1 "To the angel of the church in Sardis, write this: "'The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this: "I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

3 "Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent. If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.

4 "However, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy.

5 "'"The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels. 6 '"Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'  Version: New American Bible.

COMMENTS

General:

  • The fifth of the seven Asian churches (representing the church universal) is Sardis. Once again, Jesus Christ is the speaker, knows their deeds, and has much to say (v.1)!
  • Sadly, this church is riding on its reputation (v.1).
    • Apart from a few who have not compromised (v.4), the church is morbidly ill (or moribund).
    • Overall they lack the good deeds that accompany faith (v.2). As throughout these seven letters, the Lord is looking for action, not just good intentions.
  • The church is called to repentance (v.3). If they do not listen to Jesus' message, they will be judged. Repentance is not:
    • Something you can delay till the end.
    • Something another can do for you.
    • Optional if your reputation is still intact.
    • Equivalent to membership in a Bible-centered church.
    • Very popular these days! For more, read Ed Anton's excellent book Repentance.
    • Not everyone is called to repentance; some have not compromised (v.4).
  • The overcomer will be rewarded (v.5):
    • He will be dressed in white, the color of the great multitude in heaven (7:9). White represents purity and holiness (19:8) . The Laodiceans (3:18) will be advised to get white clothes.
    • His name will never be erased from the Book of Life. That is, he will never lose his salvation. This book is mentioned multiple times in Revelation (3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12,15, 21:27).
    • Jesus will acknowledge him at the Judgment in the presence of the Father and the angels. (See a similar idea in Luke 9:26.)
  • As said many times before, Listen!

Advanced:

  • Ginou gregoron can be translated "wake up" or "be watchful." Perhaps both senses are intended.
  • Regarding the Book of Life (v.5), see also 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27; Philippians 4:3. For the O.T. background, see Exodus 32:32-33: Isaiah 4:3; Malachi 3:16; Nehemiah 13:13; Daniel 7:10, Similar N.T. passages may be found in Luke 10:20; Philippians  4:3; Hebrews 12:23. In familiar extrabiblical literature see Jubilees 30.20,22, 36.10; 1 Enoch 47.3, 108.3. The fact that one's name may be added or subtracted shows that it is truly possible for someone to gain or lose salvation.
  • Sardis is actually two cities, not one; Sardeis is plural (an upper city and a lower city). For more on Sardis, click here.

Thought questions:

  • What is my spiritual reputation? Does it match my true self, my inner being?
  • Do I need to "wake up," or am I watchful?
  • If my church is not "dressed in white" (living holy lives), am I striving to sound the clarion call (as Jesus does in this letter)?

NEXT: The penultimate letter in the series, that to the Philadelphians.

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Exodus 32:32-33: Isaiah 4:3; Malachi 3:16; Nehemiah 13:13; Daniel 7:10; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12,15, 21:27. In familiar extrabiblical literature see Jubilees 30.20,22, 36.10; 1 Enoch 47.3, 108.3.