The dead church of Sardis
Jesus revealed the true condition of the church of Sardiswhen He told them – “you are the Living dead”:
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 (Rev 3: 1).
The church of Sardis had good works
Jesus told the church that He knew their works. In fact, He said that to every church. However, the church of Sardis had used their works as a cover for their sin.
The church was famous for being “alive”
The church had become famous for being alive. Zaō was the Greek word used in the text. Apostle Peter had described believers as:
“… living (zaō) stones… built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 2: 5)
However, something was wrong, Sardiswas not living – a bad stench emanated from the church. Jesus told the believers that their garments or lives were dirty. In our century, Sardiswould represent the church with:
- a great Pastor, Bishop or even Apostle
- a great worship team
- many ministries
- a great worship team
What was wrong with the church of Sardis?
Jesus revealed that the believers had become corrupted and had defiled their garments:
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 (Rev 3: 4).
Let’s explore the word “defiled”. The verb molynō is used in the text and it occurs five times in three verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV.
In these texts, Molynō is used in reference to:
- Believers whose consciences were defiled after they knowingly ate food offered to idols (1 Cor 8: 7). Eating food offered to idols was a common event in Paul’s day and he taught that those who did so were holding a communion supper with the associated demon.
- Virgins who had not had sexual intercourse with women (Rev 14: 4).
It seems that the church of Sardis had fallen prey to the sins of the cult of Balaam. He had certainly reproved the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira for these specific sins. Interestingly, Jesus did not make direct reference to this cult in this text.
However, Lord Jesus later told the church that those who had not defiled their garments would not be blotted out of His book of Life (Rev 3: 5). This took my mind back to Moses’ intercession for the Jews after they had sinned against God by worshipping a golden calf (and the associated demon) and had simultaneously engaged in acts of sexual immorality (Exodus 32).
This association in the Old Testament again confirms that the hidden sin of the church of Sardis was involvement in occultic activities.
Then why did Jesus call the church the Living Dead?
I went back to Lord Jesus’ letters to the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira in order to understand whySardishad gone into a state of apostasy. The problem withSardisis that the church seemed to have covered up the sin and had spent a lot of time and effort in making out that it was full of holy and good works.
Jesus also had told the church that He had not found their works “perfect before God” (Rev 3: 2 ). Plēroō is the Greek word used for “perfect”. In the KJV of the New Testament, it is used directly to mean:
- Full of joy
- Full of the fruits of righteousness
- Filled with the knowledge of His will
- Filled with lies from Satan – “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back [part] of the price of the land?” (Acts 5: 3)
Plēroō comes from the Greek adjective plērēs. Plērēs also refers to:
- A container being full
- Being full of the Holy Ghost
- A man being full of leprosy
- A man full of faith
- Full of wrath
- Receiving a full reward
We can see therefore that plēroō means to lack nothing – faith, reward etcetera.
Therefore, Lord Jesus said that the church of Sardis was lacking in works although they had made out that they were wonderful. Moreover, like Ananias and his wife, the church had lied to the Lord about their sin – as if He did not see and know. This is a condition which would lead to death.
The state of self deception and hypocrisy of the church of Sardis had made it difficult for repentance to take place. Their sin also deepened over time. This was the condition of the nation of Israel whenever they sinned.
Lord Jesus had blotted sinners’ names out of the Book of Life!
Lord Jesus then made an astounding revelation which many of us missed. HE told Apostle John that those who had sinned had been blotted out of the Book of Life – this is why He referred to this church as the Living Dead, anyway:
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.
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.
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 (Rev 3: 3 -5).
Can the name of a believer be blotted out from the Book of Life? Well, Apostle Moses asked for his own to be blotted out (Exodus 32: 32). Lord Jesus told him no way –
But the LORD replied to Moses, “No, I will erase the name of everyone who has sinned against me (Exodus 32: 33).
Lord Jesus told me to ask where Ananias and Sapphira go to when they died – heaven or hell? (Acts 5).
This is a time for SERIOUS self examination. Are you church member who is practicing a life style of sin and failing to be convicted by the Lord. Pay attention! You could be the Living Dead – listen to what Jesus said to the churches and repent.
Have a good day!