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“The Church of the Living Dead” – Revelation 3:1-6

Apr 18, 2021

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This title is no joke!

The Lord Jesus is very upset with this church and has nothing good to say about them.

Unfortunately, there are many churches today that easily fit this description.

Let us keep in mind that each of the seven churches of Revelation have attributes, both good and bad, that easily apply to us today.

So let us look and listen to: 

 "What the Spirit says to the Churches!"

Speak Lord, for your servants listen.


The Church and the City

"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, '..."

Revelation 3:1a


     * There is no N.T. reference to who or how the church was planted.

     * Sardis was 30 miles south of Thyatira, along the Hermus River, and was alongside the Roman Highway from Rome to Susa, the capital of Persia.

     * Sardis was an important city for trade and industry, where gold and silver coins were minted.

      * For 600 years it was a proud city in Asia Minor, but its importance was fading, and they were living on their past glories.

The city was located in the mountains, and its residents thought it safe and impregnable.

Although twice in its past it had been besieged and conquered, the last time was by Cyrus the Great of Persia in 547 B.C.

As with most Greco/Roman cities of the time, it had a large Acropolis on its highest ground, in this case a temple of Diana rested there.

But Sardis also had a large Necropolis on the high ground with a thousand tombs for the residents of its glorious past when it was the capital of Lydia.

Christ's Calling Card

'"...These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars:..."

Revelation 3:1b

"...the seven Spirits of God..."

     * Or the, "...sevenfold Spirits of God..."  (Rev. 1:4)

 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.

(Isa. 11:2)

These seven attributes define the Holy Spirit.  We need to remember that in the Revelation of Jesus Christ, there are 404 verses, with 270 references to the Old Testament.

The key to understanding Revelation is to correlate the two.

The church in Sardis was no longer living by the power of the Holy Spirit and was therefore "dead."

Although they thought they were "alive" and continued in their own strength, giving to God the work of their own hands.

 Christ's Commendation

Sadly, there is none.  What should have been commendation is condemnation.

Sardis should have been sobered by the silence and lack of Christ's praise.

Christ's Criticism

"...I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead."

Revelation 3:1c

"I know your works..."

     * Both in the past and the present.

"...that you have a name..."

     * "Name" - Reputation, what people think of you, not who you are, that's character.

"...that you are alive, but you are dead."

     * Christ, He who was dead, but now is alive!

     * This should have been a stark "reality check."

The church at Sardis would have seen all their good "works" and thought they were very "alive."

But the problem was they were "dead" spiritually, and deceived "themselves" thinking they were "alive."

They had activity without real life, life in Christ, committed to Him and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

A good analogy would be a chicken with its head just cut off.

There is a lot of movement, flopping around, etc. in the lifeless body, with no connection to the removed head.

Sardis was like that, lots of movement in the body (it members, the church) without connection to the head (the Lord Jesus).

And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

 (Eph. 1:22-23)

Christ's Counsel:  His Admonition

"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God."

Revelation 3:2

"Be watchful..."

     * A warning to wake up to the danger about to come upon you.

    * Historically, this is how Sardis was conquered by Cyrus of Persia.

The Sardinians were so confident in the security of their city that they only had a few watchmen on their walls.  Cyrus found a way to scale the walls where there were no guards and conquer the city.

Scripturally, Christ warns us to be ready for His appearing, or second coming when we least expect Him.

 Matthew 24:36-42

"...strengthen the things that remain..."

     * Like a garden, any life or church; must be watered, fertilized and weeded.

     * If not, the plants, people or church can die, physically and spiritually.

     * This needs to be done daily, whether plants or believers.

"...for I have not found your works perfect before God."

     * "Perfect" - Complete

Any of our "works" that are done, not to God's glory and through the Holy Spirit, are imperfect and incomplete.  Lacking in power.

"Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you."

Revelation 3:3

"Remember therefore how you have received and heard..."

     * They had received good doctrine or teaching, they heard the truth of the Gospel preached by men of God, and they believed unto salvation.

Romans 10:11-17

They had received the Holy Spirit, but now they were resisting Him. (Acts 7:51)

This always grieves the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 4:30)

And continuing to resist and grieve the Spirit will quench the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:19)

And our "works," not done in the Spirit, will be imperfect and displeasing to God.

"...hold fast and repent..."

     * "Hold fast" to the good doctrine and apply it to life.

     * "Repent" - A change of heart that leads to a change of action. Without repentance there can be no forgiveness of sin.

Without repentance, there will be judgment!

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

(Matt. 4:17)

"...I will come upon you as a thief...you will not know what hour I will come..."

"But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.  Therefore, you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."

(Lk. 12:39-40)

In the early church this was often written and repeated by believers (1 Thess. 5:2, 2 Pet. 3:10), and Christ Himself:

"Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame."

(Rev. 16:15)

Christ's Counsel:  Assurance & Encouragement

"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."

Revelation 3:4

"You have a few...who have not defiled their garments..."

     * The picture here is believers who have remained faithful and remained "unspotted from the world." (Jms. 1:27)

"...and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy."

     * White garments, or robes, is symbolic of righteousness, holiness and purity before God the Father.

Revelation 6:9-11, 19:6-9, 11-14

"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."

Revelation 3:5

"He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments..."

     * "Overcomes" - Victorious, in ancient times the victor in battle would lead his troops in procession clothed in white robes.

"...I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life;"

     * "Blot out" - Erase, this implies that everyone's name is entered in the book upon his birth, and will remain unto eternity if he is faithful to Christ Jesus.

Yet now, if You will forgive their sin--but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." And the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

(Ex. 32:32-33)

* "The Book of Life" - Jesus told his disciples not to rejoice because they cast out demons, "...but to rejoice because their names were found written in heaven." (Lk. 10:20) The Book of Life's location is in heaven, where judgment will begin.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. (Rev. 20:11-12)

"...I will confess his name before My Father and His angels."

"Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."

(Lk. 12:8-9)

Do we want to be confessed before the Father, or denied by Christ?

Matthew 7:21-23

Sadly, this was Sardis, and many churches today that claim Christ’s name.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'

Revelation 3:6


"I will not blot his name from the Book of Life."

This is Christ's promise of encouragement for the remnant, true believers in Christ Jesus, the Son of the living God! (Matt. 16:16)

Sometimes we don't feel victorious, overcomers for Christ. Rather we feel weak, alone, discouraged.

But be encouraged (Josh. 1:9), our weakness cannot limit Him. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

We are overcomers by His Spirit.

He will "strengthen the things which remain" by His Spirit- not our own power!

 "Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit says the LORD."

(Zech. 4:6)

And this is our confidence:

And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.

(1 Jn. 2:28)



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