Epistles to the church at Sardis; (1-6) at Philadelphia; (7-13) and Laodicea. (14-22)
1-6. The Lord Jesus is He that hath the Holy Spirit with all his powers, graces, and operations. Hypocrisy, and lamentable decay in religion, are sins charged upon Sardis, by One who knew that church well, and all her works. Outward things appeared well to men, but there was only the form of godliness, not the power; a name to live, not a principle of life. There was great deadness in their souls, and in their services; numbers were wholly hypocrites, others were in a disordered and lifeless state. Our Lord called upon them to be watchful against their enemies, and to be active and earnest in their duties; and to endeavour, in dependence on the grace of the Holy Spirit, to revive and strengthen the faith and spiritual affections of those yet alive to God, though in a declining state. Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground. Thy works are hollow and empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God. There are not inward affections suitable to outward acts and expressions; when the spirit is wanting, the form cannot long remain. In seeking a revival in our own souls, or the souls of others, it is needful to compare what we profess with the manner in which we go on, that we may be humbled and quickened to hold fast that which remains. Christ enforces his counsel with a dreadful threatening if it should be despised. Yet our blessed Lord does not leave this sinful people without some encouragement. He makes honourable mention of the faithful remnant in Sardis, he makes a gracious promise to them. He that overcometh shall be clothed in white raiment; the purity of grace shall be rewarded with the perfect purity of glory. Christ has his book of life, a register of all who shall inherit eternal life; the book of remembrance of all who live to God, and keep up the life and power of godliness in evil times. Christ will bring forward this book of life, and show the names of the faithful, before God, and all the angels, at the great day.
Verses 7-13 The same Lord Jesus has the key of government and authority in and over the church. He opens a door of opportunity to his churches; he opens a door of utterance to his ministers; he opens a door of entrance, opens the heart. He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish, who sleep away their day of grace; and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be. The church in Philadelphia is commended; yet with a gentle reproof. Although Christ accepts a little strength, yet believers must not rest satisfied in a little, but strive to grow in grace, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Christ can discover this his favour to his people, so that their enemies shall be forced to acknowledge it. This, by the grace of Christ, will soften their enemies, and make them desire to be admitted into communion with his people. Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as the reward of past faithfulness; To him that hath shall be given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution. Christ promises a glorious reward to the victorious believer. He shall be a monumental pillar in the temple of God; a monument of the free and powerful grace of God; a monument that shall never be defaced or removed. On this pillar shall be written the new name of Christ; by this will appear, under whom the believer fought the good fight, and came off victorious.
Verses 14-22 Laodicea was the last and worst of the seven churches of Asia. Here our Lord Jesus styles himself, "The Amen;" one steady and unchangeable in all his purposes and promises. If religion is worth anything, it is worth every thing. Christ expects men should be in earnest. How many professors of gospel doctrine are neither hot nor cold; except as they are indifferent in needful matters, and hot and fiery in disputes about things of lesser moment! A severe punishment is threatened. They would give a false opinion of Christianity, as if it were an unholy religion; while others would conclude it could afford no real satisfaction, otherwise its professors would not have been heartless in it, or so ready to seek pleasure or happiness from the world. One cause of this indifference and inconsistency in religion is, self-conceit and self-delusion; "Because thou sayest." What a difference between their thoughts of themselves, and the thoughts Christ had of them! How careful should we be not to cheat our owns souls! There are many in hell, who once thought themselves far in the way to heaven. Let us beg of God that we may not be left to flatter and deceive ourselves. Professors grow proud, as they become carnal and formal. Their state was wretched in itself. They were poor; really poor, when they said and thought they were rich. They could not see their state, nor their way, nor their danger, yet they thought they saw it. They had not the garment of justification, nor sanctification: they were exposed to sin and shame; their rags that would defile them. They were naked, without house or harbour, for they were without God, in whom alone the soul of man can find rest and safety. Good counsel was given by Christ to this sinful people. Happy those who take his counsel, for all others must perish in their sins. Christ lets them know where they might have true riches, and how they might have them. Some things must be parted with, but nothing valuable; and it is only to make room for receiving true riches. Part with sin and self-confidence, that you may be filled with his hidden treasure. They must receive from Christ the white raiment he purchased and provided for them; his own imputed righteousness for justification, and the garments of holiness and sanctification. Let them give themselves up to his word and Spirit, and their eyes shall be opened to see their way and their end. Let us examine ourselves by the rule of his word, and pray earnestly for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, to take away our pride, prejudices, and worldly lusts. Sinners ought to take the rebukes of God's word and rod, as tokens of his love to their souls. Christ stood without; knocking, by the dealings of his providence, the warnings and teaching of his word, and the influences of his Spirit. Christ still graciously, by his word and Spirit, comes to the door of the hearts of sinners. Those who open to him shall enjoy his presence. If what he finds would make but a poor feast, what he brings will supply a rich one. He will give fresh supplies of graces and comforts. In the conclusion is a promise to the overcoming believer. Christ himself had temptations and conflicts; he overcame them all, and was more than a conqueror. Those made like to Christ in his trials, shall be made like to him in glory. All is closed with the general demand of attention. And these counsels, while suited to the churches to which they were addressed, are deeply interesting to all men.
Revelation 3:1-22 . THE EPISTLES TO SARDIS, PHILADELPHIA, AND LAODICEA.
1. Sardis--the ancient capital of Lydia, the kingdom of wealthy Croesus, on the river Pactolus. The address to this Church is full of rebuke. It does not seem to have been in vain; for MELITO, bishop of Sardis in the second century, was eminent for piety and learning. He visited Palestine to assure himself and his flock as to the Old Testament canon and wrote an epistle on the subject [EUSEBIUS Ecclesiastical History, 4.26]; he also wrote a commentary on the Apocalypse [EUSEBIUS, Ecclesiastical History, 4.26; JEROME, On Illustrious Men, 24].
he that hath the seven Spirits of God--that is, He who hath all the fulness of the Spirit ( Revelation 1:4 , 4:5 , 5:6 , with which compare Zechariah 3:9 , 4:10 , proving His Godhead). This attribute implies His infinite power by the Spirit to convict of sin and of a hollow profession.
and the seven stars--( Revelation 1:16 Revelation 1:20 ). His having the seven stars, or presiding ministers, flows, as a consequence, from His having the seven Spirits, or the fulness of the Holy Spirit. The human ministry is the fruit of Christ's sending down the gifts of the Spirit. Stars imply brilliancy and glory; the fulness of the Spirit, and the fulness of brilliant light in Him, form a designed contrast to the formality which He reproves.
name . . . livest . . . dead--( 1 Timothy 5:6 , 2 Timothy 3:5 , Titus 1:16 ; compare Ephesians 2:1 Ephesians 2:5 , 5:14 ). "A name," that is, a reputation. Sardis was famed among the churches for spiritual vitality; yet the Heart-searcher, who seeth not as man seeth, pronounces her dead; how great searchings of heart should her case create among even the best of us! Laodicea deceived herself as to her true state ( Revelation 3:17 ), but it is not written that she had a high name among the other churches, as Sardis had.
2. Be--Greek. "Become," what thou art not, "watchful," or "wakeful," literally, "waking."
the things which remain--Strengthen those thy remaining few graces, which, in thy spiritual deadly slumber, are not yet quite extinct [ALFORD]. "The things that remain" can hardly mean "the PERSONS that are not yet dead, but are ready to die"; for Revelation 3:4 implies that the "few" faithful ones at Sardis were not "ready to die," but were full of life.
are--The two oldest manuscripts read, "were ready," literally, "were about to die," namely, at the time when you "strengthen" them. This implies that "thou art dead," Revelation 3:1 , is to be taken with limitation; for those must have some life who are told to strengthen the things that remain.
perfect--literally, "filled up in full complement"; Translate, "complete." Weighed in the balance of Him who requires living faith as the motive of works, and found wanting.
before God--Greek, "in the sight of God." The three oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, read, "before (in the sight of) MY God"; Christ's judgment is God the Father's judgment. In the sight of men, Sardis had "a name of living": "so many and so great are the obligations of pastors, that he who would in reality fulfil even a third of them, would be esteemed holy by men, whereas, if content with that alone, he would be sure not to escape hell" [JUAN D'AVILA]. Note: in Sardis and Laodicea alone of the seven we read of no conflict with foes within or without the Church. Not that either had renounced the appearance of opposition to the world; but neither had the faithfulness to witness for God by word and example, so as to "torment them that dwelt on the earth" ( Revelation 11:10 ).
3. how thou hast received--( Colossians 2:6 , 1 Thessalonians 4:1 , 1 Timothy 6:20 ). What Sardis is to "remember" is, not how joyfully she had received originally the Gospel message, but how the precious deposit was committed to her originally, so that she could not say, she had not "received and heard" it. The Greek is not aorist (as in Revelation 2:4 , as to Ephesus, "Thou didst leave thy first love"), but "thou hast received" (perfect), and still hast the permanent deposit of doctrine committed to thee. The word "keep" (so the Greek is for English Version, "hold fast") which follows, accords with this sense. "Keep" or observe the commandment which thou hast received and didst hear.
heard--Greek aorist, "didst hear," namely, when the Gospel doctrine was committed to thee. TRENCH explains "how," with what demonstration of the Spirit and power from Christ's ambassadors the truth came to you, and how heartily and zealously you at first received it. Similarly BENGEL, "Regard to her former character (how it once stood) ought to guard Sardis against the future hour, whatsoever it shall be, proving fatal to her." But it is not likely that the Spirit repeats the same exhortation virtually to Sardis as to Ephesus.
If therefore--seeing thou art so warned, if, nevertheless, &c.
come on thee as a thief--in special judgment on thee as a Church, with the same stealthiness and as unexpectedly as shall be My visible second coming. As the thief gives no notice of his approach. Christ applies the language which in its fullest sense describes His second coming, to describe His coming in special judgments on churches and states (as Jerusalem, Matthew 24:4-28 ) these special judgments being anticipatory earnests of that great last coming. "The last day is hidden from us, that every day may be observed by us" [AUGUSTINE]. Twice Christ in the days of His flesh spake the same words ( Matthew 24:42 Matthew 24:43 , Luke 12:39 Luke 12:40 ); and so deeply had His words been engraven on the minds of the apostles that they are often repeated in their writings ( Revelation 16:15 , 1 Thessalonians 5:2 1 Thessalonians 5:4 1 Thessalonians 5:6 , 2 Peter 3:10 ). The Greek proverb was that "the feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool," expressing the noiseless approach of the divine judgments, and their possible nearness at the moment when they were supposed the farthest off [TRENCH].
4. The three oldest manuscripts prefix "but," or "nevertheless" (notwithstanding thy spiritual deadness), and omit "even."
names--persons named in the book of life ( Revelation 3:5 ) known by name by the Lord as His own. These had the reality corresponding to their name; not a mere name among men as living, while really dead ( Revelation 3:1 ). The gracious Lord does not overlook any exceptional cases of real saints in the midst of unreal professors.
not defiled their garments--namely, the garments of their Christian profession, of which baptism is the initiatory seal, whence the candidates for baptism used in the ancient Church to be arrayed in white. Compare also Ephesians 5:27 , as to the spotlessness of the Church when she shall be presented to Christ; and Revelation 19:8 , as to the "fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of the saints," in which it shall be granted to her to be arrayed; and "the wedding garment." Meanwhile she is not to sully her Christian profession with any defilement of flesh or spirit, but to "keep her garments." For no defilement shall enter the heavenly city. Not that any keep themselves here wholly free from defilement; but, as compared with hollow professors, the godly keep themselves unspotted from the world; and when they do contract it, they wash it away, so as to have their "robes white in the blood of the Lamb" ( Revelation 7:14 ). The Greek is not "to stain" (Greek, "miainein"), but to "defile," or besmear (Greek, "molunein"), Solomon 5:3 .
they shall walk with me in white--The promised reward accords with the character of those to be rewarded: keeping their garments undefiled and white through the blood of the Lamb now, they shall walk with Him in while hereafter. On "with me," compare the very same words, Luke 23:43 , John 17:24 . "Walk" implies spiritual life, for only the living walk; also liberty, for it is only the free who walk at large. The grace and dignity of flowing long garments is seen to best advantage when the person "walks": so the graces of the saint's manifested character shall appear fully when he shall serve the Lord perfectly hereafter ( Revelation 22:3 ).
they are worthy--with the worthiness (not their own, but that) which Christ has put on them ( Revelation 7:14 ). Ezekiel 16:14 , "perfect through MY comeliness which I had put upon thee." Grace is glory in the bud. "The worthiness here denotes a congruity between the saint's state of grace on earth, and that of glory, which the Lord has appointed for them, about to be estimated by the law itself of grace" [VITRINGA]. Contrast Acts 13:46 .
5. white--not a dull white, but glittering, dazzling white [GROTIUS]. Compare Matthew 13:43 . The body transfigured into the likeness of Christ's body, and emitting beams of light reflected from Him, is probably the "white raiment" promised here.
the same--Greek, "THIS man"; he and he alone. So one oldest manuscript reads. But two oldest manuscripts, and most of the ancient versions, "shall THUS be clothed," &c.
raiment--Greek, "garments." "He that overcometh" shall receive the same reward as they who "have not defiled their garments" ( Revelation 3:4 ); therefore the two are identical.
I will not--Greek, "I will not by any means."
blot out . . . name out of . . . book of life--of the heavenly city. A register was kept in ancient cities of their citizens: the names of the dead were of course erased. So those who have a name that they live and are dead ( Revelation 3:1 ), are blotted out of God's roll of the heavenly citizens and heirs of eternal life; not that in God's electing decree they ever were in His book of life. But, according to human conceptions, those who had a high name for piety would be supposed to be in it, and were, in respect to privileges, actually among those in the way of salvation; but these privileges, and the fact that they once might have been saved, shall be of no avail to them. As to the book of life, compare Revelation 13:8 , 17:8 , Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:15 , 21:27 , Exodus 32:32 , Psalms 69:28 , Daniel 12:1 . In the sense of the "call," many are enrolled among the called to salvation, who shall not be found among the chosen at last. The pale of salvation is wider than that of election. Election is fixed. Salvation is open to all and is pending (humanly speaking) in the case of those mentioned here. But Revelation 20:15 , 21:27 , exhibit the book of the elect alone in the narrower sense, after the erasure of the others.
before . . . before--Greek, "in the presence of." Compare the same promise of Christ's confessing before His Father those who confessed Him, Matthew 10:32 Matthew 10:33 , Luke 12:8 Luke 12:9 . He omits "in heaven" after "My Father," because there is, now that He is in heaven, no contrast between the Father in heaven and the Son on earth. He now sets His seal from heaven upon many of His words uttered on earth [TRENCH]. An undesigned coincidence, proving that these epistles are, as they profess, in their words, as well as substance, Christ's own addresses; not even tinged with the color of John's style, such as it appears in his Gospel and Epistles. The coincidence is mainly with the three other Gospels, and not with John's, which makes the coincidence more markedly undesigned. So also the clause, "He that hath an ear, let him hear," is not repeated from John's Gospel, but from the Lord's own words in the three synoptic Gospels ( Matthew 11:15 , 13:9 , Mark 4:9 Mark 4:23 , 7:16 , Luke 8:8 , 14:35 ).
7. Philadelphia--in Lydia, twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis, built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, who died A.D. 138. It was nearly destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Tiberius [TACITUS, Annals, 2.47]. The connection of this Church with Jews there causes the address to it to have an Old Testament coloring in the images employed. It and Smyrna alone of the seven receive unmixed praise.
he that is holy--as in the Old Testament, "the Holy One of Israel." Thus Jesus and the God of the Old Testament are one. None but God is absolutely holy (Greek, "hagios," separate from evil and perfectly hating it). In contrast to "the synagogue of Satan" ( Revelation 3:9 ).
true--Greek, "alethinos": "VERY God," as distinguished from the false gods and from all those who say that they are what they are not ( Revelation 3:9 ):real, genuine. Furthermore, He perfectly realizes all that is involved in the names, GOD, Light ( John 1:9 , 1 John 2:8 ), Bread ( John 6:32 ), the Vine ( John 15:1 ); as distinguished from all typical, partial, and imperfect realizations of the idea. His nature answers to His name ( John 17:3 , 1 Thessalonians 1:9 ). The Greek, "alethes," on the other hand, is "truth-speaking," "truth-loving" ( John 3:33 , Titus 1:2 ).
he that hath the key of David--the antitype of Eliakim, to whom the "key," the emblem of authority "over the house of David," was transferred from Shebna, who was removed from the office of chamberlain or treasurer, as unworthy of it. Christ, the Heir of the throne of David, shall supplant all the less worthy stewards who have abused their trust in God's spiritual house, and "shall reign over the house of Jacob," literal and spiritual ( Luke 1:32 Luke 1:33 ), "for ever," "as a Son over His own house" ( Hebrews 3:2-6 ). It rests with Christ to open or shut the heavenly palace, deciding who is, and who is not, to be admitted: as He also opens, or shuts, the prison, having the keys of hell (the grave) and death ( Revelation 1:18 ). The power of the keys was given to Peter and the other apostles, only when, and in so far as, Christ made him and them infallible. Whatever degrees of this power may have been committed to ministers, the supreme power belongs to Christ alone. Thus Peter rightly opened the Gospel door to the Gentiles ( Acts 10:1-48 , Acts 11:17 Acts 11:18 ; especially Acts 14:27 , end). But he wrongly tried to shut the door in part again ( Galatians 2:11-18 ). Eliakim had "the key of the house of David laid upon his shoulder": Christ, as the antitypical David, Himself has the key of the supreme "government upon His shoulder." His attribute here, as in the former addresses, accords with His promise. Though "the synagogue of Satan," false "Jews" ( Revelation 3:9 ) try to "shut" the "door" which I "set open before thee"; "no man can shut it" ( Revelation 3:8 ).
shutteth--So Vulgate and Syriac Versions read. But the four oldest manuscripts read, "shall shut"; so Coptic Version and ORIGEN.
and no man openeth--Two oldest manuscripts, B, Aleph, Coptic Version, and ORIGEN read, "shall open." Two oldest manuscripts, A, C. and Vulgate Version support English Version reading.
8. I have set--Greek, "given": it is My gracious gift to thee.
open door--for evangelization; a door of spiritual usefulness. The opening of a door by Him to the Philadelphian Church accords with the previous assignation to Him of "the key of David."
and--The three oldest manuscripts, A, B, C, and ORIGEN read, "which no man can shut."
a little--This gives the idea that Christ says, He sets before Philadelphia an open door because she has some little strength; whereas the sense rather is, He does so because she has "but little strength": being consciously weak herself, she is the fitter object for God's power to rest on [so AQUINAS], that so the Lord Christ may have all the glory.
and hast kept--and so, the littleness of thy strength becoming the source of Almighty power to thee, as leading thee to rest wholly on My great power, thou hast kept My word. GROTIUS makes "little strength" to mean that she had a Church small in numbers and external resources: "a little flock poor in worldly goods, and of small account in the eyes of men" [TRENCH]. So ALFORD. I prefer the view given above. The Greek verbs are in the aorist tense: "Thou didst keep . . . didst not deny My name": alluding to some particular occasion when her faithfulness was put to the test.
9. I will make--Greek present, "I make," literally, "I give" The promise to Philadelphia is larger than that to Smyrna. To Smyrna the promise was that "the synagogue of Satan" should not prevail against the faithful in her: to Philadelphia, that she should even win over some of "the synagogue of Satan" to fall on their faces and confess God is in her of a truth. Translate, "(some) of the synagogue." For until Christ shall come, and all Israel then be saved, there is but "a remnant" being gathered out of the Jews "according to the election of grace." This is an instance of how Christ set before her an "open door," some of her greatest adversaries, the Jews, being brought to the obedience of the faith. Their worshipping before her feet expresses the convert's willingness to take the very lowest place in the Church, doing servile honor to those whom once they persecuted, rather than dwell with the ungodly. So the Philippian jailer before Paul.
10. patience--"endurance." "The word of My endurance" is My Gospel word, which teaches patient endurance in expectation of my coming ( Revelation 1:9 ). My endurance is the endurance which I require, and which I practice. Christ Himself now endures, patiently waiting until the usurper be cast out, and all "His enemies be made His footstool." So, too, His Church, for the joy before her of sharing His coming kingdom, endures patiently. Hence, in Revelation 3:11 , follows, "Behold, I come quickly."
I also--The reward is in kind: "because thou didst keep," &c. "I also (on My side) will keep thee," &c.
from--Greek, "(so as to deliver thee) out of," not to exempt from temptation.
the hour of temptation--the appointed season of affliction and temptation (so in Deuteronomy 4:34 the plagues are called "the temptations of Egypt"), literally, "the temptation": the sore temptation which is coming on: the time of great tribulation before Christ's second coming.
to try them that dwell upon the earth--those who are of earth, earthy ( Revelation 8:13 ). "Dwell" implies that their home is earth, not heaven. All mankind, except the elect ( Revelation 13:8 Revelation 13:14 ). The temptation brings out the fidelity of those kept by Christ and hardens the unbelieving reprobates ( Revelation 9:20 Revelation 9:21 , Revelation 16:11 Revelation 16:21 ). The particular persecutions which befell Philadelphia shortly after, were the earnest of the great last tribulation before Christ's coming, to which the Church's attention in all ages is directed.
11. Behold--omitted by the three oldest manuscripts and most ancient versions.
I come quickly--the great incentive to persevering faithfulness, and the consolation under present trials.
that . . . which thou hast--"The word of my patience," or "endurance" ( Revelation 3:10 ), which He had just commended them for keeping, and which involved with it the attaining of the kingdom; this they would lose if they yielded to the temptation of exchanging consistency and suffering for compromise and ease.
that no man take thy crown--which otherwise thou wouldst receive: that no tempter cause thee to lose it: not that the tempter would thus secure it for himself ( Colossians 2:18 ).
12. pillar in the temple--In one sense there shall be "no temple" in the heavenly city because there shall be no distinction of things into sacred and secular, for all things and persons shall be holy to the Lord. The city shall be all one great temple, in which the saints shall be not merely stones, as m the spiritual temple now on earth, but all eminent as pillars: immovably firm (unlike Philadelphia, the city which was so often shaken by earthquakes, STRABO [12 and 13]), like the colossal pillars before Solomon's temple, Boaz (that is, "In it is strength") and Jachin ("It shall be established"): only that those pillars were outside, these shall be within the temple.
go no more out--The Greek is stronger, never more at all. As the elect angels are beyond the possibility of falling, being now under (as the Schoolmen say) "the blessed necessity of goodness," so shall the saints be. The door shall be once for all shut, as well to shut safely in for ever the elect, as to shut out the lost ( Matthew 25:10 , John 8:35 ; compare Isaiah 22:23 , the type, Eliakim). They shall be priests for ever unto God ( Revelation 1:6 ). "Who would not yearn for that city out of which no friend departs, and into which no enemy enters?" [AUGUSTINE in TRENCH].
write upon him the name of my God--as belonging to God in a peculiar sense ( Revelation 7:3 , 9:4 , 14:1 ; and especially Revelation 22:4 ), therefore secure. As the name of Jehovah ("Holiness to the Lord") was on the golden plate on the high priest's forehead ( Exodus 28:36-38 ); so the saints in their heavenly royal priesthood shall bear His name openly, as consecrated to Him. Compare the caricature of this in the brand on the forehead of the beast's followers ( Revelation 13:16 Revelation 13:17 ), and on the harlot ( Revelation 17:5 ; compare Revelation 20:4 ).
name of the city of my God--as one of its citizens ( Revelation 21:2 Revelation 21:3 Revelation 21:10 , which is briefly alluded to by anticipation here). The full description of the city forms the appropriate close of the book. The saint's citizenship is now hidden, but then it shall be manifested: he shall have the right to enter in through the gates into the city ( Revelation 22:14 ). This was the city which Abraham looked for.
new--Greek, "kaine." Not the old Jerusalem, once called "the holy city," but having forfeited the name. Greek, "nea," would express that it had recently come into existence; but Greek, "kaine," that which is new and different, superseding the worn-out old Jerusalem and its polity. "John, in the Gospel, applies to the old city the Greek name Hierosolyma. But in the Apocalypse, always, to the heavenly city the Hebrew name, Hierousalem. The Hebrew name is the original and holier one: the Greek, the recent and more secular and political one" [BENGEL].
my new name--at present incommunicable and only known to God: to be hereafter revealed and made the believer's own in union with God in Christ. Christ's name written on him denotes he shall be wholly Christ's. New also relates to Christ, who shall assume a new character (answering to His "new name") entering with His saints on a kingdom--not that which He had with the Father before the worlds, but that earned by His humiliation as Son of man. GIBBON, the infidel [Decline and Fall, ch. 64], gives an unwilling testimony to the fulfilment of the prophecy as to Philadelphia from a temporal point of view, Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect,--a column in a scene of ruins--a pleasing example that the paths of honor and safety may sometimes be the same."
14. Laodiceans--The city was in the southwest of Phrygia, on the river Lycus, not far from Colosse, and lying between it and Philadelphia. It was destroyed by an earthquake, A.D. 62, and rebuilt by its wealthy citizens without the help of the state [TACITUS, Annals, 14.27]. This wealth (arising from the excellence of its wools) led to a self-satisfied, lukewarm state in spiritual things, as Revelation 3:17 describes. written to the Laodicean Church by Paul. The Church in latter times was apparently flourishing; for one of the councils at which the canon of Scripture was determined was held in Laodicea in A.D. 361. Hardly a Christian is now to be found on or near its site.
the Amen--( Isaiah 65:16 , Hebrew, "Bless Himself in the God of Amen . . . swear by the God of Amen," 2 Corinthians 1:20 ). He who not only says, but is, the Truth. The saints used Amen at the end of prayer, or in assenting to the word of God; but none, save the Son of God, ever said, "Amen, I say unto you," for it is the language peculiar to God, who avers by Himself. The New Testament formula, "Amen. I say unto you," is equivalent to the Old Testament formula, "as I live, saith Jehovah." In John's Gospel alone He uses (in the Greek) the double "Amen," John 1:51 , 3:3 , &c.; in English Version," Verily, verily." The title happily harmonizes with the address. His unchanging faithfulness as "the Amen" contrasts with Laodicea's wavering of purpose, "neither hot nor cold" ( Revelation 3:16 ). The angel of Laodicea has with some probability been conjectured to be Archippus, to whom, thirty years previously, Paul had already given a monition, as needing to be stirred up to diligence in his ministry. So the Apostolic Constitutions, [8.46], name him as the first bishop of Laodicea: supposed to be the son of Philemon ( Philemon 1:2 ).
faithful and true witness--As "the Amen" expresses the unchangeable truth of His promises; so "the faithful the true witness," the truth of His revelations as to the heavenly things which He has seen and testifies. "Faithful," that is, trustworthy ( 2 Timothy 2:11 2 Timothy 2:13 ). "True" is here (Greek, "alethinos") not truth-speaking (Greek, "alethes"), but "perfectly realizing all that is comprehended in the name Witness" ( 1 Timothy 6:13 ). Three things are necessary for this: (1) to have seen with His own eyes what He attests; (2) to be competent to relate it for others; (3) to be willing truthfully to do so. In Christ all these conditions meet [TRENCH].
beginning of the creation of God--not he whom God created first, but as in Colossians 1:15-18 the Beginner of all creation, its originating instrument. All creation would not be represented adoring Him, if He were but one of themselves. His being the Creator is a strong guarantee for His faithfulness as "the Witness and Amen."
15. neither cold--The antithesis to "hot," literally, "boiling" ("fervent," Acts 18:25 , Romans 12:11 ; compare Solomon 8:6 , Luke 24:32 ), requires that "cold" should here mean more than negatively cold; it is rather, positively icy cold: having never yet been warmed. The Laodiceans were in spiritual things cold comparatively, but not cold as the world outside, and as those who had never belonged to the Church. The lukewarm state, if it be the transitional stage to a warmer, is a desirable state (for a little religion, if real, is better than none); but most fatal when, as here, an abiding condition, for it is mistaken for a safe state ( Revelation 3:17 ). This accounts for Christ's desiring that they were cold rather than lukewarm. For then there would not be the same "danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle" [ALFORD]. Also, there is more hope of the "cold," that is, those who are of the world, and not yet warmed by the Gospel call; for, when called, they may become hot and fervent Christians: such did the once-cold publicans, Zaccheus and Matthew, become. But the lukewarm has been brought within reach of the holy fire, without being heated by it into fervor: having religion enough to lull the conscience in false security, but not religion enough to save the soul: as Demas, 2 Timothy 4:10 . Such were the halters between two opinions in Israel ( 1 Kings 18:21 ; compare 2 Kings 17:41 , Matthew 6:24 ).
16. neither cold nor hot--So one oldest manuscript, B, and Vulgate read. But two oldest manuscripts, Syriac, and Coptic transpose thus, "hot nor cold." It is remarkable that the Greek adjectives are in the masculine, agreeing with the angel, not feminine, agreeing with the Church. The Lord addresses the angel as the embodiment and representative of the Church. The chief minister is answerable for his flock if he have not faithfully warned the members of it.
I will--Greek, "I am about to," "I am ready to": I have it in my mind: implying graciously the possibility of the threat not being executed, if only they repent at once. His dealings towards them will depend on theirs towards Him.
spue thee out of my month--reject with righteous loathing, as Canaan spued out its inhabitants for their abominations. Physicians used lukewarm water to cause vomiting. Cold and hot drinks were common at feasts, but never lukewarm. There were hot and cold springs near Laodicea.
17. Self-sufficiency is the fatal danger of a lukewarm state
thou sayest--virtually and mentally, if not in so many words.
increased with goods--Greek, "have become enriched," implying self-praise in self-acquired riches. The Lord alludes to Hosea 12:8 . The riches on which they prided themselves were spiritual riches; though, doubtless, their spiritual self-sufficiency ("I have need of nothing") was much fostered by their worldly wealth; as, on the other hand, poverty of spirit is fostered by poverty in respect to worldly riches.
knowest not that thou--in particular above all others. The "THOU" in the Greek is emphatic.
art wretched--Greek, "art the wretched one."
miserable--So one oldest manuscripts reads. But two oldest manuscripts prefix "the." Translate, "the pitiable"; "the one especially to be pitied." How different Christ's estimate of men, from their own estimate of themselves, "I have need of nothing!"
blind--whereas Laodicea boasted of a deeper than common insight into divine things. They were not absolutely blind, else eye-salve would have been of no avail to them; but short-sighted.
18. Gentle and loving irony. Take My advice, thou who fanciest thyself in need of nothing. Not only art thou not in need of nothing, but art in need of the commonest necessaries of existence. He graciously stoops to their modes of thought and speech: Thou art a people ready to listen to any counsel as to how to buy to advantage; then, listen to My counsel (for I am "Counsellor," Isaiah 9:6 ), buy of ME" (in whom, according to Paul's Epistle written to the neighboring Colosse and intended for the Laodicean Church also, Colossians 2:1 Colossians 2:3 , 4:16 , are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge). "Buy" does not imply that we can, by any work or merit of ours, purchase God's free gift; nay the very purchase money consists in the renunciation of all self-righteousness, such as Laodicea had ( Revelation 3:17 ). "Buy" at the cost of thine own self-sufficiency (so Paul, Philippians 3:7 Philippians 3:8 ); and the giving up of all things, however dear to us, that would prevent our receiving Christ's salvation as a free gift, for example, self and worldly desires. Compare Isaiah 55:1 , "Buy . . . without money and price."
of me--the source of "unsearchable riches" ( Ephesians 3:8 ). Laodicea was a city of extensive money transactions [CICERO].
gold tried in, &c.--literally, "fired (and fresh) from the fire," that is, just fresh from the furnace which has proved its purity, and retaining its bright gloss. Sterling spiritual wealth, as contrasted with its counterfeit, in which Laodicea boasted itself. Having bought this gold she will be no longer poor ( Revelation 3:17 ).
mayest be rich--Greek, "mayest be enriched."
white raiment--"garments." Laodicea's wools were famous. Christ offers infinitely whiter raiment. As "gold tried in the fire" expresses faith tested by fiery trials: so "white raiment," Christ's righteousness imputed to the believer in justification and imparted in sanctification.
appear--Greek, "be manifested," namely, at the last day, when everyone without the wedding. garment shall be discovered. To strip one, is in the East the image of putting to open shame. So also to clothe one with fine apparel is the image of doing him honor. Man can discover his shame, God alone can cover it, so that his nakedness shall not be manifested at last ( Colossians 3:10-14 ). Blessed is he whose sin is so covered. The hypocrite's shame may be manifested now; it must be so at last.
anoint . . . with eye-salve--The oldest manuscripts read, "(buy of Me) eye-salve (collyrium, a roll of ointment), to anoint thine eyes." Christ has for Laodicea an ointment far more precious than all the costly unguents of the East. The eye is here the conscience or inner light of the mind. According as it is sound and "single" (Greek, "haplous," "simple"), or otherwise, the man sees aright spiritually, or does not. The Holy Spirit's unction, like the ancient eye-salve's, first smarts with conviction of sin, then heals. He opens our eyes first to ourselves in our wretchedness, then to the Saviour in His preciousness. TRENCH notices that the most sunken churches of the seven, namely, Sardis and Laodicea, are the ones in which alone are specified no opponents from without, nor heresies from within. The Church owes much to God's overruling Providence which has made so often internal and external foes, in spite of themselves, to promote His cause by calling forth her energies in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints. Peace is dearly bought at the cost of spiritual stagnation, where there is not interest enough felt in religion to contend about it at all.
19. ( Job 5:17 , Proverbs 3:11 Proverbs 3:12 , Hebrews 12:5 Hebrews 12:6 .) So in the case of Manasseh ( 2 Chronicles 33:11-13 ).
As many--All. "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. And shalt thou be an exception? If excepted from suffering the scourge, thou art excepted from the number of the sons" [AUGUSTINE]. This is an encouragement to Laodicea not to despair, but to regard the rebuke as a token for good, if she profit by it.
I love--Greek, "philo," the love of gratuitous affection, independent of any grounds for esteem in the object loved. But in the case of Philadelphia ( Revelation 3:9 ), "I have loved thee" (Greek, "egapesa") with the love of esteem, founded on the judgment. Compare the note in my English Gnomon of BENGEL, John 21:15-17 .
I rebuke--The "I" in the Greek stands first in the sentence emphatically. I in My dealings, so altogether unlike man's, in the case of all whom I love, rebuke. The Greek, "elencho," is the same verb. as in John 16:8 , "(the Holy Ghost) will convince (rebuke unto conviction) the world of sin."
chasten--"chastise." The Greek, "paideu," which in classical Greek means to instruct, in the New Testament means to instruct by chastisement ( Hebrews 12:5 Hebrews 12:6 ). David was rebuked unto conviction, when he cried, "I have sinned against the Lord"; the chastening followed when his child was taken from him ( 2 Samuel 12:13 2 Samuel 12:14 ). In the divine chastening, the sinner at one and the same time winces under the rod and learns righteousness.
be zealous--habitually. Present tense in the Greek, of a lifelong course of zeal. The opposite of "lukewarm." The Greek by alliteration marks this: Laodicea had not been "hot" (Greek, "zestos"), she is therefore urged to "be zealous" (Greek, "zeleue"): both are derived from the same verb, Greek, "zeo," "to boil."
repent--Greek aorist: of an act to be once for all done, and done at once.
20. stand--waiting in wonderful condescension and long-suffering.
knock--( Solomon 5:2 ). This is a further manifestation of His loving desire for the sinner's salvation. He who is Himself "the Door," and who bids us "knock" that it may be "opened unto" us, is first Himself to knock at the door of our hearts. If He did not knock first, we should never come to knock at His door. Compare Solomon 5:4-6 , which is plainly alluded to here; the Spirit thus in Revelation sealing the canonicity of that mystical book. The spiritual state of the bride there, between waking and sleeping, slow to open the door to her divine lover, answers to that of the lukewarm Laodicea here. "Love in regard to men emptied (humbled) God; for He does not remain in His place and call to Himself the servant whom He loved, but He comes down Himself to seek him, and He who is all-rich arrives at the lodging of the pauper, and with His own voice intimates His yearning love, and seeks a similar return, and withdraws not when disowned, and is not impatient at insult, and when persecuted still waits at the doors" [NICOLAUS CABASILAS in TRENCH].
my voice--He appeals to the sinner not only with His hand (His providences) knocking, but with His voice (His word read or heard; or rather, His Spirit inwardly applying to man's spirit the lessons to be drawn from His providence and His word). If we refuse to answer to His knocking at our door now, He will refuse to hear our knocking at His door hereafter. In respect to His second coming also, He is even now at the door, and we know not how soon He may knock: therefore we should always be ready to open to Him immediately.
if any man hear--for man is not compelled by irresistible force: Christ knocks, but does not break open the door, though the violent take heaven by the force of prayer ( Matthew 11:12 ): whosoever does hear, does so not of himself, but by the drawings of God's grace ( John 6:44 ): repentance is Christ's gift ( Acts 5:31 ). He draws, not drags. The Sun of righteousness, like the natural sun, the moment that the door is opened, pours in His light, which could not previously find an entrance. Compare HILARY on Psalm 118:19.
I will come in to him--as I did to Zaccheus.
sup with him, and he with me--Delightful reciprocity! Compare "dwelleth in me, and I in Him," John 6:56 . Whereas, ordinarily, the admitted guest sups with the admitter, here the divine guest becomes Himself the host, for He is the bread of life, and the Giver of the marriage feast. Here again He alludes to the imagery of Solomon 4:16 , where the Bride invites Him to eat pleasant fruits, even as He had first prepared a feast for her, "His fruit was sweet to my taste." Compare the same interchange, John 21:9-13 , the feast being made up of the viands that Jesus brought, and those which the disciples brought. The consummation of this blessed intercommunion shall be at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, of which the Lord's Supper is the earnest and foretaste.
21. sit with me in my throne--( Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:27 , 20:6 , Matthew 19:28 , 20:23 , John 17:22 John 17:24 , 2 Timothy 2:12 ). The same whom Christ had just before threatened to spue out of His mouth, is now offered a seat with Him on His throne! "The highest place is within reach of the lowest; the faintest spark of grace may be fanned into the mightiest flame of love" [TRENCH].
even as I also--Two thrones are here mentioned: (1) His Father's, upon which He now sits, and has sat since His ascension, after His victory over death, sin, the world; upon this none can sit save God, and the God-man Christ Jesus, for it is the incommunicable prerogative of God alone; (2) the throne which shall be peculiarly His as the once humbled and then glorified Son of man, to be set up over the whole earth (heretofore usurped by Satan) at His coming again; in this the victorious saints shall share ( 1 Corinthians 6:2 ). The transfigured elect Church shall with Christ judge and reign over the nations in the flesh, and Israel the foremost of them; ministering blessings to them as angels were the Lord's mediators of blessing and administrators of His government in setting up His throne in Israel at Sinai. This privilege of our high calling belongs exclusively to the present time while Satan reigns, when alone there is scope for conflict and for victory ( 2 Timothy 2:11 2 Timothy 2:12 ). When Satan shall be bound ( Revelation 20:4 ), there shall be no longer scope for it, for all on earth shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest. This, the grandest and crowning promise, is placed at the end of all the seven addresses, to gather all in one. It also forms the link to the next part of the book, where the Lamb is introduced seated on His Father's throne ( Revelation 4:2 Revelation 4:3 , Revelation 5:5 Revelation 5:6 ). The Eastern throne is broad, admitting others besides him who, as chief, occupies the center. TRENCH notices; The order of the promises in the seven epistles corresponds to that of the unfolding of the kingdom of God its first beginnings on earth to its consummation in heaven. To the faithful at Ephesus: (1) The tree of life in the Paradise of God is promised ( Revelation 2:7 ), answering to Genesis 2:9 . (2) Sin entered the world and death by sin; but to the faithful at Smyrna it is promised, they shall not be hurt by the second death ( Revelation 2:11 ). (3) The promise of the hidden manna ( Revelation 2:17 ) to Pergamos brings us to the Mosaic period, the Church in the wilderness. (4) That to Thyatira, namely, triumph over the nations ( Revelation 2:26 Revelation 2:27 ), forms the consummation of the kingdom in prophetic type, the period of David and Solomon characterized by this power of the nations. Here there is a division, the seven falling into two groups, four and three, as often, for example, the Lord's Prayer, three and four. The scenery of the last three passes from earth to heaven, the Church contemplated as triumphant, with its steps from glory to glory. (5) Christ promises to the believer of Sardis not to blot his name out of the book of life but to confess him before His Father and the angels at the judgment-day, and clothe him with a glorified body of dazzling whiteness ( Revelation 3:4 Revelation 3:5 ). (6) To the faithful at Philadelphia Christ promises they shall be citizens of the new Jerusalem, fixed as immovable pillars there, where city and temple are one ( Revelation 3:12 ); here not only individual salvation is promised to the believer, as in the case of Sardis, but also privileges in the blessed communion of the Church triumphant. (7) Lastly, to the faithful of Laodicea is given the crowning promise, not only the two former blessings, but a seat with Christ on His throne, even as He has sat with His Father on His Father's throne ( Revelation 3:21 ).