Revelation 3:1 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.

2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


MEMORY VERSE: The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.

—Proverbs 21:16


CENTRAL THOUGHT: Although a few members of the congregation in Sardis were undefiled, the pastor and many of the professing Christians were spiritually dead. They were urged to repent lest they be caught unaware at the Lord’s coming.




Revelation 3:1 “A name that thou livest, and art dead”: A reputation among the churches of piety and spiritual life.

Revelation 3:2 “Perfect”: to fill to capacity; fill up; complete.




Sardis, once the capital city of of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, was located south of Thyatira, lying along the little river Pactolus, where gold dust from Mount Tmoulus was found in the early years of Sardis’ history. During the reign of King Croesus, metal workers in Sardis found out how to separate gold from silver, thus producing metals with a purity which could be trusted. Sardis was the first city to mint pure gold and silver coins, causing an economic revolution and bringing wealth to Sardis. The term “rich as Croesus” seems to refer to this.

The art of wool dyeing was said to have been invented in Sardis, and it was a trading port for carpets and other woolen goods. When it was taken by Cyrus (548 B.C.) during the reign of Croesus, it was one of the most splendid and flagrantly wealthy cities of the East. Later under Roman rule, it sank in wealth and importance. During Tiberius’ reign, (AD 17) Sardis and twelve other cities were demolished by earthquakes and then troubled by pestilences, but were later rebuilt by the emperor. Sardis flourished again as a wealthy trade city at the time of this epistle.

Conquered by the Byzantines in 1097, Sardis continued its decline until its destruction in 1402 by the Turco-Mongol warlord, Timur. Now the ruins lie near the Turkish village of Sart.

The people of Sardis worshipped the goddess Cybele, whose temple ruins may still be seen, but heathen worship was not even mentioned in Jesus’ address to them. There seemed to be no persecution from Jews or pagans; nor grave immoralities, nor heresies, such as the Nicolaitan doctrines, mentioned—only that they had a reputation for being a viable Christian church, but in reality were formal and lifeless, and didn’t seem to know it. “The surest sign of spiritual death is unconsciousness. Paralysis is not felt. Mortification is painless. Frostbitten limbs are insensitive. They only tingle when life is coming back to them” (MacLaren’s Expositions on the Holy Scriptures).

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck




1. Beginnings: What verses make us know there had been spiritual life at the first?

2. History: What seems to be a common thread in the history of Sardis? Explain how this could have been a cause for the spiritual death.

3. Exhortation: What five things did Jesus tell this church to do?

4. He That Overcometh: What things were promised to those who were undefiled and who overcame?




Although grievous heresies or evils weren’t addressed in the letter to this church, there was something that had defiled most of the congregation. What could it have been? Good works had been started in many people, but they were not continued until completion. Again, something hindered; something stifled spiritual growth.

They weren’t being crushed by persecution. A dead church isn’t making much disturbance in the wicked culture around it, so the culture leaves it alone.

Could the long period of wealth, the busy commercial life, the luxury and ease be the defiling element? It isn’t hard to imagine. Jesus mentioned how that riches are deceitful. It is easy to begin thinking that my spiritual life is just fine because I am so “blessed” by lots of income. People also begin to feel that wealth “adds status to our church because it just looks good in society; it makes people think well of your religion when they see how nice your home is,” which is actually another deception.

Jesus’ admonition was to remember their beginnings and repent. Turn around and go back to humility, fear and submission to God. Stop the busy lifestyle and take time for your soul. Pick up the forsaken outreach endeavors and begin weeping for souls again. Wait, we are talking about a first-century congregation…or could we also be needy of this wake-up call in our generation?

Jesus promised white robes—true, Christ-life righteousness—if they would overcome, and even more than that; instead of them having a dead, formal “name” here on earth, they would have a “name” of which He would not be ashamed. He would not blot it out of His book, but would point it out to His Father and to the angels. A good name, a name that is owned— “It is my people”—by the Lord, is rather to be chosen than great riches.

—Sis. Angela Gellenbeck




Have you ever had your feelings hurt by someone who spoke too plainly? Maybe you asked for their advice or perhaps they just volunteered it. Either way, you were offended by what they said. When this happens our human nature often seeks to discredit the message or the messenger, particularly when it comes to spiritual matters.

God puts people in our lives to help us maintain a proper perspective. We all have blind spots and cannot see ourselves objectively. So God uses the eyes of others to help us see who we really are and how we really are. Just because we identify ourselves in a certain way does not mean that our self-assessment is accurate. There may be times when we are shocked to discover our true spiritual identity.

We thought ourselves to be a certain way but find that the opposite is true. Spiritual decline can be subtle. The grace of God slowly dissipates and there is little to no effort made to strengthen and replenish it. What was once alive and thriving becomes dead and empty.

God sees us for who we are. But no matter where we are on the spiritual spectrum, it is not God’s desire to leave us there. It is His will to draw us ever closer to Him. And for that to happen we, too, must know where we stand. So in His faithfulness He speaks plainly— through His word and through His people.

Brutal honesty can be painful but it is also practical, and at times, necessary. It may offend initially but if we embrace its truth we are better off for doing so. When someone who loves us tells us the truth about ourselves, may God help us to take heed.

—Bro. Darrell Johnson