“I know your works; you have a name for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God.” (vv. 1-2)

Revelation 3:1-13 Thursday 4 September 2014


The seven short letters to specific churches found in Revelationchapters 2 and 3 all have the same shape but there are occasionaldifferences. The letter to Sardis differs from the others in thatit has the bad news before the good news - Christ's complaintprecedes his praise of "a few persons" (v. 4) who are worthy of thepromise of eternal life. By contrast the letter to the Philadelphiais the only one of the seven that consists entirely ofencouragement with no criticisms made.

Sardis provides a good example of the church mirroring itssetting. It was a city that had been glorious as the capital ofLydia six centuries previously but had been in a steady decline fora long time. It also had a mountain-top acropolis thought to beimpregnable which had nevertheless twice been taken by stealth. Thechurch's lack of watchfulness, as well as its decline from lifetowards death, parallel the city's experience. Moreover thereferences to clothing in verses 4-5 may be deliberately chosen toreflect the role of Sardis as a wool-dying centre.

"Synagogue of Satan" (v. 9) (found also in Revelation 2:9) indicates that the church atPhiladelphia finds Jews to be its main opponents. If the Jews wereclaiming that the Christians had no part in the Messiah and hiskingdom then we can see how the letter, including the symbols ituses such as "key of David" (v. 7), "pillar in the temple" and "newJerusalem" (v. 12), is in the nature of a sustained assurance thatthey will share fully in the kingdom of Christ.

To Ponder

  • Thinking about today what might be the marks of a church whichhas a reputation for being alive but is really dead? What stepswould it need to take to "wake up and strengthen what remains" (v.2)?
  • The word "perfect" in verse 2 can also be translated as"complete" and this may make most sense here. The kind of works Godwants to see completed, according to Revelation 2:19, are love, faith, service andpatient endurance. Which are you striving to bring to completion inyourself?
  • "I am coming soon" (v. 11) was untrue if it referred to thestill future coming of Christ. It was probably a promise ofsomething much more immediate to relieve their hardships. In whatways does Christ come when you are facing tough times?
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