Wake Up! – Revelation Bible Guide Day 5
February 23, 2018
To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:
“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. 3Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. 6Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
7“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of the holy one, the true one,
who has the key of David,
who opens and no one will shut,
who shuts and no one opens:
8“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying – I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. 10Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
Points of Interest
- “Sardis” – Already an ancient city by the time Revelation was written, Sardis was high on a hill, hard to attack. Legend has it, though, that twice it had been invaded and conquered when its night watch fell asleep on the job.
- “you have a name of being alive, but you are dead” – John evokes Sardis’ past to capture the internal vitality of the house churches there. It sounds like Jesus is pretty alarmed at how weak and vulnerable they are.
- “Wake up” – The solution to the Sardis church’s problems is simple – just pay attention. Jesus hasn’t left Sardis alone – after all, he – like those invading armies of old – plans on continuing to show up in their city. But he’d rather they recognize him than have to grab their attention some other way.
- “…not soiled their clothes… dressed in white” – The dirty clothes represent a church that doesn’t look any different from the rest of Roman imperial culture. The special white togas reserved for a wedding or victory party symbolize devotion to Jesus that makes them stand out.
- “book of life” – This book traditionally represents a place in Jesus’ family or kingdom. The severity of threatening to blot out people’s names seems uncharacteristic for Jesus, but maybe this is part of the stark attention-getting strategy here.
- “…who has the key of David” – Jesus has the keys to God’s house, access into the family and presence of God.
- “an open door” – Jesus has given an opportunity for their lives to reveal the presence of Jesus to many in their city. With Jesus, our size and status have no connection to our possibility.
- “synagogue of Satan”- Some of the churches have resistance from Roman opposition. This is the second community that is experiencing hardship from their Jewish neighbors. John’s harsh language captures the enmity and accusation they experienced, but is over-the-top and has been used to justify later anti-Semitism. It might be helpful to remember that John himself and most of Jesus’ first followers were Jewish, so this language represents an intra-Jewish conflict, not an anti-Jewish attack.
- “if you conquer” – Victory for these churches isn’t defeating anybody else. It is maintaining encouragement and avoiding assimilation to their larger world’s temptations.
- “a pillar in the temple” – Wealthy donors in our times get plaques on walls of institutions. Roman citizens who served the state well could get their name inscribed on a pillar in a temple. Jesus promises his faithful children that they themselves will become pillars of what God is doing in their midst, with God’s name inscribed onto them.
What might the Spirit of God be saying to you through today’s passage? Has anything struck your mind or heart? Looking back over the last 24 hours – yours highs and lows, times of joy or sorrow, presence or distraction, anxiety or peace, has the Spirit of God spoken to you through your life or though any other person? Pay attention for a moment, listen, and ask God how you can respond to whatever comes to mind.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your six, that if any monotony or discouragement has lulled them to sleep, that Jesus would get their attention with something new and good in life.
The Bible Guide
This blog post is part of a Lenten journey through the book of Revelation. Every year during the season of Lent, we take a focused look at a portion of Scripture as part of our communal spiritual practice. This year, we are exploring what it means to be Children of God in a Fractured World, with Revelation as our lens. The series starts here.