Messianic Community of Sardis
Sardis was the capital of the once-immense Lydian Kingdom and part of the Persian Empire, modern-day Iraq and Turkey. It had a strong military presence and was situated on the major highway leading from the Aegean coast to the plains of Mesopotamia.
Sardis was located about 60 miles from the cities of Ephesus and Smyrna on the Pactolus River that flowed through the center of the city floating gold dust from Mount Tmolus. Sardinians learned how to separate gold from silver to create pure silver and pure gold. This purity of metals allowed them to mint gold and silver coins that were used as standard currency throughout the ancient world making Sardis a very wealthy city. They build a large gymnasium and bathhouse with a courtyard for exercise.
Artemis was the main goddess worshipped in Sardis and was one of the largest Greek Temples. Artemis, called Diana by the Romans, was the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of the hunt, the moon, and fertility.
“To the angel of the Messianic Community in Sardis, write: ‘Here is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know what you are doing — you have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead! Wake up, and strengthen what remains, before it dies too! For I have found what you are doing incomplete in the sight of my God. So remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and turn from your sin! For if you don’t wake up, I will come like a thief; and you don’t know at what moment I will come upon you. Nevertheless, you do have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; and they will walk with me, clothed in white, because they are worthy. He who wins the victory will, like them, be dressed in white clothing; and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; in fact, I will acknowledge him individually before my Father and before his angels. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities'” (Revelation 3:1-6).
Yeshua sends the fifth messenger to Sardis where he reveals himself as the one who “has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars.” The prophet Isaiah describes the seven-fold Spirit of Elohim that embodies the fullness of Messiah: “The Spirit of Adonai will rest on him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and power, the Spirit of knowledge and fearing Adonai –– he will be inspired by fearing Adonai” (Isaiah 11:1-2).
He has explained that the seven stars are the seven messengers guarding the communities. He repeats this phrase as a witness that he is the one sending the message, not the ‘star’ who is only the messenger.
Sardis had a very large Jewish population seen from the remains of its synagogue, the largest in the ancient world. Hence, Sardis also had a large Messianic Jewish community. This huge congregation has a reputation for being alive, but is really dead. They have become lethargic and have lost their zeal. They no longer preach repentance and obedience. Yeshua tells them to strengthen what little they still have or it will die too. The Spirit of Elohim gives power to the believer; however, it appears that Sardis is missing that power.
Yeshua commands Sardis, “Wake Up!” The Greek word gregorio also means ‘to keep watch’. The Sardis community is sleep-walking and unaware of their complacent lifestyle (Ephesians 5:14). They have become so rich that they are materialistic and constantly seeking pleasure. If they don’t wake up and keep watch, Yeshua will come like a ‘thief’ in a swift and stealthy manner, and they will miss his marriage feast.
The phrase ‘thief in the night’ alludes to the snatching away of a bride from her home when the time for her wedding feast arrives. The bridegroom comes at an unknown time –– with his friends and loud noise –– to carry away his betrothed to the wedding chamber. Because his arrival time is unknown, the bride must be ready and watching at all times for his appearance.
‘Thief in the night’ is also a Hebrew idiom for Yom Teruah or the Feast of Trumpets because the ‘day and the hour’ for when Adonai’s ‘appointed time’ begins is unknown. This concurs with Yeshua’s statement that “no one knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13). This second phrase, “no one knows the day or the hours” points to Yom Teruah, the next Biblical Feast to be fulfilled (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
The Feast of Trumpets is celebrated on a New Moon. In ancient times, when the New Moon was sighted by the high priest along with the testimony of two witnesses, the new month began with the blowing of shofars throughout the land of Isra’el. At this moment, all the annual Feast times and dates were determined.
In Matthew chapter 25, Yeshua tells the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids. The Bridegroom takes a long time –– years, centuries, and millennia –– to arrive and the Bridesmaids fall asleep. When they hear the loud voice of the Bridegroom, only five have oil in their lamps. The wise Bridesmaids trim their wicks, light their lamps, and go with the Bridegroom into the Bridal Chamber. The other five are foolish because they did not prepare for the Bridegroom’s arrival. When they hear his voice, they have to run out and buy more oil. By the time they return, the door is shut, and they are excluded from the Bridal Chamber.
The lamps in the parable are the Word of Elohim (Psalm 119:105). The Hebrew for ‘word’ in this verse is Torah. Each of the ten Bridesmaids have Torah to illuminate their path, but their desire to become a set-apart Bride determines whether or not they use it. In Judaism, oil symbolizes the righteous works that come from obedience. Oil is also symbolic of the Ruach Elohim and was used to anoint kings, priest, and now fills the lamps of the wise virgins who become the Bride of Messiah.
At a future Feast of Trumpets, the Bridegroom will come out of the heavens with a loud cry and a shofar blast to call forth his waiting and watching Bride (1 Thessalonians 4:16). For those Bridesmaids who are asleep and unprepared, they will miss entering the Bridal Chamber. Sardis is warned; they must wake up, trim their wicks, and make sure their lamps are supplied with oil.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Torah – torah – תורה
Tav – Crossed Sticks means ‘sign’ or ‘covenant.’
Vav – A Nail means ‘binding.’
Resh – A Head means ‘highest authority.’
Hey – A Window means ‘reveal’ or ‘behold.
The Hebrew Word Picture for torah: the covenant sign binding to the highest authority revealed.
Oil – shemen – שמן
Shin – A Tooth means ‘consume’ or ‘destroy.’
Mem – Water means ‘chaos’ or ‘mighty.’
Nun – A Fish means ‘life.’
The Hebrew Word Picture for shemen: consume and destroy the chaos of life.
Spotted Wedding Garments
The works of the congregation in Sardis are incomplete in Elohim’s sight. This is another allusion to these believers who have lamp of Torah, but are deficient in their works of obedience. They have forgotten what they heard and no longer obey the gospel of repentance and bearing fruit of that repentance. Yeshua compares their incomplete works to soiled clothing or spotted wedding gowns.
Sardis is told to remember what they have heard and obey it. This is a reminder that if was nothing for them to obey, Yeshua would be foolishly correcting them (Romans 10:16). Even Kefa (Peter) confirms the gospel is about obedience (1 Peter 4:17). Those Messianic believers in Sardis must repent, wash their robes, be found spotless and watch for the coming King and his Kingdom (2 Peter 3:14).
“Add guilt to their guilt, don’t let them enter your righteousness. Erase them from the book of life, let them not be written with the righteous” (Psalm 69:27-28).
Those in Sardis who don’t wash their soiled gowns will be “blotted out” of the Book of Life. The Hebrew word for ‘soiled’ is chaneph and means ‘profane’. Profane means that one lives a secular, carnal life rather than a spiritual one. It also means to ‘make common’ the holiness of Elohim. The Greek word for ‘soiled’ is moluno and means to ‘spiritually destroy the reputation of Messiah.’ These two words give a detailed view of the spiritual condition in Sardis. They live carnal, profane lives that destroy the message of Yeshua; they have lost their fear of Adonai and His Word. This unholy behavior brings a severe judgment –– they will be blotted out of the Book of Life.
The The Hebrew word for ‘blotted out’ is machah and means to ‘wipe out, cancel or exterminate’. To be ‘blotted out’ of the Book of Life has a serious eternal consequence for choosing to not obey the message of Yeshua. At the final judgment, everyone is thrown into “the lake of fire and burning sulfur” unless their name is written in the Book of Life. Those in Sardis who don’t give up their profane, carnal lifestyle will spend eternity in the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth –– the place of greatest regret.
The Messianic believers in Sardis were not a ‘living’ part of the Body of Messiah. They were dead and needed to “Wake Up” or lose Eternity. On the final Day of Atonement when books are opened, only those names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will enter the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:22-27).
“One of the elders asked me, “These people dressed in white robes … They have washed their robes and made them white with the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:13-14).
There are some followers of Yeshua in Sardis who have not soiled their wedding gowns. These people will walk with Yeshua clothed in white robes. They will receive fine, white linen bridal gowns to represent their righteous deeds grounded in obedience (Revelation 19:7-8). Yeshua will call each righteous one by name and they will hear: “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21-24).
“Those [in Sardis] who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit, Ruach haKodesh [the holy wind] is saying to the Messianic community.”
Yeshua uses these same words in the gospels when he speaks in parables, however, he doesn’t include the words, “what the Spirit says to the communities.” One reason he taught in parables was so that people could ‘look but not see, and listen but not understand’ the message of the Kingdom (Isaiah 6:9-10, Luke 8:10). Because he wanted his disciples to have a deeper understanding of the coming Kingdom, he explained the hidden meaning away from the crowds.
Yeshua spoke all of his parables before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the ‘holy wind’ was poured out (Acts 2:2). With the arrival of the new covenant, men and women who obey the message of Yeshua are given new hearts and a renewed spirit. The Ruach haKodesh gives them ‘ears to hear what the Spirit is saying’ so they can obey His voice.
Yeshua doesn’t want Sardis to just ‘hear’ his message, but ‘listen’ to it. His message was to be heard through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd (Psalm 95:7-8, John 10:27-28) His sheep were to ‘listen’ and ‘obey’ the message so they would be overcomers –– Isra’el –– and receive their eternal reward.
“But you [Sardis], how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear!” (Isaiah 6:9-10, Matthew 13:14-16).
Revelation 3 – Messianic Community of Philadelphia
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