The Revelation Given to John by Jesus Through the Angel
Dr. David Jeremiah[i] calls the church at Sardis the liberal Church. One of the things he said on page 70 is that believers have choices. We can choose to do nothing and let the church die spiritually, or we can initiate programs to get people in the church, like Ephesus, or we can concentrate on our own spiritual well-being as the writer in Hebrews admonished in chapter 12. “Strip down, start running, and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both begin and finished the race we’re in[ii].”
In other words, discard anything in our lives that will distract us from the high calling of God in Yeshua Ha Mashiach[iii]. This calling makes us ambassadors for Mashiach; crucified – to the flesh – with Mashiach, we are dead, yet we live: Mashiach lives in us and the life we live is not ours; but rather, it is lived through faith in the Son of God. We can’t be ruled by feelings; but we must be ruled by duty.
Barkley[iv] describes Sardis as the city of degradation and decay and tells what happened to the church there to make the people think they were alive when they were really dead. He tells us that seven hundred years before John penned this letter to the Christians there; Sardis was one of the greatest cities of the world where the king of Lydia ruled in oriental splendor. The city stood fifteen hundred feet above the Hermus Valley beneath the smooth sided plateau of the original city. Sardis was a wealthy city. The Poctolus River flowed through it, dropping off gold as it ran; sowing, with the gold, the seeds of softness and degradation.
This city must be where the fable of the glass mountain came from. Remember, the king promised his daughter to the man who could climb it, assuming no one could. Someone did and the king lost his daughter. Sardis was also conquered in spite of its position atop its smooth sided mountain. The conquerors made musicians and dancers out of the captives and set them on their final journey toward debasement. This scenario repeated itself sometime later under Roman rule. When it was destroyed by a great earthquake the Emperor gave it too much money to rebuild. So it was still wealthy, lazy, and degenerate when John wrote his letter. The Christians there got bogged down in the atmosphere of the city and lost their vitality[v].
The picture of Yeshua, as he revealed himself to the church at Sardis, shows him as the supreme mediator between God and man[vi], the sure Word of prophesy[vii]. He is the faithful prophet and sovereign King[viii]; and he addresses himself to the messenger of the church as the God who has all the assemblies in his protective care[ix]. The angel is the energy of the church, and the church at Sardis was stimulated to good works, but something went wrong. Their reputation was that they were really alive, but Mashiach said most of them were dead and needed to repent – turn from their own works to God, in dependence on his leadership.
The thing that went wrong in the Sardis church may be the same thing that goes wrong in our churches today. The deceitful hearts of mankind[x]makes them confident that all is right with their souls[xi], so they bless the great and mighty “self”[xii] and preform “good works” based on spiritual pride[xiii]. The testimony of error surpassed the word of God[xiv]. Their works are in strict obedience to an unregenerate conscious[xv], not in line with the Word of God[xvi].
Works are dead without faith, but even faith[xvii] is the glorious gift of God[xviii], so the remedy, then as now, is demonstrated in Matthew 14:28-30. When Peter stopped watching Yeshua and begin to see only with his physical eyes, he started to sink into the water Yeshua was walking on. Yeshua told the church at Sardis that if they didn’t watch[xix] that he would come upon them as a thief surprises inattentive prey and they would not expect him. The same is true of the churches today that aren’t soberly watching for his coming[xx].
In and of us, mankind is totally undone. Corruption is the law of the flesh. We are born into the world with the law of corruption in total control and there is not one thing we can do about it. It is only when we exercise the gift of faith that God[xxi] gives to us, turn away from self and are absorbed with all of our interest in Mashiach that we are able to walk by faith, on water.[xxii]
Remember, Yeshua says that it is only his work on the cross and his resurrection power through his gift of faith that the repentant sinner is given new life in Mashiach[xxiii]. Hold fast to the truth and watch Yeshua closely with the eyes of your spiritual understanding[xxiv].
[i] Escape the Coming night, page 67, and top of page 68
[ii] The Message Bible
[iii] Christ Jesus
[iv] Barkley, volume I, page 113
[v]Ibid, page 116
[vi] The word “man’ includes women and children
[vii] II Peter 1:19
[viii] I Timothy 1:17; 6:15; Revelation 17:14
[ix] John 10:28
[x] Jeramiah 17:9
[xi] Galatians 6:3; Luke 18:10-14
[xii] Deuteronomy 29:19, 20
[xiii] Proverbs 28:26
[xiv] II Thessalonians 2:9-12
[xv] Titus 1:15
[xvi] John 17:17
[xvii] Ephesians 2:10
[xviii] Ibid 2:8
[xix] Hebrews 12:2
[xx] I Thessalonians 5:2; II Peter 3; Revelation 16:15
[xxi] in his gracious love and by the counsel of his own sovereign will
[xxii] Romans 5:12-14 the Message Bible
[xxiii] Hebrews 4:9, 10; romans 8:1, 2; Ephesians 2:8
[xxiv] II Peter 1:3, 4, 10