Revelation : Chapter 3
Before you begin reading my breakdown of Revelation 3, please read the chapter in its entirety first. Here is a great website to use : BlueLetterBible
Today we will be continuing with the seven literal Churches mentioned in Revelation. Last time we took a look at the first four: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos and Thyatira. The last three we will be discussing in this chapter are Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.
As I said in my post on chapter 2, the biggest mistake theologians today tend to make is claiming that these are prophetic Church Ages. This theory falls apart very easily. Right now we have Churches all across the world that could fit the bill of any one of these Churches, and it has been that way all throughout history. I do not ascribe to any Church age theory because, in my humble opinion, it is a false teaching that doesn’t come from scripture. Instead, it comes from the margin notes of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield. In other words, it is the doctrine of man and not the doctrine of the Bible.
Here is the map of the locations of these churches in Asia Minor (present day Turkey).
Many people will skim over chapters 2 and 3 to “get to the good stuff”, but as it says in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “16 All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
These messages were given not only to these seven Churches but also to us, as followers of the same Gospel. Any given Church today can learn from these messages. With all that being said lets dive into chapter 3 and finish up with the the last three Churches.
Chart Made by Pastor Stephen Anderson / FaithfulWordBaptistChurch
The chapter text will be red to make it easily distinguishable.
Revelation Chapter 3 (KJV)
The Church of Sardis
“(1) And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (2) Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.“
The first thing that Christ says to them is “thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead”. This means that this Church is riding on their old reputation and is not feeding themselves with the fuel of the Gospel to continue being a bright light unto the world. Verse 2 is meant as encouragement as well as a warning not to continue falling away.
“(3) Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.“
Notice the phrasing “if thou shalt not watch”. Verse 3 is a nod back to 1 Thessalonians 5:2 where it says “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night”. This is a very famous passage, and many take this to mean that we have no way of knowing when Christ will return. Well, if we read two verses down in verses 4-5 of the same chapter Paul says, “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness”. In other words we don’t know the exact day or hour, but we have been given signs to look for (Matt 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 etc), and were told to “watch” multiple times. We are not in darkness on the subject of Christ’s return. In other words, the rapture cannot happen at any moment. There are things that must happen before that day according to scripture.
“(4) Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. (5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. (6) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.“
Here we see that Christ knows that there are still some followers in Sardis who have not “defiled their garments”, and will walk in clothed in white with the Lord Jesus in heaven. Again, we have the phrase “He that overcometh”. 1 John 5:4-5 says , “4 For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, [even] our faith. 5 Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” If we overcome the world and hold fast to the Gospel, we will be with Jesus and the Father in heaven.
The Church of Philadelphia
“(7) And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;“
Verse 7 is a reference to Isaiah 22:22, “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open”. Even though the immediate interpretation of this verse in Isaiah is referring to Eliakim, it also prophetically applies to Christ as we see here that He says that He has the key of David. This is a reminder that Jesus is descendent of the house of David and through his earthly bloodline is heir to the throne.
“(8) I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. (9) Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.“
The topic of the synagogue of satan was discussed thoroughly in Chapter 2:8-11. This is Christ rejecting Judaism (again, the religion of Judaism, not the Jewish ethnicity). It is interesting to point out that those “which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie” in verse 9 will be made to know that Christ loves those of the Church of Philadelphia. This is also something we could apply to ourselves as present day Christians. Those who persecute us will be made to know at one point or another that we are the beloved of God. As it says in Phillipians 3:3, “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh”. The Christ rejecting religion of Judaism is not the circumcision, but those who rejoice in Christ Jesus are.
“(10) Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.“
This verse is often used as “proof” for a pre-tribulation rapture. This is a gross misinterpretation because temptation is not the same thing as tribulation. According to Daniel’s 70th week and the Olivet Discourse the tribulation lasts about 3 and 1/2 years. It is a common mistake for people to think that the tribulation lasts the entire 7 year period.
Understanding that these messages were not written to “Church ages” but instead to literal Churches, we should always take the literal meaning first, and if we do so, there could be no possible way that this would be referring to the rapture because the members of the Church at Philadelphia did not live to see the rapture. If we want to take a more prophetic or symbolic meaning, this would correlate more easily to the hour of God’s judgement (which begins immediately after the rapture), or the destruction of Babylon as they are mentioned many times later on in Revelation as we will see. Tribulation is never related to an hour in scripture, but God’s Judgement and the destruction of Babylon are.
“(11) Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. (12) Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. (13) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.“
Again, we see Christ making a promise to they that “overcometh”. An important concept to understand here is that the “new Jerusalem” is the heavenly Jerusalem, not the Christ rejecting Jerusalem that was at the time these Churches existed, nor the Christ rejecting Jerusalem of today. Galatians 4 verses 25-26 makes a very clear distinction between the “Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children” and “Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all“.
The Church of Laodicea
“(14) And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;“
I would like to make a note here that many people take “the beginning of the creation of God” to mean that Christ is a created being or that He was the first creation of God. Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ is not a created being. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. If Christ was a created being, that would mean God created Himself. Whereas scripture says that He has always existed. Multiple times God is referred to as being “from everlasting”. Here is merely one example: Psalms 90:2 “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou [art] God”.
“(15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:“
The Church of Laodicea is a lukewarm Church. They are not quite dead in spirit but they aren’t fully alive in spirit. Here Christ is telling them that he would rather them be one or the other. It appears that this Church has been financially blessed, but rather than let this blessing fuel their fire, they have become complacent. Jesus makes it clear how he feels about this in verse 17: “thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”. We are expected to be on fire for God. Why would we accept the Gospel and not tend our spiritual fires and take that Gospel out to anyone and everyone we could? Complacency is unsavory to God.
“(18) I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.“
Here we have Christ rebuking and chastening this Church, also giving them words of wisdom. This is all meant to bring them back from their state of being lukewarm. If parents never discipline their children or told them that they were wrong, the children would stray from the path set out for them. Proverbs 13:24 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes”.
“(20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (21) To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (22) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.“
This chapter leaves off with a reminder and promise that Jesus is waiting at the door. All we have to do is open the door and let Him in to sup with us. Again, we have the same “overcometh” verbiage being used, and He reminds us that He Himself overcame the world.
This concludes my breakdown of the messages to the Churches in Chapters 2-3. In Chapter 4 we will begin to read about John’s vision of heaven.
As always thank you for reading! Please feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
Your brother in Christ Jesus