” and “by Him all things hold together.” [Heb 1:3, Col 1:17]
  • Jesus emphasizes here that He is the one through whom all things were made, through whom all things are held together, through whom all things live. He is the one by which all will be judged, from whom no one can hide. Jesus is the very “Prince of Life” and in His very being is “life; and the life was the light of men.” Jesus emphasizes that in His hand He and The Father hold all true saints/children of God, and He is the imparter of life through His Holy Spirit.
    • “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” [Jn 10:27-30]
    • “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a life-giving spirit.” [1 Cor 15:45]
  1. COMMENDATIONS

Jesus offers no commendations to Sardis.

VERSE 1b-4

"I know thy works, that thou hast a reputation that thou livest, and art dead. Become watching/being on the alert/being vigilant, and support/prop up the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works being complete/full before God. 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. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not soiled/stained/polluted their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy."
  1. CONDEMNATIONS
  • Thou hast a reputation that thou livest, and art dead.
    • This church has a reputation amongst others that they are living and active, but in reality they are dead. Jesus somberly reveals to them He knows their works. He knows their inner state; Jesus knows that behind the outer trimmings and decorations, they are lifeless and dead. This is similar to the Pharisees, who “make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess” or who were “like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” [Mt 23:25; 27-28]
    • The Pharisees had dead religion. They had beautiful outward appearance, but inside they were no different than murderers or adulterers or thieves. Unfortunately, the church at Sardis was very similar to that.
    • We must strive to be alive within, we must, as Jesus says, “cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” This is only possible through the cleansing which Jesus offers through His Holy Spirit, “by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which [God our Savior] shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” [Tit 3:5-6] And being therein cleansed of the heart, it being purified by faith, we can, by God’s mercy and grace, “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” [2 Cor 7:1]
  1. EXHORTATIONS
  • Become watching/being on the alert/being vigilant
    • Jesus commands us in the gospels to watch as well. We do not know when Jesus is going to return, so we must be ready for our Lord.
      • “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” [Mt 24:42]
    • He gives us an analogy regarding a thief breaking into a house. A thief can only break in when the homeowner is surprised. If the homeowner knew the thief was coming, he would watch and be ready so that he suffered no loss. Likewise we must be ready.
      • “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” [Mt 24:43-44]
    • The faithful servant, Jesus explains, is the one who is giving out, in the proper season, food to the master’s household. Jesus is speaking of His word. We are to be busy sharing His word, building up the body of Christ with encouragement, instruction, etc.
      • “Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.” [Mt 24:45-47]
    • The faithful servant is rewarded with more responsibility when the master comes back. For “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” [Lk 16:10] So too it is with us, those who take what Jesus has given and use it for the kingdom to benefit Jesus and bring Him glory, will receive reward in eternal life. But Jesus knows that not every servant will be faithful. Some will begin to think the master delays his coming, and in their apathy they will mistreat fellow servants. Jesus says in another place, that during the end, “the love of many shall wax cold.” And so those whose hearts become “burdened with overconsumption, and drunkenness, and anxieties of this life” will be met with a fierce master and with judgment.
      • “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” [Mt 24:48-51]
    • Jesus gives us a very serious warning, and so we ought to take it to heart. We must remain on guard, watching for Jesus’ coming again, being diligent to “be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” We can do this by praying always with thanksgiving, yielding our bodies as instruments of Jesus’ faith and love, rejoicing in hope, standing fast in The Faith, and being sober minded, resisting the devil.
  • Support/prop up the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works being complete/full before God
    • This support is provided through God, and that by the gospel. Paul tells us that “God only wise” is “of power to stablish [us] according to my gospel.” [Rom 16:25] If anything is to be built or strengthened, it must have its foundation in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. For Jesus’ cross is “the power of God” and “other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor 3:11] Furthermore, The Holy Spirit says in Psalms, “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” [Psa 127:1a]
      • So we see that nothing can be built or strengthened without God’s aid, and in that, nothing apart from Jesus Christ and a solid foundation on His gospel will suffice.
    • We want to make sure, checking regularly, that the supports in our building, as it were, are strong. They are built of God, built upon Jesus. Sardis was corrupting away, they were like a dead tree with one or two live branches still. Jesus is telling them to nurture those branches; even in their dismal state, Jesus is offering hope and wanting to build them back up.
  • Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard
    • It is very important, necessary, that we devote ourselves exceedingly to what Jesus has spoken, lest we drift away [Heb 2:1].
  • Hold fast
    • Along with this, we should take heed to our lives so that we do not lose what we have worked for but receive a full reward [2 Jn 1:8].
  • Repent
    • And we ought to look to the old paths, asking for them from God, and walk in them [Jer 6:16]

What we need in the church is not new and trendy things. We do not need new strategies, programs, or anything of that sort. What we need is very simple, and Jesus gives it to us here: Remember the gospel of Jesus Christ, hold fast to this simple truth, repent where this is not the foundation.

  • 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
    • Jesus gives a stern warning here. If those in Sardis will not watch, will not be awake/vigilant, then He will come upon them as a thief. What Jesus says here is serious, and it cannot be mistaken: those who are not awake, those who sleep and let their lives/spiritual lives/relationship with Jesus weaken and die, will endure God’s wrath. Remember what Paul writes, clearly stating that those who are brethren will not be overtaken by this day:
      • “For you yourselves know perfectly that The Day of The Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” [1 Thess 5:2-6]
    • And remember what Jesus says immediately after His admonition to us in the end of Matthew 24 (which was detailed above):
      • “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” [Mt 25:1-13]
    • These are truly grave warnings. Jesus wants us, expects us, to be ready for His return! We should not be caught off guard. We must be constantly filled with The Holy Spirit (the oil); as Paul commands, “and be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be being filled with The Spirit.” [Eph 5:18] And Jesus, who commands, “let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.”
  • Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not soiled/stained/polluted their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
    • Even within the church at Sardis, though dead as a whole, there is a faithful remnant which have not defiled themselves, a faithful few which remain righteous, remain steadfast in practicing righteousness by submitting themselves as instruments of righteousness to Jesus.
      • Clean garments are associated with righteousness.
        • “Awake, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.” [Isa 52:1]
        • “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]
        • “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” [Isa 61:10]
      • In Leviticus, it is told to us that garments can be defiled by leprosy. Leprosy represents sin, and so we a connection here to Sardis, where some have defiled their garments with sin.
        • “And he shall look on the plague on the seventh day: if the plague be spread in the garment, either in the warp, or in the woof, or in a skin, or in any work that is made of skin; the plague is a fretting leprosy; it is unclean. He shall therefore burn that garment, whether warp or woof, in woolen or in linen, or any thing of skin, wherein the plague is: for it is a fretting leprosy; it shall be burnt in the fire.” [Lev 13:51-52]

VERSE 5-6

"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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
  1. PROMISE

Note: those who are overcomers/overcoming are defined in 1 John: “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” [1 Jn 5:4-5]

  • The same shall be clothed in white raiment
    • Jesus promises those who overcome to be clothed in perfect white garments. This is a visual representation of the perfect state of righteousness which we will attain to once resurrected to live with Jesus forever. John tells us, “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” and David writes, “as for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” [Psa 17:15] Our future state will be perfectly righteous for we will inherit new bodies like Jesus. The white garments may actually be a figure to represent bodies which radiate bright, white light. Remember, John says “we shall be like Him;” and one thing we know about the resurrected and glorified Christ is that His body shone like white light. For on that blessed mount, Matthew writes, “His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.” Jesus is the firs fruits of our resurrected bodies, showing us a glimpse of what ours will be like. Paul writes about this, saying,
      • “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.” [1 Cor 15:20-23]
  • 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
    • Those who overcome receive eternal life and recognition from Jesus Himself!
  1. ADMONITION

Notice how this has now switched to the last part of the letters. This new pattern continues until the last church.

CONCLUSION

Jesus is seeking to make us alive. He wants every believer to be filled with His very life, and He has what we need to accomplish that. Through His Holy Spirit, Jesus brings real life and real fire to our souls. One evidence of this awesome life imparted by the very Prince of Life is that we are watchful for Jesus’ soon return and living lives of righteousness.

Link back to Top/Table of contents

PARABLE

The parable of the treasure in the field relates to this letter. [Mt 13:44]

  1. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
    1. The field is defined for us as the world.
      1. Matthew 13:38
      2. Jesus did not just redeem us, He redeemed the earth, the world.
        1. Revelation 5-22
        2. Ruth 4:1-12
      3. This parable says that the church will be concealed in the world. So the church, essentially, is so similar to the world that it is camouflaged. So much so, that God had to redeem (buy) the entire world just to get the treasure.
      4. Verse 4aThou 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.
        1. These are the “treasures” in the world. Those believers that cling to Jesus He will take out of the world before He deals with it.
          1. Verse 5aHe that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment;
            1. Like in Roman culture, dressing up in white on triumphal war days or festivals, Jesus is going to clothe us in white when He takes us out of the world, that is, when we have in totality, overcome.
    1. Verse 3aRemember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
      1. Jesus tells them to remember what they heard – How The Father gave His only Begotten Son so that we might have life. How God sold everything He had to obtain us, how we were bought with an extremely expensive price out of the world.

CULTURAL RELEVANCE
  1. 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.
    1. The city of Sardis was situated on a hill about 1,000 feet above the valley of Hermus, which was at the foot of Mt. Tmolus. It was upon a very steep cliff and thought to be impregnable. However, a very subtle defect in Sardis’ defenses was found when a soldier, who accidentally dropped his helmet over the wall and had to climb down to retrieve it, was seen taking a secret and unguarded route down the cliff. In the night, Hyeroeadas and with help from a Persian group, climbed up the same way they saw the soldier and took over the city. They crept into the city like a thief in the night: Sardis was not being very watchful. A few hundred years later, the exact same thing happened.
  2. I will not blot out his name out of the book of life
    1. It is helpful to know that in Greek cities they had official registries of all citizens. Some places kept the grim custom that when a citizen was to be condemned to death that their name would be blotted out of the book so as to not even show that they had even existed. But here Jesus, speaking on our behalf to God the Father, claiming us as his own, is saying that we, through him, are citizens of the Kingdom of God. That because we are alive and awake to his Kingdom that we won’t be condemned and then blotted out of the Book of Life. [http://veritas.community/veritas-community/2014/08/11/7-letters-sardis]
  3. 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.
    1. There was a Roman tradition of wearing white togas on holidays or festive occasions and on “religious” ceremonies. Especially on the day of  triumph, white was the universal color, except for soldiers.

PROPHETIC

The Church at Thyatira is prophetic of the Catholic Medieval church from 600 to 1500 AD.

  1. This church is prophetic of the reformation era.
    1. This mention of death takes us into the post-Reformation period, from the close of the Council of Trent in 1563, to the beginning of the great religious awakening in the 18th century. This period has been fittingly described as “the age of dead orthodoxy.” Instead of the reformers continuing their work of restoration, they submitted to the protection and support of the civil authorities. While separating from Rome, the Protestant Church became subject to the state. The Reformation was rooted in Christ. It is the Gospel of Christ that led the reformers out of the spiritual darkness that had all but extinguished the flame of Christianity. Sadly, this early fervor was gradually replaced by formalities as the community and the state accepted the new churches. The inability of the various reform factions to find unity based on the Word also led to the formation of numerous denominations, each adopting the creed of its founders. The great work of reform faltered and even resulted in bitter infighting. Added to this, the Counter Reformation launched by the Roman Catholic Church gradually eroded faith in the Scriptures and even set the tone for tolerance and acceptance of the teachings of Rome.
    2. The reformation was a good start, but many false doctrines crept in, the most notable being the softening and compromising of the gospel, and the denying of a literal millennium and rapture.

ACCOMPANYING EPISTLE

The epistles of Hebrews correspond to this letter from Jesus to Sardis.

  1. In progress

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s