Letters To The Seven Churches (continued)
Sardis was the capital city of Lydia in the 6th century B.C. under Croesus, and was still a famous city in Roman times. They were so rich that Croeus became synonomous for extreme riches, as well as pride and arrogance, which abounded in this community as a whole, and in this church as well..They were famous for their arts and crafts, and among the first to mint coins of gold and silver. The church at Sardis was a wealthy church in a wealthy commercial area. Although they were called Christians, they were a dead church, Christian in name only.
- JESUS: "He that has the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars." (1: 4, 16) The seven spirits were the agents used to carry out God's plans (see later note on 4:5). Jesus was affirming here that He has the power of God. The seven stars were already explained to be the messengers of the seven churches, which He holds in His hands; i.e.--- they are under His care and protection, but He can turn them loose if they continue to reject Him by refusing to repent of their sinfulness.
- PRAISE: None. This church, except for a few, was in immediate danger of being blotted out of the book of life.
- CHARGES: "I know your works; You have a name that you live, but you are dead." They must have kept just enough of their Christian practice to maintain the reputation of being Christian, yet they were spiritually dead.
- EXHORTATIONS: ""Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain that are ready to die, for I have not found your works to be perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast and repent." They had at one time received the gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet have let it slip from their lives. Other things were given priority in their lives, and very little remained of the love they had once had for the gospel.
- WARNING: "If you do not watch, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you." When money is the primary focus in life, theft is always a major concern. However, what this church was in danger of losing was of far greater importance than mere money.
- PROMISE: "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. He that overcomes shall be clothed in white rainment, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but will confess his name before my Father, and before His angels." White rainment indicates victory. Jesus indicates that He has both the power and authority to remove their names from the book of life.
Philadelphia was a small, poor church with very little or no influence in the community. They were faithful, content to exemplify the life of Jesus and live His teachings, even in the midst of a pagan and corrupt society. Their love of God's word and the humble way they kept it earned them, like their sister church in Smyrna, no reproof from the Lord.
- JESUS: "He that is Holy and He that is true. He that holds the key of David--- what He opens, no man can close, and what He shuts, no man can open." This depicts Jesus as having the power to make the great lowly, or the lowly great; He is able to provide an open door even when others put up walls against His people, and can protect His people by closing those same doors to others.
- PRAISE: "I know your works, and I've given you an open door that no man can close, for although you are not very strong, you have kept My word and not denied My name. As for those of Satan's church, who call themselves Jews but who are liars, I will make them come to you and worship at your feet, and will make them know I have loved you."
Jesus tells them that even though they have only lowly standing in the community, He has the power and authority to make the great lowly and the lowly great. He has opened the doors of heaven to them, and no man can close those doors, because they have been obedient to His word. He also clearly denounces some who claim to be of the church as liars, and as belonging to Satan's church instead; however, He promises that the day is coming when He will make them worship this humble and lowly church that they now look down upon. "Because you have kept the word of My patience, I will also keep you from the hour of temptation that will come upon all the world, to test those who dwell upon the earth.."
Whereas the other blameless church (Smyrna) was told that they would have to suffer the persecution (but only for a limited time), this church was assured that they would be kept from suffering. Both were faithful churches, but God deals with each in a very different manner, according to His own divine plan. (see Matt. 20: 1-16)
- CHARGES: None. This was a faithful and true church that loved the Lord and tried their best to live as He had taught them.
- EXHORTATIONS: "Behold, I come quickly; hold fast to what you have, that no man take your crown." As long as they continued to be faithful, holding fast to what they had, their reward, a crown of glory, is assured.
- WARNINGS: None; as with the church at Smyrna, there was no need for a warning--- this church was doing as they should.
- PROMISES: "He that overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go out again." Jesus promises to make them pillars, strong and highly visible foundations that support the works resting on them. Only Jesus has the power to change the "status quo" and to make the humble and lowly a power to be reckoned with. "I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is the new Jerusalem, which comes down from heaven from my God, and I will write my new name upon him." A mark is a sign of ownership. Just as Satan's followers will receive the mark of the beast, (see Rev. 13: 15-18), those who follow Christ will receive His mark, or name. We all are either followers of Jesus Christ, or followers of Satan.
References used in this study:
- NIV Study Bible; Zondervan Press
- The Revelation of John, volume 2; Wm. Barclay
- Halley's Bible Handbook; H.H. Halley
- Clarke's Commentary On The Bible; abridged by Ralph Earle