CHURCH AT SARDIS (verses 1-6)
Sardis means - remnant. It is a local church which pictures reformation.
When sin enters in to the local assembly it must be rooted out. Apparently Sardis was this type of church. This church received a few warnings (verses 2 & 3) but never received a direct rebuke from the Lord as the previous churches had.
It was not a perfect church but it was attempting to live blamelessly before the Lord. This church symbolizes the local churches which attempt to live righteously before a watching world.
It is located 35 miles southeast of Thyatira; located in the crossroads of the caravans. It was the chief city of Lydia and until 549 B.C. served as Lydia’s capital.
Its citizens were the first to make coins from precious metals that were guaranteed in weight by a government stamp.
Wool dying was supposed to have started here.
Many pagan temples and several Jewish synagogues. Artemis and Zerus were the gods at Sardis.
They had bathhouses, theaters and large statues in the city.
Main market for the sheep herders of Phyrgia and was a great distributing center for wooden trade.
Also famous for their arts and crafts.
Well known for their loose living, their luxury living and their love for pleasure.
Sardis became a byword for slack and wild living.
The great earthquake of A.D. 17 ruined the city both physically and financially. The Romans gave much money to help them rebuild, but they never recovered. Many wars that took place at Sardis also affected their survival.
1. ¶ And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
“Seven Spirits of God” – speaks of the perfect spirit of God. (Zechariah 3:9; 4:10; and Rev. 4:5)
Jesus is true humanity and undiminished deity. He is the unique person of the universe. He holds seven stars in His hand. This is a picture of Christ holding the pastors in His hand.
“I know thy works” means I am aware of your production. Christ knew all about them.
“Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” – They put on a front. “Name” refers to reputation.
This lets us know exactly what kind of reputation they had.
They really did things that brought great excitement to the church and city, yet they were dead spiritually. Sardis was a church that fooled the rest of the citizens. They were sweet and friendly, but they were out of fellowship. They impressed people, but not God.
2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
They are being told to become watchful, repent and get back in fellowship with God.
“Strengthen the things which remain” – means they are to stabilize the church by getting in the Word and learning doctrine.
“That are ready to die” – those who are losing their Christian influence and happiness because they are out of fellowship.
“I have not found thy works perfect before God” – they were trying to accomplish things in their own strength and ability.
3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
This means you heard it in the past; now use what you have heard. Hold fast, repent, change your mental attitude.
“If therefore thou shalt not watch” – This is a third class condition and means maybe you will and maybe you won’t.
If they don’t repent; judgment is coming.
4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
This is praise for a small group in the church that was living for God. They were under the control of the spirit.
They were worthy not because of who and what they were, but because of their spirit filled lives.
5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
“He that overcometh” - Talking about those who were saved.
“Clothed in white raiment” - refers to positional truth; those who have been saved have eternal life and that can never be taken away from them
They were saved and had the perfect righteousness of Christ.
“I will not blot out his name out of the book of life” – believers have eternal life and nothing can remove his name.
“I will confess his name” – Christ will call the names before God.
6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Assurance in time; listen, be alert and take in doctrine; be directed by the Holy Spirit.
CHURCH AT PHILADELPHIA (verses 7-13)
Located 28 miles southeast of Sardis and 105 miles from Smyrna; located on the Cogamus River.
Name means “brotherly love”.
Wine center of the Ancient World.
Many earthquakes shook and destroyed this city, but it would be quickly rebuilt because of the great vineyard here.
Many people lived outside the city because of the earthquakes.
This city was the most devoted to the Roman emperors.
The church of this city lived longer than any of the other churches of the Revelation chapters.
They discovered a famous church pillar that could withstand earthquakes and this is one reason the church building survived so long.
When the Turks came and destroyed the city, this church had a good name and may have been the greatest of the seven.
The church was a missionary church and Christ opened the door. It came to be known as the church of the opened door.
7. ¶ And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
“Angel” - means pastor/teacher of the church.
Christ gives another description of Himself: holy and true.
“Holy” – Christ has all the essence qualities of God
“True” – Christ is revealed by true doctrine.
“Keys of David” – Christ in His humanity was in the lineage of David and He will fulfill the Davidic covenant. (2 Samuel 7:8-16) and (Psalm 89:20-27).
This covenant states that David will have a son who will reign forever and that son is Jesus Christ.
“He that openeth and no man shutteth” – Jesus Christ is in complete control. He is the final authority in the universe.
8. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Christ knows from experience. He knows all the facts. He knew the production of the church in Philadelphia and He knows the production of all churches.
“I have set” - This is in perfect tense and means Christ has set this door open in the past and it will continue to be open.
This door was opened for witnessing and missions.
“I have set or given" refers to God’s grace. Open doors speaks of God’s grace.
This church survived a long time because the people were walking through this door.
The church is not a political center, social center, humane agency but rather a preaching/teaching center.
The Jerusalem church got legalistic and God moved it to Antioch, the third largest city in the Roman empire, and when Antioch failed to walk through the open door, he moved it to Ephesus.
“Little strength” and “kept my word” and “hast not denied my name” – refers to the character of the church.
There are four doors in Revelations (3:8, 3:30, 4:11, and 19:11)
9. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
These are religious Jews who magnified ritual above reality. These Jews opposed Christ.
In Acts 13:33, they opposed Paul.
They were trying to be saved by works. Religious Judaism is of Satan.
“Which say they are Jews, and are not” – refers to the fact they said they were Jews, but a true Jew is one who believes in Jesus Christ. A true Jew is a regenerated Jew.
Three kinds of Jews spoken of in the Scriptures:
1. Radical Jews have the genes of Abraham.
2. Religious Jews depend on religion to save.
3. Regenerated Jews have trusted in Jesus Christ to save them.
This group was saying they were Jews, they were radical and religious Jews but not true regenerated Jews. The Jewish race was built on the principle of regeneration. They drifted away from this.
Religion always emphasized human works and this always turns into pride.
Religion is man reaching up to God and Christianity is God reaching down to man.
For the Lord to say “know that I have loved thee” this must have been a great church.
10. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Tremendous doctrinal implications are stated here. We can conclude that the church will not go through the Tribulation.
“Thou hast kept the word of my patience” – the word kept means to keep something that belongs to you.
These saints had kept something that belonged to them. Believers possess the Word of God. It belongs to them.
“Of my patience” – refers to faith in action.
These people had kept the word and Jesus said “I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation.”
There are two words for keep in the Greek. One is tereo ek and means to keep out of. The other word is hairo and this word means to take out of. The word used in this verse for keep is tereo ek and it means that the church will be kept out of the Tribulation.
The Tribulation time will be a time when religion will cover the earth. I believe that the church will be raptured before the Tribulation. The Tribulation will last seven years, and this is to complete the Jewish age.
11. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
We have here an exhortation to the local church.
“I come quickly” - The time is short, we need to get with the Word and learn and apply as much Bible doctrine as we can.
“No man take thy crown” – refers to the Judgment Seat of Christ.
All you produce when you are out of fellowship means discipline in time and loss in eternity, so don’t cheat yourself out of your crown by not knowing doctrine and by not staying in fellowship with God.
Beware of being robbed of your reward by being backslidden.
God is especially pleased with those who avail themselves of the open door of the gospel. This church is promised deliverance from the hour of trial and from seeing conditions which would discourage them from using the open door. They are promised the crown of reward and, in the symbolism expressed here, a place of prominence in the heavenly temple of eternity.
12. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
Christ is the overcomer and we are overcomers because of our position in Christ.
“I will make a pillar in the temple” - The pillar of the church that withstood earthquakes; withstood the test of the ages;
Philadelphia had many earthquakes, but they had designed a stone in the church there that would withstand earthquakes, and more than a thousand years later, when the Turks came to conquer Philadelphia, they saw that beautiful church still standing. The pillars had withstood the test of the ages. Today some of those pillars are still there.
If you are saved, you continue to be saved and you shall forever be saved.
“He shall go no more out” – the saved man can never become unsaved.
“I will write upon him my new name” – a new name goes with the new birth.
God promised to write on these and all saints His name, the name of His city and His new name. Although it is impossible to say what that new name will be, it is evident that the act of writing His name on us identifies us as His eternal possession.
“New Jerusalem” – more on this in Chapter 21
13. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Keep on hearing. This behooves every Christian to use every available door to witness of the love of Christ at every available time.
CHURCH AT LAODICEA (verses 14-22)
Now we come to the final church. The seven churches which John addresses lie within a great semicircle beginning with Ephesus, and moving northward and eastward to Smyrna and Pergamum, and then south to Laodicea.
Located 43 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 40 miles southwest of Ephesus.
The city lay on one of the great Asian caravan routes and this insured its great commercial prosperity.
Became the leading banking center. Very wealthy city.
After the great earthquake destroyed the city, they refused any assistance from Rome to help them build back the city.
This wealth attitude carried over into the church for they said we are rich and have need of nothing.
The Lucus Valley was good for the sheep and goats and they produced a glossy black wool. Source of black carpets and long flowing black robes made in this city.
Home of a very famous medical school. Made an eye salve called Phrygian Powder. People would come far and near to have the eye salve applied to their eyes for healing.
It was a resort area also known for its lukewarm water.
City was filled with pagan temples, theaters, stadiums and a large necropolis.
Served as a guardian for the ancient trade routes.
Self-righteous, self-sufficient attitude of this city carried over into the church.
May have been the worst of the seven churches. It was lukewarm to the Lord.
The people of the church strayed away from God. Coldness, callousness and unconcern are marks of this church.
A church in need of spiritual power was their position.
Spiritual decay and poverty were the cornerstones of this church. This was a church with Christ on the outside knocking at their door.
14. ¶ And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
“Saith the amen.” - This is a description of Jesus, the one who can be trusted.
“The faithful” - Christ will always be faithful to His Word.
“true witness” - He is the revealer of God (the truth).
The beginning of God’s creation; the creator of all things.
15. I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
The unbeliever is cold and the believer is hot. If water is allowed to cool off, you have lukewarm water, and that is what happened in this church.
Lukewarm means they were out of fellowship with God, they were carnal Christians.
The word translated lukewarm is used only here in the New Testament. It is a reference to tepid water.
“I would that thou were cold or hot” – If they were unbelievers, Christ could save them, if they were hot, they would be in fellowship.
16. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.
Notice that He is not talking to an individual but to a church and He is not talking about salvation.
The church must know that lukewarmness is a sin against God.
This verse means Christ will spit or vomit them out of His mouth. It means He will remove their candlestick or His power from the church.
He cannot tolerate such a condition.
No one could accuse the members of the Laodicean church of the excesses which characterized other churches nor could they accuse them of serving the Lord zealously either.
They were simply maintaining the status quo…a middle of the road policy. This church was guilty of gross indifference.
17. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
This church was also guilty of gross self-sufficiency. They no longer needed to rely on the Lord for they were functioning well by committee.
Here Christ quotes them. They had nice buildings, choirs, clothes and all the mechanics of a church, but they were backslidden and not even aware of it.
Here is what Christ said about them, “wretched” choking to death for lack of Bible doctrine.
“Miserable” - pitiful.
“Poor” - begging for happiness. People are constantly looking for happiness. The only thing that makes them happy is the Word of God.
“Blind” – they were slipping and didn’t even know it.
“Naked” – means poorly dressed.
It is a sad situation when a church boasts of gaining wealth by her own human effort and does not realize in reality that her true state is that she is “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
“I counsel thee” – I strongly advise you to buy me.
“Gold” – golden truth
“Tried by fire” – of His perfect mind.
“Mayest be rich” – rich from God’s wealth.
“White raiment” – clothes with a mantle of truth around your soul.
“Shame of thy nakedness” – a naked soul.
“Anount thine eyes with eyesalve” – rub the truth of the Word on your eyes.
This also speaks directly to them as they were known for their eye salve as we discussed in the introduction of Laodicea.
19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Christ is reminding them that His rebuke to them is based on His love for them.
“I rebuke” – means to judge with discipline.
“Chasten” – to cause them to repent and return. The word repent means to change your mind.
20. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
This verse if often used when we talk to the unsaved, but it was given to Christians to get back in fellowship with God.
This is not an appeal for salvation.
“Behold” – a strong word for getting attention.
“I stand” – He stood in the past and keeps on standing.
“Knock” – He keeps on knocking.
“If” - is a third class condition and means that maybe you will hear and maybe you won’t.
“Hear” – means to listen and concentrate.
“Then will I come in” – It does not say that He will come in and save them from their sins. They had already been saved and salvation is not the issue here.
It means He will come in and have fellowship with them. This is a fellowship verse and is meant for Christians.
We must become keenly aware that whoever is to receive the message of salvation prior to the awful Tribulation Period must receive it now. We must “preach as if never to preach again; as a dying man to dying men.”
21. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
This is a verse describing the reward for those staying in fellowship.
Please notice the final victory has been set, even when Jesus sat down at the Father’s throne.
22. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
This verse emphasizes again the truth that spiritual recovery is possible for every born again child of God.
Rejoice and praise the Lord, Heaven is the place of the second chance.
Living in fellowship comes from obedience to the Word of God, if we hear it and live by it.
Clark, Neal. Survey of the Book of Revelation. Pensacola, Florida: Thee WFBI Press, 1999. Print.
Falwell, Jerry. Liberty Commentary on the New Testament. Lynchburg, VA: Liberty Press, 1978. Print.