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Sardis - The dead church

Revelation 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; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” 1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. ‘He that hath the Son hath life.’ This remembrance will help us to give the words in Revelation 3:1 their true meaning. Death is the condition of those who are separated from HIM, and not receiving from HIM the better life into their spirits by communion and faith. Into this condition the church in Sardis had fallen. People and clergy had lost their hold on HIM. Their hearts beat with no vigorous love to HIM, but only feebly throbbed with a pulsation from which even HIS hand laid on their bosoms could scarcely detect. Their thoughts had no clear apprehension of HIM or of HIS love. Their communion with HIM had ceased. Their lives had no radiant beauty of self-sacrifice for CHRIST'S sake. Their Christianity was dying out. Most dying churches ( and church members ) are dying for the very reason same reason... They are comfortable and don’t see a need for help. They blame their dormancy on a “world that doesn’t want the gospel anymore.” They excuse their non-focus and stagnancy by acclaiming their “position” and willingness to “hold on” -- to what they (believe) is value. The church at Sardis was described as being “dead”- Revelation (3:1). It appeared to be alive –It had “a reputation of being alive” – It looked spiritually vibrant on the (outside) – but (inside) was spiritually lifeless. {The church was ''Christian'' in name only}. This recalls CHRIST'S scathing rebuke of the Pharisees who - “look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27). “The appearance [of the Sardis church] is that of a beautifully adorned corpse in a funeral parlor..... and the LORD is not deceived” !! This church needed to stir up the living Spirit of GOD in order to come to life.
What was dead about the church and what needed reviving? First, there was no indication of persecution or trouble from outside forces. Neither was there any heresy within, in contrast to some of the other churches. Things seemed to be peaceful and religiously correct. Perhaps it was a church that was too good to be true. Its religiously proper appearance may have only meant that it had fully and silently compromised with the truth and the pagan society around it. G.B. Caird calls (Sardis) “the perfect model of inoffensive Christianity” (A Commentary on the Revelation of St. John the Divine, p. 48).
That might explain its calm and sedated outward appearance. George Eldon Ladd defined the Sardis church as “a picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power” (A Commentary on the Revelation of John, p. 56). Paul had described such Christians by saying they seemed quite religious but denied GOD'S power in their lives. This community of the living dead needed the power of GOD to bring them back to life.
CHRIST therefore gave Sardis a jolting command to “Wake up!” (3:2). The rousing call was meant to encourage the church to take action. The members were to strengthen what little remained, to obey, to repent (3:2-3). JESUS told the church at Sardis to wake up or HE would come like a thief does. “You will not know at what time I will come to you,” he said (2:3).
(Promise to Sardis (3:4-6)
While most in the church at Sardis were in a dead spiritual state, “a few people” were faithful to CHRIST, and had “not soiled their clothes(3:4). They were promised that they would be taken on a walk in CHRIST, and to be dressed in white (3:4-5).

White garments are mentioned on five other occasions in Revelation. The church at Laodicea needs them to hide their spiritual shame (3:18). The 24 elders wear white garments (4:4). The martyrs waiting for GOD'S judgment are given white robes to wear (6:11). The armies appearing with the MESSIAH also wear white and clean linen (19:14). The great multitude of the saved in Revelation 7 wear robes made white in the red blood of the Lamb (verse 14). The color paradox makes the point. It implies that the color white stands for GOD'S people made spiritually pure and justified by JESUS' blood.

That means the few in Sardis who were given white robes had been made right and just before GOD. We should not lose sight of the fact that the robes are given to the Sardians as a gift, reflecting the fact that we do not justify ourselves by good works; we are made spiritually right by the work of CHRIST.
In the ancient world, white clothing also stood for festivity. Ecclesiastes counseled people to “be clothed in white” – to enjoy their food and drink with a joyful heart (9:8). Those clothed in white will feast at the marriage supper of the Lamb in the kingdom of GOD (19:9). It will be their day of victory, a time to put on the best of clothing, clean and white.
The righteous saints in Sardis were also promised that their names would appear in the book of life (3:5). Only those names entered in the Lamb’s book of life will be allowed into the New Jerusalem (21:27). The idea of a divine ledger is an Old Testament figure of speech for the Lord’s salvation (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28). Daniel was told that at the end-time, “everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered” (12:1).
It was also a common New Testament way to speak of salvation, of having a part in the kingdom of GOD. JESUS used the term (Luke 10:20), and so did Paul (Philippians 4:3). Hebrews speaks of “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven” (12:23). The entering of a person’s name in a book of life is another metaphor for salvation and eternal life.
The metaphor would have been familiar to the non-Jews in the Sardis church as well. Ancient cities in the Greek world kept registers of the names of their citizens. Criminals were removed from the civil register and lost their citizenship. Sardis, as the western capital of the earlier Persian and Seleucid empires, would have kept the royal archives for to a wide area.
Finally, JESUS promised to acknowledge the name of the overcomer in Sardis before his FATHER (3:6). This recalls JESUS’ promise as the incarnate Son of GOD: “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32).

Revelation
Chapter 3

1And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

3Remember 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.

4Thou 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.

5He 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.

6He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

7And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

8I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

9Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

10Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

11Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.

12Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

13He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

14And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and thatthe shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

21To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

22He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


 

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