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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 3

Verses 1-6

  1. INTRO:
    1. Astronomers tell us that the light from the Polar star takes 33 yrs. to reach earth.
      1. If that star plunged into darkness 30 yrs. ago, its light would still be coming down to earth. - [It would still be shining as if nothing had happened]
      2. It could be a dead star, shining solely by the light of a brilliant past. - [The church of Sardis was like that - shining solely by the light of a brilliant past!]
    2. Let’s look at ourselves in another mirror that Jesus is holding up to us today ……Sardis!
  2. DESTINATION (1A)
    1. Sardis - (now called Sert-Kalessi) Has been called: “The Fruitless Church; the Church that was at peace…the peace of the dead!; The church of spiritual Apathy; the Dead church; The Feeble church; I call it: “The church with a Reputation, but needing Resuscitation!”
    2. In the 6th cent. BC Sardis was one of the most powerful cities of the ancient world. - It was the capital of Lydia. - It was a center for Trade(wool, dyeing) - It was a Military Center. It was characterized by a loose/luxurious lifestyle.
    3. It was located on an almost innacessible plateau. - Its Acropolis, w/its nearly perpendicular rock walls, was about 1500’ above the main roads which formed an impregnable fortress on all but the south side.
    4. Excavations unearthed a Roman Theater, a Stadium, a Temple dedicated to Artemis(not Artemis Gordon/w.w.west)(160’x130’) - It had 78 Ionic (fluted molding)columns (2 still standing, 58’ high)
      1. The local goddess Cybele - was bel. to possess the spec. power of restoring the dead to life! {“…but you are dead”}
  3. DESCRIPTION (1B)
    1. He represents Himself as: “he who has the 7 Spirits.”- He is the one who has (to give) the Holy Spirit. [Is.11:2]
      1. His Holy Spirit breathes life into a church. {The church was born when the Sp. of God descended on the day of Pent.}
      2. When the Spirit is grieved……the church begins to lose life & power.
    2. He also is in charge of the “7 Stars”(messengers)! - Possibly the Pastors?
      1. Sometimes it’s the pastors fault a church is dying - sometimes he’ll remove the star & put another in his place!
  4. CONDEMNATION (1C-2)
    1. Usually the Commendation goes here. {We’ll see it in verse 4}
    2. Sardis comes under the most severe denunciation of the 7!
    3. Just as the City was now only a shadow of its former splendor, being alive in name only, so was the Sardis Church!
    4. The 1st Condemnation was for its Lifeless Profession: (vs.1c)
      1. There was no doctrinal correction; no persecution from w/o; no opposition from w/in. {No friction…no motion!}
      2. They had grown comfortable - They became “The 1st united church of the Sardis Coach Potatoes!”
      3. They had grown Content - They were living on its past Reputation!
        1. There was Reputation w/o Reality; Form w/o Force! (W.W.)
        2. Like there city they gloried in their past splendor, but ignored their present decay!
      4. They were like the Fig tree of Mt.21:19, it had leaves but No fruit!
      5. Caird calls Sardis, “A perfect model of Inoffensive Christianity!”
      6. The message to Sardis & us is to not live on the past glory! - {W.W. said, “you can guard your sp. heritage,…but don’t embalm it!}
      7. Vance Havner tells us that sp. ministries often go thru 4 stages: A man, a movement, a machine, & then a monument! {Sardis was in Monument stage!}…but there was still Hope!
        1. Hope - because Jesus was still the head of the church & He was able to bring new life!
    5. The 2nd Condemnation was for its Incomplete Works: (vs,2)
      1. The things that they did have were “ready to die””. Why? Because they were falling to sleep! - He says, “Be Watchful!”
        1. Rom.13:11 “…it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”
      2. Three times in its long history(2000,bc) the citadel had been captured because the sentries failed their post.
        1. 1st by Cyprus, king of the Medo-Persians, captured it by following a secret path(got 6mill. in treasures, 548bc); later by Alex. the great; then again by Antiochus the great in 214bc.
      3. They were probably Decent upstanding citizens in Sardis’ church, but with a Dying witness, & a Decaying ministry!
      4. Your works not perfect/Incomplete!
        1. D.L.Moody said, “I’d rather say this one thing I do, then say, these 40 things I dabble with!”
        2. Sardis was Dabbling not Doing!
  5. EXHORTATION (3)
    1. Like Ephesus they were told to Remember what they had Received & heard in the 1st days of their Christian experience!
      1. Heb.10:32 “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:”
      2. Gal.5:7 “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”
    2. The Eph. church was warned - I’ll remove your lampstand/if no repent!
    3. The Perg. church was warned - I’ll come & make war w/u,w/sword/o/sp!
    4. Now if Sardis doesn’t follow orders - He’ll come as a thief, when they least expect Him, & this for judgment!
  6. COMMENDATION (4)
    1. A few saints were commended. - His faithful lil Remnant of dedicated people who had not defiled their garments!
    2. Sounds like that even if we are of the minority in a church, a group, a bible study, a christian club, who are following the Lord, we are to “Strengthen the things which remain!”(vs.2)
  7. PROMISE (5,6)
    1. vs.5a - “Clothed in white garments”
      1. Read Zech.3:1-6 -2 analogies[1]stick plucked from the fire[2] Garment
    2. vs.5b - Name blot ?- A true believer losing Salvation? - No!
      1. Jn.10:28,29 “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. "My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.”
      2. “Can one born again become unborn?”
      3. It’s possible that this “Book of Life” is the Book of the Living. It might go like this: “All names are written in this “Book of Life” when you are birthed (phys.). - As unbelievers die there names are removed from the “Book of the Living”; thus at the final judgment, the Book contains only the names of the Believers. - It then becomes the “Lambs Book of Life”; all others have been blotted out (being it’s a book of life, lost sinners are dead!)
      4. This statement does not teach the poss. loss of salvation, but rather promises assurance that no bel. will ever lose it - Read it again! “I will not blot…!!!”
    3. vs.5c - Also, the faithful ones will be acknowledged publicly before the father & his angels.
  8. End:
    1. “There was a little girl who being required to take her birth cert. to school, had lost it on the way. - The janitor saw her crying & asked her what was wrong. - She said, “I’ve lost my excuse for being born”……That was Sardis!
    2. Let’s remember why we were born: to Love Him, Serve Him, Worship Him, Obey Him,…w/a all our heart, mind soul, & strength.

Verses 14-22

  1. Intro:
    1. Tonight’s approach:
      1. Approach His Word with our analytical knife sharpened to dissect it into tiny pieces for scrutinizing & labeling?
        1. Often we can name all the right parts & miss the personal message.
      2. I’ve sought to filet a fish before, & ended up filleting my own finger.
      3. Listen for God. Let the sword of His Word cut you, quit trying to cut it!
    2. In his book, The Yoke of Christ, Elton Trueblood quotes a letter from a school girl who probes the depth of her soul. She writes, "I've been thinking much this year about the importance of caring, of the passion of life. I've often realized that it takes courage to care. Caring is dangerous. It leaves you open to hurt and to looking like a fool. And perhaps it's because they have been hurt so often that people are afraid to care. You can't die if you're not alive. And then who would rather be a stone? I have found many places in my own life where I keep a secret store of indifference as a sort of self-protection."
      1. That's a penetrating insight -- a secret store of indifference.
      2. We're to care, because Christ cared -- even though it means a cross.
    3. C.S. Lewis is the highly provocative The Screwtape Letters said in Wormwoods job description: "I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with the people who do not care."
  2. NAKED! (14-22)
    1. Don’t read text up front!
    2. Background:
    3. What is Murrieta known for? Temecula?
      1. Now, imagine if you knew what a 1st century writer knew about this city of Laodicea.
    4. Wealth - Laodicea was a wealthy & independent city. - They were able to rebuild their city after an devastating earthquake in A.D. 61 “without the help of Rome!”
      1. Tacitus writes: “One of the most famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was in that same year over-thrown by an earthquake and without any relief from us covered itself by its own resources” (Tacitus: Annals 14:27) (The Revelation of John : Volume 1. 2000, c1976 (W. Barclay, lecturer in the University of Glasgow, Ed.). The Daily study Bibleseries, Rev. ed. (138). Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.)
      2. It was one of the wealthiest cities in the world!
    5. Medical Center - It was a medical center known for an ointment for treating ears, & a powder for the eyes.
    6. Location - Laodicea was located near Hierapolis (where there was famous Hot-springs) & near Colossae (known for its pure Cold water).
      1. Trade route
    7. Banking & financial center - It was also known as a banking & financial center.
    8. Sheep - And for their glossy black wool cloth!
      1. Jesus will use each of these images for His points to the church! (18)
    9. JESUS! (14)
    10. Faithful - He won’t Dilute the Truth!
    11. True - He won’t Distort the Truth!
    12. Beginning of the creation of God - Indicating His priority over all creation!
      1. Beginning = origin; to have 1st place; to hold the chief place!
    13. Though outwardly the church appeared strong & prosperous, the lord finds nothing to COMMEND!
      1. Though they were busy commending themselves!
    14. HE CONDEMNS 4 THINGS: (15-17)
    15. [1] INDIFFERENCE! (15,16) - Lukewarm, not Hot nor Cold.
      1. In the Christian life there are 3 temperatures:
      2. [1] A Burning Heart [zestos/boiling hot] (on fire for God)
        1. Lk.24:32 “And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"
      3. [2] A Cold Heart - Mt.24:12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”
      4. [3] A Lukewarm Heart - Comfortable & complacent!
        1. If they were cold they would have at least felt it!
        2. Jesus says, “Give me all your Hate or all your Heart, but don’t offer Lukewarm Love!”
        3. A lukewarm person is tepid, lacking enthusiasm, halfhearted about what he or she believes. They may possess some sense of duty to the church, but lack true conviction & commitment!
        4. Imagine a Salesman lukewarm about sales! An Electrician lukewarm about electricity! A Fighter lukewarm against his foe! Imagine a Doctor lukewarm about disease! - Imagine a Church lukewarm about Christ? It makes as much sense!
        5. Puke, vomit, barf, hurl…/
      5. Q: Are you “on fire” for Jesus?
    16. [2] PRIDE! (17a) - Obviously a boasting church, basking in their own effort, “I’m rich, wealthy & independent!”
      1. They said, “We’re in need of nothing”; Jesus said, “W/o me you can do nothing!”
    17. [3] SELF DECEPTION! (17b) - “They did not know !”
      1. This church didn’t even know how bad off they were!
      2. Smyrna thought itself poor, but they were rich! (Here Laodicea was opp.)
      3. They said, we’re Wonderful; He said your Wretched!
        They said, we’re Marvelous; He said your Miserable!
        They said, we’re Prospering; He said your Poor!
        They said, we’re Beholding; He said your Blind!
        They said, we’re clothed from Nordstrom’s; He said you’re Naked as a Jaybird!
    18. [4] SPIRITUAL POVERTY! (17b) - wretched, miserable, poor, blind, & naked.
      1. We laugh at the story of the Emperor w/no clothes! - 2 guys who bamboozled the king with invisible clothes that “any fool could see”. He paraded himself in his skivvies’, while all the people were saying look at his clothes one boy shouted the king has no clothes!
        1. Jesus was like the lil boy who yelled, “Laodicea has no clothes”. They’re “naked as a jaybird” spiritually!
      2. Naked speaks of shame, humiliation:
        1. 2 Sam. 10:4 “Therefore Hanun took David's servants, shaved off half of their beards, cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. When they told David, he sent to meet them, because the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, "Wait at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.”
    19. “I counsel you” (18,19) - He is our Wonderful, Counselor!
    20. We not only need to be honest with ourselves, but allow God to be honest with us!
      1. Ps.16:7 “I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel.”
    21. They were exhorted to grab God’s: Gold, Garments, & Goop!
      1. Gold - They had fools gold! They needed gold refined by fire!
      2. Garments - Unfeigned Purity(White garments)
        1. The Laodicean’s could easily go to market & buy their beautiful black wool garments, but they needed God’s white garments of rt.!
      3. Goop - They were famous for their “Phrygian powder” mixed w/oil for an eye salve!
        1. They need some eye salve so they could see their true sp. condition!
        2. Is your spiritual vision 20/20? - See 2 Pet.1:5-9
      4. Jesus will make them spiritually rich, cover their nakedness, & heal their blindness!
    22. As many as I love, I rebuke & chasten (19)
    23. After all this…He loved these lukewarm saints!
      1. Enough to chasten them, not throw them away!
      2. He would chasten them as proof of His love!
    24. Repent - From their Pride & humble themselves before the Lord.
      1. They needed to fire up that inner flame & cultivate a burning heart!
    25. PROMISES! (20-22)
    26. 1ST PROMISE FELLOWSHIP! (20)
    27. Hear & OpenI’ll Come & Dine!
      1. Can be used in both applications for Bel. & unbel.
        1. 1st to Luke-warmers!
    28. It’s spoken to the individual, “if anyone…!” (put your name in the blank tonight!)
    29. He knocks through circumstances, He calls thru His Word for Fellowship & Communion!
    30. “I will come in to him” - He enters the bel.’s heart & makes it his home!
      1. Some people let you in their house, others make it feel like it’s your own home! (grandma’s house)
      2. Have you just let Jesus in, or has He been able to make it His home?
    31. “I will Dine with him” - Have some good spiritual food & fellowship!
      1. The Greeks had 3 meals in the day:
      2. ακριτισμα - Breakfast, bread dipped in wine.
      3. ριστάω [aristao /ar·is·tah·o/] Picnic snack on the go.
      4. δειπνέω [deipneo /dipe·neh·o/] (used here) - Evening meal, people lingered & sat long & talked over it!
    32. “And he with Me!” - If we open our heart’s to Him, He’ll open His home to us!
      1. Enjoy the pleasure of His company!
    33. Q: What does this tell you about your Savior? About His amazing love for you?
      1. Jesus isn’t eager to condemn, to spit us out of His mouth.
      2. No, His love compels Him to care, confront, & call us back to Him.
      3. Call us back for punishment? - No, for clothing, healing, nourishment, companionship. For Love!
      4. No other religion has the vision of a seeking God.
      5. Montefiore, the great Jewish scholar, said that one thing which no Jewish prophet & no Jewish Rabbi ever conceived of is the “conception of God actually going out in quest of sinful men, who were not seeking Him, but who were turned away from Him.”
        1. It would be great enough to think of a God who accepted men when they came back; it was beyond belief to think of a God who actually went out & searched!” (Barclay)
      6. Even tonight He will not kick the door down for fellowship, though He could. He gently knocks & keeps knocking(lit.).
        1. He won’t huff & puff & blow your door down!
        2. Open up, choose to come out of seclusion!
        3. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or how far you’ve fallen!
          1. Love can go no further than that!!!
    34. 2ND PROMISE INHERITANCE! (21)
      1. A promise of true exaltation w/Christ in His Millennium rule!
      2. Wow, the privilege of sitting w/Him on His throne!
      3. Letting Him in lets love in, with all its risks.
        1. But note the end of His love is NOT the shaky security of this world, but a place next to Jesus in the next!
    35. As I also overcame – Christ overcame by the power of the cross, & set this pattern for His followers. (Leon Morris)
    36. 7th time “he who has an ear…hear what the Spirit says” –
      1. When churches stop listening to the voice of the Spirit, through the Word, is when they’re in trouble.
    37. END: Laodicea had a Framework of church, but not Fruit!
      1. Does your fruit hang like ornaments that we tie on our X-mas trees? Or, like a pinecone attached to the limb, relying on its source for its very life?
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Revelation 3". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/revelation-3.html. 2017.