Revelation 3:1 Index
"And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
Research Material

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

  • Sardis was the home of a church whose past glory and present failure called forth the rebuke that it had the name of living but was dead. This must have remained the Sardians of the lost glory of their city, the once proud capital of Lydia, and of the fact that twice its impregnable fortress had been captured through negligence -- an unnoticed fault in the crumbling rock of the cliff had offered foothold to the enemy. How significant was the warning, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain" (Revelation 3:2). (Froom 93)
  • Sardis is located thirty-five miles from Thyatira at the foot of Mt. Tomolus, which is 6,700 feet high. Sardis was built on a plateau of crumbling rock at 1,500 feet. The walls of the plateau on which the city was built ere almost perpendicular. The only way into the city was a narrow passage that could easily be guarded and defended. Because of the strategic location, it was looked upon as being impregnable.
    • One of Alexander's soldiers was watching the city, trying to figure out a way into it. He saw one of the Lydian soldiers accidently drop his helmet down the mountainside. Making his way down the embankment, he picked up his helmet and made his way back up the wall. That night, a group of Alexander's soldiers followed the Lydian soldier's path and made their way up the wall into the city, overthrowing Lydia's Persian capital city.
    • Sardis was the capital of the Lydian kingdom and one of the riches cities of Asia. It was here in Sardis they first began to make gold and silver into coins and the use of money was originated. By the days of John, the city had deteriorated until it gave all the signs of dying. It is now a ruin called Sert-Kalessi (KC 61)

CHURCH AGE: 1798 TO 1844 A.D.

  • The Council of Trent, which lasted for eighteen years from 1545 A.D. to 1563 A.D., set in motion events that brought about what is known in history as the Counter-Reformation. This ended the spiritual revival which had taken place under the reformers. A new organization called the Society of Jesus, better known as the Jesuit Order, was put in place. It was the largest Roman Catholic religious order for men in the world. (KC 61)
  • The Jesuit Order was founded by Ignatius of Loyola and approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 A.D. They centered their efforts on evangelism and education. During the next two centuries, they were effective in undoing much of the work of the Reformation. Through the teaching of the futurist concept of prophecy, they were able to confuse the people and their was no longer a clear voice. By the late 1700s the Church had a name that was alive but in reality was dead. (Revelation 3:1). (KC 61)
  • What happened? The Papal Church was brought to its knees by the preaching of the reformers. In an effort to restore the Catholic Church to its former power, Pope Paul III called the Council of Trent (1542-1565). The purpose of this gathering was to put the church back on solid ground. One of the big issues that was debated by priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals and theologians was whether or not they based their faith on Scripture alone or on Scripture and tradition. This debate lasted for years. The Archbishop of Reggio finally settled the question. He sated that the Church had two choices. They could base their belief on Scripture alone which meant they would have to keep the biblical Sabbath and worship on the seventh day (Saturday). On the other hand, the Church could build their belief on Scripture and tradition and keep the first day of the week (Sunday). The council voted to base their belief on Scripture and tradition. A major question for us today is, "Where do we build our faith?" Do we build our faith on Scripture alone or on Scripture and tradition? (KC 62)
  • Will we be part of Isaiah's prophecy quoted in Matthew?
    • "Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 'This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Matthew 15:7-9). (KC 62)
  • Another change that came out of the Council of Trent was the commission given to Francisco Ribera and Luis De Alcazar. The reformers had been foremost in preaching that the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation pointed to the papal power as the little horn of Daniel and the sea beast of Revelation 13. The Pope gave these two priests the assignment of coming up with a different interpretation of prophecy. Alcazar developed what became known as the Preterist view, which takes the prophecies and puts them in the past and says they have been fulfilled. Ribera developed the Futurist view. This concept says that, beginning with Revelation 4, all the prophecies are futuristic and will take place after the saints are raptured. Therefore, we don't have to be concerned about them. (KC 62-63)
  • Not many people embraced the Preterist view; however, the Futurist view caught on along with the idea of building your faith on both Scripture and tradition. This brought about what was called the Counter-Reformation. The believers lost their evangelistic fervor and settled back into their former beliefs. The church that once was alive now was dead (Revelation 2:28). (KC 63)

GREETING: The salutation to the church Jesus is addressing: "And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write..." (KC 60)

IDENTIFICATION: Presents an aspect of Jesus's life that will be an encouragement to the church: "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars..." (KC 60)

CONDITION: The Condition of the church locally and in the church age. "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." (KC 60)

"...unto the angel of the church in Sardis..."

  • The word Sardis means "Birthstone." (KC 60)
  • In the message to the church of Sardis we find no Jezebels, Balaams, or Nicolaitans. These were found in the messages to the churches representing the time before the Reformation. The Reformation resolved these problems. The "morning star" that was promised to be the overcomer in Thyatira (Revelation 2:28) was the Reformation. It restored the great truths of salvation:
    • Justification by faith alone; for Jesus Christ's sake alone; according to the Scriptures alone. (KC 62)