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Revelation 3

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1-6 7-13 14-22

1-6 Sardis

Sardis was once one of the greatest cities in the ancient world, the capital of a the very wealth Lydian kingdom, named after its most famous king. Most of the cites wealth came from gold that came from the nearby Pactolus river. The city was built on a hill that was sheer rock on three sides and the fourth was a very steep, difficult path and the city was said to be impregnable. This lead to the inhabitants of Sardis to become overconfident and was captured by Rome in 195 B.C. when the army of Antiochus the Great scaled one of the cliff walls with the help of a mountain climber and never gained its independence. Sardis mainly worshiped the goddess Cybele another name for the same goddess that was worshipped in Ephesus. Sardis was also the home of famous mineral spring that was said have the power to give life to the dead, ironic for a church that Christ has pronounced as Dead.
Christ introduces himself to the Sardinians as the owner and controller of all the churches and church leaders, “who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars”
The words to Sardis differ a little than the other churches in that he does not start with any commendations but goes right in and tells them he knows what they are, other people may see the church as it once was, a church full of spiritual life but Jesus pronounces them a dead church. MacArthur used an analogy of a far of distant star that is several light years away from earth and when that star has died and burnt out we still see the light from it and will for several years but Jesus knows that it has already died.
The church had been defiled by the world and was now almost totally populated with unredeemed people playing church. Like a museum that has stuffed animals in scenes of their natural habitat, looking alive but totally dead.
When Jesus tells the church to wake up he is not speaking to the unredeemed members that he just declared to be dead but to the small remnant of Christians left in the church that he talks about later in verse 4. He wants them to wake up and truly see what has happened to their church, expel the unbelievers who are corrupting the church and return to solid gospel doctrine and rebuild it.
If they remain sleeping and content with the path they are on he will remove the church and they will not know when he is coming like a thief would come to someone who is unaware and unprepared.
The remnant that are still faithful Christ describes as having not soiled their garments and are robed in white and are worthy
He then says that the one who conquers/overcomes, Christians who have overcome the world, will be clothed in white, without spot or blemish, washed clean by the blood of the lamb.
There are some who might say “I will never blot his name out of the book of life” is proof that the saved can be lost and also use Exodus 32:33 as another example. Exodus 32:33 “But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot out of my book.” The passage in Revelation is actually a promise and not a threat though. Christ is reaffirming that the names in the book of like that were written before the foundations of the world will never be blotted out or removed. The book in Exodus is not referring to the book of life but to the book of the living, or the record of who all is alive and the threat in Exodus is not referring to eternal damnation but to physical death.
The ones who remain faithful in Sardis and all who’s name is written in the book of life, Jesus will confess or mediate for us to God the Father and confirm that they are his bride.

7-13 Philadelphia

The city of Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven cities founded sometime after 189 B.C. by either King Eumenes of Pergamum or his brother, Attalus II. The name of the city is derived from Attalus II nickname Philadelphus which means “brother lover” for his loyalty to his brother Eumenes. This is why Philadelphia in Pennsylvania is known as the city of brotherly love. The city is built on an easily defensible 800 foot hill overlooking an important road, the Imperial Post Road. Its founders intended it to be a center of Greek culture and language and a missionary outpost for spreading Hellenism to the region, and had done this so well that the Lydian language had been completely replaced by Greek by 19 A.D. Like other of the seven churches the church in Philadelphia was not named in Acts but was probably founded during Paul’s mission at Ephesus. Some of the Christians from Philadelphia were martyred along with Polycarp the Smyrnian leader we discussed last week.
Jesus addresses the leader or leaders of the church and introduces himself with a description of his character but this description is unique and not drawn from the passages in Chapter 1 but uses Old Testament features. He tells them that He is holy, pointing to His deity as God alone possesses absolute holiness. The Old Testament repeatedly describes God as the Holy One, 2 Kings 19:22, Job 6:10, Psalms 71:22; 78:41, and more. Isaiah 6:3 “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”” Along with the Old Testament Jesus Christ is also referred to as the Holy one in the New Testament, in Mark 1:24 a demon refers to Jesus as the Holy One of God.
He also describes Himself as true, in the midst of all of the false apostles and prophets, all of the perversions and errors Jesus Christ is the truth.
And also who has the key of David. As seen from later in Revelation 5:5 and 22:16 David is used to symbolize the messianic office, Revelation 5:5 “And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”” Revelation 22:16 ““I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”” So having the Key of David symbolizes that He alone has the sovereign authority to determine who enters His kingdom. Earlier in Revelation 1:8 Jesus says He has the keys to death and hell, but here He has the keys to salvation and eternal life.
Finally Jesus uses the phrase who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, this is showing His omnipotence. No one can shut the doors to His kingdom if He is holding them open, and also no one can force them open once He has shut them.
Like the church in Smyrna Jesus has no rebuke or concern for the church in Philadelphia. He tells them that like the church in Sardis He knows their works but unlike Sardis they are good, Jesus has opened a door form them. This could be referring to the doors of the kingdom or could be an opportunity to spread the Gospel and the strength to do so as he adds that no one can shut it.
The mention of them having little strength is not a negative comment on their abilities to hold true to Jesus, but is a commendation on even though they were small in numbers and may have been poor and of the lower classes of society they showed strength and kept the faith and did not deny Christ even though there were Jews there that were attacking them. And just like the Church in Smyrna Jesus describes them as a synagogue of Satan. They may have been ethnically Jewish but in their denial of Jesus and their continued war against His church they were now following Satan and not God. Jesus tells them that He will make them come and bow before them, which depicts them as being utterly defeated and in submission and realization that God loves His church.
Verse 10 is a verse that has several interpretations, the pre-millennial, pre-tribulation interpretation is the this is evidence that Jesus will remove, or rapture his people before the time of the tribulation. Because they have kept his word, kept the faith, Jesus will keep them from the hour of testing that will come to the whole world. The hour of testing is in reference to the coming tribulations as described in chapters 6-19. One support of this view is the linguistic use of “keep from” which uses the preposition EK, “from”, “out from”, or “away from” and not EN, meaning “in” or DIA, meaning “through” which would have been used if Jesus was saying he would protect them in the tribulations or protect them through them. There are several examples in the New Testament of EN being used to imply previous existence within or to continue in but the use of EK means just the opposite, continuous existence outside. This usage is used in John 17:15 “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” Keep from the evil one, or keep them away from Satan not keep them in or through the evil one.
The post-millennial view is that this is not evidence of rapture before tribulation but Jesus saying that he will protect His church during the tribulations. They would argue that the phrase you have kept the word of My perseverance is saying that they have endured thus far and Jesus will carry you the rest of the way. Also in other passages in Revelation the saints are called to endure through the storms they face. Revelation 7:14 is also cited as a place where saved ones have gone through the tribulations. Revelation 7:13-14 “Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” They would also argue that the view of the pre-tribulation rapture undermines the reason for Christ’s blessing in verse 12 that is also mirrored in all of the church epistles, to those who overcome but if they will be removed before the trials what are they overcoming?
An A-millennial view is that the literal millennial is not 1000 years but a length of time that is the same as the church age and that Christ’s reign is a spiritual reign that is occuring right now. So this would be words to Philadelphia for a time of trial they personally will be enduring and Christ will bring them through it. The Church in Philadelphia was overcome by Muslims in the mid 14th century so why would Christ give them a promise of bringing them through these trials if they were not going to be around for them.
I would personally hold to the pre-tribulation rapture interpretation of this, the argument of the saints coming out of the tribulations in 7:14 are Christians who have come out of the rapture but they are ones who were saved during the times of tribulation, they were living in it and were redeemed during it and now have come out of it through death by violence, natural causes or martyrdom which would probably increase exponentially by the end of the tribulation time. Also the argument that since the church at Philadelphia would not be around at the time of the tribulation is in my opinion more solid proof that these words are for everyone in all of the church age than against.
The church at Philadelphia had been faithful and loyal to Christ and He tells then to remain so and to hold fast or tightly to what they have.
So that no one will take your crown is not suggesting that anyone can remove the crown of eternal life to true believers but that holding to the gospel and Christ’s example is proof that you are saved 1 John 2:19 “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
The promise he gives to the overcomers/conquerors is that he will make them a pillar in the temple of God, pillars provide strength and stability. Also in pagan temples there were carved pillars to show honor to a particular deity, so they will have an eternal place of honor in the temple of God. The mention of he will not go out from it anymore is security and assurance of their place in Heaven, the city of Philadelphia at that time were used to fleeing their city because of frequent earthquakes/aftershocks and enemies and the mention of not leaving would give them comfort.
He will write the name of God on them to show they belong to God and have a personal intimate relationship with Him forever.
Jesus also promises to write the name of the new Jerusalem which will come down out of heaven described in Revelation 21 signifying eternal citizenship in the new capital city, further emphasizing the security and safety of their eternity.
Lastly Christ promises believers his new name, representing his full revealed person, and they will see him as he truly is in all his glory and deity. 1 John 3:2 “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” and then closes tell all to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

14-22 Laodicea

Like the letter to Philadelphia Christ does not introduce himself using images from chapter one but identifies Himself using three divine titles. Firstly as the Amen, this title is used in the bible only here, Amen is a transliteration, which is a mapping of one system of writing into another, i.e. the Greek letter Alpha as the letter a, Amen is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for truth, affirmation, or certainty and refers to that which is firm, fixed and unchangeable. Amen is used in Scripture to affirm the truthfulness of a statement, Jesus is referring to Himself as the Amen because He is the One who confirmed all of God’s promises. Secondly as the faithful and true Witness, not only is Jesus the Amen because of his work but also because everything He speaks is the truth and He is completely and perfectly trustworthy, accurate and reliable. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Lastly He refers to Himself as the beginning of the creation of God. Some may falsely use this as proof that Jesus Christ was a created being but the Greek beginning does not mean that He was the first person God created but that Christ Himself is the source and origin of creation and through His power everything was created.
There was nothing worthy of praise at the church in Laodicea so Jesus goes straight to the rebukes. Like several of the churches before Jesus tells them that He knows their works and their hearts as these will reveal the true spiritual state. Salvation is a work wholly of God’s grace through faith alone, but works or deeds confirm or deny the presence of genuine salvation. Matthew 7:16 “You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”
Laodicea was located on a plateau several hundred feet high and was geographically nearly impregnable. Its vulnerability to attack was due to the fact that it had to pipe in its water supply from several miles away through aqueducts that could easily be blocked or diverted thus cutting off the water. As the water had to be piped in and traveled a long way under ground before reaching the city it was foul, dirty and tepid and if you were not used to it you would probably spit it out. It was neither hot enough to relax in and restore the body like a hot spring nor was it cold like a refreshing stream. This is the reference Jesus is using to describe the Laodicean church, neither cold nor hot but tepid or lukewarm and like the water Jesus wanted to spit it out of his mouth. If they were hot they would be spiritually alive and be eager to show their transformed life, if they were cold they would reject Jesus openly and not call themselves a church. The lukewarm Laodiceans didn’t fit into either of those categories. They were not genuinely saved, yet they do not openly reject the gospel. They attend church and claim to be of Christ but like the Pharisees, they were content to practice self-righteous religion, they were hypocrites just playing church. These were the type of people Jesus described in Matthew 7:22-23 “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Laodicea was a materially wealthy city being famous for soft black wool that was woven into carpets and the church too thought that they were wealthy and not in need of anything let alone a savior, but they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
Jesus could have instantly removed their lampstand and destroyed the church but He offers them genuine salvation. He tell advises them to buy three things from Him, Firstly gold refined by fire so they would become rich. Gold that was free of impurities representing the priceless riches of true salvation. 1 Peter 1:7 “so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Secondly He tells them to buy white garments so they can hide their nakedness, unlike their famous black wool symbolized the filthy, stained soul of the unregenerate. God clothes the redeemed with white garments that are free from stain, having been washed clean with Jesus’ blood. Laodicea was also an important center of ancient medicine, with a medical school that had developed a famous eye salve. Christ offers them spiritual eye salve to put on their eyes so they would heal their spiritual blindness and be able to see the true knowledge of God.
Some may say that verse 19 would indicate that the Laodiceans were true believers, those whom I love, I reprove and discipline but verses 18 the second half of 19 and 20 would indicate that they were not. Verse 18 we just went over on how Christ was telling them that they needed to be saved, the second half of 19 is telling them to repent and be zealous or have an attitude of mourning over sin and hungering and thirsting for righteousness.
The message to the lost church in Laodicea and to all the unsaved is to fervently pursue the repentance that leads to life. Jesus is at the door and knocking, wanting us to hear His voice and open the door to eternal life.
Jesus ends with telling the true Christian that they will be with him in heaven reigning with him and enjoying fellowship with Christ in the kingdom for all eternity.
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