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Revelation 3:1-6 Letter to Sardis

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Letter to Sardis

Sardis was one of the seven churches of Asia, which today is in Western Turkey. This reviews what Jesus says the about the church at Sardis.

Let us review from Revelation 1:20

1:20. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches

The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

See ( Map A ) for the location of Sardis, used by permission from Free Bible Images

Follow in Revelation 3:1-6 

“The seven letters to the churches contain much to encourage the faithful, but five of the congregations have members that are ordered to repent. Revelation 3 contains the last three messages addressed to congregations in Asia.” (Easley, Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. [Nashville: B&H, 1998], 53)


It is hard to comprehend how large the universe is. Our minds understand something being thousands of miles apart but how about galaxies beyond ours. Scientists determined that a “light-year” measurement would be the best way for us to know how far away a different planet or galaxy is from earth.

“One light-year equals the distance that light, traveling at more than 186,000 miles per second, travels in one year—more than 6 trillion miles.” (MacArthur, New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11. [Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999], 108)

“If a star thirty light-years away from the earth exploded and died five years ago, we would not be able to tell by looking at it for another twenty-five years. Though no longer in existence, the light from that star would go on shining as if nothing had changed.” (MacArthur, 108)

This illustration shows us how churches, whose light shown years ago have changed. Just looking at them one may think nothing has changed. “Yet the spiritual darkness of false teaching and sinful living has extinguished the light on the inside, though some of their reputation may still remain.” (MacArthur, 108)

This is the situation with the church at Sardis. It was thought to be alive, but Jesus declared it dead. Sardis was “dominated by sin, unbelief, and false doctrine.” (MacArthur, 108) Think about churches through the centuries. Many were like Sardis, dead. There are churches today that too, are dead. Their light has extinguished. How does your church compare?

Angel of Sardis

3:1. To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

Characteristic  (Easley, 54)

Each church as an angel – the pastor or other spiritual leader. (Easley, 54)

In his commentary Easley used the following equation to give us a visual representation for the seven stars:

Seven Stars = Seven Angels = Seven Pastors (right hand) (54)

The “seven spirits” mean the Holy Spirit:

Seven Spirits = Holy Spirit (left hand) (54)

Compliment (Easley, 54)

Jesus did not compliment Sardis or Laodicea.

Criticism (Easley, 54)

I know thy works Jesus knew what was happening in the church.

That thou hast a name that thou livest

The church at Sardis had a name (of being alive) that you are alive, but Jesus knew their deeds.  (MacArthur, 111)

But you art dead

“Like so many churches today it was defiled by the world, characterized by inward decay and populated by unredeemed people playing church.” (MacArthur, 111)

Is your church just playing church or is it serving our Lord?

Spiritual Restoration

Command (Easley, 54)

2. Wake up

McGee translated this verse as:

Wake up and watch out and establish the things that remain which were about to die, for I have found no works of thine fulfilled (perfected) before my God. (McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume V. [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983], 913)

3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.

There is a path to spiritual restoration: (MacArthur, 114)

  1. Wake up.
    1. Reverse the flow
    2. Observe what is going on around you
    3. Evaluate what is happening in your church.
    4. Get involved – change things.
    5. Confront sin and error.
    6. Make a difference. (MacArthur, 114)
  2. Strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die.
    1. This refers to spiritual things.
    2. Fan the dying embers in your church. (MacArthur, 114)
  3. Remember what you have received and heard
    1. “Go back to the truths of the Word of God.” (MacArthur, 114)
      1. Christ, sin, salvation, and sanctification.
    2. Establish a solid doctrinal foundation as a base for renewal.” (MacArthur, 114)
  4. Keep the truths of Scripture.
    1. Be Obedient to Christ.
  5. Repent
    1. Confess
    2. Turn away from their (your) sins. (MacArthur, 114)

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.

But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Matthew 24:43 (NASB1995)

Sin destroyed the Sardis church.

Is it destroying your church?

This is NOT related to the second coming of Jesus, but He will come and destroy the church. (MacArthur, 114)

Do not turn away from the truth. “Follow the path to spiritual life.” (MacArthur, 115)

4. Jesus does not forget those who remain true to Him. Hebrews 6:10    Malachi 3:16-17

They remained true to Jesus.

They will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

Because they remained true to Jesus, they are pure and will live with Him for eternity.

Commitment (Easley, 54)

5. There are rewards for those who overcome.

Be clothed in white garments

  1. Weddings
  2. Victory in battle
  3. True Christians are victorious through Christ over
    1. Sin
    2. Death
    3. Satan
  4. Marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9)
  5. Purity and holiness
    1. Eternal (MacArthur, 115)

I will not blot out his name out of the book of life

Believe in Jesus and your name will NOT be erased from the book of life. (MacArthur, 115)

But I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels,

Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:32

Listen to the Spirit

6. This letter ends like the others telling us to hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

“This, again, is the blood-tipped ear that needs to hear the voice of the Spirit speaking through the Word of God the message of Christ to His church today.” (McGee, 915)

Those who are faithful can be comfortable “that their salvation is eternally secure.” (MacArthur, 116)

Do you want to know if Sardis survived?

One man who wrote in defense of Christianity and “served as bishop in the late second century” tells us that Sardis did heed the warning and had a revival. (MacArthur, 109)

“It is not too late for other dead churches to find the path to spiritual renewal.” (MacArthur, 116)

Will your church be one of them?

( Chart A ) is a Summary of the Churches in Revelation 2

( Chart B ) is a Summary of the Churches in Revelation 3

( Chart C ) Messages to the Seven Churches Revelation 2 and 3

In this article Scripture quotations taken from KJV.

Those marked NASB1995: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. All rights reserved.

Easley, Kendell H., Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. Nashville: B&H, 1998
MacArthur, John. New Testament Commentary: Revelation 1-11. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible: Volume V. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983

Thyatira                                                                 Philadelphia

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