Visiting these cities provided an important perspective on the state of Christianity at that time and what the Church endured during the Roman period.
In the late first century A.D., Jesus Christ sent a message to each congregation addressing their spiritual condition. He urged several to repent. To them all He encouraged overcoming and enduring to receive the crown of life.
To the Church in the city of Sardis, Christ urged them to avoid a dangerous complacency which could cause them to stumble and miss their eternal reward.
The city of Sardis occupied a large hill, called an acropolis, in a strategic location. The acropolis was 1,500 feet high, surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs. The fortress built atop this hill was thought to be impregnable and unconquerable. However, twice, invading armies found a way up the mountain to overcome the soldiers defending the city. The first was in the sixth century B.C., when Persian armies under Cyrus the Great swept through the region. Not learning from this, the city fell a second time in 215 B.C. to a Greek king.
Jesus drew on this feature of the city when He urged the members of His Church in Sardis, “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you” (Revelation 3:2-3, English Standard Version). It is a warning to not be complacent, thinking we are strong on our own. It is when we think we are strong that we could be the weakest—and be overwhelmed and fall spiritually.
It is a sobering thought. The message ends with encouragement to be on guard. I find this message to Sardis fascinating when understood in the context of the history of the city in ancient times.
The messages to the seven churches, including this one to Sardis, are relevant to us today. Pressures of life and the world around us can overcome us, causing doubt and despair. The message to Sardis offers us something to consider today as we form a life of faith to endure a world of challenge. I found my tour through Turkey to be a refreshing look at Christ’s care for His Church and people. He is alive and guiding His Church through each difficult moment. UN