The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 churches that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church, including the Church at Sardis.
The Churches: Past and Present
The Book of Revelation has a message for all churches and not just the 7 churches in Revelation 2 and 3. These messages can help us examine the health or sickness of our own churches, including the Church in Sardis. The 7 churches in Revelation were not allegorical or figurative churches, but actual churches that existed at the time John wrote these messages down. A great many Bible scholars believe these churches are examples of the 7 different church ages as well as being messages to the literal churches in the Roman Empire. If Jesus warned these churches that their lampstand could be taken away (Rev 1:20, 2:5), or church shut down, then we ought to listen to Jesus’ admonitions to these churches and take them into account with our own church. Sadly, these churches did not take heed of these warnings from Jesus, and today, they do not exist. Something similar could happen to our churches if we don’t have ears to hear what Jesus says to these churches (Rev 1:11).
Sardis the City
The Church at Sardis was located in Sardis, which is in modern-day Turkey. The name Sardis means “red ones,” perhaps from their complexion, but more likely from the dye they used to color fabrics. The early Lydian Kingdom, from which Sardis sprang, was very advanced in the industrial arts and was the chief seat of its manufacturing. In very early times, Sardis was located in extremely fertile land, and its location was very convenient, connecting Asia with the Roman Empire. The art of dyeing wool is said to have been invented there around the year 214 B.C. The ancient city was noted for its fruits and wool, and for its temple of the goddess Cybele, whose worship resembled that of Diana of Ephesus. Its wealth was also partly due to the gold which was found in the sand of the river Pactolus, and it was here that gold and silver coins were first struck. 
The Message to Sardis
Jesus rebukes the Church at Sardis, saying, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God” (Rev 3:1b-2). To wake up from their spiritual slumber, may mean, they need to wake up from their slumbering (sleeping). They were certainly not doing the works God has appointed for them to do as He has all believers (Eph 2:10). They should have known that they are not saved by works, but they are saved to do the works…the works of Christ as He is the Head of the Church. If there are no works, then that faith is dead (James 2:26). Jesus warns those who are slumbering (although not all are (Rev 3:4) like He does in the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt 25:1-13). He warns them to be careful and keep “what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Rev 3:3). How do they “keep” what they received? They received Jesus’ teachings and those passed on by Jesus through the Apostles (which the New Testament consists of). They need to keep or hold on to the faith once delivered (Jude 1:3) because many were already bring another (false) gospel.
A Faithful (and small) Remnant
It seems that throughout biblical history, God has always reserved a faithful, small remnant for Himself. Just as Jesus say, “Many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’” but those same “many,” not a few, will be turned away forever from the Kingdom (Matt 7:21-23). The same is true with the Church as Sardis where only a few remain faithful. Jesus says to this church of His, “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev 3:4). Notice it’s “a few names” and not many names. That means there are (and always have been) tares or false converts in the church. All churches have had false converts since Jesus founded His church. We must remember that Judas was the first church treasurer!
They Who Overcome
Since it sounds like the Church at Sardis is in trouble, many might wonder if anyone made it to the Kingdom, but some did have ears to hear and did listen and obey what Jesus said. Our Lord said, “he one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels” (Rev 3:5). If we “confess his name” before others, it means we are not ashamed of Christ and He will not be ashamed of us on the Day of Judgment. The New Testament church never had any underground, secret or silent Christians; they are like we are; commanded to share Christ, proclaiming Him as Lord and Savior. The best thing the church could do today is to seek Jesus’ counsel to the 7 Churches in Revelation. Their messages are just as relevant for us today as they were written, but we must listen or hear (and heed) Jesus’ words, which is why He said to all, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev 3:6). If we are really listening or hearing, it means we will believe and obey.
The Book of Revelation has a message for the 7 church’s that could help us examine the health or sickness of our own church, but the warning to repent is for all churches and all believers (and even the lost, of course). God commands everyone, everywhere to repent and believe the gospel (Acts 17:30) or face God’s judgement at the Great White Throne Judgment of God that is coming after death (Rev 20:12-15) and after any unsaved person’s death (Heb 9:27). Here is what all this means. Today is the best of days to believe and trust in Christ. Do it now, while it is still being called “Today” (2 Cor 6:2). So please do not harden your heart (Heb 3:8, 15). Put your trust in Christ today. That is my prayer for you.
Here is some related reading for you: The Seven Churches Described in the Book of Revelation
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible: English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
1. Classic Net Bible Dictionary. https://classic.net.bible.org/dictionary.php?word=Sardis (Accessed, March 4, 2022).
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| Author: Jack Wellman