3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4 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. 5 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. 6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
I don’t know how often you read the Bible. Maybe you read it all the time or perhaps you’re new to it and you are reading this devotion to help you learn. As we read the Bible, there are times when we run into a text that is extra confusing. You are not alone, that happens to the best bible scholars out there. The letter to Sardis in Revelation 3 was one of those passages for our writing team this week.
In this passage, Jesus tells the church to wake up and remember the things they originally learned. He says if they don’t he will come like a thief in the night. One of the best ways to begin studying a passage is to ask questions about it. In this section we might ask, why did Jesus use the image of a thief in the night? Is he coming to steal something from us? Is it more about being caught off guard? Is he threatening to hurt those who are found asleep? He goes on to say that there are some who are not soiled and who do walk with him (Jesus). He says those non-soiled ones will never have their names blotted out of the book of life. So again, why the thief illustration? If the faithful people are not going to be blotted out of the book of life, does that mean the sleepers (unfaithful) will be blotted out? What exactly is he getting at?
What do we do in times when a passage seems foggy to us? The first answer is to let our questions drive us deeper. Let the fog cause you to pray for wisdom and insight. Look at the context to find answers. Questions are good and are often the preamble to some of the most fruitful moments with God in his word. A second answer is to use other tools to study. Things like cross references in the center column of most bibles, commentaries, bible dictionaries, and other passages about similar subjects can all help. Meditate on the passage through the day, return to it, chew on it, look at it in different translations. Let the questions drive you deeper.
This is by no means the final solution, but for the sake of brevity, the last recommendation I’ll make is to consider the character of Jesus when trying to interpret a text. This requires that you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John enough to get to know Jesus. Our team struggled with this text for a while. Rather then telling you the solutions we came up with, I want to challenge you to ask your own questions about this thief illustration. While you wrestle with your questions, remember that Jesus is love, he came to seek and save the lost, he cares about the hurting, and he wants what is best for his children. Let those truths guide you.
By Aaron Bjorklund