The Church Of Sardis
Chapter Three Of The Book Of Revelation
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."
Introduction: Sardis 1517-1900 or 1901 A.D. The period known as the Reformation w/ Martin Luther--the just shall live by faith, not works! All the way up to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in 1901 in Kansas.
Sardis means escaped few or remnant, so those who came out of the Catholic system were many. There was a vast Exodus. However, the reasons that they came out were varied. Some just followed along w/ the Reformation because they saw that it was a means to get out from under this iron hand of Catholicism. They didn't have a heart to follow God all the way. They were reveling and rejoicing in the fact that they were going to get some political freedom and there was going to be a loosening of this bondage on the countries.
Thus out of the great many who fled into the ranks of the Reformation, only a few really escaped because only some had actually come out w/ the motive to be free to worship Jesus and to know him an to believe His Word. There were many others who flowed along w/ the tide but their heart wasn't that way at all. So Jesus said, you are an escaped few. There are those among you who have really escaped.
The revelation of Jesus to this Sardis Church age
In revelation 3:1, Jesus shows himself as he that hath the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. Now we notice that this message as well as all the others is written to the angel, to the messenger, to the men of God in that church age. And so it was written to that pastor of the local church in the town Sardis and was written to the ministers of the Reformation. Even if they didn't realize that this message was just for them; they had an open heart and spiritual perception. They could gain the lessons that were written here and Jesus says--I hold the 7 stars in my hand and I have the 7 golden lampstands. I have the 7 spirits of God. He's showing that there is a perfection; that there is a completion that he desires to have in his church. That there is a perfection that he wants them to move into and he's addressing the ministers and so what he's saying is, you have not yet, as my ministers, moved into this place of spiritual completion. I have more for you--this work you have begun is not finished. So don't camp w/ these Revelations of Luther but go on: I have more trues, etc...
He that hath the 7 spirits, Jesus said. So we find that in Jesus is the fulness of the spirit of God-- 7 = perfection or completion. (Col. 2:8,9): in him dwells all the fulness or essence of the Godhead bodily. In him dwells continually all the fulness of God and Paul wrote that at a time when Jesus wasn't any longer bodily on this earth and yet he said in him continues to dwell the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
We find the 7 spirits of God in chapter 1:4 before the throne of God and Jesus here is identified as the possessor of this fulness of the spirit of God. Again it shows who he is. Jesus, our God, is fully complete within himself.
He has the 7 stars, showing that Christ alone has the ability to make his ministers complete and perfect and he alone has the ability to cause them to shine as stars as he wants them to do.
It shows that Christ alone can perfect his ministers so they can guide his people fully into the haven of rest. They cast off from the dark shore of tradition, of Catholicism and now they were somewhere; they were at different places along that journey, but they hadn't arrived. And he's saying I have the 7 stars; I'm the one who's going to guide you as the stars guide the ship into the haven.
Why this Revelation of Christ to Sardis? The reason Jesus shows himself in this particular way is because the Reformation didn't fill up the fulness of God and what God had for his people. They did not show forth Jesus in the clear unpolluted way that he wanted to be manifested and so he's calling them higher. Because they went so far and they started off well; they started in the Spirit but now they were being made perfect trying to be made perfect in the flesh and they were beginning to quit and beginning to camp around the positions that they had and beginning to denominationalize and say we have enough truth, we don't want any more, thank you.
They had received so much truth and then they quit; they had resisted compromise so much and then they quit--they allowed some compromise to remain. They thought that their coming out was equivalent to arriving, and Jesus is telling them they haven't arrived. Because they needed God's direction; he's telling them look to the 7 stars in my hand. Look to those ministers who truly have my heart and look to those ones who are truly desiring to go all the way w/ Jesus no matter what it will cost and follow them--follow their faith.
Historical background for Sardis--see end of study.
The condition of the church-- 3:1b says, I know thy works that thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead.
Thou hast a name, that is, you have a reputation. You have a name that stands for something--you have a reputation for going back to the Bible because you are the Reformation church and that is your cry--Lets go back to the Bible and that's the reputation that they had, desiring to follow God and His Word fully and therefore, you have a name that you live because you are claiming to do. But he says you are dead--actually inside you are dead. You are dead--that is, the church age of Sardis started w/ great revival, but it quickly subsided into a great loss of revival in as much as they were still steeped in much tradition that they had not yet come out of--they were becoming content to stay in "the Reformation church."
He says you are still without the life of God. You are not walking in that life that I have for you. Your doctrine is much better but your spirits are dead--your still steeped in formalities of religion. That's what he is telling them; your religion, your relationship w/ me is cold and stiff and it's still heavily traditionalized, and I want to set you free, instead you are dead. You don't have that life that I want you to have.
In this church age, there were many people who fell into carnal excesses because as they got the truth of salvation by faith, it didn't take along w/ it the truth of separation from the world. And others began to see this truth and they found that they became followers of holiness realizing that, yes we're saved by faith, but we need to follow Jesus and live as he lived on this earth. We need to have a holy separate life.
Also we find that there were ministers who were grossly ignorant and knew nothing of God's Word. Martin Luther went around to visit some of his churches and he found that some of the ministers didn't know the most basic points of Christianity and there was much loose living, even among ministers in this age. So Jesus tells them you're dead. Lesson: you can have a name (so called) but be dead.
What must be done?
Revelation 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--literally become awake. Wake up! Come out of your sleep of contentment. Wake up and move on w/ God (Luke 21:36). And he says strengthen the things which remain. That is, fix them firmly, establish them fast and permanently, so that they won't be taken from you.
Now these things which remain, he said, are ready to die.
So the truth revealed by the reformation needed to be strengthened. The precious truths which they had bought at such a high cost had to be fortified-- the fact that their faith was in a person alone, Jesus, and that they needed to love him and make a full surrender and follow him completely. They had to strengthen that truth or else compromise and spiritual lack and formalism would stamp out that precious truth. And they would find themselves just another dead religion. Hos.6:3 says to follow on to know God.
Also, much of the preaching, in the early reformation church and continuing up through the 17 and 1800's was not out of the Bible at all, but it was from the church fathers, just as the Catholic priest did. They never preached out of the Bible. They preached from those later men that they called the church fathers.
Jesus says in vs. 2, I have not found your works perfect before God.
You have not yet completely thrown away all dead tradition and therefore, your works are not completed. They're not perfected. There's more for you to attain to. Therefore, what does he tell them to do?
Revelation 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 therefore--first you have to start by remembering. Remember how thou hast received and heard and hold fast and repent. He tells them to remember and hod fast or to keep and remember and repent-- repent immediately. Repent now! It's a command in the Greek. That is, immediately change your mind for that is what repent means in the Greek, MATA NOYA--to change the mind-- change your mind. Stop believing that I am satisfied. I love you but I have more for you and it will grieve my heart if you don't rise up in faith and move on to apprehend all that I have for you. Repent, change your mind and decide to go further, rather than compromising and sliding back--they had cooled off.
If therefore thou shalt not watch--if therefore you will not wake up, I will come on thee as a thief.
Coming as a thief means coming in suddenness and in secrecy. Jesus is not saying I will come on you as a dishonest person. He's not comparing that aspect of a thief to himself; but, is comparing the aspect of suddenness and swiftness and secrecy and stealth. I will come upon you as a thief, as one who steals.
Therefore, Jesus says that he will rob his own people of light. He will allow them to be robbed of light if they will not walk in it and will not carry it out. Luke 8:18, for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.
2 Thess.2:10-12-- those who are not willing to walk w/ God and those who find pleasure in unrighteousness; God says he shall send them strong delusion. If they don't have a heart to follow him, He will allow them to be deceived (Revelation 16:15).
Revelation 3:3, and ye shall not know what hour I shall come upon you.
Now what hour is it literally?--what sort of hour? You will not know what kind of hour. In other words, if you don't repent, I'll come to you in a position in your life which is without a warning. I'll take you by surprise in your backslidden place.
Jesus isn't saying that I'm going to come and return during this Sardis age. But, his coming to them as individuals happened at the point when they went to meet him, when they died. He says if you don't wake up, you are going to go on in a carnal self-satisfied way, and I'm going to come upon you as a thief because all along you are going to be thinking you are heading for your heavenly reward because you are a church member-- but I'll come upon you as a thief to take away even that which you think that you possess.
Also this coming as a thief applies to the fact that those reformation churches would continue on. They would continue up and there would be some over lap because the Lutheran, Methodist church and others still exist today, and they're going to exist at the time when Jesus comes to take his people (bride) home. However, his coming will be to them as a thief and they're going to be caught off guard and left behind.
Hold fast to what you've received.
He's judging them according to the light that they have and if they'll walk fully in what they have. Example to Thyatira he says, I will put upon you no greater burden. He's not requiring his people to walk in light that is not available to them in that time period. But, he wants them to have a heart to follow God's Word fully.
Revelation 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."
Reward to the overcomer in Sardis is as stated above.
It should read: nevertheless thou, or but thou-- but thou hast a few names in Sardis. It does not carry the connotation or mean reputation or fame as we saw earlier, but rather that their were a few actual persons among them here. There were a few gold nuggets among the sand who had not defiled there garments. Jesus says there are a few names here and the reason he says that is because he's showing that they have an identity in his sight. I know their names; they are individuals before me and they're precious to me. I know their names (2 Timothy 2:19). And those few names have not defiled their garments. They have not polluted their garments--they are not smeared w/ dirt and mud. The Holy Spirit is pure living water and when it's mixed w/ dirt (false teachings of the false prophet in Rev. 13:11-18) it becomes mud--polluted; you can't see as clearly. But, when you look into pure water ( the teachings of the Holy Spirit--pure teachings) you can see clearly your face, your reflection--this is what Jesus wants. He wants to look at us and see him formed in us, not mud, etc.. that comes from the false teaching of the world system. So they have not polluted their garments in carnality or compromise and most of all, they had a heart to guard against that tendency to be satisfied and to trust in themselves.
Jesus says they shall walk w/ me in white. They shall have fellowship w/ me in heaven. They are going to be where I am. They're going to be by my side where I go; they are going to go w/ me. For, he says, they are worthy. He regarded them as worthy. That's a tremendous thing for God to say to a redeemed sinner. They are worthy because they allowed themselves to be clothed w/ the righteousness of Christ and because they had a heart to follow on and to love him. They are worthy because they realize that they are unworthy and that's the truth that the others lost. The others began to feel worthy within themselves--look at our great reformation, holding up the banner of their church and not realizing that it was Jesus alone who made them worthy. But then there were others who had a heart to realize--I'm unworthy, I need to follow God wholly and never trust in myself. They kept steadfastly walking in the attitude of repentance and humility.
Revelation 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" The Greek text adds a word here, "he that overcometh thus" or "he that overcometh in this manner." In other words, he that overcometh in the manner that I have described before in this context will walk w/ me in white. And what this applies to is the attitude of repenting and holding fast--see v.3. So he's telling them if you overcome by repenting, if you overcome and conquer by making yourself low and by putting all your trust in me and continually walking in that way and by holding fast the truth that you have and not compromising, then you'll walk w/ me in white.
"The same shall be clothed in white raiment." "Clothed"--this verb is in what we call the middle voice in Greek meaning that the clothing is being done either for the interest of the one who is clothing them or for their interest. And here we find it's both. He's going to cloth them in white raiment for his interest that he might have that pure holy people to fellowship w/ for all eternity, and it's for their interest that they might overcome and be in that position w/ him.
"Clothed" here is a very descriptive word meaning fling a garment around-- to cast a garment around you. Jesus is the one who gives them this white raiment and they have to constantly realize in their hearts that it's not by their own works, but that yielding to him, he'll make them righteous. He'll fling this thing around them and make them worthy to be in his presence, Rev.19:8;Gal.3:27.
"And I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life." The overcomer's name will not be blotted out of the Book of Life. The implication is, because it's negative, that many or most will be blotted out of the Book of Life.
But if you overcome, he says, your name won't be blotted out of the Book of Life. Therefore, it's a challenge to God's people. Sardis, as we saw, meant escaped few. And we saw that not everyone who escaped into the Reformation age and escaped the darkness of the traditions really escaped, because their motives were not to follow Jesus but rather to get free of the system. But there were overcomers among them.
"But I will confess his name before my Father." "But" is literally "And"--in other words, not only will I not blot it out but I'll confess it positively before my Father. I will confess it openly in the sight of His throne.
This throne of God that we're going to be, as it were, announced as to our presence before it is shown in Rev.4 & 5. It is described in detail there. The highest throne in the court in the entire universe is the court at which we're going to be acquitted, and we'll be presented before our bridegroom in that glorious place.
The meaning of these rewards: 1.) Clothed in white raiment, speaking of the righteousness in Christ. 2.) Their name not being blotted out of the Lamb's Book of Life:
a.) Shows that there was, as it were, a register of the saved. There's a catalog of God's heroes just like there was a catalog of David's mighty men and they all had their name mentioned back in the O.T. 2 Samuel 23.
b.) This Book here can refer to those in the family of God. It also can refer to the fact that there was a custom in the city to have their names mentioned also in the Book of Life. This Book of Life is mentioned in many places, here are a few references: Exodus 32:32,33 (looked forward to Jesus Christ who actually paid this price.) Psalms 69:28;Daniel 12:1;Luke 10:20;Rev.13:8; 20:15;21:27.
Revelation 3:6 "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
It literally reads: "What the Spirit is saying to the churches (continuous action in the Greek). In other words, he that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit of God has continually been saying to his people all down through this age and therefore realize God's speaking to you. "I am still talking, keep listening. Don't stop where you are, or you're going to miss the needed direction that you need to get where I want you to be. Realize that I'm continually speaking to you and you haven't arrived yet.
Jesus would say the same thing to his church today and the same thing to these churches that came out of this Reformation age. He would say, I'm still talking to you, you're called Protestant, why are you compromising? Don't you know what Protestant means? That means that you came out to be separate unto me and to my Word. Keep in that position--come further, walk deeper w/ your God. And we find that Jesus is saying things to his churches showing that all through the church age, he's calling out an heir. He's calling out that bride from among the Gentles who will be next to him. He is continually calling--the Spirit and the bride say, "COME" it says later in the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:17).
Spiritual lessons from Sardis
1.) In verse 1, we see the ministers of God in Jesus' right hand will shine as stars. But there's also a caution implied that some will lose their position in Jesus and go out, as it were, like a shooting star, but Jesus will still have his 7 stars. He'll still have his completed ministers, but they won't be among them unless they follow him fully. Why would they go out of his hand? Not because they were imperfect or they lacked a fullness, but because they lost the heart to follow on and to move into the fullness that Jesus had for them. He's looking at the heart and at the attitude toward his Word. That's what's important.
They lacked a heart to know all of God's truth. Some became content to know some of the truth and keep it mixed w/ tradition. And there were others who came out further and were interested in holiness and had discovered other truths in God's Word. There were those come-outers always among them. So we must go on and receive all that God has for us, Hosea 6:3 (read). We have to follow on to know Him. He wants us to know Him deeper and deeper, always moving on with him.
2.) Lesson #2, 3:1 "Thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead." We find we have to examine our hearts because it's possible to look good on the outward and to be doing the outward things right and yet have Jesus look inside and not find the life there that he wants to find. And it's possible to believe that you're repenting of your sins and yet the fruits of your life show that you really haven't repented. You've been worried, but you haven't changed your mind as the Greek means in "repentance". You haven't turned around. He wants us to bring forth fruits befitting this repentance as it says in Luke 3:8. He wants us to be having a heart to live in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
3.) Lesson #3: Verse 2 tells them to strengthen those things that are ready to die. There are truths that are ready to die and we have to grab ourselves up quickly if we find that we're beginning to die. If we find that there's not that vibrancy and that love for Jesus that was there, there's not that sharpness in our spirit--we need to begin to strengthen those things quickly and not allow ourselves to continue on under our own strength. Strengthen the essential vital heart relationship you have w/ Jesus and go back to those simple truths that you're washed in the blood, and that he desires you to exist for his pleasure and he wants you to please his heart and to be his holy bride. Go back to those precious truths and take stock in them and don't assume that because you know them intellectually that you're walking in them.
And also in this verse he says, I've not found you perfect. You're not perfect, complete, and so this shows us that God is desiring His people to be moving toward that goal of perfection until we all come to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. And it's by the power of God that we could ever get there.
Phil. 3:10-14 shows that Paul had this same heart. He pressed on toward this mark of the upward calling of God in Jesus Christ and he went on to say that if anyone doesn't have this same heart and this same attitude, God will reveal it to you if you're willing. If your heart is at least open, He'll show you whether or not you are truly seeking to know him from the heart. And he'll convict you in the areas that you need to be convicted in, and we can trust in God that as we keep our hearts open, he'll show us the things that we need to know and to straighten us out. We're seeing here that it says you're not perfect yet. It shows that we have to continually purge out the old leaven of sin and of traditions that are holding us back from our full relationship w/ God.
4.) Lesson #4: in verse 3, he says, "repent" this means repent at once, not from the fact that you're imperfect because you can't repent of this fact. You just have to acknowledge where you are. But he's saying repent of your lack of heart to move on to become more like me. Repent of being content where you are. Repent of not desiring further truth and Revelation of God. 2 Thess. 2:9-11 tells us that if we don't walk in the light and love what we have received, we will lose what we once had. But if we love the truth, then we're safe from deception.
5.) Lesson #5: verse 4 says, there are a few names in Sardis among this Reformation church who are worthy and will walk w/ me in white and they're names I know. The fact that he mentioned these names shows that these individuals are known by God. They have a special precious individual identity. They're all his and they're peculiar treasures, each one is unique and he acknowledges them. And this shows that those who have that repentant and humble attitude before God will be rewarded richly, and they'll be acknowledged in a personal way by Jesus their lover.
6.) Lesson #6: verse 5 says that Jesus will confess their name openly. That is, you'll be fully known before all the company of heaven and before me and before my throne as to what your position is. And I will acknowledge the fact that you loved me and you followed me wholly. We find now that there is a great cloud of witnesses (Heb.12:1) as it were, standing on to watch us run the race, and the same thing when we've won that race and we're in that heavenly place. We'll be acknowledged before a great assembly of witnesses. He says their name will be confessed in heaven and their name is the essence of what they are in God. Your name represents what you are. So God is going to show what we have become by yielding to Him.
Sardis ("Remnant" or "Escaped few")
Situated in fertile, well-watered plain. Capital of ancient Lydia (from Lud, son of Shem). Ruled by wealthy Croesus before conquest by Cyrus the Persian. The art of wool-dying said to have been invented there. Sands of brook that ran through market contained gold particles. Jewelry factories, textile industries, orchards, slave market. Temple of Goddess Cybele, 163 x 327 ft. Alexander built temple to Zeus. Earthquakes and invasions have reduced it to ruins.