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Revelation 3

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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Verses 1-6

Sardis (Verses 1-6)

The City

Sardis was one of the richest cities of the ancient world. It had a 2,000 year history. Sardis was built on Mount Timolus. 600 years before Christ, Sardis was the capital of Lydia. Croesus, famous for his great wealth, ruled there. This is the first known existence of gold coins. By this time, late in the first century AD, the glory had faded. There had been several earthquakes, which had heavily damaged the city.

The Church

The New Testament does not tell of the planting or history of this church.

Things Commended

In all the other letters, Jesus first commends then condemns. Here the order is reversed. There is so much wrong that Jesus first condemns - then commends the few that remain faithful. A few have not defiled their garments. They took no part in the pagan worship and worldliness around them. They had remained faithful and would be judged on their individual faithfulness, not on the faithfulness of the church.

Things Condemned

They had a reputation in the city as being active, alive and spiritual. In fact, they were dead. There was lots of outward activity, but no inner spirituality. A visitor would be impressed with the activities mentioned in the announcements - youth trips, fellowships, adult parties, outings, and camping trips. As far as the visitor could tell, this was a church involved, busy, well organized and alive. The forms were all correct, but the faith, power and devotion to God were missing. ( 2Ti_3:5 )

Someone has observed, “There are few things better organized than graveyards.” Everything is neat, well kept, and orderly, but no life. This is what Jesus saw. Appearances of being alive but they were really dead.

Sardis was urged to “establish the things that remain.” What little life was left needed to be put on life support or they would soon die.

Verses 7-13

Philadelphia (Verses 7-13)

The City

Philadelphia was founded in 140 BC by the king of Pergamos. The name, Philadelphia, means “brotherly love.” It was a center of Greek culture, learning, and language. The city was destroyed by an earthquake in 17 AD and had suffered many tremors since then. This whole region is a very active earthquake area. The volcanic ash made the soil excellent for vineyards. Today the city is called Ala-Sekar and has a population of about 10,000.

The Church

Again, we have no record of this church being planted. The best information is that while Paul spent 3 years in Ephesus he taught in many cities in this region. It is assumed that during this time many of these churches were started.

Things Commended

Jesus has set before this church an open door, which no man can close. The meaning is generally understood to be that, while the church is weak (has little power), yet she has remained faithful. Therefore, Christ is assuring them that the right-of-way to spiritual joy will not be denied them.

While Sardis was threatened by the coming of Christ, this church has noting to fear. The coming of Christ, to the faithful, is a promise, not a threat. If you are faithful, the coming of Christ brings hope and encouragement. If you are not faithful, the coming of Christ brings fear and dread.

Jesus promises them that the synagogue of Satan will be made to recognize and respect the faithful Christians. Remaining faithful is urged even when persecution comes. All of us will have an “hour of trial” in which our faith will be put to the test. This persecution will come to the whole earth, not just Philadelphia.

God promises to “brand” the faithful by writing on them:

The name of God

The name of the city of God, the New Jerusalem

The New Name

Things Condemned

Only good is spoken about this church.

Verses 14-22

Laodicea (Verses 14-22)

The City

Laodicea was a city of great wealth, richest in the region of Phrygia. It is located in the Meander Valley on the Lycus River. It had existed since the third century BC, but was badly damaged in an earthquake in 60 AD. It was being rebuilt with Roman assistance.

The city was on a major trade route. It was known for its raven black wool and a famous eye salve made developed in its medical school. It was also a banking center for the region. Six miles away was the city of Hierapolis, known for its hot springs. This hot water flowed near Laodicea after falling over a 300-foot cliff. It was, thus, lukewarm when it got to Laodicea.

The Church

We know that the church had existed for many years, because Paul wrote a letter to them. This letter predates the letter to the Colossians. Paul urged that the two churches exchange and read the letter. ( Col_4:16 )

Things Commended

There is nothing good to say about this church. In all the other letters Jesus first commends then condemns. In Laodicea there is nothing good to say, therefore, nothing is said. In the movie “Bambi”, Thumper’s mother said, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, then, just don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Things Condemned

This is the church that made Jesus sick. They were lukewarm. Not hot, on fire for Christ, not cold, opposing the truth. They were just lukewarm.

Jesus pictures himself as on the outside of this church seeking permission to come in. Most often this verse (20) is used to invite those who have not obeyed the gospel to open the door of their heart and invite Jesus into their lives. However, Jesus is speaking to a church, body of believers, who have not allowed Jesus into their hearts.

Because Christ loves them, he rebukes them.

Jesus uses the fame of the city to urge them to become an alive, active and faithful church.

1. Banking center - This city was proud, arrogant, and self-sufficient because of their riches. Their thinking was, “We have gold, and we need nothing else.” Jesus requests that they buy some gold from him, tried in the fire of persecution and trial. This is the only way they can be rich.

2. Black wool - Since there was pride in their black wool, Jesus requires them to buy some WHITE (pure) garments. In their black wool - they were naked and failed to realize it.

3. Eye salve - The city was famous for an eye salve developed by the medical school. Jesus said, “You have all this eye salve at your disposal, but you are not using it.” They were commanded to apply some of the salve to their spiritual eyes so they could see. The sight here is spiritual discernment, ability to see and understand the will of God.

This church had everything - everything except Christ! He was on the outside looking in. He was knocking, seeking permission to come in and fellowship with them.


Here is the summary conclusion of Ray Summers in his book, “Worthy is the Lamb”, page 127.

“The message delivered first to the churches of Asia Minor is universal. Its truth applies wherever similar conditions are found today; and it is difficult to find churches where at least some of these conditions are not found. The warning against spiritual apathy still stands.”

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 3". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. 2021.