Sardis is an ancient city, and it was mentioned as a city as early as 1200 BC. She was the capital of Lydia. Lydia was a legendary kingdom that possessed immense wealth. We may have heard of its famous King Croesus, who lived in the 6th century BC and was considered the wealthiest man in the world. The city of Sardis was considered an impregnable city situated on an inaccessible hill whose slopes were very steep. As a result, the city's inhabitants were proud and overconfident. However, the famous King Cyrus defeated Croesus with a surprise attack, so the city came under Persian rule (546 BC). Then, the city came under the rule of Alexander the Great (334 BC), Seleucid and Pergamese kings (189 BC), and the Roman Empire from 133 BC onward.
During the period of the book of Revelation, Sardis was in a state of decline, partly due to an earthquake. The city's pride and hubris were proven unjustified. The city was a hub of diverse religious worship, including the goddess Cybele (Artemis), Zeus, and the Roman emperor. It also housed a significant Jewish community, with a synagogue.
The letter to Sardis, set against this backdrop, delivers a powerful message. It confronts the congregation's spiritual pride, warning that the time for repentance is running out. The urgency of the situation is underscored in verse 1, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” The call to action is evident in verse 3, “Repent and watch.”
But how amazing is Christ’s self-designation in vs. 1: "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.” The seven spirits denote the fullness of the Holy Ghost over which Christ disposes. The stars are the congregations over which Christ disposes; it is His body, the church. Christ does not give up on this church. There are strong rebukes and serious warnings, but Christ’s outstretched hand still exists. Let us not pass by Christ and go to Him in repentance and faith.