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Bible Commentaries

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges
Revelation 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1

1. ὁ ἔχων τὰ ἑπτὰ πνεύματα τοῦ θεοῦ. See the last note but one on Revelation 1:4. Though “the Seven Spirits” were mentioned there, we have not yet heard of them as specially belonging to Christ: but this we find in Revelation 5:6.

καὶ τοὺς ἑπτὰ ἀστέρας. Cf. Revelation 2:1. We find the “Spirits” and the “stars,” i.e. Angels, mentioned coordinately—a further argument against identifying the Spirits with Angels, even angels other than these. These attributes of Christ are mentioned, because He speaks as Judge of the Churches: cf. 1 Corinthians 2:15 for the conception of judgement as the Spirit’s work.


Verses 1-6

Revelation 3:1-6. THE CHURCH IN SARDIS


Verse 2

2. γίνου γρηγορῶν. Lit. “become watching,” “awake and watch.”

τὰ λοιπά. The elements of goodness, or means of goodness, which thou hast not yet lost. Cf. Revelation 2:6, and the first note there.

ἅ ἔμελλον, i.e. which would have died but for the strengthening of them. We may perhaps say, that it seems to be taken for granted that the warning, sharp as it is, will be effectual.

εὕρηκα. One MS. has the suggestive reading εὔρηκαν (cf. Revelation 16:15 for the plural without a definite subject). Ⲛ after ⲁ is a common clerical error, but here and at Revelation 21:6 it is possible that the addition may best preserve the original text.

ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ μου. The Church had a name of being alive before men: its works therefore may have come up to their standard.


Verse 3

3. μνημόνευε οὖν. Cf. Revelation 2:5 : but here it is the sound doctrine of the founders of the Church that is the standard to be regained: it does not appear that the former practice of the Church itself afforded such a standard.

πῶς εἴληφας καὶ ἤκουσας. The perfect and aorist are coupled where we might have expected two perfects; but the rather cacophonous perfect of ἀκούω is not found in the New Testament; it is difficult to tell how the writers of the New Testament who certainly, none of them (except perhaps St Paul), ever had any lessons in Greek grammar, were to know the difference between a first aorist and a “strong” perfect, though all writers on the grammar of the New Testament assume they had this knowledge.

τήρει. The word is the same as in Revelation 1:3, where see note. Here the sense is more like 1 Corinthians 11:2; 1 Timothy 6:20, where however the Greek verb used is different: 1 Timothy 6:14, where it is the same as here, bridges the interval between the two.

ἥξω ὡς κλέπτης. Notice the change of verb from ἔρχομαι to ἥξω; in the other warnings the Church is awake to watch for the Coming: the sleeping Church will only wake when the Lord is come; cf. Revelation 16:15; Matthew 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10. In all these places the image is used of the Last or universal Judgement; but here plainly of a particular judgement upon this one Church. The use of the same image in both the larger and narrower senses seems to sanction the system of interpretation commonly applied to St Matthew 24, which some have attempted to apply to this book also.


Verse 4

4. ὀλίγα ὀνόματα. Some understand, from the similar use of the word “names” in Acts 1:15, that at this time it was usual for every Church to keep a register of all its members. 1 Timothy 5:9 seems certainly to imply such a register of office-bearers at least. It is possible indeed that the “names” are spoken of as entered in the heavenly Book of Life (cf. the next verse): but the use of that image would be far more forcible, if the readers of the Revelation were familiar with an approximate counterpart to that Book on earth. It is however perhaps better to understand ὀνόματα both here and in Acts 1:15 as simply a Hebraistic expression for “persons”: cf. Numbers 1:20; Numbers 1:28.

ἐν λευκοῖς. Song of Solomon 6:11; Song of Solomon 7:9. It is idle to ask whether these are the same garments which they kept undefiled during their probation: but no doubt it is meant that their keeping these undefiled proves them “worthy” of those.


Verse 5

5. ὁ νικῶν οὕτως περιβαλεῖται. If οὕτως means “like the holy remnant in Sardis,” it is natural to ask with Spitta whether the promises to him that overcometh are to be regarded as part of the messages to the Churches. Possibly though the other sense at first is more natural, the meaning may be “He … shall he clothed then as I am now.” The colour of Christ’s priestly robe (Revelation 1:13) was not stated (and see “Barnabas,” there quoted) but we are probably to understand that it was white, cf. Daniel 7:9.

οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. See Exodus 32:32 sq. (which it seems hard to tone down into meaning no more than 1 Kings 19:4 : compare rather Romans 9:3), Psalms 69:29 [28] (which can more easily be taken in the milder sense), and Daniel 12:1. The image seems to be, that everyone on professing himself Christ’s soldier and servant has his name entered in the Book of Life, as on an army list or censusroll of the kingdom. It remains there during the time of his probation or warfare, even if, while he has thus “a name that he liveth,” he is dead in sin: but if he die the second death it will be blotted out: if he overcome, it will remain for ever. See Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15.

ὁμολογήσω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρός μου καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ. Cf. Matthew 10:32 ὁμολογήσω κἀγὼ έν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ έν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς: and Luke 12:8 ὁμολογήσει ἐν αὐτῷ ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦἀπαρνηθήσεται ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων τοῦ θεοῦ. Thus our passage combines elements found in Matt. only (ὁμολογήσω, τοῦ πατρός μου) with elements found in Luc. only (ἐνώπιον, τῶν ἀγγέλων). For the negative side of the saying we may also compare Mark 8:38, Luke 9:26.


Verse 7

7. ὁ ἅγιος, ὁ ἀληθινός. The same epithets are combined in Revelation 6:10, where apparently they belong rather to the Father than the Son. In Mark 1:24, John 6:69 (according to the true reading) Christ is called “the Holy One of God,” and God’s “Holy Servant” (according to the probable rendering) in Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30 : also “the faithful and true” in this book, inf. Revelation 3:14; Revelation 19:11. “The Holy One” is used absolutely as a name of God in Job 6:10 (Hebrew); Isaiah 40:25; Habakkuk 3:3, and perhaps Hosea 11:9, besides the phrase so frequent in Isaiah, and used by several other prophets, “the Holy One of Israel”: and we have “the true God,” as opposed to idols, in 2 Chronicles 15:3; Psalms 31:5 [6]; Jeremiah 10:10; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20, and, without such opposition being specially marked, in Isaiah 65:16; John 17:3. Here the sense seems to be “He Who is the Holy One of God,” as opposed to those in Revelation 3:9, who say that they are of the holy people and are not.

ὁ ἔχων τὴν κλεῖν τοῦ Δαυείδ. From Isaiah 22:22. There the meaning is, that Eliakim shall be made ruler of the house of David, i.e. chief minister of the kingdom (2 Kings 18:18 &c), and that his will shall be final in all business of the kingdom. Here then in like manner Christ is described as Chief Minister in the Kingdom of God. But the promise in the next verse suggests that the image is not used in this general sense only; Christ says that He has the power of admitting to, or excluding from His Church, the power which He delegates (St Matthew 16:19) to the rulers in His Church, but which none, not even they, can really exercise in opposition to His will.


Verses 7-13

7–13. THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA


Verse 8

8. θύραν ἠνεῳγμένην. Through which thou mayest enter into the Kingdom, into the house of David.

ἣν οὐδεὶς δύναται κλεῖσαι αὐτήν. For the construction cf. Revelation 2:7 n. Probably the false Jews mentioned in the next verse denied the title of the Christians in Philadelphia to the privileges of brotherhood—whence we may suppose that they were mostly Gentiles. Christ answers, that He would grant what they refused.

ὅτιἔχεις. The parallels prove that these words, in spite of the strange parenthesis, are dependent on and explain σου τὰ ἔργα.

μικρὰν δύναμιν. “Little strength.” The point is that his strength is not great, not that he has a little in spite of the strain upon it.


Verse 9

9. διδῶ. The use of “give” in this verse is frequent in Hebrew: (cp. LXX. of Isaiah 60:17 δώσω τοὺς ἄρχοντάς σου ἐν εἰρήνῃ); here the sentence is unfinished, and is resumed by “I will make them come” &c. below.

ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς τοῦ Σατανᾶ. See on Revelation 2:9.

ποιήσω αὐτούς. An application of Isaiah 60:14, πορεύσονται πρὸς σὲ δεδοικότες υἱοὶ ταπεινωσάντων σε.

ὅτι ἐγὼ ἠγάπησά σε. Perhaps “that I set my love on thee” once for all; but it is simpler to remember how much commoner aorists are than perfects in the New Testament. The pronoun ἐγὼ is emphatic—which supports the view already suggested, that the title of this Church to Christian privileges was contested by the Jews, and that this message of the Lord is intended to decide a controversy.


Verse 10

10. ὅτι ἐτήρησαςκἀγώ. It would be possible, but hardly in accordance with the usage of this book, to connect this with what goes before, “that I have loved thee, because thou hast kept …, and I will keep thee from.…”


Verse 11

11. κράτει ὅ ἔχεις. See on Revelation 2:6; Revelation 2:25.

λάβῃ, i.e. rob thee of it: it is hardly meant that his loss will be in any sense another’s gain, but that whoever can tempt him to let go what he has will deprive him of what he hopes for. On στέφανον see note on Revelation 2:10 : the image of a race or other contest for a prize does not seem in harmony with the context nor with the style of this book.


Verse 12

12. ὁ νικῶν. Lit. “He that overcometh, I will make him,” as in Revelation 2:26.

στῦλον. Used of chief men in the Church in Galatians 2:9, and probably of the Church itself in 1 Timothy 3:15. All Christians are living stones in the Temple (Ephesians 2:20 sqq., 1 Peter 2:5), all necessary to its completeness, but some of course filling in it a more important position than others: and such important position is indicated by the image of the “pillars” ll. cc. But here the promise is not for Apostles or their successors only, but for all the faithful: the point is not “he shall be one of the great and beautiful stones on which the others rest,” but “he shall be so placed that he cannot be removed while the whole fabric stands.”

The reading αὐτῷ στῦλον would have to be explained by the analogy, not very close, of 2 Samuel 18:18, Isaiah 56:5.

γράψω ἐπʼ αὐτόν. We repeatedly have in this book the image of the divine Name written on the foreheads of God’s servants: see Revelation 7:3, Revelation 14:1, Revelation 22:4. Hence the inscribing the name is here equally appropriate to the figure and the thing signified: probably the metaphor of the pillar is not dropped, but writing the name on the pillar means the same as writing it on the man.

τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ μου καὶ τὸ ὄνομα τῆς πόλεως τοῦ θεοῦ μου. Cf. Isaiah 44:5; Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:16; Ezekiel 48:35, for the junction of these two names. The three names joined here are in a manner those of the Trinity, the Church being representative of the Spirit. It is probable that passages like this did much to suggest the use of the sign of the Cross on the forehead, both at Baptism and on other occasions that seemed to call for a profession of faith: and the image of the “new name” (cf. Revelation 2:17) harmonises well with the much later usage of conferring a name in Baptism.

ἡ καταβαίνουσα, Revelation 21:2; Revelation 21:10. The nominative after τῆς καινῆς cannot be ascribed either to ignorance or to forgetfulness; see note on ἡ λέγουσα, Revelation 2:20.

τὸ ὄνομά μου τὸ καινόν. See on Revelation 2:17 and Revelation 19:1 there referred to.


Verse 14

14. ὁ ἀμήν. See the last note on Revelation 1:7. Here the name is used, (i) because this is the last of the seven Epistles, that it may confirm the whole: (ii) as synonymous with the title “Faithful and True” that follows: for which see the latter group of references on Revelation 3:7. Isaiah 65:16 is specially noticeable, where “the God of truth” is in the Hebrew “the God of Amen”; in the other O.T. passages a different but cognate form is used.

ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς καὶ ἀληθινός. See Revelation 1:5.

ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ. Exactly equivalent to Colossians 1:15, as explained by the words that follow: in both places the words are such as might grammatically be used of the first of creatures, but the context there, and the whole tone of the book here, proves that the writer does not regard Him as a creature at all. But St John is not here, as in the first verses of his Gospel, describing our Lord’s Nature theologically: it might be enough to say that here and in Proverbs 8:22 (where the words “the Lord possessed” or “created Me” lend themselves more easily than these to an Arian sense), the coming forth of the Word to create is conceived as part of His earthly mission, which culminates in the Incarnation, so that in a sense even creation is done by Him as a creature.


Verses 14-22

14–22. THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA


Verse 15

15. οὔτε ψυχρὸςοὔτε ζεστός. Neither untouched by spiritual life, dead and cold, as an unregenerate heathen would be, nor τῷ πνεύματι ζέων (Romans 12:11). We might naturally speak (perhaps the Lord does, Matthew 24:12) of those as “cold” who were such as the Laodiceans were, and of course here something more is meant: but that further meaning can hardly be being actively opposed to the Gospel, but only being utterly unaffected by it.

ὄφελον ψυχρὸς ἦς ἢ ζεστός. For the sentiment that it would be better even to be “cold,” cf. 2 Peter 2:21; though there the apostasy described is no doubt more deadly than here. But according to the Greek proverb (Ar. Eth. VII. ii. 10) of a man who sins against his conscience, ὄταν τὸ ὕδωρ πνίγῃ τί δεῖ ἐπιπίνειν; you can instruct and convince a man who has either low or perverse views of duty, but what can you do to one whom sound views do not make to act rightly? And similarly an unbeliever can be converted and regenerated, but what can be done for him in whom faith does not work by love?


Verse 16

16. ὄτι χλιαρὸς εἶ. The image is of course taken from the tendency of lukewarm water to excite vomiting. It is intended to be an offensive one, interfering with the self-satisfied refinement to which it is addressed.

μέλλω. “I am ready to.” The verb does not necessarily imply that the intention is final, and Revelation 3:19 shews that it is not. On the other hand, in later Greek the future is often expressed by a periphrasis with μέλλω, as in later Latin with ‘habeo.’


Verse 17

17. ὅτι λέγεις. The construction here ὄτι λέγειςκαὶ οὐκ οἶδαςσυμβουλεύω σοι … is unusually elaborate for this book.

πλούσιός εἰμι καὶ πεπλούτηκα. Lit. “I am rich and have gotten riches.” It was thought remarkable, &c., Tac. Ann. xiv. 27, that Laodicea was rebuilt, A.D. 60, after an earthquake without help from Rome of any kind. If there be any distinction of sense between the two words, the second expresses pride in the riches being his own acquisition, in addition to self-complacency in the enjoyment.

For the sense, cf. Hosea 12:8, Καὶ εἶπεν Ἐφραίμ, Πλὴν πεπλούτηκα, εὔρηκα ἀναψυχὴν ἐμαυτῷ, where apparently the self-complacency in material prosperity lends itself to and combines with religious self-satisfaction. Hence it is not necessary to interpret these words either of material wealth, or of fancied spiritual wealth, to the exclusion of the other. St James 2:1-6 shews that in the first century, as in the nineteenth, the “respectable” classes found it easiest to be religious, to their own satisfaction.

σὺ εἶ ὁ ταλαίπωρος καὶ ἐλεεινός. “The wretched and miserable one” above all others—at least above all the other six Churches.


Verse 18

18. συμβουλεύω σοι. “There is deep irony in this word One who has need of nothing, yet needs counsel on the vital points of self-preservation.” Alford.

ἀγοράσαι. Cf. Isaiah 55:1 ὅσοι μὴ ἔχετε ἀργύριον, βαδίσαντες ἀγοράσατε, καὶ φάγετε ἄνευ ἀργυρίου καὶ τιμῆς: the counsel to a poor beggar to buy is of course meaningless, unless he can buy “without money and without price,” or, as the Hebrew of that passage more literally means, “for (what is) not money and for (what is) not a price.” Thus the word is not a mere synonym for “receive”: the sense is, “Thou hast nothing to give, but thou must give all that thou hast” (Matthew 13:44; Matthew 13:46). The nothingness of human merit is a reason against exalting self, but not a reason for sparing self: the Lord does not bid us say, “We are unprofitable servants: we cannot and need not do what it is our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10)

χρυσίον πεπυρωμένον ἐκ πυρός. Vg[142] aurum ignitum probatum. The fire would not remove the dross from the gold, but either detect it or prove that the gold was already pure. A. V[143] is right in sense, though “fresh burnt from the fire” would be perhaps more literal: cf. Revelation 1:15, where the same participle is used as here. The meaning of the “gold” is defined in the next words: it stands for spiritual “riches” of any sort.

ἱμάτια λενκά. As in Revelation 3:4-5.

καὶ μὴ φανερωθῇ. Cf. Revelation 16:15.

καὶ κολλύριον ἐγχρῖσαι τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς σου. “And eyesalve to anoint thine eyes.” κολλύριον (the name comes from a bread poultice) was the common dressing for weak eyes, and could be applied by a barber (see Horace Sat. I. vii. 3), but perhaps hardly by the patient himself.


Verse 19

19. ἐγὼ ὄσους ἐὰν φιλῶ, ἐλέγχω. The pronoun ἐγώ stands emphatically at the beginning of the sentence—as it were, “My way with those I love (the word is a strong one, expressing affection, not simply charity), is to shew them their faults,” not to “prophesy smooth things,” and encourage the self-complacent temper that was destroying the Laodiceans. In every other case, the Lord has noted both the good and the evil in the Church, and generally the good first: here He does nothing but find fault, but He adds in effect, “Do not suppose from this that I do not love you.” The word ἐλέγχω is more often rendered “reprove”: see e.g. John 16:8 : Ephesians 5:11; Ephesians 5:13 : its meaning here is exactly what we express by “working conviction of sin.”

ζήλευε οὖν καὶ μετανόησον. Shake off thy languid “lukewarm” temper: then thou wilt be able to start on a new life of righteousness. Here too it is possible to see a reason for the contrasted tenses.


Verse 20

20. ἕστηκα ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν καὶ κρούω. The Lord expresses His affection, from which He has intimated that the Laodiceans are not excluded, by this figure of intense and condescending tenderness. It is intended to remind the readers of Song of Solomon 5:2 : but the figure of the lover’s midnight visit is too delicate to bear being represented, as here, with a mixture of the thing signified with the image, especially since the visit is not to the Church, personified as a single female, but to any individual, and of either sex; so it is toned down into a visit from a familiar friend.

ἐάν τις ἀκούσῃ τῆς φωνῆς μου. It is implied that anyone is sure to hear His knock, and be roused to ask who is there: but only those who love Him will know His voice (as Rhoda did St Peter’s, Acts 12:14) when He says “It is I.”

δειπνήσω. The blessing promised is a secret one to the individual. There can thus hardly be a reference to the Holy Eucharist, which is shared publicly by the whole Church.

μετ ̓ αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς μετ ̓ ἐμοῦ. The sense is, “I will take all he has to give Me, as though I had need of it, and benefited by it (cf. Matthew 25:37-40): but at the same time, it will really be I that give the feast, and he that receives it.” There can hardly be a better illustration than a quaint and touching legend, given in a little book called Patranas, or Spanish Stories, with the title “Where one can dine, two can dine.”


Verse 21

21. ὁ νικῶν. The construction is as in Revelation 2:26, Revelation 3:12, “He that overcometh, I will give him.” For the sense, compare the former of these passages; but the promise of sharing Christ’s inheritance (Romans 8:17) is even more fully expressed here.

ὡς κἀγὼ ἐνίκησα. See St John’s Gospel, John 16:33.

μετὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ αὐτοῦ. See Revelation 5:6, Revelation 7:17. In the Jewish Cabbala (of which the oldest parts are ascribed to a date little later than St John, and perhaps embody still older traditions, though it received its present form quite late in the middle ages) we hear of Metatron, apparently a Greek word Hebraised for “Next to the Throne,” or perhaps “in the midst of the Throne,” a sort of mediator between God and the world, who is identified with the four Living Creatures of Ezekiel’s vision. The Cabbala as it now exists has more affinity with Gnostic mythology than with scriptural or Catholic Christianity: but it is deserving of notice, as the outcome of tendencies in Jewish thought that might have developed, or found their satisfaction in the Gospel. St John’s Lamb “in the midst of the Throne” is perhaps just as far comparable with the Cabbalistic Metatron, as his doctrine of the personal “Word of God” is with Philo’s. It is hardly wise to ask whether “MyThrone” and “His Throne” are quite identical: for the doctrine that the faithful stand to Christ in the same relation as He to the Father, see St John’s Gospel, John 17:21-23, and 1 Corinthians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3.

 


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Bibliography Information
"Commentary on Revelation 3:4". "Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cgt/revelation-3.html. 1896.

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Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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