Outline of the Chapter.
v. 1-6 Sardis
The Letter to Sardis (3:1-6).
The City. Sardis was a little more than 30 miles southeast of Thyatira. Located at the foot of Mt. Timolus and about three miles south of the Hermus River. It was built on an almost perpendicular rock hill which made it very easy to defend. However it was conquered two different times by men sneaking up the cliff and into the city. The city's patron deity was Cybele, a nature goddess. The city was destroyed by a terrible earthquake in A.D. 17. It was rebuilt by Emperor Tiberius of Rome but never returned to its former glory. Similarities between the city and the church: Each had a name that lived but was dead. Each fulfilled none of its works; both would promise but fail to execute. With each it was watch, or be surprised as by a thief; Sardis had been caught napping each time it was taken. It is implied that the garments of the church had been defiled with immorality, for which the city was noted. (James Strahan)
1 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.
It seems that there was no real external persecution on the church.
It doesn't appear that they worshiped the emperor or other false gods.
The church had a name. A reputation of being alive and active.
However, inwardly they were dying.
2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
They were told to be watchful. Don't forget that this city had twice been taken by surprise. The Lord commanded His disciples to be watchful (Mt. 24:42f).
They are encouraged to strengthen the things that remain. The were to build on the few good characteristics which they had left. They were not completely dead yet.
"Perfect" means "to bring to completion, or finish." They had started strong but had faltered. Perhaps because there was no persecution, they were weak Christians. 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
They are commanded to remember their beginning.
They were to "keep" the things which they had been taught. Hold fast to those teachings.
They were to repent of their "dead" condition.
If they don't watch, He will come as a thief in the night. Not talking of His second coming but of His coming in judgment.
4 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.
There were still some who remained faithful.
It is comforting to know that even in a church of "spiritual corpses" the Lord knows the ones who are faithful.
To defile one's garments is to pollute the life of one who has been cleansed by the blood of Christ. (Jas. 1:27)
Only the living can walk.
Walking indicates fellowship, oneness, mutual agreement. (Amos 3:3).
Those walking with Christ are walking with Him in purity and holiness and unity.
5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
A three-fold promise. Shall be arrayed in white garments. Name not to be blotted out of the book of life. (Rev. 20:12-15). Christ will confess faithful to His father. (Mt. 10:23).
6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The Letter to Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13).
The City. Built on the River Cogamus which was a branch of the Hermus River. It was "on the road of the imperial postal service, which left the coast of Troas, came to Philadelphia via Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis and joined the great road out to Phrygia. The city was built on four or five hills with very fertile soil which kept the city inhabited throughout the centuries. Grapes were grown there. The city was destroyed in A.D. 17 by an earthquake which destroyed 11 other cities. The city was under Roman rule. The chief deity of Philadelphia was Bacchus (god of vegetation) also called Dionysus (god of wine).
7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
Jesus introduces Himself in a way that contrasts Him with the situations in the city.
He is holy unlike the false gods in the city.
He is true, unlike the ones who claimed to be Jews and were not.
Having the key of David shows that He is ruling on the throne of David (Isa. 9:6-7; Lk. 1:32f).
He also is the only one who decides who will have access to heaven and who will not (Jn. 14:6). Despite what the Jews may have said to the contrary.
8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
The word "door" is used metaphorically as in Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3.
Christ would now open a door of evangelism for the city.
Three reasons that the door was opened: 1. They had a little power. Low social status. 2. They had used that power wisely and kept Christ's word. 3. They had not denied Christ' name.
9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Jesus says that the Jews were actually of the synagogue of Satan, like the Jews of Smyrna.
A true Jew was one who was circumcised inwardly (Rom. 2:28-29).
Christians are to have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3).
Jews could not accept the concept that Gentiles could be the children of God as well.
"Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet..." This could mean that they would be converted or that they would someday realize the truth but never obey it.
10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
"The word of my patience" is the gospel of the cross in which the Lord's patience is set forth.
Because of their obedience, Christ would protect them from a season of trial.
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
This is not saying that His coming was imminent but that it would be as a thief in the night.
"Hold that fast which thou hast" which was an open door, His Word, a little power, steadfast endurance, and an assuring promise from the Lord.
To forfeit the crown of life is to forfeit salvation and eternal life.
12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
The one that overcomes would be made a pillar. "Pillar" probably means permanence rather than support.
"Shall go out thence no more..." (Jn. 10:25-29).
Those who overcome would have a three-fold name inscribed on them: 1. The name of God. This individual now belonged to God in a permanent way. 2. New Jerusalem. This individual is now a part of that "new" spiritual, heavenly city. 3. Christ's new name. Christian?
13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The Letter to Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22).
The City. Located in the sourther part of Phrygia near thejunction of two small rivers, Asopus and Carpus. Mountains to the south rise to 8,000 feet and to the north rise to 5,000 feet. The city lay in the fertile falley of the Lycus. The city was founded by Antiochus II, a Selucid king. It was originally built as a military base to guard the northern frontier of Antiochus' kingdom. This city was the captial of Phrygia. Today, the city lies near the modern city of Denizili at the end of a one mile long dusty, rocky road that leads away from one of Denizili's main roads. The city was under Roman rule during New Testament times. A large part of Laodicea's wealth came from the wool that was produced there. They produced a fine black wool. The city was also in an excellent location for trade being on three major trade routes. The city's chief water supply was from hot springs some distance away. There was an aqueduct that brought the water to the city but by the time it reached the city it was not hot enough for health baths and not cool enough to drink. Many Jews lived in Laodicea. The city was known for its great wealth. It was so wealhy that they declined the offer of financial aid from Nero when the city was rebuilt after an earthquake in A.D. 60. There was a famous school of medicine located just 13 miles west of the city. One of its famous medicines was a salve for the eys that cured weak eyes. Zeus Laodicenus was worshiped there and probably had the largest temple. Asklepios, the god of healing, was also worshiped there. Emperor worship was also prevalent.
14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
Christ identifies Himself as the "Amen."
"Amen" = firm or steadfast
The promises of God are sure in Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).
Using this as Christ's name means that we can be sure of the promises He has made.
As a faithful and true witness, His testimony is absolutely trustworthy and accurate.
"The beginning of the creation of God..."
"Beginning" = literally means the source or cause.
Thus, Christ is the source of all creation (Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:16; 1 Cor. 8:6).
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
The faithful witness says that they were neither cold nor hot but rather lukewarm.
This was very likely brought about by the wealthy conditions in the city. Often those with the greatest physical blessings use them the most poorly.
They were richly blessed but did not use those blessing in service to God.
Can we draw a paralled to the United States today.
There is very likely a paralled drawn between the spritiual condition of the church and the condition of the city's water.
It was not cold enough to do any good. It was not hot enough to do any good.
Those who drank it usually became nauseous.
"The church at Laodicea was providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick."
The Lord literally says, "I am about to spew thee out of my mouth." There is still hope for the church.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
They were richly blessed and didn't appreciate it or use it to God's glory (Lk. 12:16f).
This is why the Lord describes them as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. This was their spiritual condition.
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
The Lord advises these rich people to buy three things from Him.
Gold tried in the fire that they may be rich. To be tried with fire took out all of the impurities. They were encouraged to buy spiritual riches from Christ. Faith tried by fire (1 Pet. 1:7). Treasure of wisom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Treasures in heaven (Mt. 6:20).
"White raiment that thou mayest be clothed..." To be naked was a sign of shame (2 Sam. 10:4; Isa. 20:4; 47:3). Again, white is a symbol of purity and would be in contrast to the black wool which was produced in this city. Paul urges us to be clothed with spiritual clothing (Col. 3:12-14).
"Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see" They were blind to their own faults.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
There was still time for these individuals to repent.
Christ reminds them that His rebuke was motivated out of love for them (Heb. 12:6).
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
The Lord has not given up on them.
He never forces Himself on an individual.
He continues to offer His invitation.
Allowing Him in brings fellowship with Him.
21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
The reward promised by Christ is heaven with Him. The throne of God is in heaven.
Victory over death.
22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.