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Sardis- The Seven Churches of Revelation

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The Seven Churches of Revelation

 The letter to the church in Sardis (3:1-6)

1.      The Church (3:1a).

3:1a. The important commercial city of Sardis was located about 30 miles southeast of Thyatira, on an important trade route that ran east and west through the kingdom of Lydia. Important industries included jewelry, dye, and textiles, which had made the city wealthy. From a religious standpoint it was a center of pagan worship and site of a temple of Artemis, which ruins still remain (cf. comments on 2:1 regarding another temple of Artemis). Only a small village called Sart remains on the site of this once-important city. Archeologists have located the ruins of a Christian church building next to the temple. In addressing the message to the church Christ described Himself as the One who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, similar to the description in 1:4. Here Christ said He holds them, speaking of the Holy Spirit in relation to Himself (Isa. 11:2-5; cf. Rev. 5:6). As in 1:20 the seven stars, representing the pastors of the churches, were also in His hands (cf. 2:1).

2.      The commendation (3:1b).

3:1b. The only word of approval is in actuality a word of rebuke as Christ declared that they had a reputation for being alive and apparently were regarded by their contemporaries as an effective church.

3.      The  rebuke (3:1c, 2b).

3:1c, 2b. Christ quickly stripped away their reputation of being alive by declaring, you are dead. Like the Pharisees, their outer appearance was a facade hiding their lack of life (cf. Matt. 23:27-28). Christ added, I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of My God. They were falling far short of fulfilling their obligations as believers.

Dr. Vance Havner has frequently reminded us that spiritual ministries often go through four stages: a man, a movement, a machine, and then a monument. Sardis was at the “monument” stage, but there was still hope![1]

4.      The exhortation (3:2a, 3).

3:2a, 3. They were exhorted to wake up from their spiritual slumber and to strengthen the few evidences of life they still had. He exhorted them to remember . . . obey . . . and repent. He warned them that if they did not heed this exhortation, He would come on them like a thief, that is, suddenly and unexpectedly.

There was hope because Christ was the Head of the church and He was able to bring new life. He described Himself as the one possessing the seven Spirits and the seven stars. There is only one Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:4), but the number seven demonstrates fullness and completeness. The Holy Spirit gives life to the church, and life is exactly what the people at Sardis needed. The sevenfold Spirit of God is pictured as seven burning lamps (Rev. 4:5) and as seven all-seeing eyes (Rev. 5:6).

All of the church’s man-made programs can never bring life, any more than a circus can resurrect a corpse. The church was born when the Spirit of God descended on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and its life comes from the Spirit. When the Spirit is grieved, the church begins to lose life and power. When sin is confessed and church members get right with God and with each other, then the Spirit infuses new life—revival![2]

5.      The promise (3:4-6).

3:4-6. “While this church as a whole was dead or dying, Christ recognized a godly remnant in the Sardis church who had not soiled their clothes with sin. He promised that true believers will be dressed in white (cf. v. 18), symbolic of the righteousness of God, that their names will remain in the book of life, and that He will acknowledge them as His own before His Father and His angels.

The statement that their names will not be erased from the book of life presents a problem to some. But a person who is truly born again remains regenerate, as John said elsewhere (John 5:24; 6:35-37, 39; 10:28-29). While this passage may imply that a name could be erased from the book of life, actually it only gives a positive affirmation that their names will not be erased (cf. Walvoord, Revelation. pp. 82, 338). Six times John referred to the book of life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8 [cf. comments there]; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27).

The letter also concludes with the exhortation to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The letter to Sardis is a searching message to churches today that are full of activity and housed in beautiful buildings but are so often lacking in evidences of eternal life. Christ’s word today is to “remember,” “repent,” and “obey,” just as it was to the church in Sardis.”

“..the statement about the names being blotted out would also be significant to people in the Roman Empire, where citizenship was vitally important (see Acts 22:24–30).

Is there a warning here that a true believer might lose his salvation? I don’t think so. It would appear that God’s “Book of Life” contains the names of all the living, the wicked as well as the righteous (Ps. 69:28). Revelation 13:8 and 17:8 suggest that the names of the saved are written in the book from the foundation of the world—that is, before they had done anything good or bad. By God’s grace, they have been chosen in Christ before the beginning of time (Eph. 1:4; see also Matt. 25:34).

Jesus told His disciples to rejoice because their names were “written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The Greek verb is in the perfect tense, which means it can be translated (as Kenneth Wuest does in his Expanded Translation), “your names have been written in heaven and are on permanent record up there.” It is not likely that Jesus would contradict Himself in this important matter!

If the names of believers (the elect) are written from the foundation of the world, and if God knows all things, why would He enter the name of somebody who would one day fall and have to be removed from the book? We are enrolled in heaven because we have been born again (Heb. 12:23), and no matter how disobedient a child may be, he or she cannot be “unborn.”

As unbelievers die, their names are removed from the book; thus, at the final judgment, the book contains only the names of believers (Rev. 20:12–15). It then becomes “the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Rev. 21:27), because only those saved by the Lord Jesus Christ have their names in it. All the others have been blotted out, something God would never do for any true child of God (see Ex. 32:32; Rom. 9:3). It is a book of life, and lost sinners are dead (Eph. 2:1).”[3]

Rev. 3:3

3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. [4]

1.       Remember

a.       Was there ever a time? What’s changed?

b.       God’s Plumb line

c.       Other sources- Jer. 5-13

2.       Obey- Repent

a.       Remove the idols

b.       Receive the Spirit


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cf. confer, compare

[1]Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1989. The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.

[2]Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1989. The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.

v. verse

pp. pages

[3]Wiersbe, W. W. 1996, c1989. The Bible exposition commentary. "An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire 'BE' series"--Jkt. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill.

[4]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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