Revelation – The letter to the dead church in Sardis– (2) Divine Knowledge

In Part 2 of The letter to the church in Sardis, we’ll look at the Divine Knowledge. The things Jesus knows about the church. Usually, this is good news for the receiving church. However, that’s not always the case. Jesus had some good news for this church. But it was only for a few people. Plus, we have the title of “dead” church. We’ll find out more about what that means.

Revelation – The letter to the dead church in Sardis– (2) Divine Knowledge is article #20 in the series: Seven Letters to Seven Churches. Click button to view titles for entire series
divine knowledge for the church in Sardis

Biblical scholars disagree over what goes in the so-called Divine Knowledge portion of the letter to the church in Sardis.

It’s quite possible you have nothing in this section.  Some scholars have it that way.  I even had it empty the last time I revised this study.  However, I now have something in it.  I don’t mean to influence you, but I should tell you why I put something here.  

It has to do with the issue of whether this church is dead or dying.  Or some of both.  Before, I thought the church was dead.  No hope.  I no longer feel that way.  But that’s all I’ll say for now.  More will come at the end.

Before we resume with the letter to the church in Sardis, here’s the breakdown for this particular letter.

Tothe angel of the church in Sardis
Fromhim who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
Divine KnowledgeI know your deeds;
Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
But -I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
So -Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

HearHe who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To those who overcome....
He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.

Divine Knowledge of the church in Sardis

So – what I put in the Divine Knowledge section, the part with the “good news”, is this.

I know your deeds;

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.

That sentence was actually after some of the bad news.  It can get lost.  Or can lead us to think it’s too late.  But then, maybe it’s a warning about just how dire the situation is for those few people.  And for the church as a whole.  Like maybe if those few people leave the church for any reason, this church probably really is dead?

Soiled their clothes  

The Greek word we read as soiled is only used three times in the New Testament.  There is one occurrence of the root word in Greek, and it’s translated as contaminate in the NIV.  Both words then to be translated as defile or defilement in other translations.  Defile is a word we should recognize from the Old Testament.  For instance, this passage in Numbers.

The Purity of the Camp

Nu 5:1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. 3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” 4 The Israelites did this; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the LORD had instructed Moses.

Based on you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, we know there are some people who aren’t defiled, in a sense.  I say, in a sense, because we’ve all sinned.  It’s more a question of where our hearts are.  So a better way for us to think of it is that there are a few people whose hearts are in the right place.  But only a few.

And because of that, they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. One place to see what that means is one of my favorite Old Testament passages – starting at Isaiah 1:18.

A Rebellious Nation

Isa 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.

Isa 1:19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;

Isa 1:20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

If you read the entire passage, you find an incredible condemnation of Israel. Sadly, if you look at the kinds of things they did, you also see an image of the U.S. today. And, I dare say, far too many other so-called civilized nations as well.

In any case,only a few of the people in the Sardis church will be forgiven and have eternal life in Heaven.  The rest, the majority of them, will get Hell if they resist and rebel.

The good news in the Divine Knowledge of Sardis

This is part of the reason I think this church has some good news.  Yes, it is buried within the bad news, but it’s in the letter.  If anything, the placement makes it all the more remarkable that anyone can possibly come out of this church with God in their hearts.

In some of the other letters, it wasn’t immediately obvious whether the Divine Knowledge really was good or bad.  In this case, although the number of people to whom it applies is small, I believe it’s very good news for them.

We will, unfortunately, look at the majority of what Jesus says about this church in the “but …” section.

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