To the *church in Sardis – Revelation 3:1-6
v1 ‘Write to the *angel of the *church in Sardis. I hold the 7 spirits of God and the 7 stars. This is what I say to you. I know what you are doing. Everyone may think that you are alive. But you are dead. v2 Wake up. Give strength to those things that have almost died. I have looked at what you are doing. Your actions do not satisfy what God wants. v3 So, remember what you received. Obey what you heard. You must *repent. So, if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief. And you will not know at what time I will come to you.
v4 However, you have a few people in Sardis who have kept their clothes clean. They will walk with me in white clothes because they deserve it. v5 So, those who overcome will wear white clothes. I will not remove their names from the book of life. And I will declare to my Father and to his *angels that they are mine. v6 If you have an ear, listen! Hear what the Spirit says to the *churches.
Verse 1 Sardis was about 30 miles south of Thyatira and 50 miles east of Ephesus. It was on the side of a mountain. Below it there was a large plain. It was in a good position for an army to defend. It had been a powerful and rich city. But it was not still as strong as it had been. Today, we might say that such a city is ‘living in the past’. In other words, the city’s most successful phase had ended.
The letter comes from Jesus, who holds the 7 spirits of God and the 7 stars. The 7 spirits of God are the work of the Spirit in the *churches. Christ has the Spirit who alone can give life. Jesus holds the 7 stars in his right hand (1:16). These stars mean the *angels of the 7 *churches (1:20). In other words, Jesus holds (looks after) the seven *churches.
The *church in Sardis used to be a lively *church. In other words, the members used to have strong *faith. But by this time, it had lost its life. This means that their *faith had become weak. This process was slow. They did not see it happen. The *church still seemed to be full of life (*faith). But the *Lord saw what it was really like. He could see that the *church was dead. In other words, most of the Christians there had hardly any *faith. So, they did not live as they should.
Verse 2 The *Lord tells them to be awake and to watch. In the past, armies had twice defeated Sardis. They were able to do this because nobody watched. So, the *Lord warns the *church that, like the city guards, the *church must keep awake. In other words, the Christians need to be aware of what is happening. And they need to be ready for Jesus’ return.
It was as if the *church in Sardis was dead. But some things there did not seem to be dead. A sleeper may seem dead until he wakes. But, unlike a dead body, a sleeper is not hopeless. He is still alive. The *church seemed dead. But perhaps it was more like a sleeper. Perhaps it could recover, like a man who wakes. The *church must start to do the work of the *Lord again. It must turn from its wrong actions. The *Lord was not happy with it in its present state.
The Christians in Sardis were doing a lot. Much of the activity seemed to be for God. But God saw the reality. Their actions did not satisfy what God wanted.
Verse 3 Christ tells the Christians to remember what they had received. They had heard the *gospel and they believed it. They received new life from God. They served the *Lord and they did his work. But now they did not still serve the *Lord as they used to do.
Jesus tells them to *repent. They must come back again to the *Lord. They must obey his word and live for him. It is as if they must wake out of their present sleep. Or, as if they must come alive again.
If they do not obey this message, the *Lord will come like a thief. He will come when they do not expect it. He will not announce when he is coming. He will deal with them and he will be their judge.
Verse 4 Most members of that *church did not live as Christians should. They did the same things as other people. Their belief made no difference to their lives. They were behaving like people who make their own clothes dirty.
In Sardis, the people coloured wool and they made clothes. If the wool was dirty, it was not useful. So, the *Lord said that these Christians were not useful to him.
A few people in the *church did live clean (holy) lives. This means that they did not live by the standards of the local people. Instead, they lived by what they had learned from the word of God.
The *Lord will give white clothes to these people. This means that they will be holy. God will free them from *sin. They will walk with him. This means that their lives will please him. The ‘white clothes’ are the result of the good things that Jesus did. He gives to them the reward that he earned. They do not deserve it because of anything that they have done. They obtain it because they believe in Christ. What they believed changed their lives.
Verse 5 There are three parts to the promise for those who overcome. They will wear white clothes. Their names will be in the book of life. Jesus will tell the Father and the *angels that they are his.
Many people died because they were Christians. In heaven, they have white clothes (6:11). The 24 *elders have white clothes. All the people in heaven have white clothes (7:9). The clothes are white to show that they are not dirty. ‘Dirt’ means *sin. There is no *sin in heaven. So, the clothes of Christians in heaven are white because Jesus made them clean. He took away *sin when he died. He gives the white clothes to those who believe. This means that he gives his own goodness to them. He makes them perfect.
Moses first spoke of God’s book in heaven (Exodus 32:32-33). The idea is that God has a book. In it, he wrote the names of all those who would be his people. Those whose names are in the book would go to heaven. Those whose names are not in the book cannot go to heaven. The book records the names of those who have *eternal life. Those who overcome will enjoy life with the *Lord. They will have *eternal life.
Jesus will take those who overcome to be at home with him. He will introduce them to God the Father. He will tell the Father and all the *angels that these are his people. They will be at home in heaven, in the Father’s house (John 14:2).
Verse 6 We all need to hear what the Spirit said to the *church in Sardis. What he said to them, he says to Christians in every age.
To the *church in Philadelphia – Revelation 3:7-13
v7 Write to the *angel of the *church in Philadelphia. I am holy and true. I hold the key of David. What I open nobody can shut. And what I shut nobody can open. This is what I say to you. v8 I know all that you do. Look, I have given you an open door. Nobody is able to shut that door. I know that you have just a little power. However, you have obeyed my word and you have not denied my name.
v9 Those of the *synagogue of *Satan say that they are *Jews. They are not real *Jews but they are lying. I will make them come. They will fall down at your feet. They shall know that I have loved you. v10 You have done as I told you. You have been patient even in troubles and you have not turned away. So, I will protect you from the time of trouble. This time of trouble will come to the whole world. That time will test all who live on the earth.
v11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have. Let nobody take your crown from you. v12 I will make those who overcome to be like columns in the *temple of my God. They will never leave it again. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God. That is the new Jerusalem, which will come down out of heaven from my God. I will also write on them my own new name. v13 If you have an ear, listen! Hear what the Spirit says to the *churches.
Verse 7 Philadelphia was at the east end of a broad valley. The soil in the valley was good for agriculture. Philadelphia was on the main road from Sardis to the port near Smyrna. So, there was much trade in the city. Philadelphia was also famous for its many *temples. The inhabitants of Philadelphia had many parties for their gods.
The name Philadelphia means ‘love of a brother’. There were two brothers, Eumenes II and Attalus II. One of them first built this city. Attalus so loved his brother that they called him Philadelphus (lover of his brother). The name of the city came from this name for Attalus.
Jesus says that he is holy and true. The *Jews knew that only God is really holy. And they would understand that this phrase described the Christ. They expected that Christ would come. But they did not recognise Jesus as that Christ. Jesus writes as God and as the true Christ.
The person who holds the key has the power. David was a great king. He ruled the nation called *Israel. God chose David to be king over his people. One of the names for the Christ was the son of David. The Christ will be king in heaven and on the earth. He will rule over all people and things. Jesus is that king and he has that power.
A person with a key has the power to open or to close a door. So, the key means Jesus’ power. And the door means the events that Jesus controls. So, with that key, Jesus can open or shut any door. No person can open a door that Jesus has shut. No person can shut a door that Jesus has opened. Jesus is in control of all that happens.
Verse 8 Jesus has opened a door for the Christians in Philadelphia. This door means the right to enter into the *kingdom of God. Nobody can shut this door on them. Those who belong to Christ can go in there. And the *Lord was also giving them the opportunity to tell other people about Christ. All who believe the *gospel belong to Christ. It is as if they go through the door to *eternal life.
This *church was small and weak. It did not have a major effect on the city. However, the members of this *church pleased the *Lord. They believed the word of God and they obeyed it. People tried to force them to deny the name of Christ. But they would not. They were loyal to Jesus at all times.
Verse 9 There were many *Jews in Philadelphia. The building where they came together was a *synagogue. They thought that they were God’s people. They said that they were *Jews. They were born *Jews. But a real *Jew is one who believes in Jesus as the Christ.
The *Jews in Philadelphia caused much trouble for the *church. They were fierce enemies of the *church. They denied the *Lord Jesus and they spoke against him. The enemy of Jesus is *Satan. So, Jesus called these Jews the *synagogue of *Satan. They said that they were real *Jews. That was not true. They were lying. If they were real Jews, they would not oppose God’s work.
Jesus will show to these *Jews that he loves the *church. Then they will come. They will fall down at the feet of the Christians. They will know that they were wrong. They will *repent of the trouble that they caused. They will believe that Jesus is the Christ of the *Jews.
Verse 10 The Christians in Philadelphia had obeyed what Jesus taught. They had been loyal to him. They suffered because they belonged to the *Lord Jesus. But they did not disappoint the *Lord. They were strong in their belief.
The *Lord will come to be the king of the whole earth. He will set up his *kingdom here. But immediately before that, there will be a terrible time. It will last for three and a half years. There will be a strong and evil king. His name is *Antichrist. He will rule for this period. Then Jesus will come and punish him. This period is the time of trouble.
Starting in chapter 6, we read about the things that will happen in those three and a half years.
The *Lord promised to protect his *church from the time of trouble. This may mean that the *Lord will take them out of the time of trouble. Jesus may remove the *church from the earth before this time starts. But it might mean that he will protect them from damage during the time of trouble. Christ will come for his *church but we do not know when.
Verse 11 The *Lord said that he was coming soon. This did not mean ‘quickly’. Instead, it means ‘with no delay’. Many people expected the *Lord to come soon in time. That is not what the *Lord meant. God the Father has fixed the date. Nobody knows that date except the Father. When that day comes, Jesus will come.
Until Jesus comes, the Christians must continue to believe in him. And when Jesus comes, he will come with great power. He will take his people from the earth. They will then always be with the *Lord.
The crown is the prize for the winner in a race. All who remain firm to the end are winners. Christians must be careful so that nobody will cause them to fail.
Verse 12 In Philadelphia there were *earthquakes. Sometimes it was dangerous to remain in Philadelphia. The people had to leave the city and live in temporary homes.
Those who overcome will be like columns in the *temple of God. *Earthquakes will have no effect on them. They will be safe from all dangers. They will live with the *Lord and they will never have to leave.
The *Lord Jesus will write three names on them. These are the name of God, the name of the city of God and his own new name. They will belong to God. They will be citizens of the New Jerusalem (chapter 21). And they will always be with Christ himself.
Verse 13 The *church in Philadelphia was a good *church. The Spirit’s message was to them, and to all who are like them.
To the *church in Laodicea – Revelation 3:14-22
v14 Write to the *angel of the *church in Laodicea. I am the *Amen. I am the loyal and the true witness. I rule over all that God has created. This is what I say to you. v15 I know all that you have done. You are like water that is neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. v16 You are warm, and neither cold nor hot. Because of this, I will *vomit you out of my mouth. v17 You say that you are rich. You declare that you are wealthy. You say that you need nothing. But you do not know that you need help. You do not know that you are miserable, poor, blind and naked. v18 I advise you to buy gold from me. Fire has made this gold pure. Buy it so that you can become rich. Also, buy white clothing from me so that you can dress yourself. Then you will cover up your shame and you will not be naked. And put eye *ointment on your eyes so that you can see. v19 I correct everyone whom I love. And I give them strict discipline. So, be eager and *repent. v20 Listen, I am standing at the door. I am knocking on it. If you hear my voice, then open the door. I will come in to you. I will eat with you. And you will eat with me.
v21 To those who overcome, I will give a place with me on my *throne. In the same way, I overcame and sat down with my Father on his *throne. v22 If you have an ear, listen! Hear what the Spirit says to the *churches.
Verse 14 Laodicea was about 40 miles south and east of Philadelphia. It was the richest city in the region. The people there had sheep with soft black wool. The city was famous for this wool. With it, the people made clothes, which they sold. With so much wealth from farms and commerce, they had successful banks. The banks had large stocks of gold.
The people in Laodicea were proud of their medical school. The school produced a wide range of medicines. The two most famous medicines were *ointments for the ears and the eyes.
There was no supply of water in the city. So, they had to bring water from about six miles away. The water came through a system of pipes. But the supply could dry up when the weather was hot.
*Amen may seem a strange word to use as a description of Jesus. But the word means, ‘It is true.’ And like Jesus (Hebrews 13:8), the truth never changes. It is that which is. It is what will be. It is that which is real and permanent. The *Lord Jesus calls himself the loyal and true witness. What he says is always true. He speaks what he knows. He talks about what he sees. We can believe all that he says. We can trust him.
Jesus is the ruler of all that God has made. He was there at the start when God created all things. God made all things by Jesus. He made all things for Jesus.
Verses 15-16 The *Lord Jesus sees all things. He knows all that there is to know. He knew the Christians in Laodicea. He saw what they had done. He knew their thoughts. He knew what they did. He knew why they did these things.
The hot weather warmed the pipes. The water was warm, not cold or hot. It was not nice to drink. Such water made one feel sick.
The *Lord said that these Christians were like the water. They were not like cold water. Cold water is good to drink. They were not like hot water. Hot water has many good uses. But they were like water that is neither cold nor hot. They were of no use to the *Lord. It was as if they made him sick. He would throw them away as one does with bad water.
Verse 17 Jesus explains why he was not happy with them. They thought that they were doing well. They had all that they wanted. The *church was wealthy and it seemed to be lively. They were rich and they had achieved it themselves. They were proud of what they had achieved. They were so pleased because of their wealth. They did not think that they needed anything.
But their opinions about themselves were not correct. It was true that they had plenty of money. But in their spirits, they were in a bad state. In reality, they were poor. They had nothing of which to be proud. They could not see the true state of their lives with God. So, to God, they seemed as if they were blind. They had expensive clothes. But to God they seemed as if they were naked. Their expensive clothes could not hide their *sins.
The people in Laodicea were proud of their wealth. They were proud of their eye *ointment. They were proud of their wool and the clothes that they made. It was as if the inner life of the Christians lacked all three of these. So, Jesus told them that they were poor, blind and naked. But they did not understand it.
Verse 18 They had plenty of gold but they were poor. The gold from the banks was no use to God. Everything that has real value comes from God. What he gives is better than the purest gold. God told them to buy from him. We buy without price (Isaiah 55:1). We receive from God, as we believe in him.
They could buy clothes of black wool in the market. The *Lord told them to buy white clothes from him. To wear white clothes means to be clean and innocent. These wonderful things can only come from the *Lord. Jesus took all our *sins and blame. He suffered and he died because of them. When we trust in him, he can declare us innocent. He alone can make us clean.
The cause of their problems was that they were blind to their real state. In other words, they could not see that they needed help. With their wealth and easy life, they thought that they needed nothing.
The people in Laodicea sold their famous eye *ointment. People used it to cure diseases of the eye. It helped people to see more clearly. The *Lord told the Christians to put *ointment in their own eyes. It was as if they were blind. But they did not know it. In other words, they could not see (know) the reality about their situation. Until they knew it, God could not cure them. It was as if they needed to open their eyes in order to see (know) the truth.
Verse 19 The *Lord has been severe in what he said to these Christians. The reason for this is that he loves them. God hates all kinds of evil things, wrong actions and bad attitudes. He wants those whom he loves to be free from these. So, God corrects all whom he loves. He trains his children as a good father does.
Discipline is always hard at the time. But it benefits the person. The Christians in Laodicea should be eager to improve. They should want to please God their father. They must *repent and change their way of life.
The word ‘eager’ in this verse also means ‘hot’. See my notes on verses 15-16.
Verse 20 It was as if, by their wrong attitudes, the Christians in Laodicea had pushed Christ out of their lives. The *Lord stood outside of their lives. He demanded that they let him in again. He is like someone who is knocking at a door. A person has to open the door from the inside. That person has to choose whether to open the door or not.
Jesus will come in if they invite him. The *Lord will not come in unless they ask him. When he comes in, they will eat together. They will have a close friendship with Jesus.
Jesus tells his friends about the future. Then they will eat and drink with him in his *kingdom.
Verse 21 Those who live for Jesus now, will live with him beyond death. They are the people who overcome. Jesus will invite them to sit with him on his *throne. They will share with Jesus the king. They will rule with him.
Jesus as a man won the right to the *throne. He overcame, so he sat down with the Father on his *throne. And Jesus has power over all people and things. He is the king of kings and *Lord of *lords.
Verse 22 The Spirit warns the *churches about their failures. He shows them where they are wrong. He tells them to *repent and to change. He gives great promises of reward to those who do. What the Spirit says to these 7 *churches, he says to all of us.