Revelation 3 - Outline of Revelation (Book Notes menu page)
Letter # 5 (v.1-6)
[Church Addressed]
3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write;
Sardis- The city boasted a double temple to Cybele and Apollo,
which reminds us of the corrupt counterfeit church, which was addressed in the letter to Thyatira.
The Name in GK has no apparent meaning (which fits a "name" devoid of life).
It may be related to HB "sarid," a remnant, those who escaped (cp. 2:24, "the rest").
Chronologic: 1517-1750 AD.
This church represents the remnant that came out of the Thyatira period of the R.C.C. in the Protestant Reformation.
     The leaders included men like: Martin Luther (his "95 Theses" nailed to the chapel door in Wittenburg, Germany), John Calvin (Swiss), John Knox (Scot), Ulrich Zwingli (Swiss) and others.
     The Reformation period marked a turning, from many false doctrines, to the truth of the Scriptures (eg., The sole authority of Scripture, The deity of Christ, The depravity of man, The efficacy of Christ's one sufficient sacrifice, and Justification by faith...)
[Character of the Sender]
These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;
Christ is in possession of the 7 Spirits (angels, see 1:4 note) which carry out God's purposes.
and of the 7 Stars (angels, see 1:20) which oversee the 7 churches.
Seven, in scripture, indicates fullness/completeness.
So, Christ possesses the full power and authority of God, and has the pre-eminence over the Church.
Col 1:15-19; 2:9,10
There is no corporate Commendation. However, a few individuals are commended (v.4).
I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Sardis, at one time, was the chief city of Lydia (the region in which the 7 churches were located).
It was a center for religion, the arts, and the economy (minting gold & silver coins).
At the time of writing, the glory was gone.
The city was living on a faded reputation.
Similarly, the Reformation movements (eg., protestants, Lutherans, Calvinists, etc.)
were once vibrant, but soon cooled. With the formation of the state churches (eg., the Church of England) membership included a country's total population. Membership was based on physical birth (marked by infant baptism), rather than spiritual re-birth through personal faith in Christ.
     The churches were being run in the power of the flesh. Spiritually dead men built buildings, ran programs, preached sermons and filled pews. There was a form of godliness but lacking power. 2Tim 3:5; Zech 4:6
     There was no real & living fruit, because there was no root in the Word, and no vital union with the true Vine. Psa 1:1-4; Joh 15:5; Jude 1:12
     The ministry of a church (even a "lively" church) may be all show, producing little or nothing of eternal value, if the people are motivated and energized by something other than Christ dwelling within.
3:2 Be watchful,
''wake up and watch'' -See for yourself whether My evaluation fits you.
-- Guard against the enemy of your souls.
Sardis was built on a hill surrounded on three sides by cliffs. Guards watched the accessible fourth side. The city was considered secure. Yet, it fell due to complacency and over-confidence, on two occasions, when the enemy discovered a way to scale the unwatched cliffs (to the Medes under Cyrus, 549 BC; and to the Syrians under Antiochus, 218 BC). cf. 1Pet 5:8; Heb 3:12
and strengthen {establish} the things which remain, that are ready to die:
which remain- ie., the things pertaining to 'the remnant' (eg., right doctrine...)
ready to die- were it not for obedience to the command to establish them.
Truth is established upon God's Word. Psa 119:89; Mat 24:35
     During the Reformation, men, who came out of the counterfeit church, wrote the Creeds, to carefully delineate between Scriptural truth and false doctrine. Eg., The Augsburg Confession of Lutherans, The Westminster Confession of Presbyterians, and The Apostles Creed:
"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth: and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the holy catholic {ie., universal} church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen."
But reduced to rote repetition, creeds merely filled out the religious ritual of
church goers who had not become complete in Christ. Joh 5:39,40; Col 2:9,10
As time passed, unregenerate leaders, thinking to mature the church, undermined it, by doubting and diluting the creedal doctrines. cf. Luk 8:18; Col 2:8-13; 3:1-3
for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
{lit., I have found none of thy works perfect...}
3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.
as you have received- Compare the counsel to Ephesus (2:5).
This is a call to renewal of a vital "First Love" relationship with Christ. Such a relationship begins with, and rests upon, receiving and heeding God's Word. 1Thes 2:13; Col 2:6,7
hold fast- 'Guard diligently,' as the defenders of Sardis had failed to do.
It is essential to carefully observe the received Word.
repent- Turn from- dead ritual (the letter kills),
Turn to- fullness of Life in Christ (the Spirit gives life). 2Cor 3:6
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.
When does Christ return as a thief? At the end of the Tribulation.
Who will be surprised by His coming? Those who do not belong to Him.
1Thes 5:2-10; Rev 16:15; Luk 21:34-36
3:4 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.
a few names- a remnant out of the remnant (Sardis). The Lord's "little flock." Luk 12:32
have not defiled {ie., befouled with filth} their garments.-
This filth would include the corruption of spiritual death at Sardis (v.1) and the spiritual adultery (fornication) of Thyatira (2:20).
The result of living by the power of the flesh is living in the lusts of the flesh. Jude 1:19; Rom 8:2,5-9
for they are worthy- Apart from Christ, none is worthy, none is undefiled...
Salvation, from sin, is by the Grace of God alone.
But it must be appropriated by personal faith in Christ.
Isa 1:18; Psa 51:7; Joh 1:11-13; 3:16; Eph 2:8-10; Rev 7:14
they shall walk with me...- Speaks of fellowship:
"I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses,
and the voice I hear, falling on my ear, the Son of God discloses.
And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own;
and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known." [C.A.Miles] white- ie., clothed in His righteousness,
in garments not "spotted by the flesh" (1Joh 1:6,7; cf. Jude 1:23; Isa 64:6)
3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment;
Who is He that overcomes? that is clothed in Christ's righteousness?
1Joh 5:4,5; Rev 19:7,8; 1Cor 15:52,53
and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life,
The Lamb's Book of Life (20:15) is here contrasted with the roll books of the state churches. The church rolls included all who were born naturally. Since Christ died for all, these had "a name to live." But only "as many as received Him" enter into Life, and into the Lamb's Book (Joh 1:12).
What a tragedy that many have neglected the Salvation, which was on their lips in ritual, but not in their hearts. (Mat 15:8; Rom 10:8-11)
     Trust placed in a church's records is false security. Yet, the apostate church has often defrocked a preacher of truth, or excommunicated a faithful witness of Christ, erasing their names from the rolls. Christ encourages His own that they are secure in His Book.
     Note that He does not say that any name will be erased. But He promises that those names written will not be removed. Is your name in the Book of Life?
[Click here for further study on the implications of the Lord's words "...I will not blot his name out of the book of life..."]
but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
confess- not merely verbal or intellectual assent, but a living union with Christ.
In Luke 12, "confess me" is lit. "confess in me" (or "own me"). Luke 12:8,9; Gal 2:20
3:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
'Lord Jesus, we call ourselves by Your Name. But are we Christians in name only?
Do You see us as "trees, twice dead..." having no fruit, because we have no root in You? (Jude 1:12)
In You is Life and all the fullness of the Godhead.
Make us alive and complete in You. For without You, we are nothing. Amen.'

Letter # 6 (v.7-13)
[Church Addressed]
3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write;
This is the church of the open door, with opportunity for witness.
Philadelphia- GK=brotherly love.
-- The city was so named because of the devotion of King Attalus III (of Pergamos, c. 150 BC) to his brother Eumenes, for whom it was built.
-- The church which goes forward for Christ, dwells in brotherly love. Joh 13:34,35; 1Joh 4:11-14
Location- on a main east-west trade route: offering evangelism opportunities.
Chronologic- 1700 AD to present.
Representing a time of revival following the cooling of the Reformation church.
Some events which furthered the gospel in this era:
  • Birth of America:
    -- The Founders included an unusually high percentage of Christian men who recognized their responsibility before God, and the opportunities He had given them for proclaiming the Gospel (eg., to the American Indians, to African slaves, to immigrants from many nations, to the westward moving pioneer population...).
    -- Established as "one nation under God," with its first capital "Philadelphia."
    -- Became a great missionary sending nation.
  • Revival: Especially in the English speaking world (eg., the ministries of Whitefield, Finney, Spurgeon, Wesley, Moody...)
  • Schools: for the purpose of preparing ministers of the Gospel. (This was the original purpose of Harvard, Yale, Princeton Univ., and later, of the Bible College movement.)
  • Missionary movements: China Inland Mission, Sudan Interior Mission, etc.
[Character of the Sender]
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;
Holy & True- He is the Lord God. Rev 6:10
Holy- He is set apart from all other men (cf. Jesus Luk 1:35 versus David Psa 51:5,6)
True- He is not only true, but He is the Truth. Joh 14:6; Rev 19:11
Key of David- The word 'key' speaks of authority (1:18).
The eternal authority of the kingdom promised to David belongs to Jesus: Luk 1:32,33
He opens, and no one shuts- His authority is absolute.
His authority was foreshadowed by the authority of King Hezekiah's treasurer, Eliakim, who had full control of the resources of the Davidic kingdom, in that day (Isa 22:22).
     When our Lord opens a door of service, He provides the necessary resources for that work. Mat 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Php 4:19
[Counsel & Commendation (together)] (There is no Condemnation of this church.)
3:8 I know thy works:
Of the 7 geographic churches, only Smyrna & Philadelphia were not condemned by Christ. Only these two cities continue to this day with Christian communities.
"See for yourself"- The word occurs 4x in this letter.
It is followed each time by "I will do..." or "I have done..."
We are unable to accomplish the task He has given us.
Here, the One, who has "all power in heaven and in earth," says:
     'See what I will do when you trust me and obey.'
I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it:
What is this door? "A door of effective service." 1Cor 16:9
What are we to do with it? Never say the door is closed.
The door He has set before us is open.
We need not await a special call to service.
cp. Noah's door -
  • By it he preached judgment and repentance, while the ark was being prepared.
  • Through it, the ark was filled with earth's endangered species.
  • Through it, Noah and his family entered by faith into God's provision of salvation.
  • Outside of it, his neighbors (invited, but unbelieving) perished, when God chose to shut the door (and no man could open it).
Now is the time for the sinner to be saved, and for the believer to witness.
The door will close, the day of grace will end. Are we faithful? 2Cor 6:2; Prov 26:14; Mat 28:18
for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Why did Christ give this church an open door?
Because of their "little strength." (There is no indefinite article in the GK.)
We think of Philadelphia as the best of the 7 churches. But actually, much was lost since the strong church at Ephesus which "labored unto weariness" but did not faint (2:3).
Do we think ourselves strong or weak?
He commissioned us to go, not in our strength, but in His.
His strength is made perfect in our weakness. 2Cor 12:9
Our strength is measured by our wait on Him. Psa 27:14; Isa 40:28-31; Mat 28:18-20
thou hast kept {guarded, held fast} My Word- Sardis had failed to 'hold fast' the received Word (v.3).
God will preserve His Word.
We must observe and heed it. Heb 2:1; Josh 1:8; Rom 6:17,18
     We will be held accountable for what we do with God's Word. Joh 12:47-50
     Those, who keep it, will be blessed. Rev 1:3
thou hast not denied {ie., not disowned} my name...
His Name (v.7) indicates His deity, His authority, and His enabling power.
     Many, who call themselves Christians, deny {reject the truth concerning} who He is and what He has done for us (2Pet 2:1). But we, who own that Truth, may dishonor His Name by refusing to obey His Word, or by refusing to enter a door which He opens to us. He does not open doors for those unwilling to pass through. If we say that He has all authority, but do not trust Him, should he give us anything but doors which cannot be opened?
3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan,
which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie;
synagogue of Satan- The "many adversaries" which Paul mentioned (1Cor 16:9),
include false religionists, who are unified in their opposition to the Gospel of Christ, because they believe Satan's lies (2Cor 4:3,4). These enemies of the Gospel are "not" Jews, even though they claim to be God's chosen people, and even though they join together (as a "synagogue") against God's Truth. (The word 'synagogue' {assembly, congregation} usually refers to the assembly or assembling place for Jewish worship.)
The 'synagogue of Satan' apparently refers to two distinct groups (depending on the time period)...
  1. Israel in the flesh, blindly opposed to their Messiah -
    Very early in the church age, opposition to the Gospel of Christ, and persecution against Christians, was frequently instigated directly by ethnic Jews, or through their influence on the civil government. The 'synagogue of Satan,' which opposed the suffering church in Smyrna (2:9), refers primarily to such unbelieving Jews. While these were physical descendants of Abraham, they were not his spiritual children, because unlike him, they had not believed God's Word, and therefore, had not received the righteousness which is of God, by faith in Christ (Rom 9:6-8,27-33). Although 'the power of God unto Salvation' is available for both Jews and Gentiles (Rom 1:16), many Jews and many Gentiles remain in unbelief.
  2. Gentile christendom, who wrongly claim to be the 'spiritual Israel' -
    Some 'christians' think the church has dis-inherited the Jewish people from the promises which God made to Israel as a nation. (This idea is often called 'Replacement Theology.') Along with this misunderstanding, many of such 'christians' (like unbelieving Jews) think they can establish their own righteousness through good works and/or observation of the OT Law (Rom 10:3,4). In their mistaken self-identification as Israel, these 'christians' oppose the Grace of God which brings salvation, and also deny that God, by His Grace, will fulfill His promises concerning the future restoration of national Israel. Thus, during the 'Philadelphia' period of the Church Age, many attempts to close doors against the proclamation of God's Word (including the Gospel of Grace), have come from within 'the church' (eg., R.C.C. and Orthodox opposition to evangelical missionaries in many countries).
    In answer to these errors:
    • God's promises to Israel will not be broken (Rom 11:25-32).
    • Gentile Christians, who claim to be 'the Israel of God', misunderstand the verse upon which they stake their claim. In Gal 6:16, "the Israel of God" refers to Jewish Christians, who like Gentile Christians (identified as the "many who walk according to this rule") are trusting in Christ's finished work of salvation, and placing no confidence in religious ritual or the works of the Law (Gal 6:12-16).
      [Regarding the necessity of clear differentiation between "the Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God," and "Law and Grace," see Lessons #1 and #6, in the study called Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.]
behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet,
and to know that I have loved thee.
"behold..."- This word, used twice in this verse for the same object, is emphatic.
The repetition of "I" adds to the emphasis.
'Your enemies will know that "I even I" have loved you.'
before thy feet- Isa 52:7
  • Feet on mountain trails are dirty, bruised and sweaty... hardly beautiful.
  • The feet of a messenger have the worth and beauty of the Message which they carry, and of the Sender of that message (Eph 6:15). The Gospel message is from He that is Holy and True. Someday, those who oppose His messengers will confess their error.
3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience,
Thou hast kept the word...
...of my patience {GK=hupomone, lit., 'bearing up under', ie., endurance, steadfastness}-
  • The Lord Jesus endured the opposition of Satan and sinners. Yet, He was steadfast and unwavering from the purposes which God had prescribed for Him, in His Word. He was faithful, even unto death (Psa 40:6-10; Php 2:5-8; Rev 1:5).
  • Only through 'looking unto Jesus' can we remain faithful to the Word while enduring opposition. Heb 12:1-3
    Only He can enable us to keep 'the word of my patience', in...
    • faithful patient teaching of the Word to brothers who stubbornly hold to error (2Tim 2:23-26).
    • faithful proclamation of the Word, in the face of opposition from unsaved men (2Thes 3:1-4).
    • faithful continuance in service for Christ while we wait for His return (2Thes 3:5, lit., 'the patience of Christ').
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 hour of temptation- is a specific short period.
This refers to the Tribulation period, which has a specific purpose:
to try them that dwell upon the earth- It applies to a specific group of people:
the citizens of earth, as opposed to the citizens of heaven. cp. Rev 6:10; Php 3:20,21
upon all the world (inhabited earth)- There will be no escape for earth dwellers.
keep thee from {GK= ek, 'out of'} - This church will be exempt from that hour.
Compare the usage of 'ek' in Jesus' prayer:
"Father save me from {ek} this hour" (Joh 12:27). The thought parallels:
"Take away this cup from me" (Mark 14:36). "Remove this cup from me" (Luk 22:42).
     Jesus was asking for 'exemption from' not 'preservation through' His sorrows. However, it was not possible for Him to be exempt from God's wrath upon our sin, if He would save us out of our sin and its penalty. Through His submission to the Father's will and His obedience unto death, He delivered us from (out of) the wrath to come.
     His promise to the faithful (in this verse) foretells the pre-tribulation rapture of the true Church. (See Rom 5:9; 1Thes 1:10; Rev 6:14-17.) Also, contrast the warnings, to other churches, of the impending tribulation (2:16; 2:22; 3:3).
Question: Does 'the hour of temptation' really refer to 'the Tribulation period'?
  • Can the seven year Tribulation be described as an 'hour'?
    Yes. The word for 'hour' {GK=horah} can refer to an hour, an instant, a season, or a time. The appropriate connotation is determined by the context. In Rev 17:12, this word definitely refers to the Tribulation period.
    In the OT, the Tribulation period is described in various ways. Jeremiah 30:7 calls it "the time of Jacob's Trouble" (described, in that chapter, as a future 'day,' when the LORD will regather Israel, defeat their enemies, and restore the nation under 'David their King' in the Messianic Kingdom). The Hebrew words for 'time' and 'day' have a similar range of meanings as the Greek word for 'hour.'
  • Do the words 'temptation' {testing} and 'tribulation' {trouble} refer to the same time?
    Yes. In the OT, the Tribulation period (the time of Jacob's Trouble) is also identified as a time of 'testing' for Israel. See, Zechariah 13:8,9, where the Lord says He will try (test) Israel as gold is tried (tested). Of course, during that time, Gentiles will also be tested: Will they choose to follow Christ or the Antichrist?
    True believers, at the close of the Church Age, will be kept out of that time of testing, because they are exempt from the wrath to come (1The 1:9,10). Following the Rapture of the Church, people remaining on the earth will suffer satanic deception and catastrophic difficulties. God will use those trials to bring many to faith in Christ. Their new found faith will also be tested, often to the point of martyrdom. The 'Tribulation saints' are a different group of believers than those represented by 'the Church' at Philadelphia (v.10).
3:11 Behold, I come quickly: {ie., suddenly}
Christ's coming to take His Bride in the Rapture is imminent. There is no intervening event foretold. In the tribulation section of Revelation (ch. 6-18), there is no similar expression of imminency. But the imminency of His coming is stated emphatically (to the reader), in the closing chapter of the book (22:7,12,17,20).
hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
We have -- no strength in ourselves. But we have (and must cling to):
  • His Word.
  • His Presence: "I am with you always..."
    It is in knowing Him that the believer is equipped with "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2Pet 1:2,3).
that no man take thy crown {GK= stephanos, wreath, victor's prize} -
A runner, who forgets why and for whom he runs, is likely to be ashamed at race end.
The 'crowns' for which believers strive include:
  • a crown of life (cp. the promise to the faithful in Smyrna, 2:10)
  • a crown of righteousness, 2Tim 4:7,8
There is an element of reward attached to crowns. However, having little strength and able to do nothing of ourselves, who among us is worthy of reward? But when the believer finds in Christ "my life, my strength, my all," he is crowned with all that He is. The crown which Paul expected to receive following his life of faithful service, was not for him alone, but for "all them also that love His appearing."
3:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,
and he shall go no more out:
Who is he that overcomes? But he that believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1Joh 5:4,5
Such a person will obey and move, with Christ's enabling, through opened doors.
he shall go out no more- What a hope for the missionary,
who has left houses, lands and family for Christ's sake. From a life of weakness, weariness and wandering, there will be a permanent home, a place of rest in a position of strength.
pillar in the temple- In Solomon's temple, there were two pillars named:
Jachin {"He shall establish"}, and Boaz {"In Him is strength"} (1Kin 7:21; see Rom 14:4; 16:25).
Here, the GK word for 'temple' signifies the Holy and Most Holy place.
and I will write upon him the name of my God, {cp. 14:1; 22:4}
and the name of the city of my God, [which is] new Jerusalem,{cp. 21:1,2}
which cometh down out of heaven from my God:
and [I will write upon him] my new name.
{cp. 19:12}
To bear His name is to be identified with Him and His Home, as His possession.
-- Like a small child, labeled with his father's name & address.
-- Like a prized possession engraved against loss.
-- Like a Bride joined to her Bridegroom.
Once displaced & dispossessed in the world, His own will be with Him, at home, at last and forever... Heb 11:38-40
3:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
'O Lord, You have told us "The night comes when no man can work." Therefore, "while it is called today," enable us to heed Your voice calling us to toil beside you in hardened fields. Grant us hearts, like Yours, to sow, and also to weep over the precious seed... that we may join You in rejoicing, when you gather to Yourself the precious sheaves, before the storm of destruction breaks upon this sin cursed world. Amen.'

Letter # 7 (v.14-22)
[Church Addressed]
3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;
Laodicea - GK 'laos,' people; and GK 'dike,' judgment, rule.
Thus, the name is lit., "The rights (or, rule) of the people."
The meaning is nearly synonymous with the English word "democracy."
Laodicea stands in stark contrast to Philadelphia which was:
-- In submission to the One with all authority.
-- Obedient to His Word.
In Laodicea: Authority & Truth is determined by majority vote and public opinion.
  • Its supreme and final authority rejected, God's Word (the Bible), has relevance only as it fits the general consensus.
  • This leads to latitudinarianism (ie., indifference to, or, tolerance of, conflicting views), even on essential doctrines.
  • This error differs from that of Nicolaitanism, where final authority rested in the clergy.
Chronologic: c. 1800 to present. A movement toward liberal thinking...-
  • The universities (eg., Yale, Harvard, etc.), founded to prepare pastors for the Church, moved away from "the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3,4).
  • The Bible was subjected to "higher criticism" which dissected, "demythicized" and ultimately disregarded its text.
  • Today, the "rights of the people" often determine church policy and teaching. Examples:
    • Women's rights to abortion, and to pastoral ministry and priesthood...
    • Homosexual rights to endorsement of their lifestyle, and same sex marriage, even for priests and bishops...
    • Community "values" which ignore the standard of God's Word.
[Character of the Sender]
These things saith the Amen,
Amen- is a HB word, meaning "so be it" or "so it is."
  • At the end of a prayer, "Amen" expresses faith that God will answer accordingly.
  • In Scripture, "Amen" often underlines or affirms what is written (eg., 1:18).
    • Amen is the Bible's last word. All that has gone before is as it should be.
    • All that has been foretold will come to fulfillment, so be it.
  • Jesus Christ Himself is "the Amen."
    • All of the promises of God are fulfilled in Him, to the last jot & tittle.
    • He has and is the final Word. 2Cor 1:20; Mat 5:17,18
the faithful and true witness,
Christ came to "bear witness unto the truth," in this doubting world which mocks the existence of objective truth. (eg., Pilate: What is truth? Joh 18:37,38)
the beginning {GK=source, origen} of the creation of God;
The theory of Evolution is one of man's excuses to reject God's Word in favor of human rights.
If man is an accident of nature, he has no responsibility to a Creator. The world prefers to believe the lie (more so, as the end of the age approaches, 2The 2:10-12).
The Truth is that "All things were created by Him and for Him,
and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist." Col 1:15-19; Acts 17:24-28
If His Word contradicts our concepts, then we are wrong.
There is no alternate 'truth' upon which to stand, for He is the one Foundation. 1Cor 3:11; Luk 6:46-49)
[Condemnation- There is no commendation, corporate or individual]
3:15 I know thy works,
This is the only church about which nothing good is said.
He hates compromise and spiritual indifference, and offers it No encouragement.
that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
cold- eg., a professed atheist, in denial of God's Word, and in opposition to God's work.
hot- GK= zestos, boiling, fervent. Philadelphia had a passion for the Lord & His work.
neither- Laodicea was indifferent, apathetic, complacent...
The city's water was supplied via long aqueducts from two sources:
hot springs at Hieropolis, and snow melt from the mountains. Regardless of the source, the water was tepid upon arrival.
     Distance from the Lord & closeness to the world, tends to neutralize our witness.
Do we blend with unbelievers, hiding our faith behind their music, movies, books, and TV shows? When with believers, do we cover our unbelief with church talk that we would never use on the job (or, in some other 'secular' setting)? Mat 24:12; 2Tim 4:2
I would that thou wert cold or hot...-
Someone has said that twenty lukewarm Christians do more harm to the cause of Christ than one blatant atheist. At least the one is not a hypocrite.
     Men knew where Jesus stood. His witness was fervent, true, and uncompromising. Men responded to His message: some drew near, others plotted to kill Him. But none could be neutral. He tells it like it is:
3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,
I will spue thee out of my mouth.
spue - GK= 'emesis', vomit. We make Him sick, nauseous.
We are insipid, too far removed from the springs of living water. Often, we think ourselves fervent compared to others, but the reference is the temperature at the Well Head (not our pool of friends).
Consider the example of George Whitefield, who spent years evangelizing the east coast of the U.S.A. in the mid-1700's. During one 5 month period, he traveled 2000 miles on horseback, preaching 2 to 4 times per day. He wrote to his friend Charles Wesley:
"My wonted vomitings have left me, and though I ride whole nights and have frequently been exposed to great thunders, violent lightnings and heavy rains, yet I am rather better than usual, and as far as I can judge am not yet to die. O that I might at length begin to live! I am ashamed of my sloth and lukewarmness, and long to be on the stretch for God."
3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich,
and increased with goods
{lit., and have gotten riches (ie., by my own efforts)},
and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and
miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Self-sufficiency- Laodicea was a wealthy banking center.
Following a devastating earthquake (60 AD), the city refused the Roman emperor's offer of financial aid for rebuilding, saying: "We have grown rich and have need of nothing."
The faithful & true witness reveals their true condition.
"I know" (v.15) what you know not. You are -
  • wretched (lit., the wretched one; ie., wretchedness personified, cp. Rom 7:24)
  • poor, blind, naked (their wretchedness has 3 aspects; each is answered in v.18)
This church is materially wealthy, but spiritually poor.
Cf. Smyrna: poor, persecuted, but rich (2:9). Possessing nothing in this world, everything in the next.
Cf. Philadelphia: the missionary church, with Laodicea: the church of culture shock for returning missionaries...
Examples: [from "Serving as Senders" by Neal Pirola]
  1. On return from the field, a missionary received $1000 from his sending church toward a new wardrobe. Their generosity provoked an inner crisis. Just two days earlier, his national coworker had refused his gift of a single used shirt, saying:
    "I have one to wear, and one to wash while the other is being worn. A third would only be wasted."
    ...Some carry Christ's message over rough mountain trails on bare feet, "shod with the preparation of the Gospel." Are we naked in our shoes?
  2. On return from the field, a missionary couple had a burning desire to share what God had been doing, the struggles and victories, the joy of new brothers in the Lord. They eagerly accepted a Sunday afternoon invitation to dinner with a church leader. During the meal, their host never picked up the topic, though they attempted to bring it into the conversation. After the meal, he invited them to relax in the den.
         "Perhaps now," they thought, "we'll be able to share what's on our hearts." But as they settled into the soft cushions, he announced, "I thought you would enjoy watching the football playoffs on my new large screen TV." Their hearts, being in another world, were broken.
Laodicea, as the last of the 7 churches, depicts the prevailing apostasy at the end of the Church Age.
cp. 2Thes 2:3; 2Tim 3:1-5; 2Pet 2:1-3; 3:3,4
3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich;
gold tried in the fire- is pure, having been purged of worthless dross.
In contrast to the riches which they had acquired (v.17), the gold which the Lord offers is rich beyond measure, and imperishable.
     In the scriptures, gold is frequently symbolic of God's Word (Psa 19:9,10), and of the reward of faith that clings to God's Word through testing, to receive the glorious fulfillment of God's promises (eg., Job 23:10; 1Pet 1:7; 2Pet 1:4). (In the furnishings of the Tabernacle, pure gold was symbolic of Christ's divine nature, while wood was symbolic of His human nature.)
buy- suggests a price: willingness to suffer loss for Truth's sake (eg., Smyrna).
may be rich- The rich have something to share with others.
It takes more than dollars to cure the spiritually wretched.
"Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have..." Acts 3:6
and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and [that]
the shame of thy nakedness
{cp. v.17} do not appear;
Laodicea was known for the manufacture of a heavy black wool cloth.
A day is coming when we must all stand before the Lord to give account of ourselves.
Our attempts to cover our nakedness, before Him, will be as futile as Adam & Eve's fig leaves.
     (Gen 3:7-10; Psa 90:8; Heb 4:13)
There is only one adequate covering: His Righteousness. Isa 64:6; 61:10
Compare: "Buy of me..." with "the loss of all things" to gain Christ... Php 3:7-9
and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see {cp. v.17}.
Laodicea boasted a medical school which produced medicine for the eyes.
Spiritual blindness can affect both believers & unbelievers:
     2Cor 4:3,4; Joh 3:3; 1Cor 2:9-14; Eph 1:17,18; 2Pet 1:3-9
3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
His motivation, for correction and chastening, is Love.
love- GK= phileo, love as a friend.
Usually Christ expresses His love for the church with GK= "agapao" (cp. 3:9), but here, He uses a less fervent word. This word expresses tender cherishing, but from a distance.
Recall Peter's grief when Jesus asked him "Do you 'phileo' Me?" Joh 21:17
as many as I love...- Christ's affection is not addressed to all who occupied this church,
but to the repentant remnant. The rest He has abandoned as hopelessly hardened and impenitent. (JBSmith)
...I rebuke and chasten- He is not limited in means.
He may shake our wealth, and break our health to bring us to the end of self-sufficiency. Heb 12:10
be zealous- hot, fervent.
repent- turn back (from lukewarmness).
3:20 Behold {look for yourself}, I stand at the door, and knock:
stand- the GK tense suggests: 'I stand at present, with continued waiting for response.'
If salvation is your need, Jesus waits for you to receive Him.
Someone has said, The Lord Jesus has moved heaven and hell to get to the door of your heart. But once there, He stops and knocks. What will you do with Him? Joh 1:11,12
But here, the primary picture is that, today, the Lord stands outside the church,
and outside of the lives of those who call themselves by His name. This is a tragic scene.
if any man hear my voice, and open the door,
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he
{himself} with me.
my voice- What men do with His Word, they do to Him.
What is His Word to you? Luk 6:46; 9:26; Joh 12:48; 14:23
if any man (singular)- Most will not respond. He waits for individuals.
I will... sup with him, and he {himself} with Me.
  • Here is the opportunity for fellowship with the Son of God. (1Joh 1:6,7)
  • Here is the cure for lukewarmness.
    Remember the two disciples who supped with Jesus along the road to Emmaus: "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself... They said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us along the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures?" Luk 24:25-32
  • Here also is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb. Rev 19:9; Luk 22:15-20,28-30
3:21 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.
Who is he that overcomes?
The one, who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and who is, therefore, eager for His presence, counsel, correction... (1Joh 5:4,5)
Christ is presently seated on His Father's throne.
In ch. 4-5, He will stand with authority to judge the earth, and to take the throne of the Millennial Kingdom ("...My throne").
To be with Him in His glory, will be riches beyond measure.
To sit with Him upon His throne is the privilege of His Bride.
     But what of those who remain lukewarm toward Him? The implication is that they will not be with Him then, for they are not truly His now. See v.16; Joh 14:3; 2Tim 4:8; Heb 9:28
3:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
"See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh..." Heb 12:25-29
'O Lord, Search me and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. And lead me in the way everlasting. Amen.'

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