Osborne, Grant R. Revelation. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002. Location: Ellis BS 2825.53.O73 2002
II. Churches Addressed (1:9-3:22) pp. 77-217.
B. Letters to the Seven Churches (2:1-3:22) pp. 104-217.
“5. Letter to Sardis (3:1-6)”
By the first century, Sardis was an ancient city, known throughout the world as the home of Gyges, father of Croesus. Osborne notes its strategic importance and imposing cliffs (Osborne 2002, 171). The city was largely destroyed b an earthquake in A.D. 17. It was the home to several important temples and to a prominent Jewish community. The gymnasium complex associated wit hthe synagogue suggest there may have been a mixing of Judaism with the local pagan culture (Osborne 2002, 172).
The letter to Sardis follows largely the same pattern as the other letters. The greeting is addressed to the church through its angel. Christ as the one holding the Spirit is the one with authority (Osborne 2002, 173). The church is dying. Its only means of slavation is to allow God’s Spirit to take over (Osborne 2002, 173).
Osborne notes that where the ltters to the other churches list their deeds, the others have positive works but Sardis receives an entirely negative assessment (Osborne 2002, 173). Though they have a name as those who are living, their actual identity is as those who are dead.
A solution to the deadness is presented in 3:2-3. “Five imperatives occur in these verses, all of them focusing on the need for spiritual vigilance” (Osborne 2002, 174). The church must be watchful for enemies. They must strengthen the remaining people and things (Osborne 2002, 174). The works of the church in Sardis have been found lacking (Osborne 2002, 175). The Sardians are to remember what they have heard and keep it. Osborne notes that there is no direct object of the verb, so it may be better to translate the verb as “obey” (Osborne 2002, 176).
If the Sardians do not return to watchfulness, they are threatened that a “thief” will destroy them. Osborne finds numerous similar warnings in the New Testament, against people failing in their watchfulness and falling prey to criminals (Osborne 2002, 177). It is absolutely essential that the Sardians return to vigilance. The Lord will be returning as the judge for all (Osborne 2002, 178).
The letter to Sardis closes with a promise and an encouragement to the faithful. Osborne notes that the image of garments makes sense in light of the textile industry in Sardis (Osborne 2002, 178). The idea of clean robes can also refer to those robes which would be worn at festivals, especially at military victory celebrations. The church which seems defeated is presented as a victor (Osborne 2002, 179). Those who hold fast to Christ will be rewarded as conquerors with Christ. They will have an everlasting security, written down for the future (Osborne 2002, 180). They will receive recognition before the Father and the angels (Osborne 2002, 181).