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If I Were Told the Future - Lesson 26

Letter to the Church of Sardis

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Let’s pray before beginning this lesson:

Lord God,

We wish to go on with the study of the letters to the seven churches, not only to satisfy our curiosity, but above all to learn how to better love and serve You.

Today we will give particular attention to the fifth letter, addressed to the church of Sardis.

We humbly ask You to guide us, so that our understanding of this letter may be in harmony with the message You want to give us. In the name of Jesus Christ our Savior we pray.


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Revelation 1:11

What you see, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis (...).


The fifth letter is addressed to the church of Sardis, a name meaning «That which remains».

The city of Sardis, former capital of the kingdom of Lydia, fell into the hands of the Persian king Cyrus in 547 B.C., during the reign of the rich and legendary king Croesus.

In A.D. 17, it lost much prestige when a terrible earthquake devastated it. At the time of the writing of Revelation, the city was still in the process of restoration.

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Revelation 3:1

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

«These things said He that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.»


Revelation 1:4,16

Grace be to you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne. (...)

He had in His right hand seven stars.


Similar to the previous letters, this letter begins with a portrait of Jesus taken from the initial vision of John.

What does this portrait symbolize?

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Revelation 3:1

These things said He that has the seven Spirits of God.


Revelation 5:6

And I beheld, and, see, in the middle of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the middle of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.


First, the seven Spirits of God, which are the «seven eyes» of the Lamb, illustrate the omniscience of Jesus: He knows everything, He sees everything, since the seven Spirits are «sent forth into all the earth».

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Proverbs 15:3

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.


Jeremiah 16:17

For My eyes are on all their ways: they are not hid from My face, neither is their iniquity hid from My eyes.


So Jesus introduces Himself to the church of Sardis as the One who sees everything, beyond what man can see or perceive.

By deepening our search in the Bible, we can even identify the nature of the seven Spirits of God...

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The prophecy of Isaiah 11 speaks of Jesus and the Seven Spirits of God

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Revelation 3:1

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

«These things said He that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.»


Revelation 1:16,20

He had in His right hand seven stars. (...)

The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches.


Furthermore, as we have seen in the letter to Ephesus, Jesus introduces Himself as He who has the seven stars, thus indicating that, in spite of the sad spiritual state of the church, He continues to be with it.

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Revelation 3:1

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

«These things said He that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.”»


For the first time, Jesus doesn’t begin the letter with a positive point.

Reputed to be alive, Sardis is in fact a dead church. It perfectly represents what happened to the Church between the years 1517 and 1755.

It’s sad news since, after the period of spiritual darkness and generalized apostasy of 538 to 1517, the Reformation was announcing better days.

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Revelation 3:1

I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.


The first years of the Reformation, a movement initiated by Martin Luther in 1517, brought about the rediscovery of the Bible and its message of salvation by grace in Jesus Christ.

But this spiritual awakening didn’t last. Protestantism soon politicized itself and became a national religion, thus making the same errors as the Church it had left.

Theologians became more preoccupied with defining the Gospel than with living it in their hearts. Piety was transformed into a cold formalism, without any meaning or power.

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Revelation 3:2

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.

For I have not found your works perfect before God.


James 2:26

Faith without works is dead.


So Jesus advises Sardis to renew a personal relationship with God, to rediscover genuine faith. This faith goes together with a transforming power, urging the believer into action.

For obedience to God isn’t only an outward submission: it is, above all, a service of love.

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Revelation 3:3

Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.


Revelation 2:5

Remember therefore from where you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works.


As with the church of Ephesus, Jesus calls Sardis to come back to its first love, to its zeal of the early years of the Reformation, when the Bible had been reinstated as the only basis of the Christian faith, putting aside human traditions marked with paganism.

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Revelation 3:3

If therefore you shall not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know what hour I will come on you.


The city of Sardis was really aware of the danger of not being watchful.

Located on a high plateau at a height of about 1000 feet, and protected by very steep slopes, the city was considered to be safe from enemies. Yet, it was invaded by surprise twice:

- in 547 B.C., by the Persian king Cyrus the Great;
- then in 218 B.C., by the king Antiochus the Great.

However, Jesus’ warning is addressed particularly to His Church through the ages, not only to the local church of Sardis.

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Revelation 16:15

Behold, I come as a thief.

Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.


1 Thessalonians 5:2,4

For yourselves know perfectly that the Day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. (...)

But you, brothers, are not in darkness, that that Day should overtake you as a thief.


Jesus will come as a thief, that is, in a unexpected way.

But he who is watchful won’t be surprised by this sudden event.

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Matthew 24:42-44

Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.

But know this, that if the manager of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

Therefore be you also ready: for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man comes.


The Bible is very clear: nobody knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ second coming.

Only the future will tell what God plans to do with the knowledge of the date of Jesus’ return.

But God invites us to always be watchful, to be ready when our Savior and Lord appears.

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Revelation 3:4

You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.


Like He did in the letter to the church of Thyatira, Jesus recognizes here the presence of faithful believers within the dead Church.

Indeed, many Christians showed perseverance between 1517 and 1755. The main groups were known under the following names:

- «Reformed Christians» in central Europe;
- «Huguenots» in France;
- «Puritans» in England.

They had to face the attacks of the Church of Rome, as well as the opposition of the protestant world.

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Revelation 3:4

You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.

And they shall walk with Me in white: for they are worthy.


Revelation 7:14

[They] have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.


The white garment which Jesus promises is the robe of righteousness He offers to the sinner, so that he may be able to stand before God and inherit eternal life.

Let’s look at the following verses about this white garment.

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Jesus offers the white robe imparting His perfect righteousness to us:

«I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. (...) And white robes were given to every one of them.» (Revelation 6:9,11)

«After this I beheld, and, see, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.» (Revelation 7:9)

«All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.» (Isaiah 64:6)

«Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ.» (Romans 13:14)

«I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.» (Isaiah 61:10)

«Let your garments be always white.» (Ecclesiastes 9:8)

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Revelation 3:5

He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment.

And I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life.


Revelation 20:15

And whoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.


Jesus also promises to him that overcomes that He won’t blot out his name from the Book of Life, containing the names of those who accepted Him as their personal Savior, thus allowing them to inherit eternal life.

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The Book of Life contains the names of those who are saved in Jesus:

«And I entreat you also, true yoke fellow, help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow laborers, whose names are in the Book of Life.» (Philippians 4:3)

«And all that dwell on the earth shall worship [the beast], whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.» (Revelation 13:8)

«And whoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.» (Revelation 20:15)

«And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the Book.» (Daniel 12:1)

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Exodus 32:31-33

Moses returned to the Lord, and said, «Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if you will forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray you, out of Your Book which You have written.»

And the Lord said to Moses, «Whoever has sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My Book.»


Psalm 69:28

Let them be blotted out of the Book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.


Just as indicated in the letter to the church of Sardis, it is really possible to have one’s name blotted out of the Book of Life.

This is why perseverance is so important.

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The Bible is clear: perseverance is essential to our salvation.

«But he that shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.» (Matthew 24:13)

«In your patience possess you your souls.» (Luke 21:19)

«Brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; by which also you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached to you, unless you have believed in vain.» (1 Corinthians 15:1,2)

«For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.» (Hebrews 10:36)

«“He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, My soul shall have no pleasure in him.” But we are not of them who draw back to perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.» (Hebrews 10:37-39)

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On the contrary, a lack of perseverance is a threat to our salvation:

«But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All his righteousness that he has done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he has trespassed, and in his sin that he has sinned, in them shall he die.» (Ezekiel 18:24)

«And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the Holy City, and from the things which are written in this book.» (Revelation 22:19)

«But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.» (1 Corinthians 9:27)

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The best way to persevere is to abide in Jesus:

«And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.» (1 John 2:28)

«If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth.» (John 15:6)

«For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.» (Hebrews 3:14)

«We are [the house of Christ], if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.» (Hebrews 3:6)

«[Christ] has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and blameless and unreproveable in His sight: if you continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard.» (Colossians 1:21-23)

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Revelation 3:5,6

He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment.

And I will not blot out his name out of the Book of Life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.

He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches.


Finally, Jesus promises to him that overcomes that He will confess his name before His Father and before His angels.

When He was on earth, Jesus said that He would confess our name before God and before His angels, but on one condition...

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Matthew 10:32,33

Whoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven.

But whoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.


Luke 12:8

Also I say to you, whoever shall confess Me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God.


Jesus’ position is logical: if we profess to be His brothers and sisters, and if we act accordingly, He will do the same before His Father.

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Hebrews 2:1

Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.


Ephesians 5:14

Why He said, «Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.»


Now, what is the personal application of the letter to Sardis?

We must always make sure that our faith, so ardent at the time of our conversion, does not fade away into a formalism which induces sleep... or death!

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Revelation 3:1

I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.


1 Corinthians 10:12

Why let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.


After having rediscovered and proclaimed the Bible’s message of salvation by grace in Jesus Christ, Sardis, the Reformation Church, ceased to be watchful, and slowly slipped towards spiritual death. Let’s avoid this grave error.

Let’s end this lesson with a summary of the letter to the church of Sardis.

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The five points of the pattern in the letter to the church of Sardis

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Let’s end this lesson with a prayer:


Your Son said to us, «Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that Day come on you unawares.» (Luke 21:34).

The church of Sardis did not follow this valuable advice, and let itself be put to sleep by the success of the Reformation’s first years.

Please help us to always remain watchful, and to persevere in the faith, in order that our name may remain written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. In His name we pray.


The test of Lesson 26 is waiting for you!

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