Messages to the Seven Churches. Part Two.
5. Sardis - The Spiritually Dead Church. v1 - 6.
1. "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead."
The Lord next instructs John to write to the oversight of the church at Sardis. To them He states that He has the sevenfold Holy Spirit ("representing His diverse manifestations" Vincent - Trench). God the Father sent the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus Christ (John 14:26) because of Christ's atoning death for sin. Christ is the baptiser in the Holy Spirit (Matt. 3:11) and it is the Spirit who gives life. (John 6:63). Christ also reveals Himself as the One who owns the seven churches (stars). He makes it known to them that He sees the true state of their spirituality and reproves them for it. Sardis had a reputation for being a live church: "it had a name, and a very honourable one, for a flourishing church, a name for vital lively religion, for purity of doctrine, unity among themselves, uniformity in worship, decency, and order" (matthew henry) Yet all this was a sham, for in fact there was a spiritual deadness in their souls and service, their praying, preaching and hearing.
2. "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God."
Christ exhorts them to rouse themselves, to stay awake and decisively purpose to stir up the spark of spiritual life that remained, which was about to become extinct (Isaiah 42:3). Christ had found their works incomplete before God; this was not what He required from those whom He had purchased with His own blood.
3. "Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you."
Christ further urges them to call to mind in fullness the truth which they had heard and believed at the first so that they might guard and keep it. (The word used for "remember" implies punishment i.e. if you do not do as I say then you must face the consequences).
If they did not reconsider their present state, rouse themselves and do something about it, He would come upon them suddenly, at a time when they would not be expecting it: He would come as a thief to take from them what little they still had.
4. "You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy."
Regardless of the general apathy of the church, there were a few who had not given in to the decay within it. Christ's promise to these saints is that they will walk close with Him, clothed in His righteousness and purity because they deserve it.
5. "He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels."
The promise for all those who get the victory is that they too will be clothed in white garments and their names will not be erased out of the Book of Life. (The inference here is that He and He alone, is able to remove names from the Book). He will declare their names before His Father and before the angels. He shall not be ashamed to call them brothers who have not denied or been ashamed of Him. (Heb. 2:11; Matt. 10:33).
6. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Let all those who hear the Word be obedient to what the Holy Spirit says.
6. Philadelphia. - The Spiritually Enduring Church. v7 - 13.
7. "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, 'These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens:"
To the Philadelphian church the Lord reveals Himself as the most Holy One, excelling above all things, and who is true (John 14:6; Rev. 19:11). In chapter 1:18 He said that He has the keys of death and Hell i.e. He has power over death and Hell. The key of David is a similar phrase only here it has a broader meaning - that all power is given to Him (Matt. 28:18). For as David exercised power and authority as King of Israel, so Christ reigns as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He has absolute control and no one can thwart what He plans and purposes (Isaiah 22:22).
8. "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name."
The Lord knows all about them and what they are doing. "I have set before you an open door" As citizens of His Kingdom He has given them free access to all its rights and privileges, a right which no one can take away from them. Although they were not spiritually strong, they had spiritual life in them and they held fast to the Word of God, not denying Christ when confronted by temptation, persecution or tribulation.
9. "Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie--indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you."
The Lord will force those who profess to be Jews but are really of the synagogue, assembly of Satan to come and fall prostrate at their feet and be subject to them. To "worship" here means to kiss, like a dog licking his master's hand. (strong) Christ will bring these servants of Satan to the place where they will have no choice but to acknowledge that Christians are His beloved.
10. "Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth."
Because they had kept the Lord's command to patiently endure (James 5:8) He would watch over them to give them the grace needed when a "time of trouble" came on the entire world. (Note: The Lord does not refer here to this tribulation as being the great tribulation of Matt. 24:15 - 21 or Rev. 7:14. It could denote a worldwide famine in or the time of great persecution inflicted on Christians by the Roman Emperor Domitian). Whatever the exact nature of the trouble, its purpose was to test all those who lived on earth.
11. "Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown."
Christ gives them the assurance that He will come soon and so encourages them to hold on to what they have with all their strength and to allow nothing or no one to rob them of their crown.
12. "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name."
Those who prevail will become pillars, supports in God's house i.e. they will serve God in His heavenly temple (Rev. 7:13 - 15) and shall be forever with the Lord. Christ will stamp His seal of ownership on them, the name of God i.e. his character and authority which they shall share as citizens of the New Jerusalem which is the Church of Christ (Rev. 21:2). He will give them His new name (see notes for Rev. 2:17).
13. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Let all who hear, listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying.
7. Laodicea - The Spiritually Indifferent Church. v14 - 22.
14. "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:"
To this church the Lord reveals Himself as the "Amen" (meaning "firm", true, certain, sure). The Living Bible says "the one who stands firm". Christ enforces this idea by saying He is the "faithful and true witness" the source of life and all creation. (John 1:3).
15. "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot."
In terms of their spiritual condition they were neither one thing nor the other, they were not cold and they were not hot. The Lord would rather they were one or the other.
16. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth."
Because of their lukewarmness (like tepid water), He would expel them from Him, He would reject them as something distasteful.
17. "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked -"
The Laodicean church boasted of their increasing wealth. In terms of this world's goods they were in need of nothing and dependent on no one. This fact blinded their souls to their true spiritual condition; they were wretched, pitiable, poverty stricken and spiritually blind. "They had nothing to cover the nakedness of the soul" (Barnes)
18. "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."
Christ admonishes them to humble themselves and come to do serious business with Him, for only from Him can they obtain what is eternal. Only the spiritual things of faith, things that are tried and tested, will endure forever. Only these will enrich their souls. (Peter refers to faith in this way in 1 Pet. 1:7) "White raiment" means the garments of salvation, righteousness and purity (Isaiah 61:10) which are able to cover the nakedness of their souls so that they might not be ashamed. The Lord was willing, if asked, to anoint their eyes that they might see and understand the eternal things pertaining to God and Christ (Eph. 1:18).
19. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."
Christ assures them of His unchanging love despite their spiritual indifference. Henry paraphrases it: "You may think I have given you hard words and severe reproofs; it is all out of love to your souls. I would not have thus openly rebuked and corrected your sinful lukewarmness and vain confidence, if I had not been a lover of your souls; had I hated you, I would have let you alone, to go on in sin till it had been your ruin." It is because He loves that He rebukes and chastens (Heb. 12:6). So He exhorts them to be earnest in their desire, turning away from their lukewarmness.
20. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."
The way of repentance was open as Christ stood knocking and waiting for them to open their hearts that He might willingly forgive and receive them. The promise He gives is for anyone who chooses to respond to Him, that He will come and abide with them and they will abide with Him (John 15:4 & 6).
21. "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."
As a result of the Lord Jesus Christ overcoming, He has been highly exalted and is seated at the Father's right hand, having been given a Name above all others (Eph. 1:20 - 22; Phil 2:9 - 11.) To those who gain the victory by faith in Him, Christ will give the right to reign with Him and share His honours, glories and triumphs (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6).
22 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
Let all who hear, take notice of what the Holy Spirit is saying.
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