What makes the seven letters to the churches special is that they were dictated by the Lord Jesus Himself. It was a privilege to preach through all seven letters from October 27-December 8, 2019. What I have attempted to do here is not a formal exposition of the text. I have tried to simply summarize the text, its theology, and its application as an aid to study and meditation. I pray that you, dear reader, find it helpful as you ponder the text.
Revelation 3:1 - “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”
Summary: Jesus tells John the apostle to write to the messenger of the church in Sardis and identify Jesus as the one who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars. He wants the church to know that He knows their deeds, and that they have a reputation for life but are actually dead.
Theology: Jesus possesses the seven Spirits of God (the fullness of the Spirit’s ministry [cf. Isa 11:2] depicted by a lampstand with seven branches in Zech 4:1-3) and the seven stars (the messengers of the church). Jesus knows the actual spiritual state of the churches.
Application: Let us beware that some churches have a reputation for abundant life but are spiritually dead. It would be better to be a spiritually live church that has the reputation of being dead! But may we have a reputation for zeal and holiness that reflects the truth of our spiritual condition.
Revelation 3:2 – “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.”
Summary: Jesus tells the church in Sardis to wake up and strengthen the things that are barely hanging on, because their deeds are not good (not complete has the sense of their deeds lack true and righteous motivation) in the sight of His God.
Theology: Jesus, the Son of God, desires dead churches to wake up and strengthen whatever remains before they die completely; because their deeds are not good in the sight of the Father.
Application: Let us strengthen what we have, that it would not die. May this message be communicated to those churches around us who are dead.
Revelation 3:3 – “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.”
Summary: Jesus exhorts the church in Sardis to remember the gospel they had at one time (perhaps a generation before) received and heard, to keep it, and to repent of their evil. He warns them that if they do not wake up, He will come to them like a thief at an hour unknown.
Theology: Jesus desires the dead churches to remember the gospel that had disappeared, to keep, and to repent of their sins. Jesus will come upon the unregenerate in the churches at an unknown hour.
Application: Let us keep the gospel front and center. May our devotion to the preaching of the gospel never be ritualistic or formulaic, but heartfelt and earnest. Let us pray that the gospel will never be moved from center stage in the church.
Revelation 3:4 – “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.”
Summary: Jesus commends a few people in the church of Sardis who had not soiled their garments, and promises that they will walk with Him in white since they are worthy.
Theology: Jesus knows those who are in dead churches yet live, having kept their garments clean. Jesus will cause believers to walk in white clothing with Him, because He considers them worthy.
Application: Let us take heart that there are dead churches with life still inside. May we pray that little bit of life sparks revival in such churches.
Revelation 3:5 – “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
Summary: Jesus promises that all who overcome will be clothed in white garments, that his name will not be erased from the book of life, and that Jesus will confess his name before His Father and the angels.
Theology: Jesus will clothe believers in white garments. He will not strike out their name from the book of life, but He will confess their names before the Father and His angels.
Application: Let us hold fast to that which we have, so that we will be clothed in white and hear our name confessed by Jesus before the Father and His angels, being read from the book of life.
Revelation 3:6 – “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Summary: Jesus calls every believer to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches in this letter.
Theology: Jesus desires believers to heed the words of this letter.
Application: Let us seek the help of the Spirit to understand these letters to the churches that we may reform the church according to Christ’s will.