The city of Sardis had a very ancient history. In olden days it had been a place of importance; an ancient city with a great history; in days almost long forgotten it was a capitol of the Lydian empire. On her coinswas written “Sardis the First Metropolis of Asia.” It had strong political and military agreements with Babylon, Egypt, Sparta and many other nations. It had been known for its prosperity from gold found in its main river but it was now living on past prestige, past reputation, past riches, past importance and past success. In Sardis we see past splendour but present decay.
It was built upon a hill surrounded by a flat plateau. It was a natural impregnable fortress. Its walls were high, thick and strong. There was only one narrow approach on one side which was a long steep path. Eventually with the passing of the years it became a double city—the newer city was built on the lower plain 1500 feet below the first. Because of this it was called by a plural name, Sardeis.
3:1, “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;”
Christ is revealed to this church as having the seven Spirits of God. What does this mean? – 1:4, “…from [Christ]…from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;” 4:5, “…and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” Rev.5:6, “…in the midst of the throne…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.” (Zech.4:2, 10). “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zech.4:6). The seven spirits is just another term for the fullness of the Holy Spirit. The fullness of the Holy Spirit rested upon Christ.
Isa.11:2, i) And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, ii) the spirit of wisdom iii)and understanding, iv) the spirit of counsel v) and might, vi) the spirit of knowledge vii) and of the fear of the LORD;”
He also has the seven stars in His hand – these are the seven messengers to the churches:- the preachers (1:16, 20; 2:1). Christ “has” them. The answer to a dead church is that Christ has his preacher there.
3:1b, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”
In the previous 4 letters the knowledge of their “works” was always in the realm of encouragement. But here it is spoken of in rebuke. Normally Christ begins by commending the church; here He only exposes and condemns their deadness. It is hard to find anything to commend or encourage with some churches or Christians. This church thought that their reputation was their strength but Christ condemns this very thing.
A name that thou live – a reputation, an outward appearance:- visibly they seemed to have all that a church needs and ought to be. Man thought it alive; God knew it to be dead.
Art dead – This is a definition of their spiritual state; absence of spiritual life; you can have noise and activity but still be dead.
Sardis (Sardeis) = In 4:3 Christ is like a sardine (sardines) stone; in 21:20 the sixth foundation stone of the New Jerusalem is decorated with the sardius (sardios) stone. It was a red-blood colour or flesh colour. In the OT the word means to burn red; it speaks of the face going red, a fiery temperament burning hot or red-hot passion. One of 12 stones on the High Priests garment that represented the tribe of Reuben. Gen.49:3-4, “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel…”
3:2, “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.”
Be watchful (grēgoreuō) = to keep awake, be vigilant, rouse from sleep.
Sardis was once known as an impregnable fortress. But Cyrus the Great took the undefeated city from Croesus in 549 BC. In the cities exalted position well sorrounded by a protected wall was just one unobserved, unguarded, weak point. Why gaurd a portion of the wall that is thought impregnable? Cyrus'a forces came by night time and one single climber scaled this part of the wall. History repeated itself in 214 BC when Antiochus the Great captured Sardis when a single mercenary climbed up the same side and gained entrance. The great need of the city was for a single watchman in the right place at the right time.
Strengthen = to set fast; to turn resolutely in a certain direction; to confirm: - fix, restore—an urgent immediate call. Remain = left over, remnant,
Works perfect (plēroō) = to make replete, to cram level up, finish, to level of.
3:3, “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.”
Remember = exercise the mind, recollect—“how you have received and heard”,
Hold fast (tēreō) = [a military term] a watch; to guard from loss or injury; keeping the eye upon it; to detain in custody; to withhold to keep
Repent (metanoeō) = to think differently; to reconsider—this is a radical change and turn around in your thinking.
I will come on thee as a thief – I Thess.5:2-4, “For 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…and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.”
3:4, “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.”
Defiled = soiled, black spots, blemishes; (Jude 1:23)
Worthy = deserving, suitable, due of reward, worthy of a reward
In Rev.19:11 we are told that white robes represent the righteousness of the saints – righteous deeds/works.
3:5, “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.”
Book of life – ancient cities kept a book of all its inhabitants. When they died their name was struck of. But also someone who acted in a dishonourable way was struck of even though still alive. Rev.20:12, “…and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out
of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”
Confess his name = acknowledge
3:6, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
No final promise of recovery is given. But a promise that a remnant will live and overcome is given.
LISTEN TO SERMONS ON THIS SERIES