Revelation Chapter 3 – Sardis

Messianic Community in Sardis

Sardis was the capital of the 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. It was located about 60 miles from the cities of Ephesus and Smyrna on the Pactolus River. The Pactolus River 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 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.

“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.”  He has already 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.

The prophet Isaiah describes the seven-fold Spirit of Elohim that embodies the fullness of Messiah.

 “But a branch will emerge from the trunk of Yishai [Jesse], a shoot will grow from his roots.  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).

The community in Sardis has a reputation for being alive, but is really dead.  Yeshua tells them to strengthen what little they still have or it will die too.  The Spirit of Elohim gives a life of power to the believer thus it appears that Sardis is missing that power.

Yeshua commands Sardis to “Wake Up!”  The Sardis community is sleep-walking and unaware of their complacent lifestyle.  If they don’t wake up,  Yeshua will come like a ‘thief,’ in a swift and stealthy manner, and they will miss his and ultimately their own wedding.

“It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life …” (John 6:63).

“Get up, sleeper! Arise from the dead, and the Messiah will shine on you!” (Ephesians 5:14).

Idioms and a Parable

“But you have no need to have anything written to you, brothers, about the times and dates when this will happen;  because you yourselves well know that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).

The phrase ‘thief in the night’ symbolizes the snatching away of bride from her home when the time of her wedding 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 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 this ‘appointed time’ begins is ‘unknown.’ This concurs with Yeshua’s words, ‘no one knows the day or the hour’ in Matthew 24:36 and points to Yom Teruah, the first fall Biblical festival that has yet to be fulfilled.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

The Feast of Trumpets is celebrated on a New Moon. In ancient times, only when the New Moon, the beginning of the new month, was sighted by the high priest along with the testimony of two witnesses could any festival time be determined. Yom Teruah began only at the sighting of the new moon with the blowing of shofars throughout the land of Isra’el.

In Matthew 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. These are the wise Bridesmaids. They trim their wicks, light their lamps and go with the Bridegroom into the Bridal Chamber.  The other five are called foolish because they did not prepare. When they hear the voice of the Bridegroom, they have to run out and buy more oil. By the time they return, the door is shut and they are excluded from the wedding festivities.

“Your word is a lamp for my foot and light on my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The lamps in the parable are the Word of Elohim. The Hebrew word for ‘word’ in this verse is Torah. Specifically, each of the Bridesmaids have Torah to illuminate their path, but their desire to become a set-apart Bride for Yeshua determines whether or not they use to mature spiritually.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Torah – torah – תורה

Tav is ‘crossed sticks’ that mean ‘sign’ or ‘covenant’

Vav is a ‘nail’ that means ‘bind together’

Resh is a ‘head’ that means ‘head’

Hey is a ‘window’ that means ‘reveal

Torah – The covenant sign that binds to and reveals the head

“Furthermore, you who heard the message of the truth, the Good News offering you deliverance, and put your trust in the Messiah were sealed by him with the promised Ruach HaKodesh …” (Ephesians 1:13).

Oil is symbolic of the Spirit of Elohim, His seal on those who are His. Oil was used to anoint kings and priests and now, the Bride of Messiah.

Hebrew Word Pictures

Oil – shemen – שמן

Shin is a ‘tooth’ and means ‘return’

Mem is ‘water’ and means ‘mighty’

Nun is a ‘fish’ and means ‘life’

Shemen – Return to the mighty life

At some future Feast of Trumpets, the Bridegroom will come out of the heavens with the ruling angels and a loud cry and a shofar blast from his Father to call forth his waiting and prepared Bride (1 Thessalonians 4:16). For those Bridesmaids who are foolish and unprepared, they will miss the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. This is the warning for Sardis. They must wake up, trim their wicks, and make sure there is oil in their lamps!

The believers in Sardis could be compared to the bridesmaids in Matthew 25. They all have lamps, but no oil. Unless, they get oil before the arrival of the Bridegroom, they will miss his arrival and be shut out of the wedding chamber.

“But you, brothers, are not in the dark [you know the ‘appointed seasons’], so that the Day [of the Lord] should take you by surprise like a thief [in the night]; for you are all people who belong to the light …” (1 Thessalonians 5:4).

Faith Without Works

“Then he [Moshe] took the book of the covenant and read it aloud, so that the people could hear; and they responded, “Everything that Adonai has spoken, we will do and obey” (Exodus 24:7).

“The problem is that they haven’t all paid attention to the Good News and obeyed it” (Romans 10:16).

The works of the congregation in Sardis are incomplete in Elohim’s sight.  This is another reference that these believers have the lamp of Torah, but they are deficient in their obedience. They have forgotten what they heard and no longer obey the gospel message. Yeshua compares their incomplete works to soiled clothing or spotted wedding gowns.

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this (new heaven and new earth), make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:14).

Sardis is to remember what they have heard and obey it. If there was nothing to obey, no rules or Torah commands, then this would be a foolish correction from Yeshua.   Kefa confirms the gospel is more than just a belief system, it’s about remembering, hearing, and obeying

“For the time has come for the judgment to begin. It begins with the household of God; and if it starts with us, what will the outcome be for those who are disobeying God’s Good News?” (1 Peter 4:17).

Many modern-day believers have become complacent because of distorted doctrine. By removing the Torah, Elohim’s teachings and instructions from their theology, millions of sincere continue to live in sin and disobedience. They no longer ‘hear’ what they are to ‘obey.’ Like Sardis they are dead from the lack of the Spirit of Elohim in their lives. Even Yeshua teaches that in order to receive the Spirit of Elohim, the Ruach HaKodesh, one must obey the commandments.

“If you love me, you will keep my commands;  and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another comforting Counselor like me, the Spirit of Truth, to be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).

Wedding Garments and the Book of Life

“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 Messiah in Sardis who have not soiled their wedding gowns. These people will walk with Yeshua clothed in white robes. Those who have victory over ‘incomplete works’ will receive white fine linen bridal gowns to represent their righteous deeds.

“Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give him the glory! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and his Bride has prepared herself — fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear. (“Fine linen” means the righteous deeds of God’s people.)” (Revelation 19:7-8).

Those in Sardis who have 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. The Greek word for ‘soiled’ is moluno and means to ‘spiritually destroy the reputation of Messiah.’ These two words give a more detailed view of the condition of those in Sardis. They live carnal lives that destroy the message of Yeshua! This type of behavior brings a judgment – they will be blotted out of his Book of Life.

The The Hebrew word for ‘blotted out’ is machah and means to ‘wipe out, cancel or exterminate.’ At the final judgment, only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life are not thrown into the lake of burning sulfur. To be ‘blotted out’ is a serious eternal consequence for choosing to not obey the message of Yeshua.

Those in Sardis who don’t overcome their carnal lifestyle will spend eternity in the outer darkness away from the light of the New Jerusalem where there is weeping and gnashing of  teeth – the place of greatest regret. 

“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).

Moshe as the intercessor for Isra’el cried out to Elohim to forgive the Israelites of the grievous sin of idolatry. If Elohim could not forgive their sin, then Moshe requested to be blotted out of His book. Fortunately, Elohim forgave their sin and Moshe was given eternal life (Exodus 32:31-32).

Sardis was not a living part of the Body of Messiah in spite of its reputation.  It was dead and needed to wake up or lose their eternal reward.  On the final Day of Atonement, a significant ‘appointed time’ at the beginning of Eternity, when books are opened, it is vitally important that one’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The reward is that Yeshua will call each of righteous persons by name.

“I saw no Temple in the city … the gates will will never close, they stay open all day because night will not exist there, and the honor and splendor of the nations will be brought into it.  Nothing impure may enter it, nor anyone who does shameful things or lies; the only ones who may enter are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21:22-27).

Those in Sardis who overcome the carnal flesh and walk in the Spirit of complete works will be introduced to Yeshua’s Father by name as Isra’el. And, He will respond, “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 that he taught in parables was so the people could “look but not see, and listen but not understand” the message of the Kingdom (Luke 8:10).  Because his disciples were given deeper understanding to the coming Kingdom, he would explain their ‘secret’ meaning to them away from the crowds.

Another reason may be that the parables all occurred before the Feast of Weeks or Shavuot when the ‘holy wind’ was poured out and the new covenant was instituted (Acts 2:2).  With the new covenant, men and women who believed the message of Yeshua are given new hearts of flesh and a renewed spirit – neshama.  The Ruach haKodesh within would compel them obey his Torah (Ezekiel 36:24-27). His Ruach would give them “ears to hear what the Spirit was saying” so they could His voice.

Yeshua doesn’t want this community to just ‘hear’ the message, but to ‘listen’ to it.  His message was to be ‘heard’ through spiritual ears that were fine-tuned to his voice, the voice of the Shepherd.  His sheep were to ‘listen’ to the message and ‘obey’ what he instructed in order to be an overcomer – Isra’el – and receive an eternal reward.  

For he is our God, and we are the people in his pasture, the sheep in his care. If only today you would listen to his voice …” (Psalm 95:7-8).

“My sheep listen to my voice, I recognize them, they follow me, and I give them eternal life. They will absolutely never be destroyed, and no one will snatch them from my hands” (John 10:27-28). 

“In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which says, ‘You will keep on hearing but never understand, and keep on seeing but never perceive, because the heart of this people has become dull — with their ears they barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, so as not to see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and do t’shuvah [repent and turn from sin], so that I could heal them.’

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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