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Bible Commentaries

Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Revelation 3

Introduction

CHAPTER 3

THE CHURCH ON THE FIELD OF HISTORY

--Revelation 3:1-22

I. STUDY NOTES--; Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22

The fortunes of the church are to be traced in "the Revelation to John" and the first thing necessary is that the reader should learn what the church IS. This is the aim of chapters 2 and 3.

Each of the SEVEN letters is addressed to "the angel" of that church; these are not bishops or elders in our modern sense. In the book of Revelation God’s angels are those who speak or act.

The angels of the churches are the churches themselves as they speak and act.

The SEVEN letters of chapters 2 and 3 set before us a picture of THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH OF ALL AGES.

There were more than 7 churches in Asia in John’s day. John made a selection of "7" to represent the universal church. The number "SEVEN" is throughout the book a symbol of perfect unity. The message to "the SEVEN churches of Asia" is quite plainly addressed to the universal church of all ages. This is again made plain from the constantly recurring summons to "HEED THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCHES"--that is, to the whole seven, rather than one particular message.

The attempt to see the 7 churches as successive periods in history must be set aside as erroneous.

Many expressions in these 7 letters find their explanation only in later chapters e. g.,

2:7

"The tree of life," of the first letter meets us in Revelation 22:2; Revelation 22:14 in the New Jerusalem.

2:11

"The second death," of the second letter meets us in Revelation 20:14 when the judgment upon the church’s enemies is complete.

2:17

The writing upon believers of "The new name," of the third letter meets us in Revelation 14:1 in the reference to the 144,000--the whole church on Mt. Zion.

2:26, 28

"The authority over the nations, and the gift of the morning star," of the fourth letter cannot be understood until we have the vision of the 1,000 years and the last words of the glorified Redeemer in Revelation 20:4-5; Revelation 22:16.

3:5

"The white garments," of the fifth letter cannot be understood until we see them before God’s throne in Revelation 7:9; Revelation 7:14.

3:12

The mention in the sixth letter of "The city of God, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from God," remains a mystery until we see her descent in 21:2, 10.

3:21

The "sitting on Christ’s throne," of the seventh letter is only explained by the reign of the 1,000 years with Him 20.4.

It is clear that the message to the 7 churches has a wider application than to 7 churches in Asia in John’s age. The message is to the universal church in all ages.

Take YOUR church. Think of its life. Then hear this word of God. "I KNOW YOUR WORKS."

A SUMMARY OF THE MESSAGE TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES (See Verse notes)

II. MEDITATION--; Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22
(a) FOUR THINGS IN THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL

OUR MEDITATION on Chapters 2 and 3 SUMMARISES FOUR THINGS IN THE MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL.

1. FIRST, EACH OF THE SEVEN LETTERS BEGINS WITH A DESCRIPTION OF JESUS CHRIST.

He is presented as the LORD, THE SON OF GOD, IN THE MIDST OF HIS CHURCH, with eyes which search out every secret of our lives;, with full and complete knowledge, and with His Word blessing obedience and judging disobedience.

The presentation reminds us that the church is not a mere human organization which men and women are free to decide to join or not to join--but that the church on earth (with all her faults) holds at the center of her life the Christ who said "Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world." So, the greatest privilege any person can have on earth is to beg a member of Christ’s church; and the greatest responsibility we have is to be worthy of that privilege.

2. THAT AS CHURCH MEMBERS WE NEED A REAL LOVE FOR CHRIST.

Take the church of which you are a part. Does Christ stand among us today saying as He did to Ephesus "I know your busy auxiliary work--but you have left your first love"?

First love is love in which there is no thought of self. It is love in which devotion to another is the basis of life. Does Jesus come to us, as He did to Peter, asking "Do you love Me?" Where is the first love in which you cease to put home, business, pleasures, material possessions first, and put Christ first? First love doesn’t count as sacrifice the time and talent and energy given in Christ’s service. Where is the emotion, the enthusiasm, the self-sacrifice you once had? First love puts Christ and His church first in service.

3. CHRIST COUNSELS US TO BE MUCH MORE IN EARNEST IN SEEKING A REAL KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WORD.

Through every message to the universal church in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 is the call to church members to "KNOW" and to "DO" the Word of God.

Christ needs to DO something WITH us before we can do anything for others. As spring gets into a clod of dirt but can’t be imprisoned there but bursts out into new life in flower and fruit--so, when we know the Word of God the spring of Holy Spirit power enters this earthly clod and breathes new life. Church growth depends on real Bible study.

4. CHRIST COUNSELS EVERY CONGREGATION TO LET CHRIST INTO EVERY MEMBER’S LIFE AS LORD AND MASTER.

Christ’s word in Revelation 3:20 is a word we each need to hear. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me. "What door is this? The door of a church, and Christ shut outside. But yet, Christ’s message is "IF ANYONE hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him . . ."

"IF ANYONE." It doesn’t need a decision of a church business meeting or of any committee to make this decision. "If anyone"--that means any individual church member. If any one church member will yield completely to Him Christ will come in with peace and power.

The lesson we learn from chapters 2 and 3 is that Christ is Lord of His church, and that He calls us to give our first love and loyalty to Him, and that we know and do God’s word, and that we open the door of our personality by yielding completely to Him. May our prayer be "Lord revive my church BEGINNING WITH ME."

(b) THE MESSAGE TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES

Don’t read chapters 2 and 3 as if they are concerned only with some other church than your own. There is a message for every church member here. We could summarize the messages:

EPHESUS

REMEMBER--And RETURN to your first love. First love never counts as sacrifice what it gives. Give yourself wholly to Christ.

SMYRNA

REALISE your riches. Christ has come to live in you and He gives our lives a new dimension.

PERGAMUM

RESIST the pressure of pagan materialism.

THYATIRA

RESOLVE to hold fast your Christian faith.

SARDIS

RECOGNISE the danger of being satisfied with a mere nominal Christianity.

PHILADELPHIA

RADIATE--Use your opportunities to evangelize a secular world for Christ.

LAODECIA

REPENT and REVIVE an enthusiasm in EVERY church member. Open the door of our lives to allow Christ to live in us. Allow Christ to enthuse us.

"He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to your Church."

"Lord, REVIVE your church, BEGINNING IN ME."

We read chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation as Christ’s message to His universal church of all ages.

Today we read these 7 messages to the church (if we read them at all), with the pleasant feel of limp Morocco leather between our fingers and fail to grasp what these 7 messages meant to inspire, encourage, strengthen and reprove the church members of John’s own age. We fail to realize that these 7 messages are addressed to our church in this generation.

Think of your own congregation. Think of your own place in the church--What you are doing--the present state of your spiritual health--Think, and then listen to these words of the Lord of the church "I know your works." For, whatever Christ said to EVERY one of the 7 churches He begins His message to that church with the words "I know your works." We should listen to the message of Christ to the 7 churches knowing that the Lord is speaking to us. He knows our situation. His message is to us today.

Verses 1-6

3:1-6

SARDIS--The sleeping church. The warning given reminds us that there may be a great difference between a church as she appears to the eyes of men, and as she appears to God. The warning is against a mere NOMINAL Christianity.

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN SARDIS 3:1-6 (The sleeping church). A warning is given against a mere NOMINAL church membership. However beautiful a church service, to the all-seeing eyes of the Lord such a church is dead. Yet even as at Sardis, there is no church absolutely dead. There are always some Christians in every church who are truly Christians. Christ knows His own and blesses them.

Verses 7-13

3:7-13

PHILADELPHIA--The church with opportunity. She receives no word of blame. She is using here opportunities of service. Remember, Christ praises FAITHFULNESS, not success.

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA 3:7-13 (The church using her opportunities). Such a congregation is told that Christ gives that church power sufficient for its work. The Lord "opens the door, "so this message calls us to be faithful, using the opportunities of service which Christ provides.

Verses 14-22

3:14-22

LAODICEA--The complacent church which; has lost its purpose and meaning. Not one word of praise is given her. She has no Adversaries--a sure sign of decay. A church self-satisfied with its spiritual state is common, yet the saddest and most hopeless of any. The lukewarmness of such a church is threatened with rejection and destruction.

These seven messages show the universal church in every age and land beset by persecution from without and by lukewarmness and Lack of love from within.

CHRIST’S MESSAGE TO THE CHURCH IN LAODECIA 3:14-22

(The lukewarm church).

Here was a church with no emotion, no enthusiasm, no sense of urgency, no passion and no compassion--and therefore it had ceased to be a Christian church. The members of the church in Laodicea wore the Cross as an ornament but never considered the Cross as a death to a life of selfish ease. They were lukewarm, complacent, self-deceived. The message of Christ is directed to those church members who remain church members so long as it doesn’t cost them anything. Christ comes to such lukewarm church members and calls in love (verse 20). "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and eat with him and he with me." Christ calls these church members to a new, warm zeal and enthusiasm.

Christ shut out of His world (for they crucified Him).

Christ shut out of His church (for it is the door of a church on which He is knocking in Revelation 3:20).

And Christ waits--not for a committee or church business meeting resolution to decide whether to admit Him. Christ waits until ANY ONE PERSON in the congregation is willing to open the door to Him.

As Holman Hunt reminds us in his painting "The Light of the World" "THE LATCH IS ON OUR SIDE OF THE DOOR."

To those who open the door Christ offers in verse 21 that they will share the throne with Him. This picture of Christ sharing His throne with Christians surpasses all the symbols of Christian hope. Beyond this promise neither hope nor imagination can go.

Read the messages to the 7 churches of Revelation 2:1-29; Revelation 3:1-22 as Christ’s message to your own church and pray "Lord, revive your church, beginning with me."

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Bibliographical Information
Norris, Harold. "Commentary on Revelation 3". "Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/nor/revelation-3.html. 2021.