Revelation 3:1-6

1)    And write the message to the Church in Sardis. The One having the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says these things:  I know your works, that you have a name that you live and you are dead.

2)    Be awake! and strengthen the remains which were ready to die, for I find no works of yours filled up before My God.

3)    Remember therefore how you have received and did hear; and keep; and repent.  If therefore should you not awaken, I shall come as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I shall come upon you.

4)    However, you have a few names in Sardis which did not defile their own garments, and they will walk with Me in white that they are worthy.

5)    The one overcoming, this one will clothe himself in white garments, and I will in no way wipe his name out of the book of life; and I will profess his name before My Father and before His messengers.

6)    The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.


Let me remind you once again, since we’ve been away from the text for a few weeks, of the Jerusalem council which took place in about 50AD, some twenty years after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, and about fifteen years before John received Revelation of Jesus Christ on the Island of Patmos.

The council, which is all recorded for us by Luke (the almost constant traveling companion of the apostle Paul) in the fifteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, was made up of the apostles and the evangelists and the elders of Christ’s Church.  They met to report on the Churches and to rule on several of the primary issues affecting the Churches in the nations.

Remembering all that Jesus had said before His crucifixion, and being acutely aware of all the suffering that was taking place in the Churches, and knowing, too, that it was judaists that were causing much of the intense persecution of Christians in the nations, the council, under the direction of the Spirit of Christ, wrote a letter to be circulated to all the Churches.  Here’s that letter:


24) "Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls,

25) it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,

26) men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27) "Therefore we have sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report the same things by word of mouth.

28) "For it seemed good to Holy Spirit and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these essentials:

29) that you abstain from things sacrificed to idols and from blood and from things strangled, and from fornication; if you keep yourselves free from such things, you will do well. Farewell."

With that letter from the Jerusalem council in mind, let me remind you that every message sent by our Lord to the Churches in Revelation concludes with this:

“The one having an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches.”


The Spirit of our Lord had spoken, and the Churches were to hear, that the Churches of Jesus Christ in the nations were to stay away from communing with the pagans in their bloody sacrifices to pagan gods and goddesses.  And they were to stay clean from fornication.

And it is clear from Jesus’ words to His apostles, and from this letter from the council, and from Jesus’ messages to the Churches in the Revelation, that persecution from Romanists and suffering at the hands of pagans were, by no means, the principle source of anguish for the Churches.

As arduous and formidable as those acts of persecution were to the Churches, in the eyes of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the most intense and perverted distress and misery for these Churches came from judaists. 

From local synagogues, and from those sent from Jerusalem claiming to be teachers and apostles of Jesus, judaists pursued the apostles and Christ’s little ones, causing as much pain and misery for the Churches as possible.  From outside the Churches, with their slanders and accusations and suborning of witnesses, and from inside, with their teaching that went completely counter to what Holy Spirit had said to the Churches, judaists were fomenting rot and plague in the doctrinal and moral fabric of the Church.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was coming quickly to execute judgment upon the harlot Israel and its judaistic religion, minced no words to the Churches.  These seven messages, sent, as I said, about fifteen years after the letter from the Jerusalem Council, have to do with the very same matters as those in the letter from the council.  And, lacking repentance, judgment was forthcoming upon those who did not “have ears to hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”.

Now, before we come to the text, let me give you a brief overview of the city of Sardis.  (This won’t take long, since we’ve heard more lengthy discussions of the history and geography of the cities of western Turkey previously.  And, by the way, I have some pictures for you of the recent archeological digs of ancient Sardis.)

In a hunt for the Sardis site, in 1850, an archeological team found nothing to indicate that there had ever been a city there.  It was just desolate.  It wasn’t until the twentieth century that digs located the site and its ruins. 

And since then the Roman city has been exposed, and somewhat reconstructed, along with the huge ruins of the temple of diana and a gymnasium/bathhouse.  And there are evidences that the bathhouse was converted into a mammoth judaist synagogue in the early second century AD.  Other ruins have also been uncovered on and around the mountain on which the ancient Lydian capitol existed.

Apparently Sardis, the capitol city of a powerful dynasty dating back to the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries BC, was wealthy and strong.  But passing through the Persian period, then the Greek period starting in about 335BC, and then the coming of the Romans, nothing is there to be found of the ancient Lydian city… just the Roman city.  Just some coins is about all that’s left of what was there before Rome came in – in about 133BC.

But the Roman city of Sardis, large and prosperous, was already two hundred years old as this message was sent from the Christ.  And apparently Sardis had retained its reputation as being wealthy and economically progressive.  And it is assumed, from the massive temple that was found, that diana was the leading deity to which Sardis gave its honor and worship.  This, of course, is in addition to the emperor worship required by Rome.

Anyway, that’s where the Church was founded… probably by Jewish converts rebirthed into Christ at Pentecost 30AD, and then shepherded by the apostles Paul and John; and it existed only thirty five to fifty miles from any of the other six Churches.  The judaist synagogue that has been uncovered indicates that there was a large contingent of judaists who lived there, having settled there from past dispersions from Israel.

At this time some two thousand years later, there’s only a small village of Turks there near the archeological ruins; and they call the village “Sart”.

In the light of our recent “interim” sermons in 2nd Peter and in Matthew chapter twenty, we’ve spent a good deal of our time, first with the problem of judaists, who persecuted the Churches of our Lord from outside the Churches and from the inside; and, second, this issue of “mockery”.

Mockery, at its basic meaning, is, through antipathy and disregard, making someone or something irrelevant.  As you remember, Jesus told His disciples, on the way in to Jerusalem, that He was going to be subjected to mocking, scourging and crucifixion.  The Sanhedrin mocked Him; Pilate mocked Him; and the Roman soldiers mocked Him.  (Israel and all the nations mocked Him.) And they just killed Him as if He had no meaning at all and left Him naked and hanging on a tree outside the gates.

But God the Father laughed at them, mocking them, because they were all truly irrelevant (Psalm 2).  HE was the One Who delivered Him up; and HE is the One Who cursed Him and sacrificed Him for the sin of the world!  But Israel and the nations considered Him of no relevance and of no consequence whatever, and of no value.  This was pure mockery….

And the mockery continued after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, as judaists pursued the apostles, evangelists and elders of the Churches (as Jesus had said they would).  And judaists were constantly attempting to make the Lord of Lords irrelevant inside the Churches as they taught doctrines and lifestyles contrary to the received Word (as if that Word had no relevance or value).

As we’ve seen so far, and as we will also see in this chapter three with the last three Churches (and made even clearer in the apostolic letters), there were a number of abominable teachings and practices that, in varying degrees, were being tolerated – and, in some cases, even accepted – in the Churches!  And our Lord lays these things out in detail, and He places the blame on judaists and on the Churches - not only for tolerating them but, as we will see, for being affected by them in doctrine and in practice.

First, there is massive evidence all through Scripture, and in the first three chapters of Revelation, that much of judaism advocated a syncretism, or synergism, with the Roman world order.  “Just fit in.”  “Accept the inevitable.”  “Go along – get along.”  And this is exactly what Israel had done all through its entire history, isn’t it?... with all of its pagan neighbors.

Secondly is the issue of fornication.  And remember that fornication is a much broader Biblical term than is adultery.  It covers all sins against God that have a sexual focus.  The advocacy of fornication came from two different directions (if you remember).  One came through the idea that the pagan world order viewed all kinds of fornication through the eyes of “nature”… that it was just a natural thing – it isn’t “wrong”, it’s just “life”!  What’s the harm?

 But the other justification for fornicating activity was much more insidious; and we called it the “arminian” error.  Judaists would affirm to the Church contending that, if all our sins are forgiven, then our sexual activities are no longer held against us!  “Jesus loves us, and we love Him, so we’re free from all of that ‘law stuff’”, and we’re okay!

Third (and, once again, from all through Scripture), there is consistent condemnation of the practice of communing with pagans in their bloody sacrifices and feastings!  So it is in the messages from Jesus to the Churches!  And again from two different directions, judaists in the Churches (just like Jezebel the queen of harlots) advocated and practiced participation in those sacrifices to pagan gods and goddesses, and feasting on the bloody sacrifices with them.

There were those who took the practical approach to their jobs and family incomes, for how could they get along in this world without joining? 

And then there were others who took on that ‘arminian’ justification, that it really doesn’t mean anything to us to commune with pagans … we really mean it when we come to the Lord’s table!

But the “mixing” of pagan sacrifices with the Lord’s table brought terrible warnings from the enthroned Jesus Christ, for He requires exclusive worship.  And it brought abominable practices into the Churches, as we see in the apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth.  And, as with all of these condemned practices, this “mixing” of pagan idolatry with the communion table is sheer “mockery” of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And if it doesn’t “mean anything”, then it makes Jesus irrelevant.  If “incorporation into the world order” doesn’t mean anything; if “fornication” really doesn’t mean anything; if “feasting and communing with pagans at their bloody feasts” doesn’t mean anything, then Jesus doesn’t mean anything – He’s irrelevant.  He is mocked.

Then, lastly, there were those who argued for the inevitability of existence and life.  Things were just going to continue on as they’ve always been from the beginning.  With good theses, and with high-sounding philosophies, and with sharply-honed words and arguments, judaists in the Churches made their cases for life going on as always.  “You say He’s coming?  Well, where is He?”  Nah!  It’s all as it was.  Life is what it is.

Well, this is the philosophical argument that caused the deaths of two Churches in chapter three!  But, you see, the theme of Revelation of Jesus Christ is His Parousia, which is promised in verse one, chapter one:


“Revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave to Him to show His servants that which is necessary to be done in quickness.”


And the promise at the end of Revelation, chapter twenty-two:


He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’"


At the beginning and at the end, and in all that’s in between, it is Jesus, the Son of God/Son of Man Who is relevant.  And all doctrines, philosophies and lifestyles that attempt to make Him irrelevant are pure mockery of the One Who has been given all authority in the heavens and upon the earth… the IS, and the WAS, and the COMING.

So when the One Who requires exclusive worship, honor, adoration and faithfulness says that 1) His Church is not to become “synergized” with the world order, 2) His Church is to abstain from fornication, 3) His Church is not to commune with pagans in their bloody sacrifices and love feasts, and 4) His Church is not to become oblivious to His promises through the vain philosophies of men, (when He says those things) and the Church doesn’t heed them, then it is involved in the most pernicious form of mockery, because their doctrines and lifestyles deny the validity and the value of the enthroned Person of Jesus Christ!

Especially in the case of Sardis (and one other), the Church had settled in to a life without anticipation (and, by the way, that’s translated “hope” in most English translations)!  What is recorded in the prophets; what Jesus Himself said in the Gospel of Matthew; what the inspired writers and apostles of the New Testament Scriptures warned… despite all of that, none of these things were all that relevant to this Church.  Through the high-sounding philosophies of judaists, the Sardis Church had now found itself on the judgment side of the King of Kings, for it had settled in to its syncretism with the surrounding order; it had accommodated itself to the gods and goddesses of Persia and Rome; it had accustomed itself to fornication….  And, the worst of all, it had modified its Theology in order to conform to, and harmonize with, those who taught that life just goes on like it did from the beginning! 

This Church was passion-less, and hope-less, with regard to Jesus’ promises to “come quickly”!!!  Because of its toleration of judaists, it had settled in to life as it was in Sardis.  It was as if Holy Spirit had NOT sent a letter to them through the Jerusalem council.  It was as if John and Paul and Silas and Barnabas and Timothy and Luke had never been there.  It was as if the apostolic letters to the other Churches had not been circulated to them.  It was as if the words of Jesus Christ Himself in Matthew twenty three and twenty four were un-read and un-heeded.

The anticipation of what the Lord Jesus Christ had said, what He had promised, and when He said He was going to do it, was unconnected to the observed “sight-reality” of life in Sardis.  It was all immaterial and non-essential, and it was shuffled off to the periphery.  And therefore the very life of this Church was, in and of itself, a mockery of the resurrected and ascended King Himself; and the premier event of His new Kingdom that He had just been given as an inheritance was disregarded!

In this message to the Church, Jesus identifies Himself (verse one) as the One Who has the seven Spirits of God, recalling what He said earlier in Revelation regarding the new, single lampstand with the seven unquenchable lamps which represents Holy Spirit, in His Fullness, in the new temple of Jesus Christ!

He also says that He’s the One who holds the seven stars in His hand… the Creator of Light, the Morning Star, the Light of the World, Who will de-create the present heaven and earth and create a NEW heavens and a NEW earth!  He’s coming to do that quickly, and His people from all the nations will number as the stars in the sky (as promised to faithful Abraham).

“I know your works”, Jesus tells the Church.  “You have a name.”  And, of course, the name was “Christian”.  The Church of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of the world, the Creator of a new humanity that is alive from death!    That’s what the “name” signifies!  It says that the Church is alive in Christ.

“But”, He says, “you are dead”!  Isn’t it ironic that you have a name that means “life”, but you (singular) are actually dead?  The pronoun, “you”, is singular, so Jesus is speaking to the Church.  And its “deadness” belies the name by which it is called!  Its works are… that it is dead, and yet it has a “name” that it is alive!  The fact that it is dead when its name says that it’s alive is its works!  Do you see that in the text?

The Church has “secularized”; and it no longer has an anticipation of the mighty event of Jesus’ “coming”, i.e., His Parousia, in which He will judge the great harlot and fill His new Temple.  And this ‘deadness” is an open mockery of the newly enthroned King and His revealed Kingdom!  The Lord Jesus Christ has been mocked by the whole world; and now He’s being mocked by His Own Church!  As the tabernacle in the desert was filled by His Spirit, with all the sights and sounds accompanying that “coming”, and as the temple was filled in Jerusalem, with the same sights and sounds, His Spirit was soon to fill His new Holy Temple; and His Church was indifferent and unconcerned… the Church at Sardis was dead.

And He issues two commands.  “Be awake!  And strengthen the remains which were ready to die….”

In the context of the coming of the Redeemer, the prophets called for the “awakening” of the daughter of Zion.  Especially in Isaiah chapter fifty-one, where Isaiah says “Awaken, and strengthen yourselves, and put on the beautiful (white) priestly garments, for the ‘Arm of the Lord’ will put on strength”.

In the New Testament, especially in Paul’s letters (one of which is to the Church in Ephesus), the command to awaken is in the context of that which is near.  Listen:


“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep:  for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (Romans 13:11)


“Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” (1 Cor. 13:34)


“Wherefore he saith, Be Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” (Eph. 5:14)


We can confidently say that Jesus’ commands here – to be awake, and strengthen whatever remains; and put on the “white garments” of righteousness, that it is in the context of His coming “quickly”!

I also think it’s safe to say that the deadness in Sardis didn’t consist of the absence of youth activities; it didn’t consist of the lack of fellowship meetings; it didn’t consist in the lack of women-in-leadership committees, or a fund for missionary support, or platform worship leaders, or bus ministries!

The “deadness” consisted in its synergism with the pagan world order, which prompted the real “lack”… which was anticipation of the Parousia of King Jesus to fill His new Holy Temple (again, with all the sights and sounds of the former fillings).  Therefore the works which were begun there were not “filled up” before God.

And Jesus tells them to remember what they’ve received and heard; and keep, and repent.  And if not, He’s coming as a thief!  People, that’s right out of Matthew 24 where Jesus says,


42) "Therefore be awake, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming.

43) "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.

44) "For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.


Then Jesus says (verse four) that there are a few there in the Sardis Church that haven’t soiled their garments.  They haven’t been taken in by judaist arguments and teaching, they haven’t participated in the “natural” fornication of the pagans; they haven’t communed in their bloody sacrifices and feasts.  BUT … they have remembered what they received, and they have heard (for they have ears to hear), and they are hoping for (anticipating) the very soon coming of the ultimate Judge of heaven and earth.  And, in their white priestly garments, they will walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.  For they are worthy.

In no way, Jesus says, will He wipe their names out of the Book of Life, for they have overcome.  They are victorious.  They “kept” His Faith.  And He will profess them before The Father and all the hosts of heaven.  The “few” in Sardis are faithful; they have clothed themselves in unsoiled garments; and they, most assuredly, did not mock Jesus.  They had ears to hear what Holy Spirit says to the Churches.

And as we close this morning, here’s a marvelous passage of Scripture for you. It’s from the apostle Paul; and it’s written to the Churches of Galatia (an area of [what is now known as] Turkey), and just east of the seven Churches of Revelation.  These Churches, too, as Paul mentions in this letter, were being disturbed and unsettled by the teaching of judaists.  Galatians 6, at verse six:


6) The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches him.

7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

8) For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

9) Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

10 )So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.


Since we now have heard what Holy Spirit says to the Churches, I’ve taken an affirmation that was printed by another Church, and I’ve performed some “emendations” to it so as to make it even better.  The purpose of it is in order that we, the Church in Tyler, not become dead; but that we remember that which we have received and heard, that we keep the Faith of Jesus, and that we repent of unfaithfulness – walking always in unsoiled garments.  Here it is:


“We affirm that Jesus Christ is the King of kings, and the Lord of lords, and that He has indeed filled His new holy temple!  We now believe that the Church cannot be faithful to His authority without calling the nations to submit themselves to Him through baptism, accepting their responsibility to obediently learn all that He has commanded us. We affirm therefore that the Christian faith is a public faith, encompassing every realm of human endeavor. The fulfillment of the Great Commission therefore requires the establishment of a global Christendom.  This is what is commanded; and this is what must be anticipated.

We deny that neutrality is possible in any realm (including even the realm of "secular" politics and governance). We believe that the lordship of Jesus Christ has authoritative ramifications for every aspect of human existence, and that growth up into a godly maturity requires us to discover what those ramifications are in order to implement them. Jesus Christ has established a new way of being human (we are a new creation), and it is our responsibility to grow up into it.  Hear, now, what Holy Spirit says to the Churches.”