Previous Section: Chapter Two - The Seven Churches, Part 1



Revelation 3:1

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: (1) he who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: I know your deeds, that you have a (2) name that you are alive, but you are dead.

1. Identification of Christ as Sender = He who has the seven Spirits of God. Each of the previous descriptive pictures of Christ associated with the four previous churches can be found in Revelation 1:12-18. Revelation 1:16 indicates that the Lord had "seven stars" in his right hand. John identifies "the seven spirits of God" with the seven stars. This gives us the connection back to Revelation 1:12-18.

2. Name that you are alive, but you are dead = Name refers to reputation. Life and death are figures of speech. There are not physically dead. Rather, the point is that they lack spiritual vitality.

Revelation 3:2

Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, (1) which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.

1. Which were about to die = the metaphor changes at this point. All is not dead. There remains life, which was about to die.

Revelation 3:3

Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep {it} and repent. (1) If therefore (2) you will not wake up, (3) I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour (4) I will come upon you.

1. If = indicates a condition. The potential to sleep is possible. Those who wake up will not be caught by surprise.

2. You will not wake up = this is the opposite of repentance.

3. I will come like a thief = the motif of coming like a thief is used several times by the Lord (Rev. 16:15). Scripture also indicates that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief (I Thess. 5:2; I Peter 3:10).

Scriptures use of the metaphor of an unexpected break-in by a nocturnal robber has lead some to apply a false principle of hermeneutics to Scripture. Every time the phrase like a thief in the night is used, the reader automatically assumes that the text is talking about the same event, at the same time with the same result. This is not good Bible interpretation.

The Lord Jesus indicates in John 10:10 that "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…" In context, the thief comes to steal the sheep, kill the sheep for food, or to destroy the sheep. Thus, the purpose of a thief is clear. At any given opportunity the thief will do any one or all three of the above. His modus operandi is to come at night and without any previous warning. Most "thieving" takes place under the cover of darkness.

Therefore, in considering any text dealing with the thief metaphor, the reader must ask two questions: (1) what is the purpose of the thief, and (2) what is his modus operandi? In Revelation 3:3, the reason the Lord’s return will be like a thief is because the Sardianian are spiritually asleep. Spiritual alertness would have prevented the Lord’s return from being a secret.

4. I will come upon you = gives the purpose of the Lord’s coming as a thief. He comes for destruction. This indicates that the coming of the Lord has two aspects: (1) He comes in a positive sense, and (2) He comes in a negative sense for believers. Those unprepared for His return will suffer the consequences. He does not explain what the precise consequences will be, but they are to be avoided at all cost.

Revelation 3:4

But you have a few people in Sardis who (1) have not soiled their garments; and they will (2) walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.

1. Have not soiled their garments = is a figure of speech referring to one’s moral or spiritual condition. Repeatedly, the Revelation will focus on the condition of the clothing of the righteous. Washed robes and linen clean and bright are characteristics of those faithful to the Lord.

2. Walk with Me in white = is a reward of the faithful.

Revelation 3:5-6

He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in (1) white garments; and I will not (2) erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels. He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

1. White garments = bright white garments are the clothing of the heavenly (Luke 9:29, Rev. 19:8).

2. Erase his name from the book of life = is a debated phrase. For those who believe one can lose his or her salvation, the meaning is clear. For those of us who see eternal life as just that—eternal life, we struggle.

The book of life can refer to two concepts: (1) physical life on earth, or (2) spiritual (eternal life) from God. The first occurrence of a "book" containing the names of the righteous is Exodus 32:30-35. Moses offers the erasure of his name from God’s book in exchange for the forgiveness of the people who had sinned. Among the sinners, were both Aaron (the chief priest) and the people (some saved and some not saved) indicating that the book contains the names of both sinners and saints. This book is therefore, a book of the physically alive on the earth. This is born out by the fact that every explicit reference to the book of life in the Old Testament refers to those physically alive on the earth (Exe 32:32ff; Ps. 69:28; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Mal 3:16-17).

The Lamb’s book of life, however, refers to those eternally elected. Revelation 13:8 states, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the lamb who has been slain."

"All who dwell on the earth" is a technical phrase used in the book of Revelation to refer to unsaved men in opposition to God and His people. "Written from the foundation of the world" indicates that the earth-dwellers were never written in "the book of life of the Lamb." Therefore, their names could never be erased. Those written in the book cannot be erased because God knows the end from the beginning. Therefore, God would have known any event that would result in the erasure of a name from the foundation of the world. That God would have waited until the event occurs to erase their name is non-sense. Therefore, the book of life of the Lamb refers to the spiritually elect.

Revelation 3:7

And to the angel of (1) the church in Philadelphia write: (2) He (2a) who is holy, (2b) who is true, (2c) who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:

1. The Church in Philadelphia = a faithful church promised physical protection.

2. He = Jesus, the One with keys of death and hades (Rev 1:18).

2a. Who is holy = the Greek literally says, "The Holy." This particular adjective is rarely used to refer to Jesus in the New Testament (Mark 1:24/Luke 4:34; John 6:69; Acts 3:14; 4:27, 30). In John 6:69, Peter uses it as a title for the Lord. Jesus is the most unique set apart one for God’s service in all of history.

2b. Who is true = the Greek literally says, "The True." Again, John uses a word that is rarely used to refer to Jesus in the New Testament (Mark 12:14/Matt 22:16; John 7:18). Jesus is true as the Father is true (John 3:33 and 8:26).

2c. Who has the key of David = Most see this as an allusion to Isaiah 22:22. It is commonly accepted that keys are a symbol of power and authority. The authority and power of David is possessed by the Lord. The extent of the Lord’s power and authority is absolute. What He opens no one can shut and what He shuts no one can open.

Revelation 3:8

I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you (1) an open door which no one can shut, (2) because you have (2a) a little power, and have (2b) kept My word, and (2c) have not denied My name.

1. An open door which no one can shut = having established His credentials for just such an act, the Lord states explicitly that the Philadelphians have an open door. The metaphor of an open door is not explicitly identified.

2. Because = indicates the reason the Lord has placed "an open door" before the Philadelphians.

2a. A little power = the term power refers to the ability to exert force in the performance of an action.

2b. Kept My word = this is the second reason the Philadelphians have an open door.

2c. Have not denied My name = is the third reason.

It is important to understand that the Lord places the open door before the Philadelphians after they have proven themselves worthy. Therefore, the open door is an after effect. In other words, the benefits of the open door come after proven oneself worthy. This helps us understand what the open door is.

Revelation 3:9

Behold, I will cause those of (1) the synagogue of Satan, (2) who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and (3) bow down at your feet, and make them know (4) that I have loved you.

1. The synagogue of Satan = a figure of speech referring not to a literal place, but a community of people who are characterized as liars.

2. Who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie = the purpose of the lying is not stated.

3. Bow down at your feet = is basically the idea of worship. Used 24 times in the Revelation, usually a heavenly being is the object, but in Revelation 3:9 humans are the objects. The Revelation teaches that overcomers will sit on thrones and be given the authority to judge (Rev 20:4a; 2:25-27).

4. That I have loved you = this is a past tense verb, i.e. God loved the Philadelphians when they were suffering. Some might conclude that God does not love his people when He allows them to go thorough suffering. This is not the case.

The faithful Philadelphians will one day reign with Christ. One benefit will be to personally see their persecutors bow at their feet to receive judgment.

Revelation 3:10

(1) Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also (2) will keep you from (3) the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, (4) to test (5) those who dwell on the earth.

1. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance = in verse 8 above, John states the fact first and gives the supporting reasons afterwards. But in this verse the opposite is true--the reason is given first. It is important to understand that whatever the Philadelphians had to do to receive this promise is done before the promise is made. "You have kept" does not mean "you will keep." The Philadelphians obeyed the Lord’s command to abide even in the face of persecution.

2. Will keep you from = this phrase has been tortured by scholars. It simply means, "to keep out." While driving along a country road recently, I noticed a sign on a gate that said, "keep out, no trespassing allowed." This is the idea here.

3. The hour of testing = is defined as (1) a future event; (2) a worldwide event; (3) an event of testing; (4) an event focused on the earth-dwellers.

There are two future worldwide tests: (1) a great tribulation (Dan 12:1; Matt 24:15-21; Rev 13:7-8); and (2) the Day of the Lord (Jer 30:7; Luke 21:35; Rev 6:17). Scripture explicitly promises that faithful followers of Jesus Christ will be delivered from the Day of the Lord (I Thess 5:1-11; Luke 21:34-36). There is no explicit promise that the elect will not face the persecution of Satan/Antichrist, in fact many will die as martyrs.

4. Test = peirasmos = has two primary meanings: (a) to test in the sense of trying to learn the nature or character of someone or something by subjecting them or it to extensive examination (Louw-Nida, § 27.46) or (b) to tempt in the sense of attempting to cause someone to sin (Louw-Nida, § 88.308).

5. Those who dwell upon the earth = this phrase occurs nine times in the Revelation. It always refers to unbelievers who are hostile to God and his people.

This verse has been fought over by both pretribulationists and posttribulationists alike. Both believe that the correct interpretation of this verse will settle the issue concerning the timing of the Lord’s return to rapture his church into the heavens. Sadly, theology has gotten in the way of sound exegesis. With regards to the great persecution of God’s elect at the hands of Satan/Antichrist, this verse offers no hope.

This verse is subject to on-going dialogue.

Revelation 3:11

(1) I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.

1. I am coming quickly = is a favorite phrase of pretribulationists, which is use to argue for their concept of imminency. The idea that no prophetic event precludes the Lord’s return. In other words, He could come any second of any minute of any hour of any day of any year.

However, such a notion is rendered immediately suspect given that 1900 years has transpired since the words were written. If John wrote the words with the modern pretribulationists concept in mind, he was clearly mistaken. Jesus did not come quickly. There is no way that "coming quickly" can be reconciled with a 1900 hundred-year gap. Coming quickly cannot mean "at any moment." The Lord’s coming is imminent only when the greatest persecution His children will ever face has begun.

Revelation 3:12

He who overcomes, I will make him a (1) pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and (2) I will write on him the (2a) name of My God, and the name of (2b) the city of My God, the new Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from My God, and (2c) My new name.

1. Pillar in the temple of My God = obviously a literal temple and a literal pillar is not intended at this point. Revelation 21:22 indicates that there will be no temple in the New Jerusalem. God, Himself, and the Lamb are the temple. For the Jews, the temple was the permanent home of God. It was the place where His presence dwelt. Therefore, to be a pillar in the temple of God meant one was forever in the very presence of God, indeed, part of that which maintains his very presence. The Lord promises the overcomer that such a one will never ever again be out of the very presence of God.

2. I will write on him = a figure of speech that refers to ownership.

2a. The name of My God = I AM (Exe 3:14-15).

2b. The name of the city of My God = The Lord is there (Eze 48:35).

2c. My new name = Unknown at this moment (Rev 19:12).

Revelation 3:13

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the (1) Churches.

1. Churches = one would expect this verse to read "church." The fact that John uses the plural churches, as with the previous references, must weigh in on the question of application. Does the message of each individual church apply to the other churches? Can the overcomers of the church in Thyatira claim the promises to the church in Ephesus?

As the overcomer is promised particular blessings in Revelation 21:7, each church is offered future rewards in light of their particular situation. The overcoming Ephesians who struggle with their love are promised a return to Eden-fellowship. The overcoming Smyrnaeans who will face physical persecution unto death are promised protection from the second death. The victorious Pergamenes, who must face the deceptive practices of Satan himself, are promised to be revealed in glory. The Thyatirans victors who must daily refuse fleshly appetites are promised kingly rule and glory. To the Sardisians victors who must avoid worldly contamination eternal purity is promised. The Philadelphians who must stand strong in the face of physical persecutions are promised eternal fellowship in the presence of God. The Laodiceans who must over come blindness are promised kingly authority.

Revelation 3:14

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: (1) The Amen, (2) the faithful and true Witness, (3) the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:

1. The Amen = a Greek word that means truly. It is a title used of God the Father in Isaiah 65:16. The particular title is used in the context of blessing or oath taking. The significance of this title is seen in the fact that the Lord Jesus is called by it as well. This indicates equality in person.

2. The faithful and true Witness = forthcoming

3. The beginning of the creation of God = forthcoming

Revelation 3:15-16

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are (1) lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will (2) spit you out of My month.

1. Lukewarm = this figure of speech indicates that the Laodicean conduct is unacceptable to the Lord.

2. Spit you out = (vomit) is a figure of speech, which means, "to utterly reject." The same basic idea can be found in Leviticus 18:25, 28; 20:22.

What is exactly meant is not at all clear. For this author, loss of salvation is not an option. The one thing that we can count on with the Lord is that He says exactly what He means. Eternal life is just that—eternal life (John 3:15-16). If conditionality played any role in salvation, the Bible would clearly indicate it. There would be no room for debate. The meaning of this extended metaphor is discipline. The Laodiceans are in for severe discipline just as Israel was promised and received in the Old Testament (Lev 20:22; 2 Chronicles 36:15-21).

Revelation 3:17-18

Because you say, I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, and you do not know that you are (1) wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you (2) to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and (3) white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and (4) eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

1. Wretched…naked = five adjectives used to express the desperate condition of the Laodiceans.

2. To buy from Me gold refined by fire = pure gold, which would be very expensive. The fact that the Lord indicates that the Laodiceans are poor, but the Lord advises they "buy gold" helps to underscore the figurative nature of this exchange. If one could buy gold, would not such a one be rich already? What is more expensive than gold? Allegiance is worth more than gold! With faithful service, the Laodiceans could "buy gold" from the Lord.

3. White garments = indicate purity.

4. Eye salve = medication to heal the eyes

The Laodiceans have three problems: (1) lack of divine favor; (2) lack of purity; and (3) lack of spiritual perception. These three problems can be solved by making purchases from the Lord. Gold, garments and medication will solve their problems respectively. They know their problem. They know the solution. Question: will they do it?

Revelation 3:19

Those whom (1) I love, (2) I reprove and discipline; therefore (3) be zealous and repent.

1. I love = the motive of God’s disciplines

2. Reprove and discipline = explicit statement of the point figuratively alluded to in Revelation 3:15-16. Discipline for the sake of turning one away from sin.

3. Be zealous = to be deeply committed to something (Louw-Nida, § 25.76).

Revelation 3:20

Behold, I stand at the (1) door and knock; (2) if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will (3) dine with him, and he with Me.

1. Door and knock = are both figures of speech. Neither the door nor the knock is literal. Rather, the Lord is seeking fellowship. However, a knock is not distinguishable.

2. If = maybe the person inside the house will hear and maybe he will not hear. The issue is not recognition of the voice, but hearing the voice.

3. Dine with him, and he with Me = this verse is an extended metaphor. Reciprocal dining indicates fellowship. In context, this is the point of the God’s discipline—fellowship. The metaphor indicates the measures the Lord will take to secure the fellowship of His people. He knocks, but no answer. He calls! Will the believer respond?

Revelation 3:21-22

He who overcomes, I will grant to him (1) to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and (2) sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

1. To sit down with Me on My throne = is a figure of speech. Christ is seated on a (one) throne. It is impossible for all overcomers to sit with Him on a single throne. This phrase is a figure of speech that means authority to reign. This is a repeat of the promise made to the Thyatirans (Rev 2:26b-27).

2. Sat down with My Father on His throne = the comparison between the granting of rights by the Son versus the granting of rights by the Father adds to the clarity of this promise. The Lord Jesus does not literally sit on the Father’s throne (Psalm 110:1). However, He shares the authority of the Father (Matt 28:18).


Next Section: Chapter Four - Heaven
© Sola Scriptura

Produced and Developed by Sola Scriptura