"...I know your works..." (Revelation 3:1).
Have you even been with someone who has gone to the doctor for a physical check-up? Maybe as a parent you've taken your child for a medical check over.
Today, picture yourself as one of the disciples accompanying the Lord Jesus as He visits the churches to check up on them. We are going to visit three churches. (See Revelation 3:1-13.)
Sardis was the ancient capital city of the province of Lydia. It was famous for woolen textiles and dyeing of the wool and minting of gold and silver coins.
The main cult was the worship of Artemis, which was very immoral and degenerate. It was a cult of hysteria and mutilation. There was also a large Jewish synagogue there which indicated a large Jewish population. The people were notoriously rich and licentious. 'Licentiousness' (which means unrestrained sexually immoral activity) such as takes place in 'schoolies week'. (Similar words are lewdness, sensuality, and lustfulness). Beware of the misuse of the word "freedom" which some misuse as a smokescreen for their filthy behaviour. True Christianity is shown by loving obedience to God's holy commandments (1 John 1:5-7, 2:3-5, 5:3).
It was a well-fortified city, built on a steep sided mountain ridge. But "the Christian community was infected by the complacency of the place" (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible).
"you are dead," although you have a reputation for being alive spiritually. Do not be deceived into thinking that if a church has a lot of programs going on, then this proves that it is alive. Why does the church die spiritually? Why do we personally die spiritually? It is because the fire of love for the Lord goes out in our souls - through neglect of fellowship with the Lord.
"Your works are imperfect before God." The quality of their works was lacking. They worked for their reputation, and not out of a motive of loving service to the Lord Jesus.
"You have a few who have not defiled themselves." This implies that most of you have defiled yourselves by sin and have compromised with the luxury and licentiousness around you. But the fact that some had kept themselves undefiled shows that, by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible to overcome the pull of sin around you. The real issue is: do you really want to overcome sin in your life by God's power?
He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments and his name will be kept in the Book of Life and Christ will confess your name to His Father and to His angels. White clothing is symbolic of holiness. It means that there were some at Sardis who were living godly lives in spite of being surrounded by wickedness.
"The promise is made not only to those in Sardis who would be victorious, but to all in every age and every land." (Albert Barnes)
The Book of Life is God's record of those who are to live with Him in Heaven, if they continue faithfully until death. (Our names can be blotted out from the Book of Life.) Those in the Sardis Church who have not defiled their lives with sin, are recorded in God's Book of Life - and those who are spiritually dead are not recorded in this Book of Life. (See Exodus 32:32-33) The way to have your name recorded in the Book of Life is to repent of your sins and hold fast to faith in Christ.
(The Book of Life is also mentioned in Rev.13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 20:15, 21:27, 22:19, Philippians 4:3, Malachi 3:16, Psalm 69:28, Exodus 32:32-33.)
"There is a process of erasure going on, beside that of entering." (Ellicott)
If you do not watch, I will come upon you suddenly and unexpectedly for judgment.
Philadelphia was a city of the province of Lydia founded in 159-138 BC by King Attalus II Philadelphus. He was called this because of his devotion to his brother Eumenus: hence the meaning, City of Brotherly Love (New International Dictionary of the Bible).
It was located 25 miles Northeast of Sardis. "The city of Philadelphia had a relatively small population in John's day, due to the fear of earthquakes, with which the city was plagued." (Revelation: Four Views)
The church here won many Jews to Christ. This is why the unconverted Jews reacted with hostile opposition to the church. The church here was a humble and faithful church. The Apostle John "cautions the church in Philadelphia not to be discouraged because they are a nobody." (Henry H. Halley)
John reminds them of the character, authority and power of the One who is checking up on their church (verses 7-8).
"The One who is holy and true" (verse 7). God is holy and He alone is the source of all holiness.
Verses 7 and 8 apply directly to Christ. He is "holy and true." He has "the key of David." "He opens and no one can shut." "He shuts and no one can open."
The Key of David represents governmental authority. This is a quotation from Isaiah 22:22 - which illustrates Christ's authority. Eliakim, who was the servant of Hezekiah, held the key to the palace in Jerusalem. Likewise, the Lord Jesus (The Son of David) has the Key to Heaven, and can grant admission to Heaven or keep out of Heaven whoever He wishes. Isn't it wonderful that the Lord has promised: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life ... He who is believing in Him is not condemned, but he who is not believing in Him is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16,18)
Hold fast tenaciously your relationship with the Lord, so that no one can take your crown. Keep on listening to what he Holy Spirit is saying to your church.
The cure for cooling off in our love for Christ is not more activity - but more fellowship with Christ.
What this church is collectively is because of all of us who make up this church. Yes, the pastor has a major responsibility to lead this local church: but also each of you has an important part to play in the life of this church. When you and I walk close to the Lord it strengthens this church, but when any of us does not walk close with the Lord it has a downward pull on this church, holding this church back from fully being a powerful witness for Christ.
Now that we have observed the Lord's check-up on these three churches - what has the Holy Spirit been saying to you about your own spiritual condition?
Do you realize that your own spiritual condition affects the spiritual health of this church - either improving it or pulling it down? (Because this church is made up of everyone who is a part of it.)
If the Holy Spirit has convicted you or me of things or areas of our lives that need to be changed and improved do not - whatever you do - reject His word to you. Talk to the Lord about it, accept His message and ask Him to change your heart and life. He is longing to make you and this church more spiritually alive and well.
Unless otherwise stated, all Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.
Holiness, godliness, righteousness, and Christ-likeness in personal and church life