Summary: 1) The Correspondent (Revelation 3:1c), 2) The Church (Revelation 3:1a), 3) The City (Revelation 3:1b), 4) The Concern (Revelation 3:1d, 2b), 5) The Commendation (Revelation 3:4), 6) The Command (Revelation 3:2a-3), and 7) The Counsel (Revelation 3:5-6).
As the world continued to look on with horror and continued concern over Japan’s recent earthquakes and Tsunami, reports have now surfaced of previous unheeded warnings from Nuclear safety officers that Japan’s Nuclear facilities were inadequate to withstand a sizeable earthquake and needed to be strengthened before disaster occurred. Japan portrayed to the world an image of precision and innovation. Yet, with closer investigation, with government spending double that of GDP and unheeded safety warnings, when the earthquake suddenly struck, they were unprepared. In a culture that reveres dead relatives, Japan’s Prime Minister even speculated if their earthquake was a punishment from God. Now, an unnamed coterie of nuclear plant employees, nicknamed the Fukushima 50, maintain the Fukushima-Daiichi facility on the Japanese coast. With some receiving toxic radiation levels, they are walking dead: Physically alive, yet posessing lethal levels of radiation in their bodies. Their task is to strengthen what remains of Japan’s nuclear facilities.
In A.D. 17 a terrible earthquake devastated Sardis (and Philadelphia); The Historian Pliny called this the worst disaster in human memory. Sardis was rebuilt after extensive aid from Emperor Augustus. To express their appreciation, the citizens of Sardis created a coin with his likeness and inscribed it “Caesarean Sardis.” The people of Sardis had a special interest in death and immortality, and much of their religious life was nature worship focusing on the fertility cycle and bringing life out of death (Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (172). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.).
Of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation, Sardis was among the lowest in spiritual fervor. Its accommodation to its religious environment shielded the church from persecution, for hardly anyone took notice. Its inoffensive lifestyle yielded religious peace with the world but resulted in spiritual death in the sight of God. Apart from a few faithful members who kept the fire of the gospel burning, the church itself was gradually dying, like a fire that lacks fuel and air. Yet among the smoldering ashes were a few glowing embers (Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 20: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the Book of Revelation. New Testament Commentary (149). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.).
In letter to Sardis, Christ shows that the Christian never moves or advances beyond the need for forgiveness and, in fact, the vigilance that this letter demands is precisely that vigilance of remembering that every Christian man or woman must live a life of daily relationship and of daily forgiveness and of daily joy. Repentance must be a present reality. It is not a transaction that we are able occasionally to acknowledge as we would the illustrious victories and achievements of our ancestors. Our salvation is a daily, living, dynamic relationship (Palmer, E. F., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1982). Vol. 35: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 35 : 1, 2 & 3 John / Revelation. The Preacher’s Commentary series (140). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.).
In seeing the distinction between a faith devoid of works, and a daily, living, dynamic relationship with Christ, Revelation 3:1-6 shows the: 1) The Correspondent (Revelation 3:1c), 2) The Church (Revelation 3:1a), 3) The City (Revelation 3:1b), 4) The Concern (Revelation 3:1d, 2b), 5) The Commendation (Revelation 3:4), 6) The Command (Revelation 3:2a-3), and 7) The Counsel (Revelation 3:5-6).
1) The Correspondent (Revelation 3:1c)
Revelation 3:1c [3:1] ("And to the angel of the church in Sardis write): ’The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. ("’I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead). (ESV)
The descriptions of the divine author in each of the seven letters are drawn from the vision of 1:12–17. The letter to Sardis draws an additional component from the salutation in 1:4, where the phrase seven Spirits also appears. That phrase may refer to Isaiah 11:2, where the Holy Spirit is described as
• Isaiah 11:2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
It may also refer to the symbolic depiction of the Holy Spirit as a lampstand with seven lamps (a menorah), presented in Zechariah 4:1–10. In either case, the reference is to the Spirit’s fullness. Jesus Christ is represented in His church through the Holy Spirit. Mention of the seven spirits of God reminded this church that the Holy Spirit has all the power they needed to be able to achieve what Christ was asking of them. They were not dependent on their own resources but were failing because they were not using the resources available to them, resources which all Christians have in the Holy Spirit (Mills, M. (1997). Revelations : An exegetical study of the Revelation to John. Dallas: 3E Ministries.).