A Name Known in Heaven (Revelation 3:1-6)
I. The Condition (verse 1)
The One who knows all things, before whom everything is transparent, tells the church in Sardis that He knows their real spiritual condition. Though they “have a name that [they] are alive,” He knows that in truth they “are dead.” Everything looks good from the outside and with many they have a good reputation. But to the eyes of Him who looks past the external, there is no life—they are dead. They are like a plastic flower that looks good but produces no fragrance. We don’t know the specifics of what this looked like in Sardis, but it would have certainly included public religion without personal piety, theology without godly fruit, and speaking of the cross without ever carrying it. In other words, it is contentment with outward religion before the face of men, without the inward reality before the face of God.
II. The Instruction (verses 2-3)
a. Wake Up (v. 2a) – The church in Sardis must “wake up” and recognize the reality of the situation. Before there can be repentance of sin there must be an awakening of the conscience to that sin, to see their current state as it really is.
b. Strengthen (v. 2b) – Their deeds were not yet complete in the sight of God. They were still doing the outward things that they were supposed to do as a church: meeting together, praying, singing, eating fellowship meals together, preaching, evangelizing, etc. But they were doing them merely outwardly. The Lord is not calling them to stop doing everything and start over, but rather to “strengthen” the things they were doing and begin to do them completely, as unto the Lord and not for their own reputation.
c. Remember (v. 3a) – In order to strengthen what remained, they must “remember” what they had received and heard, namely, Christ Himself. They should consider His life, how He made Himself of no reputation and did all things out of love for His Father. They should remember His teaching, that great men and women in the kingdom are not those of high reputation or position, but those who become like a child and as servants to the least of these. They should remember His death, how He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. They should remember His resurrection, which vindicates who He is, testifies to our justification, and gives us hope. Remember these things, and apply them once again in your life!
d. Keep it, and Repent (v. 3b) – When that unredeemed part stirs in their heart and they are tempted to slide back into the mere outward performance of duty, seeking their own reputation, they must continue to walk in repentance and keep what they have heard.
III. The Warning (verse 3c)
Christ warns them by assuring them of the judgment they will experience if they fail to wake up. They will be found unprepared, in their bed asleep when they should have been dressed in readiness and alert for their Master’s return. At that point, neither their name nor reputation before men will be of any value to them.
IV. The Encouragement and Promise (verses 4-6)
The Lord recognizes that not all have fallen into this state. There are still some in Sardis who had “not soiled their garments.” These have life, they are walking with Him now, and they will walk with Him in the age to come. Jesus encourages them with a threefold promise.
First, He promises that they will be clothed in white garments. Second, He promises that they will never be blotted out of the book of life. In Exodus 32, Moses thought he might somehow make atonement for Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf by having his own name blotted from the book of life. He was willing to suffer the death they deserve. Obviously, Moses could never make atonement for the sins of the people—but Jesus did. Jesus died the death we deserve, in order that our names be forever inscribed in that book of life. Third, He promises that He will confess their name before the Father and HIs angels. It’s tempting for us to foolishly live for the praise of men now, but only Christ’s voice will matter in the end. The One who carries in His mouth the unbreakable Word of God will openly confess the name of every believer before the Father and all the angelic hosts. At such a thought, how foolish it is to live for recognition before men!
- Are you walking in true communion with the Lord, or is your life characterized by outward appearance more than inward reality? In what ways are you tempted to perform more to be seen by others than by God Himself? What would it look like for you to “wake up” and “strengthen what remains”?
- Because of His atoning death on the cross, Jesus can and will confess the name of all His people before the Father and the angels. Are you living in light of that day? How does that change the way you think about your reputation in the sight of others? How should it motivate you to live for the glory of Christ alone?