Revelation 3:1-6

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

THE CHURCH AT SARDIS

INTRODUCTION:

In chapters 2-3 we see letters to the seven churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

Each church needed a particular message, but each church illustrates conditions common in local churches, not only at that time, but also in all ages of church history. Furthermore, each church was composed of individuals who needed the instruction and warning personally.

I. THE COMMISSION FROM CHRIST - 3:1a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:1 a - And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write. . . .

The angel is the messenger, the representative of God for the church, the one to whom the Lord would give a message and he would in turn proclaim it to the church. He is the pastor.

Most of the city of Sardis practiced pagan worship, and there were many mystery cults or secret religious societies.

The people of Sardis were idolaters - they worshipped the mother goddess, Cybele. In ancient Phrygian mythology Cybele was the goddess of nature. Her worship was of the most debasing character, and orgies were practiced at the festivals held in her honor. Sins of the foulest and darkest impurity were committed on those occasions.

Sardis was famous for its temple of Artemis. Artemis in Greek mythology was the goddess of the moon, wild animals, and hunting. She was Apollo's twin sister. She is identified with the Roman goddess Diana.

Sardis was a wealthy city where much of the wealth came from its textile manufacturing and dye industry and its jewelry trade.

The tense of write implies write at once and without delay.

II. THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST - 3:1b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:1 b - . . . These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars. . . .

He that hath the seven spirits of God is He that has God the Holy Spirit.

The seven Spirits of God which are before His throne were introduced in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:4 where the Holy Spirit was pictured as being before the God the Father's throne, ready to carry out His every command and wish.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:4 - John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.

We mentioned that the Holy Spirit is referred to in seven ways in Isaiah 11:2-3 as (1) the spirit of the Lord, (2) the spirit of wisdom, (3) the spirit of understanding, (4) the spirit of counsel, (5) the spirit of might, (6) the spirit of knowledge, and (7) the spirit of the fear of the Lord. Christ is said to have the seven Spirits of God, which suggests that He possesses the Holy Spirit.

These qualities insure the righteous judgment of the wicked.

He that hath the seven stars (in his right hand) refers to the description of Christ in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:16 - (16) And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

The seven stars are explained in Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:20 .

Revelation of Jesus Christ 1:20 - (20) The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels [i.e. the messengers, or the pastors] of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Inasmuch as He has the seven stars (in His right hand), they belong to Him and are under His control as well as under His protection. This insures that Christ has complete control of the leadership of this church.

It suggests that the leadership of the church will not give any account to human representatives of Christ; instead, they are accountable directly to Christ himself.

III. THE COMMENDATION FROM CHRIST - NONE

There is a change in Christ's method of address to the church at Sardis. Until this letter to the church at Sardis, Christ has begun His letters to the seven churches with words of commendation. Here, He begins with words of condemnation. In the previous churches, evil had not been the habit, but rather the exception. Therefore, it was possible to commend these other churches. Here the situation has changed, and there is no word of commendation addressed to the church in Sardis.

IV. THE CONDEMNATION BY CHRIST - 3:1c, 2b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:1 c, 2b - (1c) . . . I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (2b) . . . for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

I know [i.e. I see or I perceive] thy works [i.e. your deeds, your actions, or your accomplishments.]

That thou hast a name that thou livest [i.e. you have a name that you are living (or lively)], and art dead [but you are dead]. (v. 1c)

The church at Sardis evidently had a reputation among the churches in the area as being a real lively, spiritual church, one that had an effective ministry and testimony for Christ. It was viewed as really being alive.

From Christ's standpoint, however, the church at Sardis was considered as a church that had only a name or reputation of being alive but was actually dead as far as spiritual life and power were concerned.

I have not found thy works perfect before God (v. 2b).

It was a false, hollow profession on the verge of collapse

I have not found thy works perfect before God provides the reason the church at Sardis is to be watchful and to strengthen the things which remain.

I is the all-seeing, all-knowing Christ.

The tense of have not found emphasizes the result of its action.

What Christ has not found is thy works perfect before God.

Thy is your (singular) and refers to the church at Sardis as represented by its pastor.

Thy works is your works, your deeds, your actions, or your accomplishments.

Perfect means that something has been brought to completion or something already begun has been finished.

Before God is in the sight of God (the Father) or in the presence of God (the Father).

In God's sight, their works were lacking.

V. THE CORRECTION PRESCRIBED BY CHRIST - 3:2a, 3a

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:2 a, 3a - (2a) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. . . . (3a) Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. . . .

Be watchful

Be may be understood in the sense of continue being or be becoming, depending on how watchful they already were when this command was given.

Watchful literally means be awake or keep awake. Here it is understood in a figurative sense as be on the alert. It is comparable to our keep your eyes open.

Strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die

Strengthen is used here in a figurative sense, meaning confirm or establish.

What the church at Sardis is to strengthen, confirm, or establish is the things which remain or the remaining things.

That are ready to die is which are about to die.

Remember how thou hast received and heard (v. 3a)

Remember the truth that you received and heard.

Remember implies be remembering, keep remembering, be keeping in mind, or be thinking of.

What the church at Sardis is being called upon to remember is how thou hast received and heard.

How is in what way.

Thou hast received is you have received. Its tense indicates that something had been received in the past and that the result of this had continued.

And (how thou hast) heard. The tense of hast heard emphasizes the result of its action. It is not stated what they had received or what they had heard, but the context suggests that what they had received and heard may have been the gospel itself which Paul delineated in I Corinthians 15:3-4 .

I Corinthians 15:3-4 - 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

Constantly reminding themselves of their past spiritual experiences would be an encouragement to them in living their lives for the Lord in the present.

Hold fast - (v. 3a).

The tense of hold fast, like the tense of remember, implies continuous, ongoing action. It is something they were to be doing. Hold fast is, therefore, understood in the sense of be holding fast, be keeping, be observing, be fulfilling, or be paying attention to.

What they were to keep holding fast to were the things which remain but were ready to die from verse 2.

Repent - (v. 3a).

Repent or change your mind. This time a different tense is used, which implies that its action is to be undertaken as a whole at once and without delay. This change of mind was to be so thorough that it would result in a change of action.

VI. THE CONSEQUENCE PROMISED BY CHRIST - 3:3b

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:3 b - (3b) . . . 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.

Therefore is consequently, accordingly, so, or then.

If . . . thou shalt not watch is a condition about which nothing is assumed. It is understood in the sense of if you will not be on the alert or if you will not be watchful. It is comparable to if you will not keep your eyes open. If they did not obey Christ's command, judgment was inevitable.

I will come on thee as a thief is the first consequence. It means I will come upon you unexpectedly.

And introduces a second consequence of their failing to be watchful: thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

Thou shalt not know indicates an emphatic denial, which implies that you will absolutely, under no circumstances, ever know this.

What the church at Sardis as represented by its pastor will absolutely never know is what hour I will come upon thee until it's too late. Their judgment will be so swift that they will not even know what happened.

VII. THE CHALLENGE TO THE OVERCOMER - 3:4-5

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:4-5 - (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. (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.

Thou hast is you have and is used in reference to the church in Sardis as represented by its pastor.

What you have is a few names, where names represent persons. The use of few with names suggests that it was nowhere close to a majority of the people.

These names are described by which have not defiled their garments.

Which refers to the names or the persons and is understood in the sense of who.

Have not defiled is have not stained, have not made impure, or have not soiled; and it has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

What they have not defiled, stained, made impure, or soiled is their garments, i.e. their clothing. It implies that they have not defiled themselves by the way they have lived and that they are still not defiled.

The fact that a few had not defiled themselves by the way they had lived implies that the many (or the majority) within this church had defiled themselves by the way they had lived. It was not a good situation.

And introduces an additional idea about these few persons who have not defiled themselves by the way they have lived: they shall walk with me in white.

They shall walk is literally they will walk around. When used in a figurative sense as it is here, it means they will live or they will conduct their lives. It is predictive of a future event which will definitely happen. As such, it amounts to a promise of something which will happen for these persons who have not defiled their garments.

With me is with Christ.

In white describes the clothing with which they will walk with Christ. They shall walk with me in white means that in heaven they will be given white robes to wear.

The reason they will walk with Christ in white is stated for they are worthy.

For is the word ordinarily translated because, and it is understood in this sense here as well.

They are worthy implies that these few names (or these few persons) deserve this because of the way they have lived and because they have not defiled themselves with sinful practices. This is not a condition of their salvation but an evidence of it.

Apparently, only these few names represented saved people; and the rest of the people were evidently unsaved.

Revelation of Jesus Christ 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.

He that overcometh is a saved person.

I John 5:4-5 - (4) For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (5) Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?

He shall be clothed in white raiment (v. 4-5)

Shall be clothed in white raiment is predictive of a future event which is definitely going to happen. As such it amounts to a commitment or promise made by Christ which will one day be fulfilled. It is an indication that not only will the ones who have not defiled their garments walk with Christ in white, but that all saved persons will also walk with Christ in white garments. White garments are symbolical of the righteousness of the saints. They are the same group of people. Accordingly, Revelation of Jesus Christ 7:13-14 says,

Revelation of Jesus Christ 7:13-14 - (13) And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? (14) And I said unto Him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said unto me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Also, Revelation of Jesus Christ 19:7-8 says,

Revelation of Jesus Christ 19:7-8 - (7) Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. (8) 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.

I will not blot his name out of the book of life (v. 5)

And introduces this next statement by Christ about the one who overcomes.

I is Christ.

Will not blot out is an emphatic denial of something that Christ will never, under any circumstances, do. It is a clear statement that there will never be a loss of salvation for someone who has been genuinely saved. To blot out his name out of the book of life implies that his name would be removed from the book of life, the book which lists the names of those who have been genuinely saved. The book of life is mentioned again in Revelation of Jesus Christ 20:15 where John wrote, And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Rather than concluding that the names of people who are saved are written into the book of life at the time of salvation, Exodus 32:32-33 suggests that it is better to conclude that everyone's name was written in the book of life in eternity past and that the names of those who do not receive Christ as Savior are ultimately blotted out.

Exodus 32:32-33 - (32) Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-, and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. (33) And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.

I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels (v. 5)

I will confess is predictive of a future event which will definitely occur.

I is Christ.

I will confess is I will acknowledge.

What Christ will confess or acknowledge is his name, which is representative of each overcomer. By confessing the name of each overcomer, Christ will acknowledge each overcomer as His own, as belonging to Himself. It amounts to saying, I will acknowledge him.

Before my Father, and before his angels indicates where Christ will confess each overcomer. He will acknowledge each overcomer as His own in the presence of (or in the sight of) God the Father and also in the presence of (or in the sight of) God the Father's angels. Christ will not be ashamed of any of them.

VIII. THE CALL TO HEAR - 3:6

Revelation of Jesus Christ 3:6 - (6) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

In he that hath an ear, let him hear, the use of he indicates that the seven messages to the seven churches are all to be applied to individuals.

Each person has at least one ear.

Therefore, each person is commanded to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying unto each of the seven churches.