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Part 8 - SARDIS


Rev 3:1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Rev 3:2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.
Rev 3:3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
Rev 3:6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Sardis was a city 30 miles from Thyatira situated on the mountain cliff of Timolus. It was built in BC 500 and was probably one of the first affluent cities of the world. It was impregnable because of its position, self sufficient with respect to food and water and other resources. It was approachable only from one side by a single road. Like Jerusalem, Sardis could have boasted that with only the lame and the infirm could defend the city.

2 Sam 5:6 The Jebusites said to David, "You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off." They thought, "David cannot get in here."
(2 Sam 5:7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion, the City of David)

Nevertheless the city was taken twice once in BC 449 and then in BC 218. In both cases the procedure was the same. In both cases the helmet of one of the soldiers fell down the cliff side. As he took his path down to extricate it, the enemies watched. In the night they traced the footholds in single file and entered the city. The sentries were surprised by the attack and the city fell without a fight. They were confident and therefore careless.

Rev 3:2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,

It was rich. Therefore an affluent society living in absolute luxury lived there. Being business people, it was here the first minted coins were used in trade. The mountain area was an earthquake zone. When it was destroyed by an earthquake it was rebuilt within eighteen months in more (then) modern design and architecture, much more sophisticated and planned without any external aid. Such was the wealth of the people.

In this city was a church following the labors of John. They had beautiful cathedrals and rich treasures. The churches were always full and they were always doing things for God. They had wonderful expensive projects which probably included uplifting of the poor and the needy - orphanages and rehabilitation centers and what not.

I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.

They had a form of godliness, not the power. They worshipped God, but the spirit was missing.

Mat 15:8 "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Mat 15:9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"

They professed to be Christians but lacked Christ. The nature of the society invariably was reflected in the church. Where there is no want, you may fail to rely on God in your daily life. This is why the Israel was given one days bread a day and not more. An affluent church is seldom called in for affirmation. They had it easy and they were careless. Therefore the fall was inevitable.

Dispensationally this reefers to the Reformation Churches. As soon as the great waves of reformation were over, the church found itself in cozy situation and the spirit was lost. They did a lot of reorganization, rectification and renaming but went no further.

for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.

Like the city of Sardis, the church became careless and fell victims to the enemies due to sheer carelessness. The rise of Higher Criticism in 1800s assisted by the rationalistic movements of the period and the Newtonian Mechanistic view of law based universe led to the collapse of faith. Kant, Hegel, Kirkegaard, Marx, Freud and Lenin were only the outgrowth of this social situation. In the face of these strong rationalistic and critical outbursts church shrank back to emphasize social reforms and outward work to the utter neglect of essential gospel of Jesus. The word "Sardis" means "escaping" or "that which remains".

There was no justification for the Sardis Church for their lack of witnessing because they heard and received the full revelation. Reformation was complete. They had the full Word of God in everyone’s hand. Jesus refers to this church age in the parable of the hidden treasure. Through the mighty power of the Holy Spirit the church was given the full hidden treasures of salvation full and free. They have received it with joy. So Jesus asks them

Rev 3:3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent.

To those lost their faith he has only one advise - repent.

The normal result of watching the church is that the enemy will fall upon them when they are least expected. That is what happened to the church in the reformation period. But Jesus says:

But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

The same idea of watching is explained in the parable:

Mark 13:32 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Mark 13:33 Be on guard! Be alert ! You do not know when that time will come.
Mark 13:34 It's like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

Mark 13:35 "Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back--whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.
Mark 13:36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping.

Mark 13:37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: 'Watch!'"

Fortunately there were people who kept the fire going even in these situations. One specialty of Sardis was its white fur coats - the symbol of aristocracy. Jesus refers to this symbol of wealth and glory in verse 4

Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

White evidently represents purity and undefilement.

The book of life referred to earlier in the bible in Philippians 4:3.

Phil 4:3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

However it is implied even in the Old Testament when Moses speak to God on behalf of his fallen people.

Exo 32:32 But now, please forgive their sin--but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written."

Exo 32:33 The LORD replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.

In this passage God clearly defines the conditions under which He will blot the name out of the book of Life. More detailed reference to the Book of Life is made in various places in the book of Revelations at the time of White Throne Judgement. It is often referred to as "the lamb’s book of life". The implication is thus that it contains the names of those who have attained the citizenship of the Kingdom of God. As in Rome of John’s period, these citizens were not liable to normal code of procedures as applicable to non-Roman citizens. (This is in contrast to the Law of the United States where the code of procedures in case of crime is the same). The people whose names are written in the book of Life do not stand in judgement before the white throne.

Rom 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,

Rom 8:2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

Whatever be their other basic qualifications for the citizenship to the Kingdom, for those in Sardis, the fact that they kept themselves from the Jezebelian fornication was sufficient . They shall walk with Christ - in the stola, the white robes of justification, and adoption, and comfort, or in the white robes of honor and glory in the other world. .Jesus promises them that He will acknowledge them before the Father as a member of the Church - as his bride.