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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament
Revelation 3



Other Authors

Questions For Revelation Chapter Three

1.Identify author of letter to Sardis.

2.What wasknown of this church?

3.What wasit exhorted to strengthen?

4.Tell whatwas wrong with its works.

5.What were they admonished to remember?

6.In what manner might the Lord come upon them?

7.What was said of a few of their number?

8.Tell what was promised them.

9.On what ground was this promised?

10.How will the victors be clothed?

11.What assurance concerning their names?

12.Where will they be acknowledged?

13.What should all hearers do?

14.To which church i. next letter addressed?

15.What key is held by the author?

16.Who may and "who may not open and close?

17.Tell what is acknowledged here.

18.What is set before this church?

19. Ten what cannot be done with it.

20.Of what did they have even though a little?

21.How had they treated His name?

22.What synagogue is mentioned?

23.Tell what claim they made.

24.Of what does the Lord accuse them?

25.To whom will they be compelled to come?

26.What must they do there?

27.They will be made to know what?

28.What had this church kept?

29.For this what was to be the reward?

30.For what was that hour to come?

31.When will the Lord come?

32.What should they hold fast?

33.Lest what?

34.What will be made of him who overcomes?

35.Tell what he shall not do anymore.

36.What names will be written upon him?

37.What and where is the city of God?

38.What privilege must we give those with ears?

39.To what church was the seventh letter?

40.What kind of witness is the author?

41.State the name given to him here.

42.Of what was he the beginning?

43.State the kind of works this church had.

44.Who knew this?

45.Tell what he would have preferred.

46.In what manner will they be rejected?

47.Of what did they boast?

48.How many defects did they have instead?

49.What were they counseled to buy for riches?

50.How should they be clothed?

51.This was to hide what?

52.What should be done for their eyes?

53.How does the Lord indicate his love?

54.In what way should they show their zeal?

55.Where does the Lord stand?

56.Tell what he is doing there?

57.On what condition will he enter?

58.Upon entering what will he do?

59. Where will the victors sit?

60.With whom will they sit?

61.With whom does He sit?

62.Why was he allowed to sit there?

63.To whom did the Spirit speak?

Verse 1

The Lord identifies himself as the one who has the seven spirits of God. Robinson says the following about this numeral: "The number seven was often put by the Jews for an indefinite round number. Likewise as a sacred number, of good omen, as also among the Egyptians, Arabians. Persians, etc." (See the comments at Revelation 1:4) I know thy works is used in the sense of disapproval for it is directly followed by something that is bad. This church was alive as far as its profession and reputation were concerned, but in reality as the Lord saw it the church was dead.

Verse 2

The aforesaid charge of being dead is relative for dead people cannot do anything. Yet these people are exhorted to do something about that which is ready to die, which shows that some prospect. of life was in sight. Not found thy works perfect. The church as a whole had some good qualities but it was not as good as it could and should be considering its opportunities.

Verse 3

Remembered...received... and heared. God holds men responsible according to the information and other advantages they have received ( Luke 12:47-48). The church at Sardis had been given Gospel instruction and ought to have known better than think that a mere profession is sufficient. That is why it is warned to hold fast which means to preserve the talents that were given to, it and also to develop them ( Matthew 25:16). Repent. This is another instance where disciples are exhorted to repent of a negative wrong. These people were guilty of not rising above a mere profession or reputation. They must bestir them selves and prove their right to such a name by more spiritual activity. Furthermore if a person does not make the progress or growth he should, he is sure to go the other way and become tainted with the evil things around hint and tints defile his garments as tnost of these disciples had done. Come on thee as a thief. The Lord does not compare himself to a thief, only the hour of His coming is likened to one; for that. reason it is important to be watchful.

Verse 4

Hast a few names means there were a few persons in Sardis who had not become defiled. We have already seen that God does not hold anyone responsible for what he cannot prevent ( Revelation 2:24); so it was with these few names in Sartlis. Walk with me in white. White is an emblem of purity and is always so used in the Bible when taken figuratively ( Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 19:8). This promise looks beyond the day of judgment to the eternal association with Jesus in the home of the soul. However, it does not wait until then for its fulfillment in every sense. It also includes the fellowship with Christ that a faithful disciple may claim and enjoy in this life. "When we walk with the Lord in the light of His word; What a glory He sheds on our way!" (See 1 John 1:7.) Thou art worthy. We sometimes hear brethren criticize a familiar phrase "save us if worthy," and they will object that "none of us can ever be worthy." Jesus says we can, but he does not say that it is through the merits of our deeds. The worthiness consists in our relationship with the Lord as shown in the passage cited in1John above.

Verse 5

He that overcometh is the same as being faithful until death. Clothed in white raiment is explained at the preceding verse ( Revelation 3:4). Not blot out his name out of the book of life. It is a universal practice for institutions that consist of individual membership to keep a record of its names in a book. The fact is a basis for the figurative idea of a book of life in which the Lord keeps a list of his people ( Malachi 3:16; Luke 10:20; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 20:15). The point is that all whose names are there may be considered as those who are in good standing with the Lord. But their names are not put there with "indelible ink" but they may and will be blotted out if they are not faithful. Will confess his name is the same promise that Jesus made while on earth ( Matthew 10:32).

Verse 6

He that hath an ear is commented upon at Revelation 2:7.

Verse 7

The church in Philadelphia was another that did not receive any rebuke in the letters (the one at Smyrna being the other). The most of this verse is used in describing the One who is authorizing this letter. Holy and true may be said of all true servants of God but it is true of Christ in a complete sense. Key of David refers to the authority that was predicted for Christ because he was to come into the world as the most noted descendant of that great ancestor. (See comments at chapter1: for meaning of key.) That explanation will show why the opening and shutting are mentioned as pertaining to Christ and not to any mere man.

Verse 8

I know thy works is said in the sense of approval since everything said about this church is good. The open door is figurative and means the door of opportunity to advance the Gospel as it is expressed at 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3. No man can shut it. Man can hinder and persecute the disciples but he cannot actually prevent them from carrying out the Gospel life in the world. Hast a little strength. They are commended for being faithful even though their strength is not great, a condition which they cannot help. Kept my word means they had been true to the commandments in the word of God. Not denied my name means they were not ashamed to confess the name of Christ as explained at Revelation 3:5.

Verse 9

Synagogue of Satan is commented upon at Revelation 2:9; say they are Jews and are not is explained at the same place. Worship. This term comes from about12different Greek words and has a variety of meanings. A complete extract from the lexicon on the subject may be seen at Matthew 2:2 in the first volume of the New Testament Commentary. At our present passage the word refers to an act of courtesy or admiring respect, as if to congratulate another over some favor that has been granted him. That favor is expressed by the words to know that I have loved thee.

Verse 10

Word of my patience denotes that they had endured according to His word. As a reward for their patience the Lord will keep them or preserve them when the hour of temptation (or trial) comes. Such a promise is so far-reaching, that it could refer to the specific siege of persecution that the pagan government was about to wage against the church. or to tribulations from the world in general.

Verse 11

Behold is an expression to arouse attentive interest. I come quickly would apply to the personal coming of Christ to judge the world, or to the close of their life at which time all opportunity for service will cease. In either case the important thing is to hold that fast which thou hast which means to maintain their present life of faithfulness. That no man take thy crown. Not that one man can literally get possession of a crown that belongs to another. But if a disciple suffers the enemy to mislead him it will cause him to lose his crown.

Verse 12

Him that overcometh is equivalent to being faithful until death. Make a pillar is a figure of speech signifying a fixed or permanent place in the favor of God, and go no more out emphasizes the same thought. Write upon him . . . name of the city. Another figure meaning the faithful servant will be recognized as a citizen of the celestial city. (See Philippians 3:20.) My new name means a name that will signify a victorious life for Christ. (See comments at Revelation 2:17.)

Revelation 3:13

He that hath an ear is explained at Revelation 2:7.

Verse 14

See the comments at Revelation 1:20 for significance of Angel. The Amen is given special meaning here by the words the faithful and true witness. This is logical since the word amen means "so be it" or is an endorsement of some stated or implied fact. A true witness, would not endorse any declaration that was not correct. The beginning of the creation of God. This is equivalent to the statement in Colossians 1:15 that Christ is "the firstborn of every creature." The reader will do well to see the comments at that place also on a number of verses following it. The "beginning of the creation" coincides with John 1:1-3 where Christ is said to have been "in the beginning," then explains it with the declaration that "all things were made by Him."

Verse 15

I know thy works. Again this is used in the sense of disapproval for it is followed immediately with something that is bad. I would thou wert cold or hot. The figure is based upon the idea of food and its agreeableness to the taste. Some articles are supposed to be eaten hot and others cold. If either kind becomes neutral on the subject of temperature it will be objectionable. Also there are some articles of food that are suitable in either condition, but it is not desired that they be between the two states. On that basis as an illustration the Lord desires his disciples not to be neutral.

Verse 16

No parable or illustration should be strained in the application. This one does not teach that God would be pleased at all with one who is cold in his religious praffiices-—that point is not being considered in the least in this illustration. The only idea is with the comparative preference for something cold over a lukewarm article. When we make the application the reason for this preference is evident. If a professed disciple is cold it will be clearly recognized by the world, and he will not have much influence in keeping others from the service of Christ through his example. On the other hand, a lukewarm disciple may be a tolerably good man so that others may admire him. Yet he is not urgent in advising them to be busy in the Master"s service and consequently his influence will be detrimental to the cause of Christ and for that reason he will be rejected. Retaining the same subject matter for his figure, the Lord threatens to treat this church as a man would a piece of food that he took into his mouth and found it had become lukewarm; he will spew (spit) it out of his mouth.

Verse 17

The outstanding thought in this verse is to show how much a church can be self-deceived as to its real condition. Doubtless it possessed all of the things named of a temporal nature. One of the evil effects of earthly riches is to mislead their owners into a feeling of independence or self-sufficiency. That, is why Jesus speaks of "the deceitfulness of riches" in Matthew 13:22. The condition of this church was the opposite to that of Smyrna which was poor in this world"s goods but was rich in faith. Our present case is one of complete deception, for the church had concluded that it had need of nothing. We often hear the remark that some man "is independently rich," which is just the state of mind the church at Laodicea was cherishing. The Lord admits that those people did not know (or realize) what their actual condition was from a spiritual standpoint. Wretched is defined by Thayer, "Enduring trials and troubles." They had a good many conflicts because of their lack of spiritual worth. but their confidence in their wealth gave them a false sense of triumph over them all. Miserable virtually refers to the same condition as being wretched and their deception covered their situation also. Poor in faith while rich in the perishable things of this world. Blind means their eyes of faith had become entirely afflicted with a spiritual cataract developed from their corroding wealth, and hence they could not see that they were naked.

Verse 18

Gold tried in the fire is a figurative name for faith ( 1 Peter 1:7.) White raiment consists of the righteousness of the Lord"s people ( Revelation 19:8), and the people could have such raiment. to wear if they would follow a life of righteous conduct. Against thine eyes.. In 2 Peter 1:9 the man who lacked the qualities named in that chapter is said to be "blind," and on that basis the church at Laorlicea needed to use the anointment of‘ those virtues to remove the cataract from their eyes.

Verse 19

Love in this place is from the word that signifies the warmest sentiments of affection. It. makes a strong and unusual situation to say that such treatment of loved ones is the very proof of that love. Yet. that is a principle that is true whether a human or divine Parent is being considered. (See Hebrews 12:6; Hebrews 12:9.) Be zealous therefore. Since these stern rebukes are evidence of the Lord"s love for them, it should induce them to repent with zeal which means to be active about it. The fundamental meaning of repentance is a change from one condition to another for the better. These people were relying on their temporal wealth for gratification and were poor in faith. They now should take on a sincere interest in the spiritual things of Christ and begin serving him by righteous living.

Verse 20

The specific subject matter for the various churches seems to have been completed. This verse represents the general attitude of the Lord toward all human beings. The door is that of the heart into which Jesus will enter if given a welcome. He will not force an entrance into a man"s life, for the only kind of service that will be pleasing to Him is a willing service. Hence the human heart must respond to the call of the Lord. Sup with him and he with me. In old times it was one of the surest indications of hospitality for a man to eat with another. It also was a token of recognition and endorsement. (See Mark 2:16; 1 Corinthians 5:11.) This mutual supping between Christ and his host is a figure of speech to indicate the great intimacy that He offers to share with a human being it permitted to do so.

Verse 21

Him that overcometh means one who is faithful under all trails and difficulties. Sit with me in my throne is another figurative expression, meaning that such a person will be regarded as having right to that fellowship with Christ in the kingdom, that is stated in 1 Corinthians 4:8 and 1 Peter 2:9.

Verse 22

He that hath an ear is commented upon at Revelation 2:7.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 3:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. 1952.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 20th, 2020
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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