the angelSee the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.
church in SardisSee commentary on Seven Churches of Asia.
SardisSardis was the ancient capital of Lydia.2
In John’s time it was a trade center known for textile manufacture, dyeing, and jewelry. Sardis had been Lydia’s capital and was proverbial for its riches. To this day, our idiom “as rich as Croesus” acknowledges this fact, for Croesus was the king of Sardis who had almost unlimited riches, yet who led the Lydian empire into defeat and decline. Sardis epitomized the complacency, softness and degeneration which invariably ultimately accompany wealth.3It was also considered a mountain fortress4 which was very difficult to capture, except through the negligence of the defenders:
At the approach of Alexander, . . . the Sardians hastened out to surrender their city without resistance. . . . the place was again captured by Antiochus III in 214 BC through the negligence of the defenders.5
The rock on which Sardis was built is friable, which means that while the slopes were precipitous, because of the cracks and faults, it was climbable. One of Cyrus’ soldiers had noticed a Sardian soldier climbing down this slope to retrieve a helmet he had dropped, and so concluded that the slopes were negotiable in that particular spot. So that night he led a party of Persian troops up to the citadel by following the fault in the rock. When they reached the battlements they found them unguarded, for the Sardians considered themselves too safe to need a guard. The battle of King’s Mountain in American history is similar to the Sardian collapse, for in that battle the rebels scaled a redoubt while the English relaxed in false confidence of their security. Astonishingly, Sardis did not learn from experience, for two centuries later one of Antiochus’ soldiers repeated this feat and again led the capture of an unguarded city which had resisted siege for a year. Twice, the Sardians lost their city because they were too complacent to watch! This historical background underlies Christ’s injunction to watchfulness (Rev. 3:2-3+), and Rev. 3:3+ alludes to the means by which the city was lost twice before—a thief in the night.6A large temple dedicated to the Asiatic goddess Cybele stood at Sardis:
Excavations . . . unearthed . . . an exceptionally large (160 by 300 feet) temple dedicated to Artemis. Its seventy-eight Ionic columns (of which two are still standing) are each fifty-eight feet in height. . . . It was dedicated to a local Asiatic goddess usually referred to as Cybele, who was identified with the Greek Artemis. This patron deity was believed to possess the special power of restoring the dead to life [cf. Rev. 3:1+].7Being situated in a mountainous region, the city was earthquake-prone:
Sardis, like neighboring Philadelphia, suffered a catastrophic earthquake in AD 17. . . . this was nothing less than the sudden collapse of a great part of the mountain and the consequent disappearance of much of the very site of the original fortress-city.8
Because of the earthquake, which drove them from the city proper, and because of the fertility of the soil, many of the people had turned to farming as a means of livelihood, specifically to the cultivation of vineyards. Apparently, because of famine, in A.D. 92 Domitian issued an edict that at least half the vineyards in the provinces be cut down and no new ones planted. This action was designed to increase production of corn which the Empire needed badly. This crisis affected Philadelphia more critically than any other, because no city of Asia depended on the fruit of the vine more than it. Dionysius, god of wine, was the principal deity.9(Some correlate Domitian’s edict with Revelation 6:6+, although we believe it to be unlikely.) In the second century, Melito was bishop of this city. 10 but Christianity was completely exterminated in the Hermus Valley in the Middle Ages.11In more recent times, Sardis has none of its previous opulence:
Sardis, the once proud capital of Lydia, and the residence of its opulent monarchs, is now reduced to a wretched Turkish village called Sart, the habitation of herdsmen, buffaloes, and oxen, situated at the foot of mount Tmolus, on the banks of the Pactolus, between 30 and 40 miles east from Smyrna. The ruins of Sardis are peculiarly grand, and lift up their heads, as if to assert their ancient glory; but it now contains not a single Christian family.12The derivation of the name Sardis is uncertain as is the meaning, having been given as remnant, “[Some] have derived it from the Hebrew, and have assigned it the signification of remnant, or an escaped few.”13 those escaping, [J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), 152] renovation, [Ibid.] the sun, [Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 3:1] red ones, [Ibid.] and prince of joy.14
seven Spirits of GodSee commentary on Revelation 1:4. Christ emphasizes to this church that He is the source of the seven Spirits of God (John 15:26; 16:7) because of His assessment that they are dead. It is the specialty of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to bring forth life from that which is a lifeless wilderness (Gen. 1:2):
Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)Prior to the Day of Pentecost, Jesus explained that it was the Holy Spirit that would be the source of “rivers of living water” which would flow out of the heart of those believing in Him (John 7:37-39). This life-giving Spirit was poured forth on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:33). It was on this day that the body of Christ was first animated by the Spirit of Christ (Rom. 8:9). As God had first breathed the “breath of life” to animate dust from which he formed man (Gen. 2:7), so each believer is animated by the Holy Spirit when he comes to spiritual life and is joined to the body of Christ (1Cor. 12:12-13). Christ is here emphasizing the Spirit as the means by which they might strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die (Rev. 3:2+).
It need hardly be observed how important a witness this verse, when the right interpretation of “the seven Spirits” has been seized, bears to the faith of the Western Church on that great point upon which it is at issue with the Eastern, in respect, namely, of the procession of the Holy Ghost. he is indeed the Spirit of the Father and the Son.15
seven starsThe stars are the angels of the churches. If elders, they are to be men “full of the spirit” (Acts 6:3-5; 11:24). See commentary on Revelation 1:16 and Revelation 1:20.
I knowSee commentary on Revelation 2:2.
have a name that you are aliveAlive is ζῆς [zēs]: “Which needs to be distinguished from the word-group of βίος [bios] (‘life’). The former refers to inner life, the latter to external.”16 Christ emphasizes the wide divergence between how the church of Sardis appears to men and how it appears to God. This underscores a theme which runs throughout Scripture: that those without the Spirit of God are unable to see the world through the eyes of God. The church of Sardis had made for themselves a name. Name is here used to represent fame, reputation, or character. Thus the Sardians were following in the sin of Babel. “And they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth’ ” (Gen. 11:4).
but you are deadJesus says they are dead—in the sense of being disconnected from the Father, just as the prodigal (Luke 15:24, 32).
One commentator has said, “Their state is described in a single word—soulless profession-they had a name to live but were dead. It is not scandalous wickedness, but decent death; the form retained, the heart gone; Christ owned in word, ignored in deed; creeds correct, conduct respectable, life departed . . . sound doctrine and outward propriety . . . affections not only waning, but gone. His name held, His Word read, His truth owned, Himself forgotten.” . . . When the human spirit does not control some part of the body, there is said to be a partial paralysis. Some pressure upon a nerve center or some other abnormality may cause one foot to be dragged or one hand to be withered instead of maintaining the normal participation in the life of the body. The Holy Spirit should govern and direct the Church which is the Body of Christ.17The activity of a fellowship can often be mistaken as an indication of life. But Scripture makes plain that works and activity in and of themselves are no reliable indicator of spiritual life for it is possible for an active fellowship to be comprised of the “living dead” (Mat. 8:22; Luke 9:60; 1Ti. 5:6). “Go throughout Christendom . . . and you will often find the Gospel in a coffin.”18 “The letter does not speak of persecution (why would Satan bother to persecute a dead church?).”19
It is vain to boast of a correct creed, of right theories, of sound doctrine, if there be no practical godliness, no good works, no positive virtues and active charities and labours. Orthodoxy is important, but orthodoxy alone will not do. The most orthodox in this list is depicted as the deadest. . . . There are, indeed, such things as “dead works;” works that have no life-connection with piety; works put on from without, and not brought forth from within; fruits tied upon the tree, and not the product of its life; which are not at all characteristics of true religion. There may be prayers, vigils, fasts, temples, altars, priests, rites, ceremonies, worship, and still be no true piety. Heathenism has all these.20True spiritual life comes to the “living dead” by way of spiritual regeneration (Eph. 5:14) and is characterized by the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit (Eze. 1:12, 20; Mat. 4:1; Luke 2:27; Acts 8:29; 10:19; 13:2; 16:9-10; 18:5).
be watchfulA present tense imperative participle (γίνου γρηγρῶν [ginou grēgrōn]) : “you be continually watching!” The command to the church at Sardis is the same found throughout Scripture to all believers. They are to be continuously watching. “It is not merely the call to be awake; it is to remain awake, to keep a vigil as a watchman in the midst of a sleeping encampment.”21The Sardian church was to be watchful because of the weakness of the flesh. “ ‘Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak’ ” (Mat. 26:41). They were to watch themselves:
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:34-36) [emphasis added]They were also to watch others in order to guard the fellowship:
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears. (Acts 20:28-31)If they would not watch, then He would come upon them as a thief (Rev. 3:3+). Unlike the “secure sinner,” those who watch will not be taken by surprise.
strengthen the things which remainThe church of Sardis had need of endurance and was to press forward and strengthen those things which had not already died. Evidently, their fellowship had been drawing back from God’s calling:
For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: “For yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” (Heb. 10:36-38)But the Sardian church would be unable to strengthen the things which remain except for a renewed dependence upon the Holy Spirit. For in their own efforts, they were totally incapable of what Jesus here commands.22 Again we see the purpose for Christ’s title as “He who has the seven Spirits of God” when writing to this dying church.
that are ready to dieThe branches were almost completely disconnected from the life-giving vine (John 15:5).
works perfectPerfect is πεπληρωμένα [peplērōmena] rather than τέλεια [teleia] indicating works previously prepared and appointed but having been unfulfilled (Eph. 2:10). The works that they had (Rev. 3:1+) were done to please or impress men and thus their motivation was fatally flawed. In this, the Sardian church was following in the footsteps of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day: “But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments” (Mat. 23:5). “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mat. 23:28).
before GodBefore men, the works were impressive and gave the church a name, but before God they were wood, hay, and stubble leaving their appointed true works of God unfulfilled. See Worldly Churches.The NU and MT differ from the TR here having My God. See Revelation 3:12+.
remember . . . how you have receivedThe church at Sardis is given a command similar to that of the Ephesian church: to remember what they had earlier received and practiced. Inattention had played a significant part in their drift away from life toward death (Heb. 2:1).
hold fastτήρει [tērei], a present tense imperative: “continually hold fast!” Like those who would be blessed by “the words of this prophecy” (Rev. 1:3+), the church at Sardis would need to actively keep the things they had heard.
repentSee commentary on μετανοια [metanoia] at Revelation 2:5.
if you will not watchChristians are to watch: (1) for Christ; (2) themselves lest they drift; (3) others lest false brethren or teachers pervert what they have received. Here the emphasis is upon watching for Christ (Mat. 24:42; 25:13; Mark 13:33, 35; Mark 13:37; Luke 12:36-40; 21:36; 1Cor. 1:7; 16:13; Php. 3:20; 1Th. 1:10; 5:6; 2Ti. 4:8; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 9:28; 2Pe. 3:12; Rev. 3:2-3+; Rev. 16:15+).
as a thief, and you will not know what hourComing as a thief always denotes an unexpected coming in judgment because a thief comes to rob and destroy. Christ is never said to come for His church as a thief. “The first phase of the Lord’s coming is as a bridegroom and the second phase is as a thief. He does not come upon His bride as a thief and He does not come upon the apostates and unregenerate world as a bridegroom.”23 Here, the phrase would remind the Sardian church of the historical fall of the city (see commentary on Revelation 3:1):
The city had been captured twice in its history, once in 549 B.C. by Cyrus of Persia and again in 195 B.C. by Antiochus the Great, while its inhabitants were indifferently resting in its supposed impregnability. Would Christians there allow the same to happen to them at the hands of one whom they had made their spiritual opponent?24Some believe the immediate context of the letter argues for understanding this threat as pertaining to a localized spiritual coming in judgment:
The context of Rev. 3:3b+ requires that the term “like a thief in the night” does not here refer to the rapture, but rather to Christ coming in judgment like that threatened to the church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:5+), for this coming can be averted by repentance, but that cannot apply to the rapture. Here the “thief” aspect is a reminder drawn from the embarrassing history of the city.25At a time when the Sardian church least expected Him, judgment would fall on the local assembly. Yet even here when a local application appears in view, we find Scripture teaching a general principle which will apply at the time of the end. “The threat here is not related to His second coming, but is that the Lord would come and destroy the Sardis church if there is no revival. It can also be extrapolated into a warning of the judgment that faces all dead churches at Christ’s return.”26There are indicators that the coming could be eschatological: “In other alleged cases of Christ’s coming for special judgment (cf. Rev. 2:5+, 16+, 22-23+), consequences are explicitly stated, but here no such penal result is given. Apparently it is understood to be Christ’s punishment of disloyalty at His second advent.”27Elsewhere, Scripture relates that the Day of the Lord will come in a similar manner:
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. (1Th. 5:2-10) [emphasis added]
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2Pe. 3:10) [emphasis added]On the Day of the Lord, Jesus comes as a thief in judgment upon an unsuspecting world:
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Mat. 24:37-44)28 [emphasis added]
Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’ (Mark 13:33-37)
Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Luke 12:35-40)29 [emphasis added]
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” (Rev. 16:15+) [emphasis added]
Christ’s coming as a thief has no reference to His coming for the church at the rapture. His thief-like coming occurs at the day of the Lord. Since Paul tells the Thessalonians they were well acquainted with the prophetic truth concerning the day of the Lord, this day is not to be identified with the Rapture, about which Paul did need to write to clarify their understanding. The day of the Lord begins with the Great Tribulation, and ends with the close of the Millennium. Those who shall “not escape” (1Th. 5:3) are those who are not brethren, who fail to watch and pray (Luke 21:36), are not counted worthy to escape, and therefore go on into the tribulation period.30Paul said much the same thing to the Thessalonian church as Jesus says here to the church at Sardis—to the faithful who remain watching, Christ will not come as a thief:
For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. (1Th. 5:2-6) [emphasis added]See Trouble Ahead.
will notThe negation here is with οὐ μέ [ou me], the strongest possible form of negation in Koine Greek.31 No matter the resolve, awareness, or intelligence of those who fail to continuously watch, they will be spiritually deceived and will not know the time.
a few even in SardisGod never lumps the faithful in with the errant in his assessment. Even in the midst of a wicked culture, there are those who trust in Him which He will never forsake (Gen. 6:9; 18:25; 19:22; Jos. 6:17).
not defiled their garmentsBefore coming to faith, these few were wearing “filthy rags” in comparison to the righteousness required by God (Isa. 64:6). Having trusted in Christ, His righteousness has been imputed to them and they are positionally holy. Even then, in their walk, they could become defiled by fleshly activities of the world (Jas. 1:27; Jude 23). By confessing their sins, these few had steadfastly remained in close fellowship with God (1Jn. 1:9).
shall walk with meThe picture of walking is two-fold: (1) the faithful are presently guided by the Spirit to walk in His ways (Gen. 5:22; 1S. 2:9; Job 23:14; Ps. 37:5, 23; 40:2; 66:9; 119:133; Pr. 3:6; 16:9; 19:21; 20:24; Isa. 2:3; 30:21; 48:17; Jer. 6:16; 10:23; Rom. 8:1, 4-6; Gal. 5:16); (2) in the future, the redeemed will have full fellowship with God as did Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8; Rev. 21:3+; 22:3-4+).
in whiteThey will wear white garments in contrast to the “filthy garments” they wore prior to coming to faith:
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by. (Zec. 3:3-5)These are those whose sin has been atoned by the blood of Jesus, who “wash their garments in the blood of the Lamb.” Those at Sardis in John’s day are to be followed by a constant stream of faithful throughout history culminating in those who stand firm to obtain the crown of life during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 7:9-17+). Those slain for the word of God and for the testimony they held are given white robes to wear (Rev. 6:9-11+). The white color speaks of the righteousness of Christ, but also of the marriage garments worn by His bride and those who attend the wedding feast who are found to be “spotless and without blemish” and “white and clean”:
But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. (Mat. 22:11)
“Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. . . . And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. (Rev. 19:7-14+)
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph. 5:25-27)
they are worthyTheir worthiness is found in the worthiness of Him on Whom they have believed. Those who were at one time invited to the wedding, but rejected the Bridegroom were not worthy to attend. “Then he said to his servants, ’The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy” (Mat. 22:8). Those with faith in Christ are adopted into God’s family and are found worthy to attain the resurrection of life (Luke 20:34-36, the first resurrection, see commentary at Revelation 2:11).
God’s Word does not refuse to ascribe a worthiness to men (Mat. 10:10-11; 22:8; Luke 20:35; 21:36; 2Th. 1:5, 11); although this worthiness must ever be contemplated as relative and not absolute; as resting on God’s free acceptance of an obedience which would fain be perfect, even while it actually is most imperfect, and on this his acceptance and allowance of it alone.32
overcomesSee Who is the Overcomer?
clothed in white garmentsSee commentary on Revelation 3:4. Clothed is περιβαλεῖται [peribaleitai], the overcomer will cause himself to be clothed in white.33 The overcomer will be clothed in white garments like those in Laodicea who are counseled “to buy ... white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed” (Rev. 3:18+). This clothing covers nakedness, reminding us of the Hebrew word for atonement, כֻפַּר [ḵuppar]: “pual - to be covered over.”34 The white garments are a symbol of redemption (Rev. 4:4+; 5:8-9+; 7:9-17+). The sin of the overcomer will be removed from God’s sight by being covered by the “righteousness of God” (Rom. 3:5, 21-26; 10:3; 2Cor. 5:21; Php. 3:9; Jas. 1:20).Some have also seen the white garments as a possible allusion to the glorified state of the redeemed (Dan. 12:3+; Mat. 13:43; Rom. 8:19, 23; Php. 3:21).
The armies of heaven who appear with the warrior Messiah are “arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (Rev. 19:14+). It would seem, therefore, that the white garments promised to the overcomer in Rev. 3:5+ represent an attire appropriate to the heavenly state. Since they are made white by washing in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:13+), the figure is highly appropriate to portray justification.35
I will notThis is emphatic: a double negative (Luke 21:33; John 6:37; 8:51; 13:8; Rev. 2:11+).
blot out his name from the Book of LifeThe church at Sardis had a name and likely had an official roll containing the names of those who attended. Yet it was dead. Jesus directs the church members to be concerned whether they are in the Book of Life rather than the church role. See Book of Life.
confess his nameChrist taught the same in the gospels—that whoever would confess Him before men, in turn, He would confess before His Father and the angels (Mat. 10:32; Luke 12:8). What powerful incentive this is for our witness of Him in the face of skeptics and mockers! When standing before such men, let us consider ourselves to be standing before the very throne of the Father in our confession of the Son. “Coming immediately after the promise of not erasing the overcomer’s name from the book of life, this promise implies that on that future day of reckoning the judge will acknowledge the names written in the book as those who belong to Him.”36
let him hear what the Spirit says to the churchesSee commentary on Revelation 2:7.
the angelSee the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.
church in PhiladelphiaSee commentary on Seven Churches of Asia. Philadelphia was built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamum (died 138 BC) from which it derives its name.38 and suffered frequent earthquakes, one of which nearly destroyed it during the reign of Tiberius Philadelphia.
Philadelphia, so called from its founder, Attalus Philadelphus, still exists in the town called Allah-shear, “the city of God.” . . . The number of houses is said to be about 3000, of which 250 are Greek, the rest Turkish; and the Christians have twenty-five places of worship, five of them large and regular churches, a resident bishop, and twenty inferior clergy.39
He who is holy,Here again we see the deity of Christ (and the Trinity) in the application of a title by the Son which is uniquely the Father’s. This title is applied to יהוה [Yahweh] in the OT (Isa. 6:3; 40:25; 43:15). The holiness of Jesus is a reflection of his identification with the Father in the Godhood. “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). “Hagios characterizes Jesus, not so much as the sinless one, but as one especially set apart, belonging exclusively to God.”40There is only one who is holy, an attribute required as the perfect sacrifice (Isa. 53:4-11; Heb. 10:14). No other man could bear the sins of other men since they could not even bear their own sin (Heb. 7:27). He is holy not only in the sense of being perfect and without sin (Isa. 53:9; John 8:46; 14:30; 2Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 9:14; 1Pe. 1:19; 2:22; 1Jn. 3:5), but because of his uniqueness and separateness—there is none other like Him. “And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine” (Lev. 20:26). His name is “Holy” (Isa. 57:15) and he is righteous in all His ways (Ps. 145:17). He is the “Holy One” Who the Father had promised would not be allowed to see corruption (Ps. 16:10) and thus would be raised from the dead.The holiness of God is the subject of great angelic praise throughout Scripture (Isa. 6:3; Rev. 4:8+). All those in the spiritual realm, even the demons, recognize this attribute of Christ (Mark 1:24). Yet, this truth was sadly lacking on earth where the “Holy One” was denied by unholy men who asked for a murderer in His place (Acts 3:14; 4:27).
He who is trueAnother attribute of the Trinity: God cannot lie (Num. 23:19; Rom. 3:4; Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:2). Jesus tells the Laodiceans that His witness is faithful and true (Rev. 3:14+)—what He says is undeniable in its accuracy. This is why it is He who will judge and avenge the blood of the martyrs (Rev. 6:10+; 19:11+). Because He Himself is true, His “words will by no means pass away” (Mat. 24:35).
key of DavidThe key indicates the governmental authority of David.41 He is the promised king Who will rule from the throne of David (2S. 7:13-17; Ps. 89:4, 28; Isa. 9:7; 16:5; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Amos 9:11; Zec. 6:13; Mat. 19:28; 25:31; Luke 1:32; Acts 2:30).Jacob prophesied that a ruler would arise from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10). Isaiah prophesied of a coming child with an eternal kingdom that would rule from David’s throne (Isa. 9:6-7). Gabriel repeated this promise to Mary at the annunciation: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David” (Luke 1:32).The key of David was laid on the shoulder of Eliakim who acted as prime minister and who determined who would be allowed to see King Hezekiah. He also would make decisions only the king could overthrow. His was a position of great authority and trust:
Then it shall be in that Day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open. I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father’s house. (Isa. 22:20-23)
This key was properly handled by the king (Rev. 3:7+), and therefore by the “house-mayor” only in his stead. The power of the keys consisted not only in the supervision of the royal chambers, but also in the decision who was and who was not to be received into the king’s service. There is a resemblance, therefore, to the giving of the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter under the New Testament. But there the “binding” and “loosing” introduce another figure, though one similar in sense; whereas here, in the “opening” and “shutting,” the figure of the key is retained.42The key being laid on his shoulder speaks of committing responsibility into his hand and alludes to Isaiah’s prophecy of the ultimate Davidic ruler:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (Isa. 9:6-7) [emphasis added]Being both God and man, in the line of David (Mat. 1:1, 6; Luke 3:31), Christ alone has the authority to open the scroll initiating the judgments which usher in the Davidic kingdom upon the earth. “But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’ ” (Rev. 5:5+).Some interpreters see these keys as being identical with the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Mat. 16:19; Heb. 3:6).43 Peter was given the keys to the kingdom and was personally present when each of the 3 person groups (Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles: Acts 1:8) first received the Holy Spirit.44 Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (Mat. 23:13). Instead, authority to enter the kingdom of heaven was entrusted to a simple fisherman (Mat. 16:19). The authority of heaven stands behind the Spirit-led decisions of the church (Mat. 18:18; John 20:23).Concerning the keys of Hades and Death, see commentary on Revelation 1:18.
He who opens and no one shutsὁ ἀνοιγων καὶ οὐδὲς κλείσει [ho anoigōn kai oudes kleisei]: “the one presently opening and no one shall shut”. He is actively holding open the door such that no one else can shut it.
shuts and no one opensκλείων καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀνοίγει [kleiōn kai oudeis anoigei]: “while presently shutting and no one is presently opening”. He is actively shutting things which are to remain shut. Men must respond while the door is held open by God for once it is shut, there is no recourse for entry:
And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. (Mat. 25:10)
When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from.’ (Luke 13:25)
I knowSee commentary on Revelation 2:2.
open doorΘύραν ἐνεῳγμένην [Thyran eneōgmenēn]: “a door while having been opened” (perfect tense) - the door now stands open after having been opened by Jesus. Although Jesus is knocking at a shut door in Laodicea (Rev. 3:20+), at Philadelphia He Himself holds the door open such that no one can shut it. This door in Philadelphia could represent the door of evangelism and illumination without which human promulgation of the gospel falls on unreceptive ears (Luke 24:45; Acts 14:27; 16:14; 1Cor. 16:9; 2Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). See commentary on Revelation 3:20.In view of the mention of the key of David (Rev. 3:7+) and synagogue of Satan (Rev. 3:9+), it seems more likely the door provides entrance into the Messianic Kingdom where Christ will rule from the throne of David (see commentary on Revelation 3:21).45
It speaks of a sure entrance into the Messianic Kingdom, promised to this church as a reward for their faithfulness. No one, not even those of “the synagogue of Satan,” can shut them out. Jewish opponents would seek to deny Gentiles, such as Christians in this city, entrance into the Messianic Kingdom.46In view of Jesus’ subsequent promise to the overcomer, “I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world” (Rev. 3:10+), perhaps this door that is held open and which no man can shut is a sure pathway to heaven for the faithful at the time of the Rapture: “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, ‘Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.’ ” [emphasis added] (Rev. 4:1+). See Rapture.
a little strengthEven though they have but little strength, they will be able to avail themselves of the door since Christ ensures it remains open. Some believe this should be translated without the indefinite article, “little strength” as an indication of weakness rather than power.47 The ministry of the church at Philadelphia would be all the more effective because in their strength their accomplishments would be undeniably of God (2Cor. 12:9; Php. 4:13). Others believe that the commendations given to this church are an indication of their spiritual vitality so that this phrase “must refer to the church’s limited influence because of its numerical smallness.”48
kept My wordThe church at Philadelphia had faithfully kept His word. They had preserved its meaning and applied it to their own lives. They were blessed with those who keep the words of this prophecy (Rev. 1:3+; 22:7+). It is by keeping his word—and the commandments therein—that the Philadelphian church demonstrated the depth of their love for Him (John 14:21-24).In our own day, there are many pressures attempting to dissuade believers from keeping His word. “We are asked by some to abandon Genesis to ‘science,’ salvation by redemption to anthropology, the life of the Spirit to psychology, the very Word itself to higher criticism.”49
not denied My nameThey had not denied Him by their words (Mat. 10:32-33; 26:70-72; Luke 12:8-9; 1Jn. 2:22-23) or through their actions (Pr. 30:9; Acts 3:13-15; 1Ti. 5:8). In the midst of the ultimate test, the church at Pergamos held fast to His name and did not deny His faith. (See commentary on Revelation 2:13.) In the days of the Tribulation, many will deny His name by taking the name of another (John 5:43; Rev. 13:17+; 14:11+).
synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are notSee commentary on Revelation 2:9.
but lieψεύδονται [pseudontai], present tense, middle voice: they themselves are presently lying. They are making this ongoing claim themselves.
worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved youIn the local context, Christ would give converts who were formerly of the “synagogue of Satan” to the Philadelphian church.50 The worship would not be to the Philadelphian believers, but before them in recognition that God has loved them and favored them (Dan. 2:46-47+).51 “That the persecuting Jews would one day be forced to come and worship before your feet does not mean that the latter will be worshiped as deities, but they will be sitting enthroned with Christ (Rev. 3:21+), before whom, someday, every knee will bow (Php. 2:10).”52This is an allusion to numerous passages in the OT which indicate that in the Millennium, Gentiles will come and bow down to Israel in recognition that God is with them (Isa. 45:15; 49:22-23; 60:14-16). Zechariah described a time when Gentiles would honor faithful Jews because, “we have heard that God is with you”:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Peoples shall yet come, inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD, and seek the LORD of hosts. I myself will go also.’ Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.” Thus says the LORD of hosts: “In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’ ” (Zec. 8:20-23)In the church age, just the opposite is true—God elevates the faithful, both Gentile and Jew, over the national Jew who rejects Messiah Jesus.53 The unique role of favor enjoyed by the Church is intended to provoke the unbelieving Jewish nation to jealousy (Deu. 32:21; Isa. 65:1-2; Rom. 10:19-21; 11:11, 14; Rev. 3:9+). “What the Jews expected from the pagans, they themselves will be forced to render to the followers of Jesus.”54
In light of the general nature of the application of all seven of these messages, the prophecy must look forward to the time when the whole church enters the Messianic Kingdom. The people of Israel will have an entirely different attitude toward the church as Christ’s bride because they will by then have turned to Christ themselves.55This verse does not distinguish Gentiles from Jews, but faithful from faithless. The Philadelphian church included Jewish believers (Rom. 9:27).
In connexion with this promise, there is an interesting passage in the Epistle of Ignatius to this same Philadelphian Church (c. 6), implying the actual presence in the midst of it, of converts from Judaism, who now preached the faith which once they persecuted.56The formerly non-believing Jews from the synagogue of Satan would worship before their believing Jewish countrymen as well as the believing Gentiles. (Lest we forget, the writer of the Revelation is himself a son of Abraham by birth!)God loved them as was demonstrated by the cross (John 3:14-17; Rev. 1:5+). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jn. 4:10).
to perseverePerseverance is especially needed in the midst of adversity. Jesus said that it would be by patience that believers “possess your souls” (Luke 21:16-19). Persevere is ὑπομονῆς [hypomonēs], which may include the idea of expectation related to the promise to be kept from the hour:
Arndt and Gingrich hold that the word hupomone sometimes meant ‘(patient) expectation.’ They indicated that is its meaning in the expression ‘patience of Jesus Christ’ in Revelation 1:9+ and that perhaps that is its meaning in Revelation 3:10+. . . . One thing in favor of this view is Christ’s exclamation in Rev. 3:11+, ‘Behold I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast.’57
keep you from the hour of trialA large body of discussion attends this phrase. The debate centers on whether from (εκ [ek]) here denotes out of or through. Is the promise to keep the church out of the trial or to preserve it through the trial?Proponents of the kept through view observe other passages where εκ [ek] can have this meaning.58 They also observe examples in Scripture where God’s people are protected in the midst of God’s judgment:
On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark. (Gen. 7:13)
Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. (Ex. 12:13)
Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourself, as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation is past. For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isa. 26:20-21)
“Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” . . . They were commanded not to harm the grass of the earth, or any green thing, or any tree, but only those men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. (Rev. 7:3+; 9:4+)Proponents of the kept from view point to the fact that the most natural use of εκ [ek] indicates out of and that if the alternate meaning were in view, another more suitable preposition would have been used.59 They too can point to passages which support their view—where the faithful are removed prior to God’s judgment:
And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him. (Gen. 5:24)
And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?” . . . Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” (Gen. 18:23-32)
And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. (Gen. 19:21-22)The problem cannot be solved simply by appeal to similar passages since both models of protection are found in Scripture. This is because saints occupying different roles in history find themselves in different situations with regard to what God is doing in their midst. There is not a “one size fits all” approach to how God chooses to protect the faithful: at the time of Noah’s flood, Enoch “walked with God and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24), yet Noah and his family were preserved through the flood within the Ark (Gen. 7:13). We believe that by these typological examples, God is teaching us that some saints will be raptured whereas others—who come to faith later—will be protected in the midst of His wrath.But, the simple answer to the question at hand is found by reading the promise more carefully, for the promise is not to be kept from the trial, but from the hour of trial. The church will not even experience the trial for it will be kept from the hour when the trial is visited upon the earth.
Christ promised to keep these church saints form the time period characterized by the testing Christ had in mind. If the Lord had meant that He would keep them from just the testing itself, He could have made that very clear by omitting the words ‘the hour’ and simply saying, ‘I will keep you from the testing.’60When the all-important word hour is factored into the discussion, it becomes clear that the promise relates to the time of trial and not its effects. “When Jesus in his human nature prayed ‘remove this cup from me [Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42],’ and the parallel or equivalent request, ‘save me from this hour [John 12:27],’ he was not praying to be spared during the hour, but to be kept from it, which settles the meaning of the expression here.”61 Too often, commentators fail to grasp this important distinction. For example:
It is far from clear that the removal of Christians from the earth would be the only possible way in which Jesus could keep His people from the wars and plagues anticipated to occur at that time. [emphasis added]62But this line of reasoning is flawed because the verse says nothing about being kept from wars and plagues—the promise is to be kept from the hour or time.A serious problem with the kept through view is that God’s promise is of little merit in view of the fact that Scripture records multitudes of the faithful will suffer violent death during this period (Dan. 7:21+, 25+; 8:24+; Rev. 7:9-16+; 12:11+; 13:7+; 20:4+):63
Even if the church saints were to be shielded from the testing of God’s wrath will bring on the earth in the period of testing Christ had in mind, the Scriptures (Rev. 6:9-11+; 13:7+, 15+; 20:4+) make it clear that many of the saints alive on the earth during that period will be martyred by unbelievers. Thus, even though they will not be put to death by God’s wrath, they will still experience violent death as if they had not been shielded from God’s wrath. This militates against the answer that Christ will shield or protect the saints in or through that period of testing.64
This verse does not say that the Church will be merely kept safe during the trial, but it will be kept from the very hour of trial, that is, from the very time of it. This requires a removal before the Tribulation ever occurs. If Revelation 3:10+ means that the Church will be kept safe during the Tribulation, then something goes terribly wrong. Throughout the Tribulation, saints are being killed on a massive scale (Rev. 6:9-11+; 11:7+; 12:11+; 13:7+, 15+; 14:13+; 17:6+; 18:24+). If these saints are Church saints, they are not being kept safe and Revelation 3:10+ is meaningless. Only if Church saints and Tribulation saints are kept distinct does the promise of Revelation 3:10+ make any sense.65This hour of trial is said to come upon the whole world (see below) and cannot relate to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as some hold for there was no need to protect the Philadelphian church from events hundreds of miles distant which had offered no direct physical threat to Asia Minor. This promise relates to a unique time of trial yet future that all believers shall escape due to their participation in the Rapture. In this, the passage has in common a typological and future application like that of Revelation 2:20-22+ where Jezebel is cast into great tribulation. See commentary on Revelation 2:22. See Rapture.
which shall comeτῆς μελλούσης ἔρχεσθαι [tēs mellousēs erchesthai], the one about to come. “The participle τῆς μελλούσης [tēs mellousēs] (‘which is about to’) modifies ὥρας [hōras], ‘hour,’ rather than πειρασμοῦ [peirasmou], ‘trial,’ showing that it is the hour, not the trial, that is prominent in the statement.”66
the whole worldSome interpreters take world (οἰκουμένης [oikoumenēs]) as denoting the land in Israel or the Mediterranean in order to find fulfillment in the events attending Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
In A.D. 68, the death of Nero, and the civil wars that followed, greatly threatened the stability of the Roman Empire, until Vespasian was made emperor in A.D. 70. During this same period (A.D. 66-70), the Jews were embroiled in a fight for the survival of their nation against the Romans . . . which they lost.67It is true that this term is used in contexts where its scope is not global (Luke 2:1; Acts 11:28; 17:6; 19:27). However the term is also used in a global sense elsewhere (Mat. 24:14; Luke 4:5; Luke 21:26; Acts 17:31; Rom. 10:18; Heb. 1:6; 2:5; Rev. 12:9+; 16:14+).
This same expression is used in Revelation 16:14+ to refer to the kings of the whole inhabited earth gathering together to battle at Armageddon in conjunction with the sixth bowl judgment . . . it was used in Jesus’ statement concerning the preaching of the gospel of the kingdom in all the inhabited earth to all nations during the future tribulation period (Mat. 24:14 [cf. Rev. 14:6+]). In both of these passages, it must refer to the entire inhabited earth, not just the Roman Empire.68Thus, it is not a technical term and it’s meaning is determined by the context. Even if we permit the preterist interpretation that world here means all the known world, the events of Nero in Rome and the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 had little impact at Philadelphia in Asia Minor:
The Neronian persecution was limited to Rome as far as the data tell us, and there is no evidence for it extending to the province of Asia at that time.69
What does a localized judgment hundreds of miles away have to do with the seven churches of Asia? John uses two long chapters in addressing those churches regarding the implications of the coming of Christ for them. For instance, the promise to shield the Philadelphian church from judgment (Rev. 3:10-11+) is meaningless if that judgment occurs far beyond the borders of that city.70The context of the book of Revelation and the events which it describes—the wrath of God being poured forth on an unbelieving world prior to the return of Christ—argue for the global sense here. This time was described by Jesus in terms which are clearly global:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened. (Mat. 24:21-22)
For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. (Luke 21:35-36)Of special interest is Jesus’ statement recorded by Mark. In describing the uniqueness of this time, He mentioned since the beginning of creation, another indication of global scope. This is in contrast with the words told Daniel by the angel that it would be the most unique time since there was a nation when describing its effects upon the Jewish nation (Dan. 12:1+).
For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days. (Mark 13:19-20) [emphasis added]An early teaching from the Didache alludes to this passage and takes it in a global sense:
For as lawlessness increases, they will hate and persecute and betray one another. And then the deceiver of the world will appear as a son of God and “will perform signs and wonders,” and the earth will be delivered into his hands, and he will commit abominations the likes of which have never happened before. (5) Then all humankind will come to the fiery test, and “many will fall away” and perish [emphasis added]71
to test those who dwell upon the earthBoth Isaiah and Zephaniah described this day:
For behold, the LORD comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth will also disclose her blood, and will no more cover her slain. (Isa. 26:21)
The great day of the LORD is near; It is near and hastens quickly. The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers. “I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse.” Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of His jealousy, for He will make speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land. (Zep. 1:14-18)The tribulation and wrath associated with this coming hour is intended to test those whose home, citizenship, and focus is earthward rather than heavenly.72The phrase those who dwell upon the earth takes on a soteriological/eschatological meaning in the book of Revelation for it denotes the unsaved at the time of the end who steadfastly continue in their rejection of God. In contrast to the faithful who are aliens and sojourners upon the earth (Lev. 25:23; Num. 18:20, 23; 1Chr. 29:15; Ps. 39:12; 119:19; John. 15:19; 17:14, 16; Php. 3:20; Heb. 11:13; 1Pe. 2:11) and whose hope is heavenward (Heb. 11:13-16; Rev. 13:6+), these that dwell upon the earth are trusting in man and his environment.73 These are the spiritual offspring of the humanists of our day. Believers are not among these earth dwellers, for the earth dwellers ultimately hate believers:74 “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). When the earth dwellers give us praise and are in love with us, then it is time for us to reassess the validity of our heavenly witness.The time of testing will come unexpectedly upon “those who dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:35). They will suffer through a time of testing like none before and they will endure both the wrath of God (Rev. 6:16-17+) and Satan (Rev. 12:12+)! They will be subjected to incredible deception (2Th. 2:11; Rev. 13:12-14+; 17:8+),75 will worship both Satan and the Antichrist (Rev. 13:4+, 8+) and willingly participate in the slaughter of those who remain faithful to God (Rev. 6:10+; 11:10+). Even though every nation, tribe, tongue, and people will hear the gospel during this time of testing, the majority will stand confirmed in their rejection of God (Rev. 14:6+):
All the classes [of men named here] literally reside on the earth, but the phrase referred to is one of moral signification and import. They are apostates from Christianity, having deliberately and determinately rejected the heavenly calling, and chosen the earth. God may have heaven; they are determined to have the earth as their place and portion.76
All of these Revelation references to “them that dwell upon the earth” clearly indicate that they will be unsaved people of the future period of testing who will never get saved. . . . In spite of the devastating horrors of the sixth trumpet, which will kill one-third of mankind, the earth-dwellers will not repent of their wicked deeds (Rev. 9:20-21+). The fourth bowl will cause people to be scorched with great heat; the fifth bowl will cause excruciating pain; and the sixth bowl will cause hailstones weighing approximately 94 pounds each to bombard people. Although they will recognize that these are God’s wrath judgments, the earth-dwellers will blaspheme Him rather than repent (Rev. 16:1+, 7+, 8-11+, 21+).77See Beast Worshipers are Unique.Like the believers of Philadelphia, those who trust in Christ prior to this time will be kept from the hour. Yet Scripture also records numerous saints who will come to faith during this horrific period and will walk through the events of their day—often ending in the ultimate witness—death (Rev. 7:9-16+; 12:11+; 13:7+; 20:4+).Some suggest that the trial or test of this time period will have at least three purposes: (1) to serve as a witness to God (Dan. 11:35+; 12:10+); (2) to purge the rebels from Israel and turn the elect to God (Zec. 13:7-9; Mark 13:13); (3) to demonstrate the unrepentant state of the earth dwellers.78 Even as the earth dwellers remain steadfast in their rejection of God, the believing Jewish remnant will swell:
“Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,” says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; and each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ” (Zec. 13:7-9)Only the faithful will dare risk supporting the Jewish faithful during this massive outpouring of anti-Semitic and anti-Christian sentiment (Mat. 25:31; Rev. 12:13+). See Trouble Ahead.
I am coming quickly“The placement of this fifth promise at this point is clear implication that the deliverance of the faithful will occur in conjunction with His coming. It holds open the possibility that His coming will happen before this generation passes, but does not guarantee it. This heightens the expectancy of Christ’s coming soon, a possibility which is stressed further by the presence of tachy (‘soon’).”79 See commentary on Revelation 1:1. See Imminency.
hold fastκράτει [kratei], a present tense imperative: “be continually holding fast!” The same thought as those who are blessed in Revelation 1:3+.
that no one may take your crownThe crown of life was promised to the overcomer in Smyrna (Rev. 2:10+). Since a specific crown is not identified, “Perhaps here the more general meaning of victory attached to stephanon should remain undefined.”80 See Crowns.
overcomesSee. Who is the Overcomer?
I will make him a pillar in the templeSome have seen this as an allusion to the pillars in Solomon’s Temple. “The reference here to Solomon is unmistakable. He it was who built the temple, and put in its porch those mysterious pillars ‘Jachin [i.e., He shall establish] and Boaz [i.e., In it is strength]’ (1K. 7:13-22; 2Chr. 3:17).”81 Others find the analogy flawed in this instance:
To find any allusion here . . . to the two monumental pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which Solomon set up, not in the temple, but in the open vestibule before the temple (1K. 7:21; 2Chr. 3:15, 17), I must say, appears to me quite beside the mark; and if there were any question on this point, the words which follow, “and he shall go no more out,” appear entirely decisive upon this point. These famous pillars were always without the temple; they would therefore have served very ill to set forth the blessedness of the redeemed, who should be always within it.82The language has much in common with Temple language elsewhere in the NT which is applied to the body of the believer and the presence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. See Temple of the Believer.Since there is no Temple in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22+), this promise may be similar to the promise concerning the Millennium made to the Thyatiran overcomer (Rev. 2:27+) and denote participation in the Millennial Temple during the Messianic Age.83 Some view the entire New Jerusalem as a “temple.” See New Jerusalem.The image of the pillar also evokes passages where the righteous are compared to fruitful trees “planted in the house of the Lord” (Ps. 92:12-14), God’s house being the Temple (John 2:16).
go no more outThis is perhaps the most precious promise among all the promises given the overcomer. For this phrase relates to fellowship with God! The entire message of Scripture, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22+, can be found within this pregnant phrase. See Hide and Seek. To the overcomer in Philadelphia is the promise of the fulfillment of that first love so lacking in Ephesus, to walk once again in full fellowship with God (Gen. 3:8; 5:24; Rev. 21:3+, 22+).
write on him the name of My GodThe written name indicates character and ownership (Num. 6:27; John 1:12). These will be owned by God and molded according to His character. They are “sons of God” (Mat. 5:9; Luke 20:36; John 1:12; Rom. 8:14, 19; Gal. 3:26). In the Tribulation, the 144,000 Jews have the Father’s name written on their foreheads (Rev. 14:1+) which identifies whose they are and provides for their protection (Rev. 7:3+; 9:4+). Here, the name is recorded on all the redeemed in the eternal state (Rev. 22:4+).In the last days, Satan will provide his own imitation of this identification (Rev. 13:16-17+; 17:5+; 20:4+). See Master Imitator.Previously, a new name was written on a stone given to the overcomer at Pergamos. See commentary on Revelation 2:17.
name of the city of My GodJerusalem will have a new name during the Millennium:
The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name. (Isa. 62:2)
At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. (Jer. 3:17)
“All the way around shall be eighteen thousand cubits; and the name of the city from that day shall be: THE LORD IS THERE.” (Eze. 48:35)The Lord will name the millennial Jerusalem “The Throne of the LORD” and “THE LORD IS THERE” indicating the presence of Messiah Jesus who will rule from the throne of David in the midst of the city.84However this name is that of the New Jerusalem and is not said to be new.85 The name is applied to the overcomer as a declaration of his right to citizenship in the eternal city (Rev. 21:2+). Citizenship declared now (Php. 3:20) will be realized there.This verse may also contain an allusion to an event of Philadelphian history whereby the city took a new name:
The gratitude of the victims to the emperor is . . . variously attested . . . A huge pedestal found at Puteoli bears a dedicatory inscription to Tiberius surrounded by the names of Asian cities, . . . The name ‘Philadelphea’ [sic] is fully preserved. Later coins and inscriptions of some of these cities show that they assumed an imperial name or cognomen about this time. . . [Philadelphia] takes the name ‘Neocaesarea’ . . . The concept of Philadelphia as a new city with a new name to honour the divine emperor whose patronage had restored its fortunes has again been related to Rev. 3:12+.86
city of My GodEarthly Jerusalem has been chosen by God. He has put His name there (1K. 8:48; 11:13, 36; 14:21; 2Chr. 6:6, 38; 12:13; Ps. 132:13; Isa. 49:14-16). Yet for all its glory, even in the Millennium when it is restored (Isa. 60; (62), the earthly Jerusalem is not the final destiny of the saints or the abode of God’s presence. For at the end of the Millennium there will be a “new heavens and new earth” (Rev. 21:2+) and a New Jerusalem which will be the ultimate destiny of the saints.Elsewhere, Jesus also refers to the Father as My God (Mat. 27:46; John 20:17; cf. Eph. 1:17; Heb. 1:8-9). We are Christ’s and Christ is the Father’s (1Cor. 3:23).
New JerusalemNew is καινῆς [kainēs], new in quality. The New Jerusalem bears little similarity to the Jerusalem of our time or of the Millennium (Rev. 20:4-6+). This is not the millennial city, which many Scriptures declare will be restored to prominence among the nations. It is the eternal abode of the saints:
In Holy Scripture there are two Jerusalems: the one is on earth in the land of Palestine; the other is ‘above’ in heaven (Gal. 4:25-26; Heb. 12:22). Now the Old Testament prophets speak of a city which, in the coming Kingdom, shall be reclaimed from Gentile power, rebuilt, restored to the historic nation of Israel, and made the religious center of the world. This Jerusalem cannot be the ‘heavenly Jerusalem,’ for that city is impeccably holy, the eternal dwelling of the true God, and has never been defiled or marred by human sin and rebellion. Any such notion is to the highest degree impossible and absurd. All predictions of a restored and rebuilt Jerusalem must therefore refer to the historical city of David on earth.87
which comes down out of heavenThis is the “Jerusalem above” (Gal. 4:24), the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the ultimate goal and destination of all the saints (John 14:2-3; Heb. 13:14).
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect. (Heb. 12:22-23)She comes down out of heaven as a “bride, the Lamb’s wife”:
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. (Rev. 21:9-10+)She is referred to as a bride and wife for this is the final residence of the wife of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7+).
My new nameNew is καινο̃ν [kainon], new in quality. This new name, which denotes a yet unrevealed aspect of the character of Jesus (Rev. 3:12+; 19:12+) will be written on the overcomer. This recalls the mysterious, but unrevealed name attending the Angel of the Lord and Son of God throughout Scripture. The name is hinted at, but never revealed: when Jacob wrestled with the Angel and was named Israel (Gen. 32:29); when the Angel announced the birth of Samson to his parents (Jdg. 13:6, 18); in the question concerning the Son of God (Pr. 30:4); and in God’s new name to be written on the overcomer (Rev. 3:12+).The overcomer is intimately identified with He who overcame (John 16:33). That the overcomer bears the names of both the Father and the Son is yet another clear statement of the deity of Christ—for God the Father would never share ownership or identity with any non-God.
let him hear what the Spirit says to the churchesSee commentary on Revelation 2:7.
the angelSome have suggested this particular angel to be Archippus (Col. 4:17) who was named as the first bishop of Laodicea in the Apostolical Constitutions (viii. 46)88.
Lightfoot has suggested however from Col. 4:17 that Archippus, presumably the son of Philemon (Philemon 2), held responsibility in the church in Laodicea. The two cities were only ten miles apart, and Col. 4 suggests habitual communication between them.89See the discussion concerning the identity of the angel at Revelation 1:20.
church of the LaodiceansSee commentary on Seven Churches of Asia. Laodicea was in southern Phrygia, midway between Philadelphia and Colosse.91Laodicea was known as an independent and wealthy city where wool was a major source of commerce. “It has often been observed that Laodicea was a banking centre. Cicero cashed his bills of exchange there on his arrival in his province of Cilicia in 51 BC.”92
The city suffered grievously in the Mithridatic war, but presently recovered again; once more in the wide-wasting earthquake in the reign of Tiberius, but was repaired and restored by the efforts of its own citizens, without any help asked by them from the Roman senate (Tacitus, Annal. xiv. 27).93
The prosperity of the city was illustrated following a great earthquake of A.D. 60, which destroyed the city and other cities around it. As was its habit, the Roman government offered substantial aid in rebuilding the devastation. Yet Laodicea was not among those cities who received help. Whether the government refused to offer it because of their great wealth, or Laodicea refused it because they did not need it, is debated. Whatever the case, the reason was wealth.94
In 62 BC the proconsul Flaccus confiscated large amounts of Jewish gold bound for Jerusalem, among them the sum of over twenty pounds weight at Laodicea. . . . the sums collected may represent the totals of temple-tax from their respective districts. It has been calculated that the amount from Laodicea would imply a population of 7,500 adult Jewish freemen in the district.95Aspects of the letter from Christ appear to allude to commercial activities in Laodicea:
Laodicea was a great garment manufacturing center and pioneered mass-produced, and therefore cheap, outer garments. These garments used the wool of the vast flocks of sheep that grazed the high plateaus in the vicinity. Laodicea was proud of its garment industry and its well-clothed citizens—this adds pertinence to the nakedness of Rev. 3:17+. This verse draws on another aspect of Laodicean pride, too, for the city was a noted medical center with a famous school at the temple of the Carian god, Men. This medical school was world famous for two products in particular, an ointment for the ears and one for the eyes. To aid in exporting these medications, the doctors of Laodicea developed a process of converting the ointment to powder which was compressed into tablets. The comment of Rev. 3:18+ is thus ironic; in their pride, the church members of Laodicea did not recognize that they were spiritually blind.96The name Λαοδίκεια [Laodikeia] is a compound from Λαός [Laos] (“people”) and δίκη [dikē] (“judgment,” “rule”). Thus the city was aptly named for the letter which Christ here writes:
Its name designates it as the Church of mob rule, the democratic Church, in which everything is swayed and decided by popular opinion, clamour and voting; and hence a self-righteousness and self-sufficient Church.97
Laodicea . . . means “people ruling.” This is set in contrast to God’s ruling in the church. It is a church entirely ruled by men, for the Holy Spirit is not present and doing His ministry of guiding.98Although Paul mentions this church in his epistle to the Colossians (Col. 2:1; 4:13-16) and it remained a significant church for a number of centuries as witnessed by an important council concerning the canon of Scripture which was held there in AD 361—the Council of Laodicea, at the time of John’s writing, the leadership of the church appears to have been inverted from Scriptural guidelines. Paul had previously warned Timothy concerning the consequences of the sheep ruling in place of spirit-led Shepherds:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (2Ti 4:3-4)
the AmenDerived from the Hebrew term אָמֵן [ʾāmēn] which denotes certainty, a reliable support:
The basic root idea is firmness or certainty. In the Qal it expresses the basic concept of support and is used in the sense of the strong arms of the parent supporting the helpless infant. The constancy involved in the verbal idea is further seen in that it occurs in the Qal only as a participle (expressing continuance). The idea of support is also seen in II Kings 18:16, where it refers to pillars of support.99
the Faithful and True Witness“Christ’s attributes of sincerity and truth come to the forefront as He deals with those whose alleged devotion to Him is only superficial and not substantial.”100 He will shortly deliver an assessment of the Laodicean church which is unique in its total lack of commendation. No other of the seven churches fairs as poorly in His assessment. Therefore, He emphasizes the accuracy and trustworthiness of what He is about to say. In scenes of judgment, we find an emphasis on the reliability of His witness because it is a requirement for Holy judgment (Rev. 19:11+). His words are worthy to have faith exercised upon them (Rev. 21:5+; 22:6+):
The word [πιστός [pistos]] is employed in two very different senses in the New Testament as elsewhere, in an active and a passive,—now as trusting or believing (John 20:27; Acts 14:1), now as trustworthy or to be believed (2Ti. 2:22; 1Th. 5:27; 1Jn. 1:9). Men may be πιστοί [pistoi] in both senses, the active and the passive, as exercising faith, and as being worthy to have faith exercised upon them; God can be πιστός [pistos] only in the latter.101Again, we find Jesus applying to Himself titles which are descriptive of the Father (Jer. 42:5). Being God, Jesus can do nothing but witness of the truth. What other man could make the claim of Jesus, “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true” (John 8:14-18)?
Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all.” (John 18:37-38)These characteristics will allow for His just rule during the Millennium:
His delight is in the fear of the Lord, and He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, nor decide by the hearing of His ears; but with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked. Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins, and faithfulness the belt of His waist. (Isa. 11:3-5)See commentary on Revelation 1:5.
the Beginning of the creation of GodThis meaning of beginning here may be author or efficient cause102 and does not indicate that He was a product of creation:
This is a favorite Arian prooftext, cited to prove that Jesus is not eternal, but had a beginning, Jesus being understood by them to be the first-created creature of God, through whom God created all else in the universe. The underlying Greek word, arche, may be understood in a passive sense, and rendered “the beginning,” as the A.V., or more correctly understood in the active sense, and rendered “the beginner,” source, origin, or principle of creation. Since God is eternal, and Jesus is God, the passive sense is not suited to the context, as being out of harmony with the many representations of Christ John has already given, whereby he in citing or alluding to Old Testament passages has applied to Jesus Christ in the book of Revelation what is in the Old Testament spoken of Jehovah.103
Not he whom God created first, but as in Col. 1:15-18, the Beginner of all creation, its originating instrument. All creation would not be represented adoring Him, if He were but one of themselves.104Having analyzed the use of ἀρχή [archē] (beginning) in the Septuagint and throughout the NT, Svigel concludes the meaning here is primarily that of governmental rule and the phrase here should be rendered, “the supreme Authority over the creation of God.”105Jesus is the Beginning and End (Rev. 21:6+; 22:13+), both the author of and ruler over creation (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1-3; 1Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2).106 See commentary on Revelation 5:12 and Revelation 5:13.
I knowSee commentary on Revelation 2:2.
coldψυχρὸς [psychros]: “in mind: of one destitute of warm Christian faith and the desire for holiness.”107
hotζεστός [zestos], used of “ ‘boiling’ water.”108
I could wishIt is always and constantly God’s desire that men would fear Him and keep His commandments, but men still choose to walk in their own counsels (Deu. 5:29; Ps. 81:10-13).
you were cold or hotHere we have what would seem to be an allusion to the marginal water supply of Laodicea:
Rudwick and Green emphasize that the site of Laodicea was chosen for its position at an important road-junction. ‘It lacked a natural water-supply, for there are no springs on the site, and the Lycus River dries up in summer’ (p. 177). The remains of a remarkable aqueduct of stone pipes indicate that the people derived water from a source south of the city, perhaps from the hot mineral springs near Denizli, the modern town five miles distance. This would have cooled only slowly in the pipes, and on arrival the supply would have been tepid and its effect emetic.109
The people of Laodicea had built an aqueduct to supply their city, but the water was lukewarm and impure. The remains can still be seen, and thick deposits of calcium carbonate inside the pipes witness plainly to the worth of the water which once flowed through them. The words of Rev. 3:14-15+ must have hit home powerfully in Laodicea: the writer said that the church was as useless and distasteful as that bad water.11024:15; 1K. 18:21; Eze. 20:39; Zep. 1:5; Mat. 6:24). “There is no one farther from the truth in Christ than the one who makes an idle profession without real faith.”112 It is the double-minded man, like “the wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind,” who should not “suppose he will receive anything from the Lord” (Jas. 1:5-8).Here, the cold and hot relate to their spiritual condition:
The hot are the truly saved believers. The cold are those who are not believers and do not claim to be believers. The lukewarm are those who do claim to believe in Jesus, but are not truly regenerate believers.113
How shall we then understand this exclamation of the Saviour, . . . namely, by regarding the “cold” here as one hitherto untouched by the powers of grace. There is always hope of such an one, that, when he does come under those powers, he may become a zealous and earnest Christian. He is not one on whom the grand experiment of the Gospel has been tried and has failed. But the “lukewarm” is one who has tasted of the good gift and of the powers of the world to come, who has been a subject of Divine grace, but in whom that grace has failed to kindle more than the feeblest spark. The publicans and harlots were “cold,” the Apostles “hot.” The Scribes and Pharisees, . . . were “lukewarm.”114
you are lukewarmThe church was no longer a light shining in the darkness. It appears to have been at peace with its enemies: the synagogue of Satan:
Antiochus settled a community of two thousand Jews in Laodicea after expelling them from Babylon. By 62 BC the governor of the city became alarmed at the amount of currency the Jews were exporting to pay the temple tax and so placed an embargo on currency (exchange control is nothing new!), and consequently seized one hundred and twenty pounds weight [Hemer gives the figure of twenty pounds, p. 182.] of gold as contraband in Laodicea and Apameia. This gold was worth about 15,000 days’ wages in those days, and as the temple tax was the equivalent of two days’ wages, this means there were at least 7,500 Jewish men (besides women and children) in these cities. When John wrote this letter more than a century later, given the prosperity of the city, the Jewish population was probably considerably higher. The significance of this probability is that, while Christians elsewhere in Asia were persecuted by the Jews (e.g., Rev. 2:9+; 3:9+), there is no mention of persecution in this city with so large a Jewish population. This silence speaks volumes, for the Christian church in Laodicea was so complacent and self-sufficient in its wealth that it had ceased to be effective for Christ; so much so that its traditional persecutor, the Jews, considered it benign.115See Worldly Churches.
vomit you outAn equivalent threat to that given to the Ephesian angel of removing his lampstand (Rev. 2:5+). “Recent travellers with difficulty discovered one or two Christians in the poor village of Iski-hissar, which stands on the site which Laodicea occupied of old.”116 When conditions become so bad that repentance and return are not forthcoming, God turns men loose to their own destruction and loss (Jer. 15:1-4; Zec. 11:9; Rom. 1:20-28).
you sayλέγεις [legeis], you are presently saying.
I am richThe attitude of the city of Laodicea had infected the church. “It is evident that the Christians of Laodicea shared the self-sufficiency of their fellow-townsmen, and carried it into the sphere of their relations with God and Christ.”117 Self-sufficiency is the death-knell of relationship with God for independence of God is sin! The town had independently recovered from a devastating earthquake in the reign of Tiberius (A.D. 14-37, Luke 3:1) without asking for or receiving help from the Roman senate.118 Its riches and success had influenced the thinking of its residents. Pride and self-sufficiency had crept into the culture and the culture had crept into the church.I am rich, πεπλύτηκα [peplytēka], is I have become rich, (perfect tense). The emphasis is on the result—now being rich—so it is translated as a present tense.119 Here we see the curse of blessing for Scripture records that where men receive God’s blessing they soon drift away from the very source of their blessing. Everywhere, the pattern of history is that of a revolving wheel:120
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1Ti. 6:6-10)How different was the condition of the Laodicean church from those in Smyrna (Rev. 2:9+)!
have need of nothingIt appears the Laodiceans highly valued their independence and that they refused the offer of Rome to help rebuild following the earthquake. Many of the rebuilt structures included the inscription ἐκ τῶν ἰδίων [ek tōn idiōn] (“out of our own resources”).121God had warned the children of Israel of how their sin could pervert His blessing:
Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest-when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock. (Deu. 8:11-15)Agur, the son of Jakeh, understood the danger of the lack of need leading to independence from God:
Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches-Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God. (Pr. 30:8-9)
do not knowThe Laodicean’s had no idea of their condition for they were spiritually blind (Hos. 7:8-9; Luke 6:42).
you areσὺ εἶ [sy ei], emphatic: you . . . you are.
wretched and miserableThey were wretched, ταλαίπωρος [talaipōros]—afflicted122, and miserable, ἐλεεινὸς [eleeinos]—pitiable.123 They themselves were afflicted but did not know their condition, hence they were pitiable.
poorThey were poor in the wrong way: spiritually rather than physically. See commentary on Revelation 2:9.
blindThey do not know because they are blind. Scripture makes plain that those who are sure of their sight are most often sightless (Isa. 42:18-20; John 9:39-41). So it was with the Laodicean church. Of all the churches which Jesus wrote to, this church was the least likely to respond to His exhortation because it was sure of its health and vision.
But sin makes blind and man cannot perceive his corruption (Eph. 4:18; Rev. 3:17+). He believes in the good within himself and deifies his own nature (2Th. 2:3-4): ‘Mankind is deity seen from below.’ So long as he believes that, he will never lay hold of the redemption (Mat. 9:12).124So it is with many churches in our day who are convinced that their social activities and programs are an indicator of their spiritual health. Having lost all capability of introspection by the measure of God’s Word, they are unable to assess their condition by anything other than pragmatic measures and ministry statistics. As they grow in influence and numbers, their willingness to admit of the need for correction continually wanes until they reach a condition much like that of the Laodicean church.
nakedThey had not watched nor kept their garments so now they were naked (Rev. 16:15+). Their shame was evident to all but themselves, for they were blind to their own nakedness.
I counsel you to buy from MeThe language is meant to speak to the merchants of the city, some of whom would have been members of the church:
He who might have commanded, prefers rather to counsel; He who might have spoken as from heaven, conforms Himself, so far as the outward form of his words reaches, to the language of earth. To the merchants and factors of this wealthy mercantile city He addresses himself in their own dialect. . . . Would it not be wise to transact their chief business with Him?125Salvation is free for no man has the necessary riches to contribute even one penny toward the cost of his own salvation. And to do so would be the height of blasphemy since it would deny the sufficiency of the sacrifice of God’s own Son (Col. 2:14; Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 28). On the other hand, Scripture also records that true salvation and service for the Lord costs everything (Luke 14:33).
The price which they should pay was this, the renunciation of all vain reliance on their own righteousness and wisdom; the price which in another Epistle St. Paul declared he had so gladly paid, that so he might himself win Christ (Php. 3:7-8); the [forsaking all], ἀποτάσσεσται πᾶσα [apotassestai pasa], which the Lord long before had declared to be the necessary condition of his discipleship (Luke 14:33).126
gold. . . white garments. . . eye salveThe remedies for the previously-stated ills, for they were poor, naked, and blind (Rev. 2:17+).
refined in the fireNot just gold, but refined gold which has been purified by fire:
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1Pe. 1:6-7)The Laodiceans church needed true spiritual gold which would stand the test of the bema seat of Christ:
Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. (1Cor. 3:12-13)
white garmentsThe mention of white garments would be especially noteworthy since Laodicea was known for its production of high quality glossy black wool:
Commentators . . . have seen allusion to the clothing industry of Laodicea and in particular a contrast with the glossy black wool of its sheep. Knowledge of the breed rests primarily upon Strabo: ’The country around Laodicea produces sheep remarkable not only for the softness of their wool, in which they surpass even that of Miletus, but also for its raven-black color.127“Laodicea’s wools were famous. Christ offers infinitely whiter raiment.”128 The same white garments which are promised to the overcomer in Sardis (Rev. 3:4-5+). See commentary on Revelation 3:4.
be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealedThe Laodicean church had walked in the steps of Adam and Eve before them—they had attempted to clothe themselves to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:7-11). Yet the fig leaves sewn by Adam and his wife were not sufficient in God’s sight—animal sacrifice was needed to atone for sin when God provided their clothing (Gen. 3:21). The Laodicean church had religion, but was lacking relationship. They had attempted to substitute their own righteousness (Pr. 20:6; 21:2; Mat. 5:20; Luke 10:29; 18:9) for the righteousness that can only come from God (Rom. 10:3). They were clothed in see-through garments of their own works—naked but unable to see their condition. They needed to purchase from God the robes of righteousness:
eye salve that you may seeThe eye salve may allude to the early practice of ophthalmology associated with the city:
We have explicit evidence for the connection of Laodicea with a leading figure of first-century ophthalmology. . . . local people today find medicinal value in bathing their eyes in the Hierapolis waters, the alum content apparently being the beneficial [sic] agent. . . . the city probably marketed extensively and profitably an ointment developed locally from available materials, whose exact composition may have been kept secret from commercial rivals.129The Laodicean’s needed the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit so that they may more clearly see their own nakedness and realize their need of clothing. “The Spirit convinces of sin, and by this [‘eye salve’] we must understand the illuminating grace of the Holy Ghost, which at once shows to us God, and in God and his light ourselves.”130 They needed the illumination of the Holy Spirit so they could see their condition accurately, just as the “seven eyes” saw them (Rev. 4:6+). See Hiding or Revealing?
As many as I love, I rebuke and chastenThe Laodicean church could take comfort in the fact that Christ had written a letter of rebuke to them for it was an indication of his ongoing love for them. They were not so far gone that He would leave them silently to their own devices. Like a loving Father, God chastens those who would be His sons (Deu. 8:5; 2S. 7:14; Heb. 12:5-8).
be zealousζήλευε [zēleue], be continually full of zeal (present-tense). The same root word as “hot” in Revelation 3:15+. Although God said “I could wish you were cold or hot” (either state being preferable to lukewarm hypocrisy), He still prefers that they be hot. The Laodicean church-goer was to earnestly desire, pursue, and strive after God.131 He could no longer remain a church-goer, but would need to become a God-chaser.
repentSee commentary on μετανοια [metanoia] at Revelation 2:5.
I stand at the door and knockI stand is ἕστηκα [hestēka], perfect tense: I have stood. Knock is κρούω [krouō], present tense: I am knocking. He has been standing for a period of time and is still awaiting their response to his continual knocking. The knocking is accompanied by the voice of the bridegroom. When the bride lacks sufficient zeal and is slow to respond, the bridegroom has already withdrawn (Sos. 5:1-6). If the Laodicean church was truly zealous, they would have already opened the door (Luke 12:35-36).The irony here in that Christ is outside His own church, desiring to be invited back in!132 The love of God and His desire to rectify the condition in Laodicea is reflected in the manner in which the God of the universe steadfastly waits outside the Laodicean door.
He at whose door we ought to stand, for He is the Door (John 10:7), who, as such, has bidden us to knock (Mat. 7:7; Luke 11:9), is content that the whole relation between Him and us should be reversed, and instead of our standing at his door condescends Himself to stand at ours.133Some have seen in this door an allusion to a monumental gate in the city.134 Elsewhere, Jesus is Himself the door (John 10:9) providing full access to heaven and God (Heb. 10:19-20).
hears My voiceThe voice is intentionally contrasted with the knock:
So far as we may venture to distinguish between the two, . . . to see in the voice the more inward appeal, the closer dealing of Christ with the soul, speaking directly by his Spirit to the spirit of the man; in the knocking those more outward gracious dealings, of sorrow and joy, of sickness and health, and the like, which He sends, and sending uses for the bringing of his elect, in one way or another, by smooth paths or by rough, to Himself.135All men have ears, but not all hear His voice. See commentary on Revelation 2:7.
come in to himWallace argues from the grammar that this verse cannot denote an offer of salvation. He observes that Christ is promising to come in to the presence of (πρὸς αὐτόν [pros auton]) the one who opens the door, not into the sphere of his person.136 But this is not essential for the verse to denote the fellowship associated with salvation. Elsewhere, salvation is described as the Father and Son coming to (not into) the believer:
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him [πρὸς αὐτόν [pros auton]] and make Our home with him.” (John 14:21-23) [emphasis added]Yet the context offers little to support an evangelistic emphasis:
The verse contains nothing of the gospel message as such—no mention of substitutionary atonement, of Christ’s resurrection, of repentance, of faith in the person and work of Christ. Neither is there anything in the adjacent context about these vital matters. Yet evangelists and personal workers everywhere commonly employ this verse as a gospel invitation. God, in His grace, does occasionally use it to help bring an unsaved person to Christ, since it does enjoin a proper attitude of openness to God’s call, but that is not its intent. It is addressed only to compromising, lukewarm Christians in compromising, lukewarm churches, and it is they whom Christ is seeking to draw back to Himself.137
and dine with himAfter coming under the Mosaic Covenant, Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s sons, and seventy of the elders of Israel “saw God” and “ate and drank” in His presence (Ex. 24:8-11). Dining conveys the idea of intimate fellowship (Luke 19:5-7; John 13). Jesus says he will dine with him in ongoing fellowship and intimacy as soon as the door is opened. There is also the promise of dining with Him at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Mat. 22:1-14; 25:1-13; 26:29; Luke 22:16; Rev. 19:9+). “The consummation of this blessed intercommunion shall be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, of which the Lord’s Supper is the earnest and foretaste.”138 Jesus has promised not to partake of the Passover meal until he dines with believers in the Millennial Kingdom (Mat. 8:11; Mat. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:18).
overcomesSee Who is the Overcomer?
sit with MeThey will sit with Him and share His rule in the same way He sits at the right hand of the Father and shares His rule. See commentary on Revelation 2:26 and Revelation 2:27.
on My throneAn amazing manifestation of grace. Those who were about to be spewed from his mouth are invited to sit with Him on His throne.139
The promise . . . is an extension of the promise Christ made to the Twelve while on earth that they would not only eat and drink with Him in His kingdom, but also sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:29-30). Paul expanded the promise to include all Christians as rulers and the broadened domain of the world, not just Israel (cf. 1Cor. 6:2).140Jesus clarifies a point which is often confused today: He is not now sitting on His throne, but is seated at the right hand of the Father on the Father’s throne.
There is a most important dispensational teaching in this verse. There are those who think that the Church is the kingdom and that there is to be no literal kingdom on earth. Here the Lord says that at the present time He is not upon His own throne.141Jesus taught that there would be a delay in the coming of His kingdom (Mat. 6:10; Luke 11:2; 19:11-15; Acts 1:6-7). Its arrival is yet future and will be indicated by signs (Luke 21:31). It occurs after the Antichrist has his day (Dan. 7:11-14+, 21-22+, 25-27+; Rev. 19:20+), after the seventh angel sounds his trumpet (Rev. 11:15-17+), after Satan is cast down (Rev. 12:10+), when Christ returns to judge the sheep and the goats (Mat. 25:31; 2Ti. 4:1), in the regeneration when the apostles will rule over the tribes of Israel (Mat. 19:28; Luke 22:29-30) and believers co-rule (Rev. 20:4-6+), when He drinks wine and eats the Passover again with His followers (Mat. 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16-18).
This passage, in harmony with Luke 1:32, 33; Mat. 19:28; Acts 2:30, 34, 35; 15:14-16, is conclusive that Christ is not now seated upon His own throne. The Davidic Covenant, and the promises of God through the prophets and the Angel Gabriel concerning the Messianic kingdom await fulfilment.142
Several factors indicate that David’s throne is separate and distinct from God’s throne in heaven. First, several descendants of David have sat on his throne, but only one of his descendants ever sits on the right hand of God’s throne in heaven. That descendant is Jesus Christ (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 8:1; 12:2). Second, David’s throne was not established before his lifetime (2S. 7:16-17). By contrast, since God has always ruled over His creation, His throne in heaven was established long before David’s throne (Ps. 93:1-2). Third, since God’s throne in heaven was established long before David’s throne and since God’s throne was established forever (Lam. 5:19), then it was not necessary for God to promise to establish David’s throne forever (2S. 7:16) if they are the same throne. Fourth, David’s throne was on the earth, not in heaven. David and his descendants who sat on his throne exercised an earthly, ruling authority. They never exercised ruling authority in or from heaven. By contrast, as noted earlier, the Bible indicates that God’s throne is in heaven. Fifth, the Bible’s consistent description of David’s throne indicates that it belongs to David. When God talked to David about his throne, God referred to it as “thy throne” (2S. 7:16; Ps. 89:4; 132:12). When God mentioned David’s throne to others, He referred to it as “his throne” (Ps. 89:29; Jer. 33:21), “David’s throne” (Jer. 13:13), and “the throne of David” (Jer. 17:25; 22:2, 4; 22:30). By contrast, the Scriptures’ consistent description of the throne in heaven indicates that it belongs to God the Father. 143According to Trench, this is a greater position than the role given to the apostles over the tribes of Israel (Mat. 19:28).144He is currently seated to the right hand of the Father on the Father’s throne. In the Millennium, He will take up his throne (Mat. 25:31). In the eternal state, it appears the two thrones become synonymous (1Cor. 15:24-25; Rev. 22:1+, 3+).
as I also overcameIt is by Jesus’ identity as the overcomer and their identification with Him that believers are overcomers. See Who is the Overcomer?.
sat down with my Father on His throneAfter His ascension, Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father. This is his present position (Mark 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1 Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1Pe. 3:22). Jesus told the high priest that he would see the Son of Man “sitting at the right hand of the Power” (Mat. 26:64). He stood up at the death of His witness Stephen (Acts 7:55-56), but this was not yet the time to receive the kingdom and return to rule for He must remain seated until His enemies are made His footstool (Ps. 110:1; Mat. 22:44). Eventually, He will be presented before the Ancient of Days to receive the kingdom (Dan. 7:13-14+) initiating His return and subsequent rule from the throne of David (Luke 1:33; Mat. 5:31-32; Rev. 19:11-21+; 20:4-6+).
This, the grandest and crowning promise, is placed at the end of all the seven addresses, to gather all in one. It also forms the link to the next part of the book, where the Lamb is introduced seated on His Father’s throne (Rev. 4:2+, 3+).145
let him hear what the Spirit says to the churchesSee commentary on Revelation 2:7.
After reading the seven letters to the seven churches, we cannot escape the fact that compromise of God’s word is anathema to Christ and is the root of all Christian weakness. Let us each individually resolve to uphold the full teaching of our Lord and Savior—in the strength He provides.146This is the last mention of “church” (εκκλησία [ekklēsia]) in the book of Revelation until the closing remarks: “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Rev. 22:16+). As we note elsewhere, the Jewishness of the book of Revelation was recognized early on and contributed to a reluctance to recognize its canonicity. This is a reflection of what we have just observed: the absence of the church from the events following chapters 2 and 3. We believe this is intentional and indicates that the saints who experience the Tribulation period come to faith after the Rapture of the church. This includes a significant Jewish witness (Rev. 7:4-8+; 11:3-13+; 14:1-5+).
The fact that parts of Revelation contain no reference to the church but make many references to Israel has been recognized by scholars who do not advocate a Pretribulation Rapture of the church. For example, the Roman Catholic scholar, C. Van Den Biesen, state, “The Apocalypse abounds in passages which bear no specific Christian character but, on the contrary, show a decidedly Jewish complexion.”147It is important to understand that the pretribulational rapture view is not derived from this observation, but that it is founded upon other passages. The emphasis on the church in chapters 2 and 3 followed by a complete omission of any mention of the church in the events of judgment spanning chapters 6 through 19 is but one of numerous evidences in Scripture which indicate that the church will not endure the Tribulation. See Rapture.
1Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.
2 American Heritage Online Dictionary, Ver. 3.0A, 3rd ed (Houghton Mifflin, 1993), s.v. “Lydia.”
3Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 3:1.
4“Even at dates later than the Revelation ‘to capture the acropolis of Sardis’ was proverbially ‘to do the impossible’.”—Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 133.
6Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 3:1.
7Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), 109.
8Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 134.
9Robert L. Thomas, Revelation 1-7 (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1992), 272.
10“Melito, a name we hear seldom now, but the titles of whose works inspire us with a deep regret for their almost entire loss, was bishop of Sardis, being the only illustrious name connected with this Church, in the latter half of the second century (Neander, Kirch. Gesch. i. 3, p. 1140).”—Richard Chenevix Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1861), 152.
11Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 242.
12Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1992), Rev. 3:1.
13J. A. Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 71.
15Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 153.
16Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 3:1.
17Donald Grey Barnhouse, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971), 66-67.
19John MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999), Rev. 3:4.
20Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 73.
21Barnhouse, Revelation, 68.
22“This doctrine of Total Inability, which declares that men are dead in sin, does not mean that all men are equally bad, nor that any man is as bad as he could be, nor that any one is entirely destitute of virtue, nor that human nature is evil in itself, nor that man’s spirit is inactive, and much less does it mean that the body is dead. What it does mean is that since the fall man rests under the curse of sin, that he is actuated by wrong principles, and that he is wholly unable to love God or to do anything meriting salvation. . . . Man is a free agent but he cannot originate the love of God in his heart. . . . As the bird with a broken wing is ‘free’ to fly but not able, so the natural man is free to come to God but not able.”—Loraine Boettner, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1932), 61-62.
23Barnhouse, Revelation, 70.
24Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 255.
25Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 3:3.
26MacArthur, Revelation 1-11 : The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 114.
27Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 253.
28This passage does not describe the Rapture of the church as Luke’s account makes especially clear: “ ‘I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.’ And they answered and said to Him, ‘Where, Lord?’ So He said to them, ‘Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together’ ” (Luke 17:34-37). Those who are taken are like those who perished in the flood of Noah. Jesus indicates they are taken in judgment as many parallel passages which describe birds feeding on carrion make plain: Deu. 28:26; Job 39:30; Eze. 39:4, 17-20; Jer. 7:33; 12:9; 15:3; 16:4; 19:7; Mat. 24:28; Luke 17:37; Rev. 19:17-18+.
29Once again, the context of this passage is judgment as can be seen by the verses which follow: “But if that servant says in his heart, “My master is delaying his coming,” and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. . . . I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:45-49).
30Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 3:3.
31 New Electronic Translation : NET Bible, electronic edition (Dallas, TX: Biblical Studies Press, 1998), Rev. 3:3.
32Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 164.
33“the one who conquers will cause himself to be clothed in white clothing. Like Gal. 5:12, this is an example of a causative direct middle. Direct middles are not uncommon with verbs meaning ‘to put on clothes.’ ”—Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House and Galaxie Software, 1999, 2002), 424.
34James Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), H3722.
35Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Rev. 3:5.
36Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 264.
37Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works. Architrave: The lowermost part of an entablature in classical architecture that rests directly on top of a column. Also called epistyle.
38Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 3:7.
40Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 273.
41“By Metonymy of the Adjunct, whereby the sign is put for the thing signified, ‘key’ is put for governmental authority, of which it is the sign.”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 3:7.
42Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002), 7:262.
43Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia.
44Although Paul is commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles in Acts 9:1-43, it is Peter who first takes the gospel to the Gentiles in Acts 10:1-48. Why? Because it is Peter who has the keys to the kingdom.
45Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Rev. 3:8.
46Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 278.
47Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia.
48Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 279.
49Barnhouse, Revelation, 75.
50Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 280.
51“The passage does not mean that believers are to be worshiped. It is merely at their feet that the unbelievers shall kneel as they are forced to acknowledge that Christ is God, and that every detail of the Scripture is eternal and true.”—Barnhouse, Revelation, 76.
52Steve Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 76.
53“Rev. 3:9+, . . . refers to Isaianic prophecies that the Gentiles will come and bow down before Israel and recognize Israel as God’s chosen people (Isa. 45:14; 49:23; 60:14). This Jewish hope has been turned upside down. Note it is the Jewish persecutors of Christians whom God will make to submit to the church. This reversal of Isaiah’s language is probably a conscious attempt to express the irony that the submission that unbelieving ethnic Jews hoped to receive from Gentiles, they themselves will be forced to render to the church.”—Gregory K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1999), 94.
54Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), Rev. 3:9.
55Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 282.
56Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 177.
57Renald E. Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995), 209-210.
58“To be kept in temptation, not to be exempted from temptation (τηρεῖν εκ [tērein ek] not being here==τηρεῖν ἀπό [tērein apo], Jas. 1:27; Pr. 7:5 cf. 2Th. 3:3); a bush burning, and yet not consumed (cf. Isa. 43:2).”—Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 178. “The words τηρήσω ἐκ [tērēsō ek] are to be understood from John 17:15: God’s people shall receive special protection in the trial rather than exemption from it (ἀπό [apo]; cf. also 2Pe. 2:9).”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 164.
59“The idea of the saints being shielded from the testing while living within and through its time period also would have been expressed more clearly through the use of another preposition, either en (meaning ‘in’) or dia (meaning ‘through’) [thus, ‘I will keep you in or through the time period of testing’] rather than ek.”—Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 212.
61Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 3:10.
62Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary, 76.
63“If Gundry’s view of Rev. 3:10+ is correct [that the church will be guarded and preserved during God’s testing of earth-dwellers during the Tribulation], then one is left with the colossal problem of reconciling the fact that multitudes of believers will die under the fierce persecution of Antichrist during the Tribulation and yet God supposedly will preserve His people physically through the Tribulation.”—Keith H. Essex, “The Rapture and the Book of Revelation,” in Richard L. Mayhue, ed., The Master’s Seminary Journal, vol. 13 no. 1 (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, Spring 2002), 29-30.
64Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 212.
65Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, rev ed (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 2003), 155.
66Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 288.
67Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary, 77.
68Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 214.
69Grant R. Osborne, Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 8.
70Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 225.
71J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 158.
72“The temptation brings out the fidelity of those kept by Christ and hardens the unbelieving reprobates (Rev. 9:20+, 21+).”—A. R. Fausset, “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” in Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997, 1877), Rev. 3:10. Note, however, that this verse indicates that it is those who dwell on the earth who are the object of the testing, not the faithful.
73This fact explains why the events of Revelation include great judgments poured out upon the natural systems of the earth for the earth has become an idol of worship for the earth dwellers.
74Some may say that earth dwellers do not hate believers, but simply tolerate them. This is only true to the extent the local culture has been influenced by the salt and light of believers. When darkness increases, hatred of the earth dwellers towards believers escalates dramatically, for believers remind them of God’s righteous judgment which they desire to throw off.
75This spiritual deception will be so powerful that only those who have come to faith will have the needed supernatural protection to overcome it.
76Walter Scott, Exposition of The Revelation (London, England: Pickering & Inglis, n.d.), Rev. 11:9.
77Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 216-217.
78The idea that the trial is also to refine believers is contradicted by this verse which states that the ones to be tested are the ones who “dwell upon the earth”—a technical term in the book of Revelation for those who remain unrepentant during the events of the end. “This same expression occurs in Revelation 6:10+; 11:10+; 13:8+, 12+, 14+; 14:6+ and 17:8+. In its usage it is not giving us a geographical description but rather a moral classification.”—Pentecost, Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology, 197.
79Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 3:11.
81E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 96.
82Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 182.
83Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 65.
84“Heb. Jehovah shammah. i.e. The Lord is there. Signifying the personal presence of Messiah who will reign visibly in Israel.”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Eze. 48:35.
85Trench believes it will be “The Lord is there” (Eze. 48:35). [Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia]
86Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 157.
87Alva J. McClain, The Greatness Of The Kingdom (Winona Lake, IN: BMH Books, 1959), 244.
88Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 190.
89Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 181.
90Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.
91“The new city was established by Antiochus II (261-246 BC) and named after his first wife Laodice, whom he divorced in 253.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 180.
93Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 189.
94Thomas, Revelation 1-7, Rev. 3:14.
95Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 182.
96Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 3:14.
97Seiss, The Apocalypse: Lectures on the Book of Revelation, 72.
98Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 66.
99Robert Laird Harris, Gleason Leonard Archer, and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1999, c1980), 1:41.
100Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 300.
101Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 191.
102“Waterland defines Arkē (beginning), ‘that is, author or efficient cause’ (Works, vol. 2, p. 53).”—Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, Rev. 3:14.
104Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 3:14.
105Michael J. Svigel, “Christ as Arche in Revelation 3:14,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 161 no. 642 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, April-June 2004), 225.
106See also Pr. 8:22-30 where wisdom is personified with attributes much like those of Jesus: having intimate fellowship with the Father, eternal generation, beside the Father as a master craftsman, the delight of the Father.
107Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G5593.
108Frederick William Danker and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 337.
109Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 188.
110Tim Dowley, ed., The History of Christianity (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995), 72.
111Copyright © 2003 www.BiblePlaces.com. This image appears by special permission and may not be duplicated for use in derivative works.
112John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), Rev. 3:15.
113Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of Messiah, 66.
114Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 195-196.
115Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 3:14.
116Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 191.
117Henry Barclay Swete, The Apocalypse of St. John (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998, 1906), lxi.
118Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 189.
119“Intensive Perfect (a.k.a. Resultative Perfect). . . . The perfect may be used to emphasize the results or present state produced by a past action. The English present often is the best translation for such a perfect. This is a common use of the perfect tense.”—Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 574.
120In our own day and culture, we are experiencing stage 3 and nearing stage 4.
121Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 193.
122Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G5005.
123Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 249.
124Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1951, c1964), 50.
125Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 201-202.
127Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 199.
128Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 3:18.
129Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 198.
130Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 206.
131Strong, The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, G2206.
132Gregg, Revelation Four Views: A Parallel Commentary, 80.
133Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 211.
134“This ostentatious self-sufficiency reached a climax when the reconstruction was completed by the erection of great public buildings at the expense of individual citizens in the years immediately preceding the Domitianic date of the Revelation [in response to the earthquake of Nero’s reign]. The monumental triple gate thus donated may have been in mind in the writing of Rev. 3:20+.”—Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, 208.
135Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 212.
136“The crucial phrase for our purposes is ‘I shall come in to him.’ This text has often been taken as a text offering salvation to a lost sinner. Such a view is based on two assumptions: (1) that the Laodiceans, or at least some of them, were indeed lost, and (2) that εἰσελεύσομαι πρὸς [eiseleusomai pros] means ‘come into.’ Both of these assumptions, however, are based on little evidence. With reference to the first assumption, that those in the Laodicean church were not believers, it is important to note that in the preceding verse, the resurrected Lord declares, ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline.’ Here φιλεω [phileō] is used for ‘love’ a term that is never used of God/Jesus loving unbelievers in the NT. (Indeed, it would be impossible for God to have this kind of love for an unbeliever, for it routinely speaks of enjoyment and fellowship. ἀγαπα [agapa], rather, is the verb used of God’s love for unbelievers [cf. John 3:16], for it frequently, if not normally, speaks of commitment and, when used with God/Jesus as the subject, the idea is often of an unconditional love.) This φιλεω [phileō] must be applied to the Laodiceans here, for the verse concludes, ‘Be zealous, therefore, and repent.’ The inferential οὐ [ou] connects the two parts of the verse, indicating that the Laodiceans are to repent because Christ loves (φιλεω [phileō]) them! The second assumption is that εἰσελεύσομαι πρὸς [eiseleusomai pros] means ‘come into.’ Such an assumption is based on a less than careful reading of the English text! The ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, for example, all correctly render it ‘come in to.’ (Note the space between the prepositions.) The idea of ‘come into’ would be expressed with eij as the independent preposition and would suggest a penetration into the person (thus, spawning the idea of entering into one’s heart). However, spatially πρό [pro] means toward, not into. In all eight instances of εἰσέρχομαι πρὸς [eiserchomai pros] in the NT, the meaning is ‘come in toward/before a person’ (i.e., enter a building, house, etc., so as to be in the presence of someone), never penetration into the person himself/herself. In some instances, such a view would not only be absurd, but inappropriate (cf. Mark 6:25; 15:43; Luke 1:28; Acts 10:3; 11:3; 16:40; 17:2; 28:8). What, then, can we say that this verse is affirming? First, we should answer in the negative: it is not an offering of salvation. The implications of this are manifold. Among other things, to use this text as a salvation verse is a perversion of the simplicity of the gospel. Many people have allegedly ‘received Christ into their hearts’ without understanding what that means or what the gospel means. Although this verse is picturesque, it actually muddies the waters of the truth of salvation. Reception of Christ is a consequence, not a condition, of salvation. As far as the positive meaning of this verse, it may refer to Christ having supremacy in the assembly or even to an invitation (and, consequently, a reminder) to believers to share with him in the coming kingdom. But to determine which of these is correct is beyond the scope of grammar. All grammar can tell us here is which view is almost certainly not correct—namely, that which sees this as an offering of salvation.”—Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics - Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 381.
137Henry Morris, The Revelation Record (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1983), Rev. 3:20.
138Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine.
139Morris, The Revelation Record, Rev. 3:21.
140Thomas, Revelation 1-7, 325.
141Barnhouse, Revelation, 84.
142C. I. Scofield, The Scofield Study Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2002, 1909), Rev. 3:21.
143Renald Showers, Israel My Glory, January/February 2001, 30.
144Trench, Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia.
145Fausset, The Revelation of St. John the Divine, Rev. 3:21.
146Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John, Rev. 3:22.
147Showers, Maranatha, Our Lord Come, 246.