Revelation Chapter Three

More Of God's Letters To The Church

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In our study of Revelation chapter three, we continue with our look at God's letters to the early church and discuss their relevance to the church of today.

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Revelation 3:1

"To the angel of the Messianic Community in Sardis, write: 'Here is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: "I know what you are doing - you have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead!

Sardis (located in what is now the southwestern part of Turkey) was the chief city of the Lydian Empire and was famous for arts and crafts. It was the first city to produce gold and silver coins and one of its kings (Croesus) is famous for his wealth as well as his pride. It is also known for one of the largest synagogues excavated from that period therefore it would have looked like a thriving place of worship to God. The church in the city was not persecuted because they were the perfect model of an inoffensive church (they did not even attempt to affect the city around them). Yeshua begins the letter to this church by reminding them that he has all power and that it is his message that counts. He then reminds them that, by that power, he knows all of their deeds and that he sees the truth about them and not just what is presented to the outside world. They had a reputation of being Christians but they were not lead by the Holy Spirit. It is sad to say but many of the "churches" of today are the same way as they are lead by men instead of the Spirit of God. It is usually very easy to spot them as they have the fanciest of buildings and a large staff of "pastors" but they do not serve the people around them as Yeshua did. They attend the latest leadership training seminar and try the latest program for church growth instead of simply praying and listening for God's leadership. They look good on the outside but inside they are dead.

Revelation 3:2

Wake up, and strengthen what remains, before it dies too! For I have found what you are doing incomplete in the sight of my God.

In verse 1, Yeshua identified the majority of the people in the church at Sardis as being dead referring to the fact that they do not have the Spirit of God living in them. In this verse, he addresses the second group of people in this church which are those who are asleep. He tells them to "Wake up!" as they are not being influenced by the city around them but they are basically sleepwalking in their walk with the Lord. They attend the services and perform the regular routine worship, but they are not living out their faith. He warns them that this is a dangerous place to be as their faith is "about to die". The same can be said of many in the local churches today as they show up on Sunday and go through the routine but do not live their faith.

Revelation 3:3

So remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and turn from your sin! For if you don't wake up, I will come like a thief; and you don't know at what moment I will come upon you.

In the first part of this verse, Yeshua is calling the group of believers in Sardis to remember that we are called to be disciples. When we accept Yeshua as our Savior, he also becomes our Lord and we are to be his disciples. A disciple is one who follows the teachings of the master. On our own, we cannot closely follow Yeshua but we have also been given a gift called the Holy Spirit to give us the power to follow. Yeshua is calling them and us as well to let the very Spirit of God help us and lead us. In the last part of the verse, Yeshua reminds them that he is coming back to judge everyone and everything.

Revelation 3:4

Nevertheless, you do have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; and they will walk with me, clothed in white, because they are worthy.

Now, Yeshua introduces us to the third group of people in the church at Sardis. These are the Christians who walk the talk. They are alive and active in their following of Yeshua Messiah through the Holy Spirit. God is in control of their lives and so they are promised white clothes that represent purity. Since they have walked with God on the earth, they will "walk with me".

Revelation 3:5 & 6

He who wins the victory will, like them, be dressed in white clothing; and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; in fact, I will acknowledge him individually before my Father and before his angels. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities."'

What a wonderful passage of hope these verses provide. After all that Yeshua says to the church in Sardis about those that are not being obedient, he now offers hope. If they, and we, will turn back to God (repent) and allow him to lead, the relationship will be restored and we will have a place with the Father in heaven. Once again, the letter to the church is concluded with the plea for all of the church to hear and listen. The passage speaks of blotting out names from the book of life and we are reminded that each one of us was created to be with God forever. The only way to have your name blotted out of the book of life is to reject Yeshua Messiah and his grace.

Revelation 3:7

"To the angel of the Messianic Community in Philadelphia, write: 'Here is the message of HaKadosh, the True One, the one who has the key of David, who, if he opens something, no one else can shut it, and if he closes something, no one else can open it.

Now, Yeshua addresses the small group of believers at Philadelphia. The city, whose name means brotherly love, was an outpost for the spreading of Greek culture. The city was located in a rich agricultural area where grapes were the major product and the city became a center of Dionysiac worship (they worshiped the Greek god of the grape harvest). Yeshua introduces himself as the one with authority (key of David). The Hebrew word for key is maphteah and it means "an opener or that which shuts". In the ancient days these keys were very large and made of wood. They were carried on the shoulder of officials and so became a symbol of authority. (see Isaiah 22:20-22)

Revelation 3:8

"I know what you are doing. Look, I have put in front of you an open door, and no one can shut it. I know that you have but little power, yet you have obeyed my message and have not disowned me.

In the first part of this verse, Yeshua is assuring the church that he knows about their struggles and that he is in control. The door refers not only to the fact that Yeshua is the door to salvation but also that he has made a way for this church to share the message with those around them. In spite of all the difficulties, he has provided a way for them to reach the lost around them. That same promise is for us today, even in the most oppressive places, God has made a way for the people to hear the good news of salvation through Yeshua Messiah. In the last part of the verse, he says they have little strength but he is not talking about physical power. Yeshua is referring to the fact that this was a small church in number of believers but he is reminding them that he is in control and he knows they are being faithful. He says that they have "kept my word" as he is talking about the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20) and Yeshua's last instructions to the disciples. It seems that in many churches of today, unlike this church in Philadelphia, they concentrate on the number of their attendees and plan to reach the world around them when they get big enough. With the church in Philadelphia, we see that it is not the number of people that counts but going through the doors that God opens to reach those around us.

Revelation 3:9

Here, I will give you some from the synagogue of the Adversary, those who call themselves Jews but aren't - on the contrary, they are lying - see, I will cause them to come and prostrate themselves at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you.

What a promise Yeshua gives to this church and to us! There were pretenders around this church just as there are today. They pretend to be Christians but it is all talk and saying the right words but the actions do not match the title. Around this church in Philadelphia, there were those that took part in the massive parties associated with the worship of the Greek god of the grape harvest but then claimed to be Christians. Their actions did not match their words. The same type of thing is happening in the churches of today. The promise here is that they will be revealed as false and will publicly bear witness that we are God's children.

Revelation 3:10

Because you did obey my message about persevering, I will keep you from the time of trial coming upon the whole world to put the people living on earth to the test.

Yeshua gives this church (and us as well) another promise which is that we will not be a part of the "hour of trial". This is often referred to as the tribulation period and there is much debate surrounding this period of time. Yeshu tells us here that it is a period of time to "test those who live on the earth". He does not go into detail here but we have the promise that, if we "endure patiently" we will be kept from this time. This church was already facing their test in their every day walk and were found to be true to Yeshua Messiah. We each need to examine our lives and see if we are facing trials but enduring patiently as this group of believers were.

Revelation 3:11

I am coming soon; hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.

The first part of this verse contains a promise for us as Christians but it has been a stumbling block for many that do not believe in Yeshua Messiah. As Yeshua says he is "coming soon", many have said that it has been so long since the Bible was written that it can no longer be "soon". The problem with this way of thinking is that we are trying to fit God into our understanding of time. We compare the "soon" with our relatively small amount of time here on earth while Yeshua compares it with all of time into eternity. In the second part of the verse Yeshua simply asks his children to hold onto their faith. The part "so that no one will take your crown" has also been a stumbling block as many understand this as saying that you can lose your salvation. We are told elsewhere in the Bible that, if it appears that someone has strayed from the faith, they never truly had the faith. There are many crowns (rewards) mentioned in the Bible and here Yeshua is simply telling the people to trust in him and to keep trying to reach the world around them. The crown that is referred to will be the rewards in heaven for being a faithful servant.

Revelation 3:12 & 13

I will make him who wins the victory a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he will never leave it. Also I will write on him the name of my God and the name of my God's city, the new Yerushalayim coming down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities."'

Yeshua ends the letter to this church with more promises and it is good to note that, in the whole letter, he did not have anything against this church. (This church and the one in Smyrna are the only two.) The promise of making them "a pillar in the temple" is a reminder of the pillars that Solomon had built and named at the entrance to the temple (see 1 Kings 7). All of the promises in this passage refer to the relationship between the believer and God as being permanent. The promise here is that, if we hold on to Yeshua and overcome this world, we will be with God forever in the new world (the new Jerusalem). You hear much talk today about the struggle for Jerusalem between the Jews, Muslims, and Christians but this passage, as well as others, tells us that we are not to worry about the Jerusalem of today as God is going to renew and restore the city in his time. Once again, Yeshua ends the letter with a plea for all people to listen (and to act) to what the Spirit is saying.

Revelation 3:14 & 15

"To the angel of the Messianic Community in Laodicea, write: 'Here is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Ruler of God's creation: "I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!

As we come to the last of the letters to the seven churches, Yeshua introduces himself as Lord ("ruler of God's creation"). Laodicea was a thriving city with a garment industry, banking/money exchange, and a medical center for illnesses of the eyes. The city received water from a hot spring through an aqueduct but, as the water travelled to the city, it cooled off. This lukewarm water was not refreshing to drink nor was it hot enough for a warm bath. Yeshua compares the Christians in the city to this water. We may ask ourselves why Yeshua would rather have them cold than lukewarm and the answer is simply that if they put all of their trust in the law (cold), they will soon find that they cannot be saved by obedience to that law. When they try to mix grace and the law (lukewarm), then they negate both and without total grace it is impossible to be saved.

Revelation 3:16

So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth!

This verse should make each of us stop and evaluate ourselves. It may seem that Yeshua is saying that these people are going to lose their salvation but in fact he is not. The fact is that, since they were lukewarm, they never had a saving faith in Yeshua Messiah. These believers were trying to mix grace (hot) and law (cold) and so they did not have the ability for the law to get them to the point of seeing salvation through the grace of God.

Revelation 3:17

For you keep saying, 'I am rich, I have gotten rich, I don't need a thing!' You don't know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked!

The church here in Laodicea didn't see a problem. They went about their lives trusting in their own efforts. Although they believed in God, they did not have the relationship with him where they saw him at work in their daily lives. This church probably most describes our world today as everyone goes around in their own little world trusting in their own efforts.

Revelation 3:18

My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eyesalve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see.

Yeshua is asking the church to put their trust in him. Although he tells them to "buy from me" these things, he is not talking about them giving money. The price for the things he offers is faith in him.

Revelation 3:19 & 20

As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins! Here, I'm standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.

Yeshua explains that the reason he is giving the church this message is that he loves them. Once again, he calls them to repent. He explains that all they have to do is let him in. The picture here is of a close relationship as Yeshua promises that, if they allow him in, they will eat together. The same promise is for us today. Yeshua calls us to have that same close relationship with him but it starts with repentance as he says in the first part of this passage.

Revelation 3:21 & 22

I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities."'"

What a promise Yeshua gives in this passage as he tells the church that we will sit down with him on his throne. When he says "to him who overcomes" he is talking about overcoming self reliance and accepting the gift of salvation through him. This church (and many in our world today) were stuck on themselves and what they accomplished. Yeshua is reminding them that overcoming is only possible through him. When he talks about sitting on the throne, he is talking about the time when we will rule and reign with him. Once again, the letter is ended with a plea for the church to listen to the Holy Spirit.

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