Known biblically as the home of the church that received the fifth of letters to the seven churches in Revelation, Sardis was the capital of the Lydian empire and
one of the greatest cities of the ancient world. Located on the banks of the Pactolus River, Sardis was 60 miles inland from Ephesus and Smyrna.
The city was home to the famous bishop Melito in the 2nd century.
Temple of Artemis
Artemis was the main goddess of the city and the temple dedicated to her in Sardis was one of the seven largest Greek temples (more than double the size
of the Parthenon).
Artemis, known as Diana by the Romans, was the daughter of Zeus and twin of Apollo. She was the goddess of the hunt, the moon and fertility.
A large complex built in center of the lower city in the 2nd century A.D. included a gymnasium and a bathhouse. The complex was over five acres in size
and its western part was characterized by large vaulted halls for bathing. The eastern part was a palaestra, a large open courtyard for exercise.
Capital of ancient Kingdom of Lydia 30 miles from Thyatira; 50 miles from Smyrna On a crucial trade route that ran East and West Industries: jewelry, dye, textiles Location considered invincible Ruled by King Croesus (560-546 BC) famous for his riches in gold Wealthy city A center of pagan worship Had a temple to Artemis Cybele and Attis were worshipped through the tauroboium, a rite by which the worshpper was rejuvenated with the life force of a bull slain over him and by bathing in its blood. Cybele and Attis were also the guardians of the grave, and the afterlife was originally seen as a reunion with the Earth Mother.” (The New Linguistic and Exegetical key to the Greek New Testament, p. 619-620) Archeologists have located a Christian church adjacent to the temple So this early church had a light here and it continued into the 1300’s Today a small village of Sart exists among the ruins
3:1 “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”
No words of commendation, only rebuke
Jesus begins for the first time in a letter with only rebuke.
The other churches had sin mixed into a good church.
Sardis appears to be a church of sin Seven spirits comes from Isaiah 11:2-5 and is also seen in Rev. 1:4 and also Rev. 5:6.
Rev. 5:6 the seven spirits are the eyes of the lamb.
Christ’s possession of these seven spirits are a guarantee of righteous/fair judgment
The seven stars are the seven pastors or messengers to the seven churches from Rev. 1:20
These seven pastors are responsible to the one who holds them in their place.
The seven spirits are the Lord’s ears and eyes in the church.
The seven pastors are the Lord’s voice in the church.
3:1 “I know your deed; you have reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”
Like before the church’s work is
an open book to the Lord.
The omniscient Lord sees and knows what men can not.
This church has a reputation before men as being alive.
This is what men see. They may have fooled men or used men’s opinion to evaluate their progress.
Jesus tells them that they and their human judges have grossly misevaluated.
Imagine a doctor declaring someone alive and healthy only to have another doctor examine a little closer
to find them not sick or with a terminal disease, but already long dead!!
The other local churches could only judge what they saw.
They probably saw activity and growing membership.
Jesus saw nothing of promoting his kingdom nor did he see spiritual growth, life or power.
Examples of churches that claim life when they have died:
1) they stand on their past achievements
2) more concerned with traditions than with hungering for truth
3) when it loves a system than it loves the Lord
4) when their focus is on material things and not on spiritual things
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.”
Cyrus of Persia captured this city
which was consider undefeatable when a city guard failed to be attentive.
Herodotus says the city was fortified except at one point of a cliff that could not be climbed.
During the battle a Persian soldier watched a city guard climb down the cliff to get his dropped helmet.
This led the Persian soldier to reconsider the possibility of climbing the cliff.
He led a group of Persians up this cliff and captured the city.
In 214 Antiochus III also took the city when a similar negligence occurred.
There was an unguarded point in the wall which was considered again impossible of being climbed.
The soldiers were stationed at more vulnerable spots.
During the night a couple of brave soldiers simply snuck through the night and leaned a couple of ladders against the wall and then returned to camp.
The next morning the main forces of Antiochus III struck the main gate and drew everyone’s attention.
Another group of soldiers went to the section of wall with the ladders and crawled over to take the city.
The city had a history of not paying attention to critical things at crucial times.
Now the church of this city was doing
the same thing.
In 17 AD an great earthquake in the night wiped out Sardis and eleven other cities.
Jesus says, “Wake up!” This word (grhgorwn) means “to be awake, to be watchful, be alert.”
1) to have vigilance and expectancy as contrasted with laxity and indifference
2) Those who are lax and fail to be watchful will suffer loss
a) 1 Cor. 3:15
b) 1 Cor. 9:27
c) 2 Cor. 5:10
3) It is used in 1 Thessalonians 5:10 As “Awake” (literally translated “whether we watch”) and is contrasted with “kaqeudwmen” from “kaqeudw” which means:
a) to go to sleep and is used in the following verses: - 1 Th. 5:7 - 1 Th. 5:6 - 1 Th. 5:10 - Matt. 9:24 (Mk. 5:39; Lk 8:52) - Eph. 5:14 - Mark 13:36
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.”
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.
“soiled” is “muluno” means “to stain,
defile, smeart, pollute” “clothes” = character Isaiah 64:6 Jude 23 God’s presence
is on the inside. . . Clothing comes from the inside out Colossians 3:9 (Ep4:22)
The reference to “you” in “Yet you have a few people in Sardis. . .” is a reference to the pastor because it is in the second person singular.
“People” is the word “onomata” (“onomata” )and means “names, individuals”. This refers to a group within the church of Sardis. The majority of the believers at Sardis had become complacent and had gone to sleep spiritually They were the ones who though they were saved (“received” from 3:3) and had “heard” (3:3) the word of God they had not obey it. Neither had they fulfilled God’s plan for them or for their church. Their purpose was not complete.
There where a few people there who
had been saved, heard the word, obeyed it and where fulfilling their purpose
in the church in Sardis.
This was possible because they had “not soiled their clothes.
Zechariah 3:1-5, where the high priest Joshua has his soiled garments removed. “Soiled clothes” refers to individual believer’s:
1) Moral condition. . . . . .inward
character, image of Christ
2) Spiritual condition. . . .service to the Lord, fulfilling God’s plan
The White robes clearly refer to
the believers own righteousness and not the positional righteousness found in
“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:. . . ‘his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.’ (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)” Revelation 19:6-8
Our earthly character and our service
in this age will have an eternal outward appearance.
White garments could be:
1) the justified believers and serve as the wedding garments that are also used to allow admission into the great feast. “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. ‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.” Matthew 22:11,12 * These garments would have been provided by the host as was the custom of the day. This is clear since the guest had just been brought in off the street. * This is a reference to being clothed with Christ
2) The Romans also wore white on the day of victory. This would line up with the next verse for overcomers.
3) The white garments could be a reference to purity
4) Or, the resurrection bodies
5) Or, the festivity.
6) Sardis was known for dying cloth and would be familiar with poor/good clothing
7) There has been an inscription found in Asia Minor from this time that says the worshipper is disqualified from worshiping their god and have dishonored their god by having soiled clothing.
“a few” is the remnant Romans 11:1-5 There is always a remnant * the sincere among th3:5 “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.
(nikon) means to win a victory refers to an other group other than those who
have not soiled their garments.
These are the believing members that that may not have awakened “them” those who have not soiled their garments White garments where worn for festivals. “never” is “ou mh” and is a double negative that forms a strong denial as to what will not happen. This is a positive promise. Remain Saved John 5:24; 6:35-37, 39 10:28-29 Romans 8:28-39 Book of Life Rev. 13:8 17:8 20:12,15 21:27 Phil. 4:3 This says it will not be blotted out This is a promise (once saved) not a threat (you can get blotted out) Book of the living Exodus 32:33 is not the book of life Psalm 69: 28 Book of living is a list of living citizens of a city 3:6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”e hypocrites * the humble among the proud * the separate among the worldly * the wheat among the tares God remembers the remnant in Mal. 3:16-17 and Hebrews 6:10