Summary of passage: Jesus speaks to the church of Sardis, saying their deeds are not complete and they need to repent. Otherwise, Jesus will come like a thief. There are a few faithful in Sardis who will walk with him dressed in white and earn eternity with the Father.
11a) He knew their deeds and sins. He commanded them to strengthen the good within, obey his laws, and repent of sins.
b) Personal Question. My answer: I need to keep striving especially when I sin, following Him and his will for my life.
12) Part personal Question. My answer: The righteous and encouragement for the life after.
Conclusions: 11b and 12 are similar and similar to ones we’ve answered before.
End Notes: Sardis was a city on the decline from its former days of glory in the sixth and seventh century BC but was still wealthy and sat on major trade routes of the day. Like the other cities, Sardis was a known place of immorality and pagan worship. Sardis seemed to have been known as a city of decadence and loose living even in the ancient world. It sat on high cliffs and sported a huge citadel. It had the fourth largest temple to Artemis in the Roman world. In the fourth century AD, it built the largest synagogue in the ancient world.
Note the use of the number seven–the number of completeness in the Bible. Jesus is wholly God (the 7 spirits) and wholly man in the form of churches. From Revelation 1:20 we know the 7 stars represent the churches.
As with all the churches, Jesus knows their deeds–as he knows ours.
Note Jesus did not tell them to stand strong against persecution or false doctrines so we can assume the church didn’t face a lot of that. What they did face was no heart. They talked the talk with no walk. They did not live out the Spirit.
Jesus tells them to do more; what they are doing is not enough. They are half-assing life it seems. He wants them as they were when they first heard the Word–passionate, joyful, and eager for Him. Outwardly, they were alive; but inwardly they were dead.
He will come like the thief if they do not. This is either judgment or the rapture before the judgment.
Note Jesus points out the remnant and encourages them. In Pergamum (Revelation 2:14) and in Thyatira (Revelation 2:20) there were a few bad among the good; in Sardis it was the reverse–a few good among the bad.
In ancient times, people could not approach pagan gods in dirty clothes. White was the color of purity (as it is today like a wedding dress) and for the Romans the color of triumph. Clothed in white symbolized a believer’s triumph over sin and evil and God’s righteousness upon him. This also could refer to our glorified bodies upon resurrection.
The opposite? Black and dirty.
The ultimate reward: walk with Jesus.
In ancient times, names would be blotted out upon death or upon conviction of a crime. In Ancient Egypt, pharaohs’ names would be blotted out as well by the following pharaoh if they were disliked, effectively eliminating their existence to future generations. Indeed, this is what happened to Tutankhamen and why his tomb was found virtually intact: he was forgotten! Tomb robbers quit looking for him. But God will never quit looking for us! How amazing!
God will never blot out our names once we are His. And Jesus will acknowledge and accept us! What grace!
Sardis Christians were apathetic and overconfident in their faith and semi-good works. Jesus admonishes them and says, “No!”
What is the Book of Life? The Book of Life is a real book that Jesus will open on Judgment Day (Revelation 20:12). It contains all the names of those saved. Those names not written will be cast into a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).
Can a name ever be erased from the Book of Life? Perhaps. There are five instances in the Bible that speak to this.
Exodus 32:32: Moses said to the Lord: But now, please forgive their sin–but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.
Exodus 32:33: The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”
Psalm 69:28: May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous.
Here in our passage in Revelation 3:5: He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and his angels.
Further in Revelation 22:19: And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree (some translations have “book” here) of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
Here, the Greek word for “share” means “section.” Hence, some commentators compare this to a hotel reservation. You have a room reserved but until you actually check in, it is not officially yours. Hence, every person born is in the book; but only if they accept Jesus (check in) will their name be officially written in the Book of Life.
Hence, conclusions are mixed for we just don’t know. Some scholars say once a Christian you will be saved and forgiven no matter what you do. Others say if you are a Christian and renounce Jesus and his teachings then your name will be blotted out and you will go to hell. Some say these people’s names were never written in the book to begin with, which is in line with Rev 3:5 which promises names will never be blotted out.
For me, I just worry about myself and my actions. I can’t control others. Am I walking God’s way? Do I accept Jesus as my Savior? Then I have nothing to worry about; I know where I’m going.
Romans kept registrars of its citizens and criminals names were blotted out, signifying a loss of citizenship. The analogy would not have been lost on the first century Christians: not a good thing to have your name blotted out–it meant death to your lifestyle, rights, privileges, etc.
Fun Fact: Sardis is the first church Jesus has nothing good to say.
The Color White: White makes its appearance 5 times in the book of Revelation: Reve 3:4-5, 3:18, 4:4, 6:11, 19:14. All symbolizing spiritual purity.
Conclusions to Lesson 5: Works alone do not guarantee us a relationship with God. He knows everything we do and He knows our hearts. Are you going through the motions? Or are you going all out for Jesus?
Righteousness is a gift from God. Jesus is a gift. White robes are a gift. All we do is accept with believing faith.
All the cities John listed were in order of the route a messenger would have taken, starting with Ephesus (see map above) and circling back clockwise. All are in modern day Turkey. None of these churches survive today.