Revelation 3:1-6: Sardis
Sardis as a church was very similar to Sardis as a town, apathetic, not vigilant and comfortable. The town of Sardis was built on a nearly inaccessible town. It held a very strong military position. Sardis had a history of wealth, King Creosus who was very rich reigned from Sardis. Sardis was attacked by Cyrus, but it was proverbially difficult to capture. It had steep sheer cliffs on three sides. But 14 days into the siege a small group of Persian troops climbed the cliff at a place where no guard was stationed, for they felt secure no one would come from there, and the city fell. It suffered this sort of defeat twice in its history. Sardis is a town like San-Francisco or Christchurch it experienced a large earthquake in 17 A.D. and was exempt from taxes in order to rebuild. The town also had a very large Jewish population with a synagogue the size of a football field.
Sardis and Laodicea are the two churches that experience the strongest rebukes, and neither of them has mentioned an experience of persecution. The two churches that were most hard pressed, Smyrna and Philadelphia, receive no rebuke at all. Given the large Jewish population there would have been a large Jewish influence, perhaps the Roman persecution of the Christians was less emphasized due to the Jewish protection. Or perhaps the church in Sardis was not making any waves either with Rome or the Jews. Beale suggests that Sardis was failing in their witness and therefore they were not suffering. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that in the promises of Christ to those who overcome He promises to confess the name of the overcomer before His Father in heaven 3:5. This promise is linked to the words of Christ that speak about those being too ashamed of Him before Him, He will disown and those who confess Him before men, He will confess them before His Father in heaven, (Matt. 10:32-33). This linked with the fact that the majority of the congregation had stained clothing representing a compromised holiness, one where no blatant sins are mentioned. It is felt that a general worldliness and materialism had numbed them and made them an insipid witness.
Christ tells them to look within, back and forward in His letter to this church.