What does Revelation 3:4 mean?
ESV: Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
NIV: Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.
NASB: But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
CSB: But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with me in white, because they are worthy.
NLT: 'Yet there are some in the church in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes with evil. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.
KJV: Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
All was not lost in the church at Sardis. In this verse Jesus explains that a few faithful believers in Sardis had kept themselves pure. They had avoided the corruption that permeated the culture. No stain of immorality and idolatry soiled their lives. Unlike their slumbering fellow Christians, this faithful minority had kept a watchful eye for anything and anyone that might cause them to stumble and fall into sin.
Decades prior to the writing of these words, the original city of Sardis had failed to maintain active sentry duty and paid a heavy price for its neglect. What was assumed to be an impenetrable fortress was overrun thanks to complacency and arrogance. Thankfully, the faithful Christians among the church of Sardis had not fallen into the same error.
Like the faithful minority at Sardis, believers today need to be watchful. The apostle Peter urged believers to be "sober-mindful; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Jesus promised the faithful believers at Sardis that they would walk with Him in white because they were worthy. The white garments are symbolic of righteousness (Revelation 3:18; 7:14).
Revelation 3:1–6 comprises the letter Jesus dictated to John to send to the church in Sardis. The church's reputation was a far cry from reality. It had a reputation of being a live church, but actually it was dead. While this reputation is—technically—a praise, it's a hollow one. Jesus instructed this church to wake up and strengthen what remained. All was not lost, though. A few members of the church were true to the faith, and Jesus promised they would walk with Him in purity. He would also keep their names in the book of life and confess their names before His Father.
These final letters symbolize Church history from AD 1500 to the Rapture, the event that transports the Church from earth to be with Jesus. Sardis had a good reputation, but it was actually spiritually dead. Philadelphia had a good opportunity to spread the gospel, and it had kept Jesus' word and had remained loyal to Him. As such, Jesus promises to reward this church's conquerors. Laodicea was proud of its wealth, but was spiritually lukewarm, a characteristic that Jesus detests. He promises to fellowship with anyone in the church who would heed His voice and welcome Him. Laodicea is the only church given no praise by Christ.
This chapter concludes the letters Jesus instructed the apostle John to write to seven churches in Asia Minor. Those messages began in chapter 2. This passage ends the section of Revelation that describes the things that are (Revelation 1:19), meaning the things which existed in John's lifetime. Chapter 1 describes what John had seen (Revelation 1:19), and chapter 4 begins John's account of what was to take place in the future (Revelation 1:19).
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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