Lifting the Lid - a journey through Revelation - Free Sample
Because Jesus will guard us, we don’t let our guard down
Reading: Revelation 3:1-6
“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die . . . The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life” (verses 2 and 5).
Sardis was the city which compromised its safety. Not once, but twice. The main citadel of the city, perched high on a rocky spur, was considered so impregnable as a fortress that the capture of it was proverbial for impossibility. That claim was put to the test in the sixth century BC when Cyrus of Persia besieged the city. After two weeks, one of the Persian soldiers noticed a secret way into the citadel via a fissure in the rock. While the guards slept, Persian soldiers entered the acropolis and were able to open the main gates allowing the city to be taken. You would have thought that the city would have chosen to learn from its history, but no, it allowed history to repeat itself. After three hundred years the Seleucid King Antiochus III laid siege to the city, gaining entry in exactly the same way, while the Sardian guards slept.
How telling and provocative, then, for the Christians in Sardis to be given the following message by the risen Christ: “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God” (verse 2). Jesus speaks to a sleeping church in the midst of a sleeping city.
Some of the Christians in Sardis were letting down their guard and not holding true. Verse 1 seems to suggest that part of the problem was that they were living out of some kind of past reputation. The Greek of this verse says that the Sardian Christians had a “name” of being alive, but that was all a veneer. The compromise of their faith to the prevailing culture was nothing more than the sleep of death.
No wonder Jesus calls on them to be watchful. Like the city’s sentries from history, the Christians were letting down their guard. The needed response was for them to “strengthen what remains” (verse 2). The rest of the message provides some answers to what that looks like in practice.
No compromises, big or small
The thing about letting your guard down, is that it often happens by increments. If we accept one small compromise, then it means a new norm has been defined. Then a further slippage takes place. One minor drift leads to another and, before we know it, we have experienced a major compromise. The best way to keep up your guard is not to allow any size of slippage.
No living in the past
The experience of the Sardian Christians is still seen today. Certain local churches can develop a “name” because some kind of significant ministry or renewal took place there in the past. And sometimes those churches can try and live out of that reputation, even though God is wanting to do a new thing in a new generation. And sometimes we as individual believers can try and live out of the past in our relationship with God, rather than actively pursue a relationship in the present. Verse 4 speaks of the importance of “walking with God”, that’s a common biblical phrase for an on-going relationship with God.
Live now, anticipating the life of the age to come
One of the rewards of holding fast to faith in Jesus (verse 3) is being clothed in white (verse 5). White was a colour associated with the pagan worship of the time, signifying holiness and honour in Graeco-Roman culture. These ideas are being drawn upon here so that white garments symbolise the life of the age to come. Not letting our guard down involves us recognising our true heavenly citizenship and living in the present in a way that anticipates the full reign of Christ which will come when He returns.
Do any of these 3 examples resonate within your current experience? How might they apply for you?
The encouragement for us as we seek to hold onto faith and not let our guard down, is that Jesus is guarding us. He promises that those who remain faithful to Him will keep their names in His book of life (verse 5). In other words, when He returns, we will be counted worthy to enter the New Creation, not because of our own righteousness, but because we have been clothed in the white garments of His righteousness. The text places strong emphasis on Jesus’ protective hand on us. “I will never blot out,” uses a negating of a negative to emphasise the positive. To never blot out is to strongly keep something in. If we hold onto faith with patient endurance, then your name and mine are indelibly written in the book of life.
For those who have been sleeping in compromise, it’s time to awaken. The One who holds us and guards us can breathe fresh life into us, rouse us for action and confirm deep within us our heavenly citizenship. He has written our names in His book and He intends them to remain there. Because He guards us, we don’t have to let our guard slip.
“I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Lord Jesus, I praise you that you send your Spirit of life to rouse me from slumber. Show me where I have been sleeping in compromise. Strengthen me to raise up my guard in these areas so that I will not slip, but instead stand firm. Thank you for my heavenly citizenship. Fill me afresh with your Spirit that I may live now as a true citizen of heaven. Bring your work in me to completion on the day of your return. Guardian of my life, keep me holding onto you for ever. Amen.
 You can read more detail of the double capture of the fortress of Sardis in Barclay W, The Daily Study Bible, Revelation of John Vol. 1, 1959, Saint Andrews Press, Edinburgh, p143-145 and Paul I, Revelation, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 2018, IVP, London, p99
 See Revelation 3:18, 6:11, 7:9 and 7:13 for further references to white garments