The Churches of Revelation: The Church in Sardis

Ruins at Sardis

 1And 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.

 2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

 3Remember 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.

 4Thou 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.

 5He 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.

 6He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:1-6, King James Version)

Right after introducing Himself, as He does in different ways to all seven churches (an interesting study in itself, BTW), Jesus says, “I know thy works”.  Our works may not save us, but they certainly will become the basis of being judged as to what our reward will be.

While there’s no mention of Jezebel, Balaam or the Nicolaitans, Jesus doesn’t have a whole lot of positive things to say about the Church in Sardis. Interestingly, they had a booming textile and carpet trade there, and gold mines existed not far from them. They were a center of commerce up until the time of Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern empire.  That sort of makes you wonder if the lack of trials and persecution is really a good thing or not.  Perhaps, just perhaps, if we were busier judging ourselves, then Our Savior would have to do it a lot less.

Sardis is a plural word that might mean “red ones”, but it comes from an uncertain source.  Sardis was once the capital of Lydia, so perhaps it has its origin is in ancient Lydian.  Other possible meanings are “that which remains” and “prince of joy”.  The one that would seem to fit what Jesus says to them would be “remnant”, as there were only a few remaining who “have not defiled their garments”.

Even those garments will be replaced with “white raiment”, which pictures righteousness (cf. Rev 19:8).

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