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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Revelation 3

 

 

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Introduction

CHAP. III.

The angel of the church of Sardis is reproved, exhorted to repent, and threatened if he do not repent. The angel of the church of Philadelphia is approved for his diligence and patience. The angel of Laodicea is rebuked for being neither hot nor cold, and admonished to repent. Christ standeth at the door, and knocketh.

Anno Domini 96.

Revelation 3:1. Unto the angel of the church in Sardis Sardis, once the renowned capital of Croesus, and of the rich Lydian kings, is now no longer worthy the name of a city. It lies about thirty-three miles to the south of Thyatira, and is called by the Turks Sart, or Sard, with little variation from the original name. It is a most sad spectacle, and sufficient to draw tears on the sight of its ruins; for it is now no more than an ignoble village, with low and wretched cottages of clay; nor has it any other inhabitants besides shepherds and herdsmen, who feedtheir flocks and cattle in the neighbouring plains: yet the great extent and grandeur of the ruins abundantly shew how large and splendid a city it once was. The Turks themselves have only one mosque, a beautiful one indeed; perverted to their use from a Christian church. Very few Christians are to be found here; and they with great patience, or rather senseless stupidity, sustain a miserable servitude; and, what is yet more miserable, are without a church or a minister among them. Such is the deplorable state of this once most glorious city; but her works were not found perfect, that is, they were found blameable before God. She was dead even while she lived, and mere show is punished accordingly. The bishop to whom this epistle is directed, is supposed to have been Melito, whose Apology for the Christians, presented to the emperor Antoninus, is celebrated. Who hath the seven Spirits, means, "Who presides over and orders the dispensations of the Spirit with respect to his various gifts and graces, and produces thereby such wonderful events as shall astonish all future ages." Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead, means, "Though thou art said to be alive, yet thou art dead." This angel is rebuked for not being active and zealous in his office, and is therefore, in our Saviour's judgment, accounted as a dead man: negligence in duty is a kind of moral death. But our Saviour here means more particularly to rebuke the hypocrisy of the Sardian church in general, which, with an external zeal for religion; possessed very little, if any, of the vital power of it.


Verse 2

Revelation 3:2. That are ready to die: By this death we must understand the death of their faith, since, when men lose their faith, they are dead to Christ. When our Saviour says in the beginning, that he hath the seven Spirits, that is, the Spirit of God in all his active powers, he there lays a foundation, upon which the whole epistle is built, which runs throughout in the same allegory. I have not found thy works perfect, means, "I have found the greatest deficiency in thy works."Before God is emphatical; for God is here opposed as a witness and judge to them. He did not approve what was commended bythem. Short-sighted man may be deceived; the Omniscient God never can be deceived.


Verse 3

Revelation 3:3. Remember, therefore, &c.— Reflect again and again what doctrine thou hast received and heard from the apostles of the Lord; for this is a plain reference to the doctrine of Christ and his apostles; from which, as from a fountain, all the streams of sound Christian doctrine have flowed; and from the simplicity of which doctrine the Sardians had swerved.


Verse 4

Revelation 3:4. Thou hast a few names Names are here used for the persons called by them. This symbol therefore seems to allude to the diptychs or matricula used in the primitive church, in which were registered the names of all the faithful; whence St. Luke uses this very phrase, Acts 1:15 and St. John hereafter, ch. Revelation 11:13 and this is according to the Mosaical institution in the book of Numbers, and the constant use of the Israelites afterwards, to keep exact accounts of the genealogies. The phrase, which have not defiled their garments, is a Hebrew symbolical phrase, arising from the pollutions contracted upon the garments, which rendered men defiled under the Mosaic law, and incapable to appear before God in his temple. Here therefore it signifies, that, corrupt and indolent as the general state of the church of Sardis was, these had not polluted themselves with the abominations by which so many had contracted gross defilements. The allegory is continued in the remaining part of the verse, and the reward suited to the communication just given. They shall walk, signifies here, as in ch. Revelation 21:24 shall abide, prosper, flourish, and be every way happy. The reason of this symbol is to be taken from the notion of the word Αγιος, holy; for they who sanctified themselves to perform any acts of religion, clothed themselves in white, which was also the habit of nobles and priests. With me, is fulfilled and explained in ch. Revelation 20:4.—For they are worthy: "As they have been distinguished by their fidelity and zeal, I will distinguish them bymy special favour, and raise them, ere long, to those seats of complete glory, where they shall walk with me in white robes, and be of the number of my joyful and triumphant train; for they are worthy of such distinguished honour, as they have been especially careful to keep themselves from those evils which have been generally prevailing around them." Vitringa and many others are of opinion, that here is an allusion to the custom of the Sanhedrim, when they examined the candidates for the high priesthood. To the man they judged worthy, they gave a white garment; but, if unqualified, he was sent out from among them in mourning.


Verse 5

Revelation 3:5. And I will not blot out his name The same allegory is pursued. This is elsewhere stiled to cast out the name (Luke 6:22.)—to reject, to excommunicate, by blotting the name out of the matricula, or catalogue of Christ's saints, which is here called the book of life; none but saints who are in it being to expect eternal life. See ch. Revelation 20:12, Revelation 21:27.


Verse 7

Revelation 3:7. Church in Philadelphia So called from Attalus Philadelphus, its builder. It is distant from Sardis about twenty-seven miles to the south-east, and is called by the Turks Alah-shahr, or "the Beautiful City," on account of its delightful situation; standing on the declivity of the mount Tmolus, and having a most pleasant prospect on the plains beneath, well furnished with divers villages, and watered by the river Pactolus. It still retains the form of a city, with something of trade to invite people to it, being in the road of the Persian caravans. Here is little of antiquity remaining, besides the ruins of a church dedicated to St. John, which is now made a dunghill to receive the offals of dead beasts. However, God has been pleased to preserve some in this place to make profession of the Christian faith, there being above two hundred houses of Christians, and four churches. Next to Smyrna, this city has the greatest number of Christians, and Christ has promised a more particular protection to it. Doddridge observes upon the expressions he that is holy, he that is true, that this being so peculiarly the prerogative of God, it is to be admired that no greater stress should have been laid upon it, in proof of the Deity of our blessed Redeemer, &c. See ch. Revelation 6:10. The expression he that hath the key of David, is an allusion to Isaiah 22:22 where the prophet promises to Eliakim, under the symbol of the key of the house of David, the government of the whole nation. See Job 12:14. Revelation 1:18. The words that follow, shew that Christ's power is absolute. David is very often, in the prophets, a type of the Messiah. See Jeremiah 30:9.


Verse 8

Revelation 3:8. Behold, I have set before thee an open door, St. Paul uses this symbol to signify the free exercise and propagation of the gospel; Acts 14:27. 1 Corinthians 16:9 but at the same time this shews, that the liberty here used, is in a more limited degree than when other symbols are employed; and therefore it is said here, that this angel has but a little strength. See Revelation 4:1; Revelation 19:11. Thus this expression coincides with the allegory, which was begun with the key of David. One Demetrius is named in the Apostolical Constitutions, as ordained by St. John bishop of Philadelphia; and in 3 John 1:12 one of that name is commended; but whether it be the same person is doubtful. And hast kept my word signifies "hast endured persecution for my sake, and kept the faith manfully." The word Λογος, in this book, has a peculiar reference to martyrdom. Vitringa and others give the following turn to this verse. "I know thy works, and, on that account, I, who have the keys of the kingdom of heaven, have taken care that a door for freely preaching the gospel should be opened before thee, and which I will take care that thy enemies shall not close upon thee, because thou hast but a little strength; notwithstanding which, thou hast kept my word," &c. See ch. Revelation 2:13.


Verse 9-10

Revelation 3:9-10. Make them of the synagogue of Satan; See ch. Revelation 2:9. Here we have the Jews mentioned again, who, through hatred to Christ, moved the Heathens to persecute the Christians; and it is likely that the persecution, in which the faith of this angel had been tried, like that at Smyrna, was contrived by them. Some understand the 9th verse, of the state of humiliation and subjection of the Jews to the Christian church; and others, of their future conversion to the faith. It has been, however, well observed, that were we more particularly acquainted with the history of those seven churches, in the times immediately succeeding the date of these epistles, we might, perhaps, find many remarkable illustrations of several passages in them, and of this among the rest. Supposing, for instance, that persons ofconsiderable rank and dignity in Philadelphia were converted to Christianity, and the interest of the synagogue here spoken of was so weakened, or the Heathen populace of the place were so prejudiced against them, as that the chief members of the synagogue should find it necessary to court the protection of the Christians, for the security of their persons or effects, it will throw considerable light upon the place. The like observation may be applied to the clause in Revelation 3:10. I will keep thee from the hour of temptation, &c. Dr. Smith (in his learned and accurate account of these parts, p. 134, &c.) has observed, that Philadelphia was the last of all the seven cities here spoken of, which fell into the hands of the Turks; for whereas the rest were subdued by Urchan and Amurath, Philadelphia held out till the time of Bajazet; so that the remains of this society were preserved, when those of the rest were ruined. The hour of temptation which should come upon all the world, according to some, relates to the persecution under Trajan, which was greater and more extensive than the preceding persecutions under Nero and Domitian.


Verse 12

Revelation 3:12. Will I make a pillar As a pillar is both an ornament and a support of the building, so these martyrs and confessors shall accordingly have greater power, and thus bear the weight of government in the New Jerusalem more than others. The allegoryis here continued from buildings,and perhaps there may be an allusion to the two pillars of Solomon's temple, Jachin and Boaz, 1 Kings 7:13; 1 Kings 7:51. He shall go no more out, plainly implies an eternal state to be enjoyed in the New Jerusalem. He goes on, and I will write upon him the name of my God: it was usual to grave inscriptions on pillars: here the apostle intimates the graving the name of God, as under his divine auspices the victory was gained; as likewise the name of New Jerusalem, to signify that the victor belonged to it, and was free of it. Few texts in the whole New Testament are more illustrated by antiquity than this. Great numbers of inscriptions are yet remaining, brought from the Grecian cities of Europe and Asia, and some from islands in the neighbourhood of Patmos, in which the victories of eminent persons are commemorated. Some of these were placed near the temples of their idol deities,others in the temples themselves, to signify their being put under the particular protection of those deities; whose names were therefore inscribed upon them, as well as the names of the conquerors, and of the cities to which they belonged, together with the names of the generals by whose conduct the victory was gained. See Isaiah 62:12. Ezekiel 48:35. It is observable, that during the persecuted state of the church, Christ is constantly called the Lamb, or denominated by such symbols as express the same state; but on his entrance into the New Jerusalem, he changes it, and puts on his new, secret, or wonderful name of King of Kings and Lord of Lords; and that is, because he has then wholly changed his state, and entered upon a new one; a secret never yet thoroughly known here below, but wonderful, great, and glorious. Because the true worshippers of Christ have never yet been whollyfree from persecution, Christ has never yet shewn us his new name; wherefore those here spoken of, on whom he bestows it, are such as shall be made partakers of the same state wherein he hath it as mediatorial King.


Verse 14

Revelation 3:14. The church of the Laodiceans Laodicea lay south of Philadelphia in the way to Ephesus; and if you inspect the maps, you will find the seven churches to lie in a kind of circular form; so that the natural progress was from Ephesus to Smyrna, from Smyrna toPergamos, from Pergamos to Thyatira, from Thyatira to Sardis, from Sardis to Philadelphia, from Philadelphia to Laodicea, and from Laodicea round to Ephesus again; which is the method and order that St. John has observed in addressing them, andwas probably the circuit that he took in his visitation. That there was a flourishing church in Laodicea in the primitive times of Christianity, is evident from St. Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, wherein frequent mention is made of the Laodiceans; as well as from this Epistle of St. John. But the doom of Laodicea seems to have been more severe and terrible than that of almost any other of the churches: for it is now utterly destroyed and forsaken of men, and is become an habitation only for wolves, foxes, and jackals, a den of dragons, snakes, and vipers: and that because the Lord hath executed the judgment that he hath pronounced upon her; that all the world might know and tremble at the fierce anger of God against impenitent, negligent, and careless sinners and apostates. For such was the accusation of the lukewarm Laodiceans, who grew proud and self-conceited, thinking themselves much better than they really were. Wherefore because they were neither hot nor cold, they were loathsome to Christ, and he therefore assured them, that he would spit them out of his mouth, Revelation 3:15-16. The ruins shew it to have been a very great city, situated upon six or seven hills, and encompassing a large space of ground. Some notion may be formed of its former greatness and glory from three theatres and a circus, which are remaining, one of which is truly admirable, as it was capable of containing above thirty thousand men; into whose area they descended by fifty steps. The city is now called Eski Hisar, or the Old Castle; and though it was once the mother church of sixteen bishopricks, yet it now lies desolate, not so much as inhabited by shepherds; and, so far from shewing any of the ornaments of God's ancient worship, it cannot now boast an anchorite's or hermit's chapel, where God's name is praised and invoked. Such is the state and condition of these seven churches, and there cannot be a stronger proof of the truth of prophesy, nor a more effectual warning to other Christians. The first bishop of Laodicea ordained by the apostles, is said to have been Archippus, in the Apostolical Constitutions. See Colossians 4:17. The Amen, is one of God's titles in Isaiah 65:16. (in the Hebrew). That prophesy seems to be applied to the Messiah, and therefore relates to our case. The words which follow, are synonymous, explaining this; for the faithful and true Witness is the same as the Amen. The confession and promises of Christ are true, and certain to every persevering believer: he was firm and unmoved in his confession, and he will never fail his faithful saints in what he has promised, and sealed with his blood. Instead of the beginning of the creation of God, Fleming renders it the efficient cause of God's creation; and the word αρκη has frequently that signification. The meaning is, that the whole creation was produced by him, and he is the Head and Governor of all that he has made.


Verse 15

Revelation 3:15. I would thou wert cold or hot. This is not to be understood absolutely, but comparatively; as when our Saviour says, If any one come to me and hateth not his father, &c. the meaning is, not that a Christian should absolutely hate his father, but that he should love Christ above him, or any worldlyconsideration. So here Christ does not approve of coldness in religious matters absolutely; but declares that lukewarmness therein is a worse disposition than absolute coldness: the reason of this is plain; because that faint heat here expressed to be in the angel of Laodicea, is a false and deceitful principle, which makes a man presumeupon himself, as if he were good enough, and hinders him from aiming at genuine Christian experience and holiness of heart: whereas flat coldness is plain and sensible, and does not fill a man with such false notions; but makes him rather immediately, upon feeling the truth of it through grace, ready to hearken to the admonitions of Christ. So that in reality, when exactly compared, it is a better disposition than lukewarmness, which must of necessitybring along with it negligence and hypocrisy, by making them seem wise and good in their own conceits; and it is plain from what follows, that the Laodiceans were so.


Verse 16

Revelation 3:16. I will spue thee out of my mouth. The allegory is continued, for lukewarm things, as water, provoke to vomit, according to the observation and prescription of the ancient physicians. See Celsus de Re. Med. lib. 1. 100. 3.


Verse 17

Revelation 3:17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, &c.— This angel, or his church, is quite the reverse of the angel of Smyrna: ch. Revelation 2:9. Here is a beautiful gradation in the words before us. It is something to be rich, more to be increased with goods, and still more to be in want of nothing; this is preserved with equal beauty in the latter part of the verse: the whole alludes to their spiritual state and spiritual goods. According to the common language of scripture, they only are wretched and miserable, who are oppressed with sins; Matthew 11:28 they arepoor, who lose their own soul; Matthew 16:26 they are blind, who see not their own sins; John 9:40-41 and they are naked, who are utterly destitute of true holiness; see ch. Revelation 16:15, Revelation 17:16.


Verse 18

Revelation 3:18. I counsel thee, &c.— "I counsel thee, that, with a humble sense of thy condition, so extremely unhappy, thou apply to him, who alone is capable of helping thee: and as I require no price or equivalent for my treasures, but only a conviction of such an incapacity to make an adequate return for them; I advise thee in that way to buyof me a full supply for all thy necessities; blessingsmore desirable than gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest, indeed be rich before God in holiness and good works; white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed; adorned with every Christian grace and virtue, which can render thee lovely in the sight ofGod; putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. And whereas thou art blinded with such unhappy self-conceit, come, and anoint thy eyes with my sovereign eye-salve, that thou mayest see; for the illuminating grace of my Spirit will bring thee to right sentiments of thyself and of thy state, and teach thee to judge of objects according to their real worth."


Verse 20

Revelation 3:20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: "Behold, I have stood for a long time, and I still stand at the door, and knock; waiting for admittance into your hearts. If any man hear my voice with a due regard, and open the door; if he welcome me with affection due to such a Friend and such a Saviour, how mean soever his circumstances in life may be, and how faulty soever his character may formerly have been, I will enter into his house, and,like some princely guest, will bring my own rich and delightful entertainment along with me; I will sup with him, and he shallsup with me; I will treat him with the most endearing and familiar friendship, accept the tokens of his affection, and give him the most solid evidences of mine." See Luke 14:15; Luke 14:35. John 10:2; John 10:42.


Verse 21

Revelation 3:21. Will I grant to sit with me in my throne, The accomplishment of this promise is declared, ch. Revelation 20:4. We only observe, that notwithstanding this angel is described with the worst character of all the seven, yet the most glorious of all the promises is applied to him; to shew, that, upon repentance, the way to glory lies open to him by overcoming, as well as to the rest. Now, though the attributes of the promises be mentioned, distributing to each of the seven angels, some one, some another, different, as to the symbols, from the rest; yet all these, in the application, as the titles of Christ are to be taken, shall be collectively bestowed and concentered in each of those respective persons who have obtained them by overcoming. De Dieu observes, that the thrones in the east are broad and wide, something like a bed, raised a little above the earth, and adorned with tapestry; so that, besides the seat peculiar to the king, others, whom he designs to honour, have sufficient room to be seated on the throne with him. See ch. Revelation 5:9-10.

Inferences.—Alas! how common is the character of the church of Sardis, and of those who have only a name to live, while they are dead? But the more general the prevalence of such an indolent temper is, the more let us emulate the distinguished honour of those few names in Sardis, which had not defiled their garments; that we may walk with them; and with Christ, in white raiment; that we may arrive at that happy state of everlasting purity, of everlasting festivity, of everlasting triumph, which our divine Master has encouraged us to expect. We know not how unexpectedly he may come upon us: let us be always ready, always strenuous in maintaining a holy war against the enemies of our salvation; and then we shall conquer, we shall triumph; our name shall remain in the book of life; it shall be confessed by Christ before his Father and his holy angels: we shall share with him in his triumph over all the rebellious nations, in that day, when we shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel: we shall for ever wear the lustre of the morning star; yea, we shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father.

On the other hand, let us not indulge in a vain conceit of our own wisdom, and riches, and sufficiency; but let us thankfully hearken to that kind invitation, which our Lord gives the Laodiceans, to come and purchase that of him, without money, and without price, by which we may be truly and substantially enriched; that by which we may attain to real knowledge and true discernment; and may be clothed with ornaments and glories, which shall render us amiable in the eyes of God. How long has our compassionate Saviour been waiting upon us! How long has he stood knocking at the door! And O, for what guests hath he been excluded, who have filled our hearts and taken the throne in them, while the entrance has been denied to the Lord of glory and of grace! Let us humble ourselves in the dust before him, and entreat that he would now enter as into his own habitation; that he would do us the honour to sup with us; that he would cause us to sup with him; opening to us the stores of his love and bounty, and causing our souls to rejoice in his salvation. "Awaken us, O blessed Jesus, to give thee a most cheerful admittance; and rather shew thy love to us by chastisements and rebuke, than suffer us to forfeit it, by continued insensibility and negligence. Holy and true, who hast the key of David, exert thy power in opening our hearts: and O, set before us an open door of service; and give us to use it to the utmost, for thy glory. Strengthen us to keep the word of thy patience, and make us unshaken in our attachment to thee, in every hour of temptation, which may come upon the earth, that none may take away our crown."

Whatever our trials may be, let us rejoice in this, that they will be only for a short duration; for our Lord is coming quickly: whatever our combat may be, let us arm ourselves with faith in those glorious promises, which our Lord makes to them that persevere and overcome.

Have we not experienced the pleasure of filling a place in the house of God on earth? But this sacred satisfaction, and the holy season which affords it, are quickly over; let us long for the blessed time, when, if faithful, we shall be fixed as immoveable pillars in the temple of God above. And O, may we now continually wear engraven on our hearts, the name of our God, and of his heavenly city, and the new name of our triumphant Redeemer, as a token for good, that we shall bear the inscription in bright and everlasting characters above. But even this most expressive promise was not equal to all the purposes of a Saviour's love: that nothing, therefore, might be wanting to enkindle the most generous ambition, he has been pleased to speak of our sitting down with him upon his throne, as he is seated on his Father's throne, if we overcome. O, who would grudge to resign, not merely the accommodations of life, but even an earthly throne, in the hope of one so much more radiant, exalted, and permanent! Fear not, little flock of faithful saints! It is your Father's, and your Saviour's good pleasure to give you the kingdom; and he animates you to pursue it with such compassionate earnestness, as if he could hardly enjoy it himself, unless it were communicated to you.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The fifth epistle is directed to the church in Sardis.

1. It comes from him that hath the seven spirits of God, who, as the divine Mediator, hath all the variety and fulness of the gifts and graces of the Spirit to bestow; and who hath the seven stars, guiding and directing his ministering servants, and giving them all their light and influence.

2. The contents are melancholy. [1.] I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead; amidst all thy specious appearances of religion, I know that thy professions in general are hypocritical, and many who have a name among the members of the church, are really dead in trespasses and sins, and others cold and lukewarm. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, before all vital godliness be utterly departed: for I have not found thy works perfect before God; they are but as the carcase, when the spirit is fled; thy duties lifeless; thy services insincere. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. Note; (1.) A form of godliness will avail nothing if the power of it be lost. (2.) They who feel their souls under decays, need to watch with holy jealousy, and cry to God for quickening influences to revive his work in their hearts. (3.) The way to recover from our backslidings, is to consider how we departed; what God's word has said of the sin and danger of such a conduct; to repent of our unfaithfulness; and still to cleave to those promises that preserve the soul from despair, and encourage us to return to God. [2.] He sharply threatens them: If therefore thou shalt not watch, but goest on careless and secure, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Note; Christ's appearing at death or judgment will be very terrible and surprising to the backslider in heart; when too late he will be startled from the slumbers of security. [3.] He encourages the few faithful among them: Thou hast a few names even in Sardis, cold and careless as the generality of the professors are, which have not defiled their garments; who have kept themselves unspotted from the world, and maintained a becoming purity of doctrine and manners amidst abounding ungodliness; and they shall walk with me in white, as sacred priests and triumphant conquerors, decked with glory, honour, and immortality; for they are worthy, and meet for my inheritance among the saints in light.

3. The conclusion. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; shining in splendid robes of righteousness and victory; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels, in the great day of my appearing to judge the world. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Note; They who fight manfully and faithfully under Christ's banner, will be acknowledged by him with most distinguished favour and honour, when he shall come to reward their fidelity.

2nd, The sixth epistle is directed to the angel of the church of Philadelphia. We have,

1. The preface. These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, who by nature is essential truth and holiness, the substance of all the prophecies and promises, the true Messiah; he that hath the key of David, on whose shoulders the government rests; he that openeth the gates of the grave and the kingdom of heaven to his faithful people, and no man shutteth; no creature can exclude such saints of God from his eternal glory; and shutteth up the wicked in the dreadful prison of eternal torment, and no man openeth, or can open the gates of the impassable gulph, to release the damned from thence.

2. The contents. [1.] I know thy works, and regard them with delight and approbation: behold, I have set before thee an open door. that my word should run, and have free access, and be glorified; and no man can shut it, I give thee a power and opportunity of spreading my gospel, which none of thy enemies can shut against thee; for thou hast a little strength, and a measure, though it be small, of grace and spiritual attainments; and hast kept my word with fidelity and steadfastness, and hast not denied my name, nor revolted from the profession of the faith amid the wiles of deceivers, and the persecutions of avowed enemies. Behold I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, (which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie,) behold, with thankfulness and delight, I will make them, who, under pretence of zeal for Judaism, corrupt the doctrines of Christianity, and whose practice is as vicious as their principles are erroneous, to come and worship before thy feet; abased into the dust, and brought to take shame to themselves; and to know that I have loved thee, with distinguished favour and regard. Note; Sooner or later the bitterest persecutors of God's faithful people shall be made to know how dear they are to him, and be covered with everlasting confusion in the view of their malice against them. [2.] A gracious promise is given to the faithful. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, and maintained the profession of the unadulterated gospel, amid the malignant opposition of envenomed foes, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, that thou shalt not apostatize from the truth under those fiery persecutions, which shall, under the bloody Heathen Emperors of Rome, come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth, and shew who are true and false professors. Note; (1.) They who steadily cleave to Christ, shall be kept in the most dangerous days. (2.) We must prepare for temptation; it will come, and if we are unprepared, we shall be in imminent danger. [3.] He adds a glorious encouragement. Behold, I come quickly; the time therefore of suffering cannot but be momentary; hold that fast which thou hast, with holy resolution, cleaving to the word of truth, that no man take thy crown; or, by fraud or violence, seduce or intimidate thee from the faith of the gospel, and rob thee of the reward of fidelity. Note; A sense of the speedy coming of Jesus for our help, is the greatest support under every affliction.

3. The conclusion. Him that overcometh, who is through my grace finally a conqueror, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; he shall be admitted into the eternal presence of God in glory, and there shall be ever with the Lord, enjoying that beatific vision. And I will write upon him the name of my God, to whose grace he is indebted for the conquest, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God; even that new Jerusalem which shall soon be represented to thee, O John, in a most glorious vision: and I will write upon him my new name, acknowledging him for my faithful saint, and bringing him to share in all the glories of my kingdom. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; and well worthy is it of our deepest and most serious attention.

3rdly, The last epistle is directed to the angel of the church of Laodicea. We have,

1. The preface. These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, whose testimony is infallible, who neither can nor will deceive his people, or fail of the accomplishment of his prophecies; the beginning of the creation of God; the author of life and being to every creature; the head of vital influences to his believing people, having in all things the pre-eminence, and possessing universal dominion in heaven and earth.

2. The contents. [1.] A melancholy account is given of their state. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot, but lifeless and lukewarm: I would thou wert cold or hot; either be sincerely zealous, or make no profession, rather than disgrace it by an unsuitable conduct. [2.] A threatening is added. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth, as loathsome and nauseous. [3.] The cause of their declension is remarked. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; endowed perhaps with spiritual gifts, abounding probably in worldly wealth, and thoroughly self-righteous and conceited; and thus they flattered themselves with high imaginations of their own excellence; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; insensible to thy spiritual wants and poverty; ignorant of all true wisdom; destitute of real grace and righteousness; and exposed to the storms of divine wrath. Note; (1.) Nothing is more fatal to the soul, than a vain conceit of our own excellencies. (2.) Many flatter themselves as confident of heaven, whose ways lead down to death and hell. [4.] He gives them the kindest advice. I counsel thee to buy of me, that is, to come to me to receive freely out of my fulness the supply of every want, gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; the gold of my spirit, wisdom, and grace, and all the spiritual measures which I bestow on my faithful followers; and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear: apply to me for an interest in my infinite merit and sanctifying grace, that thou mayest be absolved before God, and adorned with every virtue and heavenly disposition which can render thee lovely in his sight: and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see the things which make for thy everlasting peace, and all the mysteries of gospel-grace, no longer blinded by ignorance, prejudice, and worldly lusts. Note; They who would be spiritually rich, and wise unto salvation, must come to Christ to buy out of his fullness; and, blessed be his name, the purchase is to be made without money and without price; for he freely gives to the miserable and the destitute. [5.] A gracious encouragement is given them to repent. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; the reproofs of my word, and the corrections of my providence, are the rod of love: be zealous therefore; cast off this lukewarm spirit; let the fire of zeal and love kindle in your hearts; and repent of your past unfaithfulness. Behold, such is my patience and condescension, I yet stand, waiting to be gracious, at the door of your hearts, and knock: if any man hear my voice, attend to my calls and warnings, and open the door in faith, to receive me with eager welcome into his soul, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me, honouring him with my presence, and love, and blessed communion. Note; Christ, by his providences, word and Spirit, knocks at the door of our hearts; and they who welcome him in, and cleave to him perseveringly, shall find him not only as a guest that tarrieth for a night, but whose communion shall make them blessed to all eternity.

3. The conclusion. To him that overcometh the corruptions of his nature, and the temptations of the world, will I grant to sit with me in my throne; even as I also overcame, and am sat down with my Father in his throne; to such infinite and transcendent glory and dignity shall he be exalted in the great day of my appearing, and shall come to reign with me triumphant over every foe for ever and ever. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; for these things are written for our learning to the latest ages; and blessed are they who attend to the warnings, reproofs, exhortations, encouragements, and instructions here revealed, and feel their mighty influence.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-3.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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