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Revelation 3

SUMMARY.--Letter to the Church at Sardis; the Spiritually Dead Church. Letter to the Tried and Faithful Church of Philadelphia. Letter to the Lukewarm Church of Laodicea.

      THE CHURCH AT LAODICEA. 14-22. The church in Laodicea. Laodicea was situated in the valley of the Lycus, near Colosse and Hierapolis. All three of these churches are named by Paul in the Colossian letter, and an epistle, now probably lost, was sent to Laodicea. The city of Laodicea was very proud of its wealth in the latter part of the first century, a fact we learn from profane history. The church was probably founded by Epaphras, a companion of Paul. The condemnation of the Lord in this epistle is severe, and its extinction is threatened. The site of the ancient city is uninhabited now, and of course the church has long since cease to exist. Saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness. See notes on 1:5; also on /Commentaries/PeoplesNewTestament/pnt.cgi?book=&chapter=000#_" The beginning of the creation. The Being from which the creation begins, the Word that made all things. 15. I know thy works. The same statement has been made of all the churches, but in all the others there has been something to praise. Thou art neither cold nor hot. Neither acting hostile to Christ, nor zealous for Him. Christ would rather that men should be opposers than formal, apathetic professors. 16. So then because thou art lukewarm. This lukewarmness was most offensive, and hence the Lord declares that they shall be rejected like nauseous food. The figure indicates loathing. 17. Because thou sayest, I am rich. Worldly prosperity had, probably, made the church indifferent. Knowest not that thou are wretched. Because rejected by the Lord. Poor. Destitute of the true riches. Blind. Blinded by the god of this world. 18. I counsel thee to buy of me gold. "In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom" ( Col. 2:3 ). White raiment. That they may have the wedding garments ( Matt. 22:11-13 ). Anoint thine eyes with eye salve. The unction of the Holy Spirit ( 1 John 2:20 ). 19. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. See Hebrews 12:5 Hebrews 12:16 . 20. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. The language implies that Christ is near. If they will open the door by repentance he is ready to enter and bless. If any man hear my voice. Hear and obey. Then the Lord will enter and they shall partake together of the richness of the feast. 21. Will I grant to sit with me in my throne. He shall reign with Christ; that is, as a coadjutor of Christ. As I also overcame. As the result of his overcoming "God exalted him to be a Prince and a Savior," and "to sit at the right hand of the Majesty of the heavens." As he was exalted, so he will exalt all his brethren who win the victory over sin and temptation.

      THE FATE OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES. In view of the promises and threats of the Savior to these Seven Churches a concise view of their subsequent history would be helpful. Two of the churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, are praised without the slightest censure. Three, Ephesus, Sardis, and Laodicea, are severely blamed and threatened with extinction. Two more, Pergamos and Thyatira, are both praised and blamed, and admonished to repent. The two first, Smyrna and Philadelphia, are now and have been since the first century, the seats of churches and of a large Christian population. Of Philadelphia the skeptical Gibbon says: "Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy or by courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom alone for four score years, and then capitulated with the proudest of the Ottomans. 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."--Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter LXIV. The three churches so severely censured and threatened, Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea, ceased to exist many centuries since, and even the cities have long been uninhabited. The two remaining churches, Pergamos and Thyatira, were never entirely blotted out and a small Christian population is found in both places to this time.

      ALLEGED OPPOSITION TO PAUL. Renan and some rationalistic critics of Germany have been determined to see in Revelation a strong Judaizing spirit and a bitter opposition to Paul and his work among the Gentiles. Their interpretations illustrate how far astray a man may be led who has a theory to sustain. They insist that the Nicolaitanes, the followers of Balaam, "that woman Jezebel," and those "who say they are Jews and are not," are all adherents of Paul. These interpretations are so improbable that they cannot be even considered unless they have some historical basis. That is wanting. Had John been the extreme Judaizer supposed he never would have taken refuge among Gentile churches planted and trained by Paul. Had he sought to revolutionize them traces of his effort would have remained in the writings of the men who had seen, heard and been taught by John. Of this extreme aversion to Paul and his work, Polycarp, Papias and Irenæus knew nothing. It remained unknown to the whole world until discovered by certain modern rationalistic critics. On the other hand, there is not the slightest discord between the teaching of Paul in his epistles and the Book of Revelation.

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