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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Revelation 3

Verses 1-6

The Epistle to the Church of Sardis Revelation 3:1-6 records John’s epistle to the church of Sardis.

Revelation 3:1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.

Revelation 3:1 “These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars” Comment - The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages.

Revelation 3:1 “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” Scripture References - Note:

Luke 11:44, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are as graves which appear not, and the men that walk over them are not aware of them.”

Ephesians 2:1, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;”

Ephesians 2:5, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”

1 Timothy 5:6, “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.”

Revelation 3:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

Revelation 3:2 “Be watchful” Comment - Revelation 3:2 says “Be watchful.” Jesus is literally telling them to wake up, because they were dead, or asleep, regarding their salvation (Revelation 3:1). They are to pay full attention to God’s Word. They are to wake up and be alert in order to fulfill their sanctification.

Illustration - It is like a class when the teacher leaves. Those who are watchful will work on their assignment given to them. Those who are not watchful will joke and run around the classroom.

Illustration - When my brother was in the first grade, he ran to the door of the classroom to see if teacher was returning yet. As he stuck his head around the door, the teacher met him on her return. He was punished for not being busy doing what he had been instructed to do.

Scripture Reference - Matthew 24:42-51.

Matthew 24:42, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

Revelation 3:2 “and strengthen the things which remain” Comment - The inner man is strengthened by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). The spirit of a believer lives off the Word of God.

Ephesians 3:16, “That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”

Note Job 6:5. Words of encouragement can be of great strength.

Job 16:5, “But I would strengthen you with my mouth, and the moving of my lips should asswage your grief.”

Revelation 3:2 “I have not found thy works perfect before God” - Comment - King Solomon's heart was not perfect. He went after other gods (1 Kings 11:1-13). We as Christians can love this world. So, we are to come out from this world (2 Corinthians 6:11-18).

2 Corinthians 6:17, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,”

Revelation 3:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and 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.

Revelation 3:3 Scripture References There are a number of Scriptures that refer to Jesus Christ coming as a thief in the night (Matthew 24:43-44, 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Revelation 3:3; Revelation 16:15).

Matthew 24:43-44, “But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.”

1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

2 Peter 3:10, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

Revelation 3:3, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and 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.”

Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

Revelation 3:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

Revelation 3:4 “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments” - Comment Defiled garments refer to people with sin and worldliness in their lives. Note:

Mark 7:23, “All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”

Revelation 3:4 “and they shall walk with me in white” - Scripture Reference - Note:

Revelation 7:14, “And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Revelation 3:4 “for they are worthy” Scripture Reference - Note:

Hebrews 12:14, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:”

Revelation 3:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Revelation 3:5 “He that overcometh” Comment They overcome complacency in order to do God’s Word fully.

Revelation 3:5 “the same shall be clothed in white raiment” - Scripture Reference - Note:

Revelation 19:8, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”

Revelation 3:5 “but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” - Scripture Reference - Note:

Matthew 10:32, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.”

Revelation 3:5 Comment Revelation 3:5 contradicts anyone who believes in the doctrine of “Once saved, always saved.” Jesus Christ tells this church at Sardis that He could blot out the names of church members who had already been written in the book of life. This means that they were saved at one time, but would be eternally lost if their names were removed.

Verses 1-22

The Seven Letters to the Churches of Asia Minor (John as Overseer of the Churches) - Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 record the messages that Jesus Christ gave to John the apostle while on the Isle of Patmos to deliver to seven churches of Asia Minor. We see in the Revelation of John that Jesus appears to John and gives him messages for seven churches. The fact that Jesus would give these messages to John, and not another, to deliver to the seven churches is a likely indication that John was overseeing these churches.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Letter to Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7

2. Letter to Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11

3. Letter to Pergamos Revelation 2:12-17

4. Letter to Thyatira Revelation 2:18-29

5. Letter to Sardis Revelation 3:1-6

6. Letter to Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13

7. Letter to Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22

Historical Setting - Why would John be ministering to these churches, which were founded by Paul the apostle? Early church historians tell us that John the apostle became the under-shepherd of these churches after the death of Paul the apostle. After Christ ascended, church historians tell us that John the apostle remained in Jerusalem and cared for the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ until her death about fifteen years after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Adam Clarke writes:

“ John was banished by the Roman emperor, Domitian, to the isle of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea: but his successor Nerva having recalled all the exiles banished by Domitian, John returned to Ephesus, where he died, aged upward of one hundred years. The holy Virgin is said to have lived with him till her death, which took place about fifteen years after the crucifixion.” [39]

[39] Adam Clarke, The Preacher’s Manual: including Clavis Biblica and A Letter to a Methodist Preacher (New York: G. Lane and P. P. Sanford, 1842), 37.

Church history tells us that John the apostle moved to Asia Minor, probably Ephesus, at some point after the death of Mary the mother of our Lord. There is no record of when John the apostle moved from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and the city of Ephesus. Philip Schaff says that it was probably not before the death of Paul around A.D. 63, since there are no references to John in Paul's letters to his churches in Asia Minor. He supposes that the death of Paul and Peter in Rome would have urged John to take charge of these churches. [40] Since Ephesus was the capital of that region of the Roman Empire, it would have been the choice city to take up residence in order to manage nearby churches. Therefore, it is most likely that he moved to Ephesus in the 60’s. Perhaps his move was also encouraged by the Jewish War of A.D. 66-70, which would have made Judea a very dangerous place to live.

[40] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 424-425.

The Recipients to the Seven Letters - Note that in the seven messages to the churches of Asia Minor, Jesus is speaking to the “messenger” of each church. Therefore, He is addressing an individual in these messages, using the second person singular. Jesus is not addressing a group of people by using the second person plural because the verb is singular. However, Revelation 1:11 has already told us that these messages are intended to be given to these seven churches.

Revelation 1:11, “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia ; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

A Description of the Characters of the Seven Churches - According to one preacher, the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3 can be described with the following adjective, all beginning with the letter “L”:

1. Ephesus Lacking

2. Smyrna Loyal

3. Pergamos Lax

4. Thyatira Loose

5. Sardis Lifeless

6. Philadelphia - Loving

6. Laodicea Lukewarm

Jesus Prepares His Church for the Rapture and the Second Coming - The fact that Jesus judges these seven churches in these epistles immediately before the events of the Great Tribulation which follow symbolizes the fact that Christ will purge His Church in preparation for His Second Coming, which takes place at this same time in history. These seven letters are the qualifications that Jesus gives to the churches in order to partake of the soon coming Rapture. We see in the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 that not every believer will be raptured. Only those who are filled with the Spirit and carry the testimony of Jesus while looking for His Coming will be taken. The others, who are carnal, will have to suffer through the Tribulation Period. Peter said that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Thus, the Lord judges His Church prior to judging the world with the Great Tribulation.

1 Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

If we examine these seven epistles, we will see a promise of the believer’s deliverance from the Tribulation period if they will walk in obedience to the Lord. Jesus Christ clearly tells three of these seven churches how to avoid the Great Tribulation period by repenting. It seems as if some of these churches had believers who were in danger of missing the Rapture of the Church.

1. The Church in Pergamos - The church in Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17) was warned that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed by the sword of Jesus’ mouth.

Revelation 2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth .”

This is a reference to Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21 when the Word of God comes from heaven to smite the nations with the sword of His mouth.

Revelation 19:15, “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword , that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”

Revelation 19:21, “And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth : and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”

2. The Church in Thyatira - The church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) was warned not to commit adultery lest they go into the Great Tribulation period with the adulteress.

Revelation 2:22, “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation , except they repent of their deeds.”

3. The Church in Sardis - The church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) was told to repent so that they will be able to watch and to know the hour of Jesus’ coming to rapture the Church lest they miss His coming which will be as a thief in the night..

Revelation 3:3, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and 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.”

There are several New Testament passages that refer to Jesus’ Second Coming as a thief in the night.

Matthew 24:42-43, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

4. The Church in Philadelphia - The church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) was promised to be kept from “the hour of temptation,” which is a reference to the Great Tribulation period.

Revelation 3:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation , which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”

Jesus also told this church that He has opened a door for them.

Revelation 3:8, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door , and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”

This may refer to the Rapture of the Church within the context of Revelation 4:1 when an open door into Heaven was revealed to John as he was caught up into Heaven.

Revelation 4:1, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven : and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

5. The Church in Laodicea - The church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) was promised a white garment.

Revelation 3:18, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment , that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

This may refer to Rapture and entrance into Heaven within the context of Revelation 4:4 where we see the twenty-four elders clothed in white garments.

Revelation 4:4, “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment ; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) also teaches us that not every believer will be taken in the Rapture.

We also see this symbolism of the need to prepare for the Second Coming in the book of Ezekiel. While John seems to emphasize the role of the Church in the last days, Ezekiel places emphasis upon the role of the nation of Israel. The fact that the judgments against Jerusalem in Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27 precede those upon the seven nations (Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 32:32) reveals to us the truth that the events taking place in the nation of Israel are a forewarning from God of the events that about to come upon the nations of the world. In addition, since Jerusalem is a symbol of the Church, the order of judging Jerusalem first symbolizes the fact that God will judge His Church immediately before He ushers in the Great Tribulation period upon the earth in preparation for His Second Coming.

The Message to the Seven Churches: Jesus Calls the Churches to Overcome Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 contains seven epistles written to seven churches in Asia Minor. The message to these churches does not emphasize the Great Commission to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world; nor do these epistles emphasize church doctrine and ministry. The emphasis is placed upon the need to prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming. The phrase “to him that overcometh” is used in each of these seven letters because all seven churches had to overcome something in order to be ready for the Rapture.

1. Ephesus - overcomes loving this world (Revelation 2:7)

Illustration: 2 Timothy 4:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world , and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”

2. Smyrna - overcomes persecution (Revelation 2:10-11)

3. Pergamos - overcomes false doctrine (Revelation 2:14-15)

4. Thyatira - overcomes false doctrine and sin

5. Sardis overcomes complacency

6. Philadelphia overcomes liars

7. Laodicea - overcomes indifference to God

The Greek word νικα ́ ω (G3528) that is translated “overcome” is used seventeen times in the book of Revelation. Seven of those occurrences are found in John’s epistles to the seven churches of Asia Minor in which the Lord Jesus Christ exhorts these believers to overcome. Now we see in Revelation 12:11 the means by which they are to be overcomers, which is by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony and by not loving their lives even if it cost them their death. John the apostle will use this Greek word again in 1 John 5:4 by emphasizing that it is our faith in Christ Jesus that enables us to be overcomers.

Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

1 John 5:4, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

The word “overcometh” summarizes the goal of the Christian life. We can see that the books of the New Testament are structured according to the journey of our Christian life. From a person’s conversion (Gospels and Acts), to his doctrinal education (Romans to 2 Thessalonians), to him becoming established in a local church (1 Timothy to Titus), to his perseverance against persecutions from without the Church (Hebrews to 1 Peter) and overcoming false doctrines from within the Church (2 Peter to Jude), a person then find his eternal reward as promised to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.

The phrase “to him” implies that Jesus is speaking to individuals within the Church. This is because salvation is not corporate, but an individual decision. At first, Jesus addresses the churches as a whole because a congregation exhibits certain characteristics. But He gives His promises to individuals and not to the group as a whole.

The Method Jesus Uses to Correct His Church - Hilton Sutton gives an excellent summary of the similar way in which Jesus spoke to each of the seven churches in Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22. He first commended them for what they were doing right, such as their works, their patience, their intolerance for evil, the holding fast to His name, their love, and their faith. He then tells them some things that they are doing wrong, such as leaving their first love, holding on to false doctrines or simply tolerating false doctrines, their defiled garments, and their lukewarmness. Jesus then calls them to repentance. Finally, He warns them of the consequences of their disobedience and encourages them with rewards of obedience. This is a pattern for correction that we could follow in bringing discipline upon our children, or as pastors, upon our congregations. [41]

[41] Hilton Sutton, Revelation: God’s Grand Finale (Tulsa, Oklahoma, c1984), 39-40.

False Prophets in the Churches of Asia Minor The seven churches of Asia Minor were being attacked by persecutions from without and by false doctrines from within. Some of these false teachers from within were exalting themselves among the congregation by using false titles. They call themselves by the title of apostle (Revelation 2:2) or prophetess (Revelation 2:20). There was a group of Jewish ancestry who exalted their heritage in order to gain preeminence above the Gentile believers (Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9).

Sometimes it can be very confusing for new believers to tell the difference between what is genuine and what is false. My experience as a missionary in East Africa has helped me to see some clear distinctions. False ministers tend to us big titles in front of their names. They place a tremendous amount of emphasis upon their ability to work the miraculous. It is the miraculous that causes many people to consent and accept them as a minister of God. But in fact, in Africa, mantles of witchcraft are handed down and individuals are ordained to carry these miraculous abilities. These people believe that they are the true ministers of God, when in fact they are the ministers of Satan. Their miraculous presentation confused the churches of Asia Minor because they knew the apostles of the Lamb were anointed to perform miracles. The difference between the true and the false is that the true apostles and ministers of God preached and exalted Jesus Christ and only moved by faith and by the unctions of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, while the false prophets exalt their own miracle-working powers and only use the name of Jesus to hide their unbecoming lifestyles.

Verses 1-22

The Seven Letters to the Churches of Asia Minor (John as Overseer of the Churches) - Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 record the messages that Jesus Christ gave to John the apostle while on the Isle of Patmos to deliver to seven churches of Asia Minor. We see in the Revelation of John that Jesus appears to John and gives him messages for seven churches. The fact that Jesus would give these messages to John, and not another, to deliver to the seven churches is a likely indication that John was overseeing these churches.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. Letter to Ephesus Revelation 2:1-7

2. Letter to Smyrna Revelation 2:8-11

3. Letter to Pergamos Revelation 2:12-17

4. Letter to Thyatira Revelation 2:18-29

5. Letter to Sardis Revelation 3:1-6

6. Letter to Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13

7. Letter to Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22

Historical Setting - Why would John be ministering to these churches, which were founded by Paul the apostle? Early church historians tell us that John the apostle became the under-shepherd of these churches after the death of Paul the apostle. After Christ ascended, church historians tell us that John the apostle remained in Jerusalem and cared for the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ until her death about fifteen years after the Crucifixion of Jesus. Adam Clarke writes:

“ John was banished by the Roman emperor, Domitian, to the isle of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea: but his successor Nerva having recalled all the exiles banished by Domitian, John returned to Ephesus, where he died, aged upward of one hundred years. The holy Virgin is said to have lived with him till her death, which took place about fifteen years after the crucifixion.” [39]

[39] Adam Clarke, The Preacher’s Manual: including Clavis Biblica and A Letter to a Methodist Preacher (New York: G. Lane and P. P. Sanford, 1842), 37.

Church history tells us that John the apostle moved to Asia Minor, probably Ephesus, at some point after the death of Mary the mother of our Lord. There is no record of when John the apostle moved from Jerusalem to Asia Minor and the city of Ephesus. Philip Schaff says that it was probably not before the death of Paul around A.D. 63, since there are no references to John in Paul's letters to his churches in Asia Minor. He supposes that the death of Paul and Peter in Rome would have urged John to take charge of these churches. [40] Since Ephesus was the capital of that region of the Roman Empire, it would have been the choice city to take up residence in order to manage nearby churches. Therefore, it is most likely that he moved to Ephesus in the 60’s. Perhaps his move was also encouraged by the Jewish War of A.D. 66-70, which would have made Judea a very dangerous place to live.

[40] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1955), 424-425.

The Recipients to the Seven Letters - Note that in the seven messages to the churches of Asia Minor, Jesus is speaking to the “messenger” of each church. Therefore, He is addressing an individual in these messages, using the second person singular. Jesus is not addressing a group of people by using the second person plural because the verb is singular. However, Revelation 1:11 has already told us that these messages are intended to be given to these seven churches.

Revelation 1:11, “Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia ; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.”

A Description of the Characters of the Seven Churches - According to one preacher, the seven churches of chapters 2 and 3 can be described with the following adjective, all beginning with the letter “L”:

1. Ephesus Lacking

2. Smyrna Loyal

3. Pergamos Lax

4. Thyatira Loose

5. Sardis Lifeless

6. Philadelphia - Loving

6. Laodicea Lukewarm

Jesus Prepares His Church for the Rapture and the Second Coming - The fact that Jesus judges these seven churches in these epistles immediately before the events of the Great Tribulation which follow symbolizes the fact that Christ will purge His Church in preparation for His Second Coming, which takes place at this same time in history. These seven letters are the qualifications that Jesus gives to the churches in order to partake of the soon coming Rapture. We see in the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13 that not every believer will be raptured. Only those who are filled with the Spirit and carry the testimony of Jesus while looking for His Coming will be taken. The others, who are carnal, will have to suffer through the Tribulation Period. Peter said that judgment begins at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). Thus, the Lord judges His Church prior to judging the world with the Great Tribulation.

1 Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”

If we examine these seven epistles, we will see a promise of the believer’s deliverance from the Tribulation period if they will walk in obedience to the Lord. Jesus Christ clearly tells three of these seven churches how to avoid the Great Tribulation period by repenting. It seems as if some of these churches had believers who were in danger of missing the Rapture of the Church.

1. The Church in Pergamos - The church in Pergamos (Revelation 2:12-17) was warned that if they did not repent, they would be destroyed by the sword of Jesus’ mouth.

Revelation 2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth .”

This is a reference to Revelation 19:15; Revelation 19:21 when the Word of God comes from heaven to smite the nations with the sword of His mouth.

Revelation 19:15, “And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword , that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”

Revelation 19:21, “And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth : and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”

2. The Church in Thyatira - The church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) was warned not to commit adultery lest they go into the Great Tribulation period with the adulteress.

Revelation 2:22, “Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation , except they repent of their deeds.”

3. The Church in Sardis - The church in Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6) was told to repent so that they will be able to watch and to know the hour of Jesus’ coming to rapture the Church lest they miss His coming which will be as a thief in the night..

Revelation 3:3, “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and 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.”

There are several New Testament passages that refer to Jesus’ Second Coming as a thief in the night.

Matthew 24:42-43, “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.”

1 Thessalonians 5:2, “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”

Revelation 16:15, “Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”

4. The Church in Philadelphia - The church in Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13) was promised to be kept from “the hour of temptation,” which is a reference to the Great Tribulation period.

Revelation 3:10, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation , which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.”

Jesus also told this church that He has opened a door for them.

Revelation 3:8, “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door , and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”

This may refer to the Rapture of the Church within the context of Revelation 4:1 when an open door into Heaven was revealed to John as he was caught up into Heaven.

Revelation 4:1, “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven : and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

5. The Church in Laodicea - The church in Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) was promised a white garment.

Revelation 3:18, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment , that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.”

This may refer to Rapture and entrance into Heaven within the context of Revelation 4:4 where we see the twenty-four elders clothed in white garments.

Revelation 4:4, “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment ; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.”

The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) also teaches us that not every believer will be taken in the Rapture.

We also see this symbolism of the need to prepare for the Second Coming in the book of Ezekiel. While John seems to emphasize the role of the Church in the last days, Ezekiel places emphasis upon the role of the nation of Israel. The fact that the judgments against Jerusalem in Ezekiel 3:22 to Ezekiel 24:27 precede those upon the seven nations (Ezekiel 25:1 to Ezekiel 32:32) reveals to us the truth that the events taking place in the nation of Israel are a forewarning from God of the events that about to come upon the nations of the world. In addition, since Jerusalem is a symbol of the Church, the order of judging Jerusalem first symbolizes the fact that God will judge His Church immediately before He ushers in the Great Tribulation period upon the earth in preparation for His Second Coming.

The Message to the Seven Churches: Jesus Calls the Churches to Overcome Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22 contains seven epistles written to seven churches in Asia Minor. The message to these churches does not emphasize the Great Commission to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world; nor do these epistles emphasize church doctrine and ministry. The emphasis is placed upon the need to prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming. The phrase “to him that overcometh” is used in each of these seven letters because all seven churches had to overcome something in order to be ready for the Rapture.

1. Ephesus - overcomes loving this world (Revelation 2:7)

Illustration: 2 Timothy 4:10, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world , and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.”

2. Smyrna - overcomes persecution (Revelation 2:10-11)

3. Pergamos - overcomes false doctrine (Revelation 2:14-15)

4. Thyatira - overcomes false doctrine and sin

5. Sardis overcomes complacency

6. Philadelphia overcomes liars

7. Laodicea - overcomes indifference to God

The Greek word νικα ́ ω (G3528) that is translated “overcome” is used seventeen times in the book of Revelation. Seven of those occurrences are found in John’s epistles to the seven churches of Asia Minor in which the Lord Jesus Christ exhorts these believers to overcome. Now we see in Revelation 12:11 the means by which they are to be overcomers, which is by the blood of the Lamb, the word of their testimony and by not loving their lives even if it cost them their death. John the apostle will use this Greek word again in 1 John 5:4 by emphasizing that it is our faith in Christ Jesus that enables us to be overcomers.

Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

1 John 5:4, “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

The word “overcometh” summarizes the goal of the Christian life. We can see that the books of the New Testament are structured according to the journey of our Christian life. From a person’s conversion (Gospels and Acts), to his doctrinal education (Romans to 2 Thessalonians), to him becoming established in a local church (1 Timothy to Titus), to his perseverance against persecutions from without the Church (Hebrews to 1 Peter) and overcoming false doctrines from within the Church (2 Peter to Jude), a person then find his eternal reward as promised to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3.

The phrase “to him” implies that Jesus is speaking to individuals within the Church. This is because salvation is not corporate, but an individual decision. At first, Jesus addresses the churches as a whole because a congregation exhibits certain characteristics. But He gives His promises to individuals and not to the group as a whole.

The Method Jesus Uses to Correct His Church - Hilton Sutton gives an excellent summary of the similar way in which Jesus spoke to each of the seven churches in Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22. He first commended them for what they were doing right, such as their works, their patience, their intolerance for evil, the holding fast to His name, their love, and their faith. He then tells them some things that they are doing wrong, such as leaving their first love, holding on to false doctrines or simply tolerating false doctrines, their defiled garments, and their lukewarmness. Jesus then calls them to repentance. Finally, He warns them of the consequences of their disobedience and encourages them with rewards of obedience. This is a pattern for correction that we could follow in bringing discipline upon our children, or as pastors, upon our congregations. [41]

[41] Hilton Sutton, Revelation: God’s Grand Finale (Tulsa, Oklahoma, c1984), 39-40.

False Prophets in the Churches of Asia Minor The seven churches of Asia Minor were being attacked by persecutions from without and by false doctrines from within. Some of these false teachers from within were exalting themselves among the congregation by using false titles. They call themselves by the title of apostle (Revelation 2:2) or prophetess (Revelation 2:20). There was a group of Jewish ancestry who exalted their heritage in order to gain preeminence above the Gentile believers (Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9).

Sometimes it can be very confusing for new believers to tell the difference between what is genuine and what is false. My experience as a missionary in East Africa has helped me to see some clear distinctions. False ministers tend to us big titles in front of their names. They place a tremendous amount of emphasis upon their ability to work the miraculous. It is the miraculous that causes many people to consent and accept them as a minister of God. But in fact, in Africa, mantles of witchcraft are handed down and individuals are ordained to carry these miraculous abilities. These people believe that they are the true ministers of God, when in fact they are the ministers of Satan. Their miraculous presentation confused the churches of Asia Minor because they knew the apostles of the Lamb were anointed to perform miracles. The difference between the true and the false is that the true apostles and ministers of God preached and exalted Jesus Christ and only moved by faith and by the unctions of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, while the false prophets exalt their own miracle-working powers and only use the name of Jesus to hide their unbecoming lifestyles.

Verses 7-13

The Epistle to the Church of Philadelphia Revelation 3:7-13 records for us John’s epistle to the church of Philadelphia.

Revelation 3:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

Revelation 3:7 “These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth” Comment The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages.

Revelation 3:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.

Revelation 3:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Revelation 3:10 “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience” Comment Patience within this context does not mean to put up with something unpleasant, but rather, to continue in the word of God that was initially taught to a believer.

Revelation 3:10 “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” - Comment Revelation 3:10 tells us that the true born-again believers that make up the world-wide Church will not have to go through the seven-year tribulation period. They will be taken out in the rapture prior to this terrible “hour of temptation.” The Greek text reads, “… κἀγώ σε τηρήσω ἐκ τῆς ὥρας τοῦ πειρασμοῦ τῆς μελλούσης …” Jack van Impe notes that this verse does not say that the Lord will take His saints through ( διὰ ) the great tribulation period, but out of ( ἐκ ) it. [53] In other words, God will deliver us out from this period of trial on the earth.

[53] Jack van Impe, interviewed by Paul Crouch, Sr. Praise the Lord (Trinity Broadcasting Network, Santa Ana, California), television program, 20 May 2010.

Revelation 3:10 Comments The fact that God will keep the church of Philadelphia from the Great Tribulation period (Revelation 3:10), which scholars believe is a reference to the rapture, and this is not promised to every church (Revelation 2:22; Revelation 3:3) suggests that not every believer will go in the Rapture, only those who are ready. The others will be left behind and endure the Tribulation.

Verses 14-22

The Epistle to the Church of the Laodiceans Comments Revelation 3:14-22 records for us John’s epistle to the church of the Laodiceans.

Historical Setting - The ancient city of Laodicea, along with its immediate neighbours of Colossi and Herapolis, were situated within the ethnic region of southern Phrygia, but politically, it lay within the boundaries of the province of proconsular Asia during Roman times. The city of Laodicea was named in commemoration of a Greco-Syrian dynasty that ruled this area of Asia Minor in times past, was the chief city of this region in the Lycus river valley under the Roman system of dividing the Empire into smaller administrative regions. [54]

[54] E. J. Banks, “Laodicea,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., c1915, 1939), in The Sword Project, v. 1.5.11 [CD-ROM] (Temple, AZ: CrossWire Bible Society, 1990-2008).

We find from Paul’s letter to the Colossians that not only was there a church in Colossi, but we read within the epistle of Colossians (Colossians 2:1, Colossians 4:13) that there were churches in these two neighbouring cities of Laodicea and Herapolis.

Colossians 2:1, “For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh;”

Colossians 4:13, “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis.”

The church established in Laodicea is addressed in John’s Apocalypse and described as rich, proud and lukewarm, which reflects the wealth of this city. We know that this church continued for centuries because it hosted a major church council in A.D. 344. The church of Hierapolis is mentioned by Eusebius as the bishopric of Papias (A.D. 60-130) [55] (a friend of Polycarp) and Apollinaris (2 nd c.). [56]

[55] Eusebius writes, “And at the same time Papias, bishop of the parish of Hierapolis, became well known.” ( Ecclesiastical History 3.36.2)

[56] Eusebius writes, “I have sent you writings of the most blessed Claudius Apolinarius, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia.” ( Ecclesiastical History 5.19.2)

Comparison to the Epistle of Colossians - John’s epistle to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22 contains similar phrases found in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. Paul had instructed the Laodiceans to read the Colossian letter and vise verse (Colossians 4:16).

Colossians 4:16, “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”

Therefore, John uses similar phrases found in Colossians. For example, he refers to Jesus Christ as “the firstborn from the dead” (compare Revelation 1:5 to Colossians 1:18).

Revelation 1:5, “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead , and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,”

Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead ; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

John describes Jesus as “the beginning of the creation of God” (compare Revelation 3:14 to Colossians 1:15).

Colossians 1:15, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:”

Revelation 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Revelation 3:14 “These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” Comments The different titles that Jesus gives to each of the seven churches of Asia Minor were chosen because they relate to each of His messages.

Revelation 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

Revelation 3:15 Comments If they were hot God could use them to advance the Kingdom of God upon the earth. If they were cold, which means to be backslidden and in sin, the Lord could chastise them and produce repentance. Because they were lukewarm God could not work either way in their lives. He could do nothing with them, except simply reject them as unqualified for His blessings and service.

Revelation 3:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

Revelation 3:16 Comments William MacDonald suggests that the term “lukewarm” may have been used in this verse because of the fact that it was at the city of Laodicea that the water from the hot springs of nearby Hierapolis joined the cold waters from Colosse, producing a “lukewarm” condition. [57]

[57] William MacDonald, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, in Believer’s Bible Commentary, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1995), in Libronix Digital Library System, v. 2.1c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp., 2000-2004), Introduction: IV: Background and Theme.

Revelation 3:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

Revelation 3:17 Comments The Laodiceans had become rich material, but poor spiritually (Revelation 3:17). In contrast, the church at Smyrna were poor materially, but rich spiritually (Revelation 2:9).

Revelation 3:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

Revelation 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock” - Comments For some of us, this knock may be those who are naked, sick or in prison. When we take care of those whom God brings into our lives, we are opening the door to this knock.

Note the use of the word door in Genesis 4:7.

Genesis 4:7, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door . And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

Each day, we face the decision of who to open the door of our heart to Jesus, or to sin.

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Revelation 3". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/revelation-3.html. 2013.