The Message to Sardis
To the angel of the church in Sardis write: "This is the message from the One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know what you are doing; I know that you have the reputation of being alive, even though you are dead!
So wake up, and strengthen what you still have, before it dies completely. For I find that what you have done is not yet perfect in the sight of my God.
Remember then, what you were taught and how you heard it; obey it, and turn from your sins. If you do not wake up, I will come upon you like a thief, and you will not even know the hour when I come.
But a few of you in Sardis have kept their clothes clean. You will walk with me, clothed in white, because you are worthy to do so.
Those who win the victory will be clothed like this in white, and I will not remove their names from the book of the living. In the presence of my Father and of His angels I will declare openly that they belong to me.
If you have ears, then, listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!".
Rev. 3, 1-6
Sart, the ancient Sardis, is now a little village near the town of Salihli. East of ?zmir and some 50 kms South-East of Manisa. The road to it is in very good condition and it is worth while to visit this very famous ancient, site, where also one of the Seven Churches of Asia was established.
Sardis, the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia, was one of the richest cities in the ancient world. The Kingdom of Lydia was ruled by kings like a Gyges Sadyalt Alyattes and Croessus. During the reign of this last king Sardis was on the top of its glory, about 670 RC. But in 546 B.C. the Lydian Kingdom was captured by Cyrus, the Great King of Persia, and from then Lydia and Sardis became part of the mighty Persian Empire. The Persians made out Sardis the capital of the Western districts of their Empire. They made the city also the Western terminal of the Great Postal Road that started in Susa, in Elam near the Persian Gulf, where are now the oil fields so well organised that it took only week to bring important messages and tradeware to and from the Great King in his Eastern capital from his far-off western districts. Commerce was in these times already so important that at the end of the seventh century B.C. the first coin was minted in Sardis in Lydia.
Later, when in 334 RC, Alexander the Great defeated the Persians, ancient Lydia, together with all Asia-Minor, was conquered by this Macedonian King. After his death Sardis fell into the hands of the Seleucids of Syria. The Roman Era started here in the second century B.C., after the battle of Magnesia in 100, where the Seleucids were defeated by the Romans. In Byzantine times Sardis became the center of a bishopric. During the Roman and Byzantine times the town was sacked destroyed twice, but rebuilt anew.
With the arrival and settling of Christianity, one of the Seven Churches of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation) was founded here. But towards the end of the fourteenth century A.D. the town passed into the hands of the Turks; in 1390 it became part of the Ottoman Empire, under the name Salihli.
Fieldwork was carried out in Sart by an American group in 1910-1914. Since 1958 the excavations have started anew under the direction of Haufman. The most important architectural works that were discovered here were the synagogue and the Gymnasium. Both buildings date from the third century A.D.. One of the major restoration programs in Turkey is being carried out in Sardis at these two sites. The main street through the city, part of which can be seen next to the Synagogue passed alongside the South side of the Gymnasium. The colonnades on the South side of this marble road date from the Roman period, from the fourth century.
Other famous ruins are: the Byzantine Church, The House of Branzes (550 A.D.), the Roman Stadium, the Roman and Byzantine Baths, and a Theatre built in Hellenistic times but altered in the Roman period, and the Acropolis. But the most important ruins are those of the Temple of Artemis, situated at 2 kms South of the city. An Altar had existed already here since the end of the fifth century B.C. The original Temple of Artemis was built in 300 B.C.. It was attached to the before-mentioned altar and had its face to the West. This part was built during the first building phase; during the second building phase from 150-175 RC. the greatest part of the whole project could be realised. And during the third building phase, that started after 150 A.D., the completion of the work of the second phase was finished and, in addition, the temple was split up in two separate sections, so that the Eastern part of it became a place of worship dedicated to Faustina I, the wife of the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius.
Four kms North of this place, in the area now known as "Bin-Tepe" ("Thousand Hills" in Turkish), the largest Tumuli to be found in Anatolia are situated here. They are the graves of the old Lydian kings, in the form of huge grave mounds.
It has been said that Sardis stood as a gigantic watch tower guarding and comman ding the Hermus Valley. There were two towns near each other, one on the plateau and one in the river valley. Through the lower town flowed the Pactolus River which must have had gold dust in its waters. Much of the former wealth of Sardis came of Abadan in present Southern Iran. Transport along this road was from this gold. It is also known that the greatest and wealthiest King of those early days was Croessus, whose name is still known in the expression: As rich as Croessus". It was under his rule that the power and splendour of Sardis had reached its zenith.
As to the population of the city, the Sardians were of a very soft and weak character because of their wealth and fertility. Therefore, Sardis was a very suitable place for the Christians to settle. But, also a place to lose the alertness and the momentum of the early faith and first love soon. Another reason was that the inhabitants of Sardis had lost their vitality in many attacks on the city during previous wars.
In this somewhat decadent environment, the Christian Church, too, had lost much of its vitality and power; it was a corpse instead of a living body, though they thought of themselves of being alive. Indeed, the Church in Sardis was sleepy and lifeless. And it was untroubled by any attack from outside, or from any heresy from inside. It was not worth attacking, and for potential adversaries to spend any powder on them, or to fire a single shot upon this church. For the church of Sardis the only warning we.3: to be awake and to be on the watch. A Christian must always be on guard against the evil attacks and seductions of Evil.
Jesus has said: "Watch and pray, that you will not be seduced". The church in Sardis was, however, also the place for them who faithfully, under the supervision and the command of their Risen Lord, had to watch and to pray. To them was applicable a three-fold promise of the white garments of the victorious, the security of their names written in the Book of Life, and their acceptance by the Lord. For Jesus Christ is for ev^r faithful to them who are faithful to Him.
This is the nucleus of the message to the Church in Sardis. The old Christian hymn sings about this:
Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire
And lighen with celestial fire,
Thou the anointing Spirit art,
Who doest Thy sevenfold gifts impart.