The Seven Letters: Sardis
Pr Edi Giudetti
Reputation For Life
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Sardis, an ancient city that existed for over 1200 years before Christ. It was a Great city of ancient times. Perched like an Eagle upon a high rock ledge, this City was almost undefeatable against its foes.
There was only one way an enemy could capture it and it stood undefeated and strong for almost 700 years until Cyrus the great, King of Persia conquered it in the mid sixth century BC.
Yes, the same Cyrus who the Lord wrote about in Isaiah some 150 years before his birth (Isa 44:28) .
The same Cyrus whom the Lord had levelled nations before him that he may rule the known world and come against Babylon to set the nation of Israel free. Free to return to rebuild its City, its walls and its Temple 70 years after it was taken captive to Babylon by the Chaldeans.
“Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut”
This is the type of King that it took to subdue the city of Sardis, a King with Gods help.
Now another king approaches the Church of that City with a letter. It is he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.
The Seven Stars we know he held in his right hand, Revelation 1:20 gives the interpretation as “the seven angels…of the seven Churches”.
Difficult perhaps to comprehend, but to have someone in your right hand speaks of both the power and authority commanded. “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand…are the angels of the seven Churches” (Rev 1:20).
That was also spoken of by he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.
We should humbly acknowledge that there are things about God that are incomprehensible to us. The Seven spirits of God is certainly one that we cannot have full comprehension of.
Turn to Isaiah 11:1 as we see a unique consideration of Isaiah’s description of the Rod of Jesse, the Branch, the messiah that shall come forth from the family of David.
1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.
Not only is the Holy spirit HOLY, but here we have six more characteristics, of him;
The Spirit of Wisdom,
Might, Knowledge and ‘fear of the Lord’.
Nevertheless, it is The Seven Spirits of God that may manifest themselves in Christ this way. And it is he who dictates a letter to this fifth of the Cities addressed in the Seven Letters of Revelation.
The Balance of the verse says simply;
I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
The City itself certainly had a name that it lived.
We know it’s reputation was that of ancient times and perhaps its reputation extended even to this date even though it no longer applies to that city, it is essentially dead and its Church was dead at the Time of This Apocalypse.
One commentator recalls that, depending on the distance from Earth, the light from stars can take many, many years to get to us. According to the speed in which light travels in a year, a star could have actually died long ago but the light from it continues to shine as if it still lived.
This may be a good description of Sardis the City and may well represent the Church of Sardis.
Sardis was conquered first in the middle of the 6th century BC, but brought to its knees by a Great Earthquake during the Life of our Lord in 17AD.
It’s high perch ensured that its fall was great and left great rubble at its base.
Its location was close to the River Pactolus where, not long before the City fell to king Cyrus, Gold was found and mined there in such abundance that the saying Rich as Croesus related directly to the King of this Capital of the Lydian empire at this time.
Historically Sardis was the first city in the world to mint Gold and Silver Coins to a weighted standard. Thereby, Sardis was the first City ever to standardize the use of a Bi Metallic Monetary system of Gold and Silver coinage.
Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian stated
“”So far as we have any knowledge, they [the Lydians] were the first people to introduce the use of gold and silver coins, and the first who sold goods by retail“
The City was renowned also for the great men who were associated to it; Already mentioned Croesus,
Thales the First historical Philosopher, who came to Sardis and built its entire sewage system as well likely involved in the first ever Geothermal Heating system in history for that very City. His death also marks the downfall of the City
Legendary Statesman and Legislator named Solon, who gave to Athens the Code of laws was also associated with the City of Sardis, being advisor to the King Croesus. Advice not accepted and later regretted by this same king.
Xerxes the Great, the Persian ruler who invaded Greece for the famous Battle of Thermopylae, according to Herodotus departed from the City of Sardis with an army, one million men strong together with his elite force of 10,000 Persian Immortals.
Aesop, from the famous Aesop’s fables, was known as Aesop of Sardis. The City being one of several that contended for the distinction of being the Birthplace of this famous Poet.
But having a name that it lived did not change the fact that it was dead. The greatness of the Cities past did not ensure its future. The Greatness of the names of Great men also did not determine its longevity.
The City was finally wiped off the map by an Islamic invader Timur Tamerlane who overran and destroyed all that was left of the City in 14th Century AD.
• The City had a name that it lived and it was indeed great.
• It was first conquered by a King who had the hand of God upon him specifically to “Subdue nations before him”
• It was finally overrun by the Godless.
The Church itself is not well-known to us historically, but its type and historical period is well-known to us.
It is represented well by the time of Reformation, a period famous in the minds of many, officially beginning with the nailing of the renowned 95 Thesis of the also renowned Martin Luther, to the doors of Wittenberg Castle Church on October 31st 1517.
The work done by the Reformation was unparalleled in Christian history, it was a great work that gave to the world the Word of God in their own languages.
Famous men abounded under its leadership during this time; Mentioned already is Martin Luther of Germany, the name borne by the Lutheran Church to this day.
John Calvin in Geneva, Zwingli from Switzerland, John Huss from the University of Prague, John Wycliffe of England, Savonarola in Italy.
These men stood against the barbaric pagan practices of the Roman Catholic Church and only because they determined to trust the Bible before the Pope. These had a name and the history of the Church was great when it began. But it is dead as it stands, threatened to be overrun with godless men.
There are many Christians today that are the same as this. They began and had a name among others in their lives, family members regarded them, friends acknowledged them, they had a reputation of life, but have become dead in their faith, threatened to be overrun by the world.
Jesus spoke of the Pharisees in like manner saying;
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Warned For Death
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Sardis, the first of only two Churches in which not a single verse of commendation is given.
The City lies to the South of Thyatira, about three days journey for the people in those times, according to Google maps it would take us 49 min by car to travel the 61km (Akhisar).
Its practices were not dissimilar to all the Cities of the region that we have already considered. Paganism was the rule of the day and the worship of the Emporer was the form of worship acceptable.
The City being set on high was revered and its Acropolis one of renown. Much of the City was located on the high plateau set about five hundred meters from Sea level overlooking the Hermes Valley below. This plateau continued to grow as long as its population grew, until it was too small and the City continued its growth on the plains below.
Alexander the Great rebuilt the Temple of Artemis in the City and not long after, many Jews also populated it and built their Synagogues.
The Coins it minted has Subscribed
“Sardis the First Metropolis of Asia, and of Lydia, and of Hellenism,” as in Fig. 9, p. 139
But nothing really differed as far as the general religious population was concerned. The City itself linked in alliance and affinity with that other Great pagan City where we found one of the Seven wonders of the world, Ephesus. Its coins demonstrated the link of its gods and its politics.
After the City was brought to its knees by the Great Earthquake of 17Ad Emporer Tiberious graciously lifted its taxing of the City for Five Years and gave a massive donation to the City that it may be rebuilt.
The greatness of the City however died, and it would only have apparent life until eventually destroyed by the Muslim invaders 1300 years later.
Today a small town called Sart is found not far from the ancient site of Sardis.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die
Our Lord warns the Church that not all that remains is yet dead, but there is a remnant that still lives, and it must be strengthened, an opportunity must be given it to live. If not, verse 3 tells us that I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
NB: Beloved always take great care when interpreting the Bible. There are some who translate the passage of Thessalonians chapter 5 as a passage relating to the Rapture of the Church. That is a great error and does not take into consideration the motives of a Thief.
In short, when the Lord comes for his Church, is the motive benevolent or malevolent, is it for Good intent or evil?
Is the motive of a Thief benevolent or malevolent, is it for good intent or evil? God is intending evil and wrath against a wicked world, on them it will come suddenly.
Jesus said “ The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: (John 10:10)
Interesting is the link between the opportunity given the City by the emperor to rebuild and the opportunity the Lord gives this Church to do likewise.
Many things occur even within our own lives where we should have lost much more than we did, opportunity, mercy, grace was extended to us to strengthen the things which remain.
For the City of Sardis, those things were in fact ready to die. The Lord gives them and gives us also advise. The Lord is slow to anger and quick to forgive.
He tells Israel;
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord:
Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
It is the same Lord that watched over the Church of Sardis that watches over you.
If you have turned away from the Lord, if you think that you live but are yet dead, there may indeed be in you something which remains, something even now ready to die but can yet be strengthened to live.
I’ve got a big beautiful Gum Tree in my backyard and beside it was another dismembered and (I thought) ugly Gum tree that effectively blocked the view of the big beautiful Gum Tree.
So I took to it with a Chain Saw and began to chop it down. Branch by branch I cut it away until I left nothing but the stump that still stands about a meter high. I guess I wanted to leave a Ruin…
Incredibly I thought certainly the Tree is dead…but it’s not yet ready to die. There are things that remain that, my watering of new plants close by seems to be strengthening it to live.
Beloved, if you still have air in your lungs and a beating heart in your Chest, there is hope of life.
The undefeatable City was surprised by the ease in which it was taken by that Great King Cyrus who was led by the hand of God to level Cities before him in about 546 BC.
Then, in our Lords lifetime the City was levelled by a force of nature but strengthened by the Hand of an Emperor.
Until, like a thief in the night, the City was vanquished by an invader in the 14th Century.
Some interesting links to this Church, this type of Church in history and the type of Christian it represents.
Worthy of Life
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
When the reformation occurred and officially begun in 1517, it already had work being done behind the scenes. The word of God was being translated into English by the great John Wycliffe in the 14th century, almost two hundred years before martin Luther and his famous 95 Thesis.
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was already working to complete his famous Textus Receptus of the New Testament from a body of faithful manuscript witnesses that number in the thousands of copies. A work from which we have translated the word of God in English.
And when the doctrine of Salvation was finally understood by those few men imprisoned in the Roman Catholic Indulgence system, many came to faith in Christ and a wonderful work had begun.
In verse 3 the Lord says Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
The Church of the Reformation did wonderfully receive the truth of what the Bible has been teaching all along respecting Salvation by faith through grace alone.
Many were saved, and the word of God was finally taken out of one thousand years of darkness. This is what they were encouraged to remember and to hold fast to.
Sadly, the reformation turned quickly out of the way. They became State Churches instituted by government decree. Making it a law that all people were to attend Church every Lords Day.
Working Sundays was illegal. Do you not remember that in this Country? Sunday employment was against the law, no shop was to open its doors on the Lords day?
Was this voluntary humility or forced?
As a result of having pews filled by people who were not there for the sake of conviction, and desiring eternal freedom in Christ, but were there because they feared to be Convicted by law and desired temporal freedom in the world.
So the pews became filled with godless people, Christian in name only.
The pulpits also logically became filled with educated, system trained, professional orators who had no life in them.
Leaders also chosen, not by their likeness to Christ, but by their titles from men.
If you were sprinkled as a baby you were given hope no matter how you lived as an adult.
If you came to Church you were assumed to be a Christian;
Worse still, nations were denoted with an official religious Institution; Those of the Commonwealth, deemed Church of England or Anglican; those of the Romance languages, Roman Catholic; those of Germanic origin, Lutheran; those of the East, Orthodox etc.
BUT THE CHURCH WAS DEAD AND ALIVE ONLY IN NAME
The Reformation Churches are the Church of Sardis in which nothing good is spoken of. These are DEAD Churches, but within them there are a few names ….. which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
These are the ones that should be strengthened, but as long as they remain in dead Churches they are unlikely to gain any strength. They may fight for that which they “have seen and heard”, but it is more likely their energy will be sapped and they will wane.
Today most of the members of these Churches are fighting for the superficial’s of the day. Separating on Homosexuality, on Abortion and on other sins. But they have long ago they rejected the truth of Christ and the inspiration, preservation and sufficiency of Scripture.
It’s as if this is more important than the nature of Christ and the all-sufficiency of Scripture.
Sinners with their sin will be blotted out of Gods Book of Life and Cast into an eternal hell, not because they practiced homosexuality, but because they know nothing of the nature of Jesus and are caused to doubt his words.
They should long ago have separated when the fundamental underlying truth was questioned by the very men they put in their pulpits and paid the tuition of.
Beloved, we cannot argue about the sinful life of the sinner when we have taken away all hope for the sinner! Jesus is his hope and the Bible is the only way he can be assured about the truth of that hope.
Yet, there are those which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
They shall walk with our Lord in white, even amongst the Church of Sardis, they shall certainly be with the Saviour, they have not defiled their garments, they are unspotted by the flesh and I am sure, like Righteous Lot, they are “Vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked” (2 Pet 2:8) among whom they dwell.
These need our prayers that they may well overcome and be found written in the book of life.
Named For Eternal Life
5 He that overcometh, 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. 6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Did you know there is a book written that contains within its pages the names of all people of all time who God had given life?
It is “the Book of Life”.
Only those who have life are written in “the book of life”, the dead will not be found within its pages, only the living will find their names written there.
We have all experienced what it is like to search for our names on a list.
Sometimes it’s related to an event we have tried out for, a team sport, a play, a dance performance.
Olympians have searched for their names among a list names representing their nations.
Students have searched their names on University lists for the subjects they have desired to study.
Actors and performers have searched with excitement and trepidation to see their names listed among the names to appear in a show or performance.
We look for our names with hope, with look for them with joy and expectation…but we also look in fear; “What if my name is not written there?”.
Sometimes the fear is so great that we don’t even want to look for our names, “rather I live in the hope that my name is found written, than come to the realisation that it is not”.
Sooner or later however, reality must take the place of a wish.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life
There is something however that is unique about “The Book of Life”, can you see it?
This is a book in which names are not written in, but blotted out.
When were the names originally penned in?
Paul speaks about himself being separated or set apart, from his mother womb for the work of the Gospel (Gal 1:15)
“4 Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” Jer 1:4-5
“…The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.” (Isa 49:1)
The context is Israel but we see that the name of a nation was known from before its birth.
Now we know of many who were known about even before they were conceived in the womb;
Sampson just before;
John the Baptist before;
Cyrus named 150 years before he was conceived
Josiah by several hundred years;
And many others; the greatest of which is the messiah, the Saviour through whom all who believe will have life eternal, Jesus Christ. Written of as early as Genesis chapter 3, his name, Emanuel (God with us) told to Isaiah seven hundred years before his unique birth.
Can we go back further?
4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
As the foundation of the world was present in the first day of creation in Genesis 1:1, I might put to you that the names of all who had been given life was penned from eternity passed.
If the Book written is the book of life in which all who had been given life were written in, when are those names blotted out?
This is not a small concern beloved. Revelation 3:5 warns of the potential and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life
Moses, from the beginning knew that God had a book and asked the he himself might be blotted out of it;
Turn to Exodus 32:31
31 And Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32 Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin–; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. 33 And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book.
Speaking of the wicked King David said
“Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (Ps 69:28)
We desire to see our names written on a sporting list and fear its absence;
We desire to see our names written on a list of entertainers and fear its absence;
We desire to see our names listed on a list for advanced education and fear its absence;
How then can we endure the fear to find our names BLOTTED OUT OF THE BOOK OF LIFE?
Beloved, there is a death through which none shall again live, remember we spoke of the second death, all who are not written in the book of life will suffer the second death (Rev 21:8) known also as hell.
There is no “book of the dead”, no book of remembrance of the dead. The Bible tells us that their names shall rot (Prov 10:7), never to be remembered (Isaiah 65:17).
If we fear our names not written in a list for that which is temporal, imagine the fear of our names not written in the Book of Life which is eternal?
Turn to 1 John 5:12-13
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
The dead will not be found in the book of life!
Sardis is a picture both of a dead Church that has a reputation for being alive, but it is also a picture of people who have a reputation of Christians but are themselves ‘dead in trespass and sins’ and without the life they profess.