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Revelation Chapter 3: "Messages to the Churches"

Revelation Chapter 3: "Messages to the Churches"


Revelation 3 presents Christ's message to the Church at Sardis, addressing the difference between their Christian name and lack of good works. Many in the Church, including the bishop, appear alive but are spiritually dead due to their enslavement to sin and neglect of their duties.

Christ calls these individuals to repent and return to apostolic teachings, warning that He will come suddenly, like a thief, to judge those unprepared. This judgment will end earthly toil for the faithful but bring spiritual death to the unrepentant.

However, some in Sardis remain faithful, known by Christ, and walk in purity. If they preserve their sanctity and keep their baptism unblemished, these faithful ones are promised white robes of eternal life. Christ will acknowledge them before His Father and the angels.

This study delves into Sardis's spiritual condition, the urgent call to repentance, and the promises of eternal life to uncover profound theological insights and practical applications relevant to today's Christians.

Revelation 3:1 Study Notes

Sardis: Historical Context

  • Sardis, located 30 miles southeast of Thyatira, was known for its wealth and strong fortifications.

  • Despite its ancient and compelling history, the city had declined.

Spiritual Decline of the Church in Sardis

  • The Church in Sardis was experiencing spiritual death, not due to heresy or immorality, but due to compromise with the surrounding pagan world.

  • Although the Church appeared alive, it was spiritually dead (Matthew 21:19).

Irony in Christ's Accusation

  • Christ's accusation is ironic because Sardis boasted of a temple to the Asian Minor mother-goddess Cybele, who was believed to restore the dead to life.

Symbols in Revelation 3:1

  • Seven Stars: Represent the angels that guide the churches, as seen in John's letter to Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7).

  • Seven Spirits of God: These indicate God's powerful presence within the Church. They could also refer to the sevenfold operation of the Spirit of God, as described by Isaiah (Isaiah 11:2).

Early Interpretations

  • St. Justin, an early interpreter, proposed a connection to Isaiah's sevenfold Spirit.

  • St. Melito, bishop of Sardis in 190, was the earliest recorded interpreter of Revelation.

Revelation 3:2-5 Study Notes

Verse 2: Call to Wake Up and Strengthen

  • Christ calls the Church in Sardis to wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.

  • Their deeds are incomplete in the sight of God, indicating a need for vigilance and spiritual renewal.

Verse 3: Remember and Repent

  • Christ urges them to remember what they have received and heard, to obey it, and to repent.

  • If they do not wake up, Christ will come like a thief, suddenly and unexpectedly, bringing judgment.

Verses 4-5: Promise to the Faithful

  • Verse 4: A few in Sardis have not soiled their clothes despite the spiritual deadness. They will walk with Christ, dressed in white, symbolizing purity and righteousness.

  • Verse 5: Those who overcome will all be dressed in white garments; their names will never be blotted out from the Book of Life (Revelation 13:8, 17:8; 20:12-15; Exodus 32:32; Psalm 69:28; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; also see 1 Enoch 47:3), and Christ will acknowledge their names before His Father and His angels.

Connection to Matthew 22:11-14

  • In Matthew 22:11-14, Jesus tells the parable of the wedding banquet, where a man without wedding clothes is thrown out. This highlights the importance of adequately clothed, symbolizing righteousness and readiness for God's Kingdom.

  • Similarly, in Revelation 3:4-5, those who are faithful and pure are promised white garments, signifying their acceptance and eternal life in God's Kingdom. Those unprepared will face judgment, just like the parable's improperly clothed guest.

Revelation 3:7 Study Notes

Philadelphia: Historical Context

  • The city of Philadelphia, known today as Alashehier, is located in modern-day Turkey.

  • It was a smaller and newer city than the other six churches mentioned in Revelation.

  • Philadelphia was situated about 30 miles southeast of Sardis.

Key of David

  • The "Key of David" is a messianic reference in Isaiah 22:22 (only in Hebrew).

  • This key signifies the authority to judge in God's Name and to admit or exclude from the City of David, the New Jerusalem.

  • In Ephesians 1:22, Christ is described as having authority over the Church, which aligns with the concept of the Key of David.

  • St. Ignatius refers to Christ as the Door to the Father, emphasizing His role as the mediator and judge who grants access to God's presence.

Revelation 3:8-12 Study Notes

Verse 8: Christ's Recognition of Philadelphia's Faithfulness

  • Christ acknowledges the works of the Church in Philadelphia, recognizing that they have little power but have kept His Word and not denied His name.

  • Despite their small size and limited strength, they have remained faithful, which Christ commends.

Verse 9: Humility of Their Opponents

  • Christ promises that He will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who falsely claim to be Jews, come and bow down before the believers' feet.

  • The term "worship" is better understood as "bow down" or "kneel," indicating an act of humility and acknowledgment of the believers' genuine relationship with God rather than literal worship of them.

  • This act signifies the dismissal of the faithful believers and the recognition of their faithfulness by their opponents.

Verse 10: Promise of Protection

  • Because the Church has kept Christ's command to endure patiently, He promises to keep them from the hour of trial coming upon the whole world to test those who dwell on the earth.

  • This implies divine protection and deliverance from a time of severe testing and tribulation, sources (John 17:15, Daniel 12:1; Matthew 6:13; Mark 13:4; John 17:6, 15; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12), see also Chapters 8, 9, and 16, here in Revelation.

Verse 11: Encouragement to Hold Fast

  • Christ encourages the believers to hold fast to what they have so that no one will take their crown.

  • This emphasizes the importance of perseverance and faithfulness to retain their reward and position in God's Kingdom.

Verse 12: Promise to the Overcomers

  • Those who overcome will be made pillars in the temple of God, signifying a permanent, honored place in God's presence.

  • They will never leave it, indicating eternal security and stability.

  • Christ will write on them the name of God, the name of the city of God (the new Jerusalem), and His new name, symbolizing their complete identification and union with God.

  • The new Jerusalem is described as coming down from heaven, signifying the ultimate fulfillment of God's promise and the establishment of His eternal Kingdom.

Revelation 3:14 Study Notes

Laodicea: Historical Context

  • Modern Location: Laodicea, known today as Eski-Hisar, is in modern-day Turkey.

  • Geographical Position: It was 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia, on the same road.

  • City Prosperity:

  • Wealth: Laodicea was a prosperous city known for its wealth.

  • Industry: It boasted a particular type of wool and had a large banking industry.

  • Medical School: The city was famously known for its medical school.

  • Jewish Population: Many Jews lived in Laodicea.

  • Paul's Letter: Paul wrote a letter to Laodicea, mentioned in Colossians 4:16, which was to be exchanged with the Colossians. This letter no longer exists unless it is identical to the Epistle to the Ephesians.

Christ as "Amen"

  • Divine Title: "Amen" is a sacred title applied to Christ, signifying God's promises' final ratification and accomplishment (2 Corinthians 1:19-20).

  • Faithful and True Witness: This Title affirms Christ's sureness and steadfastness; other sources (see Proverbs 8:23(LXX); John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2).

"Beginning" (Greek "archer")

  • Controversy:

  • Arians: Ancient Arians and modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses used this term to argue that Christ was created, thus denying His eternal existence.

  • Accurate Translation:

  • Source or Origin: The term "arche" can be more accurately translated as "source" or "origin," signifying that Christ is the Master of all.

  • Principle of Creation: This term indicates that Christ is the principle, the source of God's creation, the creative Word, and the Word Wisdom of God.

By organizing these notes, we see that Laodicea was a significant and prosperous city with a notable Jewish population and connection to Paul's letters. Christ is affirmed as the "Amen" and the "Faithful and True Witness," emphasizing His authority and divine nature. The term "beginning" is clarified to highlight Christ's role as the source and origin of all creation, countering interpretations that suggest He was created.

Revelation 3:15-16 Study Notes

Geographical Context

  • Hierapolis, located six miles from Laodicea, had hot springs that supplied water to the area.

  • By the time this water reached Laodicea, it had become lukewarm.

  • The water was unpalatable due to its mineral content, making it neither refreshing nor enjoyable to drink.

Spiritual Analogy

  • The water's lukewarmness mirrors the Laodicean Church's spiritual hunger and good works.

  • Just as the water lost its refreshing qualities, the Laodiceans lacked zeal and commitment to their faith.

  • Their spiritual indifference was displeasing to the Lord, who desires His followers to be either hot (zealous and fervent) or cold (refreshing and committed).

These notes illustrate how the physical characteristics of the water supply in Laodicea serve as a metaphor for the Church's spiritual condition. Their faith's lack of enthusiasm and commitment is likened to the lukewarm and unpalatable water, emphasizing the need for spiritual renewal and wholehearted devotion to the Lord.

Revelation 3:17-18 Study Notes

Material Preoccupation

  • The Laodiceans are preoccupied with material wealth and comfort, which has led to spiritual deadness and complacency.

  • Their focus on worldly possessions has dulled their spiritual enthusiasm and vitality.

Christ's Diagnosis and Counsel

  • As the Physician of souls and bodies, Christ denounces their self-sufficiency and self-stratification.

  • He advises them to seek true spiritual wealth, forgiveness, and the resurrection of life.

  • Christ offers enlightenment, symbolized by the eye salve, corresponding to their leading industry.

Symbolic Imagery

  • God Represents the ultimate source of true wealth and fulfillment, contrasting with the material wealth sought by the Laodiceans.

  • White Garments: Symbolize purity and righteousness, contrasting with the spiritual nakedness resulting from their worldly pursuits.

  • Eye Salve: Represents spiritual enlightenment and clarity, contrasting with their spiritual blindness caused by their focus on worldly gain.

Love and Chastisement

  • Christ's counsel is offered out of love to bring natural healing and true, everlasting riches.

  • Chastisement is provided as a means of correction and discipline, encouraging the Laodiceans to turn away from their self-sufficiency and return to a right relationship with God.

By organizing these notes, we see Christ's diagnosis of the Laodiceans' spiritual condition, their preoccupation with material wealth, and His counsel to seek true spiritual riches. The symbolic imagery of God, white garments, and eye salve highlight the contrast between worldly pursuits and spiritual fulfillment. Christ's love and chastisement are offered as a means of correction and restoration, inviting the Laodiceans to repentance and renewed devotion to Him.

Revelation 3:20 Study Notes

Invitation to Dine

  • Christ's statement, "I will dine with him," invites us to fellowship and communion with Him.

  • The imagery of dining together symbolizes intimacy and relationship, demonstrating God's desire for communion with humanity.

Synergy of Cooperation

  • The Open Door indicates that cooperation is essential for fulfilling this invitation.

  • God respects human free will and does not force anyone to cooperate with Him.

  • He patiently waits, knocking at the Door of hearts, eagerly awaiting a response.

Promise of Messianic Banquet

  • The promise of dining together looks forward to the messianic banquet, symbolized by the wedding supper of the Lamb of God (John 19:9, Luke 22:30).

  • It also points to the Holy Eucharist, which provides a foretaste of the heavenly feast.

  • All faithful disciples are promised to partake in this banquet, as seen in Luke 22:28-30, in the ultimate reality of the Kingdom of heaven.

Parallels in Scripture

  • Parallels can be drawn between Christ's invitation and the parable of the bridegroom in Matthew 25:1-13.

  • Similarly, Luke 13:25-30 teaches about those who will shut themselves out of the feast of the Kingdom, highlighting the importance of readiness and cooperation with God's invitation.

By organizing these notes, we see Christ's invitation to communion and fellowship contingent upon human cooperation and response. The promise of dining together extends to the ultimate fulfillment of the messianic banquet and the Holy Eucharist, emphasizing the importance of readiness and anticipation of God's Kingdom.

Revelation 3:21 Study Notes

Cooperation and Conquest

  • The one who cooperates with God overcomes or conquers.

  • Cooperation with God involves heeding His rebuke and chastening (v. 19), which leads to victory over lukewarmness and spiritual lethargy (vv. 15, 16).

Sharing in Christ's Trials

  • Those who share in Christ's trials will also share His blessings.

  • This includes sharing His table and throne in His Kingdom, as promised in various Scriptures:

  • Revelation 4:4 portrays the twenty-four elders seated on thrones around God's throne, symbolizing the redeemed sharing in Christ's royal authority.

  • Revelation 20:4-6 describes the reign of the saints with Christ for a thousand years, signifying their participation in His authority and rule.

  • Revelation 22:3-5 depicts the redeemed serving God in His presence, reigning with Him forever.

  • Luke 22:30 promises the disciples a place at Christ's table in His Kingdom.

  • 2 Timothy 2:12 assures believers that they will reign with Christ if they endure.

Outcome of Conquest

  • The outcome of conquest is sharing in Christ's authority and glory, symbolized by sharing His table and throne in His Kingdom.

Organizing these notes shows that cooperation with God leads to victory over spiritual challenges and a share in Christ's blessings and authority. This includes sharing in His trials and, ultimately, sharing His table and throne in His eternal Kingdom.

In Christ, love Jared W. Campbell

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