“And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” (Revelation 3:1)
Here he emphasis that he has the: “seven Spirits of God” and the “seven stars.” As already commented on in Rev 1:4, the seven Spirits of God is describing the fact that God’s Holy Spirit will work in each of the seven church ages. These seven Spirits are described as being “before God’s Throne” in Rev 1:4. (Also in Rev 5:6 the seven Spirits are shown as being in the midst of the throne with Jesus, the lamb of God.) Jesus described the Holy Spirit in one place this way:
“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:14)
Jesus states that the Holy Spirit will receive from Jesus and reveal to us. This is why at the end of each message to the seven churches Jesus repeats these exact words the same way “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Hence the comment in verse 3:1 above “These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God.”
But notice that in this same verse of Revelation 3:1 he also states he has the “seven stars.” This is because his true angel/message bearers get their message from the Holy Spirit (and consequently are getting their message from Jesus.) This is why a true church of God ministry does not get their message from some earthly headquarters or from some weekly or monthly publication. They live the Gospel and study God’s word and pray with an earnest burden for God’s Holy Spirit to direct them in preaching a message. Through the Spirit of God, they get their message directly from God’s throne “and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55)
So why does he emphasis the Holy Spirit and the true ministry in his hand (see also Revelation 1:20)? It is because that during this Sardis church age, many ministers of the Gospel would lose out with God because they would not seek the Spirit, and they would not stay in the hand (control) of Jesus. Therefore Jesus states: “I know thy works, that thou has a name that thou livest, and art dead.” You are holding to the name “Jesus” but your earnest desire in seeking of the Spirit to get your message directly from Jesus has died. And so was the case often in this age that especially describes a time approximately from 1730 to 1880. Many preachers would become nothing more than a promoter of some religious sect doctrine, and often educated and approved by some religious movement. Jesus would no longer be honored as King and many false doctrines and denominations would become established in the earth. (And this condition is also rising its ugly head in many ways in our day, today!)
This is the final fulfillment of spiritual decline – a dead, professing, so-called “Christian” – headed for hell and eternal damnation. How does one who was at one time truly saved and on fire for God get into this condition? For the answer that Jesus gives, let us follow down the path of what happened during the prior four church ages:
First, in Ephesus we find they left their first love (Revelation 2:1-5), even though they were religiously doing all the right things – something or someone else had become the primary reason in their heart for doing the “right things.” Jesus was no longer the foremost reason. Loving or fearing man more than God can bring a snare (Prov 29:25-26) What’s more, the clear candlestick light on the pure bride of Christ, the church, was removed from its place, the house of worship – consequently in the resulting dimness, false things could be brought into the house of worship by men.
Second, in Smyrna (because of people leaving their first love) we start seeing false Christians right amongst the true, “which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” (Revelation 2:9) The true Christians may not be able to tell right away what is in another’s heart, but Jesus says “I know”.
Thirdly, in Pergamos (because of people professing to serve Christ, but in their heart they are not true to him) we see that Satan establishes a “seat” of religious authority right amongst where God’s true people also worship, by which they essentially supplant Jesus as the “King” with all authority. (Revelation 2:13) The result is that true Christians are being persecuted by false Christians, and the false are twisting the Word of God to their advantage and to justify themselves in persecuting those that are true. In addition, the false are introducing false doctrines and by them they are casting stumbling blocks in front of the true.
Fourthly, in Thyatira, Satan has not only established a “seat” of religious authority, but also is effectively deceiving true Christians with false churches, spiritually named “Jezebel”. These false churches are convincing a number of Christians that the false church is married to Jesus. (Revelation 2:20) Jesus states that he will judge this false church condition, and if they will not repent, he will “kill her children with death”.
Finally now in Sardis we see the final result of those who do not repent of the previously mentioned conditions: “thou hast a name that thou livest, and are dead.” You are still claiming to be Jesus’ servant, but the leadership and love of the Holy Spirit are dead in your soul!