The seven Churches addressed in these two chapters of the Scroll of Revelation were in existence in Asia Minor- which is in modern Turkey- in the late 1st century AD. The seven churches addressed here were not the only local assemblies in existence in Asia Minor at that time. They were selected by Christ as representatives of seven types of local churches in existence not only at that time and in Asia minor but at all times and anywhere else throughout the Church Age. Therefore any local assembly at that time and all times in Asia Minor and anywhere else at that time and at all times will fall into one of these seven categories. Geographically these churches linked together formed a circle in Asia Minor. Does that tell us anything? Maybe these types of churches linked up together form a circle around the globe in the end times. None of these churches exist today. Some of the cities mentioned have survived till the present day. Some did not.
The scroll of Revelation is entirely prophetic. Whilst these messages to the seven churches had relevance to these local assemblies as well as other churches in other places in those days, they have normative authority at all times, and more so in the end times. In other words, there was a near view application in those days and a far view application in the end times.
The classification of the seven churches could be further simplified by classifying them in three groups, the faithful church as exemplified by the church of Philadelphia, the compromising church as exemplified by the church of Thyatira, and the dead church as exemplified by the church of Sardis. The faithful church is not promised exempt from the great tribulation but protection within the sphere, and finally removal from the sphere of the great tribulation. The compromising church will go through the great tribulation in order to be purified. Majority of the churches, 4-5, fall into this category. It would however not face the wrath of God. The dead church will not suffer the great tribulation, having taken the mark of the beast, but would face the wrath of God.
These churches also represent individual Christians. The faithful christian will be protected by God during the great tribulation because he or she hearkened to Christ’s instructions concerning perseverance in the end times. The compromising christian will be purified through the great tribulation but exempted from the wrath of God. Majority of christians fall within this category. A lot of us believers compromise in various areas. The dead christian shall be beast-marked. He or she shall escape the wrath of Satan, the great tribulation, but will face the wrath of God in the Day Of His Wrath. Although the messages are prophetic and refer to Christ’s coming in the end times, the parousia, the deeds of churches and individual Christians also demand immediate discipline despite far reaching consequences.
There are some biblical scholars who interpret the seven churches as referent to seven periods of church history. The problems with this interpretation are the difficulty associated with the determination of the beginning and the end of these periods, inasmuch as these periods are subjectively determined, and who has the authority to determine the beginning and the end of these periods. This interpretation undermines credibility and fosters date setting, and denies the 1st century churches, the Apostolic Church, any application for their time. Besides, it soundly lacks biblical bases and justification. Gary Cohen gave an overview of these stages. The seven eras are generally given approximately as follows:
Ephesus: The Apostolic Church(30-100 AD)
Smyrna: The Persecuted Church(100-313 AD)
Pergamum: The State Church(313- 590 AD)
Thyatira: The Papal Church(590-1517)
Sardis: The Reformed Church(1517-1790 AD)
Philadelphia: The Missionary Church(1730-1900 AD)
Laodicea: The Apostate Church(1900- )
There is nothing in the biblical text that indicates the seven local assemblies represent different eras in Church history. We can see that this view is simply an assumption. These designations do not conform to the total content of the letters to the seven churches. This is simply an attempt to give to the seven churches nonprophetic significance in a book that is entirely prophetic.
Biblical scholars have identified similar pattern or structure in the messages to the seven churches. Each church is identified, Christ the sender of the messages is also identified. Certain attributes of His relevant to the message to that particular church are highlighted. The church is then commended for good works. It is condemned or rebuked for bad works. The church is then commanded or exhorted to do certain things and then blessing promised to those who heed the command.
In conformity with the pattern of seven in the scroll of Revelation, Henry M. Morris, in his commentary on the scroll of Revelation, The Revelation Record, has identified seven parts to each message. They are (1) Salutation; (2) Identification of Christ as sender; (3) Assertion of knowledge; (4) Comment and exhortation; (5) Promise or threat; (6) admonition to heed; and (7) Promised blessing. In this commentary we shall follow the generally accepted pattern outlined above, although we may have recourse to the second pattern outlined by Henry M. Morris if need be.
The messages to the seven churches are a remarkable treatment of the problems that the Church faces at all times, but more so in our day. At all times these problems are recurrent: the lost of first love(2:4), fear of suffering and persecution(2:19), doctrinal defection(2:14,15), moral compromise and departure(2:20), spiritual deadness(3:1,2), inability to persevere(3:11), and lukewarmness(3:15,16). These spiritual defects are prevalent today as in the first century churches. These messages are God’s final exhortation to the church, more so to the individual christian down through the first century to the end of the ages. This is God’s final appeal to all who will hear. Believers would do well to listen. He that hath an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen.
Revelation Chapter 2: Messages To The First Four Churches.
Message to the church of Ephesus(2:1-7).
The Destination Or Location(2:1).
In verse 1, Ephesus is identified as the destination of this message. Ephesus was a major city in Asia Minor. The church at Ephesus was the most prominent in Asia Minor. The city boasted of a seaport and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Temple of the goddess Diana of the Ephesians(Acts 19:24-35). The church in Ephesus was started by our brother Paul and his companions about 53 AD, 43 years before the message of John the revelator was sent to them. Paul preached the gospel so persuasively that all Jews and Greeks heard the word. Paul remained in the city for several years and the city was so thoroughly converted that the trade of the goldsmiths who made silver shrines for Artemis was threatened. The message was directed to the angel of the church of Ephesus. The Greek word angelos from which the English word angel and its cognates are derived means messenger. Its principal use in the Bible is in reference to heavenly beings. It is also used of human messengers(Matt.11:19; Mark 1:2; Luk.724,27; 9:52). Sometimes animals are the messengers of God as in the case of Balaam’s ass(Exod.22:27-30), and the ravens that brought flesh to Elijah( 1Kings 17:1-6).
Here Christ identifies Himself. He is the one that holds the seven stars in His right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. We know that the seven stars are the angel of the seven churches, or the responsible elements in the seven churches, that is the leadership in each church. The seven candlesticks are the seven churches themselves(Rev.1:20). Christ is one who loves , cares and protects the churches. He walked in the midst of His church to see that everything is in order.
Commendation Or Approval(2:2,3,6).
The Ephesians church was commended by Christ for its works and labour and perseverance in the face of opposition. This local church did not tolerate evil and wicked men. They condemned them. They tested those who claimed to be apostles and found them liars. These men claimed apostolic authority over churches they did not found. The Ephesians were patient. They tried them as a goldsmith would try gold in the fire and found them false. Ephesus is first of the first four churches which had problems with false teachers; (cf, vv. 2,6,14,15,20). It continued in faithful service to God for more than forty years prior to the message of John the revelator.
They were further commended for their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitians. Nicolaitian comes from two Greek words, Nike meaning victor and laos, meaning people. The nicolaitians taught believers to compromise with the religious culture around them. This is similar to antinomianism. Antinomianism means there are no norms. They teach that one can compromise as long as one remains a believer at heart. The heart and lifestyle of the believer must be in synchrony, otherwise one becomes a hypocrite and a false witness. The Ephesians soundly hated the doctrine and deeds of the Nicolaitians.
Condemnation or Rebuke(2:4).
I have somewhat against you because you have left your first love. The word for love here is agapen. It is the kind of love that God has for man. Unbelievers do not have this kind of love. It is not as though the Ephesians did not have this God kind of love, but they were no longer walking in it being caught in activities. They had this deep devotion and affection towards God. Paul commended them for it 35 years previously. They had deep faith in Christ and love for Him and the saints(Eph.1:15,16), for which Paul never ceased to give thanks. We must remember that these are second generation believers. They retained accuracy of doctrine and purity of life, and worked hard in their level of service which was quite high, but their hearts have grown cold in devotion to Christ. We must always be fervent in our heart towards Christ.
Command Or Exhortation(2:5).
The Ephesians are commanded to repent from whence thou art fallen, and do the first works. The first generation Ephesians practised a very high level of faith towards Christ and deep love and affection towards Christ and the saints. The second generation Ephesians have fallen from this very high level of faith and deep devotion to God. They were exhorted to repent. Heartless commitment is unacceptable. True heart commitment is evidenced by the quality of the works not the works themselves. Similar exhortations to deep love for God abound in both the gospels and epistles(Matt.22:37; Mark 12:30; Luk.10:27; Jon. 14:14,21,23;21: 15,16; Jam.2:5;1Pet.1:8). A believer must love God above father, mother, sisters, brother or spouse. One’s love for God in comparison to these should be as though one hates them including oneself(Matt.10:47; 1Cir.7:32-35). They were called to change their attitude and their affection. We are to render our services to God not because it is right but because we love Jesus. Christ warned that if they did not repent, the light of their witness would be extinguished. This visitation has immediate or near view application as well as far view or eschatological and consummative application. Ephesus was the seat of a major church council in 431 AD. The city and the church declined after the 5th century. The city and the immediate area have been in ruins since the 14th century. Today, it is an archeological site.
Promise or Admonition(2:7).
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. All seven churches receive concluding admonition. Aune says this can have two nuances: what is said has deeper hidden meaning or the hearer must obey what is given. Both nuances are intended. The inclusion of the churches indicate that the message was not meant only for the church of Ephesus, and demand near and far view application. The Lord Jesus made similar statements in the synoptic gospels(Matt.11:15; 13:8,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luk.8:8; 14:35). In each case the statement is a cue to look deeper into the Lord’s words. The simple sense is the basic story. The intended significance is the spiritual truth beneath the basic story. To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the the midst of paradise of God. The Greek word translated overcometh, is nikan from which is derived the English word Nike which means to conquer. In a metaphorical sense, nikan can refer to either athletic contest or military battle. In the NT, one can overcome in two ways: salvific and sanctifying sense. The difference between the two is one of conditionality. Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the World; and this the victory that overcometh the world even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son Of God(1 Jon.4:4,5). This obviously salvific in nature. Our salvation is not based on conditionality. To be born again, one must believe. Belief is not merely intellectual, but involves an inward transformation and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord. This results in eternal life.
The overcomer in Revelation is vastly different. It is one who endures or perseveres to the end. The end in context here is the end of the ages, at the beginning of which the saints are raptured. It connotes difficult circumstances. The overcomer is a believer in Christ Jesus who enjoys special benefits in eternity for refusing to give up one’s faith despite persecution, during life here on earth, especially in the context of the great tribulation. Revelation chapters 2&3 list a total of 12 rewards for the overcomer. The 13th, the overcomer shall inherit the earth is in Rev.21:7. Some biblical scholars argue that the rewards and the warnings make no sense unless some believer will not receive them because of their unfaithfulness. Why warn a person of something one cannot lose? We can debate what is lost, but there is no doubt that some
things are lost with grave consequences(1 Cor.3:16; 1 Jon 2:28). But the truth is that all believers who make it to heaven are overcomers. And every believer that makes it to paradise will eat of the tree of life which is the midst of paradise of God. Paradise in NT is part of heaven(Luk.23:43; 2Cor.12:4). It is synonymous with the heavenly Jerusalem which descends from heaven, rests on Mount Zion and is contiguous at its base with the fourth and millennial temple on mount Zion in the New and renovated earthly Jerusalem in the millennium. The tree of life was first mentioned in Gen.3:22. It was then in the garden of Eden. It bears twelve manner of fruits which are for nourishment and health of the nation of them who are saved(Rev.22:2. Those who eat of it will never die(Gen.3:22). John F. Walvoord has written: the promise should not be construed to be special for some group of Christians but a normal reward for all Christians. But the author of Revelation Commentary demurred: “True believers do not have to persevere to win salvation, nor must they be faithful to keep it. Any conditionality automatically removed the issue from a consideration of salvation to the issue of sanctification and rewards. The overcomer in Revelation can lose his reward. It is not eternal. To compromise in the face of physical danger will has severe consequences during the persecution by Antichrist and when one stands before the Lord in judgment. The apostle Paul states in 2 Cor.5:10, for all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Paul indicates a pay back for for the bad done in the body. What the pay back is for bad deeds is not indicated, but there is a pay back. Am convinced however that the tree of life is for all true believers who make it to heaven. How could one possibly be in paradise not partake of the tree of life?
Message To the Church Of Smyrna(2:8-11).
Destination Or Location(2:8).
Unto the angel of the church at Smyrna write; the church of Smyrna is the second church to be addressed. It is a large and wealthy city, 35 miles or 56 km north of Ephesus. It boasted of a seaport. It is still in existence and still has a large seaport. The name Smyrna means myrrh, an ordinary perfume used in the compounding of anointing oil and embalming of dead bodies(cf. Exod.30:23; Ps 45:8; Song 3:6; Matt.2:11; Mark 15:23; John 19:39).
Here Christ identified Himself as the first and the last. He is the one who has the final say. It was quite comforting to the Smyrneans to know, in the face of horrible persecution that our Lord Jesus the Christ is in sovereign control. He has the final authority. It is He who was dead and is alive. As one who had suffered death on the execution stake, Jesus was acquainted with the pains and horrors of death. He was therefore most abler to empathize and comfort them.
Commendation Or Approval( 2:9).
The Smyrneans were commended for their work and poverty. The Greek word for poverty here is ptocheian instead of penia, the usual word for poverty. The word connotes extreme poverty. Besides being persecuted this church suffered extreme poverty. But they were rich in the wonderful and glorious promises of Christ(2 Cor.6:10; Jam.2:5). The church of Smyrna was being persecuted. This persecution came from three sources. The first was Jews: I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan. These Jews who belonged to a synagogue in the city were openly antagonistic to the message of the risen Christ which the Smyrneans were preaching. Maybe these Jews controlled commerce in the city, and therefore the Smyrneans were blackballed out of business by these Jews who were of the synagogue of Satan. Little wonder therefore they suffered extreme poverty.
The second source of persecution was pagan Gentiles. It is on record in the history of the church that the worst persecution of believers have always come from religionists. The last source of persecution was from the archenemy of the saints, Satan himself, the supreme personality of evil. Christ encouraged them: fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: for Satan shall cast some of you in prison, that you may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. The Smyrneans were cast into prison by the civil authorities, but satan was behind it all. Lacking a physical body, he rules by proxy. But the purpose of this persecution was to try them in order that they may be purified. But He knoweth the way that I take: when He has tried me, I shall come forth as pure gold(Job 23:10). Be faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. The Smyrneans were persecuted unto death. Like the city in which they lived, their sweet aroma ascended to heaven as incense, even they suffered persecution unto death. They were promised a crown of life. This is the martyrs’ crown. James 1:12 indicates that the Crown Of Life is God’s reward for perseverance in the face of persecution. It is one of thirteen crowns promised to Overcomers in the scroll of Revelation.
Condemnation Or Rebuke(2:0).
The Smyrneans alongside the church of Philadelphia were the only two churches out of the seven that were not rebuked or condemned. The Church of Smyrna was a faithful church. It stayed faithful in the midst of persecution and poverty. Their extreme poverty and severe persecution had helped to purify them in their faith, love and devotion to Christ and to one another. They failed to compromise despite severe persecution and extreme and deep poverty.
Command Or Exhortation(2:10a).
Christ encouraged them: fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: for Satan shall cast some of you into prison and thou shall be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. The Smyrneans were cast into prison by the civil authorities, but Satan was behind it all. Lacking a physical body, he rules by proxy. But the purpose of the persecution was to try them in order that they might be purified. When He has tried me, I shall come forth as pure gold(Job 23:10). Christ was not responsible for it, but He permitted it. Ye shall have tribulation ten days was probably a coded message, the meaning of which was known to the Smyrneans. In Hebrew numerology and gematria, 10 = 7 + 3. Seven is the number of perfection and three is the number of divinity. They were tried in order to be perfected, and Daddy was in sovereign control. There are some who believe that ten represented the entire persecution of the church; others think it represented ten persecution under Roman rulers. There are others who think it represented a limited period of suffering. This position is held by Walvoord and Walter Scott who cites Gen.24:55; Neh.5:17; Jer.42:7; Dan.1:12; Acts 25:6. Henry Alford holds the same position, citing Num.11:19; 14:22;1Sam.1:8; Job 19:3 (The Greek Testament, 4:567). Be faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life. The Smyrneans were persecuted unto death. Like the city in which they lived, known for its sweet aroma, their sweet aroma ascended into heaven as incense even as they suffered unto death.
There some believers who think that the righteous should not suffer. That suffering is meant for the ungodly. They are perplexed by the suffering of the godly and faithful Christians. But the righteous and the godly suffer for any number of reasons. Suffering may be disciplinary(1 Cor.11:30-32; Heb.12:3-13), if we judge ourselves, we shall not be judged. When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord that we may not be condemned with the wicked. It may be preventive of pride and arrogance as Paul’s thorn in the flesh( 2Cor.12:7), for the purpose of learning obedience, as Christ did. Though He was a son He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation to those who obey Him.(Heb.5:8; co. Rom.5:3-5). And for the purpose of providing a better testimony(Acts 9:16). No suffering for the present seemeth joyous but grievous, but nevertheless afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby(Heb.12:11).
Promise of blessing(2:10b,11).
Be faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life. The Smyrneans were promised a crown of life if they remained faithful unto death. This is the martyrs’ crown. It is one of thirteen crowns promised to overcomers in the scroll of Revelation, twelve of which occur in the messages to the seven churches in Revelation 2&3. The crown of life is one of several crowns promised to believers(1 Cor.9:25; 1 Thess.2:9; 2Tim.4:6-8; 1Pet.5:4; Rev.4:4). He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. The application of this message is universal, inasmuch as it addreesed to the churches throughout the period of the Church Age. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death(Rev.20:15). Death by martyrdom is the ultimate suffering, but with it comes life. It is a servant that opens the door to eternal glory and bliss.
Message To The Church Of Pergamos(2:12-17).
Destination Or Location(2:12a).
Pergamos or Pergamum was a city in Asia Minor, about 20 miles(32 km) inland from Smyrna. It was a wealthy city. The city was given to wickedness. There were several pagan cults in the city which worshipped Athena, Asclepius, Dionysius, and Zeus. The city was famed for its university with a library that boasted of about 200,000 volumes. The city was also famous for the production of parchment called pergamena. Because the city was given to idolatry and wickedness, the spiritual atmosphere was adverse to effective christian life and witness.
Here Our Lord Jesus the Christ identified Himself as the one who has the sharp sword with two edges. Jesus is the word of God. The word is the sword of the spirit. It is a double-edged sword because it justifies and condemnes as the case may be.
Commendation or Approval(2:13).
Christ commended their works. He recognized that their work was difficult in a city which was the seat of Satan. The city boasted of the great temple of Aesclepius, a pagan god of healing worshipped in the form of a serpent, the symbol of Satan. Inspite of the city being the seat of Satanism, the church in Pergamos held fast to the name of Jesus and did not deny His name. One of them named Antipas, a faithful believer was martyred. Antipas means against all. There are some who believe that Antipas is not the name of a person.
Condemnation Or Rebuke(2:14,15).
The church of Pergamon is one of the four compromising churches in Asia Minor. The compromise was due to the work of false teachers. There were some in that local assembly who held the doctrine of Balaam(Jude 11; 2 Pet.2:5). There are some that teach that Balaam was a false prophet. I demure. Balaam was a true prophet of God but he was greedy. Balaam should not have answered the call of Balak. But he went anyway, inspite of the fact that it was obvious God did not approve. While there God did not permit him to curse the children of Israel. But he counseled Balak to hold a sacrifice of their gods, invite the children of Israel to a sacrifice of their gods, let them eat and drink and relate sexually freely with their women, then their God will destroy them. There is no free launch; someone foots the bill. And it was so(Num.31:16). He gave this counsel in order to curry favour from Balak. He wanted the promotion that came from man. They caused the children of Israel to eat what is sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication. The doctrine of Balaam therefore teaches that it does not matter to eat the sacrifice of idols and to commit sexual immoralities. But it does matter very much as we saw in the case of Israel(Num.25:1-2). Twenty and three thousand Israelites perished in one day as result of the counsel of Balaam, as a result of eating what is sacrificed to idols as a form of worship to idols and sexual immoralities, both of which are idolatry. Balaam got his wish, but he died for it.
There were some in that local assembly who hold the teaching or doctrine of the nicolaitians. The doctrine of the Nicolaitians is similar to the doctrine of Balaam. It is compromise with the religious culture in ones environment. The church should not acculturate. It specifically breaks the first commandment. This is why God hates it.
Command Or Exhortation(2:16).
The church of Pergamos was commanded by Christ to repent or I come against thee quickly with the sword of my mouth. Coming quickly occurs five times in the scroll of Revelation(2:16; 3:11; 22:7,12,20). Revelation 22:7, 12,20 refer to the parousia. Revelation 2:16 and 3:11 refer to immediate judgment before the Lord’s parousia. Fight against thee quickly with the sword of my mouth is a metonymy of cause and effect. It meant the church would be taken away if repentance did not occur.
Promise Of Blessing(2:17).
The promise of blessing has near and far view applications. He that overcometh shall be given the hidden manna. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are did. Moses gave you not that true manna from heaven. I am the true bread that came down from heaven(Jon.6: 32,48,49). The true manna is Jesus, the word of God who is our spiritual nourishment. He that overcometh shall be given a white stone with a new name written. Overcomers shall receive new names in heaven. Besides, white stones were used in voting for acquittal of the accused. He that overcometh shall never be condemned. Gem stones on which were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were worn in pouches on the breastplate of the high priest of Israel. He presented them to God when He appeared before Him in the Holy of Holies. In like manner, Jesus, our great High Priest shall wear our names on His breast for eternity.
Message To The Church In Thyatira(2:18-29).
Destination Or Location(2:18a).
The city of Thyatira was situated 40 miles( 64 km) southeast of Pergamos. The city was situated in a rich agricultural area. The church in Pergamos was small. But it received the longest message. It is believed that it was Lady Lydia or her converts who founded the church of Thyatira(Acts 16:11-15).
Thus saith the Son Of God, who hath His eyes like unto a flame of fire and His feet are like fine brass. The attributes of Christ highlighted here are the same as in Rev.1:13-15 except that here He is described as the Son Of God instead of the Son Of Man. The Son Of God occurs 46 times in the NT. It occurs once in the scroll of revelation. The occurrence here is unique in that it is used with a transitive verb. The Son Of God emphasizes His deity. The Son Of Man speaks of His position as the last Adam, God’s representative in the earthly realm of His universal kingdom. The Son Of God speaks of His lordship as God over His creation. His eyes are like unto a flame of fire speaks to His indignation towards sin and compromise. His feet are like fine brass says the KJV. Other translation render it burnished brass. The Greek word translated burnished brass is chalkolibano. It is an alloy of a number of metals that shines brilliantly when polished. It signifies His righteous judgment.
Commendation Or Approval(2:19).
The church at Thyatira was commended by Christ for its work, love, service, faith and patience or perseverance, and the last to be more than the first. In other words the church at Thyatira was doing more as time went unlike the church of Ephesus which did less.
Condemnation Or Rebuke(2:20-23).
The church at Thyatira was condemned for her tolerance of the teachings of a woman who called herself a prophetess. The Lord called this woman Jezebel. Jezebel was probably not her real name. Jezebel was a historical figure in the life of the nation of Israel. She was a Phoenician woman, the daughter of Ethbaal, priest of Baal and King of the Sidonians. The Sidonians like other Canaanites were idol worsippers. They worshiped Baal, the abomination of the Sidonians. She was married to Ahab the son of Omri, who later became king of the ten northern tribes. Omri was in league with Ethbaal, king of Sidon, who gave his daughter to his son Ahab. In the ancients world, this kind of marriage is usually contracted to cement alliance. Jezebel imported Baal worship into Israel. Baal worship was characterized by bouts of sexual orgies and debauchery. It was a fertility cult. She corrupted Israel(1 Kin.16:31-33). They killed the prophets of God, and hounded Elijah to kill him. The church of Thyatira was vehemently rebuked by Christ for her tolerance of the teachings of this wicked woman. She taught them to eat meat scarified to idols as a form of worship to these idols and to engage in sexual immoralities. The immoralities were both physical and spiritual.
The Lord gave her space to repent of her immoralities, but she did not. She had a reasonable followership in the church of Thyatira. Because of her refusal to repent, Christ was going to judge her and her followers and converts. She and those that commit immoralities with her shall be cast into great tribulation. The judgment was both immediate and eschatological. Her offspring were going to be judged with pestilence, in order that all the churches shall know that Christ trieth the heart and the reins, and rewards every one according to ones work.
Command Or Exhortation(2:24,25).
Wonderfully, there were some in the church of Thyatira who were not infected with this virulent virus. Christ referred to them as the rest who have not this doctrine, who have not seen the depths of Satan as they speak. Sexual immoralities have depths. Unless one repents quickly, the victim would slide deeper and deeper into it’s ramifications. It has branches: incest, bestiality, pedophilia, rape, extreme jealousy, murder etc. I will put no other burden upon you. Those in this church who had not received these evil practices were not condemned. They had nothing of which to repent. They were encouraged by Christ to hold unto what they have.
Promise Of Blessing(2:26-29).
He that overcometh is promised shared rulership of the earth with Christ in the New Millennium. He shall be given authority over the nations in the millennium, to rule them with a rod of iron, and to break them in pieces like a potters vessels, even as I received of my Father(Ps 2:6-12). These overcomers like Christ shall be in their glorified eternal immortal resurrection bodies. The Jerusalem that descended from heaven shall be their abode from where they shall rule the nations with Christ for a 1000 years(Rev.20:4). And I will give him the morning star. Jesus is the bright and morning star(Rev.22:16). Those who win souls shall shine as the stars for ever(Dan.12:3). The stars speak of glory. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differeth from another in glory(1 Cor.15:31). The stars exhibit the excellencies of the Almighty. The exaltation of the overcomer to the status of glory is unimaginable. And again that this message is for the audience of all the churches, once again implies near and far view applications.
Revelation Chapter 3: Messages To The Last Three Churches.
Message To Church Of Sardis(3:1-6).
Destination Or Location(3:1a).
The city of Sardis was an important commercial city. It was located 30 miles(48 km) southeast of Thyatira, on an important trade route that ran east to west through the kingdom of Lydia. The city was very wealthy through industries that manufactured and traded in jewelry, dye, and textiles. It was a pagan city that boasted of a temple dedicated to the worship of Artemis. Only a small village remained at the site of the city today. The ruins of the city is an archeological site, and boasts of a Christian building next to the temple.
Christ identified Himself as the one who have the seven spirits of God and holds the seven stars. The seven stars are the seven angels and leaderships of, or the responsible elements in the seven churches(Rev.1:20). The seven spirits of God are seven attributes of the Holy Spirit(Is.11:2-5). These were in complete and perfection manifestation in the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus the Christ(Rev.5:6).
Commendation Or Approval(3:1b).
The church at Sardis was the only example of a dead church. They had no commendation from Christ. He said He knew their work. Their work was that they had a false reputation of being alive. But they were dead. Apparently their contemporaries regarded them as effective witness for Christ. But that regard was an illusion and a delusion.
Condemnation Or Rebuke(3:1c,2b).
Whatever works this local assembly was engaged in that made them so highly regarded by other contemporary churches in the area, we are not told. Christ however sees through the facade of false religious profession without the life of it. Like the Pharisees, they had a form of religion but not the life of it. They had a form of godliness but not the power thereof(2 Tim.3:5). A lot of the congregants were not born again. They had no personal relationship with Jesus, else they would have been alive. They were going through the motions of religious observances. Their spiritual deadness was hidden in a facade of proper and legitimate christian activities. Otherwise their contemporaries in other local assemblies in Asia Minor would not have been blindsided and hoodwinked. It was not a matter of compromise; for they were dead spiritually. But their deadness was hidden in a gamut of legitimate christian practices. They were not outright idolaters; that would have been too obvious and repulsive to their contemporaries. They were not just falling short of fulfilling their obligation as true believers, they were spiritually dead.
Command Or Exhortation(3:2a,3).
Whilst the overwhelming majority of the church at Sardis was dead, there were still a few of them who had the vestiges of life in Christ. Here Christ exhorted them to be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. There were certain things in the church which had a flickering of life in them. Unattended to they will flick, sputter and die. Christ had not found their work perfect. God does not look as man does, at the outward appearance; the outer facade. God looks at the heart. Viewed through the jaundiced eyes of man, their works were wonderful, perfect. Viewed through heaven’s spectacle and electron microscope, they were full of artifacts.
To the remnant, He reminded them of their small beginning, how thou hast received and heard. They should repent and go back and hold fast to the fundamental doctrines of the Faith. Watchfulness implies truth, proper biblical doctrine without which prayer is ineffective. If they do not watch, He, Christ will come to them as a thief, and they shall not know what hour He will come. This connotes immediate judgment, but had far view implications as well. If they did not repent and heed His exhortation, He would come on them as a thief in the night. Christ coming as a thief in the night is to the ignorant. The watchful believer may not know the day and the hour of His coming, but he knows the general time period, for there are prophesied events that shall precede his coming. His coming shall be imminent after the sixth seal is broken. Even then the watchful believer shall still look for the appearance of the Shekinah in the heavens which shall dispel the dearness.
Promise of Blessing(3:4-6).
Despite the spiritual deadness of the church at Sardis, there were a few within it who had not defiled their garment. Christ promised, they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy. They are worthy indeed; for to remain spiritual inside the midst of that deadness is commendable. He that overcometh shall be clothed in white. White is symbolic of the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. He will not blot his name out of the scroll of life. But will confess his name before His father and the holy angels. The statement that He will not erase their names from the scroll of life presents a problem; for it befuddles the minds of those of us preach eternal security. Scriptures affirm that a born again believer remains regenerate(Job.5:24;6:35-37,39; 10:28,29). However this passage implies a person’s name may be removed from the scroll of life, but it also affirms that the names of the faithful will not be removed. The fact that the message concludes with a call for all who have ears to hear with, to hear what the Spirit says to the churches implies that the message has near and far view applications. There are many churches nowadays which are housed in edifices of architectural wonders, deluged in outward biblically acceptable church activities, but nonetheless spiritually bankrupt, devoid of evidence of eternal life. The call of Christ is to remember, repent and obey.
Message To The Church At Philadelphia(3:7-13).
Location And Destination(3:7a).
The city of Philadelphia was located in an area known for its agricultural produce. It was located 28 miles (45 km) southeast of Sardis. The area was vulnerable to earthquakes. It was afflicted several times with this natural malady . The last one occurred in 37 AD. The city derived its name from a king of Pergamum named Attalus Philadelphus, who founded the city. The Greek Word Philadelphia occurs several times in the Scriptures(Rom12:10; 1 Thess.4:9; Heb.13:1; 1Pet.1:22; 2 Pet.1:7; Rec.3:7). It means brotherly love. It is only here that is used of a city. Therefore brethren call this city the city of brotherly love. This city exist to the present day and there is christian witness in the city up to this day.
Christ Identified( 3:7b).
Here Christ described Himself as He that is Holy and true. Christ is not only true, that is veracious, proving true under all circumstances and situations, He is the Truth. He has the key of David. This is in reference to the scene when the key of the royal treasures of the house of David was taken from Shebna and given to Eliakim(Is.22:22). Christ holds the keys of Hell and of Death(Rev.1:18). Here He holds the key to the treasury of David, because He is the rightful heir to the throne, being a true descendant of David. He is also the heir apparent of the throne of the earth and its treasures. Therefore He opens and no one closes; and He closed and no one opens.
Commendation Or Approval(3:8,9).
The church of Philadelphia is the perfect sample of a faithful church. It alongside the church of Smyrna are the only two churches which did not compromise. Therefore, they received no rebuke or condemnation from Christ. But the church of Philadelphia was unique in the sense that it was the only one of the seven churches that received unqualified commendation from Christ.
Christ said, I know thy work, therefore I have kept before thee an open door which no one can close. This is in keeping with Christ’s description of Himself as the one who holds the key of David. This church has little strength, but despite their apparent weakness, kept the word of God and did not deny the name of Christ. They had little strength, therefore, they must have been weak. We are not told what their weakness was, nor in what ways they kept the word of God and did not deny His name. They must have defended the word and the name of Christ in all the ways that count. Warding off temptations, unashamedly proclaiming the message of the gospel, heading off the assault of surrounding pagan cultures, and the allurements of the world, brazenly walking through persecutions. They determinedly failed to compromise. This is wonderful. Without fear of being accused of “Elijah Syndrome” I do not think there are many of us who can fit this bill nowadays.
There was a Jewish synagogue in the city of Philadelphia. The members of this synagogue opposed the witness of the church of Philadelphia for Christ. Christ referred to them as the synagogue of Satan. They claimed to be Jews, and they were by birth. But spiritually they were not. A true Jew is defined by our brother Paul in Rom.2:28,29. He is one inwardly, not outwardly, in the spirit and not in the flesh; whose praise is not of men but of God. Apparently these Jews did not have the praise of God, or else they would not have opposed the testimony of Jesus. Christ will make them to come and worship Him at the feet of the Philadelphians, and acknowledge of truth that Christ has loved them. This might have been fulfilled in the past. It is being fulfilled now and more so, in the future. False religion is a formidable antagonism to true christian Faith. A day cometh when every opponent of the faith shall acknowledge the truth(Is.45:23; Rom.14:11; Phil.2:10,11). Then every opposition will cease.
Promise Of Blessings(3:10-12).
The promise in verse 10 is both eschatological and consummative. Because you have kept the word of my patience, I shall keep thee from the hour of temptation that shall come upon all that dwell on the earth. This is a specific hour of peirasmos that shall come upon all that dwell on the earth. It is not specific or peculiar to the church of Philadelphia. It shall come upon all dwellers of the Earth. This is the great tribulation by the Beast-Antichrist. God does not exempt His children from the wrath of Satan. But God exempts them from His own Wrath. Because the church of Philadelphia has kept His instruction concerning perseverance, Christ shall keep them or protect them within the sphere of the great tribulation, and shall eventually remove them(protection out) from the sphere of the great tribulation. Behold I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, and let no man take thy crown. This is a call to perseverance. They already have the crown. They must persevere to retain it. They must not give up.
He that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. This is in keeping with the ancient practice of immortalizing the faithful by having his name written on a pillar in the temple. This implies that the overcomer shall abide with Christ in God’s presence in His throne room in the temple. He shall go no more out. They shall dwell with Him for ever. And I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God which is the new Jerusalem which cometh down from heaven, and I will write upon him my new name. Christ will wholly identify with the overcomer by having His new name written on him, and the name of His God, the Father, and the name of the city of my God which is new Jerusalem.
Command Or Exhortation(3:13).
He that hath an ear , let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. The message is universal and eschatological. Though Christ is the one speaking here, He says , let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. The three persons of the Godhead are involved in the delivery of the massage. The Father gave the Son the revelation to send to the churches, but Christ, the Son spoke by the Holy Spirit.
Message To Laodicea(3:14-22).
Location and Destination(3:14a).
Laodicea was located on the road to Colosse, about 40 miles(64 km) southeast of Philadelphia. It was a very wealth city. It’s main industry was wool cloth. About 35 years prior to the message sent to the city, it was destroyed by a severe earthquake. Because it was a rich city, it was quickly rebuilt. There is no record Paul visited the city, he was concerned about it(Col.2:1,2; 4:16).
In His address to the church of Laodiceans, Christ identified Himself as the Amen. Amen is a Hebrew acrostic, el melech ne’eman which means God is a faithful King. If Jesus were not God, it would be blasphemous for Him to make such a claim. In making such a claim, He affirmed Himself as the sovereign God who is behind human events; (2 Cor.1:20; Rev.1:6). He also affirmed Himself as the Faithful and true witness(Rev.1:5; 3:7). As the beginning or the foundation of God’s creation, he is the creator, and the head and possessor of God’s creation(Col.1:15,18; Rev.21:6).
Commendation Or Approval(3:0).
The church at Laodicea received no commendation from Christ.
Condemnation Or Rebuke(3:15:17).
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. This message of Christ was very meaningful to the recipients for two reasons. In the ancient Neareast, the cultural practice of the people was that at social events- feasts and religious sacrifices- their drinks were served either hot or cold, never lukewarm. Whatever was lukewarm was abhorrent to the people. Besides, water was piped to Laodicea via an aqueduct from Hierapolis, a few miles north of the city. By the time it reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm. To drink it, they either allowed to it get cold or they warmed it. The idiomatic expression employed by Christ was very much understandable to the church of Laodicea. They know what it means to be lukewarm to Christ. They were utterly abhorrent to Him. Because the church was lukewarm, Christ would spew them out of His mouth. It is believed by some that Archippus was the pastor of this church (Col.4:16,17 ). It is debatable whether he was alive at the time this letter was sent to the church of Laodicea.
One other problem the church had was complacency arising from material wealth. Because the city was rich, the church in it was also rich. Their attitude was, we are rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing. They did not know that spiritually, they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. This was a very horrible situation. There are many materially rich churches in the world today that are a carbon copy of the church of Laodicea. Excessive material wealth breeds spiritual complacency. We ought to depend on Christ for all our needs. Our dependency on Him keeps us warm in our love for Him and for one another, and our faith in Him.
Command Or Exhortation(3:18-20).
Christ counseled the church to buy refined gold from Him in order that they might be rich. This city was rich materially through wool trade and banking business. The members of the church were involved in both. But they were spiritually poor, bankrupt. If they were poor and wretched as Christ has proffered, it means the refined gold from Christ was offered free of charge. The city produced a famous black wool, the people were physically gorgeously dressed. But they were naked spiritually. They were dressed in black, but spiritually what they needed was a white garment in order that they might be clothed and their nakedness did not appear. The white garment is the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
The city of Laodicea boasted of a medical school affiliated to the temple of Aesclepius. This medical school had the best oculist of their day who treated common eye ailments through the use of an eye salve produced by the medical school. So, this church had no problems with their physical eyes. All their physical eye problems were taken care of, but they were spiritually blind and undiscerning. They lacked the gift of discerning of spirits(1 Cor.12:10). If they could see into the realm of the spirit, they would have observed their nakedness and bankruptcy, wretchedness and misery. Christ admonished them to buy of Him eye salve in order that they might anoint their eyes so that they could see. These were all offered free, for they were bankrupt and had not the spiritual currency with which to purchase them. Because Jesus loved them, He rebuked and chastened them, in order that they might become zealous and repent.
Verse 20 could be looked at both ways, either as a command and exhortation or as a promise of blessing. I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come to him, and sup with him, and he with me. This is an appeal to the individual christian to open the door of his heart to Christ, not only of the Laodiceans but also of every local assembly. The heart of the individual has no external lock. The lock is on the inside. Therefore, it must be opened from the inside. When Christ comes in and sits at the head of the table, the Shulhan Aruch, there will be supernatural banquet of love, joy, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, true and lasting wealth and riches, fellowship with God, men and angels, divine guidance and direction, open doors and opportunities etc.
Promise Of Blessing(3:21,22).
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I overcame, and am set with my Father in His throne. Jesus is co-regent with the Fatter. He is sitting at the Father’s right hand. Even so shall the overcomer reign with Christ here in the New Milllennium. As always the message is not directed only to the Laodiceans but all believers at all times. We shall live and reign with Him a thousand years. The scriptures make it clear true believers, the overcomers shall share the rulership of the Earth with Christ in the millennium. They shall be co-regents with Christ. Even so, Amen.