"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You* have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
The Church of Sardis was the "antiphasis" of the meaning of the name of the City where this church resided.. Sardis meant : Prince of Joy.
"Sardis" was the capital of the kingdom of Lydia during the life of the Apostle John. It stood on the northern slope of Mt. Tmolus; its acropolis occupied one of the spurs of the mountain. At the base flowed the river Pactolus which served as a moat, rendering the city practically impregnable. In ancient times Sardis was well fortified and easily defended. It became the capital of the ancient Lydian empire, then passed successively to the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans during their respective dominance of the ancient world.
During its days as a Roman city, Sardis became an important Christian center. However, the church at Sardis was evidently affected by the complacency of the city and its reliance on past glory: For this reason this church recieved this rebuke from Christ: "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Revelation 3:1). Sardis, the dead church, had the personality of the Pharisees in Jesus days here on earth. On one occasion, Jesus said the Pharisees' were like "whitewashed tombs" which...appear beautiful outwardly, but on the inside were "full of dead men's bones" (Matthew 23:27). Its thriving, healthy appearance throughout the metropolis actually masked an inner spiritual decay.
How Jesus Addressed this Church:
"he that hath the seven Spirits of God -- that is, He who hath all the fulness of the Spirit" (Revelation. 1:4 ; 4:5;. 5:6,) with which compare (Zechariah 3:9; 4:10), proving His Godhead). This attribute implies His infinite power by the Spirit to convict of sin and of a hollow profession.
In Zechariah 4:10, the prophet Zechariah presents to us "the "eyes" of God. He said: "The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him." This not only reveals this assurance that God's watchful providence is over the whole earth, but God is always look for those who hearts are "perfect" toward HIM! This means our relationship with God must be more than just a "verbal profession", because just like the Church of Laodecea, there is a "big difference" between how God sees a church and how we profess to be as his church.
His having "the seven stars", or presiding ministers, flows, as a consequence, from His having the seven Spirits, or the fulness of the Holy Spirit. The human ministry is the fruit of Christ's sending down the gifts of the Spirit. Stars imply "brilliancy and glory"; the fulness of the Spirit, and the fulness of brilliant light in Him, form a designed contrast to the formality which He reproves.
The Church Exposed:
The Church of Sardis was a "formalistic" church. She had a "name," that is, a "reputation". Sardis was famed among the churches for "spiritual vitality"; yet God, our divine "Heart-searcher", who "seeth not as man seeth", pronounces her "spiritually" dead. The church had become accustomed to a formal or rituialistic form of worship. The worship services were full of form and fashion. The church was best described as "having a form of worship, but denying the power of God" in their worship services. This church became ripe for reformation.
Sardis represented the time in history when the church was going through a barrage of false teachings, tyranny and other claims of the Papal church. The church' time period historically extended from 1520 AD. to about 1750 AD. covering a time period of 230 years.
It was during the latter 15th century that the Papal church faced the oppositions of a series of "Reformers" who finally openly protested against the papalcy concerning the many false teachings (the teaching of indulgences for one) that literally was choking the enthusiam out of the church. One of the most prominent reformers of that time perios was Martin Luther who wrote his 95 thesis and literally nailing them on the door of the Catholic church, in Whittenberg, Germany fiercly criticizng the Papacy and its doctrinal teachings. The reformers like Luther sought to move the church toward religious reform ,however in became more of a struggle for political liberty.
Christ's Instructions to the Church:
1. "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.*
By the labors of the apostles, and by the Holy Spirit; or to the ardor and love with which they embraced it; or to the greatness of the favors and privileges conferred on them; or to their own understanding of what the gospel required, when they were converted. There was something marked and unusual in the way in which they had been led to embrace the gospel, and that it was highly proper in these circumstances to look back to the days when they gave themselves to Christ.
Note: It is wise for Christians to look back in history and remember the "day of their conversion" as well as their views and feelings when they gave their hearts to the Lord, and compare those views with their present condition, especially if their conversion was marked by anything unusual.
2, And hold fast
(1) Hold fast the truths which thou didst then receive;
(2) hold fast what remains of true religion among you.
3 And repent That is, Repent in regard to all that in which you have departed from your views and feelings when you embraced the gospel.
What Sardis is to "remember" is, not how joyfully she had received originally the Gospel message, but how the precious deposit was committed to her originally, so that she could not say, she had not "received and heard" it.
Christ's Final Words to this Church
A. Watch because....
[If therefore thou shalt not watch] It was always a possibility that they would not regard or take the warning seriously; It was also possible that that they would presume that they would be safe if they refused to give heed to it, or, that by mere inattention and indifference they might suffer the warning to pass by unheeded. Similar results have been so common in the world as to make such a supposition not improbable, and to make proper, in other cases as well as that, the solemn threatening that he would come suddenly upon them.
B. "I will come on thee as a thief", that is in a sudden and unexpected manner. And ye shall not know what hour I will come upon thee You shall not know beforehand; you shall have no warning of my immediate approach. This is often the way in which God comes to people in his heavy judgments. Long beforehand, he admonishes and warns us us, indeed, of what must be the consequences of a course of sin, and warns us to turn from it; (2 Chronicles 7:14), but when sinners defiantly refuse to take heed to and obeys HIS stern warning, choosing still to walk in the way of evil, God will come suddenly, and cut them down swiftly!
Note: Every man who is warned of the "active" evil of his course in life, and who refuses to or neglects to repent, has every reason to believe (whether they coose to believe it or not) that God will come suddenly in his wrath, and call them out and makes them give an account of all of their wrongdoing, Prov 29:1.
Christ" Message" to the "Undefiled Church Members
"You* have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'
These persons names are written in the book of life and they are known by the Lord as His own. They had the privlege of being called living saints . The Lord does not overlook "real saints" that live and worship in the midst of unreal professing saints. They had not defiled their garments -- that is,, "the garments of their Christian profession," sealed in water baptism whereas the candidates for baptism used in the ancient Church are to be arrayed in white. This means they will be a part of the spotlessness of the Church when she shall be presented to Christ; Sardis is not to take her Christian profession lightly and defile herself in the flesh or spirit, but to "keep her garments." because "no defilement shall enter the heavenly city.
Note: It's not that any keep themselves here wholly free from defilement; but, as compared with hollow professors, the godly keep themselves unspotted from the world; and when they do contract it, they wash it away, so as to have their "robes white in the blood of the Lamb" they shall walk with me in white -- The promised reward accords with the character of those to be rewarded: keeping their garments undefiled and white through the blood of the Lamb now, they shall walk with Him in while hereafter.
"Walk" implies spiritual life, for only the living walk; also liberty, for it is only the free who walk at large. "The grace and dignity of flowing long garments is seen to best advantage when the person "walks": so the graces of the saint's manifested character shall appear fully when he shall serve the Lord perfectly hereafter" (Revelation. 22:3).
No man or woman can presume (play dumb); who has been warned of his guilt and danger can feel that he is for one moment safe. Contrary to whatever Satan will tell any sinner who practices witchcraft, orcery, divination or any sin of the like through the act of disobedience, forbidden by God and written as a warning in Scripture, God will swiftly bring all of your works into account.
No one can have any basis of calculation that he will be spared; no one can flatter himself with any probable anticipation that he will have time to repent when God comes to take him away. Benevolence has done its appropriate work in warning him-how can the Great Judge of all be to blame, if he comes then, and suddenly cuts the sinner off?