Summary: The Church in Sardis had become lethargic and lost its way. Jesus calls us to be alert
The Fifth Church of the Apocalypse - The Church at Sardis
We have been looking at the Churches of the Apocalypse during lockdown
Last week we looked at the fourth Church of the apocalypse - the Church of Thyatira.
Today we are looking today at the fifth Church of the Apocalypse - the church of Sardis
And the catchword here is
“Be alert and on your guard”
I think it would be good to have a quick recap of where we have got to in the Book of Revelation form the previous studies
The Book of Revelation was written in AD 95 or 96 probably by the Apostle John when banished to
the Island of Patmos.
The seven churches of Revelation are
1.) Ephesus Rev 2:1-7
2.) Smyrna Rev. 2:8-11
3.) Pergamum Rev. 2:12-17
4.) Thyatira (pronounced Thy'at'ira) Rev. 2:18-29
5.) Sardis Rev. 3:1-6
6.) Philadelphia Rev.3:7-13
7.) Laodicea Rev. 3:14-22
All the churches are in about a 100-mile radius of each other.
Why the number seven? The number seven was considered by the people of the time to be the perfect number.
John uses it 54 times in the Book of Revelation.
(William Barclay The Daily Study Bible Revised Edition Vol 1 page 28)
I believe that The Angel of the Church is the Bishop or the leader of the Church in the particular place.
And the Seven Lampstands refer to the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse
Five weeks ago we looked at the first Church of the Apocalypse - The Church of Ephesus and drew the lesson that we must come back to our first love.
It is good to have a Christian orthodoxy but in the end it the love of Christ that counts.
Ephesus was the church called back to its first love of Christ that it had lost
Four weeks ago we looked at the Church of Smyrna and drew the lesson that loyalty to Christ is important - even if it means we die.
And we have the example of Polycarp the Bishop of Smyrna who died in the flames in AD 155 rather than compromise his faith
Three weeks ago we looked at the third church of the Apocalypse, the Church at Pergamum
And the catchword there was
“Caesar or Christ
There is no compromise”
Last week we looked at the Church of Thyatira
And the catchword for Thyatira was there can be
no compromise with false teaching within the church
Background to Sardis
Today we are looking at the Church of Sardis and the catchword for the Church at Sardis is
“Be alert and on your guard”
As in the previous letter, the background to the city in which the church finds itself is important.
Sir William Ramsay has said of Sardis “nowhere was there a greater example of the melancholy contrast between past splendour and present decay”
William Barclay says this about the geography and history of Sardis
“Sardis stood in the midst of the plain of the valley of the River Hermus. To the north of that plain rose the long ridge of Mount Tmolus; from the ridge a series of hills went out like spurns each forming a narrow plateau. On one of these spurs fifteen hundred feet up stood the original Sardis; and only where the spur met Mount Tmolus was there any possible approach into Sardis and even that was hard and steep. It has been said that Sardis stood like some gigantic watchtower guarding the Hermus valley.
The time came when the narrow space on the top of the plateau was too small for the expanding city and Sardis grew round the foot of the spur on which the citadel stood” (“The Daily Study Bible The Revelation of John Vol 1” p.113)
So, in actual fact, there were two cities of Sardis, the citadel and the town in the valley.
The city became prosperous and very rich, not least so legend hold that the River Pactolus that flows through Sardis in the valley is said to have gold bearing waters.
The most famous king of Lydia whose capital was Sardis was Croesus from whom we have the proverb: “As rich as Croesus” to define someone very rich.
For example, you might say that Bill Gates is as rich as Croesus
But Croesus was the downfall of Sardis.
He decided to take on Cyrus, King of Persia.
He consulted the Oracle at Delphi that told him if he went to war with Persia by crossing the Halys River “you will destroy a great empire”.
Croesus assumed that that meant the Persian Empire would fall, but in fact he was routed in battle and it was his great empire that fell.
The Oracle of Delphi was on a winner there.
Either the Lydian Empire or Persian Empire both great empires would fall if Croesus went out to battle with Cyrus the Persian King.