“Christ’s Message to Sardis”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Revelation 3.1-6
Revelation 3. There are many things in our world that do not appear to be what they really are; where their reputation doesn’t match their reality.
One of the more serious one is death.
I read of a few different incidences where someone had died and people acted as though they were alive. A man who killed his wife and put here on the couch for Christmas so the kids wouldn’t know anything. That’s very sad.
A couple of guys who found their friend dead and dragged him around from bar to bar and used his credit card.
They were dead, but appeared alive to people. That’s graphic and disgusting, I admit. But it’s also what really happened with the church here in Sardis in Revelation 3. They looked like they were alive, but in reality, they were dead.
Revelation 3:1–6 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. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 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. 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. 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Softly… Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead…
Just like with the other letters to the churches, Jesus begins with His self description that directly applies to the nature of the letter.
Jesus’ Self Description (3:1)
Revelation 3:1 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…
Has the Seven Spirits
The seven Spirits of God is a reference to the Holy Spirit…
You could flip back to Rev. 1
Revelation 1:4–5 4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from [now he mentioned each person of the Trinity…Grace and peace from the Father….first… from…] him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and [second] from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; [tha’ts the Holy Spirit] 5 And from Jesus Christ [the third person of the Trinity], who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. …
So you can see that in this context, it’s clear that the seven Spirits of God refers to the Holy Spirit. But why 7 Spirits?
For that, turn to Rev. 5:6…
Revelation 5:6 6 And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, 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.
Jesus has the seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God… they are sent forth into all the earth. The 7 Spirits are the 7 eyes.
Jesus has those 7 eyes, those 7 Spirits. And those eyes are sent forth into all the earth. He is the one who has sent the Holy Spirit.
John 15:26 26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
Jesus sent the Spirit, who proceeds from the Father. And the Spirit is sent forth into all the earth.
So what’s the point? Jesus is all seeing, all knowing. Nothing escapes His notice. He knows a dead church when He sees one!
TRANS: And Rev. 3:1…He has the 7 stars in His hand…
Has the Seven Stars
Revelation 3:1 1 …These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; …
The 7 stars, Rev. 1:20 says are those 7 messengers, the 7 pastors…He holds those ministers in His right hand…
Christ holds the pastor in His right hand… He has him…
To be in His right hand is both a great honor and one that can and should cause fear. It’s an honor because He directs His pastors …. Of course, any good that is done through a pastor is done by the hand of Christ. But it is a fearful thing also, not only for the pastor but also for those to whom he ministers.
His hand is strong and he can turn His messenger wherever he wishes. Into pleasant pastures or into deep valleys. But that control over the pastor also extends to the church.
He can do with us as He pleases.
SUMMARY: He sees all and is in control. Now, for a dead church… there is no hiding from Him. He sees all and controls it.
TRANS: Now, these letters usually follow a pattern that includes some sort of praise or commendation. Not this time. There is nothing to commend this church.
Condemnation: Church at Sardis Dead
The all seeing one says this…
Revelation 3:1 1 … I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Reputation: They appear to have spiritual life
They have a name that they are alive, but in reality, they are dead. Their reputation doesn’t match the reality. They seemed like a church with saved people in it, but in reality the vast majority of those in it are entirely lost! They’re dead in sin!
But Christ can see it! Though they appear alive to others… He knows, He sees all, so He can see through their …
He’s called believer’s bluff
He watches them pantomime their piety
And He has unmasked their devout disguise
They are dead, but they looked a live! What would make a church look alive, but actually they are filled with the walking dead?
Perhaps they were
Providing for homeless
Maybe they were wealthy and generous
They dressed well.
They were organized in their activities…
They perhaps had a lot of programs, church busy-ness
But it was all a farse, façade, a disguise.
Play acting their piety before God.
ILL: It’s like the Pharisees…
Matthew 23:25 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
Reality: They are spiritually dead
EXP: So, the reality is they are spiritually dead…It’s ntot that they are saved and just don’t have spiritual vigor. No, they go to church and are entirely outside of Christ.
ARG: As in Ephesians 2:1 1 And you were dead in trespasses and sins;
ILL: Many churches today are like this. From Catholic churches, to Christ-denying liberal Baptist churches, to episcopal churches who by their creed, accept idolatry and sexual deviance…
APP: And so do we really believe that there are churches …people go into them and they do things like we do on a Sunday morning, but the people are all lost? Lost and spiritually dead clergy… Jesus will say to them on that day, “I never knew you, depart from me you worker of iniquity.” That’s true of many, many churches.
APP: What about each of us? Personally, you’ve been to hundreds and maybe thousands of church services, lots of bible read and preached… but if you look at your life, are you dead? You look at your life and it looks like a lost person’s life. Dead!
Just because you may have some outward morality, you may know the right answers to Bible questions, you make a profession of religiosity by attending church and doing religious exercises, private prayer… you can conform outwardly through human education without having the inward education of the Holy Spirit.
ILL: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian anymore than going to a garage makes you pickup truck.
Just because you have gifts doesn’t mean you’re regenerated… maybe you can sing, preach, or teach…just because someone has the knowledge of sin or they feel guilty about sin, isn’t an evidence of true, spiritual regeneration either.
Having confidence that you and Jesus are fine or knowing the time when Jesus saved you, doesn’t make you alive in Christ either.
A spiritually alive person will … have a deep inner conviction of God’s excellence… they will be committed to His cause, and grateful to Him for His graces. “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods?” Or “There is nothing on earth that I desire beside Thee.” Not delighting in God for His gifts, but delighting in Him for who He is. A regenerated soul will understand that the finest hour is taken up with the delight of who God is in Himself; every other hour in comparison, is wasted.
Someone who is alive in Christ will have an abhorrence of sin and a turning even from self… “hating even his own life” as Jesus says. A deep commitment to the brethren, self denial, devotion to the glory and praise of God in the heart and life…and out of biblical principle and love toward God, a regenerated person will practice a separation from the world.
This is someone who is truly alive in Christ.
Deeds not completed in the sight of the Father
So clearly, end of verse 2, their deeds their works are not completed. They fell short of God’s calling upon their lives. Jesus’ investigation into their works showed decisively that they were as he has said: dead.
Daniel 5:27 27 …Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.
TRANS: Graciously the Lord calls upon them…in this condition, in their dead spiritual slumber he calls upon them to wake up!
This word “be watchful” in verse 2 refers to waking up. It is used to refer to being alive!
Consider this message then, a wake-up call! Be on the alert, be alive!
ILL: Sardis needed this call! Sardis, like the other cities in our study of the Christ’s letters to 7 churches, is a city in modern day Turkey.
The city was captured by the Cimmerians in the 7th century BC, by the Persians in the 6th, by the Athenians in the 5th, and by Antiochus III the Great at the end of the 3rd century BC.
Two of those captures were similar. First, the Persians in the 6th century. King Cyrus of Persia, who’s mentioned in the book of Ezra, offered a reward to the man who would first climb the wall of Sardis. One problem: the crossable place was near an extremely steep rock. One Persian soldier saw a solider from Sardis descend the wall and the rock to retrieve a fallen helmet. Through this, the Persian soldier learned how to climb and enter and he and other soldiers climbed the rock and entered and sacked the city.
The second capture: In the 3rd century BC, Antiochus the Great ruler of the Seleucid Empire took the city, in what seems to be the same exact spot. A group of soldiers used ladders at the unguarded point of the wall and entered the city and opened the gates for the rest of soldiers.
Sardis was attacked twice at an unguarded spot because they thought that the rock was impossible to cross. Right where they thought they were strongest… that was actually their weakness.
Wake up! Satan knows how to turn a live church into a dead one! He knows where the chink in our armor is and he knows how to attack the walls of our hearts!
“Awake thou that sleepest…”
How difficult it is to awaken the dead!
It seems today, as during the founding of our great nation, that there is a need for a Great Awakening!
Ephesians 5:14 14 … Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead
There’s a need for many sin-enslaved church goers to be so concerned for their spiritual state that they consider themselves, as Jonathan Edwards did, as a loathsome spider suspended by a slender thread over a pit of seething brimstone.
And would that the response to godly preaching would be the same as in Edwards’ day….
“crying and weeping became so loud that Edwards was forced to discontinue the sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God….” And would that they’d come to Christ as in that day…
Ephesians 5:14 14 … Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
TRANS: First, Christ exhorts the dead church to wake up! Second, he commands to strengthen the remaining things that are dying.
Strengthen remaining dying things
Revelation 3:2 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: …
A dead church has things in it that are ready to die. This could be biblical preaching, the public reading of the word, a few in it who are spiritually alive but feeble…
Wake up and fan the spark of the spiritual life of the church…
… maybe even some in the church are actually confronting the lost pastor and lost laymen and trying to make disciples in that very church!
TRANS: Strengthen the things which remain….
Remember what received and heard
Third, they were to remember what they received and heard…
Revelation 3:3 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard,
At this point, all of the epistles had been written. They knew the will of Christ. The apostle Paul’s ministry would’ve been well known to them.
Remember, bring to mind the things that Christ has done and taught. Remember the founding of the ministry. What did the ministry do that was so effective and that was in keeping with the word of God? What were the prayer meetings like? Were God’s people attending the prayer meeting? Were they beseeching the Lord and begging him for the work that only he can do?
TRANS: Awaken, strengthen, remember what you received and heard and now keep it.
Keep what received and heard
Revelation 3:3 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast
Hold fast! Don’t let it go. Obey those teachings and live as you’re supposed to; have the affections that Christ is calling upon you to have.
TRANS: And repent of not doing those things that you have received and heard.
Repent of not doing what received and heard
Revelation 3:3 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent….
Turn away from disobey and cling to Christ and to his ways.
TRANS: If not, Jesus will come…
Threat: Jesus will come upon them
Revelation 3:3 3 … repent… If therefore thou shalt not watch [if you will not awaken], I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Jesus here speaks of imminent judgment. He will come upon them as a thief: suddenly.
ARG: Jesus coming like a thief is often used in light of the second coming of Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:2–4 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.
2 Peter 3:10 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
Revelation 16:15 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
But Jesus promise to Sardis is a local judgment, upon them specifically.
“… 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.”
Unless they turn from their dead works and their wicked ways, Jesus will judge them. He would come upon them in judgment at any moment; lest they repent.
TRANS: But is every individual dead, is everyone lost in the Sardis church? … No, there is a remnant… a few true believers who are Christians.
Revelation 3:4 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.
There are just a few names who are the real disciples of Jesus; they are faithful, separated from the world and are characteristicly denying their flesh, and resisting the devil.
TRANS: Generally, the whole church is dead, but there are some who …
Not soiled garments
…have not soiled their garments. That is, they haven’t delved into living sinfully. As Christians, they haven’t soiled the white clothing of righteousness granted by faith.
Revelation 7:14 14 … These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
If you wash your robes in the Lamb’s red blood, your robes will be white as snow. All your sins will be forgiven and you’ll receive Christ’s very righteousness!
The true believers in Sardis were confessing sin, rejecting evil, praying, seeking the Lord.
Walk with Jesus in white due to worthiness
And so they have Christ’s very righteousness imputed to them, given to them, credited to them! Not because of worthiness in and of themselves, but that too is given…
2 Corinthians 5:21 21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
Because before coming to Christ…
Isaiah 64:6 6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousness [acts] are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
For in me, dwells no good thing!
Titus 3:4–5 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
And now, by faith, I have his righteous gloriously white robes…
His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!
Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.
Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.
In Christ I live, for in my place He died.
TRANS: And to the ones for whom this is true, Jesus gives promises…
Promise to Overcomer
Revelation 3:5 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.
Clothed in White
Imagine the Lord himself giving his white clothing…
Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
my beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
with joy shall I lift up my head.
And He dresses you as it were, preparing you for the great marriage supper of the Lamb…
Imagine in that day when we’re called upon to feast with Christ…and the announcement is given…
Revelation 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.
TRANS: Praise the Lord … and the second promise …
Name not erased from book of life
Revelation 3:5 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.
Don’t twist this verse…. Jesus is promising not to do this for the overcomer.
Promise to Overcomers=promise to Christians.
And remember that the overcomer is a Christian. At the end of every one of these 7 letters, Jesus gives promises to Christians. Just like Christians are not hurt by the second death as Jesus promises in his letter to Smyrna, so also a Christian’s name will not be blotted out of the book of life.
That’s a promise to every run of the mill believer! No second death, no getting your name blotted out of the book of life. Don’t twist the verse into something it’s not.
Will not NOT be blotted out.
And the promise is an emphatic negation… Literally, he will not NOT do this!
Far from a threat, this is an emphatic promise!
Don’t turn blessed promises into worrisome thoughts. Take the promise!
But for those who reject Christ, who spurn His favor, their names are thus blotted out of the book and they will be hurt by the second death.
Confessed name before Jesus’ Father and angels
Third and final promise: the believer will have his name confessed before the Father and the angels…
Revelation 3:5 5 … but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
That’s in keeping with Jesus’ words elsewhere when he said…
ARG: Matthew 10:32 32 Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Revelation 3.1-6
Now, did Sardis respond to this message? History leads us to believe so. A man named Melito became a church leader in Sardis during the second century. He was of great influence in the early church in different way.
Sardis responded and arose from the dead!
Now, will we respond?
ILL: On February 26, 1993, a powerful bomb exploded in the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand. It sparked an aggressive investigation with many arrests. But few law enforcement authorities recognized it as part of an international terrorist plot. When the Trade Center towers were destroyed by terrorists in 2001, police commissioner Raymond Kelly looked back on the first attack and said, “It should have been a wake-up call for America.”
Has Bethany Baptist Church already received her spiritual wake-up call? Is our 9/11 around the corner or will we truly live in His glorious presence? Are we going to rise up and follow? Will we lag behind in care, … be faithless in prayer with His people, forsake His assembly, and not care for each other spiritually? Will we tolerate the sins of the culture in our midst or strive for the purity of Christ’s church?
“Awake Sleeper and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!”
Hamilton Jr., James M.. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches . Crossway. Kindle Edition. ↑