Revelation – Wake Up – 8

Revelation 3:1-6 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. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

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The best way to scare someone is when their guard is down. They use this in scary movies. The music will build and build and then, nothing. When you think the scare will come it doesn’t, and as soon as you let your guard down, BOO! Scaring people is one of the most fun things to do, and sometimes you will wait for a long time for the person to walk around the corner and then scare them. But, it’s all wasted if they’re alert and paying attention.

What we’re going to see tonight is the need to be alert. To wake up.

Jesus is fully alert. (vs 1a)

Some commentators think the angels of the churches are angelic representatives who report to Jesus. If this is the case, I wonder what they say about us. About you? What do you think they would say?

Even though we often need a wake-up call, Jesus is fully aware of all that’s going on. “Jesus is fully alert, fully informed, and completely aware of all that takes place in Heaven and on earth. As the one who has the seven spirits and the seven starts, nothing escapes his notice.”[1]

As we’ve seen in other letters, this is good and bad for us. He sees your effort and your faith and your love, even if nobody else does. But he also sees your sin. The sin you think nobody sees.

Jesus knows us as we truly are. (vs 1b)

This church had a reputation for being alive and vibrant, but that was far from the truth. They were living in the past. They were living on their reputation. They were thinking that because there was no big controversy and everyone thought well of them that everything was good with them. They were wrong.

You can’t live in the past with Jesus. You are always here and now walking in obedience or in defiance of Jesus. You are always, every moment, either pursuing life or death.

“Yesterday’s victories are of little value for today’s battles.”[2]

This is why Jesus says you must take up your cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). Following Jesus is an everyday, every moment pursuit.

“One never drifts anywhere worth going. We always drift away from God into sin and rebellion. We never drift into obedience and Christlikeness.”[3]

Though this church had a reputation for being alive and thriving, there is nothing positive said about this church in this letter. Other churches that had severe problems were commended for different things. This church wasn’t.

Warren Wiersbe says, “The church would have been better off had there been some suffering, for it had grown comfortable and content and was living on its past reputation.”[4]

Is this you? Are you trusting in your “good girl” or “good boy” persona? Are you trusting in your church attendance? Are you trusting in everyone’s perception of you? Nobody’s perception of you matters except God’s.

So, what was causing this church to need a wake-up call? They weren’t confessing Jesus.

We are to confess Jesus.

In 3:5 Jesus says of the one who conquers, “I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.” This promise reflects what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

“Why would the church in Sardis not want to confess Jesus? The churches in these letters seem to face temptation and trouble on two fronts: Rome and the Jews. We cannot be certain of this, but archaeological remains from Sardis point to a thriving Jewish community there. The synagogue excavated in Sardis is the largest that has been found from the ancient world. It is large enough to have held a thousand people.”[5]

This letter is silent about a lot of the other problems we see in the other letters. There’s no mention of sexual immorality or idolatry or false teaching. This shows us this church wasn’t compromising with the Roman culture. You would think they’re doing good then, right?

But we see Jesus talk about confessing those who conquer before the Father (3:5). “The church in Sardis [is] being tempted to avoid confessing Jesus so that they would not be distinguished from Judaism.”[6] If they weren’t distinguished from Judaism, they wouldn’t have to worry about giving into the Roman Imperial Cult. They were exempt. They would have ease in life. All they had to do was not confess Jesus.

“Confessing Jesus, proclaiming the gospel, is a divisive, confrontational thing to do.”[7]

Why don’t you confess him in your school? Why don’t you talk about Jesus? Why don’t you stand up for the morals of the Bible? Because it goes against the culture. It’s not easy.

If we aren’t for Jesus, we are against Him, and He is against us. (vs 3b)

Matthew 12:30 – Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

This passage is a little scary. It tells me something I never want to heart from Jesus. He says, “I will come against you.” This is the pattern we see all throughout scripture. We see either God fighting for his faithful people or God fighting against his rebellious people. We know that in the New Testament Jesus took the punishment for our sin and we don’t have to, so you can imagine how severe this statement must be in order for Jesus to say it.

“His coming against you is worse than whatever consequences you are trying to avoid by not confessing him.”[8]

We need to wake up. (vs 2)

Here’s what it means to wake up. “It means to recognize that Jesus is bigger than anything you fear. It means recognizing that he is better than anything that pleases you. It means knowing that if you have him, you have everything you need.”[9]

“The exhortations to watchfulness would carry special weight in Sardis because twice in its history the acropolis had fallen to the enemy due to a lack of vigilance on the part of the defenders. In 549 BC Cyrus captured the acropolis by deploying a climber to work his way up a crevice on one of the nearly perpendicular walls of the mountain fortress. Late in the third century the city was again captured in the same way. A Cretan by the name of Lagoras discovered a vulnerable point and with a band of fifteen men made a daring ascent, opened the gates from within, and allowed the armies of Antiochus the Great to overpower the rebel Archaeus (216 BC). As in history, so in life, to consider oneself secure and fail to remain alert is to court disaster.”[10]

“Carelessness and failure to keep proper watch, arising from over-confidence in the apparent strength of the fortress, had been the cause of this disaster.”[11]

1 Corinthians 10:12 – Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Strengthen what remains. (vs 2)

You’ve heard it said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Apparently, though this church was as good as dead, it wasn’t hopeless. There was some life still left in them.

Remember the gospel. (vs 3)

Remembering cures a lot of ills. It can heal marriages, remembering why you first fell in love. It can fan into flame your love for Jesus, remembering what he has done for you.

Hold on to the gospel. (vs 3)

Hold on to the one who is holding on to you. When all else will cause you to fall, cling to the one thing that will save you. When all else leads to death, cling to the one thing that brings you life.

Repent now. (vs 3)

Turn from what’s keeping you from God and turn to God. It starts now with an inward desire but it must come out in action. There is no salvation without repentance.

This all sounds hopeless. A dead and lifeless church. But, not with God.

Jesus can bring to life what is dead.

“The book of life appears five other times in Revelation (13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27), and contains the names of believers written in it before the foundation of the world.”[12]

One commentator thinks this talk of taking their name out of the book of life was in reference to the roll the Jews had. These people were not confessing Jesus so they could be counted on the Jews’ roll. But if they don’t confess Jesus, their name will not be found on his roll.

Romans 10:9 – if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Jesus is in the business of saving and giving life. It’s why he died and rose. To put to death your death and to freely give you life. If you confess his name, not just with your attendance or how people perceive you, but with your life and words and actions, your name is written in the book of life. If you don’t confess him as Lord, you are not saved. Your name is not in the book of life. And you get eternal death. A forever of dying. But, to those who confess and believe, the reward is great.

“To the overcomers a threefold promise is given: (1) they will be dressed in white, (2) their names will not be blotted out of the book of life, and (3) Christ will acknowledge them before God and his angels.”[13]

Confess Jesus here, and long for the day you hear your name on the roll call up there.

[1] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 105.

[2] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 83.

[3] Jimmy Draper and Donna McKinney, Revelation: The Letters to the Seven Churches, January Bible Study 2019 (Nashville: Lifeway Press, 2018), 70.

[4] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), 1044.

[5] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 106; David E. Aune, Revelation 1-5, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 218.

[6] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 106.

[7] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 107.

[8] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 108

[9] Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 108

[10] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997) 94.

[11] William M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1979), 377.

[12] G. K. Beale, Revelation: A Shorter Commentary (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 2015), 80.

[13] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 96.


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