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Bible Commentaries

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Revelation 3

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-22

Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22.] THE EPISTLES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES. Views have considerably differed respecting the character of these Epistles, whether they are to be regarded as simply historical, or historico-prophetical, or simply prophetical. The point on which all, I presume, will be agreed is, that the words contained in these Epistles are applicable to and intended for the guidance, warning, and encouragement of the whole Church Catholic, and its several parts, throughout all time. The differing interpretations will here be only briefly alluded to. An account of them will be found in Vitringa, Apocalypsis Johannis, &c. pp. 27–58: and (but scantily, as most interpreters pass over them but slightly) in the introductions to the principal Commentaries.

Before commenting on each individual Epistle, I would notice the similar construction of all. This may be thus described. Each Epistle contains, 1. A command to write to the angel of the particular church. 2. A sublime title of our Lord taken for the most part from the imagery of the preceding vision. 3. An address to the angel of the church, always commencing with οῖδα, introducing a statement of its present circumstances: continuing with an exhortation either to repentance or to constancy: and ending with a prophetic announcement, mostly respecting what shall be at the Lord’s coming. 4. A promise made to ὁ νικῶν, generally accompanied with a solemn call to earnest attention, ὁ ἔχων οὖς κ. τ. λ.


Verses 1-6

1–6.] THE EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS. The Spirit of this Epistle is one of rebuke and solemn denunciation. Even the promise, Revelation 3:5, is tinged with the same hue. For the history, see Prolegg., § iii. 10. And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things saith He that hath the seven spirits of God (this designation of our Lord has not before occurred: but as Düsterd. observes, it is new rather in form than in substance. We have mention in ch. Revelation 1:4 of the seven spirits which are before God’s throne: and we there found occasion to interpret them of the plenitude of the Godhead in its attributes and energies. See, for further elucidation, ch. Revelation 4:5, Revelation 5:6. These spirits, this plenitude, Christ, the Lord of the church, possesses, is clothed and invested with, in all fulness. From Him the spiritual life of his churches comes as its source, in all its elements of vitality. He searches all the depths both of our depravity and of His own applications of grace. He has in his hand all the Spirit’s power of conviction. He wields the fire of purification and the fire of destruction. Whether the Spirit informs, or rebukes, or warns, or comforts, or promises, whether He softens or hardens men’s hearts, it is Christ who, searching the hearts as Son of God and feeling their feelings as Son of man, wields and applies the one and manifold Spirit.

The designation here has its appropriateness in the whole character of this solemn Epistle. The Lord of the church comes, armed with all the powers of the Spirit; searching the depths of hypocrisy, judging of the worthlessness of works not done in faith. The difficulty of this general attribute of Christ, and not any one selected specially as applying to Sardis being here introduced, seems to be best accounted for, not, as Ebrard, by the general prophetic import of the Epistle, but by the fact that the minatory strain of the Epistle justifies the alleging the whole weight and majesty of the divine character of our Lord, to create alarm and bring about repentance) and the seven stars (the former symbolism (reff.) still holds in all its strictness. Nor have we the least right here, as some (e. g. Arethas in Catena, and Wetst.), to suppose that the stars and the spirits are identical. The motive mentioned above would fully account for this designation also: The Lord of all the churches: He who appoints them their ministering angels, and has them, and all that is theirs, in His hand): I know thy works, that (there is no need of a καί being inserted: the ὅτι is the inference from the ἔργα) thou hast a name that thon livest (I need only mention for warning the childish fancy, that the Bishop of Sardis was named Zosimus or Vitalis: so some blamed by Corn.-a-lap.: so, with approval, Bengel and Hengst. The expression explains itself: see ref. Herodot.: thou hast a repute that thou livest: art nominally, as we commonly now say, Christian), and (the mere copula carries the contrast far more vividly and pathetically than when it is made rhetorically complete by inserting “yet.” The καί is not as Ebrard, “hebraifirend für ἀλλά” but is common in classical Greek, and indeed in all languages, in this sense) art dead (spiritually dead: void of vitality and fruitfulness: sunk in that deep deadly sleep which, if not broken in upon and roused up, is death itself: so St. Paul, Ephesians 5:14, ἔγειρε ὁ καθεύδων κ. ἀνάστα ἀπὸ τῶν νεκρῶν, κ. ἐπιφαύσει σοι ὁ χριστός: see reff.). Be ( γίνου, because a change is involved: become what thou art not) watchful (we can hardly help in English substituting the adj. for the participle “watching;” thereby losing the objective vividness of the pres. part., and getting instead a subjective attribute of character. “Awake and watch” would be, in paraphrase, tantamount to the text), and strengthen the remaining things, which were (the time is transferred to that indicated by στήρισον: which were, when thou shalt apply thyself to strengthen them) about to die (there is a question whether these λοιπά are to be understood as things, matters in which the Sardian church was not yet totally without spiritual vitality, or as persons, who were not yet passed into the almost universal death-slumber of hypocrisy. The latter view is taken by (Andr(50), Areth(51), as reported in Düsterd.: but not in Catena, see below) Calov., Vitr., Eichh., De Wette, Stern, Ebrard, Düsterd., Trench, al. And there is nothing in the construction to preclude the view. But if I mistake not, there is in the context. For to assume that the λοιποί could be thus described, would surely be to leave no room for those mentioned with so much praise below in Revelation 3:4. Had τὰ λοιπά not occurred, we might have well understood στήρισον ἃ ἔμελλον ἀποθανεῖν of confirming those thy weak members who on account of the general deadness were near losing their spiritual life altogether: but with τὰ λοιπά this can hardly stand. We must therefore take the other view,—“strengthen those thy remaining few graces, which in thy spiritual deadly slumber are not yet quite extinct.” And so Andr(52) and Areth(53) in Catena (I transcribe the whole, by which it appears that μέλη has been carelessly taken to mean personal members: see under the other view above),— τὸν ὕπνον τῆς ῥᾳθυμίας ἀποτιναξάμενος, καὶ τὰ μέλη σου τὰ ἀποθνήσκειν τελέως μέλλοντα διʼ ἀπιστίαν στήριξον· οὐ γὰρ ἡ ἀρχὴ τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων τὸν ἐργάτην στεφανοῖ τὸν δόκιμον ἀλλʼ ἡ ἑπιμονὴ ἄχρι τέλους. τὸ στήριξον δὲ οὐχ ἁπλῶς εἴρηται, ἀλλὰ τὸ οἱονεὶ στεῤῥοποίησον καὶ ἐνδυνάμωσον χαλαρά τε ὄντα καὶ πρὸς πτῶσιν ἑτοιμότατα. ἐφʼ ὅσον οὖν περιλείπεταί σοι, βραχέα ἐπιτηδεύματά, φησι, πρόσθες, ἵνα μὴ τέλεον ἀποσπάσῃς (qu. ἐπισπάσῃς) θάνατον. ταῦτα γοῦν φύλαξον τὰ ἤδη ζῶντα, ἐκεῖνα δὲ στήριξον τὰ πρὸς θάνατον ἤδη ῥέποντα· οὐδὲν γάρ σου τῶν σπουδασμάτων πληρές ἐστιν· ἀλλὰ τὰ μὲν τέθνηκεν ἤδη, τὰ δὲ μέλλει:—so also Grot., Beng., Ewald, al.): for I have not found thy works (or, without the τά I have not found (any) works of thine) complete in the sight of my God (up to the mark and measure of being acceptable to Him: i. e. not wrought in that living faith which alone renders human works acceptable to God, by uniting them to Him on whom the Father looks with perfect approval. Düsterd. well observes, “The express reference to the absolute rule of all Christian morality is here put the more strongly and strikingly, because this church had among men a name that she lived.” The μου binds on the judgment of Him who speaks to that of God). Remember [therefore] how (not subjective, “with what manner of reception,” as even Düsterd., after many others, but objective, “after what sort,” “quomodo institutes fueris,” as Castalio: as οὕτως, Ephesians 4:20; 1 Corinthians 15:11. Trench would unite both) thou hast received (perf.: of the permanent deposit of doctrine entrusted) and heardest (aor., of the act of hearing, when it took place), and keep (what thou hast received and heardest: pres., of an abiding habit) and repent (not pres. now, as the command is of a quick and decisive act of amendment). If therefore (the οὖν is hardly, as De Wette, because it is assumed, in the present evil state of the Sardian church, that the exhortation will be in vain: far rather, as Düsterd. (alt.), Hengst., al., because repentance is so grievously needed. And it follows on the plain declaration which has been made of that present evil state; coming forcibly and unexpectedly, where we should rather have looked for δέ) thou dost not watch (aor.: shalt not have awaked and become watchful, before the time about to be indicated in the threat which is coming), I will come as a thief (these words do not here refer to our Lord’s final coming, but to some signal judgment in which He would overtake the Sardian church. Just as the formula derived from the great eschatological truth of the suddenness of His second coming is frequently applied to His final judgment in Jerusalem, so is it to other His partial and special advents to judgment in the case of individuals and churches), and thou shalt not know ( οὐ μή, see on ch. Revelation 2:11) at what hour (the accus. of the time when has been called a Hebraism: so even De Wette from Gesenius: or an Aramaism, according to Ewald. But it is common enough in later Greek, and is only, in its first form, a particular case of the accusative of measure, whether of space or time: see Krüger, § 46, anm. 1, where he cites such common expressions, as ἐξήλθομεν ἔτος τουτί τρίτον εἰς πάνακτον, Demosth.: πρωταγόρας τρίτην ἤδη ἡμέραν ἐπιδεδήμηκεν. The change which the construction underwent seems to have been that which was usual in such cases; it lost its own peculiar significance of measure and duration, and became used where a mere point of time was in question. But even thus it finds abundant justification in good Greek in such expressions as that in Homer, ιl. φ. 111, ἀλλʼ ἔπι τοι καὶ ἐμοὶ θάνατος καὶ μοῖρα κραταιὴ ἔσσεται ἢ ἡώς, ἢ δείλης, ἢ μέσον ἦμαρ: in Herod, ii. 2, τὴν ὥρην ἐπαγινέειν σφίσι αἶγας: and in such accusatives as ἦμαρ, νύκτα, ἀρχήν, τέλος, πυκνά, and the like. See also Matthiæ, Gr. Gr. § 424, a) I will come upon thee. Nevertheless (notwithstanding this state of apathy even to spiritual death) thou hast (belonging to thee as members. Notice, as Bengel remarks, that these few had not separated themselves from the church in Sardis, notwithstanding its degraded state) a few names (“homines nominatim recensiti,” as Vatabl. in Düsterd. See reff. The gloss. interim. is good: “quasi paucos nominates, i. e., bonos qui nominatione digni sunt.” The term would hardly be used except of a limited number. Hengstenb., with his usual fancifulness, in which he is here followed by Ebrard, finds an allusion in the ἔχεις ὀλίγα ὀνόματα to the ὄνομα ἔχεις ὅτι … above. It hardly needs remark, that the whole sense and connexion is different, the stress there on ὄνομα, here on ἔχεις. Besides which, in my judgment nothing can be further from the solemnity of the passage than the existence of such mere verbal allusions) in Sardis, which (the peculiar form ὀνόματα carries its own gender through the first part of the verse; in the latter part the thing signified prevails, and we have ἄξιοι) have not defiled their garments (the aor. is from the standing-point of the future day presently introduced, as so commonly when life is looked back on from the great time of retribution. The meaning of the figure (which occurs also in Jude 1:23) has been variously given. There can be little doubt that the simpler and more general explanation is the right one: viz., who have not sullied the purity of their Christian life by falling into sin. So the gloss. interlin., Lyra, al. m. It seems unnecessary, and introducing confusion, to specify further; either the garments as importing their flesh (Areth(54), al.), their consciences (Alcas., Tirinus, Grot., Peiræus), the robe of Christ’s righteousness put on by faith (Calov.), the robe of baptismal purity (Ansbert, Bed(55), Ribera, Corn.-a-lap., Hengst.), or again the keeping undefiled as consisting in abstinence from contact with the dead body of the rest of the church. This last view Ebrard attributes to Hengst., but it is not in his exposition here. He characteristically finds in ἐμόλυναν an allusion to Sardes = Sordes): and they shall walk with me in white (so, not filling up λευκοῖς, E. V. admirably. The supply, ἱματίοις, comes below, Revelation 3:5; where see note. The white here is not to be identified with the undefiled garments which they now wear: it is a new and glorious hue of victory: see ch. Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9; Revelation 19:8. The allusion which Schöttg., Vitringa, al., have imagined, to their priesthood,—because when a judgment was held by the Sanhedrim on the priests, those who were condemned were clothed in black, while the blameless wore a white robe—seems, like so many of these rabbinical illustrations, to be farfetched, and to spoil the simplicity of the passage. An allusion to Zechariah 3:3 ff. is far more obvious. μετʼ ἐμοῦ, in remarkable accord with our Lord’s prayer in John 17:24, πάτερ, ὃ δέδωκάς μοι, θέλω ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ κἀκεῖνοι ὦσιν μετʼ ἐμοῦ: see also Luke 23:43) because they are worthy (the ἀξιότης here is found in the terms of the sentence itself. They have kept their garments undefiled: they of all others then are the persons who should walk in the glorious white robes of heavenly triumph. Exactly thus in ch. Revelation 16:6, αἷμαἐξέχεαν, καὶ αἷμα αὐτοῖς ἔδωκας πιεῖν· ἄξιοί εἰσιν. To dream of any merit here implied, is not only to miss, but to run counter to the sense of the whole saying and situation. The οὐκ ἐμόλυναν is only explained by ch. Revelation 7:14, ἔπλυναν τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν καὶ ἐλεύκαναν ἐν τῷ αἵματι τοῦ ἀρνίου: and as Vitringa excellently says, “Dignitas hic notat proportionem et congruentiam, quæ erat inter statum gratiæ quo fuerant in terris, et gloriæ quam Dominus ipsis decreverat æstimandam ex ipsa lege gratiæ”). He that conquereth, he (the reading οὕτως, found in so many manuscripts, may have arisen originally in the very usual confusion of ο and ω, and then have been retained, from not being altogether without meaning; “thus,” i. e, as those first mentioned. But this would perhaps be ὁμοίως, not οὕτως) shall be clad in white garments (the concluding promise takes the hue of what had gone before, and identifies those just spoken of with these victorious ones): and I will not wipe out his name out of the book of life (this again takes its colour from the preceding. Those who have a name that they live, and are dead, are necessarily wiped out from the book of life: only he whose name is a living name, can remain on those pages. Here again the Rabbinical expositors have gone wrong in imagining that the genealogical tables of the priests are alluded to. Far rather is the reference to the ordinary lists of citizens, or of living members of any body or society, from which the dead are struck out. So Wetst., citing Dio Chrys. Rhod. xxxi. p. 336 c, ὅταν δημοσίᾳ τινὰ δέῃ τῶν πολιτῶν ἀποθανεῖν ἐπʼ ἀδικήματι, πρότερον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐξαλείφεται. And Aristoph. Pac(56) 1180, τοὺς μὲν ἐγγράφοντες ἡμῶν, τοὺς δʼ ἄνω τε καὶ κάτω ἐξαλεί φοντες δὶς ἢ τρίς. Thus they whose names have been once inscribed in this book, whether by their outward admission into Christ’s church in baptism, or by their becoming living members of Him by faith, if they endure to the end as His soldiers and servants, and obtain the victory, shall not, as all His mere professed members shall, have their names erased from it. The figure itself, of the book of life, is found as early as Exodus 32:32 f. See reff. for other places): and I will confess his name in the presence of my Father and in the presence of his angels (see Matthew 10:32; Luke 12:8, both of which are here combined, cf. Luke 9:26, (57) Mark. The promise implies that in the great day the Judge will expressly acknowledge the name thus written in the book of life, as belonging to one of His. Cf. ch. Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27; also Matthew 7:23 (Matthew 25:12), where He repudiates those whom He knows not).


Verse 6

6.] See above, ch. Revelation 2:7.


Verses 7-13

7–13.] THE EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH AT PHILADELPHIA. It has been remarked, that this Epistle hears a tinge throughout of O. T. language and imagery, correspondent to the circumstances of the church as connected with the Jews dwelling there. For the history, &c., see Prolegomena. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These things saith the true One (it is doubtful whether the distinction between ἀληθινός and ἀληθής, which lies on the surface in ordinary usage, can be held firmly, on thorough examination of the places where the word occurs in the N. T. It is not easy for instance to justify the meaning “genuine,” “answering fully to its name,” in passages like John 7:28; and more experience in the habit of later Greek to break down the distinctions of derivative nouns has shaken me in the assertion of this meaning wherever the word occurs. Here, it would certainly appear as if it were chosen to declare an attribute of our Lord opposed to the λεγόντ. καὶ οὐκ εἰσὶν ἀλλὰ ψεύδονται below. Not that the meaning genuine would be out of place in such a connexion: but that where ἀληθινός is used absolutely, of a person, the two meanings, genuine and truthful, running up into one head of truth, we must not in later diction press the one subordinate meaning as against the other. See for the distinction, which, however, is too exclusively pressed, Trench, N. T. Synonyms, § viii. The senses here to be avoided are,— ὁ ἀληθῶς ἅγιος, as Corn.-a-lap. and Grot., thus losing the word altogether;—the real Messiah, in reference to the rejection of Him by the Jews, as Hengst. and Düsterd.; He that bears the truth, as the High-priest the Urim and Thummim, δήλωσιν κ. ἀλήθειαν, LXX, Exodus 28:26 (30); so Vitringa: “promissis suis stans,” as Ewald and Züllig), the Holy One (as opposed to the συναγωγὴ τοῦ σατανᾶ below; not with reference to Christ’s High-priesthood, as Vitr.: nor as Eichhorn and Heinr., “legatus divinus:” but expressive of moral attribute), He that hath the key of David (i. e. He that is the Heir and Lord of the abiding theocracy, as Düsterd. In Isaiah 22:22, it is said of Eliakim son of Hilkiah, δώσω αὐτῷ τὴν κλεῖδα οἴκου δαυεὶδ ἐπὶ τῷ ὤμῳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀνοίξει καὶ οὐκ ἔσται ὁ ἀποκλείων καὶ κλείσει καὶ οὐκ ἔσται ὁ ἀνοίγων: which is manifestly the passage here incorporated into the Lord’s message: and the sense is, that whatever inferior degrees there may be of this power of opening and shutting the church (= the house of David, with reference to the false Jews below), the supreme power, the one true key, belongs to the Lord Christ alone. It is hardly justified, and serves but little purpose, to attempt to set up a distinction between τὴν κλεῖν τοῦ δαυείδ here, and τὴν κλεῖδα οἴκου δαυείδ in l. c. (so Hengst., Ebr., Düsterd.: see the idea well refuted in Vitringa.) The key is the same in both cases: but the One possesses it as his own by right, the other has it merely entrusted to him; laid on his shoulder. Some mistaken views have been: “potestatem aperiendi intellectum Scripturarum,” Lyra, so also Primas(58), Bed(59), Zega, al.: that δαυείδ should be τάφεθ, or τώφεθ, and that our words mean the same as ch. Revelation 1:18, ἔχω τὰς κλεῖς τοῦ θανάτου καὶ τοῦ ᾅδου (Wolf). This idea is quite distinct from that, and is closely connected with Revelation 3:8, where the reference is entirely to the Church of God and success in God’s work. The same Lord of all has the keys both of the prison and of the palace; but these words refer to the latter alone. Cf. on the whole sense, Matthew 16:19), who openeth and no one shall shut, and shutteth (the construction is altered to the direct from the participial: as in Amos 5:7, ὁ ποιῶν εἰς ὕψος κρίμα, καὶ δικαιοσύνην εἰς γῆν ἔθηκεν. This is said to be Hebraistic (De W.): but such irregularities are not confined to any particular language) and no one shall open (these words are to be taken not merely of the power of Christ to forgive sins, but generally, as indeed the next verse requires. Christ only has power to admit into and exclude from His kingdom; to enlarge the work and opportunities of His Church, and to contract them): I know thy works (these words stand by themselves; not, as De W. (so also Ewald and Bengel), as connected with ὅτι μικρὰν κ. τ. λ. below, the intervening sentence, ἰδοὺαὐτήν, being considered parenthetical.

They are words of comfort and support to the Philadelphian Church): behold I have given before thee a door opened (i. e. hare granted, in my possession and administration of the key of David, that a door should stand opened. For the construction, see ref. The door is variously understood: by Lyra, al. (see above on Revelation 3:7) as “ostium apertum ad scriptures intelligendas:” by Areth(60), as τὴν εἴσοδον πρὸς ἀπόλαυσιν: by Bengel, as an entrance into the joy of thy Lord and so to an uninterrupted progress in all good; Eichhorn and Heinrichs, “aditus ad me tibi patet,” in the merely superficial sense of “bene tibi cupio:” most expositors take it to mean, as in reff. 1 Cor.; 2 Cor.; Col. (otherwise in ref. Acts), an opportunity for the mission work of the church. And this appears to be the true sense here, by what follows in Revelation 3:9, promising conversion of those who were now foes. This connexion, which lies in the context itself, is made yet plainer by the ἰδοὺ δέδωκαἰδοὺ διδῶἰδοὺ ποιήσω.

ἐνώπιόν σου, because the course is naturally forward), which no one is able to shut (it, redundant: see reff.): because (not, as Vitr., etiamsi: ὅτι gives the reason of what preceded; the Lord will confer this great advantage on the Philadelphian church, because …) thou hast little power (not as E. V. “a little strength,” thereby virtually reversing the sense of the words: μικρὰν ἔχεις δύν. importing “thy strength is but small,” and the E. V. importing “thou hast some strength,” the fact of its smallness vanishing under the indefinite term “a little.”

The meaning of this μικράν must not be assigned as Lyra, “quia non dedi tibi gratiam miraculorum, sicut multis aliis episcopis illius temporis, recompensavi tibi intellectu sacrarum scripturarum excellenti” (see above), but it must be understood, as most Commentators, to have consisted in the fewness of the congregation of Christians there: possibly also, as Hengst., in their poverty as contrasted with the wealth of their Jewish adversaries), and (using that little well) didst keep my word and didst not deny my name (the aorr. perhaps refer to some time of especial trial when both these temptations, to break Christ’s word and deny His name, were put before the church). Behold, I give (not, to thee, as Hengst., nor can we render it by “patiar “as Wolf: the sense is broken off in the following clause, and the διδῶ resumed by ἰδοὺ ποιήσω αὐτοὺς ἵνα: see reff. in both places) of the synagogue of Satan (see on ch. Revelation 2:9, where the same expression occurs of outward Jews who were not real Jews), who profess themselves to be Jews and they are not, but do lie,—behold I will make them (this αὐτούς is put as the object of the preceding verb rather than as the subject of the following, as in οἴδαμεν τοῦτον, πόθεν ἐστίν, not by a mere attraction of grammar, as usually represented (even in Winer, edn. 6, § 66. 5, a), but in the strictest logical propriety, αὐτούς being the object on which the action indicated by the preceding verb is exercised) that they shall come (for ἵνα aft. ποι., and for the fut. indic, after ἵνα, see reff.), and shall worship before thy feet (so in Isaiah 60:14, “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: and they shall call thee the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” See also Isaiah 49:23; Zechariah 8:20-23. These passages are decisive against the sense given by Corn.-a-lap., “significatur summa fidelium devotio, reverentia et submissio erga ecclesiam ejusque prælatos. Hæc enim adoratio procedit ex apprehensione excellentiæ prælatorum plusquam humanæ et minus quam divinæ:” a sense unknown to Estius and the better R.-Cath. expositors. Areth(61) in the catena says well: τούτους οὖν προσδραμεῖσθαι οὐ κατὰ τὸ τυχόν, ἀλλὰ μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς θερμότητος καὶ συντριβῆς φησί· τοῦτο γὰρ αἰνίττεται τὸ πρὸς τοὺς πόδας προσκυνῆσαι, καὶ ἐν ἐσχάτοις ἑλέσθαι τετάχθαι τῆς ἐκκλησίας, μόνον τοῦ μέρους εἶναι τῆς ἐκκλησίας ἀξιωθῆναι, ὡς καὶ δαβὶδ ἀσπαστῶς φησιν ὁ προφήτης, “ ἐξελεξάμην παραῤῥιπτεῖσθαι ἐκ τῷ οἴκῳ τοῦ θεοῦ μου, μᾶλλον ἢ οἰκεῖν με ἐν σκηνώμαδι τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν”), and that they may know that I loved thee (the English idiom requires, “have loved thee:” but the aor. has its propriety, referring as it does to the time preceding that in which they shall do this. Düsterd. takes it as used of that great proof which Christ gave of His love by dying for His church, appealing to the same aor. in Ephesians 5:25; Galatians 2:20; 1 John 4:10-11. But thus we lose the especial reference to the particular church which seems to be involved in the recognition. It is the love bestowed on the Philadelphian church, in signalizing its success in the work of Christ, that these converted enemies shall recognize. Lyra’s explanation is curious and characteristic,—“quia ego dilexi te, promovendo non solum ad fidem catholicam, sed etiam ad episcopalem dignitatem”). Because thou didst keep the word of my endurance (the λόγος preached to thee, enjoining that ὑπομονή which belongs to Me and mine, see ch. Revelation 1:9. μου belongs to ὑπομονῆς alone, not to the whole τὸν λ. τῆς ὑπ. as Düsterd., Winer (edn. 6, § 34. 3, b), al. Such a construction would, I conceive, be indefensible: certainly all the places which are quoted as for it, are against it: viz. ch. Revelation 13:3; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 1:3. Had it been so here, I should have expected τὸν λόγον μου τῆς ὑπομονῆς), I also (I on my side: the καί expressing reciprocity. And this reciprocity depends, in its form, on the close juxtaposition of the ὑπομονῆς μου and κἀγώ, which is materially interfered with by referring μου to the whole sentence and resolving τῆς ὑπομονῆς into a mere epithet: see above) will keep thee ( σε emphatic and prominent) from ( ἐκ, from out of the midst of: but whether by immunity from, or by being brought safe through, the preposition does not clearly define. Nor can the distinction which Düsterd., al., attempt to set up between τηρεῖν ἐκ and τ. ἀπό, be safely maintained. In comparing John 17:15, οὐκ ἐρωτῶ ἵνα ἄρῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου, ἀλλʼ ἵνα τηρήσῃς αὐτοὺς ἐκ τοῦ πονηροῦ, with James 1:27, ἄσπιλον ἑαυτὸν τηρεῖν ἀπὸ τοῦ κόσμου, it is not easy to see that the former implies passing scatheless through the evil, while the latter imports perfect immunity from it. This last we may grant: but is it not equally true in the other case? Revelation 7:14, ἐρχ. ἐκ τῆς θλίψ., which they cite on their side, is quite different: the local meaning of ἐκ being made decisive by the local verb ἔρχεσθαι) the hour of temptation (the appointed season of sore trial, τοῦ πειρασμοῦ, of the well-known and signal temptation. But the article cannot be expressed in English, because it would unavoidably become the antecedent to “which” following) which is about to come upon the whole world (the time imported is that prophesied of in Matthew 24:21 ff., viz. the great time of trouble which shall be before the Lord’s second coming. As such, it is immediately connected with ἔρχομαι ταχύ following), to try them that dwell upon the earth (see ch. Revelation 8:13, &c., as in reff., where the expression applies to those who are not of the church of Christ. In this great trial, the servants of Christ shall be kept safe, ch. Revelation 7:3. The trial of the πειρασμός will operate in two ways: on the faithful, by bringing out their fidelity; on the unfaithful and unbelieving, by hardening them in their impenitence, see ch. Revelation 9:20-21, Revelation 16:11; Revelation 16:21.

The expositors have in many cases gone away from this broad and obvious meaning here, and have sought to identify the ὥρα πειρασμοῦ with various periods of trial and persecution of the Church: a line of interpretation carrying its own refutation with it in the very terms used in the text. Thus Grot. understands it of the persecution under Nero; Lyra, of the future increase of that “under Domitian, which was raging as the Apostle wrote: Alcas., Paræus, al., of those under Trajan: Primasius and Bed(62), of the troubles which should arise on account of Antichrist, which is nearer the mark. Andr(63) and Arethas give the alternative: ἢ τὸν ἐπὶ δομετιανοῦ διωγμὸν λέγει, δεύτερον ὄντα μετὰ νέρωνα ὡς εὐσέβιος ἱστορεῖ ὁ παμφίλου, ὅτε καὶ αὐτὸς ὁ εὐαγγελιστὴς εἰς τὴν πάτμον ὑπʼ αὐτοῦ τοῦ δομετιανοῦ κατεκρίθη, ἢ τὴν ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τοῦ αἰῶνος ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου κατὰ χριστιανῶν ἐσομένην παγκόσμιον, ἀναιροῦντος τοὺς χριστιανούς).


Verse 11

11.] I come quickly (these words, which in different senses and with varying references form the burden of this whole book, are here manifestly to be taken as an encouragement and comfort to the Philadelphian church, arising from the nearness of the Lord’s coming to reward her; cf. τὸν στέφανόν σου below): hold fast that which thou hast ( ὃ ἔχεις, in the language of these Epistles, imports any advantage, or progress in grace, already possessed; cf. ch. Revelation 2:6, τοῦτο ἔχεις, ὅτι … This is regarded as a treasure, to be firmly grasped, as against those who are ever ready to snatch it away. In this case the ὃ ἔχεις was a rich treasure indeed: cf. Revelation 3:8; Revelation 3:10), that no one take (snatch away: but here the figure stops: it is not for himself that the robber would snatch it, but merely to deprive the possessor. So λαβεῖν τὴν εἰρήνην ἐκ τῆς γῆς, ch. Revelation 6:4. The idea of the robber taking it for himself must, as De W. remarks, have been expressed by μηδεὶς ἄλλος) thy crown (ref.).


Verse 12

12.] The reward of the conqueror. He that conquereth (for the pendent nom., see ref.), I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God (i. e. he shall have a fixed and important place in the glorified church hereafter. That this, and nothing referring to any honour or dignity in the church militant (so Lyra, Aretius, Grot., “Wetst., Schöttg., al.), or in that as leading on to the church triumphant (so Vitr., Corn.-a-lap., Stern, al.) is intended, is manifest from the whole diction of this passage, as well as from comparing the corresponding promises, which all refer to the blessings of the future state of glory. It is no objection to this view, that in the heavenly Jerusalem there is no temple, ch. Revelation 21:22; but rather a corroboration of it. That glorious city is all temple, and Christ’s victorious ones are its living stones and pillars. Thus as Düsterd. well remarks, the imagery of the church militant, 1 Corinthians 3:16 ff.; Ephesians 2:19 ff.; 1 Peter 2:5 ff., is transferred to the church triumphant, but with this difference, that the saints are no longer the stones merely, but now the pillars themselves, standing in their immovable firmness. On θεοῦ μου, see note on ch. Revelation 2:7), and out of it he shall never more go out (the subject is not the στύλος, but ὁ νικῶν; and the sense, that he who is thus fixed in his eternal place as a pillar in the heavenly temple, will never more, from any cause, depart from it. Those Commentators who have understood the promise of the church militant, have been obliged to take ἐξέλθῃ as a passive,” non ejicietur,” justifying this by such expressions as μήτι ὁ λύχνος ἔρχεται, Mark 4:21. Lyra takes it in both senses—“nec per apostasin, nec per excommunicationem.” And thus, except that the latter word will have no place, we may well understand the general word ἐξέλθῃ: none shall thrust him out, nor shall he be any more in danger of falling, and thus thrusting himself out. It is well worth noticing, as Wetst. has done, the recorded fact, that Philadelphia was notorious for calamities by earthquake. The language in which Strabo describes this is remarkable in connexion with this promise of the pillar which should not be moved; ἥ τε φιλαδέλφειαοὐδὲ τοὺς τοίχους ἔχει πιστούς, ἀλλὰ καθʼ ἡμέραν τρόπον τινὰ σαλεύονται καὶ διΐστανται· διατελοῦσι δὲ προσέχοντες τῆς γῆς τοῖς πάθεσι, καὶ ἀρχιτεκτονοῦτες πρὸς αὐτήν, xii. p. 868 B: and still more so in xiii. p. 936 B,— πόλις φιλαδέλφεια σεισμῶν πληρής. οὐ γὰρ διαλείπουσιν οἱ τοῖχοι διϊστάμενοι, καὶ ἄλλοτʼ ἄλλο μέρος τῆς πόλεως κακοπαθοῦν· οἰκοῦσιν οὖν ὀλίγοι τὴν πόλιν διὰ τοῦτο· … ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν ὀλίγων θαυμάζειν ἐστὶν ὅτι οὕτω φιλοχωροῦσιν ἐπισφαλεῖς τὰς οἰκήσεις ἔχοντες· ἔτι δʼ ἄν τις μᾶλλον θαυμάσειε τῶν κτισάντων αὐτήν. See also Tacit. Ann. ii. 47, where among the twelve cities of proconsular Asia which were overthrown by an earthquake, Philadelphia suffered, and was in consequence excused its taxes, and in common with the others entrusted to a senatorian commissioner to repair): and I will write upon him (the conqueror; not as Grot., the pillar) the name of my God (Wetst. quotes from the Rabbinical book Bava Bathra 75. 2, “R. Samuel filius Nachmanni ait, R. Jochananem dixisse, tres appellari nomine Dei S. B.,—justos (Isaiah 43:7), Messiam (Jeremiah 23:6), Hierosolyma (Ezekiel 48:35).” Some think of the mitre frontlet of the high-priests, on which was inscribed “Holiness to the Lord,” Exodus 28:36; so Schöttg., Ewald, al. But this does not seem applicable here, where, from this and the following particulars, it is rather a blessed belonging to God and the holy city and Christ, that is imported, than the priestly office of the glorified Christian) and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which descendeth (the appositive nom., see reff.) out of heaven from my God (on the whole, see ch. Revelation 21:2-3, and notes. It is possible, that the name Jehovah Shammah, Ezekiel 48:35, may be meant; but hardly probable, seeing that the Holy Name itself has before been mentioned as inscribed on him. The inscription of the name of the city would betoken citizenship), and mine own new name (not the name mentioned ch. Revelation 19:16, which is known and patent, but that indicated ch. Revelation 19:12, ὃ οὐδεὶς οἶδεν εἰ μὴ αὐτός: for this is clearly pointed at by the word καινόν. By the inscription of this new name of the glorified Saviour is declared, that he belongs to Him in His new and glorious state of eternal rest and triumph).


Verse 13

13.] See above, ch. Revelation 2:7.


Verses 14-22

14–22.] THE EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA. And to the angel (not, the bishop or ruler, see on ch. Revelation 1:20) of the church in Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen (see ref. Isa. Christ is the Amen, inasmuch as His words shall never pass away, but shall find certain ratification. This, and not the particular case which is treated in ref. 2 Cor., seems to be the reference here, where not the ratification of promises merely, but general fidelity and certainty are concerned: as Areth(64), in Catena, ἰσοδυναμεῖ τοῦτο, τάδε λέγει ὁ ἁληθινὸςἀμὴν γάρ ἐστι τὸ ναί· ναὶ οὖν ἐστιν ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς περὶ αὐτοῦ λεγομένοις, ἤτοι ἀλήθεια καὶ οὐδὲν ψεῦδος. That expression is illustrative of this, but this takes the wider range. Züllig has imagined that the title here owes its occurrence to this being the last among the Seven Epistles: but this probably is mere fancy), the faithful and true (on ἀληθινός, see above, Revelation 3:7) witness (there does not seem in this title to be any allusion to the prophecies which are about to follow in ch. 4 ff. as some (Grot., De Wette) have imagined. Far rather does it substantiate the witness borne in the Epistle itself, as we have seen in the case of the other introductions. See a lengthened notice of the title in Trench, p. 181 f.), the beginning of the creation of God (= πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως, ref. Col., where see note, as also Bleek on the Hebrews, vol. ii. 1, p. 43 note. In Him the whole creation of God is begun and conditioned: He is its source and primary fountain-head. The mere word ἀρχή would admit the meaning that Christ is the first created being: see Genesis 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:17; and Proverbs 8:22. And so the Arians here take it, and some who have followed them: e. g. Castalio,” chef d’œuvre:” “omnium Dei operum excellentissimum atque primum:” and so Ewald and Züllig. But every consideration of the requirements of the context, and of the Person of Christ as set forth to us in this book, is against any such view. Others, as Calov., Bengel, Whitby, al., make ἀρχή = ἄρχων, which is impossible: as it is also to interpret κτίσεως of the new spiritual creation, the church, as Ribera, Corn.-a-lap., Grot., Wetst., al. There can be little doubt that ἀρχή is to be taken in that pregnant sense in which we have it, e. g., in Wisdom of Solomon 12:16, ἡ γὰρ ἰσχύς σου δικαιοσύνης ἀρχή,—Wisdom of Solomon 14:27, ἡ γὰρ τῶνεἰδώλων θρησκεία παντὸς ἀρχὴ κακοῦ καὶ αἰτία καὶ πέρας ἐστίν: and in the Gospel of Nicodemus, p. ii. cap. vii. Tischdf. Ev. Apoc. p. 307, where Satan is said to be ἀρχὴ τοῦ θανάτου καὶ ῥίζα τῆς ἁμαρτίας, viz. the incipient cause. So Andr(65), Areth(66) in Catena ( ἡ προκαταρκτικὴ αἰτία τῆς κτίσεως), Lyra, Vitr., Wolf, Stern, Hengst., De Wette, Ebrard, Düsterd., al. The latter asks the questions, “How could Christ write if it were only this present Epistle, if he were himself a creature? How could every creature in heaven and earth adore him, if he were one of themselves (cf. ch. Revelation 19:10)? We need only think of the appellation of our Lord as the α and ω (ch. Revelation 22:13; cf. Revelation 1:8) in its necessary fulness of import, and we shall see that in the α lies the necessity of his being the ἀρχή of the Creation, as in the ω that of his coming to bring the visible creation to an end”): I know thy works, that (see above, Revelation 3:1, where the construction is the same: I have thy whole course of life before me, and its testimony is, that …) thou art neither cold nor hot (the peculiar use of the similitude of physical cold and heat here, makes it necessary to interpret the former of the two somewhat differently to its common acceptation: so that while ζεστός, from ζέω (cf. τῷ πνεύματι ζέοντες, Romans 12:11), keeps its meaning of fervent, warm, and earnest in the life of faith and love, ψυχρός cannot here mean “dead and cold,” as we say of the listless and careless professor of religion: for this is just what these Laodiceans were, and what is expressed by χλιαρός below. So that we must, so to speak, go farther into coldness for ψυχρός, and take it as meaning, not only entirely without the spark of spiritual life, but also and chiefly, by consequence, openly belonging to the world without, and having no part nor lot in Christ’s church, and actively opposed to it. This, as well as the opposite state of spiritual fervour, would be an intelligible and plainly-marked condition: at all events, free from that danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle which belongs to the lukewarm state inasmuch as a man in earnest, be he right or wrong, is ever a better man than one professing what he does not feel.

This necessity of interpretation here has been much and properly pressed by some of the later Commentators (De Wette, and more clearly still, Düsterd.), but was by the older ones very generally missed, and the coldness interpreted of the mere negative absence of spiritual life. So Andr(67), Areth(68) in Catena, ψυχρός, ὁ ἐστερημένος τῆς τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος ἐνεργείας καὶ ἐπιφοιτήσεως: Grot., “qui nullam habet evangelii notitiam ac proinde nec ullos motus christianos:” so Bengel, Ebrard, and many others. There have been some singular interpretations, e. g. that of Lyra, “frigidus, devitans transgressiones pœnæ timore:” of Ansbert, “quia nimirum ille eos glaciali quodammodo more constringit, qui dixit, ‘Sedebo in monte testamenti, in lateribus aquilonis.’ Aquilo itaque valde frigidissimus ventus,” &c.: of Hengstenberg, who regards both hot and cold as spoken of Christ’s servants in relation to Christ, and cold as equivalent to poor in spirit, conscious of one’s own coldness and desire for warmth. Any thing more opposed to the context cannot be imagined): would that (reff., for both indic. and opt. usages) thou wert cold or hot: so (see ref. It expresses the actual relation of facts to the wish just expressed, as not fulfilling it: = “quod cum non ita fiat”) because thou art lukewarm ( τοῦ μηδέπω θερμαίνοντος, χλιαρὸν καλεῖται, Galen. It is one of the many derivatives from χλίω, to melt), and neither hot nor cold, I shall soon spue thee out of my mouth ( τῇ μεταφορᾷ τοῦ χλιαροῦ δεόντως ἐχρήσατο, ὃ καὶ ἰατρῶν παῖδες πλάδον ἐργαζόμενον εἰς ἔμετον ἐρεθίζειν παραλαμβάνουσιν. Areth(69) in Catena. The μέλλω is a mild expression, carrying with it a possibility of the determination being changed, dependently on a change in the state of the church).


Verse 17-18

17, 18.] In these verses, the χλιαρότης is further expanded, as inducing miserable unconsciousness of defect and need, and empty self-sufficiency. And the charge comes in the form of solemn and affectionate counsel. Because (this ὅτι forms the reason of συμβουλεύω below: = seeing that … Cf. a similar construction in ch. Revelation 18:7-8) thou sayest [that] I am rich, and am become wealthy, and have need in nothing (the three expressions form a climax: the first giving the fact of being rich, the second the process of having become so (in which there is not merely outward fact, but some self-laudation: cf. ref. Hosea), the third the result, self-sufficingness. From the whole context it is evident that not outward worldly wealth, but imagined spiritual riches, are in question. The former is held to be meant by Andr(70), Areth(71), Aretius, Corn.-a-lap., Bengel, Ewald, Züllig, al., the latter by Bed(72), Lyra, Ribera, Alcas., Grot., Calov., Vitringa, Eich., De W., Hengst., Ebrard, Düsterd., Trench. Stern thinks the wealth is partly worldly (Cicero, Epist. ad div. ii. 17, iii. 5; Strabo xii. 16: see on the wealth of Laodicea the Prolegg.), and partly spiritual. But thus the correspondence in our sentence would be confused. Stern is doubtless so far right, that the imagined spiritual self-sufficingness was the natural growth of an outwardly prosperous condition: but the great self-deceit of which the Lord here complains was not concerning worldly wealth, which was a patent fact, but concerning spiritual, which was a baseless fiction), and knowest not that thou ( σύ, emphatic; “thou, of all others:” corresponding to the use of the article below) art the wretched and [the] pitiable one ( , as distinguished above others (not as De W., al., “the well-known”), as the person to whom above all others the epithets belong. And these epithets are especially opposed to οὐδὲν χρείαν ἔχω), and poor and blind and naked (are these adjectives all subordinate to preceding, or are they new predicates dependent on εἶ? Better the latter, if only for the reason that the counsel which follows takes up these three points in order, thereby bringing them out as distinct from and not subordinate to the two preceding), I advise thee (there is a deep irony in this word. One who has need of nothing, yet needs counsel on the vital points of self-preservation) to buy (at the cost only of thy good self-opinion. That a πτωχός should be advised to buy gold and raiment, and ointment, might of itself shew what kind of buying is meant, even if Isaiah 55:1, ἀγοράσατεἄνευ ἀργυρίου κ. τιμῆς, had not clearly defined it. Yet notwithstanding such clear warning not to go wrong, the Roman-Catholic expositors have here again handled the word of God deceitfully, and explained, as Lyra, “Emere, operibus bonis:” Corn.-a-lap., “verbum ergo emendi significat, quod multa debet homo facere, et multa conferre, ut idoneus sit a Deo accipere ista dona.” Bed(73) and Ribera, somewhat better, “derelictis omnibus,” Bed(74): “etiam cum voluptatum dispendio,” Rib. (which however is travelling out of the context, making the wealth to be earthly riches): Estius, better still, but curiously characteristic, “Emere significat aliquod studium præcedens, quo ambiat charitatem (his interpretation of χρυσίον πεπυρ.): quod tamen etiam ex Deo est. Unde statui potest meritum congruum, respectu justificationis.” Far better again Ansbert, though missing the point of ἀγοράσαι: “Numquid is qui miser et miserabilis et pauper et cæcus et nudus redarguitur, aliquid boni habet, quod pro tanto bono largitori suo tribuat, nisi forte prius ab ipso accipiat quod pro accipiendis aliis illi tribuat? Sic certe invenit quod det, qui nisi desuper acceperit, non habet quod det.” Augustine seems to be on the right track for the meaning of ἀγοράσαι when he says, “contende ut pro nomine Christi aliquid patiaris.” The term continues the irony. “All this lofty self-sufficiency must be expended in the labour of getting from Me these absolute necessaries.” So most of the later expositors. So even the R.-Cath. Stern, but disguising the truth under an appearance of a ‘quid pro quo;’ “Welches ist der Kaufpreis? Hat nicht der Herr selbst gesagt, dass sie arm seien und elend, nakt und jammerlich? Ihr Herz sollen sie Christo hingeben, ihr Fuhlen, Denken, Wollen, und thatkraftiges Handeln; sich selbst ganz und gar dem Herrn zur Leibeigenschaft opfern, Matthew 13:45-46”) from me (who am the source of all true spiritual wealth, Ephesians 3:8) gold (fresh) burnt from the fire (the ἐκ gives the sense of being just fresh from the burning or smelting, and thus not only tried by the process, but bright and new from the furnace. This is better than, with many Commentators, to make the ἐκ almost = ὑπό, signifying the source from which the πύρωσις comes, as ch. Revelation 8:11.

In the interpretation, this gold represents all spiritual πλοῦτος, in its sterling reality, as contrasted with that merely imaginary sort on which the Laodiceans prided themselves. It is narrowing it too much to interpret it as caritas (cf. Estius above), or fides, as Aret., Vitringa, Hengstb., al., or indeed any one spiritual grace, as distinguished from the sum total of them all), that thou mayest be (aor., literally, mayest have become, viz., by the purchase) rich: and white garments (Düsterd. rightly remarks that the white garments are distinct from the gold only in constituting a different image in the form of expression, not really in the thing signified. On the meaning, see Revelation 3:4, ch. Revelation 7:14, Revelation 19:8. The lack of righteousness, which can be only bought from Christ, and that at the price of all fancied righteousness of our own, is just as much a πτωχεία as the other), that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness be not made manifest (the choice of the word φανερωθῇ seems as if some particular time were in view when such manifestation would take place. If we are to assign one, it will naturally be that of the Lord’s coming, when τοὺς πάντας ἡμᾶς φανερωθῆναι δεῖ ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ βήματος τοῦ χριστοῦ, 2 Corinthians 5:10; when the Lord of the Church will come to see his guests, and all not clad in the wedding robe will be cast out, Matthew 22:11 ff.), and collyrium (the use of which is apparent from what follows. The κολλύριον was so called from its shape, being a stick or roll of ointment for the eyes, in the shape of a bread-cake, κόλλυρα or - ρις, 2 Kings 6:19, LXX) to anoint (from reff. Tobit, ἐγχρίειν appears to have been the common technical word for anointing the eyes) thine eyes, that thou mayest see (in the spiritual interpretation, this collyrium will import the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which, like the gold of His unsearchable riches, and the white garment of His righteousness, is to be obtained from him, John 16:7 ( πέμψω αὐτὸν …), 14 ( ἐκ τοῦ ἐμοῦ λήμψεται.…); Acts 2:33 ( ἐξέχεεν τοῦτο), and also at the price of the surrender of our own fancied wisdom. The analogy of 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27 is not to be overlooked: see notes at those places).


Verse 19

19.] Importing that these rich proofs of Christ’s love are only to be sought by such as the Laodiceans in the way of rebuke and chastisement: and reciprocally, as tending not to despair, but to encouragement, that rebuke and chastisement are no signs of rejection from Christ, but of His abiding and pleading love, even to the lukewarm and careless. I (emphatically prefixed: I, for my part: it is one of My ways, which are unlike men’s ways)—as many as ( ἐάν = ἄν, the common particle after the relative: see reff.) I love (not as Grot., “non absolute sed comparate, i. e. quos non plane ob diuturna peccata abjicere et objurare constitui:” but in its fullest and most blessed sense. Nor is the assertion addressed, as Vitr., only “ad meliorem ecclesiæ partem,” but to all, as a gracious call to repentance; as is evident from the words next following), I rebuke and chasten ( ἐλέγχειν, the convincing of sin, producing conviction, is a portion of παιδεύειν, the Lord’s chastening: the latter may extend very much wider than the former, even to judgments and personal infliction, which, however they may subserve the purpose of ἐλέγχειν, are not, properly speaking, part of it. “Redargutio sane ad verba, castigatio vero pertinet ad flagella,” Ansbert); be zealous then ( ζήλευε, pres., of a habit of Christian life), and repent (begin that life of zeal by an act, decisive and effective (aor.), of change of purpose. There is not in the words any ὑστερονπρότερον, as De Wette, but the logical connexion is made plain by the tenses. Düsterd. (following Grot., Beng., Hengstb., Ebrard) is clearly wrong in saying that “the Lord requires of the church a burning zeal, kindled by the love shewn by Him (but where is this in the context?), and as the practical putting forth of this zeal, true change of purpose.” This goes directly against both the grammatical propriety and the facts of the case, in which change of purpose must precede zeal, which is the effectual working in a man’s life of that change of purpose).


Verse 20

20.] Behold, I stand at the door (the construction with the prep. of motion after ἕστηκα, is perhaps owing to the idea of motion conveyed in the verb,—“I have placed myself.” See reff., especially ref. Luke) and knock (the reference to Song of Solomon 5:2 is too plain to be for a moment doubted: and if so, the interpretation must be grounded in that conjugal relation between Christ and the church,—Christ and the soul,—of which that mysterious book is expressive. This being granted, we may well say, that the vivid depiction of Christ standing at the door is introduced, to bring home to the lukewarm and careless church the truth of His constant presence, which she was so deeply forgetting. His knocking was taking place partly by the utterance of these very rebukes ( ἐλέγχω), partly by every interference in judgment and in mercy. Whenever His hand is heard, He is knocking at the door. But it is not His hand only that may be heard: see below): if any man hear my voice (here we have more than the mere sound of his knock: He speaks. See Acts 12:13 f. κρούσαντος δὲ τοῦ πέτρου τὴν θύρανἐπιγνοῦσα τὴν φωνὴν τοῦ πέτρου. In that case we must conceive Rhoda to have asked “who is there?” and Peter to have answered. It may not be uninstructive to fill up this connexion in a similar manner. “It is I,” is an answer the soul may often hear, if it will enquire the reason of an unexpected knock at the door of its slumbers; or we may compare Song of Solomon 5:2, φωνὴ ἀδελφιδοῦ μου κρούει ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν, ἄνοιξόν μοι), and open the door ( ἀκούσῃ, ἀνοίξῃ, aorists, because prior in time to the futures which follow: “shall have heard,” “shall have opened:” but it would be pedantry thus to render them in our language. On the sense, cf. Song of Solomon 5:6.

Our verse is a striking and decisive testimony to the practical freedom of our will to receive or reject the heavenly Guest: without the recognition of which, the love and tenderness of the saying become a hideous mockery.

We then open the door to Christ, when we admit Him, His voice, His commands, His example, to a share in our inner counsels and sources of action. To say that this can be done without His grace, is ignorance: to say it is done only by that grace irresistibly exerted, is far worse—it is, to deprive His gracious pleadings of all meaning), [and] (this καί is superfluous in the sense, merely expressing the sequence: and may on that account have been omitted) I will enter in to him, and I will sup with him, and he with me (the imagery is taken from the usages of intimate hospitality. But whereas in these it would be merely the guest who would sup with the host who lets him in, here the guest becomes himself the host, because He is the bread of life, and the Giver of the great feast of fat things and of the great marriage supper (Matthew 8:11; Matthew 25:1 ff.; ch. Revelation 19:7; Revelation 19:9).

St. John is especially fond of reporting these sayings of reciprocity which our Lord uttered: cf. John 6:56 (John 10:38), John 14:20, John 15:4-5, John 17:21; John 17:26. This blessed admission of Christ into our hearts will lead to His becoming our guest, ever present with us, and sharing in all our blessings—and, which is even more, to our being ever in close union with Him, partaking ever of His fulness, until we sit down at His table in his Kingdom).


Verse 21

21.] He that conquereth (see above, ch. Revelation 2:26, and Revelation 3:12, for the construction), I will give to him to sit (in the blessed life of glory hereafter: such promises cannot be regarded, as this by some, as partially fulfilled in this life: for thus the following analogy, ὡς κἀγὼ κ. τ. λ., would fail. The final and complete act is also pointed out by the aor. καθίσαι) with me (cf. John 17:24, πάτερ, ὃ δέδωκας ἐμοὶ θέλω ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ κἀκεῖνοι ὦσιν μετʼ ἐμοῦ) on my throne (have a share in My kingly power, as ch. Revelation 2:27, Revelation 20:6), as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His throne (the aorr. refer to the historical facts of the Resurrection and Ascension. By the latter, Christ sat down at the right hand of God, or of the throne of God, as Hebrews 12:2. No distinction must be made between the throne of the Father, on which Christ sits, and that of Christ, on which the victorious believer is to sit with Him: they are one and the same, cf. ἐκ τοῦ θρόνου τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἀρνίου, ch. Revelation 22:1; and the glory of the redeemed will be a participation in that of the Father and the Son, John 17:22).

Doubtless the occurrence of this, the highest and most glorious of all the promises, in this place, is to be explained not entirely from any especial aptness to the circumstances of the Laodicean church, though such has been attempted to be assigned (e. g. by Ebrard—because the victory over luke-warmness would be so much more difficult than that in any other case), but also from the fact of its occurring at the end of all the Epistles, and as it were gathering them all into one. It must not be forgotten too, that the ἐκάθισα μετὰ τοῦ πατρός μου ἐν τῷ θρόνῳ αὐτοῦ forms a link to the next part of the book where we so soon, ch. Revelation 5:6, read καὶ εἶδον ἐν τῷ μέσῳ τοῦ θρόνου.… ἀρνίον ἑστηκὸς ὡς ἐσφαγμένον.


Verse 22

22.] See on ch. Revelation 2:7.

From this point begins the Revelation proper, extending to the end of the book. And herein we have a first great portion, embracing chapp. 4–11., the opening of the seals and the sounding of the trumpets. But preparatory to both these series of revelations, we have described to us in chapp. Revelation 4:5, the heavenly scenery which furnishes the local ground for these visions. Of these, chap. 4 is properly the scene itself: chap. 5 being a further unfolding of its details with a view to the vision of the seals which is to follow. So that we have,—

 


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Bibliography Information
Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/revelation-3.html. 1863-1878.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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