Revelation 3:1–6 (NKJV)

John continues the spiritual journey through the seven churches of Asia Minor. He has spoken of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, and Thyatira. He now moves to the dead church, Sardis. This church had the same problem as the fig tree cursed by Jesus: it seemed alive, but produced no fruit. Jesus cursed the fig tree, and He offers stern warning to the church at Sardis.

1 “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. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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.
6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’

Revelation 3:1-6

Jesus again identifies Himself as the One who has the seven stars and the seven Spirits of God. This symbol of authority (He holds the churches, their messengers, and their angels in His hand) establishes that Jesus has the right to call the church’s actions (or inaction) into question. He says that He knows their works. Unfortunately, the insignificance and absence of their works shows that, although they have a name as being alive, they are actually dead. This spiritual condition is dangerous. The next admonition shows that Christ thinks there is still hope, encouraging the Sardians to strengthen those things that remain, that could die, in order to survive the level of spiritual death they already show. Their works had not been perfect, so immediate action was necessary to stave off the spread of death among them. He calls them, as He did Ephesus, to repent after receiving and hearing the diagnosis and the prescription. They should hold fast and turn around the decay of their spiritual condition. There is little commendation here, and a great deal of rebuke.

Jesus steps up the warning a bit by telling them the result of not repenting: He will come upon them like a thief, and they will not know the hour, nor will they be prepared for His coming. Most of the dead Christians in Sardis will not survive this judgment moment, but the few who still have not defiled their garments will be spared, and they will walk with Christ in white, worthy of His fellowship. He follows up with the promise: “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.” This promise encompasses the reward of a white robe in heaven, the inclusion of those faithful souls’ names in the book of life, and the confession of Christ that these belong to Him before the Father and His angels. Again, He calls those who have an ear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Sardis is in a sad state of affairs. They are practically dead, with little or no life left in the church. The name does not reveal the true condition of the church and its testimony. We should take a note from this letter, and be sure that we are not just Christians in name only, but true Christians who obey the voice of God and live holy lives before Him. Don’t be dead, be alive and vibrant in Christ and in His Spirit!

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