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Revelation 3

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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The Message to EphesusThe Loveless ChurchThe First LetterThe Message to EphesusEphesus
Revelation 2:1aRevelation 2:1-7Revelation 2:1Revelation 2:1aRevelation 2:1-7
Revelation 2:1-7 Revelation 2:2-7Revelation 2:1-7a
Revelation 2:7b
The Message to SmyrnaThe Persecuted ChurchThe Second LetterThe Message to SmyrnaSmyrna
Revelation 2:8aRevelation 2:8-11Revelation 2:8Revelation 2:8aRevelation 2:8-11
28b-11 Revelation 2:9-11Revelation 2:8-10
Revelation 2:11a
Revelation 2:11b
The Message to PergamumThe Compromising ChurchThe Third LetterThe Message to PergamumPergamum
Revelation 2:12aRevelation 2:12-17Revelation 2:12Revelation 2:12aRevelation 2:12-13
Revelation 2:12-17 Revelation 2:13-17Revelation 2:12-16Revelation 2:14-17
Revelation 2:17a
Revelation 2:17b
The Message to ThyatiraThe Corrupt ChurchThe Fourth LetterThe Message to ThyatiraThyatira
Revelation 2:18aRevelation 2:18-29Revelation 2:18Revelation 2:18aRevelation 2:18-29
Revelation 2:18-29 Revelation 2:19-29Revelation 2:18-23
Revelation 2:24-28
Revelation 2:29
The Message to SardisThe Dead ChurchThe Fifth LetterThe Message to SardisSardis
Revelation 3:1aRevelation 3:1-6Revelation 3:1aRevelation 3:1aRevelation 3:1-6
Revelation 3:1-6 Revelation 3:1-6Revelation 3:1-5
Revelation 3:6
The Message to PhiladelphiaThe Faithful ChurchThe Sixth LetterThe Message to PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia
Revelation 3:7aRevelation 3:7-13Revelation 3:7Revelation 3:7aRevelation 3:7-13
Revelation 3:7-13 Revelation 3:8-13Revelation 3:7-12
Revelation 3:13
The Message to LaodiceaThe Lukewarm ChurchThe Seventh LetterThe Message to LaodiceaLaodicea
Revelation 3:14Revelation 3:14-22Revelation 3:14Revelation 3:14aRevelation 3:14-22
Revelation 3:14-22 Revelation 3:15-22Revelation 3:14-21
Revelation 3:22

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. This literary unit (chapters 2-3) is connected to the OT titles for YHWH used of the Messiah (cf. Revelation 1:12-20). This is one way the NT author affirmed Jesus' Deity. John's revelation transfers Old Testament titles and actions of YHWH to Jesus, the ascended, glorified Messiah.

B. Its purpose is to show the spiritual needs of these first century churches, and by analogy, all churches (i.e., the number seven). John's ministry in his old age was in Asia Minor, especially in Ephesus. John is obviously well acquainted with these churches and cities. These letters show the ethical aspect of Christianity. They are a call to faithfulness and godliness. The church will also be judged (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10).

C. There were many churches in the Roman province of Asia Minor in John's day. Why did the author only write to seven of them?

1. It is the biblical number to denote perfection (cf. Genesis 1:0). There are numerous literary structures of sevens in John's prophecy.

2. These churches formed a travel route, starting at Ephesus and ending at Laodicea. It was possibly the Imperial postage route.

3. They are to some extent representative of the types of churches found in every age and culture.

D. What is the significance of this literary unit to us today?

1. Some interpret these churches as prophetic descriptions of Western history from Pentecost to the Second Coming

a. Ephesus = the Apostolic Period, A.D. 33-100 (Pentecost to John)

b. Smyrna = the Period of Persecution, A.D. 100-313 (John to Constantine)

c. Pergamum = the Period of Constantine, A.D. 313-590 (Constantine to Gregory)

d. Thyatira = Papal Rome, A.D. 590-1517 (Gregory to Luther)

e. Sardis = Reformation, A.D. 1517-1792 (Luther - Carey)

f. Philadelphia = Modern Missionary Movement, A.D. 1792-1914 (Carey to rapture)

g. Laodicea = Period of Apostasy, A.D. 1914 - Parousia (WWI - Parousia)

This is a relatively recent interpretative grid which has come to characterize "Dispensational Premillennialism" (which usually sees Matthew 13:0 as a parallel to the 7 churches). However, there is nothing in the text itself to commend this view. Although some aspects of western history fit this scheme, others do not. It is arrogant to assert that the Bible was written exclusively to address only western culture. Such a scheme would have been meaningless to a first century audience.

2. Some interpret these churches as a representative sample of the types of churches which are found in all ages and cultures.

E. One of the books that has helped me interpret prophecy/apocalyptic is D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic. He makes an interesting theological point about all the promises made to faithful believers in chapters 2-3 (pp. 28-32). He lists the promises as

1. the tree of life

2. the crown of life

3. the white stone

4. authority over the nations

5. the Morning Star

6. dressed in white

7. a pillar in God's temple

8. the name of God

9. the name of Jerusalem

10. sit on God's throne

He says these are not meant to be interpreted literally or individually, but as a corporate fulfillment, as is seen in Revelation 21:3. I think this is a proper hermeneutical approach to this genre.


A. Many commentators see a seven element structure present in most letters, although not all seven are present in every church.

1. Jesus' common address "to the angel of the church of write . . ." (cf. Revelation 2:1, Revelation 2:8, Revelation 2:12, Revelation 2:18; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:7, Revelation 3:14).

2. Description of Jesus taken from Revelation 1:12-20, which are Old Testament titles and actions of YHWH, introduce each message.

3. Jesus' knowledge of the churches, both positive and negative, "I know . . ." (cf. Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:15).

4. Jesus addresses the individual churches and their cultural, geographical and spiritual opportunities.

5. Jesus speaks of His sudden, soon coming, either in temporal judgment or the Second Coming, (cf. Revelation 1:1, Revelation 1:3; Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16, Revelation 2:25; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:11).

6. Jesus admonishes spiritual hearing and understanding, (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6, Revelation 3:13, Revelation 3:22). Jesus used "He who has an ear, let him hear" in the Gospels (cf. Matthew 11:15, Matthew 11:13:9, 43; Mark 4:24.)

7. Jesus promises a reward for faithful followers, (cf. Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:25-26; Revelation 3:4-5, Revelation 3:11-12, Revelation 3:21).

These seven steps are not consistent in each letter. The order changes and some elements are left out in certain churches, but overall this structure shows one of several of John's seven-fold literary structures.


A. Ephesus

1. It was the largest city of the Roman province of Asia Minor. It was not the capital, though the Roman governor lived there. It was a commercial center because of its excellent natural harbor.

2. It was a free city, which allowed it to have local government and much freedom, including no garrison of Roman soldiers.

3. It was the only city which was allowed to hold the biannual Asian games.

4. It was the site of the Temple to Artemis (Diana in Latin), which was one of the seven wonders of the world of its day. It was 425' x 220' with 127 columns which were 60' tall; 86 of them were overlaid with gold (see Pliny's Hist. Nat. 36:95 ff). The image of Artemis was thought to have been a meteor which resembled a many breasted female figure. This meant that there were many cultic prostitutes present in the city (cf. Acts 19:0). It was a very immoral, multicultural city.

5. Paul stayed in this city more than three years (cf. Acts 18:18 ff; Acts 20:13).

6. Tradition asserts that it became John's home after Mary's death in Palestine.

B. Smyrna

1. It was supposedly founded by an Amazon (strong woman leader) named Smyrna. In John's day it was a city of about 200,000.

2. It was located on the Aegean Sea. It had an ideal natural harbor and was, therefore, a commercial center surpassed only by Ephesus in Asia Minor. It was a very wealthy city.

3. It was destroyed by the Lydians about 600 B.C., but was rebuilt by Lysimicus following Alexander the Great's plans whereby the sea breeze blew down every street.

4. It was also a free city because it had helped the retreating Roman soldiers after their defeat by Mithradates.

5. It was a center of worship of the goddess Roma (195 B.C.) and Emperor worship. It had the first temple to Emperor Tiberius (A.D. 26).

6. It was a religious center with the worship of Cybele and the pantheon of Homer. There was even a tradition that Homer was born here. Its many temples were located on the Acropolis called Pagos with a golden road between the Temple of Zeus and Cybele.

7. It had a large active anti-Christian Jewish population.

8. It was the city in which Polycarp (John the Apostle's disciple) was martyred in A.D. 155.

C. Pergamum

1. It was a large wealthy city and the capital of Asia Minor (since 282 B.C.), although not located on a major trade road.

2. It boasted of the largest library in the Roman world outside of Alexandria, Egypt. It had over 200,000 parchment scrolls!

3. Vellum was invented here. It was processed animal skins which were used for writing. This writing medium was developed because Alexandria, Egypt, refused to sell them papyrus reeds. This was because their king, Eumenes II (197-159 B.C.) tried to hire Alexandria's librarian, Aristophanes. When the Ptolemian king, Epiphanes (205-182 B.C.) of Alexandria found out, he arrested the librarian and embargoed papyri from Pergamum. There was a real rivalry between these two learning centers. Anthony later sent Pergamum's library to Alexandria as a present to Cleopatra.

4. It was the home of Galen the physician and the center of the healing arts of Asclepios. It is even said that Asclepios was "a Pergamum god." The symbol for this god was the snake.

5. It also had a temple to Roma and the Emperor Augustus (A.D. 29) and was the administrative center (neokopros) of the Emperor's cult. Its loyalty to Rome was well known.

6. It was known for its worship and defense of the Greek pantheon. There was a huge Temple to Zeus on the acropolis that overlooked the whole city. It was shaped like a throne (i.e.,Satan's throne).

D. Thyatira

1. It was a smaller trade-oriented city. There are many records of its numerous and flourishing trade guilds, each with its own patron deity. It was located on a major road between Pergamum and Sardis which continued on to Philadelphia and Laodicea. It was famous for its woolen products. Lydia (cf. Acts 16:14), a seller of purple cloth, was from this city.

2. It was enlarged by Seleucus Nicateo, who settled his Macedonian soldiers here.

3. It had several temples to local deities

a. Tyrimnos (Apollo) the sun god

b. Artemis (Diana) the love goddess

c. Sibyl Sambathe a local female fortune teller

E. Sardis

1. It was a large, wealthy ancient city. For years it was the opulent capital of the Lydian Empire because of its superb military position, 1500' up on a mountain spur. It is mentioned in Persian records because Cyrus the Great captured the city. It is also mentioned in Obadiah 1:20. It had greatly declined by John's day.

2. It was noted for its dyed wool products. The process was invented there, so they claimed.

3. It was the center of the worship of Cybele, the mother goddess. The ruins of the temple are still visible on the acropolis. The excesses of this worship were known and deplored throughout the Roman Empire.

F. Philadelphia

1. It was located on a plateau and was protected by water. This made it a highly desirable military position. It was the newest of the seven cities. It was founded by Attalus II (159 - 138 B.C.).

2. It was located on a major trade route to Sardis and it had flourished.

3. It was located in a fine agriculture area, especially for grapes. The god Bacchus, or Dionysus, was one of its chief deities. It was also an active earthquake area and was destroyed in the huge quake of A.D. 17, which also destroyed ten other major cities of the area. However, the after-shocks continued in this area and the population moved to the surrounding countryside.

4. It was also a center for the Emperor's cult (as were Smyrna and Pergamum) which was possibly the source of much of the Churches' persecution in the provinces.

5. It was a major center of Hellenistic culture and aggressively exported its influence. It seems to have been founded for this very purpose on the border of Mysia, Lydia and Phrygia.

G. Laodicea on the Lychus River

1. It was one of three cities in the Lychus River valley (the other cities were Colossae and Hierapolis). Churches were founded in each of these three cities, probably by Paul's convert, Epaphras (cf. Colossians 1:17; Colossians 4:12-13).

2. It was founded by the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II, who named it after his wife, Laodice, in 250 B.C. It was located on a militarily defensible site like Philadelphia.

3. It was located on a major east/west trade route. It was noted as a banking center.

4. It was located in a fertile agricultural and pastoral region, especially suited for raising a special black sheep for which it became famous worldwide. It mass-produced a black outer garment called a "trimeta."

5. It had a very large Jewish population.

6. It, like Pergamum, was a center for the worship of the healing god Asclepios. The city was the site of a medical school which was noted for its ear and eye salve.


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does John's prophecy of the end-times begin with a letter to seven (and only seven) churches in Asia Minor?

2. Why does each letter begin with a description of Christ from chapter 1?

3. How do these letters relate to the Church today?

4. How do you interpret these strong warnings addressed to these churches?

5. How does the doctrine of "once saved, always saved" relate to the warnings and call to perseverance in these letters?

6. Why is Revelation 3:20 not a salvation promise?

7. How is the next literary unit related to the letters to the seven churches? Will God spare the end-time believers from persecution, but not the believers of the first century?

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 3:1-6 1To the angel of the church in Sardis write: "He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: 'I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. 4But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. 5He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My father and before his angels. 6He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.'"

Revelation 3:1 "church" See Special Topic at Revelation 1:4.

"He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars" This phrase is another allusion to the glorified Christ (cf. Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:16, Revelation 1:20). The seven stars refer to the churches and her leaders in Revelation 1:20; the seven spirits may be a related metaphor because in Revelation 4:5 they are related to the seven lampstands, which are also mentioned in Revelation 1:20 as referring to the churches. These seven spirits of God are also mentioned in Revelation 5:6 as part of the description of the lamb. See Special Topic: The Seven Spirits at Revelation 1:4.

"I know your deeds" Jesus was aware of the strengths and weaknesses of His churches (cf. Revelation 2:2, Revelation 2:19; Revelation 3:1, Revelation 3:8, Revelation 3:15).

NASB, NKJV"that you have a name that you are alive" NRSV"that you have a name of being alive" TEV"that you have a reputation of being alive" NJB"how you are reputed to be alive"

This was a devastating revelation. They thought they were right with God, spiritually pleasing to Him (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Romans 2:19-20; Colossians 2:16-23; 2 Timothy 3:5), but they were not!

Revelation 3:2

NASB, NRSV, TEV, NJB"Wake up" NKJV"Be watchful"

This is a present middle (deponent) imperative (with a present active participle), literally "be thou continually watching." It is the first of five present imperatives found in verses Revelation 3:2 and 3. Jesus commands His church to keep watching!

NASB, NKJV"strengthen the things that remain" NRSV"strengthen what remains" TEV"strengthen what you still have" NJB"put some resolve into what little vigor you have left"

This is an aorist active imperative. They were to act now and continue to act to preserve what remained of their dying faith.

"for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God" The first verb is a perfect active indicative. They may have looked spiritual (cf. Isaiah 29:13), but they were much like the religious people mentioned in Matthew 7:21-23 and Colossians 2:16-23.

The term "completed" is a perfect passive participle meaning "mature, perfect, equipped for the assigned task." They had not allowed God to complete what faith had started (cf. Philippians 1:6).

Revelation 3:3 "remember what you have received and heard" This is a present active imperative followed by a perfect active indicative and an aorist active indicative. This relates to the gospel which they heard and continued to receive. Christianity is not a decision only, but a lifestyle relationship. It involves believing a message and receiving a person. It results in a changed and changing life of repentance (aorist active imperative, Revelation 3:3b) and obedience (present active imperative, Revelation 3:3b).

"keep it" This is a present active imperative which is an ongoing command.

"repent" This is an aorist active imperative which implies a complete repentance. See note at Revelation 2:5.

"Therefore if you do not wake up" This is a third class conditional sentence like Revelation 2:22. The action is potential, contingent on their response to Jesus' commands, but not assured.

"I will come like a thief" This is often used of the Second Coming (cf. Matthew 24:43-44; Luke 12:39-40; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 16:15). However, in this context it seems to refer to a temporal judgment of this church.

Revelation 3:4 "a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments" The putting on and taking off of clothing was used as a metaphor of the Christian life (cf. Ephesians 4:22, Ephesians 4:24, Ephesians 4:25, Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8, Colossians 3:10, Colossians 3:12, Colossians 3:14; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:21; 1 Peter 2:1). Some believers had not compromised with pagan culture.

"they will walk with Me in white" White clothing is used as a symbol of purity or victory in Revelation 3:4, Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:18; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:13-14; Revelation 19:14. The term "walk" is often used as a metaphor of the Christian life (cf. Revelation 3:5; Revelation 21:24; 1 John 1:6, 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:6, 1 John 2:11; 3 John 1:3-4).

Revelation 3:5 "He who overcomes" Four things will be given to the one who overcomes.

1. they will walk with the Messiah, Revelation 3:4

2. they will be clothed in white

3. their names will never be blotted out of the book of life

4. the Messiah will acknowledge them as His own in the presence of the Father and His angels

See Special Topic on Perseverance at Revelation 2:2.

"I will not erase his name from the book of life" This is a strong Double negative. When citizens died, their names would be erased from the rolls of their city but God will never erase believers from His rolls.

This metaphorical phrase "the book of life" is also found in Revelation 20:12-15, where two books are mentioned:

1. the book of life which is made up of the names of God's people (cf. Exodus 32:32-33; Psalms 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27)

2. the book of deeds or remembrances which records the deeds of both the wicked and righteous (cf. Psalms 56:8, Psalms 139:16; Isaiah 65:6; Malachi 3:16)

For "book" see notes at Revelation 5:1.

"I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels" As believers confess Christ ("call on His name," cf. Romans 10:9-13), He also confesses them before the Father (cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8).

"Confess" is the Greek term exomulogeô. It was used in three senses:

1. to publically confess sins to God and others present (cf. Matthew 3:6; Mark 1:5; Acts 19:18; James 5:16)

2. to publically confess faith in Christ (cf. Philippians 2:1; and possibly Romans 14:11)

3. to publically praise God (cf. Matthew 11:25; Luke 10:21; Romans 14:11 Isaiah 45:23; 15:9 [Psalms 18:49])

The related Greek word homologeô was used in similar ways:

1. to acknowledge sin (cf. 1 John 1:9)

2. to acknowledge faith in Christ (cf. Matthew 10:32; Luke 10:32; John 9:22 [negatively, John 1:20; John 12:42])

3. to affirm a belief in something (cf. Acts 23:8; Acts 24:14; Hebrews 11:13)


Revelation 3:6 See note at Revelation 2:7.

Verses 7-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 3:7-13 7"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this: 8'I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lieI will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. 10Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. 13He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

Revelation 3:7 "He who is holy, who is true" Verse Revelation 3:7 is a series of four descriptive clauses describing Jesus with titles for YHWH. "Holy" was used 30 times in Isaiah to describe YHWH. John usually substituted the term "righteous" (cf. Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2). "True" was often used of YHWH (cf. Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 10:10; 1 John 5:20; Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2). The first two, "holy" and "true," are used again of God in Revelation 6:10. The term "true" in Greek meant "true as over against false," but in Hebrew it meant "faithful or trustworthy." Jesus is surely both (cf. Revelation 3:14; Revelation 19:11; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6).

"who has the key of David" This is an allusion to the royal Davidic Messiah of 2 Samuel 7:0, but particularly of Isaiah 22:22, from where this exact imagery is drawn.

"Who shuts and no one opens" This refers to the preaching of the gospel (see note at Revelation 3:8).


Revelation 3:8 "I have put before you an open door which no one can shut" This is a perfect active indicative and a Perfect passive participle. This refers to either

1. preaching opportunities (keys, cf. Matthew 16:19)

2. entrance into the Messianic banquet (clothed in white, cf. Revelation 3:4)

3. a divine opportunity for service (cf. Acts 14:27; 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3)

"because you have a little power" This is the first of three reasons why Jesus opened such a wonderful door of opportunity. This is the only one of the seven churches to which Jesus had nothing negative to say.

"and have kept My word" The verb tense (aorist active indicative) implies a particular time of persecution or a decisive act of obedience. They had "little faith," but they used it well!

"and have not denied My name" This may be a reference to the persecution caused by the demands of the Concilia, local supporters of the Emperor worship (cf. Revelation 2:13).

Revelation 3:9 "I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan," This may refer to Jewish opposition to the gospel. The Church, not unbelieving Jews, is the true people of God.

"I will make them come and bow down at your feet" This is an allusion to Isaiah 45:14; Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 60:14, which initially spoke of the Gentiles coming into the Jewish nation, but because these so-called Jews rejected the Messiah they would come to bow to these Gentile believers to show God's love to them (cf. Isaiah 43:4, Isaiah 43:9). This is a good example of how the NT in general, and John in particular, has modified the OT prophecies concerning Israel. John uses a text that originally saw the Gentiles coming to a restored Jerusalem to worship YHWH, but in the new age of righteousness this geo-political image is expanded to include a believing world (Jew and Gentile) having unbelieving Jews come and bow down! This universalization of Israel and Jerusalem shows that Revelation, far from substantiating a literal fulfillment of OT prophecies to a Jewish nation, has transformed them (cf. Ephesians 2:11-13). This is the "mystery of the gospel hidden from the ages"!

Revelation 3:10

NASB"Because you have kept the word of My perseverance" NKJV, NJB"Because you have kept My command to persevere" NRSV"Because you have kept my word of patient endurance" TEV"Because you have kept my command to endure"

This may be a reference to Revelation 3:1 or 17:6. Jesus is not promising to keep His church from persecution because in the letters to the seven churches persecution, even death, was occurring.

Verse Revelation 3:10 refers to a world-wide judgment of God on unbelievers. It is crucial to distinguish between the "tribulations" believers endure in faith and "the wrath of God" that falls on an unbelieving world.

Interpreters differ over how the church will be spared amidst this eschatological judgment:

1. some see the church as going through it protected by God (cf. John 17:15)

2. others see this as pointing toward a secret rapture of believers before this period

I prefer #1. God's people were not spared persecution and death during the first few centuries in a Greco-Roman culture or the continuing persecution and death as the gospel spread, nor will they be spared the end-time birth pains of the New Age. Persecution has always purged and strengthened the church!

The literary unit of chapters 2-3, in which the Church experiences persecution, is followed by the literary unit of heaven, in which the martyred Church prays for revenge. This "wrath of God" is given in stages of severity (seals-1/4, trumpets-1/3, bowlstotal destruction), each stage given for the purpose of calling the lost to salvation. God's ultimate wrath, the second death, the lake of fire (cf. Revelation 20:0), is no longer for redemption, but is totally punitive.

The persecuted church becomes the victorious church and the persecuting unbelievers experience persecution! God is in control! See Special Topic: Perseverance at Revelation 2:2.

"to test those who dwell on the earth" This phrase is used repeatedly throughout to refer to a settled state of rebellion by unbelievers (cf. Revelation 6:10; Revelation 18:13; Revelation 1:10; Revelation 12:12; Revelation 13:8, Revelation 13:12, Revelation 13:14; Revelation 17:8). God wants them to repent and believe (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9), but they will not, even amidst the expanding judgments of the seals, trumpets, and bowls. See Special Topic: Greek Terms for Testing at Revelation 2:2.

Revelation 3:11 "I am coming quickly" This is a continuing emphasis upon the immediacy of the Lord's coming (cf. Revelation 1:1, Revelation 1:3; Revelation 2:16; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:12, Revelation 22:20). The early church expected the immediate return of the Lord. This is the hope of every generation of Christians. See Special Topic: Soon Return at Revelation 1:3.

"hold fast what you have" This is a present active imperative, meaning "continue to hold fast" as the aorist active imperative of Revelation 2:25 focused on a decisive act of holding fast (see Special Topic at Revelation 2:2). As believers hold on to God, He will hold on to them (cf. Galatians 6:9). This is the covenant relationship of God's sovereignty and mankind's mandated response!

Salvation is an initial decision of repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21) followed by lifestyle repentance and faith, obedience, service, and perseverance. All of these items are necessary for mature Christianity.

"crown" This is another reference to the stephanos crown mentioned in Revelation 2:10. It was a reward for faithfulness.

Revelation 3:12 "He who overcomes" See note at 2.2.

"I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God" Philadelphia was in an earthquake area; the metaphor of a pillar conveyed the concept of stability. Prominent citizens' names were inscribed on the pillars of the temples in Philadelphia. The term "temple" here is a term (naos) from the verb "to dwell" and was used of the place where deity's very presence dwelt. The overcoming believers will never have to leave God's presence (cf. Psalms 23:6; Psalms 27:4-6).

This may be a metaphor because apparently there will be no temple in the new age (cf. Revelation 21:22).

"I will write on him the name of My God" Notice the five-fold repetitions of "My" in Revelation 3:12. This is a wonderful acknowledgment of intimacy with God. The name symbolized ownership (cf. Revelation 7:3; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4).

"the new Jerusalem. . .new name" Revelation picks up on the prophecies of Isaiah.

1. new things, Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 48:6 (Revelation 21:5)

2. new song, Isaiah 42:10 (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3)

3. new name, Isaiah 62:2; Isaiah 65:15 (Revelation 2:17)

4. new heaven and new earth, Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22 (Revelation 3:12; Revelation 21:1).

The new heavenly city, Jerusalem, is also prophesied in Isaiah 40:2, Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 44:20, Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 52:1, Isaiah 52:2, Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 62:1, Isaiah 62:6, Isaiah 62:7; Isaiah 65:18, Isaiah 65:19; Isaiah 66:10, Isaiah 66:13, Isaiah 66:20 (Revelation 21:2, Revelation 21:10). It is the metaphor for the presence of God among His people. The OT prophecies have been universalized. New Jerusalem is not a city in Palestine, but the promise of a new age of righteousness.

Revelation 3:13 See note at Revelation 2:6.

Verses 14-22

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Revelation 3:14-22 14"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: 15'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19'Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 21He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. 22He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'"

Revelation 3:14 "The Amen" This is an allusion to a title of YHWH, "the God of the Amen," in Isaiah 65:16. The term "Amen" is a form of the OT word for "believe" or "faith" (cf. Genesis 15:16; Habakkuk 2:4). It usually emphasized faithfulness or trustworthiness (cf. 1:6; 2 Corinthians 1:20). See Special Topic at Revelation 1:6.

"the faithful and true Witness" This may be another phrase from chapter 1 (cf. Revelation 1:5). In the Septuagint both of these adjectives are used to refer to YHWH. It is possible that emeth, which is the Hebrew word for "faith," "believe" or "trust," was translated as pistos (faithful) and alçtheia (truth). These two Greek terms are used often in Revelation for Jesus (cf. Revelation 3:14; Revelation 19:11; Revelation 21:5; Revelation 22:6).

NASB, NKJV"the Beginning of the creation of God" NRSV"the origin of God's creation" TEV"the origin of all that God has created" NJB"the Principle of God's creation"

This is an allusion to both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1. The terms "beginning" (Hebrew, bereshith) and "origin" (Greek, archç) have two connotations: (1) start or (2) origin, source.

This phrase was used in the Arian/Athanasius (Trinitarian) controversy of the fourth century and is an allusion to Proverbs 8:22-31. Wisdom was YHWH's first creation and through wisdom all else was created. This was probably the origin of John's use of "logos" in his Gospel (cf. John 1:1). This is one of the strongest passages on the pre-existence of Christ (cf. John 1:1; John 8:57-58; 2 Corinthians 8:4; Philippians 2:6-7; Colossians 1:17), and also of Christ being the Father's agent in creation (cf. John 1:3; Revelation 3:1 Cor. 8:16; Colossians 1:15, Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 1:2).


Revelation 3:15 "you are neither cold nor hot" This may be an allusion to the lukewarm water that the people of this city had to drink because of the local hot springs. A similar charge is made against the church of Sardis (cf. Revelation 3:1).

Revelation 3:16 "I will spit you out of My mouth" The warnings of Revelation 2:5; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:16, Revelation 3:17 are shocking when it is realized that they are addressed to the visible churches of the first century. This is not the loss of salvation, but the loss of effective ministry (cf. Revelation 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-13).

Revelation 3:17 "Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'" Verses Revelation 3:17 and 18 are a historical allusion to Laodicea as a center of banking, a center for dyed wool, and a center for eye salve. The tragedy of their prosperity was that they thought they had so much when they had so little (cf. Revelation 3:1).


Revelation 3:18 "buy from Me" This may be an allusion to Isaiah 55:1-3, where God's offer of salvation was free, but described as a cost.

"white garments" See note at Revelation 3:4.

"that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed" In the OT nakedness was a sign of defeat, judgment, and poverty.

Revelation 3:19 "I reprove" This Greek term elegchô is used in the sense of "to expose and thereby to heal or correct" (cf. John 3:20; Ephesians 5:11-14).

"and discipline" Being disciplined by God is a sign that we are members of His family (cf. Job 5:17; Proverbs 3:12; Psalms 94:12; Hebrews 12:6).

"be zealous" This is a Present active imperative. It is from the same word root as "hot" or "boiling" (zestos) used in Revelation 3:15-16. Knowing and serving God must be a flaming passion and lifestyle.

"and repent" This is an aorist active imperative. There is a recurring insistence throughout these seven letters that Christians, not just unbelievers, must repent and return to Christ for maturity, stability, and joy (cf. Revelation 2:5, Revelation 2:16, Revelation 2:22; Revelation 3:3, Revelation 3:19). Repentance is a lifestyle, not only an initial action!

Revelation 3:20 "I stand at the door and knock" This is a Perfect active indicative, "I stand and continue to stand at the door" followed by a present active indicative "and continue to knock." Although this church received no word of praise, it did receive a warm invitation. This is not the invitation to become a Christian, but rather an invitation for the church members to return to vital fellowship with Christ. This verse is often used out of context to refer to evangelism.

The metaphor of "a door" was used in the Gospels (cf. Mark 13:28-29; Luke 12:36) as a way of referring to the nearness of Christ's coming. See Special Topic: Door at Revelation 3:7.

"if anyone hears My voice and opens the door" This is a Third class conditional sentence implying potential but not certain action. In many parts of the world knocking is accompanied by a verbal greeting. Notice the volitional element; the person/church must respond and open the door. This is the covenantal aspect of all of God's relationships with humans. He takes the initiative, He sets the agenda, but humans must respond. Also, notice that the response is not just initial but continual. Salvation is not a product, but a lifestyle relationship. It has its ups and downs, but the existential fellowship is sure!

"I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me" This is an allusion to the peace offering (cf. Leviticus 3:0, and 7), a time of fellowship where God symbolically ate with the offerer. Others see this as a reference to the eschatological Messianic banquet.

The term used here for a meal is the one used for the meal at the end of the day, which was the major time of family fellowship and companionship. In the East eating has always been a sign of covenant, friendship, and fellowship.

Revelation 3:21 "I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne," This is a powerful image of intimate fellowship and inclusion. There are many allusions in the NT to believers' reigning with Christ (cf. Revelation 2:26, Revelation 2:27; Luke 22:30; Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2 ff; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 20:4). Revelation 22:5 implies Christians' eternal reign with Christ. See Special Topic on Reigning in the Kingdom of God at Revelation 5:10.

"as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" It is wonderful to know that Jesus has already overcome the world (cf. John 16:33; Ephesians 1:21-22) and that He is already seated at the Father's right hand (cf. Ephesians 1:20; 1 John 2:1 and Revelation 22:1) and that He wants us to join Him in His victory!

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Revelation 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/revelation-3.html. 2021.
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