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The epistle to the Church at Sardis. This Church is one of the two which receives unmixed reproof. Smyrna and Philadelphia receive no blame; Sardis and Laodicea receive no praise. Sardis lies almost due south of Thyatira, on the road to Philadelphia, between the river Hermus and Mount Tmolus. It had been in turn Lydian, Persian, Greek, and Roman, and, like its last Lydian king, Croesus, had been celebrated for its wealth. The auriferous stream Pactolus, in summer almost dry, flowed through its marketplace; but its chief source of wealth was its trade. In A.D. 17 "twelve famous cities of Asia fell by an earthquake in the night … The calamity fell most heavily on the people of Sardis, and it attracted to them the largest share of sympathy. The emperor [Tiberius] promised ten million sesterces (£85,000), and remitted for five years all they paid to the exchequer" (Tac., 'Ann.,' 2.47). A little later Sardis was one of the cities of Asia which claimed the honour of erecting a temple in honour of Tiberius, but the preference was given to Smyrna ('Ann.,' 4.55, 56). Of the inscriptions which have been, discovered at Sardis, nearly all are of the Roman period. Cybele, or Cybebe, was the chief divinity of Sardis; but no reference to this nor to any of the special features of the city can be traced in the epistle. In the second century, Melito, Bishop of Sardis, held a very prominent place among Asiatic Christians, both in personal influence and in literary work. Among his numerous writings was one on the Apocalypse of St. John. The prosporous and luxurious capital of Lydia is now represented by a few huts and a collection of ruins buried deep in rubbish. It still retains its ancient name in the form Sart.
The Church in Sardis has no Nicolaitans, no Balaam, no Jezebel. But there is worse evil than the presence of what is morally and doctrinally corrupt. The numbness of spiritual torpor and death is more hopeless than unwise toleration. The Church in Sardis, scarcely out of its infancy, has already the signs of an effete and moribund faith; and it is possible that this deadness was a result of the absence of internal enemies.
He that hath the seven Spirits of God (see notes on Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:16, Revelation 1:20; but observe that this designation of Christ does not occur in the opening vision). In Revelation 5:6 the Lamb is seen "having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God." The seven Spirits being the Holy Spirit in his sevenfold activity, it is manifest (as Trench observes) that this passage is of importance in reference to the doctrine of the double procession. The Son hath the Spirit, not as One who receives it from the Father, but as One who can impart it to men. As man he received it; as God he gives it. And a Church sunk in spiritual deadness specially needs such a gift. Hence the repetition about having the seven stars, which appears also in the address to the Church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1). Note, however, that here we have ἔχων for κράτῶν, which would not have been appropriate to express the Son's possession of the Spirit. It is he who holds in his hand the angels of the Church that also has the Spirit wherewith to quicken them. Those that are alive owe their life and growth to him. Those that are dying or dead may be restored to life by him. Thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead. This, again, is thoroughly in the style of the Fourth Gospel. St. John frequently states some gracious fact, and in immediate sequence gives the very opposite of what might have been expected to result from it. "Thou hast a reputation for life, and (instead of being full of vigour and growth) thou art a corpse." This has been called "the tragic tone" in St. John (comp. John 1:5, John 1:10, John 1:11; John 3:11, John 3:19,John 3:32; John 5:39, John 5:40; John 6:36, John 6:43, etc.). In all these cases the contrast is introduced by a simple καί, which may be rendered "and yet;" but the simple "and" is more forcible. Beware of the unworthy literalism which suggests that the Bishop of Sardis bore a name which implied life, e.g. Zosimus, or Vitalis. As already stated (notes on Revelation 1:20), it is improbable that "the angel" means the bishop. And in any case "name" is here used in the common sense of character or reputation. Comp. Herod., 7.138, where the historian says that Xerxes' expedition had the name (οὔνομα εἷχε) of being directed against Athens, but was really a menace to the whole of Greece. We have very similar uses of ὄνομα in Mark 9:41 and 1 Peter 4:16. The Church in Sardis had a name for Christianity, but there was no Christianity in it.
Be watchful; literally, become watching. The use of ψίψνομαι implies that the watchful state is not the normal one—a change is needed before the watching can come about (comp. Revelation 1:9, Revelation 1:10, Revelation 1:18; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 6:12, etc.). The use of the present participle instead of an adjective ("watching!" for "watchful") makes the charge more definite; not merely "be of a watchful character," but "become a watcher". Stablish the things that remain, which were ready to die. The reading, "were ready to die," is the best attested, and as being less smooth than "are ready to die," was more likely to be altered. It anticipates the time when the command will be obeyed: "which were ready to die when thou didst begin to stablish them." No doubt τὰ λοιπά may be masculine in signification, and mean those members of the Church who have still some life in them. But this interpretation anticipates Revelation 3:4, which apparently introduces a new fact. It seems better, therefore, to retain the neuter, and interpret "the things that remain" as meaning the few good elements of faith and practice which still survived. The externals of the Christian life were there; otherwise it could not have been even nominally Christian. And these externals might be made realities to support the revived life of the Church. For I have found no works of thine. The difference between the Authorized Version and the Revised Version here depends upon the presence or absence of the article before ἔργα. The balance of probability is against τά, and its absence makes the reproach stronger. Fulfilled before my God. The substitution of "fulfilled" (Revised Version) for "perfect" (Authorized Version) is important. The Greek is πεπληρωμένα (John 16:24; John 17:13, etc.), not τέλεια (1 John 4:18). And "fulfilled" is better than "complete" (Alford, Tregelles), in order to bring out the connexion with the numerous places in which the same verb occurs, especially in the writings of St. John (Revelation 5:11; John 3:29; John 7:8; John 12:38; John 13:18; John 15:11, John 15:25, etc.; 1 John 1:4; 2 John 1:12); in many of which passages "complete" would not stand as a rendering. "Fulfilled," or" made full," means made up to the right standard of excellence. The works of the Sardian Church have been weighed, and found wanting before God. "A minister of Christ is very often in highest honour with men for the performance of one half of his work, while God is regarding him with displeasure for the neglect of the other half." "Before my God" is undoubtedly the true reading, whatever may be the case in Revelation 2:7. Only in the writings of St. John does Jesus Christ speak of the Father as "my God;" and this fact is one more link between the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse. In this chapter we have five instances—here and verse 12 (comp. Revelation 2:7 [possibly] and John 20:17). In Matthew 27:46 Christ adopts the language of Psalms 22:1, and addresses the Father as" my God;" and St. Paul uses similar language (Ephesians 1:17). The expression, "before God" (ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ), is specially common in the Apocalypse and in the writings of St. Luke and of St. Paul; it does not occur in either St. Matthew or St. Mark.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and didst hear (comp. Revelation 2:5). Like the Ephesians, the Sardians are reminded of the better condition from which they have receded. They are of those "who, when they have heard the Word, straightway receive it with joy; and they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while". The "how," as is shown by the verbs "receive" and "hear," refers to the readiness with which they accepted the gospel, rather than to the power with which it was preached to them. The tenses are instructive: the aorist applies to the hearing at some definite period in their history; the perfect implies the permanent result of the act of reception. Keep and repent. Keep what thou didst hear. "Keep" is better than "hold fast," to mark the difference between τηρεῖν (Revelation 1:3; Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:10, etc.), and κρατεῖν (Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:15, Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:11, etc.). Here again the tenses should be noted: the present imperative indicates that they are to continue to keep; the aorist, that they are to repent once for all. We have a similar combination of tenses in" Take these things hence at once; continue to refrain from making my Father's house a house of merchandise" (John 2:16; comp. John 5:8, John 5:11; Acts 12:8; 1 Corinthians 15:34). "Remember" here and in Revelation 2:5 is with equal fitness the present imperative: "continue to remember." I will come as a thief. The "on thee" after "come," though well supported, is probably not genuine. Wherever this figure is used in the New Testament of the coming of Christ, the word used is κλέπτης, "a thief," and not ληστής, a "robber" or "bandit." This shows, what is also plain from the context, that secrecy, not violence, is the point of the similitude (comp. Revelation 16:15; Matthew 24:43; Luk 12:39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). Thou shalt not know what hour; literally, thou shalt in no wise come to know during what kind of an hour. The negative is the strongest form, οὐ μή (Revelation 2:11; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12). The verb is γινώσκειν, which implies acquisition of knowledge (Revelation 2:23, Revelation 2:24; Revelation 3:9). The pronoun is ποῖος (John 10:32; John 12:33; John 18:32; John 21:19; and especially Matthew 24:42; Luke 12:39); and "hour" is in the accusative (John 4:52).
But thou hast a few names in Sardis. The "but" (Revised Version) must be added, and the "even" (Authorized Version) omitted, on conclusive evidence. "Names" is hero used in the sense of persons (Acts 1:15 and Revelation 11:13, where the Revised Version has "persons"); there is no reference to the totally different use of "to have a name" in Revelation 3:1. Bode remarks, "He knoweth his own sheep by name, as he knew Moses by name, and writeth the names of his own in heaven." These few are like the few righteous in Sodom. Though they consent to abide in the Church, they do not leaven it, nor does their presence save it: "They shall deliver but their own souls by their righteousness" (Ezekiel 14:14, Ezekiel 14:16, Ezekiel 14:18, Ezekiel 14:20). The word for "defile" (μολύνειν) occurs only here, Revelation 14:4, and 1 Corinthians 8:7. Its radical meaning is "to besmear," and so "to befoul." That of μιαίνειν (John 18:28; Titus 1:15; Hebrews 12:15; Jude 1:8) is rather "to stain," which is not necessarily "to befoul." That of κοινοῦν is "to make common or profane." In most eases all these three are rendered "defile" in our version. These few in Sardis have kept themselves "unspotted from the world" in which they live. Neither the corruption of heathendom nor the torpor of a moribund Church has infected them. Their contact with a dead body has imparted no life to the body and no defilement to them. There is no need to press the metaphor and give a special meaning to "garments"—whether their souls, or their bodies, or their consciences, or their baptismal robes. The metaphor is implied in "putting on the new man" (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), "putting on Christ" (Romans 13:14; Galatians 3:27), where the word for "put on" is ἐνδύεσθαι, "to be clothed with." They shall walk with me. In accordance with Christ's high-priestly prayer (John 17:24; comp. Roy. John 21:24). In white. This elliptical expression (ἐν λευκοῖς) for "in white robes" occurs in the New Testament only here and John 20:12, and is another small link between the two books. The word "white" (λευκός), excepting in Matt, John 5:36 and John 4:35, is in the New Testament always used of heavenly purity and brightness. Thus also Plato, Χρώματα δὲ λευκὰ πρέποντ ἄν θεοῖς εἴν; and Virgil of the souls in the other world, "Omnibus his hives cinguntur tempora vitta" ('AEneid,' 6.665). (See notes on Revelation 1:14.) As we might expect, the word is specially frequent in Revelation. Of course, the white garments referred to here, verses 5, 18, and Revelation 4:4, are quite different from the undefiled garments just mentioned. The one is the imperfect purity of struggling saints on earth, the other the perfect purity of glorified saints in heaven. The promise, therefore, is threefold.
(1) They shall walk, i.e. they shall have life and liberty.
(2) They shall have Christ as their constant Companion.
(3) They shall be in unsullied glory.
And why? Because they are worthy. The merit is not theirs, but Christ's, in whose blood they have washed their robes (Revelation 7:14; 1 John 2:2), and by whose grace they are preserved in holiness (1 John 1:7). It is because they have by God's help fulfilled the conditions which he has promised to accept, that they are worthy. The nearest approach to this declaration of worthiness on the part of God's saints seems to be Luke 20:35 (not Luke 21:36) and 2 Thessalonians 1:5, 2 Thessalonians 1:11. But in all these passages they are "accounted worthy" (καταξιωθέντες) rather than "worthy" (ἄξιοι). In Revelation 16:6 we have the opposite worthiness of those who have earned the "wages of sin" instead of the "gift of God" (Romans 6:23). Such persons are literally worthy, and not merely accounted worthy.
He that overcometh shall thus be arrayed in white garments. It is difficult to see on what principles of criticism Alford retains the reading of the Textus Receptus, οὗτος, instead of that rightly accepted by the Revisers, οὕτως. The latter has a very decided balance of external evidence in its favour; the former is a corruption very likely to occur either accidentally or in order to introduce a construction very frequent in St. John (John 3:26; John 6:46; John 7:18; John 15:5; 2 John 1:9). The change from "clothed" (Authorized Version) to "arrayed" (Revised Version) here and elsewhere is no doubt made in order to mark the difference between περιβελημένος and ἐνδεδυμένος. But neither the Authorized Version (John 17:4; John 19:8) nor the Revised Version (John 11:3; John 15:6) is consistent. The Authorized Version generally renders both words "clothed." The Revised Version generally has "arrayed" for περιβελημένος, and "clothed" for ἐνδεδυμένος. The Authorized Version is singularly capricious in having "garments" for ἱμάτια in verse 4, and "raiment" for the same word in verse 5. The construction, περιβάλλεσθαι ἔν τινι, occurs again in Revelation 4:4, and once or twice in the LXX. (Deuteronomy 22:12); the usual construction is with the accusative. The promise in this verse is again threefold, the last of the three promises in Revelation 4:4 being repeated here as the first in this triplet. Repetitions of a similar kind are very frequent in the Fourth Gospel (John 1:1, John 1:5; John 10:11; John 13:20; John 15:19; John 17:9, John 17:16, etc.). I will in no wise blot out his name. The negative, as in Revelation 4:3 and 12, is in the strongest form. Here we seem to have a figure borrowed from the custom of striking the names of the dead out of the list of citizens. But the figure is a very ancient one, as is seen from parallels in the Old Testament. The present passage, Ἐξαλείψω … ἐκ τῆς βίβλου τῆς ζωῆς is singularly close to the LXX. of Psalms 69:29, Εξαλειφθήτωσαν ἐκ βιβλίου ζώντων; and to Exodus 32:33, 'Εξαλείψω αὐτὸν ἐκ τῆς βίβλου μου; comp. Psalms 109:13; Daniel 12:1; and for the exact expression, "the book of life," see Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; and (without articles) Philippians 4:3, where Bishop Lightfoot comments as follows: "The 'book of life' in the figurative language of the Old Testament is the register of the covenant people (comp. Isaiah 4:3; Ezekiel 13:9). Hence 'to be blotted out of the book of the living' means 'to forfeit the privileges of the theocracy, to be shut out from God's favour.' But the expression, though perhaps confined originally to temporal blessings, was in itself a witness to higher hopes; and in the Book of Daniel first it distinctly refers to a blessed immortality (comp. Hermas, 'Vis.,' 1.3; see also Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23)? And I will confess his name. Without the smallest manuscript authority or any encouragement from previous versions, Latin, German, or English, the Genevan and Authorized Versions here render καί "but"! The simple connexion with "and" is thoroughly in St. John's style: "He shall be … and I will … and I will" (comp. verses 12, 17; Revelation 2:26-28, etc.; John 1:4, John 1:5, John 1:10, John 1:11, John 1:14, etc.). This is the third of the promises:
(1) he shall be in unsullied glory;
(2) he shall never lose his heavenly citizenship;
(3) he shall be publicly acknowledged as a citizen by the Judge.
This third point is a combination of Matthew 10:32 ("before my Father") with Luke 12:8 ("before the angels of God"). "We may observe of this epistle that in great part it is woven together of sayings which the Lord had already uttered in the days during which he pitched his tent among men; he is now setting his seal from heaven upon his words uttered on earth" (Trench).
He that hath an ear. As in the others of the last four epistles, and unlike the first three, this exhortation follows the promise to the victor. No satisfactory explanation of the change of arrangement seems to have been given by any commentater. The order in the four last epistles seems best. The exhortation forms a fitting conclusion to each, as in the synoptic Gospels to parables (see notes on Revelation 2:7, and comp. Revelation 13:9).
The epistle to the Church at Philadelphia. The circuit continues in the same direction. Philadelphia lies about thirty miles south-east of Sardis, on the road to Laodicea. It is said to owe its name to Attalus Philadelphus, King of Pergamum, B.C. 159-138. But it is by no means certain that he was the founder. A trustworthy tradition as to its Egyptian origin points to Ptolemy Philadelphus, who had estates in Asia Minor (Theocr., 17.88). Lying at the western edge of a district whose highly volcanic character earned it the name of Phrygia Catacecaumene, Philadelphia was constantly suffering from earthquakes (cf. Revelation 3:12). It was destroyed along with Sardis in the catastrophe of A.D. 17 (Tac., 'Ann.,' 2.47). But the advantages of its position, commanding the way to the pass between the Hermus valley and the Maeander valley, and the richness of its vine produce (Virgil, 'Georg.,' 2.98), seem to have induced the inhabitants to cling to the site. The coins of Philadelphia often have the head either of Bacchus or a Bacchante on one side; and it is a known fact that volcanic soil is specially favourable to vine growing. Yet in Roman times it was not equal to Ephesus or even Laodicea; and for law courts its citizens had to go to Sardis. Nevertheless, it has outlived all these three, and still continues on the same site, and perhaps within the same walls, as of old. At the close of the fourteenth century it was the last Byzantine city to surrender to the Turks, and, when it did succumb, made better terms than any of the others. To this day it retains the privilege of free Christian worship, with the use of bells for service, and processions in public—a thing allowed by the Turks in no other inland city of Asia Minor. It has a bishop and a dozen churches, and it is said that about a third of its fifteen thousand inhabitants are Christian. Its modern Turkish name is Allah Shehr, "the city of God," or, as others write and render it, Ala Shehr, "the striped city." In any case the coincidence with "the name of the city of my God" (Revelation 3:12) is purely accidental. (For an eloquent account of Philadelphia, see Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall,' Revelation 64.)
It is doubtful whether there are any local allusions in the epistle; but some have fancied that "thou hast a little power" (Revelation 3:8) and "a pillar in the temple" (Revelation 3:12) are such (see notes in each place). The name of "Little Athens," which Philadelphia sometimes bore, on account of its numerous temples and festivals (Acts 17:16, Acts 17:22), shows that the little Christian community would have to contend with a specially vigorous form of heathenism. It had also to contend with a colony of hostile Jews, which was no doubt largely augmented after the destruction of Jerusalem, when fugitive Jews came to "worship before the feet" of the Philadelphian Church (Revelation 3:9). Hence the epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians treats of Judaism as one of their chief dangers (c. 6., 8., 9.). There were men among them who questioned the authority of Gospels and Epistles, and admitted only the Old Testament Scriptures (τὰ ἀρχεῖα) as binding. Some had tried to lead even Ignatius himself astray (7.). Altogether his epistle gives a less happy picture of the Philadelphians than that which we have here, where (as in the epistle to the Church at Smyrna) the Philadelphian Church receives unmixed praise. Whether the large proportion of Old Testament language and imagery which is found in this epistle has any connexion with the Jewish colony in Philadelphia is uncertain. Perhaps most of the Christians had been originally Jews.
He that is holy, he that is true. It is doubtful which of these two clauses should precede: authorities are somewhat evenly balanced. Christ, the Speaker, here claims to be "the Holy One" (ἁ ἅγιος), and therefore God (Revelation 6:10; comp. Revelation 4:8; John 17:11). In the Old Testament "the Holy One" is a frequent name of God, especially in Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 5:19, Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 10:7, Isaiah 10:20; Isaiah 12:6, etc.; Job 6:10; Jer 1:1-19 :29; Jeremiah 51:5; Ezekiel 39:7; Hosea 11:9; Habakkuk 3:3, etc. The word does not occur in Homer or Hesiod, nor in the Greek tragedians, but is very frequent in the LXX. and the New Testament. Its radical meaning is separation. The two epithets "holy" and "true" must not be merged in one as "the truly holy." The "True One" has a very distinct meaning of its own. Note that the adjective used is ἀληθινός, not ἀληθής. Ἀληθής, verax, is "true" as opposed to "lying;" ἀληθινός, verus, is "true" as opposed to "spurious," "unreal," "imperfect." Christ is "the True One" as opposed to the false gods of the heathen; they are spurious gods. Both adjectives, and especially ἀληθινός, are characteristic of St. John. The latter serves to bind together Gospel, Epistle, and Apocalypse. It occurs nine times in the Gospel, four times in the First Epistle, and ten times in the Apocalypse; twenty-three times in all; in the rest of the New Testament only five times. It is the word used of "the true Light" (Joh 1:9; 1 John 2:8 ); "the true Bread" (John 6:32), and "the true Vine" (John 15:1). Applied to God, we find it in John 7:29; John 17:3; 1 John 5:20. He that hath the key of David. Observe that none of these titles come from the opening vision in Revelation 1:1-20., although by no means all the material there found (Revelation 1:13-16) has been already used. The source of the present appellation is obviously Isaiah 22:20-22; but it is worth noting that Isaiah 22:20 has much that is parallel to the unused material in Revelation 1:18; so that the opening vision would seem to direct us, as this passage certainly does, to Eliakim as a type of Christ. As Trench observes, Isaiah foretells the promotion of Eliakim "with an emphasis and fulness" which would surprise us if we did not see in it not merely the description of "a revolution in the royal palace" of Judah, but "the type of something immeasurably greater." Shebna, whose name shows him to have been a foreigner, had misused his dignity and power as steward or controller of the royal house—an office analogous to that held by Joseph under Pharaoh and by our prime minister. For this he was degraded to the inferior office of royal scribe or secretary (Isaiah 36:3; Isaiah 37:2), while Eliakim was made "mayor of the palace" in his room. The παστοφόριον of the LXX. and praepositus templi of the Vulgate would lead us to suppose that Eliakim's office was sacerdotal; but this is certainly a mistake. Luther's Hofmeister is much nearer the mark. A key would not be an appropriate symbol of a priestly office. In possessing "the key of the house of David," Eliakim had control over the house of David. Therefore in this passage Christ claims the control of that of which the house of David was a type. He is Regent in the kingdom of God. He that openeth, and none shall shut, and shutteth, and none openeth. The various readings here are numerous, but not of much moment: "shall shut" is much better attested than "shutteth" in the first half "The keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 16:19) are not to be confounded with "the key of knowledge" (Luke 11:52). They belong to Christ, but have been committed to his Church, but not unreservedly. "He still retains the highest administration in his own hands" (Trench): and if the Church errs in binding or loosing, he cancels the judgment. The Church may open where Christ will shut, and shut where Christ will open. He alone openeth so that none shall strut, and shutteth so that none can open.
I know thy works. Once more Christ's judgment is based upon intimate personal knowledge. A question arises whether the next sentence, introduced by "behold," should be parenthetical or not. It is possible, as in the Authorized Version and previous English versions, and also in the Vulgate, to avoid what is certainly an awkward parenthesis. On the other hand, it seems clear that in Revelation 3:1 and Revelation 3:15 ὅτι depends upon οἷδα, "I know thy works, that thou," and does not introduce a fresh sentence; "I know thy works: for thou." Then must not ὅτι depend upon οἷδα here? But either arrangement makes good sense, and perhaps the omission of the parenthesis makes the best sense: "Because thou hast little power, and hast made a good use of that little, I have given thee an opportunity of which none shall deprive thee." This seems to be the obvious meaning of the"opened door," in accordance with 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 14:27; Colossians 4:3. The Philadelphian Church, in spite of its small advantages, whether in numbers or prosperity, kept Christ's word when called upon to deny him; and for this it shall ever have the privilege of giving others an entrance into Christ's fold. The aorists, ἐτήρησας and ἠρνήσω, appear to point to some definite occasion. On "keep my word," see notes on Revelation 1:3 and Revelation 2:26. The antithetic parallelism, "didst keep and didst not deny," is thoroughly in St. John's style, and is one of many instances of the Hebrew cast of his language (comp. Revelation 2:13; John 1:3, John 1:20; John 3:16; John 10:5, John 10:18, etc.; 1 John 1:5, 1Jn 1:6; 1 John 2:4, 1Jn 2:10, 1 John 2:11, 1 John 2:27, 1 John 2:28). The ungrammatical repetition involved in ἣν οὐδεὶς δύναται κλεῖσαι αὐτήν recurs in Revelation 7:2; Revelation 13:12; Revelation 20:8. Such frequent solecisms argue imperfect grasp of the language.
Behold I give of the synagogue of Satan. The true reading seems to be neither δίδωμι nor δέδωκα, but διδῶ, from the form διδόω, which is fairly common in classical Greek. The construction, ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς, the partitive genitive used as subject or object of a verb, is frequent in St. John's writings (John 1:24; John 7:40; Joh 16:17; 2 John 1:4; comp. John 6:39; John 21:10). The Church of Smyrna was encouraged with a promise that their Jewish opponents should not be victorious over them. The Philadelphian Christians are told that they shall be victorious over their Jewish opponents. As before (Revelation 2:9), those who "say they are Jews, and they are not," are Jews who refuse to believe in the Messiah and reject the Gospel. The only true Jews are those who accept the Christ. They are not, but do lie. Antithetic parallelism, as in verse 8 and Revelation 2:13. I will make them to come and worship at thy feet. This would be fulfilled when the destruction of Jerusalem drove large numbers of Jews into Asia Minor. Every city which had previously had a Jewish colony would then receive a great influx of refugees. This augmented Jewish settlement at Philadelphia was to furnish some converts to the Christian Church; but, as we learn from the epistles of Ignatius, these converts tainted the Church with a stubborn form of Judaistic error. Hence the need of the warning in Revelation 2:11. Compare "The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet" (Isaiah 60:14; Isaiah 49:23). Know that I have loved thee. The "I" is emphatic: "I will cause them to recoginize that in this you received a blessing manifestly Divine."
Because thou didst keep (see notes on Revelation 1:3 and Revelation 2:26) the word of my patience, I also will keep thee. This is the Divine lex talionis. "Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you" (Luke 6:37, Luke 6:38); keep, and ye shall be kept. Compare "I know mine own, and mine own know me" (John 10:14). "The word of my patience" may mean either the gospel, which everywhere teaches patience, or those sayings of Christ in which he specially inculcates this duty (Luke 8:15; Luke 21:19; Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13). In "I also will keep thee" the two pronouns are in emphatic contrast. From the hour of temptation. The phrase, τηρεῖν ἐκ, occurs elsewhere in the New Testament only in John 17:15 (comp. James 1:27, where we have τηρεῖν ἀπό, and 2 Thessalonians 3:3, φυλάσσειν ἀπό). It is not certain that the common explanation, that ἀπό implies exemption from trial, while ἐκ implies preservation under trial, holds good. "Temptation" (πειρασμός) generally has no article in the New Testament. Here it has the article, as if "the temptation" were to be of no ordinary kind. The word does not occur elsewhere in St. John's writings. In order to bring substantive and verb into harmony, the Revised Version renders πειρασμός "trial," the word for "to try" being πειράσαι. "World" here is not the κόσμος, "the ordered universe" (Revelation 11:15; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8), but the οἰκυμένη, "the inhabited earth" (Revelation 12:9; Revelation 16:14). The phrase, "to dwell upon the earth," κατοικεῖν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, is peculiar to the Apocalypse (Revelation 6:10; Revelation 8:13; Revelation 11:10; Revelation 13:8, Revelation 13:14). "The hour of trial" seems to be that which Christ had foretold should precede his coming, especially the triumph of antichrist. Hence the declaration in the next verse.
I come quickly. Contrast μαι σοι (Revelation 2:5. Revelation 2:16), which is a threat, with ἔρχομαι πρὸς ὑμᾶς (John 14:28; comp. Revelation 16:7; Revelation 17:11, Revelation 17:13) and ἔρχομαι used absolutely (Revelation 3:11; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:11, 29), which is a promise. Here the declaration is one of encouragement to the Church—her trial will be short; her reward is near at hand (see notes on Revelation 1:1). Hold fast. The same verb (κρατεῖν with the accusative) as in Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:14, Revelation 2:15, Revelation 2:25. The epistle of Ignatius shows that this warning was needed. Owing to the stubborn Judaism of some in the Philadelphian Church, the central truths of the gospel were in danger. Take thy crown. Not merely "take away" (ἃρῃ) from thee (1 John 3:5), but "receive" (λάβῃ) for himself (Matthew 5:40). Such seems the natural, though perhaps not the necessary, meaning of the word, and so Jerome renders it accipiat, not auferat. Thus Jacob received Esau's crown, and Matthias Judas's, and the Gentiles that of the Jews. But the matter is not of much moment; the prominent thought is the loss to the loser, not the gain to any one else.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar. (For construction, ὁ νικῶν, ποιήσω αὐτὸν, see on Revelation 2:26.) The "overcoming" is a present continuous process, but will have a termination, and then he who has faithfully fought the daily battle will be made a pillar, steadfast, immovable. St. John may be alluding to
(1) the two pillars of Solomon's temple set up in the porch, and called Jachin (ניכִיָ he will establish) and Boaz (צעַבֹּ, in him is strength); see I Kings John 7:15, John 7:21 and 2 Chronicles 3:17. Both names signify steadfastness and permanence, and would serve to render emphatic the superiority in these respects of the reward to come when compared with the evanescent nature of present suffering. A pillar is constantly used as a figure of strength and durability (see Jeremiah 1:18; Galatians 2:9).
(2) A contrast may be intended between the immovableness of the Christian's future position and the liability of pillars in the Philadelphian temples to succumb to the effects of the frequent earthquakes which took place there (see on 2 Chronicles 3:7). Such pillars, moreover, were frequently sculptured in human shape.
(3) Matthew Henry suggests that a reference may be intended to monumental pillars bearing inscriptions; the signification being "a monumental pillar of the free and powerful grace of God, never to be defaced or removed; not a support—heaven needing no such props." But it seems much more likely that St. John is alluding to the Hebrew temple. In the temple. The temple is ναὸς, the shrine, the dwelling place of God, not ἱερὸν, the whole extent of the sacred buildings. The latter word occurs often in St. John's Gospel, but never in the Apocalypse. The temple in the Revelation is the abode of God, the sacred shrine into which all may be privileged to enter, both in this world and in the world to come. Of my God (see note on Revelation 3:2; Revelation 2:7). And he shall go no more out. "And out of it he shall in no wise go out more:" such is the full force of the Greek. The conqueror's period of probation will be over, and he shall be for ever free from the possibility of falling away. Trench quotes St. Augustine: "Quis non desideret illam civi-tatem, unde amicus non exit, quo inimicus non intrat?" And I will write upon him the name of my God (cf. Revelation 22:4, "His name shall be in their foreheads;" and Revelation 9:4, "Those which have not the seal of God in their foreheads;" the former passage referring to the elect in heaven, the latter distinguishing Christians on earth from their heathen oppressors). In the passage under consideration the action is future; it does not refer to holy baptism, but to the sealing of the faithful upon their entrance into glory—a sealing which shall settle for ever, and make all things sure. "To write the name upon" anything is a common figurative expression in Hebrew to denote taking absolute possession of, and making completely one's own. Thus Joab fears that Rabbah may be called after his name, i.e. looked upon as his, if David should be absent at the capture of it (2 Samuel 12:28; cf. also Numbers 6:27). The struggling Christian is encouraged by hearing that a time will come when he will without any doubt become God's own, incapable of being removed or claimed by other. In the rabbinical book, 'Bava Bathra,' 75. 2, it is noted that there are three applications of the name of God:
(1) to the just (Isaiah 43:7);
(2) to the Messiah (Jeremiah 23:6);
(3) to Jerusalem (Ezekiel 48:35).
A reference may be intended to the frontlet of the high priest, upon which was inscribed, "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36). The inscription is threefold:
(1) the name of God;
(2) the name of the new Jerusalem;
(3) the name of Christ.
For God was the Christian maintaining his warfare; to the Church, the new Jerusalem, was he rendering this service; under Christ, as Captain, was the fight being accomplished. Again, the victorious Christian was
(1) to belong completely to God;
(2) to possess the citizenship of the new Jerusalem;
(3) to enter into the glory of Christ, which was the new name, that which he knew not yet.
We can here trace an analogy to the baptismal formula.
(1) The name of God the Father, whose we are made;
(2) God the Holy Ghost, whose indwelling guides and sustains his Church, the new Jerusalem;
(3) God the Son, by whose Name we shall enter glory. And the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem; rather, the city … new Jerusalem (see Revised Version). In Ezekiel 48:35 the name given to the city Jerusalem is Jehovah Shammah, "the Lord is there;" and in Jeremiah 33:16 Jehovah Tsidkenu, "the Lord our Righteousness." Either of these may be meant; but, as Alford points out, the holy name itself has already been inscribed. In any case, the victorious one is to be openly acknowledged a citizen of the new Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem was destroyed, and her citizens scattered; but a new Jerusalem, of which the true Israelites are the citizens, should reunite the faithful. It is noticeable that without exception, throughout the Revelation, St. John uses the Hebraic form of the name Ιερουσαλὴμ, while in the Gospel Ιεροσόλυμα always occurs. He almost seems to distinguish thus between the earthly Jerusalem and the heavenly—the home of the true Israel. Which cometh down out of heaven from my God. "Which cometh down" (ἡ καταβαίνουσα), a grammatical anomaly (cf. verse 11; Revelation 2:20 and Revelation 3:12). The name "new Jerusalem" is always coupled in the Revelation with the phrase, "coming down from heaven" (see Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:10). The spirituality and holiness of the Church is thus set forth, since its being is wholly due to God, in its creation and sustenance. And I will write upon him my new name; and mine own new name (Revised Version). This is not any of the names given in the Revelation, but that referred to in Revelation 19:12, οὐδεὶς οἷδεν εἰ μὴ αὐτός, which no one knew except himself. The passage is a promise that when Christ makes us completely his own by writing his own new name on us, he will admit us into his full glory, which is at present incomprehensible to us. Such comprehension is one of the things "which shall be hereafter" (Revelation 1:19), and which cannot now be known to us, "for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches (see on Revelation 2:7). Of the condition of the Church in Philadelphia we know nothing from Holy Writ, except what is contained in the passage before us. But its comparative immunity from trouble and destruction, and its continued existence to the present day (see on Revelation 3:7-13, "Philadelphia"), render it probable that the message of the apostle was not without some effect. Thus Gibbon writes: "In the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick, of the Revelation; the desolation is complete; and the Temple of Diana or the Church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Mahomet, without a rival or a Son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamos, and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or courage" ('Decline and Fall,' c. 64).
The epistle to the Church in Laodicea. Laodicea, on the Lycus, a tributary of the Maeander, lay some fifty miles to the south-east of Philadelphia. The modern Turkish name, Eskihissar, signifies "the old castle." It is situated on the western side of the valley of the Lycus, on the opposite slopes of which, some six or eight miles distant, were Hierapolis and Colossae, with which it is associated by St. Paul (Colossians 4:13, Colossians 4:16). Named at first Diosopolis, after its tutelary deity, Zeus, it subsequently became Rheas, and finally received its name from Antiochus II., in honour of his wife, Laodice. There were several other cities of the same name, from which it was distinguished by the addition of the words, "on the Lycus." It was a wealthy city, its trade consisting chiefly in the preparation of woollen materials. It was advantageously situated, too, on the high road leading from Ephesus into the interior. Though, in common with the other cities of Asia Minor, visited by earthquakes, it quickly recovered; and it was the proud boast of the Laodiceans that, unlike Ephesus and Sardis, they required no extraneous assistance to enable them to regain their former prosperity. This fact undoubtedly explains the temptations to which the Laodiceans were liable, and the reference in Revelation 3:16 to those who were neither cold nor hot, and that in Revelation 3:17 to those who said they were rich and had need of nothing (see on Revelation 3:16, Revelation 3:17). The Christian Church there may have been founded by Epaphras, through whom St. Paul probably learned of the existence of false doctrine there (Colossians 2:4, Colossians 2:8 and Colossians 1:8), for the Epistle to the Colossians seems to be equally addressed to the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16). The importance of this Church continued for some time, the celebrated Council of Laodicea being held there in A.D. 361, and a century later its bishop held a prominent position. But its influence gradually waned, and the Turks pressed hardly upon it; so that at the present time it is little more than a heap of ruins. The warnings of the Apostles SS. Paul and John, if heeded at all for a time, were forgotten, and her candlestick was removed.
And unto the angel. Those expositors who understand "the angel" of a Church to signify its chief officer, may with some plausibility argue that at Laodicea it seems almost certain that this was Archippus. In his Epistle to Philemon, a wealthy convert of Colossae, St. Paul sends greeting to Archippus (Philemon 1:2). If Archippus were the son of philemon, he might very well have been Bishop of Laodicea at the time of St. John's message. Moreover, the son of a wealthy and influential Christian, though likely to have been selected as bishop in the neighbouring Church, may have lacked the zeal necessary for the thorough performance of his work; and would thus incur the marked rebuke of St. Paul, "Say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it" (Colossians 4:17), which appears immediately after the mention of the Laodicean Church. The Apostolical Constitutions also assert that Archippus was first Bishop of Laodicea. Of the Church of the Laodiceans write; or, of the Church in Laodicea (τῆς ἐν Λαοδικαίᾳ ἐκκλησίας). These things saith the Amen. The word "Amen" is here used as a proper name of our Lord; and this is the only instance of such an application. It signifies the "True One." It is a word much used in St. John's Gospel, where it appears repeated at the commencement of many discourses, "Verily, verily." In Isaiah 65:16 "the God of Amen" (נם)) is rendered in the LXX. by ἀληθινός; in the Authorized Version by "truth" (cf. the use of the English "very" as an adjective—"the very one," i.e. the real or true one). The term is peculiarly well adapted to our Lord (who is the Truth, John 14:6), not only as a general name or title, but especially in connexion with this solemn announcement to the Laodiceans. There was great need of the truth being openly proclaimed by him who is the Truth to those who, though nominally Christians, were ensnared by the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:22), and were deceiving themselves in the attempt to make the best of both worlds by their lukewarm Christianity. It was the purpose of this epistle to draw aside the veil which was hiding the truth from their eyes, and to bring them to a realization of that most difficult of all knowledge—a knowledge of self. The faithful and true Witness—an amplification of "the Amen." The epithet "faithful" asserts the truthfulness of Christ's work as a Witness; "true" (ἀληθινός) signifies "real and complete." He is a faithful Witness because his witness is true; and he is a true Witness because in him is the complete realization of all the qualifications which constitute any one really and truly a witness. "Faithful" (πιστός) has the passive meaning of "that which is worthy of faith," not the active meaning of "he who believes something." Trench well points out that God can only be faithful in the former sense; man may be faithful in beth senses. Christ was a Witness worthy of faith, since he possessed all the attributes of such a witness. He
(1) had seen what he attested;
(2) was competent to relate and reproduce this information;
(3) was willing to do this faithfully and truly.
The Beginning of the creation of God. There are two ways in which these words might be understood:
(1) that in which "beginning" is taken in a passive sense, and which would therefore make Christ the first created thing of all the things which God created;
(2) the active sense, by which Christ is described as the Beginner, the Author, Moving Principle or Source of all the things which God created. That the latter meaning is the true one is plain from the whole tenor of Holy Scripture. The Ariaus, attempting to disprove the Divinity of our Lord, quoted this passage, attributing to it the former sense. But ἀρχή is often used actively, and may well be so used here—a view which is confirmed by the abundant evidence of our Lord's Divinity found elsewhere in the Bible, and nowhere more plainly asserted than in the writings of St. John. The self-reliant Laodiceans are thus directed to place their trust in him who is the Source of all things, rather than in those created things of which he is the Creator.
I know thy works; and because they are not what they should be (Revelation 3:16, Revelation 3:17), I give thee this admonition, which is nevertheless a warning and a token of my love (Revelation 3:19). That thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. The lukewarmness of which the Epistle complains was produced by a fallacious sense of security, begotten of ease and prosperity. In truth those "secure," without care, had become the careless ones. Active opposition may well be a less deadly evil than careless ease. The persecution of a St. Paul may be diverted into the zeal of an apostle; but how can any active good be got from that which is utterly stagnant and without motive power? The man who, by wilful action, increases a disease, may repent of his deed, and try to recover from the danger to which he has exposed himself; but he who lives on in careless ignorance of the existence of the malady can never improve himself until he has awoke to a full knowledge of his own state. Some understand "cold" to mean "untouched by the power of grace," and "lukewarm" to denote those who, having received the grace of God, had not allowed it full scope in bringing forth works meet for repentance (Matthew 3:8). And just as there was more hope of the real conversion of the "cold" publicans and harlots, who "went into heaven" (Matthew 21:31) before the self-satisfied, "lukewarm" Pharisees, so there is more hope of an unconverted sinner than of him who, having once been roused to a sense of God's will, has relapsed into a state of self satisfied indolence and carelessness. The sentence is not a wish that the Laodiceans should become hot or cold; it is a regret that they had not been one or the other. Our Lord is not wishing that any of them may become cold, but resetting that, when he comes to review their conduct and to pronounce judgment, many of them cannot even plead that they "knew not the way of righteousness," but belong to that worse class, "which after they had known it, turned from the holy commandment delivered unto them (2 Peter 2:21; see also John 9:41).
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. The distaste and nausea produced by lukewarm food, which the stomach naturally rejects with loathing, are used as a figure in which to express the abhorrence of Christ for those who lacked zeal in his service (cf. Leviticus 18:28 and 20:22, "That the land spue not you out also"). But the sentence is not irrevocable; there is still hope of averting it: Μέλλω σε ἐμέσαι, "I am about to spue thee," i.e. if a timely repentance does not avert the impending doom. (Contrast the absoluteness of the future in Revelation 2:5, etc., ἔρχομαί σοι ταχὺ καὶ κινήσω.)
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. The Epistle is still addressed indirectly to the Laodicean Church, directly to the angel. No doubt spiritual riches are immediately referred to; but spiritual pride and lukewarmness are frequently produced by worldly prosperity, such as that which Archippus (if he be the angel addressed; see on Revelation 3:14) and the Church over which he presided enjoyed. It is not enough for the wealthy Christian to contribute a portion of his wealth, and then to consider his task done and his reward sure. Greater zeal than this is requisite before he can deem his duty discharged. Moreover, the greater the zeal that exists, the less will be the inclination to rely upon what has been accomplished, or to think it sufficient; for when all has been done we are still to call ourselves unprofitable servants (Luke 17:10; cf. Hosea 12:8, "I am become rich, I have found me out substance: in all my labours they shall find none iniquity in me that were sin"). And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; and knowest not that thou, even thou thyself, art the wretched one. The self-satisfied spiritual pride of the Pharisee caused him to regard with complacent pity the condition of the publican. But he was mistaken; he himself was the wretched one, who was to be pitied. So with the Laodicean Church. How different the conduct of St. Paul, who recognized his own wretchedness (Romans 7:24, where the same word ταλαίπωρος is used)! The following words are adjectives. These Christians, in their spiritual pride, were miserable—deserving of pity; poor in the wealth accumulated by zeal in God's service; blind as to their real condition and their fancied spiritual safety; and naked of the cloak with which charity—fervent love of God—would have covered them.
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; gold refined by the fire (Revised Version). It is doubtful whether Revelation 3:17 should be connected with Revelation 3:18 or with Revelation 3:16—whether the self-satisfied condition of the Church is given as the reason why "I will spue thee out of my mouth," or as the reason why "I counsel thee to buy of me." The Revised Version follows the Authorized Version in connecting yore. 17 and 18; and this view is supported by Alford, Bengel, Dusterdieck, Ebrard. But Trench prefers the other view. The Authorized Version seems correct, for the reason why "I will spue thee" is given in Revelation 3:16, and another separate reason would probably (though not certainly) not be added. Though St. Paul (Colossians 2:3) had pointed out to the Laodiceans (see on the epistle generally, Revelation 3:14-22; and el. Colossians 4:16) where "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge," they had not heeded the lesson, and now Christ once more counsels them to obtain true riches from the proper source. They are to buy from me; the emphasis being laid on me, in contradistinction to their trust in themselves. They are poor (Revelation 3:17), and must therefore obtain gold refined by the fire—gold superior to that on the possession of which they so prided themselves, that they may indeed be rich. To buy this gold by giving something of equal value in exchange, they were truly unable. Yet it was to be bought, and would entail the sacrifice of something which, though perhaps dear to them, would be nothing in comparison with the return they would obtain. Note the Revised Version rendering may become rich, repeating and enforcing the fact of their present destitution. And white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed. Laodicea is said to have been famous for the raven blackness of the wool which was prepared and dyed there. This, perhaps, explains the point of the reproof contained in these words. "Notwithstanding thy trust in the excellence of the apparel for which thou aft famous, thou art yet naked (Revelation 3:17), and needest clothing; that clothing can be obtained only from me, and is far superior to that of which thou boastest, since it is white, the emblem of all that is purest and best; not black, like your own, which is a type of darkness, the darkness of ignorance and sin. Mine is indeed the garment of righteousness, the marriage garment with which thou mayest enter the presence of thy King." And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear. The nakedness will certainly be made apparent at some time. If it be persistently overlooked or ignored now, it will be made more glaring in the future, when God turns upon it the brightness of his presence. In the Revised Version "appear" is even more emphatically rendered "be made manifest" (φανερωθῇ). "Stripping," in the Bible, is commonly used to denote putting to shame: Hanun cut off the garments of David's servants (2 Samuel 10:4); the King of Assyria was to lead away the Egyptians naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20:4; see also Revelation 16:15); while supplying with clothes, or an additional quantity of clothes, was intended to show honour: thus Pharaoh arrayed Joseph in vestures of fine linen (Genesis 41:42); Joseph gave Benjamin five changes of raiment (Genesis 45:22; see also Esther 6:9; Ezekiel 16:10; Daniel 5:29; Zechariah 3:4; Luke 15:22). And anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. This is, of course, a reference in the "blindness" of Revelation 3:17, of which the Laodiceans were ignorant. "Eyesalve" is κολλούριον—collyrium, perhaps so called because made up in the shape of a cake of bread—collyra. We cannot but think, in connexion with this passage, of the miracle of the healing of the blind man by the anointing of his eyes by our Lord—a miracle witnessed and related by St. John (John 9:1-41.). The subsequent incidents and discourse, too, forcibly illustrate the state of the Laodiceans, so much like that of the Pharisees, to whom were addressed the words, "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin; but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth" (see on verse 15).
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. As many as. Not one whom God loves escapes chastening; if he be not chastened, he is not a son (Hebrews 12:8), for "all have sinned, and come short." "I love" is φιλῶ, I love dearly; not merely ἀγαπῶ. I rebuke (ἐλέγχω), to reprove, so as to convict of sin and turn to repentance; the work of the Holy Ghost, who should "convict the world of sin" (John 16:8). This verse is a solace and encouragement for the Laodi-ceans. They were required to make the sacrifices demanded of them, not so much that they might be punished for their transgressions, but to prove themselves of the number of God's elect. The stern reproof administered was a pruning, which was an evidence of God's loving care for them; the final sentence, "Cut it down," had not yet gone forth. But though thus intended for encouragement rather than condemnation, yet it could not but contain implied reproach, however tender. No one can be exhorted to change his path and to seek that which is holy without being reminded that he is unholy and has wandered from the right way. Those in Laodicea who took this message to heart must needs think of their unchastened life—the life full of prosperity and self-satisfied security, into which so little zeal had been infused, in which so little need for repentance bad been felt. The Church, indeed, needed some of that chastening, that persecution, and hardship, which should arouse her from the perilous slumber of ease into which she had fallen, and call forth some zeal and self-sacrifice, the frequent and natural result of opposition.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; behold, I have stood (ἕστηκα) at the door, and am knocking (κρούω). "These gracious words declare the long-suffering of Christ, as he waits for the conversion of sinners (1 Peter 3:20); and not alone the long-suffering which waits, but the love which seeks to bring that conversion about, which 'knocks.' He at whose door we ought to stand, for he is the Door (John 10:7), who, as such, has bidden us to knock (Matthew 7:7; Luke 11:9), is content that the whole relation between him and us should be reversed, and instead of our standing at his door, condescends himself to stand at ours" (Trench). The view, that stand at the door signifies "to come quickly" (Dusterdieck), as in Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:11, is scarcely in accordance with the context, since the whole passage has changed from rebuke and menace to patient beseeching and loving exhortation. These words recall the frequent use by our Lord of this figure of knocking, and especially Luke 12:35, Luke 12:36, "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately." 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 (see the parallel passage in Song of Solomon 5:1-16.). Christ knocks and speaks. A distinction has been drawn in the work of conversion, corresponding to these two actions. The knocking is likened to the more outward calls of sickness, trouble, etc., by which he makes his presence known; while the voice, which interprets the knock and informs us of the Personality of him who knocks, is the voice of the Holy Spirit, speaking to us, and explaining the meaning of our trials. Man's free will is here well and plainly set forth. Though the opening, to be effective, needs the help and presence of Christ, yet he does not forcibly effect an entrance; it is still within the power of man to disregard the knock, to refuse to hear the voice, to keep the door fast shut. To take food with any one is an outward sign of brotherly love and reconciliation. Christ will sup with those who do not drive him away, and they will sup with him. The whole figure is an image of the perfect nature of the sinner's reconciliation with God, and of the wonderful goodness and condescension of Christ. But we may well see an allusion to the Holy Communion, by which we are reconciled to God through Christ, and by which we may even now have a foretaste of the final supper of the Lamb, which shall eventually last for ever.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. The climax of the promises made to the seven Churches (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26-28; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12). There are two points to be noticed in this promise:
(1) the position promised to the conqueror, "in my throne;"
(2) the two thrones mentioned.
(1) Note the expression, "in my throne" (not ἐπὶ, but ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ), which occurs nowhere else. The mother of St. James and St. John had requested for them a place on the right hand and the left of our Lord—the highest dignity which she could conceive. The twelve apostles are promised to sit on twelve thrones, to judge the tribes of Israel. But Christ offers a yet higher honour, viz. to sit in his throne; placing us in the closest relationship with himself, and exalting us to his own glory.
(2) The throne promised is not that which Christ now occupies with his Father, but his own. Christ is now sitting on his Father's throne, mediating for his Church on earth, and waiting till his enemies be made his footstool (Psalms 110:1). To that throne there is no admission for humanity, though Christ shares it in virtue of his Godhead. But when his enemies have been made his footstool, and death, the last enemy, is destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26), and the necessity for his mediation exists no longer, since the Church militant will have become the Church triumphant, rhea will be erected Christ's own throne, which glorified man may share in common with him who was man, and who has so exalted humanity as to render such a condition and such a position possible.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches. The seven messages were not merely separate admonitions addressed only to each particular Church, but all the epistles were meant for all the seven Churches, and, after them, for the universal Church. Each Church had an especial failing brought more emphatically before it; but still the seven warnings are one whole, for the edification of all. As it behoves the individual Christian to avoid and repent of all sin, and yet to fix his attention on the cure of some besetting sin to which he is peculiarly liable, so these messages, though intended to be read by all, and heeded by all, place vividly before each Church its besetting sin, which more particularly requires attention. And as the sins to be avoided are to be avoided by all, so the separate rewards arc promised to all who overcome. They are, therefore, not really distinct rewards, but rather different phases and views of one great whole, which shall be enjoyed in its entirety by those who have struggled victoriously with the trials and temptations of the world.
Sardis; or, the dead Church.
This epistle presents no exception to the general rule which we have pointed out regarding all the seven, viz. that our Lord Jesus Christ presents himself to each Church in that special aspect in which it was most appropriate for that Church to regard him. Here he is spoken of as "he that hath the seven Spirits of God"—a phrase used only in the Apocalypse, and yet, in its meaning, harmonious with all the rest of God's Word. This leads us at once to observe—
I. HERE IS A VERY REMARKABLE EXPRESSION TO DENOTE THE DIVINE ENERGY. It is one which shows the infinitude thereof in the Third Person in the Trinity. The number seven is repeatedly used here. It is the symbol of perfection and completeness. We have seven Churches, seven seals, seven thunders, seven vials, seven plagues, seven trumpets. The expression, "the seven Spirits of God," is found in Revelation 1:4 and Revelation 5:6, as well as in this passage. There is an invariable sequence in the coming of life or power from the Persons in the Trinity, and a corresponding one in the upgoing of devotion from us to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Blessings are from the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Our access is by the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. The Energizer in each ease is the Holy Ghost. His energy is infinite, both in variety and measure. It is absolutely full, complete, and boundless. If, however, this energy is infinite, it can reveal itself. It has done so. For observe—
II. HERE IS AN EQUALLY REMARKABLE EXPRESSION CONCERNING OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST. We are here bidden to think of him as having the seven Spirits of God. Having risen to heaven, "he received gifts for men, that the Lord God might dwell among them." As Mediator, he has received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost. He is, in his own glorious Person, the channel of all grace from God to the spirit of man. He has, i.e. holds, the seven Spirits of God. He is not only the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, but he also baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. The two are of equal importance. Without the one the other would be impossible. The atoning work was completed on earth; the baptizing work is ever being carried on in heaven. The Gospels record the one; the Acts and the Epistles recount and expound the other. His work of humiliation on earth laid the basis of pardon. His baptizing work as our exalted Redeemer is the secret of power. He has "the seven Spirits of God' ("for the Father giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him"), that he may ever give life and power to those who with open hearts long for "all the fulness of God." Note: The coming together of the Spirit of God and the spirit of man is the secret of inspiration, revelation, religion, regeneration, consecration. £ When the Spirit of God unveils a truth, there is revelation; when he inbreathes into a man, there is inspiration; when he renews, quickens, and inspires, there is religion, even regeneration and consecration. The Holy Ghost may either illume the mind with truth, or set it on fire with love. And when his power is exerted in all its sevenfold might, any one so charged with Divine energy may receive it in any form whatever, for the purpose of fulfilling any kind of life work which God may have for him to do. There is no limit to our possible equipment for service.
III. THIS IS THE SPECIAL ASPECT OF OUR LORD'S WORK AT WHICH A DEAD CHURCH NEEDS TO LOOK. The Church at Sardis was "dead." It had not always been so. At one time it had so much vitality that it had acquired a "name" for being full of quick and quickening force. And, among men, its name still stood. But he whose eyes are as a flame of fire, and who walks among the golden candlesticks, observed a decline in piety. There was as yet the same outside appearance, and yet it was already injured even unto death. We do not read of any opposition or tribulation of any kind that the Church at Sardis had to meet;—it was dead. And neither Satan nor any of his hosts will care to disturb either a dead Church or a dead pastor. Nothing would better please the powers of evil than to see such a Church falling to pieces because there was no spirit to keep the bodily framework together! It is no wonder to find such a Church's works defective. "I have not found thy works filled up before God." Either there were spheres of duty which were altogether neglected, or else those duties were discharged in a spirit grievously lacking in fervour. It is sad indeed when the Lord Jesus sees any Church to be dead! For observe:
1. It is incongruous. For what is the Church? It is, in theory at least, a company of men "alive unto God," bound together for his worship and work. In the world, indeed, death is what we expect to see; but in the Church Death here is fearfully out of place. Nor let us think of Sardis as the only city where a dead Church was to be found. There is very much even now that makes many a pastor sigh and cry, "Oh the death!" Such lethargy, inertness, and slumber steal over this Church and that, so that it is far easier even to move the world than such a Church as this. Surely this is fearfully incongruous for a Church to be so untrue to its name.
2. This death is needless. For he who hath the seven Spirits of God is Lord of his Church. He loves to enrich her with the fulness of life. He is ever ready to hear the prayers of his own. The gift of the Spirit is the one promise of his Word, and its bestowment the one purpose of his life. It has but to be received from him by faith. Then why should any Church be lagging and flagging? There is no occasion for it whatever.
3. This death is unnatural. For it shows that, in spite of the profession of the Church, many in it are holding on to the world. They put on a Christian uniform, and then fight on the world's side. One of the terrible punishments of olden time was for living men to be chained to a corpse. Not less terribly unnatural is it for the name and honor of a living Saviour to be in any way tied to a dead Church!
4. This death is dishonouring to the Lord Jesus. By dead professors Christ is wounded in the house of his friends. For many a young convert, coming to the Church as the home of a spiritual brotherhood, gets there his first chill of disappointment. And if we were asked—Who are most responsible for the scepticism of the age? we should reply—Dead professors!
5. This death is offensive to the eye. Spiritual death anywhere is offensive. But, in the Church, which professes to be the very enclosure of life, it is unutterably so. How odious must it be to the Lord and Giver of life to see his own Name and ordinances yoked with spiritual death, especially when he lives and reigns on purpose to give life!
6. A dead Church is in a state in which Christ calls aloud for a review of its condition. There is a fourfold call.
(1) Be watchful. Become so.
(2) Strengthen what is left. All is not lost.
(3) Remember the past—those happy days of receiving the truth.
(4) Repent. It is high time, when death has seized on a Church, that its position should be seriously reviewed with the purpose of amendment unto life.
(a) The life in Christ is not so at the command of the Church as to warrant its dispensing with all possible care for the maintenance of a continual inflow thereof.
(b) The death of a Church is not such a death is that of a corpse. Its responsibilities are not lessened by the fact of its death.
7. This death is most perilous. "If therefore," etc. (verse 3). Thus again we meet with the thought that, if a Church is not doing its Lord's work. it certainly will not be spared for the sake of its own. It will matter nothing in the great gathering day of eternity whether any particular Church survives or no. Some Churches make much of their freedom. Some make much of their scriptural order. But life is of more importance than either one or the other. And if any Churches cease to be alive, others with really hearty, earnest life will survive them, though they may be less exact in their form and order. Dead Churches will shrink and sink out of sight; and the Lord Jesus will write a branding epitaph on their tomb: "A dead Church, that once had a name to live."
IV. IN A DEAD CHURCH THERE MAY YET BE SOME LIVING SOULS. A Church, as such, may expire in its own shame, yet there may be in it a few living ones. We can see the reason why the living ones are spoken of here as those "who have not defiled their garments;" for in the old Hebrew Law death was defilement. A man who touched a dead body was defiled. In Sardis, though the Church was dead, yet not every member was so. So that it seems there may be, thank God, even in a dead Church, some who, though surrounded with death, never touch it, but live always and everywhere in contact with the Living One, and so "keep themselves unspotted from the world." Note: A man must be in connection with a living Saviour if he would maintain his life. He must not depend on the Church for it!
V. TO LIVING SOULS IN A DEAD CHURCH THE SAVIOUR HAS WORDS OF CHEER. Here is a promise which is, in itself, a cluster of promises; but the promises are not to the Church as a Church, only to individuals—to those who avoid the touch of the dead now, who are daily overcoming, and will finally overcome.
1. Living on Christ now, hereafter they shall walk with him.
2. They shall be clothed in white raiment (see Revelation 19:8).
3. They shall be had in remembrance before God. "I will not blot his Name out of the book of life" (cf. Malachi 3:17; Philippians 4:3; Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23).
4. They shall be avowed as Christ's at last. "I will confess his name" (cf. Luke 12:8; Matthew 25:34-40). How strictly the Lord Jesus individualizes in the treatment of souls! If there are living souls in a dead Church, or dead souls in a living Church, they will be dealt with by him, not according to the state of the Church, but according to their own. "Every one of us must give account of himself to God." As the inner life here was one between Christ and him, so the public acknowledgment of him will be by Christ of him. He will not be confessed "as a member of the Church at Sardis" or anywhere else. In the great decisive day we shall be saved, not as adherents of any name or cause on earth, but only as those who lived on Christ, and drew their life from him, keeping themselves unspotted from the world. Note how solemn the alternative—Alive? or, dead?
Philadelphias: the sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over the house of God.
Although we know less of the Church at Philadelphia than of that at Smyrna, yet we think of it with almost equal feelings or affectionate regard. It is one of the two out of seven for which our Lord has no rebuke. He has for it only words of spur and cheer. It is weak, with "little strength." It is trusty. It has kept the faith. It has boldness, for it has "not denied Christ's Name." Demands had been made on its powers of endurance; but it had still kept the word of God's patience. It was vexed by some who boasted that they were Jews, and yet were not. True Judaism involved an acceptance of the claims of Jesus. The Church at Philadelphia understood this, and swerved not from its loyalty to the Saviour. Hence there is for it a series of inspiring exhortations and promises, crowned by one of the noblest pledges to the victor over ill. The main stress of our present homily will lie in an answer to the inquiry—In what aspect is such a Church invited to look at and think of the Lord Jesus Christ? The reply to this, with all that is involved thereby, will "open up" that part of this letter which seems chiefly to require elucidation (cf. Revelation 3:7). Our topic is—The sovereignty of the Lord Jesus over the house of God. We will inquire—
I. WHAT IS THE HOUSE OF DAVID? Our Lord declares himself as "he that hath the keys of David" (cf. 2 Kings 18:18, 2 Kings 18:26, 2 Kings 18:37; Isaiah 22:15-22). Shebna had held the high office of being over the house of David, i.e. prefect of the palace (for a similar expression and its meaning, see Genesis 41:40). Shebna, for his pride, luxury, and tyranny, was deposed, and Eliakim was appointed in his place. Isaiah speaks (Isaiah 22:22) of the authority which would he entrusted to him. The words uttered respecting Eliakim are here quoted and applied to our Lord Jesus Christ, as being over the house of David, and being entrusted with authority there. So that, as that which was said of Eliakim is true in its highest sense of the Lord Jesus, we can see in Eliakim a type of Christ. Eliakim was over the house of David in the earthly sphere; Christ is over the house of David in the spiritual sphere. Still, all is not yet quite clear. For if Eliakim is a type of Christ, as being over the house of David, so also was David himself, over whose house Eliakim was set, a much more striking type of Christ. Are we not hereby involved in some confusion of thought? By no means. The words in Hebrews 3:6 make the whole matter clear: "Christ, as a Son over his own house." So that the Lord Jesus combines in his own Person the antitype of both Eliakim and David. He is the Eliakim who is over the house. He is the David whose is the house. Let us now compare Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 22:16. We may now go a step further, and say—By as much as Christ is greater than David, by so much is his house greater than the house of David. The administration of the entire kingdom of God is put into his hands—the kingdom of nature, the kingdom of grace, and the kingdom of glory. The first is his as the everlasting Son of the Father; the second is his as the Priest upon his throne; the third will be his till he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all. Now, the house of David is that part of Christ's kingdom over which, as Son and Lord of David, he now rules as the Head. This is Christ's own house. He died that he might acquire it; he lives that he may rule it. It is composed of those on earth who are Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile, and of those gone from earth, who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Let us now inquire—
II. WHAT IS THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST OVER THIS HOUSE? "He that hath the key of David," etc. The "key" is the symbol of authority, the token of possession. The authority of the Lord Jesus is absolute; he "openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.' Regarding the "house" as "the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ," observe:
1. It is only by Christ that any one is admitted to the house, i.e. to the Church. There is, indeed, an external, visible organization; there is also an inner and invisible realm of saved souls. The latter alone is the Church properly so called; in the former, "They are not all Israel that are of Israel." We cannot expect absolute purity in the most saintly group. There may be some Jonah in every ship, some Achan in every camp, some Judas in every Church. Church rules and regulations as to purity of fellowship are laid down clearly in the Word of God; yet, even at the best, it is but an approximation thereto that we are able to attain. Men may be received into a visible Church by human agency, but into the invisible by Christ alone. The law is not, "In such and such a Church, in Christ;" but, "Whosoever is in Christ is in the Church by a right which none may deny, and which none ought to dispute."
2. Christ furnishes his members with such gifts and graces as are needed for service in the Church. (Cf. Ephesians 4:7-13; Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11; 1 Peter 4:10, 1 Peter 4:11.) He provides workers for the Church (1 Corinthians 3:10, 1 Corinthians 3:22).
3. Christ opens up the spheres in which his people may do service. "I have set before thee an open door" (see 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 16:9; Acts 16:9, Acts 16:10; Acts 18:9-11; Acts 23:1-35. Acts 23:11).
4. Christ regards his servants as responsible to him alone. (Matthew 25:14-30; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5.) He expects them to be absolutely at his bidding (Luke 14:33). He requires fidelity (Luke 16:10; 1 Corinthians 4:2; Revelation 2:10).
5. He appoints the discipline which is to be administered in the Church on earth to its unworthy members. He has given to the Christian priesthood the power of binding and loosing in his name, and no Church can trifle with this power except at its peril (see 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.; Matthew 16:19; Matthew 18:17-20; 1Ti 4:1-16 :20; 1 Timothy 1:19, 1 Timothy 1:20). £
6. He appoints their reward here and hereafter. There are four principles on which he will bestow them: they will be proportionate; there will be both grace and equity in their bestowal; they will be granted to every one; and will be love's own recompense of love's acts even in its slightest services (cf. Matthew 5:19; Matthew 25:1-46.; Matthew 19:27-20:16).
7. When his servants depart hence he still has the sole charge of them. He never lets them slip out of his hands (Revelation 1:18; Matthew 16:18 (Revised Version); Romans 14:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:10). After death the believer is still "in Christo"
8. At his manifestation in glory he will manifest his saints too. (Colossians 3:4.) Then the supreme concern of each will be to be well pleasing to him (2 Corinthians 5:9). Thus from beginning to end the authority and control of the Lord Jesus over the house of God is entire and complete.
III. WHAT ARE THE MORAL ATTRIBUTES HERE NAMED, THE POSSESSION OF WHICH FITS OUR LORD FOR AN OFFICE SO SUBLIME.
1. He that is holy. The Holy One, separate from evil, with perfect hatred of it. Then he is One who will be very jealous of the honour of his house. Holiness is the law of the house; if it be lacking, judgment will begin at the house of God (cf. Isaiah 4:3).
2. He that is true (ὁ ἀληθινὸς, not ὁ ἀληθής). Not "true" in distinction from being untrue; but
(1) the True One, in distinction from false assorters of supremacy;
(2) the true, in distinction from the wrong ideal;
(3) the true, as perfectly answering to the perfect ideal, as contrasted with all partial and imperfect realizations of it.
The perfect embodiment of the True and Living One is he. Where else could the key of David he so well entrusted? Only his hand can safely hold it. Well may we adopt the words of Doddridge—
"Worthy thy hand to hold the keys,
Guided by wisdom and by love;
Worthy to rule o'er mortal life,
In worlds below and worlds above."
If the key of the house of David had been in less worthy hands, that house would long ago have fallen to pieces. Therefore—
1. How should we glory in the sway over the house of God being in Christ's hands, and nowhere but there!
2. Let every Church recognize this Headship of Christ alone, and wherever he "opens a door" of usefulness, go in at once.
3. Let every individual submit himself humbly to Christ's disposal, to be in everything and at every step directed and controlled by him. Ever should our prayer be, "Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?" It is only thus that our life can have before it an intelligible and right end, in which we are sure to succeed. When "for us to live is Christ," then only may we be sure that "in nothing we shall be ashamed." Finally, let us ever remember the responsibility which attaches to us for observing when Christ sets before us an open door. It is quite true that no man can shut it, but it is also true that, if we fail to go in, the door may be closed again, and then no man can open it; but our opportunity, once missed, will have been missed for ever. Churches and men alike that fail to embrace opportunities of greater power and usefulness, have sunk back to a lower position than before; they do, they will, they must. Either to grow or to shrink is the alternative before us all. The law applies everywhere: "To him that hath shall more be given; to him that bath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." He that is faithful in the few things is the one whom his Lord will make ruler over the many things, and who will enter into the joy of his Lord.
Rev 3:14 -29
Laodicea: self-conceit and self-deceit.
Here is a Church which has an utterly mistaken view of itself. It thinks itself as well off as need be. Our Lord declares it to be in a desperately bad condition. It is addressed by Christ as by the "faithful and true Witness," as the "Beginning of the creation of God;" not as the beginning in the sense of "the first part of," but in the sense of the Beginner, in whom the creation had its beginning, and still has its continuance, meaning, plan, and end. He, to whom all created being stands open, deigns to give his clear, searching testimony to a self-deceived Church as to its state before him. There are three matters at which we must glance—the Witness, the testimony, the counsels.
I. THE WITNESS. "Faithful," i.e. trusty and trustworthy. "True," answering to the ideal, being all that a witness can be. Whatever can make a witness valuable belongs to Christ. We speak because we believe; he speaks because he knows. He is the "Amen." He alone can speak with absolute positiveness that there can be no inaccuracy in his words. In bearing testimony to the occurrence of an external fact, a very moderate amount of ability, combined with fidelity, might suffice. But when testimony is borne concerning the inward and spiritual state of a Church, infinitely more is needed than such commonplace requirements. He only can be a competent witness of the spiritual state of any man, and afortiori of the spiritual state of any body of men, who can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart; who knows in the case of each the relation between privilege, capacity, and attainment; who understands perfectly the difference between what is and what ought to be, and the entire bearings of the spiritual state of today on eternal interests. Evidently, therefore, no one is a competent witness in such matters but he who says, "I the Lord Search the heart, and try the reins of the children of men." But he is. And he who is thus perfectly competent is also absolutely true. Nor was it only of this particular Church, at this particular time, that Christ was a faithful and true Witness; he is this to every Church at every time. A Divinely rigid inspection of every Church is ever going on. It is not only true that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, it is also true that we do all stand before it now. There is a royal judgment of professors and of Churches going on at every moment, and the value of each Church is not what it is in the eyes of man, but what it is in the eye of the heart searching Lord. The most solemn inquiry we can put is, "What does Christ think of us?" We may stand well before other Churches, but, oh, if Christ thinks ill of us, that spoils all! Let us therefore consider—
II. THE TESTIMONY BORNE BY THIS WITNESS. In the judgment here pronounced as to the state of the Church at Laodicea, there is a principle expressed which may he detached from the special details of Laodicean Church life, because it holds good whatever those details may be; it may be looked at quite independently of time or place, because it bears equally on all Churches at every time and in every place. That principle is indicated by the words, "I would thou wert cold or hot." Evidently, to be fervent in religion is so blessed that it is perfectly easy to understand why our Lord should say he would rather we were hot than lukewarm; but it is not, at first sight, so clear why he would rather we were cold than lukewarm. Yet our Lord declares that lukewarmness is more offensive to him than entire coldness would be. Let us inquire:
1. What this lukewarmness is. In answering this question, our safest course will be to follow the evidence given in this letter as to what Christ saw, from which, perhaps, we may gather what he means. Four features.
(1) There was profession. Here was a company of avowed disciples gathered together in Laodicea to form a fellowship, to maintain Christian worship, and to advance the honour of the Saviour's name.
(2) The Church was exceedingly well pleased with itself. "Thou sayest, I am rich," etc. Laodicea was a great commercial city, rolling in wealth; and the Church may have been satisfied either with its worldly status, or (which, perhaps, is the more probable) with its spiritual progress.
(3) Yet it was a Church unique in its emptiness. "Thou knowest not that thou art the wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked one." £ Laodicea was the poorest of all the seven. In two Churches there was good with no specified ill; in four, good and ill were mixed together; in one there was ill with no good—that was the Church at Laodicea. There is in it nothing to be commended. The true gold of spiritual wealth was not there; the white raiment of personal purity, not there; the anointing of the Holy One, not there. A poor Church indeed! But the worst has yet to be told.
(4) Christ himself was outside it! He is outside the door, has been standing there for some time, and was still knocking and asking for admission. The question at once starts itself—When is Christ outside a nominal Church? We reply:
(a) When in its fellowship respectability is thought more of than fervour;
(b) when in the pulpit eloquence is extolled more than the truth is appreciated;
(c) when talent is more craved than spiritual power;
(d) when wealth and status are recognized, and growth in grace is not.
We know a Church which makes its boast, of the number of mayors of the borough who have been members with it; and another that boasted that it had not a single tradesman on its Church roll! Oh this worldliness! it is killing Churches. Christ is not in them, and will not be, till they repent. It is no uncommon thing to name the name of Christ with the tongue, even when the Spirit of Christ is not in the heart. It is clear enough, then, what Christ means by lukewarmness. There was care enough and interest enough to hold together an external fellowship, and to maintain all outward Church proprieties; but the soul was lacking—the living Christ was not there. Let us now inquire:
2. What entire coldness would have been. A few words will suffice here. If the Laodiceans had either never heard the gospel at all, or if, having heard it, it had never convinced their understanding, or if, although mentally persuaded of its work and of its Divine origin, they had never had sufficient glow of soul to unite in a Christian fellowship, and had never made any avowal whatever of any attachment to the Lord Jesus,—in such a ease there surely would have been coldness. Let us now ask:
3. Why lukewarmness is more offensive to Christ than coldness. Why is a man who has just warmth enough to lead him to take some interest in religious services, and to keep his place in a Christian congregation, and no more, more displeasing to Christ than one without any warmth at all? For many reasons.
(1) There is a wider discrepancy between profession and practice. For the Church member may fairly be supposed to have convictions clear enough to make a fervid man of him, if he would but let them have scope and play. But, as it is, there is an inward schism in the man.
(2) The lukewarm professor is more difficult to reach. Of all men whose consciences are hard to touch, those are the most so who have "made a profession," and then settle down in it in a state of self complacency.
(3) Hence their position is peculiarly perilous; for, owing to their satisfaction with themselves, there is far less chance of the arrow of conviction piercing their souls. Hence the peril of their self deceit being undisturbed until too late.
(4) Such a one is more guilty than others, for he has made a vow which he does not pay. He confesses his responsibilities, and yet takes no pains to discharge them.
(5) He effects more mischief than others. Many an ardent convert gets his first chill from lukewarm members of the Church. In fact, this lukewarmness threatens to pull down a Church; yea, it will do it if a check be not put upon it.
(6) Our Saviour will reject it, consequently, with special displeasure. Nothing is so offensive to him as a corpse in religion's cloak. When great pretensions are nothing more than pretension, then the greater the pretence the greater the offence. The more true any one's nature is, the more odious is untruth to him. What, then, must it be to the Lord Jesus Christ?
III. THE COUNSELS OF THIS FAITHFUL AND TRUE WITNESS. Although the heavenly Witness is severely faithful, there is in his words a ground-tone of the deepest tenderness. In them, and indeed in each one of them, there is enough for a separate homily; but space can only be found for a few words. Note:
(1) There is an assurance that his love is not withdrawn. He is grieved, he is dishonoured, still he loves.
(2) His love finds a twofold expression:
(a) he convicts;
(b) he chastens.
Hence his gracious counsels.
1. They are called on to be zealous. There are ways and means of reviving a flagging zeal. "He that would be warm must keep near the fire;" and he that would become spiritually warmer must get near the cross, and keep there.
2. Repent. A lukewarm Christian has need to repent as much as though he had never repented at all; for he has "lost his roll," and cannot then indeed tell whether he ever had one.
3. They are urged to get all their need supplied. Laodicea was a thriving commercial town. Christ speaks to the people there in their own familiar dialect. "Buy"—where? what?
(1) Of Christ; without money and without price.
(2) Gold. Raiment. Eyesalve.
4. They are reminded that the door must be opened to Christ. It is terrible beyond all power of expression when Church-doors are closed against Christ, and when he is kept outside the very community whose only raison d'etre is that it may entertain and honour its Lord.
5. They are entreated to open the door and to admit the living Lord. What can this mean? Surely nothing less than to let his Spirit rather than the world-spirit have the supreme control. In a word, the Church is exhorted to become true to its profession, and to let him, whose sacred Name it avows, be once again its sovereign Lord. But we must not forget the next point.
6. The Church is to open its doors to Christ, by individual members opening their own hearts to him. "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." Finally, if, listening to the counsels of Infinite Wisdom and Love, they, receiving a living Christ again, become once more a living Church, ,and overcome this downward tendency, then Christ will cause them to share with him his own honour at last. The Master conquered, and he expects the disciple to do the same. The Lord overcame for us; we may overcome in him and by him. Note: Victory is possible only when Christ is within us. If we keep him outside, not all the sanctuary teaching, nor the services, nor songs, nor ordinances, nor forms of godliness, nor parental virtue, can ever prevent us from falling miserably back to perdition. If we keep Christ out of our hearts, he will spue us out of his mouth.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The epistle to the Church at Sardis.
Were any one visiting the actual sites where the several Churches spoken of in these letters once stood, he would, ere he came to Sardis, have gone a long way round the circle on the circumference of which they all were. Beginning with Ephesus at the southern end, and proceeding northwards along the seashore, he next would come to Smyrna, then to Pergamos, then to Thyatira, and then, coming down the inland side of the rude circle we have imagined, he would reach Sardis, and proceeding on would come first to Philadelphia and then to Laodicea, the last of the seven. But now we have come to Sardis—a notable city in the ancient world, because associated with the great names of Cyrus, Croesus, and Alexander. With this historic fame, however, we have nought to do, but with the religious condition of the Church there as shown in this letter. And, as in all the previous letters, so here, the title assumed by the Lord Jesus has special reference to the condition and need of the Church addressed. Ephesus needed encouragement and warning alike. The Lord, therefore, speaks of himself as "he who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand." Smyrna needed strong support under her heavy trial. The Lord therefore speaks to them as "The First and the Last, who," etc. Pergamos needed that the Word of God should be sharply and severely brought to bear upon her. The Lord therefore tells of himself as "he who hath the sharp sword with the two edges," etc. Thyatira needed to be reminded of the holy and awful wrath of the Lord against such as she was harbouring in her midst. The Lord therefore declares himself to be "he whose eyes are as a flame of fire," etc. And now this Church of Sardis needed to be won back again to true godliness, for though she had a name that she lived, she was dead. The Lord therefore speaks of himself to her as "he who hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." Now note how this name of the Lord bears—
I. ON THE SIN WITH WHICH THE CHURCH WAS CHARGEABLE. Observe concerning this sin:
1. It was not that of others. Nought is said of Nicolaitans and followers of Balaam, or of such as Jezebel was. Nothing of false doctrines or of vicious life. These things which are denounced so terribly in other letters are not charged against this Church, and we may therefore assume that they could, perhaps they did, thank God that they were not as those other Churches were.
2. Nor was it that they did nothing. On the contrary, their works are mentioned repeatedly. No doubt there were all wonted ministries, religious observances, charities, and missions. There must have been, for:
3. They were no scandal to others. On the contrary, they had a name, a reputation, an honourable character, as a living Church. Laodicea deceived herself, thinking she was rich; but it is not said she deceived others. This Church, Sardis, did deceive others; she was reckoned by them to be really living, though in fact she was dead; and very probably she had deceived herself also. But:
4. Their works were not perfect before God. Well enough before men, but before him quite otherwise. They were of such sort that he said of those who did them, that they were "dead." They were done, as were the prayers, alms, and lastings of the hypocrites, "to be seen of men." Assuredly not with single eye or with pure motive. They had their reward: people talked of them, and gave them credit as having life. But before God they were dead. Let us remember that it is as "before God" everything is to be estimated. Let all who engage in any form of Christian service remember this. It is terribly apt to be forgotten. Remember how St. Paul said, "It is a small thing to me to be judged of you or of any human judgment: he that judgeth me is the Lord; I labour to be accepted of him." The one question for us all is, how will our work appear before God? For:
5. Their condition was one most displeasing to him. The severe tone of the letter proves this. True, we have had such severity before, and shall have it again; for rebuke, and often stern rebuke, was what was needed then and still is by the majority of Churches, always and everywhere. Nevertheless, there is no one of these letters in which the tone is more severe, or the smiting of the Sword of the Spirit sharper, or the solemnity of the appeals addressed to them more arousing or impressive. The epistle to Laodicea is the only one which can be compared with it, and it is to be noticed that the wrong in that Church, whilst very great, is like this in Sardis, that it is free from the foul stains tither of vice or heresy. In the sight of the Lord of the Church there is, it is evident, something more hateful to him than even these. Love to the Lord may linger in hearts even where these are; but if love, the true life of every Church and every individual soul, be gone, then are they to be described as none others are, for they are "dead." Hence in this letter there is no softening, mitigating utterance at all, no mention of good works, but the keynote of the epistle is struck at once, and a startling one it is. But:
6. What was the cause of it all? Now the name our Lord takes to himself in this letter reveals this cause. He by that name declares that in him and from him is all-sufficient grace. Treasure store inexhaustible, riches unsearchable, both for pastor and people. For his were "the seven Spirits of God," and his "the seven stars." And yet, in spite of all this, they were as they were. Oh, was it not shameful, is it not shameful, utterly inexcusable, when the like exists now, that, though abundance of grace is in Christ for us all, we should yet be what he terms "dead"? It was plain, therefore, they had not sought that grace; the fulness of the Spirit's help neither pastor nor people had implored; and so, as we find, they had given in to the world's ways. It is evident from the honourable mention of the "few" who had "not defiled their garments," that the rest had. That is to say, they had given in to the world's ways. Hence St. James speaks of pure religion as being in part this, "Keeping your garments unspotted from the world." And in proof of this there seems to have been a good understanding between the Church and the world at Sardis. They seem to have got along together very well. In every other Church, save this and Laodicea, mention is made of some "burden" which the enmity of the surrounding world laid upon the Church. But not here. As it has been well said (Archbishop Trench), "The world could endure it because it, too, was a world." This Church had nothing of the spirit of the "two witnesses" (Revelation 11:10) who "tormented them that dwelt in the earth" by their faithful testimony; or of the Lord Jesus either, who "resisted unto blood, striving against sin," and because he would not yield was crucified (cf. also Wis. 2:12, etc.). But there was nothing of all this at Sardis. It might have been said of them, as was cynically said the other day of a certain section of ministers of religion amongst us, that "you would find them very well bred, and you might be quite certain they would say nothing to you about your soul." It is an ill sign when the Church and the world are so happy together. There has been compromise somewhere, and it is rarely the world which makes it. It is bad to have no life at all in God's love; it is worse to have had it and to have lost it; but it is worst of all—and may God in his mercy deliver us therefrom—to have the name and reputation of possessing this life, and yet to be, in fact, as it was with Sardis, dead in regard thereto. For all around us conduces to deepen such fatal slumber of the soul, and there is an everlasting soothing of them by themselves, the Church and the world alike, saying continually, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.
II. ON THE PUNISHMENT WITH WHICH THE CHURCH IS THREATENED. (Verse 3.) This solemn warning of danger speaks of the Lord's advent to judgment. But:
1. What is that judgment? The name the Lord has assumed in this letter reveals it. Now, that name was meant partly to show that they were without excuse, but also to remind that, as the Spirit is his to give, so also is it his to withdraw and to withhold. As he can open the doors of grace, and then no man can shut; so also can he shut them, and then none can open. This, then, was what they were to fear, lest he should leave them alone, lest he should take his Holy Spirit from them. David dreaded this, and implored that the Lord would not deal so with him. Better any punishment, any suffering, any pain, any amount of distress, than that the soul should be thus left alone of the Lord.
2. And this judgment would come as a thief; they should not know when or how. There was an ancient proverb that the feet of the avenging gods are shod with wool. Dii laneos habent pedes. The meaning is simply what is here said, that the Divine judgment comes silently, stealthily, secretly, invisibly, unexpectedly, "as a thief." Who can mark the hour when God's Spirit leaves a man? Who sees the master of the house rise up and shut the door? It is not always true, as the much misleading verse tells-
"While the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return."
Before that lamp is quenched, the Holy Spirit's blessed flame may have been quenched, and he, resisted, grieved, done despite to, may have for ever gone away. And it is equally untrue to affirm that the point of death bars all return. It is not death, but the determined character of the soul, that decides that matter. Death cannot shut the Spirit out nor life ensure that he remain, but the fixed bias and character into which we have settled down. And then:
3. There follows the blotting out of the name, etc. (Verse 5.) Of him who overcomes Christ says, "I will by no means blot out his name." Hence it is implied that the rest he will blot out. Yes, the name may be in that book; through the blessed atonement and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ our names are there; but the question is—Will they be allowed to stay there? The branch may be in the Vine; it is so; but "if it bear not fruit, then," etc. Christ has put us all in, but we can force him, all unwilling, to blot us out again. And to be as Sardis was will do this. Have mercy upon us, O Lord!
III. ON THEIR RESTORATION. Their sin had not altered the fact that he still had "the seven Spirits," etc. And should the Lord's earnest word have the effect designed, it would, and we may well believe it did, awake many that slept, and arouse them from the dead, that Christ might give them life. And how would they be encouraged by this revelation of the Lord's grace! "How sweet the name of Jesus" would sound in their ears! Did it not enable them to say to their adversary, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." The effort they would have to make would be severe, but here in this name was abundance of grace for all their need. And to encourage them the Lord points them:
1. To the "few" who had overcome. There was, then, no irresistible might in the thraldom in which they were held. These had overcome, so might they. The grace that enabled these was waiting for them likewise. Not only would these "few" be greatly strengthened by the Lord's remembrance of and special promise to them, but the rest also would learn that victory was possible for them through him who had the "seven Spirits,': etc.
2. To means that, if faithfully used, would be effectual.
(1) Let them become wakeful—such is the meaning. This was a primary and imperative need. And when thus awake, let them
(2) remember how they had received and heard. With what earnestness and joy and devotedness of spirit they had begun their Christian career! Let them look back on that. And let them
(3) hold fast, i.e. keep, what remained, for all was not lost yet. The door of hope was not shut. And let them
(4) repent, i.e. have done with all habits, practices, and conduct, with all ways of thinking and speaking, which had lured them into and all but lost them in their deceitfulness. Let them confess it all before the Lord, and come away from it at once and for ever. And
(5) let them strengthen the things which remained. As the traveller crossing the Alps in snowstorm, all but benumbed, striking his foot against the body. of one who had just before passed that way and had sunk down in the snow, overcome by the deadly torpor of the cold—as he, roused by the blow and proceeding to use all efforts to awaken the fallen one, happily succeeds, he is made at the same time altogether wakeful and alive himself: so let any whose own spiritual condition is feeble try to make others strong, and they, too, in the endeavour will win strength. Let them thus act. And next he points them to:
3. The reward of these who overcome.
(1) The white robe, symbol of victory, purity, joy.
(2) The fellowship with Christ. "They shall walk with me in white." What enhancement of their blessedness this!
(3) The retention of their names in the book of life. "I will by no means blot out," etc. All the loving purposes which he cherished for them when he entered their names there, they shall realize and enjoy.
(4) The confession of their names before his Father and his angels. What a compensation for the contempt of the world! how insignificant and despicable is that contempt when placed over against this honour which Christ here promises! Ah! who would stay in the sad state of Sardis when a way like this is opened out of it for them? All grace is his, and his for us, if we will avail ourselves of it; for he "hath the seven," etc.—S.C.
The present blessedness of the consecrated life: a Whit Sunday sermon.
"They shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." This is Whit Sunday, and its very name carries us back in thought to the literal and impressive manner in which the Christian Church of the early centuries was wont to interpret our text when she celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. For it was at this feast—so the Book of the Acts tells us—that there were reaped for Christ and his Church those famous firstfruits of the harvest of converted men, which in the ages to come Christ's ministers should gather in. On that day there were added to the Church some three thousand souls, who were all straightway baptized according to St. Peter's word, "Repent, and he baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." The Day of Pentecost, therefore, became a chosen day in the early Church for the reception by baptism of converts to the Christian faith. On that day they who had lived heretofore in Judaism or in heathenism were clothed in white robes, and gathered in numerous throngs at the baptisteries of the churches; there, with music and holy psalms, and with many elaborate symbolic ceremonies, they received the initiatory rite of the Christian Church. But the most striking feature of the day was the procession of white-robed candidates, and that so fastened itself on the mind of the Church, that the day which commemorated the Feast of Pentecost came to be called, as it is amongst us still, Whir or White Sunday, Alba Dominica, or the white Lord's day. Those who were on that day baptized had been counted worthy—for they had renounced heathenism or Judaism, and had confessed Christ—to he numbered amongst the Christian fellowship. And hence they were arrayed in white garments; for was it not written, "They shall walk … worthy "? And it is told how not seldom these baptized ones would ever afterwards carefully preserve their white robe as a perpetual reminder of their vow of consecration to Christ, and at the last, when they lay down to die, they would have it put on once more, and in it they would be buried. But whilst it is interesting to note how the mind of the ancient Church expressed by such symbolism its understanding of this word before us, it is more important to us to get beneath the metaphor, and to ascertain its meaning for ourselves today. And that meaning is surely this—that the consecrated Christian life is a blessed life. The white robe of the baptized told them, no doubt, of the character and responsibilities of that life; that its character was to be holy, and that their responsibility and obligation were to strive after holiness, and to he content with nothing less. But in our text it is not so much responsibility and obligation that are meant, but the blessedness of the Christian life. Let us speak, therefore—
I. OF THE WORTHINESS WHICH WINS THE WHITE ROBE. The few in Sardis who are to be counted worthy are they who, unlike the rest, "have not defiled their garments;" that is, the character, which is the vestment of the soul, and which they had received, they had kept undefiled. For a new character is given to him who truly comes to Christ; he is a new creature, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth him from all sin. This is no mere doctrine of theology, but a fact in Christian experience. For the mind in which we come to Christ is in nature, though not in degree, Christ's own mind—that mind of which his atoning death was the expression; the mind that condemns sin, that trusts in the forgiving love of God, and desires above all else the love of God. Such was the mind in which Christ died, and which was the real atonement. For the mangled flesh of the Lord and the bleeding body had no atoning power save as they declared the mind which was in him. And it was a mind that could not but be infinitely acceptable to the Father, could not but have been a full, true, sufficient atonement, ablation, and satisfaction to his heart, the Father-heart of God. And because, whenever we come really to God in Christ, the movements of our minds are in this same direction, and we come clothed in this mind, though it may be but imperfectly, yet because our mind is like in nature, though not in degree, to the perfect mind of Christ when he died for us, therefore are we accepted in him, and for his sake pardoned, and made possessors of a new character—his mind—which is the garment we are to keep undefiled, and which those who are counted worthy do keep undefiled.
II. OF THE WHITE ROSE ITSELF. It tells:
1. Of purity. "Blessed are the pure in heart." Oh, the joy of this! It is good, when temptation comes, to be able to grip and grapple with it, and to gain victory over it, though after a hard struggle. Oh, how far better this than to miserably yield, and to be "led captive by Satan at his will"! But even this falls far below the blessedness which the white robe signifies. For it tells of an inward purity, like to his who said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me." There was nothing in him on which the tempter's power could fasten, and to rise up to this heart-purity is the glory and joy promised by the white robe.
2. Of victory. White was the symbol of this also, as well as of purity. He who went forth "conquering and to conquer" rode upon a white horse—so the vision declared. They who had come out of the great tribulation were clothed in "white robes," and elsewhere we are told they had "overcome by the blood of the Lamb." And this blessedness of victory the consecrated soul enjoys. "Sin shall not have dominion over" him. "In all things" he is "more than conqueror." One of the very chiefest blessings of the Christian faith is that it makes the weak strong, and to them that have no might the faith of Christ increaseth strength. Facts of everyday Christian experience prove that it is so.
3. Of joy. White garments are the symbol of this also. And the truly consecrated heart shall know "the joy of the Lord." The saints of God in all ages have found that "he giveth songs in the night." Who should have joy if not the true-hearted Christian man?
III. HOW WE MAY WIN AND WEAR THESE WHITE ROBES. Through entire surrender to Christ. There is no other way. If we retain our own will and keep urging its claims, these white robes are not for us. The consecrated life is clothed thus, and that life alone.—S.C.
Letter to the Church at Philadelphia.
If asked to sum up in a word the main lesson of this letter, I would quote the saying of our Lord recorded by St. Luke, "Fear not, little flock." Such is the effect of a right reading of this most precious epistle. It is a heart-cheering word to all such Churches, and to every one of like character. For Philadelphia was—
I. LITTLE. "Thou hast a little strength" (verse 8), or rather, "Thou hast small power." It refers not to her spiritual strength, for that was not small, but perfected in her weakness. She was mighty through God who upheld and sustained her. Hence the expression is to be regarded as referring, probably, to her membership as but few in number, to her wealth as but very small, to her knowledge and gifts as being but slender, to great and distinguished men amongst her as being very rare, to her social position as being quite humble. Hence she was small in human esteem, one of those "weak things," which, however, God often chooses wherewith to accomplish his own purposes. And many a Church, beloved of the Lord, is like Philadelphia, having only "a little strength." But also she was—
II. MUCH TRIED. Looking at this letter, we can gather what some of these trials were. It seems that:
1. Their place amongst the people of God was denied. We gather this from what is said as to the assertion of the Jews, who, as at Galatia and everywhere else, affirmed that they only, the descendants of Abraham, were the Israel of God: none else had part or lot therein. In verse 9 emphasis is to be laid on the word "they" in the sentence, "which say they are Jews." St. Paul was perpetually fighting against this exclusiveness, and was for ever teaching that in Christ Jesus there was "neither Jew nor Greek." But all the same, it caused considerable uneasiness amongst the early Gentile believers. There was much to be urged out of the Scriptures in favour of the real descendants of Abraham, especially if they were also "as touching the Law blameless." They seemed to many as a privileged order, a spiritual aristocracy, admission into whose circle was indeed to be desired. Hence so many Gentiles submitted to the rite of circumcision (cf. Epistle to the Galatians, passim). And the taunts of the Jews at Philadelphia against the Christians, as being not really God's people at all, was one form of the trials they were called upon to bear. And still there is many a believer, excommunicated by man, but not at all so by God; denied his place in earthly Churches, though it be abundantly his in the Church of the Firstborn. Catholics have denounced Protestants, and Protestants one another, and both have retorted, and all have been wrong, and sinful in being wrong, whenever those whom they have denounced have shown that they did unfeignedly trust and love and obey Christ the Lord. The cry, "The Church of the Lord, the Church of the Lord are we!" is often raised by those who have no right to it, and against those who have. Thus was it at Sardis.
2. They had to encounter active opposition. Endeavours seem to have been made to shut the door of usefulness which the Lord had opened for them. His emphatic declaration that none should shut that door implies that there had been those who had tried to do so. And how often since then have dominant and cruel Churches made the same attempt in regard to communities they did not like! Witness the persecutions of Vaudois and Waldenses in Switzerland, of Hussites and others in Bohemia, of Lollards, Protestants, and Puritans in England, of Covenanters in Scotland, and of Catholics in Ireland,—all has been, with more or less of difference, the repetition of what was done at Philadelphia in the days of St. John. And there appears to have been:
3. Attempts to make them apostatize. The meaning of the latter part of verse 8 is, "Because though thou hast but little strength, nevertheless thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my Name." Hence we gather—and the tenses of the verbs used imply it also—that there had been some definite attempt of the kind we have said. Like as Saul in his persecuting days forced the unhappy Christians who fell into his power "to blaspheme," so similar force had apparently been used, but, by virtue of Christ's sustaining grace, with no effect. For, notwithstanding all, they were—
III. FAITHFUL. They kept Christ's word, and did not deny his Name; and the first was the cause of the last. Their history illustrates the value of the word of Christ. They clung to it, they would not let it go, they had nothing but this, but this they had and clave to. Twice is it named: "Thou hast kept my word;" "Thou hast kept the word of my patience." And this latter and fuller form reveals a further aid to their faith which they found in Christ's word. "For the word of Christ, as the Philadelphians knew it, was not a word calling them to easy and luxurious and applauded entrance into the kingdom, but to much tribulation first, and the kingdom with the glory of it afterwards." And not only as a word which told them at the beginning that patience would be needed, did it help them; but yet more as the word which revealed Christ their Lord as the great Example and Source and Rewarder of patience; so that, however hard to bear their trials might be, they could turn in thought to their Lord, and behold him meekly bearing his cross—so much heavier than theirs; and they had seen him also sustaining his tried servants again and again, and they knew that he would do the same for them, and they believed that he would assuredly reward their patience. Yes, it was the word of his patience to which they clung, and in the strength of which, though tempted and tried sorely, they would not deny his Name. And their way must be our way, their strength ours, when we are tried. And they were—
IV. GREATLY BLEST. The Lord gave them large reward. To this day the suffering Smyrna and the much-tried Philadelphia alone remain of these seven Churches. Through all manner of vicissitudes the Christian faith has been upheld by them to this day. But see the recompenses spoken of here.
1. Christ confesses them, and denies their slanderers. He pronounces for them and against their foes. Such is the significance of the august and sublime title which the Lord here assumes. It tells of the names of the Lord God of Israel. He was the Holy, the True, the King of Israel, of whom David, with his great authority opening and shutting according to his will, was the Old Testament type and representative. "The key of David" means the power and authority of David, and Christ claims to be as he was, and far more, the Representative of God, and the Possessor of his authority and power. Now, it was by this great and glorious Jehovah that the Jews at Philadelphia affirmed that the Church there was disowned and denied. They said, "You have no part in this God, but we only." But in utter contradiction of this falsehood, he, the Holy One himself, comes forward, and declares that the persecuted Church had part in him, but that they, her slanderers, had not. "Ye Jews say ye are Jews, but in any real sense ye are not; ye do lie; but this my despised, yet faithful Church, I have loved her, and I, the Holy, the True, the King of Israel, do now confess her as she has confessed me." And often and often has the Lord done the like of this. "When wrong has been done to any of his servants here on earth, he will redress it in heaven, disallowing and reversing there the unrighteous decrees of earth. It was in faith of this that Huss, when the greatest council which Christendom had seen for one thousand years delivered his soul to Satan, did himself confidently commend it to the Lord Jesus Christ; and many a faithful confessor that at Rome or Madrid has walked to the stake, his yellow san benito all painted over with devils, in token of those with whom his portion should be, has never doubted that his lot should be with him who retains in his own hands the key of David, who thus could open for him, though all who visibly represented here the Church had shut him out, with extreme malediction, at once from the Church militant here and the Church triumphant in heaven." And the grim cells of Newgate, and the bare bleak hedgerows of our own land, have often been the scenes of similar revelations to God's persecuted ones. God has taken their side, and pronounced for them as he did for the Church at Philadelphia.
2. Their Lord makes them abundantly useful. "Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it." His Name declared his power to do this, and here he affirms that he has exercised that power on their behalf. By the "open door," usefulness, opportunity of service and of doing much good, is meant (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 14:27; Colossians 4:3). Now, this Christ declared he had done for them. Perhaps it was by giving them favour in the sight of the people, or by breaking the hold of heathenism, arousing a spirit of inquiry, raising up able teachers, giving them entrance into fresh circles. Fidelity to Christ has given to it a key that will turn the most difficult lock, and open the most closely shut door.
3. Their enemies should submit themselves. As Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle. And again and again out of the ranks of the Church's fiercest foes have come those who have first surrendered their hearts to her cause and then their lives to her service (cf. the conversion of Constantine and of Rome generally). In that this word was literally fulfilled.
4. They should be delivered from the hour of temptation—that dread hour which was drawing near so swiftly (cf. Psalms 91:1-16.). Perhaps they would be taken home first, delivered so "from the evil to come." And if not that, raised in heart, as the martyrs perpetually were, above all fear; or some wondrous deliverance should be found for them. They knew that hour was coming, and no doubt they had often shuddered at the prospect. But oh, what joy to be told by their Lord that he would deliver them!
5. The eternal recompense—the crown. Their Lord was quickly coming; let them hold on but a little longer, and then this crown should be theirs. In verse 12 this crown of recompense is more fully described:
(1) As being made "a pillar in the temple of my God," i.e. they should perpetually abide there, dwelling in the house of the Lord for ever. Now we come and go, in fact and in spirit. Not so there. "He shall go no more out." It is a curious coincidence that amongst the ruins at Philadelphia there stands to this day a solitary tall pillar; it strikes the eye of the traveller, and suggests irresistibly this glorious promise made to the believers who lived there long ago. An ancient geographer says of the place, "It is full of earthquakes, and is daily shaken, now one part, and now another suffering, so that one wonders any should have been found to build or inhabit it." Now, to the Christians, who saw daily in their city the image of their own precarious position, Christ says, "I will make him who overcomes a pillar in the temple of my God," and he shall go no more out"—shall not totter and fall as these stone pillars do, but shall abide stable and sure for ever.
(2) As being identified with:
(a) God. "The Name of my God" Christ will write upon him. It shall be evident that he belongs to God. "Surely this was the Son of God"—so spake they who had crucified the Lord: they could not help seeing the Name of God written upon him.
(b) "The city of my God." Jews had cast them out, but the God of the true "holy city" had declared it theirs, and that their true home was his own city. There are many of whom we say, "We hope they are going to heaven;" there are some of whom we say, "We are sure they are," for their identification with heaven is so complete.
(c) Christ's own Name—that aspect of Christ's love by which the believer realizes that he is Christ's and Christ is his.
"So, gracious Saviour, on my breast,
May thy dear Name be worn,
A sacred ornament and guard
To endless ages borne."
The epistle to the Church at Laodicea.
It was a wealthy city in which this Church had her home, and it was large and beautiful also. It stood on one of the great Roman roads which led away to Damascus and Arabia. Hence there was a large stream of traffic continually flowing through it, and its inhabitants became very rich. At the time when this letter was sent them they were building for themselves one of those huge amphitheatres which the Greeks and Romans of the day were wont to build in all their chief cities, and where those too often barbarous and degrading sports, in which they so much delighted, might be carried on. As a further evidence of their wealth, it is recorded how, when their city was almost destroyed by one of those earthquakes by which the whole region was so often disturbed, they rebuilt it entirely at their own cost. A Church was early formed there, and was one of considerable importance. It was probably founded by one or other of those earnest-minded brethren, who, like Epaphras, whom Paul names in his letter to the neighbouring Church at Colossae, and who were commissioned by St. Paul for such work, probably during his sojourn at Ephesus. We know that Epaphras was a near neighbour, Colossae being only some six or eight miles distant from Laodicea; and hence it is likely that he—"faithful minister of Christ, and beloved fellow servant," as St. Paul calls him (Colossians 1:7; Colossians 4:12)—had something to do with the planting of the Church there. And we can have no doubt but that the Church was once in a very flourishing condition. The Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians was intended, it is all but certain, as much for the Laodiceans as the Ephesians, if not more so. The high praise which we find in that letter is therefore to be regarded as given to Laodicea, which now, when St. John writes to it, is so sadly fallen. And in Colossians 2:1, Colossians 2:5, St. Paul speaks of them and of the "steadfastness" of their "faith in Christ" (cf. also Colossians 4:13-16). But a sad change had come over them, and the result is this letter before us now. Note—
I. THEIR CHARACTER AND CONDITION. They are charged with being "neither cold nor hot," but lukewarm. That is to say, that whilst there was not absolute denial of the faith and disregard of all Christ's claims, there yet was neither the fervent zeal, the devout spirit, nor the all-sacrificing love, springing from a vigorous faith, which would make a Church glow with holy fervour and sacred heat. And this half and half, neither one thing nor the other, condition is all too common amongst not a few who profess and call themselves Christians. How many Churches, and how many churchgoing people, may, and probably have, seen their portraitures in this sad letter to the Church at Laodicea! They cannot be said to be cold and so utterly disregardful of religion, or of Christian faith and custom; but as certainly they are not "hot," not filled with love and zeal and desire towards Christ, willing to do all, bear all, be all or anything or nothing, so only as the honour of his Name may be increased, and the boundaries of his kingdom enlarged. Christians are to be known by their ardour, and so tongues of fire came and rested upon their heads on the great Pentecostal day. But Laodicea and the like of her show nothing of this kind, nor will nor can they whilst they remain as they are. And the common run of men like to have it thus. Cold makes them shiver; heat scorches them,—they like neither; but to be moderately warm, tepid, or but little more; that is pleasant, is safe, is best every way, so men think. The cynic statesman's parting charge to one of his agents, "Surtout, point de zele," is, in fact, what the ordinary Christian vastly prefers for himself and for others. They confound zeal with eccentricity, fervour with wild and ill-considered schemes, earnestness with rant, enthusiasm with mere delirium and extravagance; and, under pretence of discountenancing these undesirable things, they desire neither for themselves nor for others that glow of Divine love in their souls which is desirable above all things else. They congratulate themselves upon being moderate, sober-minded people, and they pity the poor deluded enthusiasts, to whom it is a dreadful thing that sin and sorrow should prevail as they do, and who, therefore, are in the very forefront of the battle against them, Laodiceans think well and speak well of themselves, and other people credit them with what they say, and hence they are self-complacent and well satisfied, and wonder why anybody should doubt or differ from them. They do not hear the world's sneer or see its mocking look when their names are mentioned; still less do they hear the sighing of the sorrowful heart which yearns to see the Church of Christ rise up to her Lord's ideal and intent. But they go on saying and thinking that they are well to do, and have need of nothing. But their condition is abhorrent to the Lord; he cannot abide it, nauseates it, would rather far that they were either cold or hot; either extreme would be better than the sickening lukewarmness which now characterizes them. To such it was that the Lord said, "The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." Whilst of the irreligious multitudes he only said, as he looked on them with compassion, "They are as sheep having no shepherd." Elijah said, "If Baal be God, serve him;" "better be hearty in his service than serving neither God nor Baal, as you now are." And experience confirms this seemingly strange preference which the Lord declares. We could understand that he would men were "hot" rather than "lukewarm;" but that he would rather that they were "cold" without religion altogether—than as they are, that seems a strange preference. But, as St. Paul says, "If a man think himself to be wise, let him become a fool that he may be wise;" by which he meant that a man who thinks himself wise when he is not, there is more hope of a fool becoming wise than he, for his self-conceit stands in his way. And so in the matter of a man's real conversion to God, he who knows he has no religion is more likely to be won than he who thinks he is religious and has need of "more" nothing. There is hope, therefore, for the cold than for the "lukewarm," and hence our Lord's preference. And this condition is one which drives the Lord away, chases him forth from his Church. Christ is represented, not as in the Church, but as outside, standing at the door, and knocking for admission. He has been driven out. He cannot stay either in that Church or in that heart which loves him with but half or less than half a love. We do not care to stay where we are not really welcome: we get away as soon as we can. And our Lord will not stay where the love which should welcome and cherish his presence is no longer there.
II. HOW CHRIST DEALS WITH THEM.
1. He reveals to them their true condition. And to make them more readily receive his revelation, he declares himself by a name which ensured that his testimony was and must be infallibly true. He tells of himself as "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness." Therefore they may be sure that he could not err and would not misstate what he, as the Son of God, "the Beginning of the creation of God," saw and knew, and now declared to them to be true. And so he tells them how it is with them, though they knew it not and kept saying the very reverse. Hence he tells the Church, "Thou art the wretched one and the pitiable one, and beggarly and blind and naked." Ah! what a revelation this! how it would startle and shock them! no doubt the Lord intended that it should. Their condition justified these words. They thought that they were certain of their Lord's approval. He tells them that no shivering criminal waiting in terror the judge's sentence was ever more really wretched than they. And that they thought as they did proved them "blind." And as those whom it was designed to degrade were stripped "naked" so as "shameful" were they in the sight of the Lord and of his angels.
2. And by thus revealing their true state, he rebukes and chastens them. What humiliation and distress and alarm must this revelation have caused! But next:
3. He counsels them what to do. He will not leave them thus, but points out the way of amendment. He bids them "buy of me." But if they were so poor, how could they buy? "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." This is the money wherewith they must buy. And when they have laid out this money, and have become possessors of what it will surely purchase, they will tell you, if you ask them, that even this money he gave them from whom they went to buy. And what is it they will get in exchange?
(1) "Gold tried in," etc. This is faith (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). "The trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold and silver." Oh, to be "rich in faith"! They are rich who have it.
(2) "White raiment that," etc. True righteousness of character, the holiness which becometh saints.
(3) "Eyesalve that," etc. The illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit. Such is the way of amendment: coming thus poor to the Lord, gaining faith, holiness, wisdom—so shall we rise up from the condition which the Lord cannot abide to that which he loves and will ever bless. Shall we not follow this counsel? He does not compel, but counsels. Let us also thus buy of him.
4. He waits for their repentance. "Behold, I stand at the door," etc. How true it is he desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live! What a picture this well-known and ever-to-be-loved verse presents! Our Lord, who died for us, standing there outside, seeking to enter in.
5. He encourages them to repent. See his promises.
(1) "I will sup with him, and he with me." Communion with himself. A piece of clay gave forth a sweet fragrance. It was asked whence it had such fragrance. It replied that it had long lain by the side of a sweet-smelling rose, and so it had become filled with its sweetness. So our claylike souls, if we be in communion with Christ, shall come to be as he. Ah, then, "open the door," and let your Lord in.
(2) He holds out to those who "overcome" the same reward as he had when he overcame—"to sit with me in my throne, even as I," etc. (Colossians 2:21). It tells of the highest, holiest joys, of the everlasting kingdom of God. So would he lure them to himself. Shall he not succeed? "Behold, he stands at the door and knocks."—S.C.
The Saviour, the soul, and salvation.
"Behold, I stand at the door," etc. These words, so welt known and much loved, however their primary intention may have had regard to a sinful community like the Church at Laodicea, nevertheless lend themselves so aptly to the setting forth of Christ's dealing with individual sinful souls, and have been so often used in this way, that once more we employ them for the like purpose. They supply three vivid pictures.
I. OF OUR SAVIOR "Behold, I stand," etc.; and they reveal him to us in all his grace, he is represented:
1. As in constant nearness to the soul. He stands at the door. He does not come for once and then depart, but there he continues.
2. And he knocks at the door: not merely stands there. The soul is like a great palace that has many doors. And Christ knocks sometimes at the one door and sometimes at another. There is:
(1) The door of the intellect. To this he comes with the evidence of the reasonableness of his faith and claims.
(2) Of the conscience. To this he shows the goodness and righteousness of that which he asks; how he ought to be obeyed.
(3) Of love. He wakes up, or seeks to wake up, the spirit of gratitude in response to all he is and has done for the soul.
(4) Of fear. The alarm of the awakened conscience, the fearful looking for of judgment, are the means he uses.
(5) Of hope. The blessed prospect of eternal peace and purity and joy.
3. And he knocks in many ways.
(1) Sometimes by his Word. As it is quietly read in the sacred Scriptures, some text will arrest and arouse the soul. Or, as it is faithfully, lovingly, and earnestly preached: how often he knocks in this way! And
(2) sometimes by his providence. Sickness; bereavement; loss of wealth, or friends, or other earthly good; disaster; the approach of pestilence; nearness of death; trouble of mind, body, or estate;—all are the Lord's knockings. And
(3) sometimes by his Spirit. These more often than any. "The Spirit … says, Come."
4. And we know that he does this. Have we not been conscious of his appeals again and again?
5. See what all this reveals of him.
(1) His infinite patience. How long he has waited for some of us, year after year, and is not wearied yet!
(2) His gracious condescension. That he, our Lord and Saviour, should thus deal with us.
(3) And, above all, what infinite love! Behold, then, this portrait of our all-gracious Saviour and Lord, and let it draw your hearts to him as it should.
II. OF THE SOUL—the soul of each one of us. Our text shows the soul:
1. As the object of Christ's anxious concern, He would not else be thus standing and knocking at the door of our hearts. And the reason is that he knows:
(1) The soul's infinite value and preciousness. He knows its high capacities—that it can love and worship, resemble, and rejoice in God.
(2) Its terrible peril. Were it not so, there would not be need for such anxious concern. It is in peril of losing eternal life and of incurring eternal death. It is nigh unto perishing—a lost sheep, a lost piece of silver, a lost child.
2. As exercising its fearful Tower. Refusing Christ, keeping him outside the soul. Many other guests are admitted freely, but not Christ.
(1) The soul has this power of refusal. None other has. Not the stars of heaven, not the mighty sea, not the raging winds, not the devouring fire. All these obey. But the soul can refuse.
(2) And here it is exercising this power. That Christ is kept outside the soul is the testimony of:
(a) Scripture. Texts innumerable tell of the estrangement of the human heart from God.
(b) Conscience. Does not the ungodly man know that Christ does not dwell within him, that he has no room for him—however it may be with other guests—in his soul? And the strange, sad reluctancy to speak for Christ to others shows how partial is his possession of even Christian souls.
(c) Facts. See what men are and say and do; mark their conduct, their conversation, their character; examine the maxims, principles, and motives which regulate them, and see if Christ be in all or any of them. And this, not only in men brought up in ungodliness, but often in those trained in pious homes, and from whom you would have expected better things.
(3) And this is the soul's own doing. It voluntarily excludes Christ. When his appeal is heard, and very often it is, men divert their thoughts, distract them with other themes; or deaden their convictions, by plunging into pleasure, business, sin; or delay obedience, procrastinating and putting off that which they ought promptly to perform. Ah, what guilt! Ah, what folly!
(4) And this is the sin "against the Holy Ghost, which hath never forgiveness." Not any one definite act, but this persistent exclusion of Christ. The. knocking of the Lord is heard more and more faintly, until at length, although it goes on, it is not heard at all. The sin has been committed, and the punishment has begun. But the text contemplates also the happier alternative.
3. The soul claiming its greatest privilege—opening the door to Christ. He says, "If any man will open," thereby plainly teaching us that men may and should, and—blessed be his Name—some will, open that door.
(1) The soul can do this. It is part of its great prerogative. It could not say, "Yes," if it could not say, "No;" but because it can say, "No," it can also say, "Yes."
(2) And the opening the door depends upon its saying, "Yes." This is no contradiction to the truth that the Holy Spirit must open the heart. Both are essential; neither can be done without. It is a cooperative work, as consciousness and Scripture alike teach. But the Spirit ever does his part of the work; it is we only who fail in ours. May we be kept here from!
III. SALVATION. The result of such opening the door is this, and the picture that is given of it is full of interest.
1. Christ becomes our Guest. "I will sup with him." Now, if we invite any one to our table, we have to provide the feast. But what have we to set before Christ that he will care for? Ah, what? "All our righteousnesses"—will they do? Not at all. In this spiritual banquet that which he will most joyfully accept is ourselves, coming in contrition and trust to rest upon his love. "The sacrifices of God," etc. (Psalms 51:1-19.). Let us bring them; they, but naught else, will be well pleasing to him. But the scene changes.
2. Christ becomes our ]lost. "He with me." Ah! now what a difference!
"Blest Jesus, what delicious fare!
How sweet thine entertainments are!"
This we shall soon realize.
(1) There is full, free pardon for every sin.
(2) Next, the assurance of his love, that he has accepted us.
(3) Power to become like him—renewing, regenerating grace.
(4) His peace, so that in all trial and sorrow we may "rest in the Lord."
(5) Power to bless others, so that they shall be the better for having to do with us.
(6) Bright hope, blessed outlook to the eternal inheritance.
(7) And at last, in due time, that inheritance itself.
Such are some of the chief elements of that banquet at which Christ is the Host; and all the while there is sweet, blessed intercourse, hallowed communion, with himself. He is "known to us in the breaking of bread."
CONCLUSION. How, then, shall it be? Shall we still keep the door of our hearts barred against him? May he forbid! We can do this; alas! some will. But we can open the door. Do that.
"In the silent midnight watches,
List! thy bosom door!
How it knocketh—knocketh knocketh—
Say not 'tis thy pulse is beating:
'Tis thy heart of sin;
'Tis thy Saviour knocks and crieth,
'Rise, and let me in.'
"Death comes on with reckless footsteps,
To the hall and hut;
Think you, Death will tarry knocking
Where the door is shut?
But the door is fast;
Grieved, away thy Saviour goeth:
Death breaks in at last.
"Then 'tis time to stand entreating
Christ to let thee in;
At the gate of heaven beating,
Waiting for thy sin.
Nay—alas! thou guilty creature;
Hast thou then forgot?
Jesus waited long to know thee,
Now he knows thee not."
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
(5) The epistle to the Church in Sardis: the decaying Church on the brink of ruin.
The sad spectacle is presented here of a Church dying out. To the angel it is said, "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead." This is the judgment of him who hath "the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." He holds the stars in his band, for safety in danger, for punishment in unfaithfulness. They cannot escape from him. The Lord of life is the Lord also of death and judgment. The watchword is significant of the slumbering, exposed state of the Church; it is the sharp word of the ever-wakeful Lord—Watch. "Be thou watchful, and stablish the things that remain, which are ready to die."
I. THIS CALL IS RENDERED NECESSARY BY THE CONDITION OF THE CHURCH.
1. The deceitful semblance of life though death lurks within. How strikingly opposed is the appearance to the reality! If all were not actually overcome by death—as the word "repent" would imply—yet were they on the brink of death; nay, death reigned. A remnant may remain, but of the body as a whole it must be said, "Thou art dead." Or, in more accurate language, spiritual death, which is as a sleep, has palsied the strength and virtue of the Church. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead."
2. The good that remains is on the verge of ruin. "The things that remain" were "ready to die." Sad, indeed, is the condition of any Church when its last remnant of good is tainted; when a deadly disease seizes upon the last living hope.
3. The imperfectness of all their works in the sight of God. Whatever may have been their appearance to the eye of man, "before God," every work is judged to be unfulfilled, imperfect, incomplete. The strength of the life, the vital force, is abating; all the activities of life, therefore, are faulty. As is the life, so is the work of life.
II. THE CALL IS RENDERED NECESSARY BY THE CRITICAL CONDITION TO WHICH THE CHURCH IS REDUCED.
III. BY THE THREAT OF SPEEDY JUDGMENT IF THE SIGNS OF REPENTANCE ARE NOT FORTHCOMING. "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee."
IV. THE CALL IS FURTHER URGED BY THE GRACIOUS PROMISE TO THE FEW REMAINING FAITHFUL ONES.
V. AND IT IS RENDERED THE MORE IMPRESSIVE BY THE WORDS WHICH POEM THE BACKGROUND OF HOPE TO EVERY ONE THAT OVERCOMETH. These include:
2. Perpetuity of blessed life.
3. Honourable recognition: "before my Father and before his angels."—R.G.
(6) The epistle to the Church in Philadelphia: he Church in her fidelity rewarded.
The "holy" and "true" One—the Holy One who is Truth, who has supreme power, opening and shutting at his will, and whose work none can withstand, he speaks his word of commendation and blessing and promise to his steadfast Church. The symbolical word is fidelity. The reward comprises—
I. THE LORD'S DISTINCT RECOGNITION OF THE CHURCH'S FIDELITY. "I know thy works." To fight in view of the sovereign, and of the observing nation—a stimulus to bravery, patience, and endurance. The eye of the multitude the stimulus to many great and worthy enterprises. But the watchful eye of the Lord—"he that is holy, he that is true"—is the true encouragement and sustaining stimulus to the suffering and toilsome Church in all ages. This recognition descends to the details and particulars of service.
1. "Thou hast a little power." A true estimate of the Church's ability.
2. Faithfulness to the truth. Thou "didst keep my word."
3. Steadfastness in the hour of trial. Thou "didst not deny my Name." The reward further comprises—
II. THE OPENING OF ENLARGED SPHERES OF USEFULNESS. "I have set before thee an open door." Useful employment in the Lord's service is the highest honour. The token of approbation of past service found in the call to greater works.
III. THE SUBJUGATION OF THE ENEMIES OF THE CHURCH. "I will make them to come and worship at thy feet." The true reward to the Church is not found in her elevation, but in the conversion of the enemies of the truth.
IV. THE TESTIMONY BEFORE THE ENEMIES OF THE DIVINE LOVE FOR THE CHURCH. Weary may be the days of the Church's endurance, but all will be forgotten in the Lord's gracious recognition "in the last day," when he shall "confess" them before his Father and before the holy angels—confess them as his; own and acknowledge them.
V. DEFENCE IN THE HOUR OF SPECIAL TRIAL. They who according to their strength serve the Lord will, in the hour of their weakness, find him to be their strong Rock of defence. "I also will keep thee from the hour of trial."
VI. BEYOND LIES THE EVER-ABIDING FULNESS OF BLESSING TO HIM WHO IN FAITHFULNESS CONQUERS. Here specified.
1. The permanent abode in the eternal temple of the Lord—the everlasting fellowships of heaven.
2. Recognition as the Lord's; his Name written upon him. This distinction the highest.
3. Special personal recognition as holding the closest relation to the Redeemer. "Mine own new Name."—R.G.
(7) The Epistle to the Church in Laodicea.
The "Amen, the faithful and true Witness," speaks to the untrue and unfaithful Church, whose outward appearance contrasts so with her internal state. Deceptive pretentiousness receives its rebuke. The lukewarm—neither hot and fervent in devotion nor lowlily acknowledging itself to be cold; neither fervid in holy affection nor consciously lacking holy fervour and confessing it—lacking the true warm fervour of love, and either not knowing the lack, or, knowing it, yet acknowledging it not, but pretending to have it,-this deceitful state receives the severest rebuke from the Lord, the ever" true" One, who despises all untruth and all deceptiveness.
I. THE CHURCH'S STATE DESCRIBED. "Thou sayest, I am rich;… thou knowest not thou art poor and blind and naked, thou miserable one."
1. Actually spiritually poor; beggared.
3. Presumptuous self-deception.
II. THE LORD'S COUNSEL TO HIS DECEIVED CHURCH.
1. Seek ye the true riches; buy of me gold; buy without money and without price the true spiritual things.
2. Buy of me "white garments "—the true spiritual virtues; the things thou lackest. Thy debased and faulty form, thy shame, is uncovered. Only of me canst thou buy the robes of righteousness.
3. Buy also "eyesalve," the true spiritual illumination, "that thou mayest see"—the Holy Spirit, Teacher, Illuminator, Light, who is eyes to the blind, life to the dead.
III. THE APPENDED THREAT, WITH ITS EXHORTATION AND GRACIOUS ENTREATY.
1. The Lord's threatenings are gracious promises in disguise. "I reprove and chasten as many as I love." The Lord's love lingers long after human goodness has waned. The blind, the naked, the poor, the miserable, are still loved, and therefore reproved by word of mouth and by judgment and chastening correction and discipline.
2. Because I love, because I reprove, therefore "repent"—acknowledge, deplore, depart from thy sins. "Be zealous;" seek to rekindle the dying fire of holy love.
3. The Lord's entreaty thrown into a pictorial representation of
(1) patient, long-suffering love: "I stand at the door;
(2) of repeated appeal: "and knock;"
(3) of ready response to the first yieldings of the hearkening and opening heart: "If any man," etc.;
(4) even happy and unbroken fellowship is promised: "I will come in and sup," etc.
IV. The whole is supplemented by A FINAL ENCOURAGING PROMISE. "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with me in my throne." So the Lord who condescendingly sits at the board of the house, the door of which is opened to him, calls the humble dweller therein to sit with him in high glory on his throne. Happy they who, having ears, hear; and who hearing, obey.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The words of Christ to the congregation at Sardis.
"Sardis," says Dr. Eadie, "was a city of ancient Lydia. Its modern name is Sert Kalesi, and it lies about thirty miles south-cast of Thyatira, and two miles south of the river Hermus.
It is, however, but a miserable village, inhabited chiefly by shepherds, though it is one of the stopping places of the Persian caravans. The original city was plundered by Cyrus, and afterwards desolated by an earthquake, the ruins of it being still visible little distance to the south of the present town. Nothing is now to be seen but a few mud huts, inhabited by ignorant, stupid, filthy Turks, and the only men who bear the Christian name are at work all day in their mill. Everything seems as if God had cursed the place, and left it to the dominion of Satan." A modern traveller says, "I sat beneath the sky of Asia to gaze upon the ruins of Sardis from the banks of the golden-sanded Pactolus. Beside me were the cliffs of that Acropolis which centuries before the hardy Median scaled while leading on the conquering Persians whose tents had covered the very spot on which I was reclining. Before me were the vestiges of what had been the palace of the gorgeous Croesus; within its walls were once congregated the wisest of mankind, Thales, Cleotolus, and Solon. Far in the distance were the gigantic tumuli of the Lydian monarch, and around them spread those very plains once trodden by the countless hosts of Xerxes when hurrying on to find a sepulchre at Marathon. But all had passed away! There before me were the fanes of a dead religion, and the tombs of forgotten monarchs, and the palm tree that waved in the banquet halls of kings." Who founded the Christian community at Sardis, or the exact period when the gospel was first preached there, are questions that have not been, and perhaps cannot be, settled. The address of Christ to this community, as recorded in these verses, forcibly calls our attention to the consideration of three things—the general character of the many; the exceptional character of the few; and the absolute Judge of all. Notice—
I. THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF THE MANY. They were in a very lamentable condition.
1. They had a reputation for being what they were not. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and [thou] art dead." It was bad enough for them to be "dead," that is, all but destitute of that supreme sympathy with spiritual goodness which is the essence of moral life. It was worse still for them to have the reputation of life, and for them to believe in that reputation. The sight of death is bad enough, but death garbed and decorated with the semblances of life makes it more ghastly to behold. How this community obtained this name for living, this high reputation in the neighbourhood, does not appear, albeit it is not difficult to guess. Perhaps it made loud professions, appeared very zealous and active, and paraded its affected virtues. Then, as now, perhaps, men were taken by their contemporaries to be rather what they appeared than what they were. In these days, and in our England, there are Churches that have the reputation of wonderful usefulness. All their doings, their prayers, their sprinklings and dippings, their pulpit deliverances and their psalmodies, their architectural expansions and numerical additions, are emblazoned in the so-called "Christian" journals, so that they have a great name to live, whereas spiritually they may be all but dead. Reputation is one thing, character is another. Everywhere in a corrupt world like this the basest characters have the brightest reputation, and the reverse. The barren fig tree was covered with luxuriant leafage. "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead."
2. They were in a state of spiritual consumption. "That are ready to die." It would seem that, whilst they were not all spiritually dead, there was a spiritual consumption amongst some. "Things ready to die." What things are these? The greatest things in the universe, eternal principles of virtue and truth. What things are comparable to these? To them literatures, markets, governments, are puerilities. There is a spiritual consumption, and the symptoms are manifest. Weakness, morbid appetites, false views of life, etc.
3. They were in a state requiring prompt and urgent attention. "Be ]-thou] watchful, and strengthen [stablish] the things which remain, that are [which were] ready to die." What is to be done?
(1) They were to be vigilant. "Watchful," wakeful, to shake off slothfulness, open their eyes to eternal realities, fan the dying sparks into a flame.
(2) They were to be curative. "Strengthen the things which remain." How strengthen? Appropriate the true remedial element, fruit from the tree of life; use wholesome food, the "sincere milk of the Word;" take proper exercise—inaction leads to disease; "exercise thyself unto godliness;" inbreathe the pure atmosphere of holiness.
(3) They were to be recollective. "Remember therefore how thou hast received." Call up all the good of the past.
(4) They were to be repentant. "Hold fast, and repent." They were to renounce all that was pernicious to spiritual health, and pursue a right course. "Hold fast." Grasp with all the tenacity of their being the good that comes up to memory, as the drowning man lays hold of the rope thrown out on the surging waves.
4. They were in a state of alarming danger. "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." Such words as these Christ uttered while a tenant of this earth (Matthew 24:32). Retribution generally moves stealthily as a thief. "The feet of the gods are shod with wool," says the old Greek proverb.
II. THE EXCEPTIONAL CHARACTER OF THE FEW. "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled [did not defile] their garments." "These few names," says Dr. Tait," are here to the credit and honour of the Church, the few 'things' in connection with the Church in Pergamos were against it and to its condemnation. He who was the angel of the Church does not. seem to have known the few names, just as the prophet did not know the seven thousand in Israel who had not bowed their knees to Baal" Here, then, is goodness amidst social depravity. Three remarks are suggested.
1. That true goodness can exist under external circumstances the most corrupt. Sardis was one of the most dissolute cities of ancient times, but here were Christians. Man is not the creature of circumstances.
2. That true goodness, wherever it exists, engages the specific attention of Christ. Christ noticed the goodness in Sardis; and why?
(1) Because it is the highest manifestation of God upon earth.
(2) Because it is the result of his mediatorial mission.
(3) Because on it depends the progress of humanity.
3. That true goodness will ultimately be distinguished by a glorious reward. The words, "walk with me," etc., imply three ideas.
III. THE ABSOLUTE JUDGE OF ALL. Who is the absolute Judge both of the many and the few? He is thus described: "These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." The absolute Judge of character is here presented in three connections.
1. In connection with the highest influence. "He that hath the seven Spirits of God." Elsewhere we read, "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him" (John 3:34). The Divine Spirit is everywhere. The amount of its possession by any moral being is conditioned by that being's receptive capacity. No man ever appeared on earth who had the receptive capacity in such measure as Christ had it. He was filled with it. He opened his ministry by saying, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me," etc. The more a man has of this Spirit, the more he can communicate of life and power and blessedness.
2. In connection with the highest ministry. "The seven stars." These were, as we have seen, the angels of the seven Churches. What is the highest human ministry? The ministry of the gospel. Those engaged in this work are here called "stars," and these stars are in the hands of Christ. He moulds them with his influence, he burnishes them with his holiness, he fixes them in their orbits, he guides and sustains them in their spheres. He is, in truth, their Centre and Sun. From him they derive their order, their vitality, and their power.
3. In connection with the highest Being. "I will confess his name before my Father." The Father is the greatest Being in the universe. The relationship of Son implies:
(2) Reciprocal love.
The Son identifies himself with all his true disciples. "I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."—D.T.
The words of Christ to the Church at Philadelphia.
"And to the angel of the Church in Philadelphia," etc. On a slope of Mount Tmolus stood Philadelphia, a city of Lydia, lying between Sardis and Laodicea. Attalus Philadelphus, after whose name it was called Philadelphia, founded it B.C. 140. It was a commercial city of commanding position and considerable importance, and well fortified withal. Through its adjoining valley the celebrated Xerxes led his forces on his way to Greece. On account of the volcanic nature of its soil it became celebrated for the cultivation and the excellence of its vines. It had been visited by numerous earthquakes, and in the reign of Tiberius most of its population forsook it and fled to the fields, apprehending destruction. It survives to the present day, and is called by the Turks, Allah Shehr, "the city of God." The ruins of a church wall are still visible, and about five thousand members of the Greek Church, with a bishop and about fifteen clergymen, reside in its midst. Nowhere else is it mentioned in sacred Scripture. This wonderful letter brings under our notice a character to be adored, an energy to be coveted, and a destiny to be sought.
I. A CHARACTER TO BE ADORED. This character is here exhibited as:
1. Holy. "He that is holy." No man ever appeared on this earth so entirely and unquestionably pure as Christ was. He was "separate from sinners." None of his most malignant contemporaries could convince him of sin. Judas, after the betrayal, cried our, "I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood." He was, indeed, "the holy, the harmless, the undefiled" Son of God. His spotless and undoubted holiness is a most incontrovertible argument for the Divinity of his gospel.
2. True. "He that is true." He is true in the highest sense.
(1) True in sentiment. All his sympathies were in accord with eternal reality.
(2) True in speech. All his language was in exact agreement with his sentiments.
(3) True in character. No shifting from eternal right. "To this end was I born, to this end came I into the world, to bear witness to the truth." He stands in the world's history, amidst the world's shams, like the sun amidst.the ever-shifting clouds.
3. Supreme. "He that hath the key of David." What this means I know not. It cannot mean, however, that Christ in any moral sense resembled the moral character of David. One thing, however, is clear, that David obtained terrible authority over all the resources of Israel. He had a "key" to the resources of the kingdom, and Christ has a key to the moral empire of heaven. He has supremacy of the highest kind. "He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth." "He dispenses and he withholds God's treasures; he gives or he denies this or that talent, this or that blessing. In a yet more solemn meaning of the words, it is his to admit into and his to exclude from the eternal kingdom of glory. In spiritual and eternal things, wherever there is a door, Christ has the key of it" (Dr. Vaughan). All the doors to human usefulness, dignity, and happiness are at his disposal.
II. AN ENERGY TO BE COVETED. "Thou hast a little strength [power]." This Church had a little power. What was it? Not physical force, not intellectual capacity, not regal rule, but moral. Force to resist the wrong and pursue the right, force to serve the Almighty and to bless mankind. In relation to this moral strength notice:
1. It is the energy of true usefulness. "Behold, I have set before thee an open door [a door opened], and no man can [which none can] shut it: for thou hast a little strength." It is implied that a little moral strength fits a man for usefulness to some extent. Hence the door of opportunity is thrown open to him. Every man has a mission in life, but he only is qualified to enter on it who has moral strength. Alas! the millions are morally impotent, and they live and die without entering on the prosecution of their great duty in life.
2. It is the energy of loyal obedience. "And hast kept [didst keep] my word." This moral strength enables a man to hold on to duty, to hold on to the right with all the tenacity of life, to feel with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him;" like Paul to say, "I count not my life dear unto me," etc.
3. It is the energy of true courage. "And hast not denied [didst not deny] my Name." "The tenses used," says Bishop Carpenter," point back to some epoch in the history of this Church when some heavy trial or persecution arose which tested the sincerity, fidelity, or Christian love of the faithful." Who can estimate the temptation which every good man has in a world of infidels, often malignant, to deny his Lord and Master? Peter yielded to it. What invincible courage is required! Courage like that which Paul had when he said, "God forbid that I should glory," etc.; and again, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation?" etc.
4. It is the energy of moral sovereignty. "Behold, I will make them of [I give of] the synagogue of Satan, [of them] 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." Who are those spoken of as "of the synagogue of Satan"? Were they the Judaizing Christians, or persecuting Jews? Why spend time with Trench, or other critics, to start such an inquiry? No one can determine, nor does it matter; they were moral antagonists to the congregation at Philadelphia. Concerning them we are here told that the men of moral strength will bring them to their feet; they will not only subdue them, but inspire them with love. High moral power is the highest sovereignty that one man can wield over another; it subdues the heart, Political rule is but a mere worthless shadow and pretence compared with moral.
5. It is the energy of Divine approval and protection. "Because thou hast kept [didst keep] the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation."
III. A DESTINY TO BE SOUGHT. What a distinction awaits those who possess and rightly employ this true moral strength!
1. A crown lies within their reach. "Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man [one] take thy crown." Christ is coming to every man, and coming with speed, coming in the events of man's history and in his exit by death. When he comes there is a "crown" for him, if he holds faithfully on to the true and the right. The allusion here is to the public games of Greece, in which the winner obtained a garland of laurels. But what is that garland to the crown here referred to? The eternal weight of glory, a "crown" which shall outshine yon permanent sun. "Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."
2. Divine security is assured. "Him [he] that overcometh will I make [I will make him] a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go [out thence] no more out." "The promise," says an eminent critic, "is that of a secure and permanent position in God's heavenly temple. Philadelphia is said to have been singularly liable to earthquakes; not a building, common or sacred, but it might suddenly fall in ruins. The promise here made is that no such risks shall await the heavenly temple or those who have been built into it."
3. Sublime distinction is promised. "I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my [mine own] new name." "On the sides of the four marble pillars which survive as ruins of Philadelphia, inscriptions are to be found. The writing would be the name of God, the name of the heavenly Jerusalem, the new, unknown name of Christ himself. The allusion is to the golden frontlet inscribed with the name of Jehovah. He will reflect the likeness of God; and not only so, he will bear the tokens—now seen in all clearness—of his heavenly citizenship. And a further promise implies that in the day of the last triumph, as there will be new revealings of Christ's power, there will be unfolded to the faithful and victorious new and higher possibilities of purity. Thus does Scripture refuse to recognize any finality which is not a beginning as well as an end—a landing stage in the great law of continuity."
CONCLUSION. "I cannot," says Trench, "leave this epistle, so full of precious promises to a Church which, having little strength, had yet held fast the word of Christ's patience, without citing a remarkable passage about it from Gibbon, in which he writes like one who almost believed that the threatening promises of God did fulfil themselves in history. ' In the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick, of the Revelation; the desolation is complete; and the Temple of Diana or the Church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Mahomet, without a rival or a Son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamos; and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turk, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom above four score years, and at length capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies and Churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect—a column in a scene of ruins—a pleasing example that the paths of honour and safety may sometimes be the same.'"—D.T.
The words of Christ to the Church at Laodicea.
"And unto the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans," etc. "Laodicea is in the south-west of Phrygia, on the river Lycus, not far from Colossae, lying between it and Philadelphia, destroyed by an earthquake A.D. 62, rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state. This wealth (arising from the excellence of its wools) led to a self-satisfied, lukewarm state in spiritual things. In Colossians 4:16 it is mentioned. The Church in later times was flourishing, for one of the councils at which the canon of Scripture was determined was held in Laodicea in A.D. 361. Hardly a Christian is now to be found near its site" (Fausset). We have here certain solemn and significant facts concerning a corrupt Church, such a Church as that which was existing at this time in Laodicea.
I. ITS REAL CHARACTER WAS THOROUGHLY KNOWN. There was an eye that peered into its deepest depths, knew well its moral elements and temperature. He who thus looked into and through it is thus described.
1. He is "the Amen." This is the Hebrew word for "verily," or "truly "—a word of energetic assertion and familiar use. In Christ, we are told, "is Yea and Amen." He is positive and declarative Truth. What he predicates is true to reality; what he predicts will be realized, whether lamentable or otherwise.
2. He is "the faithful and true Witness." What is a true witness?
(1) One who has an absolute knowledge of the subject of which he affirms. And
(2) one who is absolutely above all temptation to misrepresent. Christ has no motive to deceive, no evil to dread, no good to gain.
3. He is "the Beginning of the creation of God." He seems not only to have been the First of the creation, but in some sense the Originator. He is the Beginning, the Continuance, and Purpose of all. This is a mystery unfathomed, perhaps fathomless. This is the transcendent Being who knew thoroughly this Laodicean Church, and who knows all Churches. "I know thy works"—know them in their hidden germs and ever-multiplying branches.
"Oh may these thoughts possess my breast,
Where'er I roam, where'er I rest;
Nor let my weaker passions dare
Consent to sin, for God is near."
II. ITS SPIRITUAL INDIFFERENTISM IS DIVINELY ABHORRENT. "I would thou wert cold or hot." Cold water is refreshing, hot water is sometimes pleasant, the tepid is always more or less sickening. Well does an old writer say, "Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth anything, it is worth everything; an indifference here is inexcusable."
1. Spiritual indifferentism is a most incongruous condition. All nature seems in earnest: seas and stars are on the gallop; plants and animals rush onward on the lines of decay or growth; the minds of all moral beings are flowing with more or less speed in one direction or another.
2. Spiritual indifferentism is a most incorrigible condition. Theoretical infidelity we may break down by argument, but moral indifferentism cannot be touched by logic. The spiritually indifferent man shouts out his Creed every Sunday, damns the atheist, and yet himself is "without God in the world." Truly such a state of mind must be abhorrent to him who demands that all should love him with their whole heart, soul, and strength. What an awful supposition that man can sicken and disgust the Infinite! "I will spue thee out of my mouth." Moral depravity nauseates the holy universe.
III. ITS SELF-DECEPTION IS TERRIBLY ALARMING. "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods [have gotten riches], and have need of nothing; and knowest not, that thou art wretched [the wretched one], and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
1. Look at the condition in which they fancied themselves. "I am rich, and increased with goods." They fancied themselves rich and independent. "Have need of nothing." They wished to be all this, and the wish is evermore the father to the thought. Ah me! it is by no means uncommon for men to fancy themselves to be what they are not. If you go into lunatic spheres there you may see dwarfs fancying themselves giants and illustrious heroes, paupers thinking they are millionaires, and poor beggars kings of the first order. But elsewhere I find in all the departments of human life that are considered to be sane, scenes scarcely less absurd.
2. Look at the condition in which they really are. "And knowest not that thou art wretched [the wretched one], and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." "Wretched," though they may dance and sing; pitiable, though lauded by princes, premiers, and peers; "blind," though the physical optics are sound; and "naked," though robed in splendour. Wretched, pitiable, blind, naked in soul: what a condition is this! what terrible self-deception! "The first and worst of all frauds," says Festus, "is to cheat one's sell All sin is easy after that."
IV. ITS MISERABLE CONDITION NEED NOT BE HOPELESS.
1. Recovery is freely offered. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried [refined] in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment [garments]," etc. Is there irony here? How can the poor buy gold, become rich, procure white garments, and salve for the diseased eyes? No; there is no irony here. The blessings here offered require no outlay of material wealth. All is to be won by true faith, and all can believe. "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come," etc.
2. Recovery is divinely urged. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Here observe:
(1) Christ's attitude towards the soul. He does not come occasionally and depart. He "stands," implying his deep concern, his infinite condescension, and his wonderful patience. He waits to be gracious.
(2) Christ's action upon the soul. He stands not as a statue, but knocks—knocks at the door of intellect with truths, at the door of conscience with principles, at the door of love with transcendent charms.
(3) Christ's purpose with the soul. His mission is not to destroy, but to save it. "I will come in to him." The language implies:
(a) Inhabitation. "I will come in to him."
(b) Identification. "Sup with him, and he with me." Thus sinners are urged to deliver themselves from their miserable condition.
3. Recovery is divinely rewarded. "To him [he] that overcometh will I grant [I will give to him] to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set [sat] down with my Father in his throne." What are the thrones here? Are they some material seats in some radiant and remote part of the universe—the one provided for the Father and the other for the Son? The question is childish, sensuous, and unspiritual. What is the true throne of a human soul?
(1) It is the throne of an approving conscience. That mind alone can rest whose conscience applauds him, and that soul alone can feel exalted and dignified whose conscience chimes to him, "Well done."
(2) It is the throne of moral rule. He who subordinates the material to the spiritual, the animal to the intellectual, the intellectual to the moral, and the moral to God, occupies the true throne. He is king, and none other.—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Revelation 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28