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Revelation 3

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Verse 1

Chapter 3 - The Epistles continued

Sardis, vv. 1-6

Philadelphia, vv. 7-13

Laodicea, vv. 14-22

Revelation 3:1 Sardis -- see WG’s PowerPoint sermon on "Sardis - Church of the Living Dead". ; See James 5:19 note on APOSTASY

angel . . "messenger"; perhaps a reference to the congregational "reader" who read this to the church, Revelation 1:3. WG

Sardis . . nearly 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of Smyrna on the southeast highway from Pergamum and Thyatira, was home to a large colony of prosperous Jews, called “Sephardic” after the city’s ancient name. Its fortified acropolis gave its inhabitants an overconfident sense of security. - NLTSB

Sardis . . Sardis’s capture twice in its history while watchmen neglected their duty became a cautionary tale of misguided complacency and lack of vigilance (see note on vv. 2–3). Although Jesus’ rebuke identifies no specific source of attack, this congregation was similarly asleep, at death’s door. Most of the impressive Roman-era remains now visible at Sardis were constructed after the tragic earthquake of a.d. 17. The emperor Tiberius helped sponsor reconstruction efforts, earning greater local renown for himself. In John’s day the civic structures included a theater, a stadium, a central marble road, and multiple temples (esp. the monumental temple of Artemis). Many Jewish inscriptions also exist in Sardis, confirming the multiple references in Josephus to Sardis’s Jewish population (Jewish Antiquities 14.235, 259–261; 16.171). - ESVSB

Sardis . . A military stronghold in antiquity, Sardis had a reputation for being impregnable, though in fact it had been conquered twice in its history. Archaeologists have uncovered a massive temple there dedicated to Artemis. - FSB

seven spirits . . Three principle interpretations: 1) a reference to the fullness of the Holy Spirit, (See note on "seven spirits" Revelation 1:4); 2) a reference to the seven churches, just as Jesus has the seven stars in his hands, Revelation 1:20. 3) an allusion to the seven angels who stand before God [ Revelation 8:2; Revelation 8:6; Revelation 15:1; Revelation 15:6; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 17:1; Revelation 21:9;] - WG

the seven spirits of God . . (cf. note on Revelation 1:4). A figurative description of the one Holy Spirit, who issues an edict to each of the seven churches (Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; etc.). He will also appear as the Lamb’s seven eyes, sent throughout the earth (Revelation 5:6). - ESVSB

He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars . . This phrase is another allusion to the glorified Christ (cf. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:16; Revelation 1:20). The seven stars refer to the churches and her leaders in Revelation 1:20; the seven spirits may be a related metaphor because in Revelation 4:5 they are related to the seven lampstands, which are also mentioned in Revelation 1:20 as referring to the churches. - Utley

seven spirits -- The “seven Spirits” probably refer to the seven principle angels of God (cf. Revelation 1:4). The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches (Revelation 1:20). Christ also reminded the readers of His lordship over the churches (the “seven stars,” Revelation 1:20; Revelation 2:1). - Constable

[cf the seven angels who stand before God, . Revelation 1:20; Revelation 8:2; Revelation 8:6; Revelation 15:1; Revelation 15:6; Revelation 15:7; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 16:1; Revelation 17:1; Revelation 21:9; ]

and the seven stars . . 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 Cor. 2:15 for the conception of judgement as the Spirit’s work. - CBSC

you are dead . . Although they appear alive, they are spiritually dead. This church receives the harshest censure among the seven. - FSB

Sardis believers are spiritually complacent and deceived by their reputation. They must stir to action, repent, and embrace a new identity and way of life. - NIVZSB

This was a devastating revelation. They thought they were right with God, spiritually pleasing to Him (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Romans 2:19-20; Colossians 2:16-23; 2 Timothy 3:5), but they were not! - Utley

Verse 2

Wake Up . . Though Sardis had a reputation as an impregnable military stronghold (a defensive acropolis), twice it fell because of sleeping watchmen ( to forces of Cyrus 546 BC and to Antiochus III, 218 BC the watchmen on the walls failed to detect an enemy army sneaking up its supposedly impregnable cliffs and walls).

The church at Sardis (and today) must awake from spiritual slumber.

Be watchful . . Literally "Become watching" or "awake and watch" - cf. CBSC

strengthen the things that remain . . This is an AORIST ACTIVE IMPERATIVE. They were to act now and continue to act to preserve what remained of their dying faith. - Utley

the things which remain . . The elements of goodness, or means of goodness, which thou hast not yet lost. - CBSC

about to die . . Because the believers in Sardis were complacent and lacked spiritual vigilance, they were close to death. - FSB

perfect -- complete -- "mature, perfect, equipped for the assigned task." Lit. fulfilled, as we say "up to the mark."

before God . . Some Gk MSS read "before my God" The Church had name of being alive among men: but its works needed to come up to God’s standard.

Verse 3

remember . . repent . .

keep . . or hold fast. 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. -CBSC

remember what you have received and heard . . This relates to the gospel which they heard and continued to receive. Christianity is not a decision only, but a lifestyle relationship. - Utley

come like a thief . . The NT often uses this analogy for Jesus’ second coming ( Revelation 16:15; Matthew 24:42-44; Luke 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). Here Jesus warns that he will come like a thief in judgment if the church refuses to repent. - FSB

come upon you as a thief . . Here the reference is not to Christ’s second coming (cf. Revelation 16:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10), but to His sudden and unexpected coming to His unrepentant, dead church to inflict harm and destruction. - MSB

...but here plainly of a particular judgement upon this one Church. - CBSC

Verse 4

garments . . The putting on and taking off of clothing was used as a metaphor of the Christian life (cf. Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:24, Ephesians 4:25, Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8, Colossians 3:10, Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:21; 1 Peter 2:1). Some believers had not compromised with pagan culture. - Utley

who have not defiled their clothing . . Christ offers encouragement to those few in Sardis who had not compromised with the surrounding culture. The use of clothing imagery may allude to Sardis’ prominent garment industry. - FSB

Sardis was famous for its textile industry, but most in the church had “soiled” or defiled spiritual garments (cf. Revelation 14:4; Judges 1:23). - NIVZSB

soiledclothes . . represent an impure life (Zechariah 3:4), while white clothes depict purity (see Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:13-14; Revelation 22:14). - NLTSB

who have not defiled their garments . . Defiled means “to smear, to pollute,” or “to stain,” and garments refer to character. There were a few whose character was still godly (cf. Judges 1:23). - MSB

Garments which were cleansed (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 7:14) by the Blood of Christ, but may be defiled again by deadly sin. See 1 John 1:6-7

walk . . expresses how a person lives (see Genesis 17:1; Psalms 81:13; Psalms 82:5; Romans 8:4; Galatians 5:16). - NLTSB

they will walk with me in white . . This is language of purity. It also symbolizes victory: Citizens would wear white clothing in a Roman triumphal procession. - FSB

“The reference was to the day of a Roman triumph. All work ceased and the true Roman citizen donned the pure white toga. The specially privileged few—usually the civic authorities and sometimes relations or friends of the victorious general who was being honoured—had a part in the triumphal procession. Clad in white, these Sardian believers were also to walk in triumph with their Captain in the day of His triumph. They had remained loyal to Him and would share His honour in the day of His glory.”

(Ramsay, pp. 386–88; Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, p. 147; J. Massyngberde Ford, Revelation, p. 413.)

Their unsoiled garments symbolize consistent obedience and courageous faith. Christ promises them the conqueror’s reward: communion with himself (walk with me) and the white raiment of victory (cf. note on Revelation 2:17; also Revelation 7:14). - ESVSB

in white . . The white garments of all the redeemed (cf. Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9, 13; Revelation 19:8, 14), speak of holiness and purity.

Such white robes are reserved for Christ (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:3), holy angels (Matthew 28:3; Mark 16:5), and the glorified church (Revelation 19:8, 14). In the ancient world, white robes were commonly worn at festivals and celebrations. - MSB

Verse 5

He who overcomes . . Four things will be given to the one who overcomes: (1) he will walk with the Messiah, v. 4; (2) he will be clothed in white; (3) his name will never be blotted out of the book of life; and (4) the Messiah will acknowledge him as His own in the presence of the Father and His angels. - Utley

overcomes . . The one who is victorious. See note on Revelation 2:7. white. Contrasts with soiled clothes. People wore white garments for festivals, sacred ceremonies, and Roman celebrations; here they signify purity, cleansing, and end-time victory ( Revelation 3:18; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 19:14; Isaiah 61:10).

he who overcomes . . clothed . . Their unsoiled garments symbolize consistent obedience and courageous faith. Christ promises them the conqueror’s reward: communion with himself (walk with me) and the white raiment of victory (cf. note on Revelation 2:17; also Revelation 7:14). - ESVSB

the book of life . . The record of those who will inherit eternal life (Revelation 20:12; Exodus 32:32-34; Daniel 12:1). See also Daniel 7:12; Revelation 17:8; Philippians 4:3; Luke 10:20.

Believers in Jesus will have eternal (John 3:16-17).

For God to erase a name implies condemnation and eternal death (see Exodus 32:32-33; Psalms 69:28).

confess . . Jesus will confess their name before the Father, since they have confessed Jesus in hostile circumstances (Matthew 10:32).

Verse 6

The one who has an ear . . Recalls Jesus’ exhortation throughout the Gospels (e.g., Matthew 13:9; Matthew 13:43): Hear, understand, and respond accordingly. This is reflected in the closing of each message to the seven churches (Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22). - FSB

Echoes similar exhortations in the Gospels (Matthew 11:15; Mark 4:9) and the Prophets (Isaiah 6:9-10; Ezekiel 3:27) to hear and respond to God’s Word. - NIVZSB

what the Spirit says -- The one who addresses the churches (Revelation 2:7) and inspires prophecy (Revelation 19:10) and speaks directly in (Revelation 22:17), confirming the exhortation and promise in Revelation 2:12-13. - NIVZSB

Verse 7

See "Revelation-WG" Topic notes for information on the seven churches of Asia.

Philadelphia . . An important commercial and agricultural city (modern Alashehir, Turkey) 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Sardis. The city was an important commercial stop on a major trade route called the Imperial Post Road, a first century mail route. It was home to temples to Zeus and the emperor. Following the devastating earthquake of AD 17, Philadelphia (meaning “brotherly love”) was temporarily renamed Neocaesarea (meaning “Caesar’s new city”) out of gratitude for the emperor’s aid. - NIVZSB

Although Scripture does not mention this church elsewhere, it was probably the fruit of Paul’s extended ministry in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19:10).

holy … true . . A common description in this book (Revelation 4:8; Revelation 6:10; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2, Revelation 19:11). Christ shares the holy, sinless, pure nature of His Father (Psalms 16:10; Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 40:25; Isaiah 43:15; Habakkuk 3:3; Mark 1:11, Mark 1:24; John 6:69; Acts 3:14); that is, He is absolutely pure and separate from sin. “True” can refer both to one who speaks truth, and who is genuine or authentic as opposed to fake. - MSB

key of David . . It describes one who has the right (authority) to rule.

The “key of David” seems to refer to Isaiah 22:20-23 where Hezekiah’s servant, Eliakim, received authority over David’s house including access to all the king’s treasures (2 Kings 18:18)

Jesus claimed to have God’s full administrative authority to distribute or not distribute all God’s resources according to His will. - Constable

Quote from Isaiah 22:22. Illustrates that this prophecy Isaiah spoke regarding Eliakim had a second application to Christ as having the "Key of David."

key of David … opens … shuts . . Alludes to Isaiah 22:22. The Jews probably excluded Philadelphian Christians from the synagogue (cf. Revelation 3:9), but Christ stresses his supreme authority to “open” and “shut” the doors of the kingdom (cf. Matt 16:19). - NIVSB

In Revelation 1:18 He is pictured holding the keys to death and hell—here, the keys to salvation and blessing. - MSB

the one who opens and no one can shut . . Indicates Christ’s authority to admit or exclude. In light of Revelation 3:8 and Revelation 3:12, this may refer to the new Jerusalem (ch. 21). -FSB

As the gatekeeper of heaven, Jesus has authority to open and close the way to heaven (cp. Matthew 16:19; John 14:6 . - NLTSB

Verse 8

I know your works . . Commendation. Christ’s common refrain throughout these letters (see Revelation 2:2; Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1; Revelation 3:15).

an open door . . the Christians there apparently were not prosperous, and they lacked status and power. But Christ had opened a door for them (see Revelation 3:7) to claim his status and authority. In spite of their weakness, the Philadelphia church obeyed Christ’s word and did not deny him under pressure. - NLTSB

an open door . . An opportunity for ministry (Colossians 4:3) or more likely, access to God’s kingdom as in Revelation 3:7 (; Acts 14:27). - NIVZSB

For Paul, open doors were opportunities for ministry (1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3). That sense is possible here; but since these Christians, excluded by the synagogue, would become pillars in God’s temple (Revelation 3:12), probably Jesus sets before them the “door standing open” into God’s heavenly sanctuary (Revelation 4:1). - ESVSB

door that no one is able to shut . . May indicate that the believers in Philadelphia had been excommunicated from the local synagogue. The “synagogue of Satan” reference in the following verse, contrasted with the believer’s establishment as permanent fixtures in the temple of God in Revelation 3:12, supports this conclusion. - FSB

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. - CBSC

little strength . . The congregation was probably small and of little importance in the city, yet they remained faithful.

have not denied my name . . Alludes to Matthew 10:32-33; cf. Revelation 2:13.

Verse 9

synagogue of Satan . . See Revelation 2:9 and note.

who say they are Jews . . Who is the real Israel today? Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:12-14; Romans 9:4-8; Galatians 3:27-29; Revelation 2:9; Revelation 3:9; 1 Corinthians 10:18. God’s Israel today is not that nation in Palestine called by that name, but His people who live by faith in Him and His Son Jesus Christ.

say that they are Jews . . but instead they are serving as God’s enemy as they persecute Christians. This refers to Jewish opposition to the gospel, for they had rejected the Messiah. The church, not unbelieving Jews, is the true people of God, and the real Israel of today.

who say they are Jews . . This is another indication of the early date (AD 66-69) of this letter. It was written before the fall and disgrace of the Jewish nation. After AD 70 the Jews had little influence to persecute the Christians. Persecution after AD 70 came from the Roman authorities and pagans.

I will make them come and kneel . . The church would be vindicated before nonbelieving Jews in the city (compare Isaiah 60:14). - FSB

The church’s human enemies will ultimately acknowledge that Christians are the ones God loves. - NLTSB

fall down at your feet. Jesus’ followers will be vindicated before their Jewish persecutors - NIVZSB

The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in AD 70 vindicated Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24:1-2 ff, and Mark 13:1-4 and following. This is another indication that this Revelation is before the events of AD 70. (Ezekiel 36:23)

to know that I have loved thee . . The pronoun "I" is emphatic. The final fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple in AD 70 was a "sign" to the Jews that the Messiah had come already and they had put him to death, but He was now in heaven just as the Christians taught.

(See note on Matthew 24:30, where you should note the word order in the Greek is as it is in the KJV and the RSV; here many modern translations miss the Greek word order and give a misinterpretation due to the story of Constantine seeing a sign of the cross in the sky and legalizing Christianity in the empire in 4th century AD.)

Verse 10

you have kept the word . . To those who have kept his word, Christ promises, “I will keep you” from the coming hour of trial, which will put those who dwell on the earth to the test.

The coming wrath of God is described in detail throughout chaps 6-19, and features the unleashing of divine wrath in judgments as expressed in the seals, trumpet, and bowls.

Jesus is not promising to keep His church from persecution because in the letters to the seven churches persecution, even death, was occurring.

It is crucial to distinguish between the “tribulations” believers endure in faith and “the wrath of God” that falls on an unbelieving world.

I will keep you . . Jesus will protect Christians who persevere through trials (cp. Isaiah 43:2-4; John 10:27-28; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 6:18-19). - NLTSB

which is about to come . . Revelation 1:1-3 indicates the judgment of which this book is about, was to come soon, for the time is at hand. The Jews who were the great merchants and bankers of the world and spread through out the Roman empire would soon be brought low, as well as the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

the whole world . . the Roman Empire (Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28).

Verse 11

I am coming quickly . . To the church at Philadelphia this was not a threatening judgment, but a hopeful promise that the church there would be delivered out of the hour of trial. (Hebrews 10:25)

I am coming quickly . . Revelation 1:1-3; It is a Revelation about things that must shortly come to pass Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:6; Revelation 22:10

Note that when John finishes the book the Lord says he is coming quickly, that is, to bring about the judgment of which he speaks in this book. Revelation 22:20 .

If the book is about the final coming of the Lord and the final great day of jument, then John is wrong OR the judgment of which John writes about, did come soon, for the time was at hand when John wrote this.

Some who would say the judgment is about the fall of the Roman empire in the 5th century A.D. However, that interpretation does not fit in either with all the specification that the event was soon, would come quickly, and was at hand.

that no man take thy crown . . i.e. rob thee of it: the image of a race or other contest. See Revelation 2:10.

crown . . This is another reference to the stephanos crown mentioned in Revelation 2:10. It was a reward for faithfulness.

Verse 12

who overcomes . . Victorious.

a pillar . . Used of chief men in the Church in Galatians 2:9, and perhaps 1 Timothy 3:15. All Christians are living-stones in the Temple (Ephesians 2:20 sqq., 1 Peter 2:5), - CBSC

a pillar . . The temple was the dwelling place of God. Paul refers to believers, both individually and corporately, as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). The language here describes the believer’s permanent residence in the abode and presence of God. - FSB

pillar in the temple . . Contrasts with pagan temples felled by the earthquake and perhaps with the Jerusalem temple destroyed in AD 70. Victorious believers will never be excluded from God’s presence in the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2-4). For the church as God’s temple, see note on 2 Corinthians 6:16. - NIVZSB

I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God . . Philadelphia was in an earthquake area; the metaphor of a pillar conveyed the concept of stability. Prominent citizens’ names were inscribed on the pillars of the temples in Philadelphia. The term “temple” here is a term (naos) from the verb “to dwell” and was used of the place where deity’s very presence dwelt. The overcoming believers will never have to leave God’s presence (cf. Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4-6). - Utley

go no more out . . Always dwell there. - PNT

I will write on him . . As a means of identification and belonging (compare Isaiah 62:2; Ezekiel 48:35). The rewards for endurance and perseverance throughout Revelation all point to an abiding presence and relationship with God and Christ (see Revelation 21:3-5). - FSB

my new name . . Philadelphia had taken on Caesar’s name after the city’s destruction (see note on Revelation 3:7), but Jesus promises them a new identity (cf. Revelation 2:17; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4) and citizenship in a glorious, eternal city (Revelation 21:2; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 12:22). - NIVZSB

name of My God . . In biblical times, one’s name spoke of his character. Writing His name on us speaks of imprinting His character on us and identifying us as belonging to Him. - MSB

new Jerusalem . . the new abiding place with God, His church. Note that the "new Jerusalem" is not heaven, for it comes down out of heaven. Revelation 21:2

Verse 13

See note on Revelation 3:6

Verse 14

Laodicea . . Located in the Lycus River Valley Laodicea was situated about 42 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of Philadelphia and 80 miles east of Ephesus, and was the economic and judicial center of a metropolitan region that included Colosse and Hierapolis. Laodicea had a famous medical school and was notable for its eye salve.

After a severe earthquake (AD 60), Laodicea refused aid from Rome and rebuilt their city themselves (Tacitus, Annals 14.27), making it very beautiful.

Apparently Paul never visit Laodicea. Epaphras likely evangelized Laodicea and nearby Colossae and Hierapolis (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:13). All three of these churches are named by Paul in the Colossian letter, and an epistle, now probably lost, was sent to Laodicea. [Many believe the epistle to the Ephesians was a circular letter intended to be read by all the churches in that area and that this is the letter mentioned in Colossians. Colossians 4:16.]

the Amen . . A common biblical expression signifying certainty and veracity (cf. Isaiah 65:16, “the God of truth”).

According to 2 Corinthians 1:20, all the promises of God are fulfilled in Christ; that is, all God’s promises and unconditional covenants are guaranteed and affirmed by the person and work of Jesus Christ. - MSB

the Amen . . Isaiah 65:16 is specially noticeable, where “the God of truth” is in the Hebrew “the God of Amen” - CBSC

Faithful and True Witness . . He is a completely trustworthy and perfectly accurate witness to the truth of God (John 14:6). - MSB

[Only the Apostle John supplied information bilingually in the New Testament (cf. John 1:38, John 1:42; John 4:25; John 6:1; John 9:7; John 11:16; John 19:13, John 19:17, John 19:20; John 20:16; Revelation 1:7; Revelation 3:14; Revelation 9:11; Revelation 12:9).]

faithful and true . . The description of Christ as the faithful and true witness declares that he knew them as they really were: Though wealthy and proud of their status and accomplishments, they were not measuring up to God’s expectations. - NLTSB

the Beginning of the creation . . Jesus’ self-designation as the beginning of God’s creation does not mean that he is God’s first creation (cf. notes on Colossians 1:15-17) but that he is the one who began God’s creation (cf. note on John 1:3).

In Revelation, “the beginning” with its complement “the end” is an expression for God’s eternity (cf. Revelation 21:6; Revelation 22:13), and here it signifies Christ’s sovereign rule over the created order. - ESVSB

the originator of God’s creation . . The Greek word used here to describe Christ can mean “ruler” or “originator.” Compare John 1:1-5; Colossians 1:15-18. - FSB

He is the “Beginning” (lit. “beginner, originator, initiator”) of creation (cf. John 1:3; John 3:14) and the “firstborn of creation”; that is, the most preeminent, supreme person ever born (Colossians 1:15). - MSB

the beginning . . Or the ruler, or the source. - NLTSB

the beginning of the creation of God . . Exactly equivalent to Col. 1:15 - CBSC

Verse 15

I know your deeds (works) . .

you are neither cold nor hot . . This imagery alludes to the water system at Laodicea. It had cold water piped in from the eastern mountains (8 miles), and water piped in from the hot springs toward Hierapolis (5 miles). Both were good and enjoyable for their purpose. But when mixed they produced a nauseous lukewarm mixture.

Like the water, the church at Laodicea was neither refreshing (like cold water) nor healing (like hot spring water).

[Some speakers think the "cold" water represents indifference and that the "hot" represents a zealous fervent spirit to be imitated. But actually both the "cold" and "hot" were good. It was the "lukewarm" that was criticized. Revelation 3:16]

neither hot nor cold . . The hot springs in Hierapolis were famous for their healing qualities. Colossae was equally famous for its cold, refreshing springs. In contrast, the water available in Laodicea was smelly and lukewarm. Such water is distasteful; Jesus was saying that the church’s indecisive commitment to him was revolting. - NLTSB

Verse 16

lukewarm . . tepid. Nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs, and Colosse for its cold, refreshing mountain stream. But Laodicea had dirty, tepid water that flowed for miles through an underground aqueduct. Visitors, unaccustomed to it, immediately spat it out. The church at Laodicea was neither cold, openly rejecting Christ, nor hot, filled with spiritual zeal. Instead, its members were lukewarm, hypocrites professing to know Christ, but not truly belonging to Him (cf. Matthew 7:21 ff.). - MSB

because thou art lukewarm . . 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. - CBSC

neither hot nor cold . . The hot springs in Hierapolis were famous for their healing qualities. Colosse was equally famous for its cold, refreshing springs. In contrast, the water available in Laodicea was smelly and lukewarm.

Such water is distasteful; Jesus was saying that the church’s indecisive commitment to him was revolting. - NLTSB

cold nor hot . . Cold and hot water represent something positive, for cold water refreshes in the heat, and hot water is a tonic when one is chilly. - ESVSB

I will vomit you out of My mouth . . Just like the dirty, tepid water of Laodicea, these self-deceived hypocrites sickened Christ. - MSB

I will . . Rather, I shall soon, or, I am likely to …: the word used does not necessarily imply that the intention is final, and Revelation 3:19 shews that it is not. - CBSC

Verse 17

I am rich . . Thanks to its banking industry, Laodicea was a wealthy city. Like the city, the church there had convinced itself that it was self-sufficient—but was deceived about its true spiritual state. - FSB

Although Christians in Laodicea felt prosperous and self-sufficient, Jesus accurately saw their wretched and miserable and poor spiritual condition. - NLTSB

Worldly prosperity had, probably, made the church indifferent. - PNT

This church received no commendation, a fact that makes this letter unique compared to the other six. - Constable

I am rich, and increased with goods . . The words in the original are cognate, as it were, “I am rich, and have gotten riches.” If there be any distinction of sense between them, the second expresses pride in the riches being his own acquisition, in addition to self-complacency in the enjoyment. - CBSC

I am rich . . Recalls Israel’s boast in Hosea 12:8 and Laodicea’s decision to decline imperial assistance and fund its own rebuilding after the earthquake in AD 60. The church boasted of its self-sufficiency and overlooked its need for God’s help. - NIVZSB

Verses 17 and 18 are a historical allusion to Laodicea as a center of banking, a center for dyed wool, and a center for eye salve. The tragedy of their prosperity was that they thought they had so much when they had so little (Revelation 3:1). - Utley

that thou art wretched . . Inadequate: read that thou art the wretched and miserable one, &c.: the one person truly to be called so, above all others—at least, above all the other six Churches. - CBSC

knowest not that thou are wretched . . Because rejected by the Lord. Poor. Destitute of the true riches. Blind. Blinded by the god of this world. - PNT

Verse 18

I counsel you . . Jesus’ prescription for Laodicea required a complete change of attitude from self-reliance to dependence on God. - NLTSB

“In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom” (Colossians 2:3).

I counsel thee . . “There is deep irony in this word. One who has need of nothing, yet needs counsel on the vital points of self-preservation.” - CBSC

gold … white clothes … salve . . The church’s spiritual destitution contrasts with the city’s reputation for banking, fine wool, and medicine. They must “buy” from Jesus true spiritual resources (cf. Isaiah 55:1-3) [where God’s offer was free, but described as a cost] . - NIVSB

buy gold from me . . Materially, they could buy whatever they wanted, but they needed to acquire the treasures of heaven so they would have spiritual riches through faith in Christ. - NLTSB

Since they considered themselves to be rich but were spiritually poor Jesus urged them to “buy,” implying self-sacrifice, the things they really needed (cf. Isaiah 55:1). Instead of real gold they should buy “gold refined by fire,” namely, pure spiritual riches (cf. Psalms 66:10; Proverbs 17:3; Zechariah 13:9; Luke 12:21; 1 Timothy 6:18; James 1:3; James 2:5; 1 Peter 1:7; 1 Peter 4:12). - Constable

gold refined by fire . . Describes true wealth, as opposed to the money the Laodiceans made from commercial pursuits. This is a metaphor for removing sin (e.g., Job 23:10; Proverbs 27:21). - FSB

purified by fire . . While material wealth will not withstand God’s purging by fire (cp. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15), spiritual wealth has eternal value. - NLTSB

white garments . . represent spiritual purity. Black wool cloth and garments were prized exports of the city of Laodicea. This famous black wool cloth was a source of Laodicea’s material wealth; it probably represents the Laodiceans’ proud and unredeemed spiritual condition. - NLTSB

Instead of the black garments that were popular in Laodicea they should buy “white garments” that symbolize righteous conduct (Revelation 19:8) - Constable

that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed . . In the OT nakedness was a sign of defeat, judgment, and poverty. - Utley

eye salve . . The Laodicean medical school was known for producing eye salve. Christ prescribes His salve as the cure for spiritual blindness. - FSB

Laodicea’s material prosperity was also due to their well-known Phrygian eye ointment, which may have been used there in the eye clinic associated with the famed physician Demosthenes Philalethes. The Laodiceans needed to buy ointment from Christ through faith. Only his eye salve would enable them to see their sin and repent. - NLTSB

Instead of the eye salve that the Laodiceans produced and sold they should purchase spiritual “eye salve,” probably a reference to the Word of God that enables us to see life realistically (cf. John 9:6; 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27).

Verse 19

I love . . The pronoun “I” 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.” - CBSC

As many as I love . . Alludes to (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-6) Christ will correct and discipline those whom he loves; (2 Timothy 2:13).

Like a loving father, [φιλῶ ] Christ will reprove those whom he loves (cf. Proverbs 3:12), calling them to repent before he intervenes in judgment. - ESVSB

rebuke . . This Greek term elegchō is used in the sense of “to expose and thereby to heal or correct” (cf. John 3:20; Ephesians 5:11-14). - Utley

The word “rebuke” 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.” - CBSC

chasten -- (discipline) . . Being disciplined by God is a sign that we are members of His family (cf. Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:12; Psalms 94:12; Hebrews 12:6). - Utley

be zealous . . (Pres. Act .Imp. )It is from the same word root as “hot” or “boiling” (zestos) used in Revelation 3:15-16. Knowing and serving God must be a flaming passion and lifestyle. - Utley

repent . . (A. Act. Imp.) There is a recurring insistence throughout these seven letters that Christians.

Verse 20

I stand at the door and knock . . not as a homeless transient seeking shelter but as the master of the house, expecting alert servants to respond immediately to his signal and welcome his entrance (Luke 12:35-36; James 5:9). - ESVSB

I stand at the door and knock . . This is a PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE, “I stand and continue to stand at the door” followed by a PRESENT ACTIVE INDICATIVE “and continue to knock.”

Although this church received no word of praise, it did receive a warm invitation. This is not the invitation to become a Christian, but rather an invitation to return to vital fellowship with Christ. This verse is often used out of context to refer to evangelism. - Utley

I stand at the door and knock . . Describes a request for a renewal of fellowship (e.g., Song of Solomon 5:2). In their self-sufficiency, the church in Laodicea had locked Christ out. He wants them to repent and, ultimately, take part in the coming messianic banquet (Revelation 19:9). - FSB

A person or a church must hear Jesus knocking and open the door to him. Christ provides a pattern of revival for a church that has grown spiritually weak and out of fellowship with him. Simply opening the door can renew their former bond. - NLTSB

stand … knock. Suggests the return of a lover (Song of Solomon 5:2) or master (Luke 12:36). Jesus addresses complacent church members, not primarily individuals outside the church. - NIVZSB

Rather than allowing for the common interpretation of Christ’s knocking on a person’s heart, the context demands that Christ was seeking to enter this church that bore His name but lacked a single true believer. This poignant letter was His knocking. If one member would recognize his spiritual bankruptcy and respond in saving faith, He would enter the church. - MSB

hear My voice . . 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.” - CBSC

come in and eat . . In the ancient world, a meal invitation to an estranged person opened the way for reconciliation. Jesus offers to accept and renew intimate fellowship with those who repent ...(Revelation 19:9). NIVZSB

We will share a meal . . A shared meal symbolizes acceptance, deep friendship, and a covenant relationship (Revelation 19:9; see Genesis 18:1-5, Genesis 18:16-19; Exodus 12:1-31; Exodus 18:12; Matthew 26:26-30). - NLTSB

To the one who opens the door, Christ will come in and will eat with him, a picture of close personal fellowship. - ESVSB

Verse 21

To him that overcometh . . 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. - CBSC

him who overcomes -- (The one who conquers, ESV) -- The one who endures in faith and following Christ. See note on Revelation 2:7.

sit with me . . The reward for victorious and obedient faith is to sit with Christ on his throne. Christians do not become divine, but they share in Christ’s victorious reign (Revelation 20:4, Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:5; Colossians 3:1-4; 2 Timothy 2:12). - NLTSB

sit with me on my throne . . Jesus shares his Father’s throne as Messianic king and judge (Revelation 22:3; Psalms 110:1; Hebrews 1:3; and believers share in his reign (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:4; Revelation 22:5; 2 Timothy 2:12; cf. Matthew 19:28). - NIVSB

A figurative expression meaning that we will share the privilege and authority that Christ enjoys as we reign with Him (Revelation 1:6; Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:29-30). - MSB

as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne . . It is wonderful to know that Jesus has already overcome the world (cf. John 16:33; Ephesians 1:21-22) and that He is already seated at the Father’s right hand (cf. Ephesians 1:20; 1 John 2:1 and Revelation 22:1) and that He wants us to join Him in His victory! - Utley

As I also overcame . . As the result of his overcoming “God exalted him to be a Prince and a Savior,” and “to sit at the right hand of the Majesty of the heavens.” As he was exalted, so he will exalt all his brethren who win the victory over sin and temptation. - PNT’

Verse 22

He who has an ear . . Each church is instructed to "hear what the Spirit says" ( Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11; Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22; ). The message of truth was complete. (Judges 1:3) The churches were instructed to appeal to the message revealed by the Spirit as their guide for proper conduct (2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:21).

Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 3". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. 2021.