Hello and welcome back to our Seven Churches of Revelation Study Series Part 5.
If you have been following along with this study series thus far, then at this point you probably have a good understanding of the flow of things. So just like our other posts, we will look at the Identification, the Message, and the Prophetic Outcome of this letter. But first, lets get a little back ground information of the Church at Sardis.
Sardis, during the time of the seven churches, was a major economic and business center located in Asia Minor (Now-a-day Turkey) and was the center of false pagan worship in the region. This was due to the Temple of Artemis located in Sardis, which was this cities main attraction and sought after among the pagan greek believing world. Equal to the Temple of Zeus located in Pergamos, Artemis was the top Goddess of all pagan worship during this time.
Now lets look at the Identification of this Letter:
Like all the previous letters, this letter begins with the message “And to the angel of the church in Sardis.”
Jesus then begins by identifying Himself as the “One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.”
We first see the reference to the “seven spirits of God” in Revelation 1:4, which states that these seven spirits are before Gods throne, but who or what are these seven spirits? This answer is revealed in Isaiah 11:2, where Isaiah prophesies about the Spirit of the Lord that will rest on the Branch (a reference to Jesus). This prophecy was fulfilled during Jesus’s baptism by John the baptist, after which the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus as a dove (Matt 3:16). Isaiah 11:2 then goes on to explain what is known as the “sevenfold ministry“: The Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding, the Spirit of counsel, the Spirit of strength, the Spirit of knowledge, and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. This, along with the Spirit of the Lord, make up the sevenfold ministry of the Holy Spirit.
As for the seven stars, Revelation 1:20 reveals this as the seven angels of the seven churches. These literal angels guarded over the seven churches, just as the Holy Spirit guards over the Church (the body of Christ) today. And remember, though these were seven literal churches, they are also a representation of todays Church. So what Jesus was identifying here, was that He holds the fullness of the Spirit of God, and the fullness of the Church.
Next lets look at the Message to the Church:
Like most of the other letters, Jesus will usually start off by acknowledging the churches good deeds, but then quickly rebukes them in the following message. But in the letter to Sardis, Jesus takes a slightly different approach by immediately condemning them. In the second part of Rev 3:1, Jesus exposes the churches false claims as being a genuine church by stating that though they seem ‘alive‘ they are actually ‘dead.’ But what does it mean to be dead? The term here is not speaking about physical death, but spiritual death. We can see a reference to this in James 2:14-James 2:18. Here James expresses the fact that faith without works is dead. Lets be clear, James is not saying that we are saved by our good works, he saying that we are saved for our good works, like repenting of our sins, evangelizing, and spreading the good news to unbelievers. But if we have faith and yet do not go forth and do good works, then that faith is dead.
This was the message that Jesus was trying to portray to the church at Sardis. They had the outward appearance of those who are alive in Christ, but inwardly they were dead, and this is what Jesus warned that He would eventually expose. Jesus then tells them to ‘wake up’ and ‘repent’ otherwise He will come like a thief (The Rapture: 1 Thessalonians 5:2-1 Thessalonians 5:3) at an hour which they do not know.
The message here for the Church today is that we should not act like we have an outward appearance of godliness and yet inwardly display destruction. A wise pastor once told me that there is a clear difference between ‘professing’ faith and ‘possessing’ faith. The Church must possess true faith in order to receive true salvation, and our salvation is displayed by the work we do for Him. And just to reiterate, we are not saved by works, but for works.
Last we will look at the Prophetic Outcome of this letter:
Jesus then says “To him who overcomes (see 1 John 5:4 for an overcomer), will thus be clothed in white garments.” These are the wedding garments that we will receive after the rapture of the Church, when the Church is then married to Jesus Christ (see Rev 4:4). And last He says that He will not blot our names out of the book of life.
Jesus finally ends this message with the same phrase as all the other letters, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches“. In the Prelude to this study, I explain the significance of this phrase and how it applies to the rest of the book of Revelations.
This concludes Part 5 of my seven part study series “The Seven Churches of Revelations.” In my next study of this series, we will look at and break down the letter given to the church of Philadelphia.
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And always remember, why is it important to study Bible prophecy? Because never have we been closer than today..