Letters to the Churches in Revelation
Sardis and Philadelphia
The book of Revelation, the last book in our Bible, was written by the beloved disciple, John when he was imprisoned on the island of Patmos. The date is approximately 95 A.D., a time of great persecution and suffering for the Church. The Roman emperor demands that all the Christians in the Roman empire renounce Christ and worship him, their emperor, as their god.
Some frightened Christians deny Christ and give in to the popular emperor worship. Some Christians run away and try to hide from the brutal Roman soldiers who come with swords and spears to carry out the emperor’s orders. But some Christians stand firm in their faith and refuse to deny their Lord and Savior. These brave ones die painful deaths, often being burned at the stake as martyrs.
It was during these terrible days of persecution and suffering for the believers that Jesus in all His glory appears to John and tells him to send letters from Him to each of His seven churches in Asia Minor. We have already studied the first four letters that Christ gave to His churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum and Thyatira. Today we will study Christ’s fifth and sixth letters to the churches of Sardis and Philadelphia.
Here is Jesus’ short message to the church in Sardis. “These are the words of Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars(angels). I know your deeds. You have a reputation of being alive. But you are dead! Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard. Obey it and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothing. They will walk with Me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his/her name from the Book of Life but will acknowledge his/her name before my Father, and His angels. He/she who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:1-6)
Bible scholars say that Sardis is said to have been the first city that was converted by the preaching of John, the beloved disciple. And sadly, the Sardis church was the first church that did not hold onto their precious Christian faith! Jesus tells them that they are dead! It doesn’t get any worse than that, does it? Once the church in Sardis had the reputation of being so alive, Jesus says. What did they do to end up like this? So very sad! How many other churches, today and down through the ages, were once thriving with truth and love and spiritual life, but turned away from the Truth and are now dead?
Bible scholars say that Sardis was a city of great wealth and fame. Rich with material possessions but poor in the Spirit! Jesus sees that there are a very few people left in the church of Sardis who still love Him. He encourages this small remnant and reminds them that they will walk in white robes (sinless purity) with Him in heaven and their names will be in the Book of Life.
But Jesus begs His church in Sardis to repent and to strengthen what remains. He loves them and wants His church back. Otherwise He says He will come as a thief. When Christ’s Presence as Savior and Lord is no longer welcome in a church, He can come back to the church in His judgment.
Jesus gives John the sixth letter to the Church of Philadelphia. This is His message to this church. “Here are the words of Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts, no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept My word and have not denied My Name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars- I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
Since you have kept My commands to endure patiently, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold onto what you have so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes, I will make a pillar in the temple of My God. Never again will he/she leave. I will write on him /her the Name of My God, and the Name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of the heavens from My God, and I will also write on him/her My New Name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:7-13)
Jesus finds no fault in this church, the church of Philadelphia! The name “Philadelphia” means “brotherly love.” This was its ancient name because of the love and kindness which the citizens had for one another. Jesus opens a door of opportunity to the Church of Philadelphia. And He reminds them of what He has done for them. He opens doors for our church too. When He works, no one can hinder Him! Are we aware that He is opening doors for us, or do we take these good gifts for granted? Wicked people envy the open door of liberty and freedom that we Christians have.
Jesus tells the Church of Philadelphia that they have little strength. But true grace, though weak has His divine approval. Christ would make this church’s enemies subject to her! He tells them, “They shall worship at thy feet:” and “They shall know that I have loved you.” (Revelation 3:9)
Christ calls out to His seven churches to “overcome”. He calls all of His churches then and now to “overcome”. He will write His Name on the overcomer. And He promises never to leave the ones in the seven churches who want to follow Him, - a precious promise that He gives to all of His followers. He will never leave us.
In these letters to these churches, Jesus makes them many glorious promises if they will only stay with Him. Jesus Christ has so many amazing gifts He desires to shower onto His own. These gifts are so over the top that we cannot even begin to take them in.
His followers are to reign and rule with Him! To be His bride! The crooked ways are to be straightened. And the dark things shall be made plain. Grief and pain are banished.
Only faintly now we see Him. With the darkened veil between. But a blessed Day is coming. When His glory shall be seen! What a Day that will be!