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the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Revelation 3

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SUMMARY.--Letter to the Church at Sardis; the Spiritually Dead Church. Letter to the Tried and Faithful Church of Philadelphia. Letter to the Lukewarm Church of Laodicea.

Verses 1-6


The church in Sardis. The city of Sardis, once the capital of the great kingdom of Lydia and the home of Croesus, the rich king, lay in the interior nearly a hundred miles east of Smyrna and Ephesus. Though it had lost its former greatness it was still a considerable city in the first century. The church there was planted, no doubt, by some of the companions of Paul. The former city has now ceased to exist, and only extensive ruins remain to testify of its greatness. Like the church at Ephesus, which had lost its first love, the Sardian church which had "a name to live and was dead," has had its lampstand removed for many centuries.

Hath the seven Spirits of God. See notes on Revelation 1:4; also Revelation 1:6. The perfect number seven denotes fulness. He hath the fulness of the Spirit whom he sends into the earth to do his work.

Thou hast a name, etc. Though nominally Christian and living the Christian life, they were really spiritually dead.

Be watchful. Be on the watch. Awake!

Strengthen the things which remain. What graces and Christian life remain, cherish and strengthen before they disappear entirely.

I have not found thy works perfect. Complete, filled up to the standard God requires.

Remember. Remember the teaching formerly received, cling to it, and repent of the falling away from it.

I will come on thee as a thief. Suddenly; in a sudden judgment.

But thou hast a few names. Though the church as a whole is condemned, there were true saints who were commended.

Names. Persons.

Not defiled their garments. Not been defiled by sin.

Shall walk with me in white. In the robes of purity and triumph.

Shall be clothed in white raiment. This is the usual promise to him who overcomes; he shall wear the white raiment of the redeemed; though the names of those who are spiritually dead shall be blotted out of the book of life his name shall not be; and he will be confessed before the Father, that is, acknowledged.

Book of life. Compare Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; Philippians 4:3. The book of life means the roll of those who have become heirs of immortality.

Confess his name. Compare Matthew 10:32, and Luke 12:8.

Verses 7-13


The church in Philadelphia. This city was in the interior, southeast of Sardis, and had never attained the eminence of most of the other seats of the Seven Churches. That the church itself was poor and wanting in worldly endowments seems to be indicated by Revelation 3:8. Yet this church and that of Smyrna alone escape censure. Philadelphia is yet a city of 18,000 inhabitants, though bearing a Turkish name, has five churches and a Christian population of about 3,000.

He that hath the key of David. See notes on Revelation 1:18. The key of the kingdom of God as the Son of David. Hence he only opens and shuts, or determines who shall enter in, or be shut out.

I have set before thee an open door. Compare Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3. The open door means great opportunities; generally for preaching the gospel. It probably means here, a way opened to convert the Gentiles.

Thou hast a little strength, and didst keep, etc. Through their strength was not great, they had remained faithful in much opposition.

Hast not denied my name. The Pagan authorities often tested Christians by commanding them to blaspheme the name of Christ under penalty of death.

I will make them of the synagogue of Satan. See notes on Revelation 2:9. The bitter Jewish opposers are thus described.

I will make them to come and worship before thy feet. Acknowledge that the Lord is with them. It seems also to imply the conversion of these Jewish opposers.

Hast kept the word of my patience. Hast endured and kept my word.

In the hour of temptation. Of stern and cruel trial. Some great crisis of trial and sorrow which should come on all the world. We may not know just what our Lord referred to, but we can believe that he fulfilled his promise. The Lord's coming is promised in Revelation 2:25; in Revelation 3:3, and here. In the first instance it is said he will "come;" in the second, "as a thief;" here, that he will come "quickly."

That no man take thy crown. Not the crown of royalty ( Diadema in the Greek), but the garland crown ( Stephanos) given as a reward. The crown of the saints is always the latter, a term, which the Greeks did not apply to the royal crown.

I will make a pillar. A term implying strength, permanence and honor.

In the temple. Not in any material temple, but in the church, either on earth or in heaven. The latter is here meant. The New Jerusalem has no temple in it because it is all temple.

Go no more out. Always dwell there.

I will write upon. When one enters the church, the spiritual temple below, three names are recorded in his baptismal formula. When he enters the kingdom above, three names are again written upon him; the name of God, of the heavenly city, and Christ's heavenly name.

Verses 14-22


The church in Laodicea. Laodicea was situated in the valley of the Lycus, near Colosse and Hierapolis. All three of these churches are named by Paul in the Colossian letter, and an epistle, now probably lost, was sent to Laodicea. The city of Laodicea was very proud of its wealth in the latter part of the first century, a fact we learn from profane history. The church was probably founded by Epaphras, a companion of Paul. The condemnation of the Lord in this epistle is severe, and its extinction is threatened. The site of the ancient city is uninhabited now, and of course the church has long since cease to exist.

Saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness. See notes on Revelation 1:5; also on 2 Corinthians 1:20.

The beginning of the creation. The Being from which the creation begins, the Word that made all things.

I know thy works. The same statement has been made of all the churches, but in all the others there has been something to praise.

Thou art neither cold nor hot. Neither acting hostile to Christ, nor zealous for Him. Christ would rather that men should be opposers than formal, apathetic professors.

So then because thou art lukewarm. This lukewarmness was most offensive, and hence the Lord declares that they shall be rejected like nauseous food. The figure indicates loathing.

Because thou sayest, I am rich. Worldly prosperity had, probably, made the church indifferent.

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.

I counsel thee to buy of me gold. "In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom" (Colossians 2:3).

White raiment. That they may have the wedding garments (Matthew 22:11-13).

Anoint thine eyes with eye salve. The unction of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:20).

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. See Hebrews 12:5, Hebrews 12:16.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. The language implies that Christ is near. If they will open the door by repentance he is ready to enter and bless.

If any man hear my voice. Hear and obey. Then the Lord will enter and they shall partake together of the richness of the feast.

Will I grant to sit with me in my throne. He shall reign with Christ; that is, as a coadjutor of Christ.

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.

Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Revelation 3". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pnt/revelation-3.html. 1891.
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