Previous Verse Next Verse


“Write this to the angel of the church at Sardis: The one who possesses the seven spirits of GOD

Go to footnote number

and holds the seven stars

says this: I know your deeds; you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.


“Write this to the church that is fully known and understood by God and is facing the temptation to complacency: The one who possesses the fullness of the Spirit of THE CREATOR AND OWNER OF ALL THINGS and holds the heartbeat and reputation of all the churches as seen from heaven says this: I know your deeds; you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.



Seven means all or complete. It is not seven different Spirits of God, but the complete power and ministry capabilities of the Holy Spirit of God that Jesus has at his disposal. He respects the role of the Holy Spirit and does not do the Holy Spirit’s job for Him, instead He sent the Holy Spirit to minister in His place. This is a statement of encouragement to those finding the Christian life difficult. Jesus has all the power, encouragement and wisdom we need; He will provide what we need when we need it, so we have no cause to worry.

The Possible Symbolism of Sardis

What the city was known for: Seven hundred years prior to John’s vision, Sardis had been one of the most important cities in the world. The people there were confident and secure because the city was on the top of a hill and the ground fell away as cliffs on three sides; there was only one access point—along the spine of several other hills. That access point was guarded heavily. It was also a rich city. The king of that time, Croesus, was very, very wealthy. It is said that he established his own gold standard. But Cyrus, the king of Persia, destroyed Sardis when one of his soldiers saw a solder from Sardis drop his helmet over the wall and down the cliff. The soldier climbed down the cliff, retrieved his helmet, and climbed back up, revealing the route by which it was possible to ascend the cliffs. Thus, due to overconfidence, Sardis lost its freedom and prominence.

The city was rebuilt under Alexander the Great, but it was never as grand as it once had been. In John’s time it was under Rome and was not considered very important.

Some commentators indicate that Sardis was still wealthy. It is possible that there was still a quantity of natural gold in the area.

Notice that there are no signs of heresy being mentioned (this is the only letter to not mention a heresy), and persecution is not mentioned. At first sight this city does not seem to be a threat to Christianity; but it was a threat because of the temptation to complacency and laziness. It seems there was no opposition to the church in Sardis because it was not preaching the true gospel but had watered down the message. This local church was facing no opposition because it was not doing anything that might make it offensive or threatening to the pagan world around it. It had no witness, no light, no impact. The church in Sardis was in the process of dying but it pretended to be alive. Is it possible that the believers of Sardis were happy to just survive? That is what appears to be the case. They appear to have relied on their wealth rather than on God.

What the city’s name meant:  The traditional meaning was “that which remains.” The irony is this: by just trying to hang on to what remained, the believers of Sardis were letting everything slip away. The bare minimum mentality, when applied to the Christian faith, will soon bring the loss of everything that really matters, leaving only the outward shell of religiosity.