Background Center of trade and industry impregnable acropolis capital of the Lydian kingdom of Croesus Greatest city of Persian Asia Minor Imperial cult thrived Acropolis was conquered twice both by stealth. 1st by Cyrus in 546 B.C. and 2nd by Antiochus the Great in 218 B.C. On both occasions the invader came at night.
Rev 3:1 These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Notice the similar description of Christ as that of Ephesus. Both churches are struggling with comparative issues.
This church’s confession is that it is alive and well; yet, it is dead. Life and death in 3:1 probably relates to spiritual life and death in the case of believers (3:1; 20:4, 5). In the case of Jesus, it always represents resurrection life that is both physical and eternal (fully-consummated life). Christ is the only one who is currently alive in the fully consummated sense of the word. Thus life for everyone else must be spiritual (metaphorical). Church within a church.
Rev 3:2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Christ commands this church to wake from its spiritually lethargic state. There is something lacking in their faith.
Rev 3:3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. The “therefore” in this passage is a huge logical indicator. It means that based upon the condition of the church they must turn around from their present course of action.
But 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. This verse is shrouded in imagery like that of the synoptics and Paul’s description of Christ’s unexpected coming “Day of the Lord” (Matt 24:43; Luke 12:39; I Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Because of the conditional clause this is probably a judgment before the final judgment. The thief metaphor would be esp. appropriate to this city.
Rev 3:4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. “Stain” or “soil” is associated elsewhere in the bible for the pollution of idolatry (14:4; 6-9). In chapter 14 it relates this imagery to sexual immorality. Walking with Christ being dressed in white means that they are pure and have associated with Jesus rather than with the pagan culture.
Rev 3:5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. The reward of receiving white garments is an inaugurated reward. It begins in this life, yet it is only fully consummated at the second coming or even at the believers death and then finally consummated at the second coming (4:4; 6:9-11; 7:9-14; 19:13). Book of life is used in a predestinational context (13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; see likewise Phil. 4:3; Luke 10:20; Heb. 12:23).
“If they are genuine believers, then their names, indeed, have already been written down in ‘the book of life,’ they are destined for a salvific inheritance, and nothing will prevent them from possessing it. In somewhat unusual fashion the positive guarantee of this inheritance is expressed negatively: ‘I will not erase his name’” (Beale, Revelation, 280). “I will never blot out his name” This phrase does not represent a possibility but a fact stated by Jesus. There is major assurance of salvation in this text, if you can see it. The unfaithful are never positively associated with the book of life.
Background Newest of the cities addressed Founded by Attalus II Philadelphus of Pergamum (159-138 B.C.) A missionary center for the spread of Greek culture Earth quakes were common Destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17 Rebuilt with aid from Tiberius, and renamed Neocaesarea
Rev 3:7 These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. Christ is the holy and true witness and the heir of the Davidic throne. Christ and his people are the true Jews in contrast to those who “claim to be Jews, but are not, but lie” (3:9). Isaiah 22:22 “I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
In 3:9 Jesus assumes the role of Yahweh and his followers represent the true Israel. The Keys that Jesus is talking about refers back to 1:18. Jesus by his sovereignty holds the keys over salvation and judgment.
Rev 3:8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. This is an open door for the Philadelphians to enter into salvation life. Moreover, it is an entrance into covenantal life that is described as entrance into the “house of David” (v. 7) and into the city and temple of God (v. 12).
Open door is often associated with witnessing in the NT (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). Therefore, the open door not only refers to salvation but to the churches witness to that salvation. Even in spite of little strength they have stayed true to the witness of Christ among the nations.
Rev 3:9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars– These ethnic Jews are claiming to be the true Israel, yet in reality they are liars because they reject the Jewish Messiah: Jesus.
I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. The second half of this verse is parallel to the first. Both halves have salvation in mind, and further point to the fact that the church is the true Israel. This phrase echoes Isa. 45:14; 49:23; 60:14 and Ps. 86:9 that predict the Gentiles bowing down before Israel and Israel’s God in the last days. In Isa 43:4 ethnic Israel is to be the object of God’s love, in a salvation historical shift; the church is now Israel.
Rev 3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. The Christians in Philadelphia have been faithful to witnessing for Christ. Because of this Christ promises his protection. The fact that this trial will occur upon the “whole world” could lead to three possible interpretations: (1) this is the final period of escalated tribulation (11:7ff and 20:8), (2) Christ’s second coming which is referred to as an hour (11:13; 14:7, 15; 18:10, 17, 19), or (3) an imminent trial that is to face all of Asia Minor in the limited known world at that time.
Rev 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. This is a promise not that the Christians will escape physical trials but that they will be able to endure through it based upon Christ’s sustaining power. “Reference to believers receiving a crown may develop further Isa. 22:22 context, where God promises to take away evil Shebna’s crown and give it to faithful Eliakim (Isa. 22:17, 21)” (Beale, Revelation, 293).
Rev 3:12 will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. “Christ promises to write the name of God on the faithful (v. 12). The name of God is not only a sign of intimacy, of being a member of his family, but here in Revelation a sign of ownership and protection, as we see in 14:1 compared to 13:16. It is equalivant to the seal on the forehead in 9:4 and 7:1-8 (cf. Hag. 2:23; Mal 3:17-18; Ezek. 9:4-11; Ex. 28:36; 19:5-6)” (Poythress, The Returning King, 92).
The church of Laodicea 3:14-22 Hot springs of Laodicea
Background Founded by Antiochus II (261-246 B.C.) Cicero knew it as a banking center Famous textile industry glossy-black wool produced in the vicinity Had a medical school Known for ear ointment and probably also for the ‘Phrygian powder’ used in the making of eye salve Financially independent and refused government aid after the earthquake of A.D. 60
Rev 3:14 These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. Jesus uses the terminology of a faithful and true witness to inspire the Christians in Laodicea to stop compromising with the world. If they do not heed his warning to repent, they will face him again as the “faithful and true” judge (19:11) who will vomit them out of his mouth (3:16). Christ is the beginning of creation, this is an echoing back to the resurrection as the first event which launches the inaugurated new creation event.
Rev 3:15-16 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!So, because you are lukewarm-- neither hot nor cold-- I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Cold water was good for drinking Hot water was useful for bathing Lukewarm was useful for nothing
Rev 3:17 You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Recall Laodicea’s economic independence The Laodiceans could have believed the OT concept known as the retribution principle. Since they were economically astute, they believed that their financial status was a barometer to determine their spirituality.
Rev 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Refined Gold is biblical imagery for the purifying of one’s life by the removal of sin (cf. Job 23:10; Prov. 27:21; Mal. 3:2-3). This same imagery is used for the purifying effect of tribulation upon God’s people (Zech 13:9; 1 Pet. 1:6-9).
“Uncovering their shame of nakedness” is language employed in God’s accusation of Israel and other nations for participation in idolatry (so Isa. 43:3; Ezek. 16:36; 23:39; Nah. 3:5)” (Beale, Revelation, 306). Eye-salve for regaining sight is an allusion to the Laodicean’s lack of spiritual discernment (cf. Jn 9:39-41). Buying white garments has the same meaning as that of refined gold. Note the parallel to the church in Sardis who is clothed in white, because they have not stained their garments.
Rev 3:19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Christ’s message to this church is one of “reproof and discipline”, it is a message of love based upon God’s mercy in light of his coming judgment.
Rev 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. This is an invitation not for the readers to be converted but for them to renew a relationship with Christ that has already begun based upon the context of verse 19.
Rev 3:21 I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. Christ shares the Father’s throne because his victory is the Father’s victory also, and the conqueror shares Christ’s throne because his victory is Christ’s. It is the profound and moving theme of the apocalyptic visions which follow that, in the agelong battle between God and Satan, God knows no other victory and needs no other victory than that which is won by the Cross of Christ, faithfully proclaimed to the world in the martyr witness of his church” (Caird, The Revelation of St. John, 58).