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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 3

D.S. Clark's Commentary on RevelationClark on Revelation

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This chapter continues the messages to the churches; four have been considered, three yet remain.

Verses 1-6

5. Sardis.

Vs. 1-6. Sardis, the capital of Lydia, the citadel of the world famed Croesus, has fulfilled the prophecy that "the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish," Sardis and ruin are synonyms. Sardis was a church well nigh apostate when John wrote. This is the church which, in Dr. Scofield's scheme, represents the "Protestant Reformation." Is Protestantism apostate? Is this age degenerate till there is no hope of betterment, and nothing to be expected from the Christian church?

A writer in the Century Magazine of 1921 says: "The muckraking of the pulpit and the pew is the crying need of this age." Dr. Scofield flaps the raven's wing, and the Century Magazine discloses the venom of an enemy.

But Sardis was sadly degenerate. No conflict is discovered with foes within or without. The church had ceased to witness sufficiently to excite the opposition of the enemy. There was no occasion to persecute a church that had given up her testimony.

Observe that the city that had an apostate church is conspicuous for its sad and silent ruins. Therefore that civihzation will perish that does not maintain the church in its purity. The city or commonwealth or nation that neglects or abandons the church and its worship of God has doom written across its face. But there was sufficient life left in Sardis to merit an exhortation and warning. "Hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." God's judgments are swift and unexpected. "The feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool."

But there were a few faithful "even in Sardis." God does not leave himself without a witness, and the gracious Lord does not overlook the faithful few among the many apostate. Their names are in "the book of life", and "they shall walk with me in white."

Christian life and character are possible in difficult places. Let no Christian give over his effort because of the unfriendliness of his environment; nor fail in faith and faithfulness when all is dark and discouraging.

Verses 7-13

6. Philadelphia.

Vs. 7-13. Here is a church on which Christ bestows unmixed praise. She had "little strength"; few in numbers and poor in resources. The vicissitudes of the city, because of earthquakes in the lava formation, perhaps kept them in poverty. But poor in this world's goods they were rich toward God. Continued dependence on God and his providence is fruitful of trust and fellowship. Observe again that this town whose church was the salt of the earth has withstood the vicissitudes of the ages and exists today a monument of God's protecting power. Christ's promise to it was: "Because thou hast kept my word I will keep thee from the hour of temptation which will come upon all the world."

Philadelphia had her trials from that same "synagogue of Satan" that troubled Smyrna; but the crowning triumph of her piety and faithfulness is expressed thus: "I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." The power of their testimony and the piety of their lives conquered and won their enemies. What triumph could exceed that? The earnest, faithful, godly church will not be without her fruits in the conversion of the world. To such a church the Lord has presented "an open door."

Verses 14-22

7. Laodicea.

Vs. 14-22. Laodicea receives no commendation. She is not hopeless, but indifferent. However indifference is next to hopelessness.

The city of Laodicea, named for Laodice wife of the Seleucid king Antiochus II, was noted for the wealth of its citizens; who were able to rebuild the city without government help when destroyed by an earthquake. Accordingly the deceitfulness of riches choked the word that it became unfruitful. The church of Laodicea stood in contrast to that of Philadelphia in point of wealth, and also in point of devotion, piety, and service. Their worldly wealth led them to think that they were "rich and increased in goods and had need of nothing." Spiritually they were "Wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked."

The hot and cold springs of the locality doubtless gave rise to the simile of the water. Christ's judgment upon them was: "Because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot I will spew thee out of my mouth." No more scathing denunciation has ever been launched upon any church than this upon the church of Laodicea. Their self-satisfied content was most distasteful to their Lord. They thought themselves the opposite of what they were. To be sick is bad enough; but to be sick and deluded is well nigh fatal. Would this denunciation disillusion them? Would they accept reproof from their Lord? Would they heed the injunction: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich?"

We are not ready to concede that Laodicea is a prophetic f oreview of some particular age; but the lesson of Laodicea is a lesson to any church in any age that sinks to Laodicea's unspirituality. The church that is half on and half off is an abomination in the sight of God in that, or this, or any age. "Be zealous therefore and repent" is a pertinent exhortation to most churches in all the centuries of Christian history.

"Behold I stand at the door and knock." Dr. Scofield heads this: " The place and attitude of Christ at the end of the church age. " It is the attitude of Christ in any age!!

These were the messages. Were words ever spoken more encouraging to those who heed and more terrible in denunciation upon the faithless and lukewarm?

Two peculiar things about these messages deserve attention. Each one begins with some phrase applied to Christ in the first chapter. For example: "These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars", "he that hath the sharp sword", "he that hath eyes like a flame of fire" etc.

Again each message closes with a promise "to him that overcometh." Namely, "I will give to eat of the tree of life;" "I will give to eat of the hidden manna," "I will give him the morning star;" "I will give power over the nations;" "make a pillar in the house of God;" "grant to sit with me in my throne," etc.

We may recognize in closing that these messages not only dealt with conditions in the churches, but in doing so were preparing them for scenes through which they were soon to pass in the cataclysmic events connected with the destruction of the Jewish state. Thus they are fraught with watchful and wise solicitude for the endurance and triumph of the churches of Asia in the tribulation of their day.

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