Revelation 3:1-6 / The Grand Illusion

Posted on February 23, 2015


This is the tenth in a series of verse-by-verse expositions of the book of Revelation. This message was delivered at Hillcrest Baptist Church on the morning of February 22, 2015. This message looks at the church in Sardis, and the illusion of life which they put forth. A parallel is drawn to the same behavior in churches today. This post contains an audio recording of my message, along with my sermon notes and a study outline. Please note that the sermon notes are not a full transcript.

Rev 3:1-6


Sardis was an important commercial city located about 30 miles southeast of Thyatira. It was located on an important trade route that ran east and west through the kingdom of Lydia.

Important industries included jewelry, dye, and textiles, which had made the city wealthy.

From a religious standpoint it was a center of pagan worship and site of a temple of Artemis, the ruins of which still remain.

Only a small village called Sart remains on the site of this once-important city.

The letter to Sardis is sad, indeed. Sardis seemed to want to be known as a “live” church. However, the Lord had seen their true testimony and reputation, and concluded that they were dead.

This has become a picture of protestantism today. The great truths which were recovered in the reformation have been surrendered by a compromising church. Though churches may still repeat the creeds of the church, but in practice they have dismissed them. Programs, rituals and organizations have been substituted for the Word of God and a fruitful spiritual life. There is activity but no action, motion without movement, and program without power. Although the outward form remains, the inside is dead. We have ended up with a busy, hurried and exhausted church, which leaves the main business undone.” -McGee

Much of the modern church is now nothing but a lifeless illusion. It has died, and we are having a picnic instead of a funeral.

In this case, Christ said that He has the seven spirits (The Holy Spirit). The Holy Spirit was no longer with the church, it had withdrawn from them. Hence, the church was dead.

His having the seven stars (pastors), flows, as a consequence from His having the seven Spirits, or the fulness of the Holy Spirit. The human ministry is the fruit of Christ’s sending down the gifts of the Spirit. As long as the Holy Spirit is active, your ministry will be fruitful. Since the Spirit had withdrawn from Sardis, neither the church nor its minister was bearing fruit, they were like a dead tree.

Jesus’ pronouncement of death was really a warning of what was to come.

At the time this was written, the church was dying quickly, but there was one last warning. One last chance for them to wake from their slumber. They were to be watchful and strengthen what little life they had left. (Those few people mentioned in verse 4). The message was clear, as it is today. Repent or Christ will take you unawares.

2 Peter 3:10

1 Thessalonians 5:2-3

1 Thessalonians 5:7

These few people were the last bit of life in the church. They were like the other group listed in 1 Thessalonians.

1 Thessalonians 5:1

1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

1 Thessalonians 5:8-9

These were those few who were not defiled, there garments were white.

The white garments of all the redeemed speak of holiness and purity.

Revelation 6:11

Revelation 7:9

Revelation 19:14

Such white robes are specially reserved [first] for Christ:

Matthew 17:2

Mark 9:3

The holy angels:

Matthew 28:2-3

Mark 16:5

and as we’ve seen, the redeemed saints.

This book of life records all who are redeemed, it is a promise of eternal security for the saved.

In ancient cities, names of citizens were recorded in a register until their death, at which point their names were blotted out. Also, if one were to commit a grievous enough crime, their names would be blotted out.

In contrast, once you are saved, under no circumstances will your name be blotted out of God’s book. This is a strong affirmation that neither death nor anything else can separate us from the love of God.

Romans 8:38-39

In addition, Christ will profess the names of the faithful before the father.

Matthew 10:32

Luke 12:8

What ultimately counts is not our acceptance by this world, but that our relationship with Christ is genuine.

Once again, the reminder that we need to heed God’s Word.

While this world’s churches, as a whole, may be dead or dying, the faithful can remain confident and strong. Don’t just create an illusion of life, be genuinely alive for Christ.