Tuesday 24 July 2012

Bible Book:

"Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent." (v. 3)

Revelation 3:1-6 Tuesday 24 July 2012


This is the fifth of seven messages to churches throughout AsiaMinor (contemporary Turkey), with the number 'seven' in Revelationsignalling their universal relevance.  Although a strange bookfor contemporary readers, Revelation fits into the ancient literarygenre known as 'apocalyptic' in which bizarre and colourful imagesare used to describe God's ultimate triumph, often taking placeagainst the backdrop of persecution for God's people.

The message is addressed to the "angel of the church in Sardis",the spiritual representative of this particular community of God'speople. The message is both a warning and encouragement, and beginswith a description of Jesus as the one who has the "seven spiritsof God and the seven stars" (v. 1). Although its interpretation isdebated, the "seven spirits" could refer to the fullness of theHoly Spirit, possibly alluding to Zechariah 4:1-6. The "seven stars" are symbolsof the angelic representatives of each church (Revelation 1:20), over whom Jesus hasauthority.

Jesus warns Sardis that its image does not match reality. Seenas a church that is "alive" (v. 1), the risen Jesus announces thatit is dead or at least "on the point of death" (v. 2). It falls farshort of its calling. The Christians at Sardis had "soiled theirclothes" (v. 4), a reference to compromising with pagan culture orthe imperial cult. Some interpreters suggest that Christians atSardis might have even offered cultic sacrifices to the emperor. Ifthey do not change, Christ will come "like a thief" (v. 3) - areference not to the second coming, but to Jesus judging thechurch.

The church of Sardis, then, needs to 'repent' through returningto what it had received and heard, and only then the church willconquer. Victory requires faithful perseverance in the calling thechurch has received, standing firm in the face of the temptation tocompromise. There are some within Sardis who have remainedfaithful, and the erring majority are called to take heed of thefaithful minority. If they do, then they too will be "clothed inwhite robes" (v. 5), whole and holy before God (Revelation 1:14; 7:9).

To Ponder

  • What do you think a church needs to 'remember' to remainfaithful to Jesus?
  • What are the harmful compromises that today's Church might makewith culture?
  • Can you imagine Jesus criticising today's church as hecriticised Sardis? Why or why not?

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