Revelation 3:1-6 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What does the Lord say about the church in Sardis? See Revelation 3:1 (printed below)

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: This is what the one who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars says: I know your deeds; you have a reputation that you are alive, but you are dead. (Revelation 3:1)

The Lord Jesus informs the church in Sardis that it has a reputation for being alive, but in fact it is dead. There was the outward appearance and the public reputation of life; but despite the public image, the Savior perceives that in reality the church was spiritually dead. It appears that the church in Sardis had become just like the city of Sardis: Sardis had been a very wealthy commercial center known for its woolen goods and wool-dying industry; but it was a city that was living off of its past, it had seen its heyday and was now in decline.

2. What is the first commandment the Lord Jesus gives to this church (see verse 2a printed below?)

Wake up! Strength the things that remain and are about to die; for I have not found any of your deeds completed in the sight of my God. (Revelation 3:2)

Our Lord’s command to the church in Sardis is, “Wake up!” the phrase can even be rendered, “Become alive!” Here is a great spiritual mystery: in addressing the two churches of Revelation that have become suffocated by material prosperity (Sardis, and later, Laodicea), our Lord almost commands them to be “re-converted.” The words addressed to the church in Sardis, “Wake up!” “Become alive!” is language associated with conversion (cp. Ephesians 2:5).

3. What further command does the Lord give to this church? See Revelation 3:2 (printed above under question #2)

Our Lord further commands the church to “strength the things that remain and are about to die.” The command is to salvage and cultivate what spiritual life still exists; rather than allow it to die, “nurse” it back to health and vitality. The Lord Jesus does not simply allow His church to wither away and die; in His great love and in His desire for spiritual fruitfulness, He issues His strong command: “Wake up! Strength the things that remain and are about to die.”

4. What warning does Jesus issue to the church in Sardis? See Revelation 3:3b (printed below)

If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:3b)

Following His command, the Lord Jesus issues the warning: “If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know what time I will come to you.” If we do not heed the Lord’s counsel to deal with spiritual lethargy and deadness as we find such things present in our lives, the Lord will visit us in the role of the thief: the thief is the one who steals our treasured possessions. But it is better to have Christ remove our present earthly prosperity, if it is a detriment to our spiritual life, than to lose out on the eternal blessing of the kingdom of God.

5. What promise does the Lord make to those who heed His exhortation (see verse 5 printed below?) What do you think this means?

He who overcomes will be dressed in white garments; and I will by no means blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. (Revelation 3:5)

Those who overcome the allurements of this present world, heeding Christ’s call to discipleship, “shall be dressed in white garments.” That is to say, they will share in the undefiled glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Furthermore, those who, by the grace of God, cultivate the Christian life and do not allow that spiritual life to become suffocated by the wealth and materialism of this world shall share with Christ in the life of the kingdom of God—their names shall not be blotted out of the book of life. Those who resist the enticements of this present world will be acknowledged by Christ to be His people whom He will be faithful to represent before His Father in heaven.