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SARDIS    Page 2

Christianity in sardis


Sardis is one of the seven churches of Asia mentioned in the book of Revelation. Jesus told the apostle John, “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea” (Revelation 1:11). Jesus also gave John specific messages for each of the churches.

Sardis, in west-central Asia Minor, was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia and a wealthy and important commercial trading center. As a pagan city, Sardis was home to the well-known temple of Artemis, which still exists today in ruins. The church at Sardis was surrounded by paganism and idolatry but failed to stand out amidst the darkness. Although they appeared spiritual on the outside, Jesus knew their hearts. He rebuked them by stating, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). Falling prey to a similar sin as the Pharisees, they were like whitewashed tombs: clean and white on the outside, but dead on the inside (Matthew 23:27–28).

Jesus offered a warning to the church at Sardis, reminding them of His judgment if they failed to “wake up” spiritually: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent” (Revelation 3:1–3). There was more work to do, and He would bring judgment swiftly upon the church of Sardis if they remained in their spiritual deadness. Using similar wording and imagery to descriptions of His second coming, Jesus said He would come “like a thief” at an unknown time to bring judgment upon Sardis unexpectedly. In prior history, the city of Sardis had been conquered by the Persians and the Romans, events that provided illustrations of Jesus’ sudden judgment on the church. Sardis’s congregation needed to heed Jesus’ command to remember, hold fast, and repent (Revelation 3:3).

Byzantine Church Sardis.jpg

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Byzantine Church in sardis

Jesus commended the few in Sardis “who have not soiled their clothes” (Revelation 3:4). He promised a blessing on the undefiled: “They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). Others could do the same: “The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels” (Revelation 3:4). This verse does not mean that people can lose their salvation—the promise is that the names of those who trust in Christ can never be erased from the book of life (see also John 10:28). Although the church of Sardis received no communal commendation from the Lord, they still had a hope and a promise. Jesus urged them to wake up from their deadness, promising He would be faithful.



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The Temple of Artemis, originally built in 300 BC, renovated by the Romans in the 2nd_century AD,_Sardis

Disaster came to the great city under the reign of the emperor Tiberius, when in 17 AD, Sardis was destroyed by an earthquake, but it was rebuilt with the help of ten million sesterces from the Emperor and exempted from paying taxes for five years. It was one of the great cities of western Asia Minor until the later Byzantine period.

Later, trade and the organization of commerce continued to be sources of great wealth. After Constantinople became the capital of the East, a new road system grew up connecting the provinces with the capital. Sardis then lay rather apart from the great lines of communication and lost some of its importance.

During the cataclysmic 7th Century Byzantine–Sasanian War, Sardis was in 615 one of the cities sacked in the invasion of Asia Minor by the Persian Shahin. Though the Byzantines eventually won the war, the damage to Sardis was never fully repaired.

Still, Sardis retained its titular supremacy and continued to be the seat of the metropolitan bishop of the province of Lydia, formed in 295 AD. It was enumerated as third, after Ephesus and Smyrna, in the list of cities of the Thracesion thema given by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century. However, over the next four centuries it was in the shadow of the provinces of Magnesia-upon-Sipylum and Philadelphia, which retained their importance in the region.


Sardis Synagoque Salihli, Manisa, Turkey.

Byzantine, Seljuks and Mongols

After 1071, the Hermus valley began to suffer from the inroads of the Seljuk Turks but the Byzantine general John Doukas reconquered the city in 1097. The successes of the general Philokales in 1118 relieved the district from later Turkish pressure and the ability of the Comneni dynasty together with the gradual decay of the Seljuk Sultanate of Rum meant that it remained under Byzantine dominion. When Constantinople was taken by the Venetians and Franks in 1204 Sardis came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire of Nicea.

However once the Byzantines retook Constantinople in 1261, Sardis with the entire Asia Minor was neglected and the region eventually fell under the control of Ghazi (Ghazw) emirs. The Cayster valleys and a fort on the citadel of Sardis was handed over to them by treaty in 1306. The city continued its decline until its capture (and probable destruction) by the Turco-Mongol warlord Timur in 1402.


Byzantine Houses is sardis

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