Sardis was an important city, about fifty miles east of Ephesus. The oldest part of the city was built high on a plateau, with steep cliffs on three sides, making it virtually impregnable to its enemies. It was a trade center at the junction of main roads, so it was once wealthy and prosperous. But by the end of the first century, the city’s importance and past splendor were fading.
The church, like the city itself, was dying. It had once been fruitful and effective. And like the city, it had grown complacent, believing that it was safe from the enemy.
When Jesus addressed His church, He wrote, “I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before my God. Remember, then, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent” (Revelation 3:1-3, CSB).
The church looked good and healthy. Its programs were robust. The offering plates were full. The attendance was stable. Jesus said they had a good reputation... they looked good, but they were not bearing fruit. For all practical purposes, they should have locked the doors.
But there is hope!
“Be alert and strengthen what remains ... Remember, then, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent ... a few people in Sardis” remained faithful (Revelation 3:2-4, CSB).
It’s never too late to repent... it’s never too late for revival!
But failing that, the consequences could be dire. “If you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:3, CSB). He’s not talking about the rapture that will come like a thief in the night (I Thessalonians 5:2). He’s warning that God’s disciplinary judgment could fall upon them suddenly and severely.
Jesus dictated these seven letters to seven individual churches. As I have said, I believe that these churches are representative of every church in every age. There is a message in every letter for my church and your church.
Each of the seven letters end with the same exhortation. “Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, and 3:22).
Most of us would have to admit that, individually and collectively, we’re not all that God created us to be. We may have a good reputation, but we’re simply not as fruitful as our Lord wants us to be.
Let everyone who has ears to hear... repent and be revived!