The Letter to Sardis
1This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Sardis:
I have the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. Listen to what I say.
I know what you are doing. Everyone may think you are alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! You have only a little strength left, and it is almost gone. So try to become stronger. I have found that you are not completely obeying God. 3 Remember the teaching you were given and heard. Hold firmly to it and turn from your sins. If you don't wake up, I will come when you least expect it, just as a thief does.
4A few of you in Sardis have not dirtied your clothes with sin. You will walk with me in white clothes, because you are worthy. 5 Everyone who wins the victory will wear white clothes. Their names will not be erased from the book of life, and I will tell my Father and his angels that they are my followers.
6If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Letter to Philadelphia
7 This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia:
I am the one who is holy and true, and I have the keys that belonged to David. When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say.
8I know everything you have done. And I have placed before you an open door no one can close. You were not very strong, but you obeyed my message and did not deny you are my followers. 9 Now you will see what I will do with those people who belong to Satan's group. They claim to be God's people, but they are liars. I will make them come and kneel down at your feet. Then they will know that I love you.
10You obeyed my message and endured. So I will protect you from the time of testing everyone in all the world must go through. 11I am coming soon. So hold firmly to what you have, and no one will take away the crown you will be given as your reward.
12 Everyone who wins the victory will be made into a pillar in the temple of my God, and they will stay there forever. I will write on each of them the name of my God and the name of his city. It is the new Jerusalem my God will send down from heaven. I will also write on them my own new name.
13If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Letter to Laodicea
14 This is what you must write to the angel of the church in Laodicea:
I am the one called Amen! I am the faithful and true witness and the source of God's creation. Listen to what I say.
15I know everything you have done, and you are not cold or hot. I wish you were either one or the other. 16But since you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17You claim to be rich and successful and to have everything you need. But you don't know how bad off you really are. You are pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
18Buy your gold from me. It has been refined in a fire, and it will make you rich. Buy white clothes from me. Wear them and you can cover up your shameful nakedness. Buy medicine for your eyes, so you will be able to see.
19 I correct and punish everyone I love. So make up your minds to turn away from your sins. 20Listen! I am standing and knocking at your door. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and we will eat together. 21Everyone who wins the victory will sit with me on my throne, just as I won the victory and sat with my Father on his throne.
22If you have ears, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
Sardis is the least favoured of the seven churches. It was devoid of life. There was nothing happening other than a hollow pretence of faith. Ray Steadman chillingly calls it “The Church of the Zombies.” Apart from a few believers, they were nominal in belief; having an outward profession but being dead on the inside. They may have impressed people, but they failed to impress God. No wonder he told them to wake up, strengthen, remember, obey and repent (vv 2-3).
Despite the fact that most of the church of Sardis was a corpse, there were still a few that were faithful. To symbolize this, they were given clothing of purity. Jesus promised that he would always recognize them before the Father and the angels.
Philadelphia – the committed church. There are no complaints against this church. God’s delighted with it because it’s the church of the “open door,” i.e., the church of great opportunity. Notwithstanding persecution from the local synagogue, the church had stood firm in its faith.
Even though the church had little strength (v 8c), God promised to do great things through them. He promised eternal strength (depicted by the “pillar” in v 12a), eternal security (depicted by the name of God and his city in v 12b), and an eternal settlement (depicted by the “new name” which speaks of our new nature and eternal destiny).
Laodicea – the condemned church. Everything was wrong with this church. It was owned by the people and existed for the people. Even though it was prosperous, it didn’t use its money to advance the kingdom of God. Self sufficiency was a major stumbling block. Comfortable, compromising and complacent, this church was spiritually bankrupt. No wonder God wanted to vomit the church out of his mouth (v 16b), for tepid devotion is anathema to God.
There are no words of commendation for the Laodicean church. Yet Christ says that if they repent they would know intimacy – the joyful fellowship symbolized by eating together, (v 20b) and an illustrious future (the right to sit with Christ on his throne, v 21a). Remarkably, even though these believers were indifferent to God, Christ still loved them. There’s always hope for religious people if they repent.
Lord, help my local church to be totally committed to you. May we stand firm in the faith, be spiritually alive, and be a community you can take great delight in. Amen.