Bible Commentary on the
To the Church in 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.
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.
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.
To the Church in 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;
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.
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.
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.
To the Church in 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;
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:
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.
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.
As Christianity spread through Asia Minor, a Christian community grew up a Sardis and it became the seat of a bishop. The walls of a church erected before the 4th century A.D. are still standing.
AND UNTO THE ANGEL OF THE CHURCH IN SARDIS WRITE: THESE THINGS SAITH HE THAT HATH THE SEVEN SPIRITS OF GOO, AND THE SEVEN STARS; I KNOW THY WORKS, THAT THOU HAST A NAME THAT THOU LIVEST, AND ART DEAD.
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write
Sardis located some 30 miles south east of Thyatira was one of the oldest cities in Asia minor. The city of Sardis grew into power about 1150 B.C. built upon a crumbling rock, it stood at an elevation of 1,500 feet. It later became the capital of the kingdom of Lydia, one of the richest kingdoms of the ancient world. Sardis is best known as the place where modern money was born. Today it is a wilderness of thorns, wildflowers and imposing ruins.
The meaning of the name Sardis is uncertain, however mostly it is given "song of joy" as the closest description.
Taking the Church of Sardis as covering a period of history, it represents the Church in general of the Reformation times. The Sardis period is usually considered to extend from 1517 to 1798. The Reformation is usually regarded as beginning in 1517 however the close of the period has been chosen as it marks the close of the 1260 days or years, a period of prophetic time mentioned many times in the books of Daniel and Revelation.
These things saith He that hath the Seven Spirits of God, and the Seven Stars
We have already noticed in studying the 1st chapter of Revelation that the number 7 has a special significance, it stands for completeness or perfection.
The Seven Spirits of God
The Seven Spirits of God is a symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit and His work for the Church. The work of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to mankind the great love God has for those in this world who have been separated from the heavenly family. Acts of the Apostles by EG White, page 52 says "The Spirit is given as a regenerating agency, to make effectual the salvation wrought by the death of our Redeemer. The Spirit is constantly seeking to draw the attention of men to the great offering that was made on the cross of Calvary, to unfold to the world the love of God, and to open to the convicted soul the precious things of the Scriptures."
The Holy Scriptures list a number of things the Holy Spirit does in order and His work for the Church, so we may understand the completeness of His ministry it would be well to list them briefly.
||"And when he is come, he will reprove the
world of sin." - His first work is to convince
us that we are sinners in need of salvation.
||"and of righteousness." - He directs our
attention to the perfect righteousness of
||"... and of judgment" - He brings to our
attention the judgment, that Christ is our judge
and everyone of us must give an account of his
or her life to God.
|| "But the Comforter, which is the Holy
Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name." -
The word "Comforter" is often translated
"Helper" in many late translations. The Holy
Spirit will be our teacher and guide in
|| "Verily, verily, I say unto thee; Except a
man be born of water and of the Spirit, he
cannot enter into the kingdom of God." - The
Holy Spirit brings about the new birth.
|| "..The world cannot receive, because
it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye
know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be
in you." - When we accept Christ as our Saviour
He grants to us a special favour, He sends the
Holy Spirit to dwell with us.
|| "...We know not what we should pray
for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh
intercession for us with groanings which cannot
be uttered." - He takes our prayers and
translates them into heavenly language.
||"But ye shall receive power after that the
Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be
witnesses unto Me..." - It is the Holy Spirit
who gives us power to witness.
||"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is
come, he will guide you into all truth...". - He
guides us in understanding all truth.
And the Seven Stars
This symbol is explained in chapter 1 verse 20. The book 'Acts of the Apostles' by EG White has this statement "These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand." These words are spoken to the teachers in the church: those entrusted by God with weighty responsibilities. "The sweet influences that are to be abundant in the church are bound up with God's ministers, who are to reveal the love of Christ..."
I know thy works
As we have already noticed, the Sardis church is the church of the Reformation period and in such a period one would expect plenty of life and vitality in the church. After the darkness of the period of Thyatira, it would be natural to expect the new church founded by the Reformers would be a church alive with zeal and vigour, pure in faith and fully devoted to the service of God.
That thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
Some people are proud of their names and most of us would do what we could to preserve the honour of our name. Sardis had a name alright, but it was living on its reputation. W.H. Fitchett writing in his book 'Wesley and His Century' pp.11-15 puts his finger on what the problem was, "The fatal thing in the religion of that age was that it had ceased to be a life, or to touch life. It was exhausted of its dynamic elements - the vision of a Redeeming Christ; the message of present and personal forgiveness. It was frozen into a theology; it was spun out into ecclesiastical forms; it was crystalised into a system of external ethics; it had become a mere adjunct to politics ...".
What happened in the Reformation was that the strong personalities who led out in that great movement could not agree on many of the doctrines and so there was a division. Many adopted creeds that discouraged further search for truth, and that which started out so well, came to the place where there was a death. All religion dies without the Spirit and the power He imparts and so the religion of Sardis became a form without the Spirit.
BE WATCHFUL, AND STRENGTHEN THE THINGS WHICH REMAIN, THAT ARE READY TO DIE: FOR I HAVE NOT FOUND THY WORKS PERFECT BEFORE GOD.
Be watchful and strengthen the things, which remain
The history of Sardis has a lesson for every church and every individual member. Sometimes a Christian begins with great promise of success. Instead of remaining humble, often they become overconfident which is a great danger. Just so, those who led out in the Reformation were men of vigour and consecration, but their followers thinking that the battles had been won, settled down to organized religion. And great movements begun by men like Luther and Knox became mere state religions supported by the public treasury. Self sufficient and satisfied with past attainments, these people failed to sense the need of the great heathen world.
That are ready to die
Sardis Christians were dead but not hopeless. The death mentioned here is a spiritual death, however there is the possibility of a resurrection. And this is just what did happen, God raised up those who brought new life and vigour to the churches.
"The true awakening of the religious life of the English speaking race dates from Wesley. To say that he re-shaped the conscience of England is true, but it is only half the truth. He re-created it! It was dead - twice dead; and through His lips God breathed into it the breath of life again..." Wesley and his Century. pp 11 - 15.
For I have not found thy works perfect before God.
"The analogy between the Ephesian and Sardian letters is close, and the two have to be studied together. History had moved on similar lines with the two churches. Both had begun enthusiastically and cooled down. Degeneration was the fact in both; but in Ephesus the degeneration had not yet become so serious as in Sardis. Hence in the Ephesian letters the keynote is merely change, instability and uncertainty; in the Sardian letter the keynote is degradation, false pretension and death." W.M. Ramsey, 'The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia', p. 369.
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.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard
The Church at Sardis had not only received the truth, but she still had it, not all had been lost. The lesson they needed to learn was that a church, as well as the individual, must make constant progress. It is impossible to maintain the first love experience unless one is constantly engaged in either witnessing for Christ or studying and feeding on God's word. As well as receiving, there must be a giving out. The reason the Dead sea is dead, is because it does not give out.
And hold fast and repent
Do not give up in discouragement, that is what Satan would like us to do. We are to hold fast to our faith, reach out and grasp God's hand. Here is a wonderful statement telling us how we can do this. "By prayer, by the study of His word, by faith in the abiding presence, the weakest of human beings may live in contact with the living Christ, and He will hold them with a hand that will never let them go." 'Ministry of Healing' by EG White, p.182.
If therefore thou shalt not watch
In both verse 2 and 3 we are told to watch or to be watchful. The Christian needs to be always alert. Over and over again, right throughout the Holy Scriptures, there is the call to be watchful. The enemy of souls never seems to rest but is constantly setting his snares for God's people.
I will come on thee as a thief
Back in the time of John, Sardis although situated in an almost impregnable position at the top of a great rock and quite secure, had been captured because of over confidence. One of Cyrus' soldiers scaled the rock on a dark night when the guards were not watching. Entering the city, he opened the gates to the Persians. The same thing happened in the days of Antiochus the Great. The surrounding country was a favourite haunt for thieves. The Saviour's warning was designed to put them on their guard. Here is a very good statement to help the Christian today. "With every conceivable artifice and device he (Satan) is seeking to take souls captive. Unless we are constantly on guard we shall fall on easy prey to his unnumbered deceptions. Many today are asleep as were the disciples. They are not watching and praying lest they enter into temptation. Let us read and study those portions of God's word that have special reference to these last days, pointing out the dangers that will threaten God's people." Testimonies to the Church by EG White Vol. 8 pp. 100, 101.
And thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee
Right throughout the Bible the emphasis is laid on secrecy concerning the Second Advent. The words, "Watch," "Watch ye therefore", "Be ye also ready", "In such an hour as ye think not", all suggest the unexpected. Christians expect and look forward to the coming of Christ in glory, but it will come as a surprise to those who have not been watchful.
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.
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments
No matter how bad things are, there are always some who refuse to be corrupted. Even at the time of the Flood when men's thoughts were evil continually and the earth was corrupted by man's wickedness, there was Noah that mighty man of God. In the days of almost universal idolatry there was Abraham. Even in Sodom there was one man who honoured God, his name was Lot. When Ahab and the wicked Jezebel reigned over Israel and apostasy was widespread there was Elijah. Even during the time covered by Sardis, there were those who were undefiled.
And they shall walk with me in white
Clothes in the Bible are often used to represent goodness or evil. Dirty, or as the Bible calls them filthy garments are a symbol of sin. White garments represent purity of character. Those who have not defiled their garments are to walk with the Saviour in white. They will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
For they are worthy
They are worthy or righteous, not through their own merits, but rather as a result of washing their robes white in the blood of the Lamb.
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.
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment
Sin has caused our garments to become stained and dirty. In the book of Zechariah, God has given us a picture of this very thing, and Satan is revealed as the enemy who has been responsible.
Zechariah 3:1, "And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him."
While Joshua was interceding before God for his people, Satan stood close by charging Joshua and the people of Israel with sinfulness. He claimed that because of their sins, they were unworthy of being restored to divine favour.
The sin pardoning Redeemer says "I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee." The filthy garments are removed and undeserving man stands before the LORD cleansed from all unrighteousness, and clothed with the imputed righteousness of Christ. It is wonderful to know that the overcomer will be clothed with white garments.
||"Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments
and stood before the angel." - Joshua and his
people had been defiled by sin and the enemy of
God and man was responsible. The wonderful thing
is that the LORD is able to cleanse sinners from
all defilement of sin.
|| "And he answered and spake unto those
that stood before him saying, take away the
filthy garments from him. And unto him he said,
Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass
from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of
raiment." - As Joshua confessed his and Israel's
sinfulness, he then pointed to their repentance
and humiliation and in faith he claimed the
promises of God.
And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life
There are three things brought to our attention in this verse. Blot out - His name - The Book of Life. We know what it means to blot something out and this part of verse 5 says his name will not be blotted out. Then we are told that his name will be left in the Book of Life. This is a very interesting statement: the one who overcomes, who is clothed in white, will not have his name blotted out of the Book of Life. However there is also the suggestion that if a person does not overcome, nor have his garments changed, his name will be blotted out of the Book of Life.
When Israel sinned in the wilderness by worshipping the golden calf, God was very angry with them and was ready to destroy them. Moses pleaded very earnestly with God on behalf of the people even suggesting that his own name be removed from the Book of Life if this would save his people.
Will not blot out - his name - the Book of Life.
Exodus 32:32, 33 says, "'Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written. And the LORD said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book."
'Great Controversy' by EG White p.483 says, "As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the book of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God's remembrance."
Here is another excellent statement regarding the Book of Life. 'Patriarchs and Prophets' by EG White p. 326, "The book of life contains the names of all who have ever entered the service of God. If any of these depart from Him, and by stubborn persistence in sin become finally hardened against the influences of His Holy Spirit, their names will in the Judgment be blotted from the Book of Life, and they themselves will be devoted to destruction."
But I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels
It is quite clear that our acceptance of Christ is the determining factor whether we have a place in God's kingdom or not.
Matthew 10:32, 33 says, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
HE THAT HATH AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAITH UNTO THE CHURCHES.
These messages are vitally important not only to those in the Sardis church but to those of us who are living in these last days. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through these special messages. If we wish to have a place in God's eternal kingdom, let us give heed to what the Spirit says.
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.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write
Philadelphia means "Brotherly love" and covers a very short period of time from 1833 to 1844. Philadelphia was situated some 28 miles south east of Sardis. It was called "Little Athens" because of its many temples. The city has changed its name several times, today its Turkish name is Alasehir, meaning 'The Reddish City' or 'The City of God'. History records that it was subject to frequent earthquakes and the populace lived "always in the dread of disaster." Philadelphia early became the centre of a Christian community. The prophetess Ammia flourished there between 100 A.D. and 160 A.D. Today it has a resident bishop and five Christian churches.
So representing the Church in general, it covers a period known as the great religious awakening and Advent message. At this time men from all denominations were convinced that the coming of Christ was near. Those who studied the prophecies of Daniel came to the conclusion that the 2300 day period mentioned in chapter 8 and 9 was to end in 1844, and with great joy they prepared for what they thought was to be the return of Christ to this earth.
William Miller, a Baptist layman from his studies of the books of Daniel and Revelation, arrived at the conclusion that the time of the Lord's return was close at hand. Although he was untrained as a preacher he began to speak in a number of churches of all denominations. In 1833 he received a license to preach from the Baptist Church, and he went all over the country bringing to the people the message of the Saviour's soon return.
Mourant Brock, an English writer, states that about seven hundred ministers of the Church of England were engaged in preaching the Advent message.
In South America, Lacunza, a Spaniard and a Jesuit priest using the pen name Rabbi Ben- Ezra, published his views of the return of Christ. He lived in the eighteenth century but it was about 1825 that his book was translated into the English language where it aroused considerable interest.
In Germany, Pastor Bengel, a minister of the Lutheran Church, a noted biblical scholar, was greatly impressed as he was preparing a sermon from Revelation for "Advent Sunday." From that time on, he spent much time studying the prophecies of Revelation and was convinced that the Lord's return was near. Bengel's writings were well known and widely read throughout Christendom.
Dr Joseph Wolff, the son of a Jewish rabbi, accepted the Christian religion, and from his studies he also concluded that the Lord's coming was close at hand. He travelled extensively throughout many countries earning the title "The missionary to the world."
With this background, we are able to understand why this church of Philadelphia means "brotherly love."
These things saith he that is holy, he that is true
The One who is speaking is Christ. And speaking of Himself, mentions that He is holy and true. Several times in the New Testament Christ is spoken of as the Holy One. The angel Gabriel speaking to Mary in
Luke 1:35 says "... therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." Again Peter speaking under inspiration at Pentecost says in
Acts 4:30, "... and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus."
Acts 3:14 says, "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you." Verse 15 first part says, "And killed the Prince of life (margin says Author) ..."
He that hath the key of David
A key is a symbol of power or authority. Christ is pictured as holding the Key of David and this is fitting for He is really the rightful heir to David's throne. Matthew traces the genealogy of Christ through Joseph in the first chapter of his Gospel. The angel Gabriel spoke to Joseph calling him "thou son of David", in verse 20. Joseph knew that he was of the royal line, it is even possible he may have been heir apparent to the throne of David, judging by Matthew's genealogy.
In Luke chapter 3, Mary's family line is given tracing it back to David and further still to Adam. So through both family lines Christ is of royal blood.
Luke 1:32, 33 says, "He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end."
He that openeth and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth
He who has the Key of David, is able to open and to close at His will. We have already noticed that the Key is a symbol of power and authority. According to
Revelation 1:18 He has the keys of hell. and of death. With this Key He is able to give eternal life to both the living and the dead.
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.
I know thy works
Nothing misses the scrutiny of God for He is able to observe all things whether they are good or bad. There are some who say that works do not count with God, however in Revelation it clearly indicates that works have an important part in the Christian's life. It is by our works we reveal that God's love is in our hearts.
Behold, I have set before an open door and no man can shut it
This church had the opportunity to do that which had not been done for many centuries. Suddenly the world began to open up for the Gospel, providence had opened the way of entry into many lands. William Carey went to India in 1793, Robert Morrison to China in 1807, Robert Moffat to Africa in 1817, followed by David Livingstone in 1841. The British and Foreign Bible Society began its work in 1804, and the American Bible Society came into being in 1816. The Sunday-school movement also began around this time. These were just the beginnings of a great missionary programme that carried the Gospel to many countries.
The Philadelphian period reached its climax in the great Second Advent movement. Through the study of the books of Daniel and Revelation and Christ's own prophecies, Bible students were convinced that the return of Christ was close at hand. The remarkable 'dark day' of May 19, 1780, and the 'falling stars' of 1833 the like of which had never been seen before were direct fulfilment of Bible prophecy.
Yes suddenly the doors were open.
1. The Door of Access to the Father.
Desire of the Ages by EG White, p. 113 says, "Our Redeemer has opened the way so that the most sinful, the most needy, the most oppressed and despised, may find access to the Father. All may have a home in the mansions which Jesus has gone to prepare ... "
2. The Door to Light and truth.
Testimonies to the Church by EG White, Vol 9, p. 182, "Jesus says, 'Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.' Revelation 3:8. Light is shining from that door, and it is our privilege to receive it if we will. Let us direct our eyes within that open door, and try to receive all that Christ is willing to bestow."
3. The Door to Missionary opportunity.
2 Corinthians 2:12 says, "Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord."
4. The Door into the Most Holy Place.
Daniel 8:14 says "And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days: then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
In the cleansing of the Sanctuary, the High Priest went into the second apartment or Most Holy Place to do this. So in 1844 or at the end of the 2,300 days or years, Christ moved from the Holy Place into the Most Holy Place to cleanse the heavenly Sanctuary. Thus the Door was opened and those who caught a vision of what the opened door meant, went forward to spread the good news to their fellowmen.
For thou hast a little strength
The little strength of Philadelphia represents a more encouraging situation than that in Sardis. The church at ancient Philadelphia was apparently neither large nor influential, but it was pure and faithful. Knox's Translation gives it this way, "I know how little thy strength is, and yet thou hast been true to my message, and hast not denied my name." The Philadelphian church of that particular period of the church in general was not strong but was definitely active. Active in missionary endeavours and active in Bible study.
And hast kept My word, and hast not denied My name
As we have already noticed this was a time of earnest Bible study when the Word of God was closely examined. It was also one of great interest in the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy and of looking for the early advent of Christ, of great missionary activity when suddenly the world began to open up as a vast mission field.
Robert Morrison in China, Adoniram Judson in Burma, Robert Moffatt in Africa, Hiram Bingham in Hawaii, John Williams in the Society Islands. Alexander Duff sailed for India and the renowned David Livingstone began his work in Africa.
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.
I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie
Satan has a church of his own. There are many who pose as Christians who really are Satan's followers. Jesus indicates that this is so in
Matthew 7:21, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven." He goes on to say in verse 22, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" Verse 23 says, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
'Testimonies to Ministers' by EG White, p. 16 says, "Satan has a large confederacy, his church. Christ calls them the synagogue of Satan because the members are the children of sin. The members of Satan's church have been constantly working to cast off the divine law and to confuse the distinction between good and evil. Satan is working with great power in and through the children of disobedience to exalt treason and apostasy as truth and loyalty...". The master deceiver works in many ways to confuse those who wish to know the truth.
Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet
While it is true that Satan does have a large number of followers who claim that they really are Christians, among those who make up this group, there are those who make a real break with Satan and become genuine worshippers of Christ.
Back in the time of the Philadelphian church of John's day, there were those among the Jews who opposed the truth but later on were converted to Christianity. During the Philadelphian period of church history there were also those who opposed the truth but later on accepted it.
And to know that I have loved thee
Love has a magnetic drawing power and to those who had opposed the truth, God's love was like a ray of sunshine playing on a block of ice. If you were to trace love back to its original source you will find that it comes from God.
1 John 4:7 says, "Beloved let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God." This magnetic love is able to change lives and hearts and draw the repentant sinner heavenwards.
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.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience
Christ encourages us to be patient even as He was patient under trial.
I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation
Twentieth Century New Testament, gives this translation, "You kept in mind my teaching as to endurance, and therefore I will keep you in mind in the hour of trial that is coming upon the whole world, the hour that will test all who are living upon the earth." In the book 'The Great Controversy' there is an excellent statement in connection with this particular passage, "Just before us is the 'hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.' All whose faith is not firmly established upon the word of God will be deceived and overcome. Those who are earnestly seeking a knowledge of the truth, and are striving to purify their souls through obedience, thus doing what they can to prepare for the conflict, will find, in the God of truth, a sure defense. 'Because thou hast kept the word of My patience, I also will keep thee,' is the Saviour's promise. He would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people, than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan."
Which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth
This time of great trial and temptation that comes, will cause a shaking among Christians.
Undoubtedly this is the same time mentioned by Daniel the prophet in
Daniel 12:1 latter half, "... and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book." This time comes just prior to the 2nd Advent.
BEHOLD, I COME QUICKLY: HOLD THAT FAST WHICH THOU HAST, THAT NO MAN TAKE THY CROWN.
Behold, I come quickly
There is a note of urgency, for time is moving towards the last days.
Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown
There is an air of excitement in these verses, the messages are building up towards the second coming. Notice some of them, "I come quickly", "crown", "hold that fast." The apostle Paul looked forward to receiving his crown.
2 Timothy 4:8 says, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
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.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God
This means that the overcomer will hold a permanent place in the presence of God. We speak of certain individuals as being pillars in the church and we understand by such an expression that they have proved themselves to be of such excellent character that they are as solid as the actual stone pillars that support the temple itself.
1 Timothy 3:15, latter half says, "... which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The church is made up of living pillars, overcomers against every temptation of the evil one.
And he shall go no more out
When the time comes for this part of the promise to be fulfilled and the overcomer is fully established in God's kingdom, there will be no more danger of his falling away from the truth, that person will never leave the presence of God nor wish to do so.
And I will write upon him the name of My God
This is continuing the figurative language introduced by the pillar. In this case name implies personality or character. The promise is that those who overcome will receive the permanent impress of God's character. 'Testimonies to Ministers' by EG White p. 446 says, "The indelible mark of God is placed upon them (the sealed saints). God can plead that his own name is written there. The Lord has shut them in. Their destination is inscribed - 'God, NEW JERUSALEM'. They are God's property, His possession."
And the name of the city of MY GOD, which is New Jerusalem
In Hebrew, the name Jerusalem meant "city of peace". This name fits perfectly the character of the New Jerusalem. This passage of Scripture has been explained very well in the book 'Sons and Daughters of God' p. 370 says, "All who enter (the New Jerusalem) will have on the robe of Christ's righteousness, and the name of God will be seen in their foreheads. This name is the symbol which the apostle saw in vision, and signifies the yielding of the mind to intelligent and loyal obedience to all of God's commandments".
Which cometh down out of heaven from my God
This is the first mention of the Holy City coming down to this earth. Later on in
chapter 21 there is further mention of this. However, it is very clear from what the Saviour says in these verses that those who will have a place in that wonderful city, the New Jerusalem, will be the overcomer who have become a pillar in the temple of God.
And I will write upon him my new name
The third name written on the symbolic pillar is that of Christ Himself. Christ's new name is unknown to us at present however one day soon this will be revealed also. Great emphasis is placed on the name of Christ in the plan of Salvation.
Acts 4:12 says, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Another text that emphasises the importance of Christ's name is
John 20:31 which says, "But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name."
HE THAT HATH AN EAR; LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAITH UNTO THE CHURCHES.
If only the Philadelphian church had heeded the message of the Holy Spirit then greater things would have been accomplished. It is because the church or individual allows that voice to go unheeded, that real spiritual progress is hindered.
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;
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write
The town of Laodicea lay 43 miles southeast of Philadelphia and about a 100 miles from Ephesus. It was a wealthy city and a considerable part of the wealth of Laodicea came from the cloth and clothing industry. In Laodicea there was a famous medical school which was noted for two kinds of medicine, one to cure sore ears and the other was an eye powder. The Laodiceans were people who put their trust in material prosperity. William Barclay in his 'Letters to the Seven Churches' pp. 90-95. says, "The church of Laodicea stands as a warning to those who remember intensely that man has a body and forget completely that man has a soul. It stands as a warning to those who put their trust in material things and who leave out God."
The Laodicean period began in 1844 - the last of the seven churches. Laodicea means "Judging the People". The Greek word Laodicea is made up of two Greek words: laos- people, dikaios - righteous, right, lawful. The word Laodicea would mean something like, the righteous people or the "judged", or "justified people".
The church at Laodicea was probably founded by some of Paul's associates while he was labouring at Ephesus. Paul mentions this church by name in
4:13, 15. Considered in the historic setting, this letter is addressed not only to a church located in a wealthy cultural city of Asia Minor, but also to the present wealthy, cultured generation to which we belong. Every part of this message applies to this sophisticated, self-sufficient and self-glorifying generation we live in today.
These things saith the Amen
The word "amen" is a Hebrew word meaning "firm," faithful," "true". It is used as a participle of affirmation, meaning "verily", "of a truth", "so be it". This is the only instance where it is used in the Bible as name. Applied here as a title of Jesus it is suggestive of finality as this is God's final message, the last message of Jesus' last church, the title 'Amen' is certainly a fitting one.
The faithful and true witness
Christ the One who was with the Father in the beginning, who is the express image of the Father, is the only One who is able to reveal to mankind the character and the will of the Father. That is why He is called the faithful and true witness. This comes through very clearly in
John 14:8, 9. "Philip saith unto Him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?"
'Ministry of Healing' by EG White pp. 418,419 says, "As a personal being God has revealed Himself in His Son ... Christ, the Light of the world, veiled the dazzling splendour of His divinity and came to live as a man among men, that they might, without being consumed, become acquainted with their Creator... Christ came to teach human beings what God desires them to know ... He (God) sent His Son into the world to manifest, so far as could be endured by human sight, the nature and attributes of the invisible God." All that man needs to know or can know of God has been revealed in the life and character of His Son.
The beginning of the creation of God
This text is often used to support the belief of some that Jesus was a created being. However the evidence is very strong that Jesus is a member of the eternal Godhead. The New English 8ible translation of the above verse helps to make it clearer, for it declares the Christ is "the prime source of all God's creation." The Twentieth Century New Testament renders it this way, "The one through whom God began to create." Knox's Translation says, "The source from which God's creation began." Jerusalem Bible says, "Before anything was created He existed."
There are a number of statements in Scripture which speak of Christ as Creator.
Colossians 1:17 "And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist."
Ephesians 3:9 "... who created all things by Jesus Christ."
Hebrews 1:2 "Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds;"
John 1:3 "All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made."
In the book Evangelism by EG White, page 615, there is an excellent statement "Christ is the pre-existent Son of God ... in speaking of His pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that there never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God. He to whose voice the Jews were then listening had been with God as one brought up with Him". - Signs of the Times, Aug. 29, 1900. "... He is the eternal, self-existent Son". - Manuscript 101, 1897.
I KNOW THY WORKS, THAT THOU ART NEITHER COLD NOR HOT; I WOULD THOU WERT COLD OR HOT.
This church is in a lukewarm condition. A lukewarm Christianity is a dangerous thing, a very serious state to be in. The Laodicean church period unfortunately is characterized by a lack of zeal and enthusiasm. Speaking of Laodicean Christians of today, there is this scathing comment in 'Testimonies to the Church' by EG White, Vol 4. page 87, "The Laodicean message applies to the people of God who profess to believe present truth. The greater part are lukewarm professors, having a name but no zeal ... They profess to love the truth, yet are deficient in Christian fervour and devotion. They dare not give up wholly and run the risk of the unbeliever, yet they are unwilling to die to self and follow out closely the principles of their faith." A lukewarm spiritual condition always results in spiritual apathy, indifference, and lack of action in soul winning.
'Testimonies to the Church' by EG White Vol 2. p.176 says, "It would be more pleasing to the Lord, if lukewarm professors of religion had never named His name. They are a continual weight to those who would be faithful followers of Jesus. They are a stumbling block to unbelievers, and evil angels exalt over hem, and taunt the angels of God with their crooked course ..."
SO THEN BECAUSE THOU ART LUKEWARM, AND NEITHER COLD NOR HOT, I WILL SPUE THEE OUT OF MY MOUTH.
The Laodicean Christians would understand perfectly what the Saviour meant by this expression. Laodicea was well known for the remarkable hot springs which attracted thousands of sick because of the medicinal properties they possessed. These waters although suitable for bathing were nauseous for drinking. This lukewarm condition of the church is nauseating to the Saviour for it is so hard to do anything with those in such a state. If they were cold at least they could be warmed up. If they were hot, then it is possible they could be cooled down. Taylor Bunch puts it very well in his 'The Seven Epistles of Christ', p. 222, "The church in its lukewarm state is divided between Christ and the world. It is too religious to entirely cast off the name of Christ, and too worldly to take a firm and united stand for Him. There is much pretension but little genuine Christianity".
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:
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing
Laodicea was a prosperous town, and doubtless some of the Christians there were well to do. Apparently this church suffered no serious persecution as it is not recorded, but pride in its prosperity led naturally to spiritual complacency. A self satisfied church living on past attainments is typical of the church of our own age. 'Early Writings' by EG White, pp. 107, 108 says, "Many who profess to be looking for the speedy coming of Christ are becoming conformed to this world and seek more earnestly the applause of those around them than the approbation of God. They are cold and formal ... The words addressed to the Laodicean church describes their present condition perfectly. ... Many of these professed Christians dress, talk, and act like the world, and the only thing by which they may be known, is their profession. Though they profess to be looking for Christ, their conversation is not in heaven, but on worldly things..."
And knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked
One might say how is it possible to be rich and miserable at the same time? Or how does one manage to be "increased with goods," and still be naked? You see the people of Laodicea say they are rich, but God knows that they are not. The reason for this is because human values are different to God's values. The world's values are placed on wealth, possessions and things. God knows full well that none of these things will bring happiness but rather they often are a curse. 'Testimonies to the Church' by EG White Vol. 1 pp. 141-143 says, 'Worldly mindedness, selfishness, and covetousness have been eating out the spirituality and life of God's people."
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 MY NAKEDNESS DO NOT APPEAR; AND ANOINT THINE EYES WITH EYESALVE, THAT THOU MAYEST SEE.
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire
It is very important that we make sure our investments are in those things that are eternal value. The gold mentioned here is figurative for it represents spiritual riches. Gold tried in the fire is in its purified form. Gold tried in the fire, suggests faith. For faith to really grow and expand it needs to be tried and tested.
James 1:3 says, "Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience." 'Christ's Object Lessons' by EG White p. 158 says, "The gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God."
That thou mayest be rich
The true riches are not material things, the trouble is that we are too materially minded. Heaven wants us to look further than these. Jesus urged us to make the right investments.
Matthew 6:20 says, "But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal."
And white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed
This figure of white raiment had a special significance for the Christians of Laodicea for their city was famous for its black woollen cloth. 'Testimonies to the Church' by EG White Vol 4. p.88 says, "The white raiment is purity of character, the righteousness of Christ imparted to the sinner. This is indeed a garment of heavenly texture, that can be bought only of Christ for a life of willing obedience."
And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear
If we are not clothed in heaven's garments then in God's sight we are naked. This condition is rather graphically described in the parable of the man who attended the wedding feast without the right kind of garment. 'Christ's Object lessons' by EG White page 310 says, "The guests at the gospel feast are those who profess to serve God, those whose names are written in the book of life." 'Great Controversy' by EG White page 428 says, "Previous to the wedding the king comes in to see the guests, to see if all are attired in the wedding garment, the spotless robe of character washed and made white in the blood of the lamb."
Some might think it was unfair for the groom's father to throw out a poor guest at his son's wedding who could not afford formal attire. But it was not. Every guest had been offered suitable apparel by the groom's father. Thus it was an insult to the wedding party for the guest not to wear it. This man was not clothed in heaven's garments but in clothing of his own choice.
And anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see
Near Laodicea was a temple to the Phrygian god, Men Karou. A famous school of medicine grew up in connection with this temple, it was here an eye powder might be secured. The figurative eye salve offered to the Laodiceans is to cure their spiritual blindness.
The Holy Spirit is the anointing agency which gives spiritual vision.
Acts 10:38 first part says, "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power ...". E.G. White, in the Review and Herald wrote, "The Laodiceans boasted of a deep knowledge of Bible truth, a deep insight into the Scriptures. They were not entirely blind, else the eye-salve would have done nothing to restore their sight, and enable them to discern the true attributes of Christ. The eye is the sensitive conscience, the inner light, of the mind ... The eye-salve, the Word of God, makes the conscience smart under its application, for it convicts of sin. But the smarting is necessary that the healing may follow."
AS MANY AS I LOVE, I REBUKE AND CHASTEN: BE ZEALOUS THEREFORE, AND REPENT.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten
No one likes to be scolded or corrected and Christ only does this in our own interests. It is better to be scolded or rebuked than to lose out entirely. Although His rebuke has been a very sharp one, He has hot turned away from them or abandoned them. Rather He was standing near and ready to supply their need.
Be zealous therefore, and repent
Christ warns the church that it cannot continue in its half-hearted way, that something has to happen. The only way the church can escape from such an condition is for a revival to take place. To be zealous means to be on fire for Christ, actively engaging in soul winning work. There must be a warmth and enthusiasm.
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.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock
This is not referring to the door of opportunity or the door of salvation. The door mentioned here is under the control of man himself. This is the door to a man's soul. The fact that Christ is on the outside and is knocking, indicates that it is the unsurrendered heart and the Saviour is seeking entrance. 'Testimonies to the Church' by EG White Vol 1. p.143 says, "Many have so much rubbish piled up at the door of their heart that they cannot get the door open. Some have difficulties between themselves and their brethren to remove. Others have evil tempers, selfish covetousness, to remove before they can open the door. Others have rolled the world before the door of their heart, which bars the door. All this rubbish must be taken away, and then they can open the door and welcome the Saviour in."
If any man hear my voice, and open the door
A door is either a means of entrance or a barrier. It either lets a person in or keeps him out, according to the will of the housekeeper. Always the locks and bars are on the inside of the door, and the door that keeps the Saviour out is barred by the sinner. 'Desire of Ages' by EG White p. 489 says, "Every warning, reproof, and entreaty in the word of God or through His messengers is a knock at the door of the heart. It is the voice of Jesus asking for entrance." There is a great blessing which comes to those who open the door for the Saviour for He steps right into the life and transforms the character.
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me
Salvation is always a very personal matter. It is as individuals that we must heed His voice and let Him in. The figure of eating is suggestive of fellowship. 'Desire of Ages' by EG White, page 32 says, "When the soul surrenders itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural element into human nature..."
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.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in my throne
What wonderful encouragement these words are, considering the severe denunciation of the Laodicean Christian as found in this letter. Despite the apathy and lukewarmness of this Church, there are those who have risen above this condition and will eventually shine as stars in God's kingdom.
Christ was victorious through the Spirit's power and we can gain the victory through the same power. So the promise is that the victorious one will share in the glory and power of Christ even as Christ shares in the glory and power of His Father.
Even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne
Jesus chose to do the will of His Father rather than His own
Philippians 2:8. "And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Jesus emptied His life of self so He might gain a complete and lasting victory. It is only as we too follow in His example that we will be able to take our place in His everlasting kingdom.
HE THAT HATH AN EAR, LET HIM HEAR WHAT THE SPIRIT SAITH UNTO THE CHURCHES.
We have come to the close of the messages to the Seven Churches. What lessons they contain for all Christians in all ages! No other church is administered so sharp a rebuke as the Laodicean church. However it is worth noting that no other is offered more tender evidence of Christ's love.
There are those who believe that because of the severe and uncompromising tone of the Laodicean message that there is no hope for the Christian of that church. This is not so, for if the spiritual poverty of the Laodiceans were beyond hope, they would not have been offered "gold" by the True Witness, or heavenly eyesalve that they might see their great need of the Righteousness of Christ.