God gave Jesus a revelation "to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place" (Rev 1:1) which "He sent . . . by His angel" (:1). John said he heard it introduced "behind me [in] a loud voice" (:10) coming from "one like a son of man" (:13). Since it was the risen Jesus speaking it was not an angel (:1) because Jesus has "become as much better than the angels" (Heb 1:4). Therefore, in this sense, Jesus was being sent supernaturally to deliver the message. Angels are "ministering spirits, sent out to render service" (:14). John was to write the letter to the "seven churches" (Rev 1:11) but each section was addressed to "the angel of [that] church" (2:1). It doesn't seem logical that God would have to write a material letter to an angel because "'angels in heaven continually behold the face of My father who is in heaven'" (Mt 18:10). So the recipient of the letter must have had an official ministry. But obviously larger cities would have had multiple congregations and the Bible doesn't say that each city would have had only one mega-church with a single head pastor. One study Bible said "angel" could be the spiritual representation of a church. They would have comprehended this because when a knock at the door and Peter's voice was heard they rationalized, "'It must be his angel'" (Ac 12:15). John saw that, "In His right hand He held seven stars" (Rev 1:16). Jesus explained, "'the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches'" (:20). The fact that Jesus is holding them signifies that "'no one is able to snatch them out of My hand'" (Jn 10:28) and because it is his right hand it speaks of his power and authority.
On Patmos Christ communicated his revelation "to His bond-servant John" (Rev 1:1). As the last remaining apostle it would be the final encounter with the apostles in this period of Jesus' ministry. He identified himself as "'the first and the last, and the living One'" (:17-18). When John "turned to see the voice that was speaking" (:12) the first thing he saw was "seven golden lampstands" (:12). Christ explained that "'the seven lampstands are the seven churches'" (:20). John saw "in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man" (:13). Christ describes himself therefore as, "'I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore'" (:18). He paid for the church with his blood and has power and authority. He observes what happens in the church and understands why because he is "'the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands'" (2:1). Christ reinforced that he was "'the first and last, who was dead and has come to life'" (:8). Cast "all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you" (1Pe 5:6). Jesus was addressing established, second-generation churches who were responding to their individual circumstances in different ways. Because of this covenant relationship he was able to say to each church, "'I know your deeds'" (Rev 2:2, 4, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 15).
It is apparent that deeds are a high priority. Paul said that each person will be "recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (1Co 5:10). "Whatever good thing each one does this he will receive back from the Lord" (Eph 6:8). Does this mean that your purpose in life becomes accumulating points on your rewards card so you can receive benefits? Why not just kick back and enjoy life? In science class matter was defined as something which takes up space and has weight. Your purpose is not just to fulfill this necessity. Jesus spoke of "'he who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end'" (Rev 2:26). Moses told Israel "'Be silent and listen'" (Dt 27:9). "Faith comes by hearing" (Ro 10:17). Moses continued saying, "'You shall therefore obey the Lord your God'" (Dt 27:10). That is how we keep "My deeds" (Rev 2:26). "Faith, if it has no works is dead" (Ja 2:17). Therefore be "zealous for" (Titus 2:14), "learn to engage in" (3:14), "be an example of" (2:7), and "stimulate one another to love and good deeds" (Heb 10:24). "Deeds that are good are quite evident" (1Ti 5:25). However, they are such that you can "profess" (Titus 1:16) something to be so but your deeds "otherwise cannot be concealed" (1Ti 5:25). God "will render to each person according to his deeds" (Ro 2:6). The Holy Spirit said "'they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them'" (Rev 14:13).
"God gave Him [the revelation] to show" (Rev 1:1). It contained "things which are" (:19) currently existing in the churches. John was instructed to "'write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches'" (:11). Apparently no one had come along (except Paul who wrote letters to some churches) to give an evaluation of their condition. An elaborate vision is an unusual method but Jesus said, "'I will build My church'" (Mt 16:18). It demonstrates that Jesus is aware of what is happening and can communicate achievable expectations. Obedience is assumed because he suggested repentance from some of them. There were consequences because the churches had choices. Jesus did this because he said, "'All authority has been given Me in heaven and on earth'" (28:18). Power and authority were "brought about in Christ, when [God] raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places . . . and He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body" (Eph 1:20, 22-23). Therefore he instructed his disciples to teach them "'to observe all things that I commanded you'" (Mt 28:20).
The meaning of the resurrection of Christ is the same for us today as it was for the first century church. Their shortcomings are similar to ours because of human nature. Perhaps that is why Jesus asked "'when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?'" (Lk 18:8). But to be meaningful you have to know where you stand so you can apply yourself. "According to His great mercy [he] has caused us to be born again" (1Pe 1:3). "When we were dead . . . [he] made us alive together in Christ" (Eph 2:5) and "seated us with Him in the heavenly places" (:6). He "saved us and called us with a holy calling . . . according to His own purpose and grace" (2Ti 1:9) "by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). "We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus" (Ac 15:11). We are "saved through faith; and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God" (Eph 2:8). "Having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (1:13). "Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" (Ro 8:35).
Is our spiritual condition mutually exclusive from our humanity? In a sense it is because "if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature" (2Co 5:17). A distiction drawn says to "'be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life'" (Rev 2:10). That is why there is such an emphasis on he "who overcomes" (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7). We are not "perishing" (1Co 1:18) but "being saved" (2Co 2:15). We have an "inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you" (1Pe 1:4). It is a process and you might wonder how you can accomplish this. Jesus said "'the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out'" (Jn 6:37). "'I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand'" (10:28). We are "protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation" (1Pe 1:5). "The Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one" (2Th 3:3). "The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom" (2Ti 4:18). "It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Php 2:13). "He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus" (1:6).
Proceed in such a way that you do "not lose heart . . . [for] we will reap if we do not grow weary" (Gal 6:8-9). It can be difficult because "'you will be hated by all because of My name'" (Mt 10:22) and "many will fall away and will betray one another'" (24:10). John, himself, "was on the island of Patmos because of . . . the testimony of Jesus" (Rev 1:9). Consequently Jesus cited the perseverance of the Ephesians and that they did not "tolerate evil men" (2:2). You can wear out if you're not careful. Therefore "consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you do not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb 12:3). If you have a purpose you have a goal. Jesus told the Ephesians they "'have endured for My name's sake, and have not grown weary'" (Rev 2:3).
"In hope we have been saved but . . . [it is] what we do not see" (Ro 8:24-25). Therefore it is "with perseverance we wait eagerly for it" (:25). "'Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing'" (Rev 3:10). Paul pointed out to the Corinthians that it is "the gospel . . . in which you also stand by which you are saved" (1Co 15:1-2). But he cautioned them to "hold fast the word" (:2). Unless we know for sure we can lose focus. That is why John said "these things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life" (1Jn 5:13). "We know that we are of God" (:19). Paul said "I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2Ti 1:12). Jesus told the Pergamum church that "'you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith'" (Rev 2:13). He told the church of Philadelphia, "'I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown'" (3:11). How do you hold on and persevere? Jesus warned, "'If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up'" (Jn 15:6). He also told the Philadelphia church "'you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name'" (3:8). The key to Thyatira's success was "'your love and faith and service and perseverance'" (2:19). "Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus" (14:12). Jesus spoke of "'He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end'" (2:26). He warned the disciples that "'it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved'" (Mt 10:22). If you persevere you will overcome. Rewards for the overcomer are listed in Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21.
The first church written to was Ephesus. The city was the largest in the province, was commercially successful because of its harbor, and was free of Roman soldiers. Paul taught there for three years but idolatry was popular. The church set an example for hard work, responsibility and endurance (Rev 2:2-3). They exhibited "perseverance" (:2,3). It does not seem that they could have abandoned the love they had at first. Christ said, "'I have this against you, that you have left your first love'" (:4). It takes dedication to oppose evil and test false apostles (:2). Their motivation was "'for My name's sake'" (:3). The church was now decades old but it had "'fallen'" (:5) because it no longer did what it had previously done. Their behavior had become a way of life. It seems that their work was intellectually based but didn't come from the heart. Paul said "if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and I have all faith . . . but do not have love, I am nothing" (1Co 13:2). Jesus warned about the last days that "'because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold'" (Mt 24:12). Jesus' solution was to "'remember from where you have fallen'" (Rev 2:5). It does not mean just to think back to what you have forgotten. It means to always keep in mind (remembering) how you lived (what you did) "'at first'" (:5). The concern is comparable to "'the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns'" (Mt 13:22). He "hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word'" (:22). Superficial preoccupation with mundane matters can take the place of being spiritually purposeful in love.
Therefore Jesus called upon them to "'repent'" (Rev 2:5) and that he would "'remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent'" (:5). The lampstand is the church itself (1:20). If Christ's presence departed then their effective ministry would disappear. There is a saying "out of sight, out of mind." In Israel "there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10). Then "they forsook the Lord . . . and followed other gods" (:12). Firstly Jesus had encouraged them citing their accomplishments but was now making them "sorrowful to the point of repentance . . . according to the will of God, in order that you might not suffer loss in anything" (2Co 7:9). Furthermore they were to change their behavior as well as their attitude. Jesus instructed to "'repent and do the deeds you did at first'" (Rev 2:5). He told the church at Thyatira that "'he who overcomes . . . [is] he who keeps My deeds until the end'" (:26). Paul said "that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance" (Ac 26:20). Paul also advised that "those who have believed God may be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men" (Titus 3:8).
Smyrna was founded by Ionian Greeks who established a noteable culture of literature and philosophy. It had an ideal natural harbor on the Aegean Sea. It was destroyed by the Lydians around 600 B.C. and Alexander the Great freed them two hundred years later. The city was rebuilt according to Alexander's plan with right-angled streets where the sea breeze blew down each one. It became a beautiful city with a population of 200,000 at the time of this letter. It was a center of emperor worship having a temple to Emperor Tiberius (26 A.D.). Citizens were required to burn incense there, and if they refused, could be imprisoned and killed. There was also a temple to Cybele who was the goddess of "mother earth" to both the Greeks and Romans. Much immorality was present. There was also a large temple to Jupiter where Zeus was the chief Greek and Roman deity. Jesus cited "'your tribulation and your poverty'" (Rev 2:9). Since the city was very prosperous it implies that there was significant economic persecution. However being in poverty does not mean that their bank accounts were zero, but that they were like Jesus who "for your sake He became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich" (2Co 8:9). That is why he explained to the church "'but you are rich'" (Rev 2:9). "Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?" (Ja 2:5). John had elaborated "I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers" (3Jn 2). Paul taught that "in the ages to come He [would] show the surpassing riches of His grace" (Eph 2:7) which are the "unfathomable riches of Christ" (3:8).
Jesus was also aware of "'the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not'" (Rev 2:9). In Philadelphia there were those "'who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie'" (3:9). Jesus pointed out, "'you are of your father the devil . . . for he is a liar'" (Jn 8:44). Their origin was therefore labeled the "'synagogue of Satan'" (Rev 2:9, 3:9). Blasphemy is to revile someone and its seriousness is shown where "'the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death'" (Lev 24:16). Tribulation came from the Jews because they "instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabus" (Ac 13:50), "embittered [the Gentiles] against the bretheren" (14:2), attempted "to mistreat and stone them" (:5), "stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city" (:19), and "formed a mob and set the city in an uproar" (17:5). In accordance with this behavior Jesus warned "'the devil is about to cast some of you into prison'" (Rev 2:10). But he encouraged them saying, "'Do not fear'" (:10). "'Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven'" (Mt 5:10). "If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name" (1Pe 4:16).
Pergamum was twelve miles from the coast, and after 282 B.C. became the capital of Asia Minor. There was an acropolis or citadel 1000 feet above sea level which overlooked the city. On it was a large temple to Zeus which was shaped like a throne. Jesus referred to it saying, "'I know . . . where you dwell, where Satan's throne is'" (Rev 2:13). A throne is a place of authority. Jesus reiterated that Pergamum was the place "' where Satan dwells'" (:13). Paul instructed to "be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might . . . that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil" (Eph 6:10-11). There is a reference to martyrs being killed and having to hold fast to Jesus' name and faith. You can slip even when you are "caught with the words of your mouth" (Pr 6:2) such as when Jesus told Peter "'before a rooster crows, you will deny me three times'" (Mt 26:34). Adhereing to his name is important. Initially "men began to call upon [proclaim] the name of the Lord" (Ge 4:26). Furthemore, "it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered" (Joel 2:32). A person is characterized and his authority is established using his name. You are associated with someone as when the "chief priests [were given power] to bind all who call on Your name" (Ac 9:14). Official status is denoted as when Jesus prayed "'while I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me'" (Jn 17:12).
In addition to the Greek deity there was a temple to Emperor Augustus (29 A.D.) because the city was the administrative center of the Emperor's cult (Roma). However, it was the religious power and authority of pagan priests which challenged the church. It is believed that the Babylonian prieshood moved to Pergamum from Babylon after it was destroyed. That would have involved astrology and the occult. There was also the temple of AEsculapius who was the god of healing.. This would have utilized mystical methods. However, Jesus told them it was "'He who has the sharp two-edged sword'" (Rev 2:12). Surgically speaking "the word of God . . . [is] sharper . . . and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow" (Heb 4:12). By the Cross "He had disarmed the rulers and authorities" (Col 2:15) and "appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn 3:8). He told the seventy disciples "'I have given you authority . . . over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you'" (Lk 10:19). He told his disciples "'these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons'" (Mk 16:17).
John wrote, "'The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says . . . I have a few things against you'" (Rev 2:12,14). It is hereby expressed since "He has made My mouth like a sharp sword" (Isa 49:2). He explained "'there are some who hold the teaching of Balaam'" (Rev 2:14). Women of Midian "'caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor'" (Num 31:16). Balaam "kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel" (Rev 2:14). He "kept" doing it repetitively. Therefore "pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching" (1Ti 4:16). Teaching is doctrine. "Speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1) for "they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires" (2Ti 4:3). "Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness" (2Pe 2:15). "They have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam" (Jude 11).
Balaam taught them "'to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality'" (Rev 2:14). This came about when "Israel journeyed and camped in the plains of Moab" (Nu 22:1). Then the king of Moab sent for Balaam saying, "'Please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me'" (:6). "God said to Balaam, 'Do not go with them'" (:12), but when Balaam persisted he said, "'Go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do'" (:20). However, "the angel of the Lord" (:23,24,26,31) tried to stop him. I'm sure God tries to divert us at times but we continue on. Afterwords Israelites started to have relations with Moabites. "They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their god. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel" (25:2-3). The ritual, pagan worship practices to Baal were predicated on promoting fertility where cycles of nature were personified. It was supposed to promulgate the health of herds, crops and society. That is why sexual activity was expected and they "'commit acts of immorality'" (Rev 2:14). Animals were "'sacrificed to idols'" (:14). Paul was concerned about "the eating of things sacrificed to idols" (1Co 8:4). He said "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God" (10:20). "You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons" (:21). "The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him . . . [therefore] flee immorality" (6:18). They were to "'abstain from things sacrificed to idols . . . and from fornication'" (Ac 15:29). God judged the disobedience and "those who died by the plague were 24,000" (Nu 25:9). He told Pergamum "'you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans'" (Rev 2:15). To the Ephesians he said "'you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate'" (:7).
Thyatira was a prosperous city with many trade guilds. Each had its own patron deity and there was idolatry and immorality. The guilds controlled the city's commerce, so if you didn't participate in the pagan worship, you couldn't join the union and then could not find work. The most popular god was Apollo, the sun-god, who was known to rule by force and also known to keep his followers from misfortune. There was also a temple to Artemis-Diana, the love goddess. Then there was a temple outside the city to a sorceress and fortuneteller named Sibyl Sambathe. Jesus had a criticism of this church saying that "'you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols'" (Rev 2:20). "Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel" (1Ki 16:29) and "he married Jezebel . . . and went to serve Baal" (:31) and "did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him" (:33). Jezebel implemented Phoenician worship and had 450 prophets to Baal and 400 to Astarte at the court of Ahab. Characteristics of these Canaanite religions were degeneracy, barbarity and licentiousness. Mysticism and demonic influence were prevalent. Jehu spoke of the "harlotries . . . [and] witchcrafts" of Jezebel (2Ki 9:22). The Thyatiran Jezebel claimed prophetic inspiration from God but it is not said that she was a member of the church. However Jesus said to the church "'you tolerate the woman'" (Rev 2:20) and "'hold this teaching'" (:24) and accuses "'those who commit adultery with her'" (:22). He advises them to "'repent of her deeds'" (:22) which include "'the deep things of Satan'" (:24).
The perspective of this letter is of "'The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire'" (Rev 2:18). John saw that "His eyes were like a flame of fire'" (1:14). Also, when John "saw heaven opened" (19:11) he said "His eyes are a flame of fire" (:12). Daniel said "his face had the apearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches" (Da 10:6). It symbolizes his penetrating knowledge of man's motives and thoughts. God is "able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:12). He knows "the hearts of all men" (Ac 1:24). "'I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind'" (Jer 17:10). Therefore, he said to this church that "'all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and the hearts'" (Rev 2:23). He also cautions "'I will give to each one of you according to your deeds'" (:22). This is the '"burden'" (:24) he places on them. However Thyatira's Jezebel was given "'time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality'" (:21). "God will bring every act to judgment" (Ecc 12:14). God's "eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, giving everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds" (Jer 32:19). Jesus told the churches "'I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done'" (Rev 22:12).
Sardis was located on a narrow plateau 1,500 feet above sea level near a river and next to a mountain range. It was a strategic military stronghold and there were fertile fields nearby. It was once wealthy and known for its textile industry and wool dyeing. Pagan worship was common and their patron deity was Cybele, the mother goddess. Its excesses and immorality were well known. The city's position fostered complacency which led to being conquered.
Jesus revealed to the church in Sardis that "'you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead'" (Rev 3:2). It seems that they were lackadaisical (languid-lacking liveliness and interest). He said, "'I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God'" (:2). It was not in a worldly way but in a spiritual context. In Isaiah God said "'this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote'" (29:13). If their deeds had been "completed" the results would have substantiated the accomplishment. Paul points out that "He who began a good work in you will perfect it" (Php 1:6). Furthermore Christ "will also confirm you to the end" (1Co 1:8). But they were oblivious to their situation and were told "'you are dead, wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die'" (Rev 3:2). They were "not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God" (Col 2:19). They were "holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power" (2Ti 3:5). They were "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (:7). Paul explained "while they are saying, 'Peace and safety!' then destruction will come upon them suddenly" (1Th 5:3). Jesus had told them things "'were about to die'" (Rev 3:2) . He warned "'if you do not wake up, I will come as a thief'" (:3). "'If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert'" (Mt 24:43). "'For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will'" (:44). "Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness" (2Pe 3:11)? Paul said they were "not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief" (1Th 5:4). "So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober" (:6) "Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless" (2Pe 3:14). They had a reputation of being alive. Just because you attend church it could be that you are alleged to be a Christian. However, it is "'he who does the will of My Father'" (Mt 7:21) who will enter heaven. Jesus will say to some who expect entry "'I never knew you; depart from Me'" (:23).
As a solution Jesus advised to "'remember what you have received and heard'" (Rev 3:3). What they had received was "the word implanted, which is able to save your souls" (Ja 1:21). To "wake up" (Rev 3:2,3) is imperative. "It is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed" (Ro 13:11). Furthermore, what you remember you are also to "keep" (Rev 3:3). This is done by laying aside "the old self" (Eph 4:22), "every encumbrance" (Heb 12:1), and "all that remains of wickedness" (Ja 1:21). "Consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality" (Col 3:5). "Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth" (Eph 4:24) "who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him" (Col 3:10). As a result "the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1Jn 1:7).
Jesus said, "'You have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments'" (Rev 3:4). There were only some with a right relationship. God had chosen Israel as a brand from the fire (Zec 3:2). Joshua, the high priest, was "clothed with filthy garments" (:3) and the Lord said, "'Remove the filthy garments from him'" (:4). Then he explained, "'I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes'" (:4). In Revelation he explains "'they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy'" (Rev 3:4). Furthermore, "'he who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments'" (:5). "It was given to [the Bride of Christ] to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints" (Rev 19:8). "When [the priests] enter at the gates of the inner court, they shall be clothed with linen garments" (Eze 44:17) for "they shall not gird themselves with anything which makes them sweat" (:18). Sweat symbolizes human effort and Paul acknowledged that he "be found in Him, not having righteousness of my own . . . but that which is through faith in Christ" (Php 3:9). "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2Co 5:21). They are "'clothed in white garments'" (Rev 3:5). "'They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb'" (7:14).
Jesus addresses the church in Philadelphia as "'He who . . . has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens'" (Rev 3:7). This is from the prophecy which says "'I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open'" (Isa 22:22). It refers to "a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders . . . [where] there will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over His Kingdom" (9:6-7). This was implemented when Jesus said to Peter, "'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven'" (Mt 16:19). Notice that God orchestrates his plan. Jesus said, "'the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing'" (Jn 5:19).
Keys are to doors. Jesus told them, "'I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut'" (Rev 3:8). John noticed that something was opened to him and wrote "behold, a door standing open in heaven" (4:1). You can't see anything until the door opens. Stephen said, "'Behold, I see the heavens opened up'" (Ac 7:56). He saw "the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God'" (:56). Jesus had said, "'I am the way and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me'" (Jn 14:6). He also stated, "'I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved'" (10:9). The opening is the part of the door structure that one enters through. He said, "'I am the door of the sheep'" (:7). "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice'" (:3). Peter heard God's voice and Jesus explained it was from "'My Father who is in heaven'" (Mt 16:17). He continued saying, "'You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church'" (:18). Consequently by receiving the "keys of the kingdom" (:19) Peter unlocked the revelation by declaring for them to "'repent and be baptized . . . in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins'" (Ac 2:38). Furthermore "'all the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name'" (10:43).
Philadelphia was 952 feet above sea level and was likely considered a fortress city. It was an agricultural center, manufactured textiles, and produced leather. Its location was as a gateway to the high central plateau and it was on an important trade route. Jesus said, "'I have put before you an open door'" (Rev 3:8). It would mean that it was a door of opportunity for spreading the gospel (1Co 16:9, 2Co 2:12, Col 4:3). It was put there because they had "a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My Name'" (Rev 3:8). They had also "'kept the word of My perseverance'" (:9). He had said, "'For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance'" (Mt 13:12).
Antiochus II rebuilt the city in 250 BC and named it after his wife Laodice. Should any significance be attributed to this name? To evaluate it one should be "accurately handling the word of truth" (2Ti 2:15). You would build an interpretation "line on line" (Isa 28:10) as a mason would stretch out a line to build a wall and then raise it for the next layer. The compound word "Laodiceans" is composed of the two Greek words "laos" and "dice." The first means "people" and the second "judgment or vengeance" which transfers to English as "the people of my judgment." That first word is also a part of the noun "Nicolaitans" mentioned of Ephesus regarding its "deeds" (Rev 2:6) and Pergamos regarding its "doctrine" (2:15). The first part of that word is "nikos" which means "conquest" implying "conquering the people." Jesus spoke of the detrimental effect of the "teaching of Baalam" (:14) and those "in the same way [who] hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans" (:15). Little is known of the latter sect though the Greek meaning may be "rulers of the people." The doctrine may have led some people to make compromises with society wherein they rationalized they could practically function in both the church and idolatry at the same time. Their lives would have been corrupted and they would have been defeated. Some interpreters find the principle in a scripture and apply it to similar situations. Idolatry is worship of a false god instead of the true God, so if anything diverts attention from God to itself, it can be considered an idol. If someone's deeds undermine proper behavior and are deliberate then he is responsible. Jesus warned that "'the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them'" (Mt 20:25). That is why Peter instructed the church elders to lead by example and not "yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge" (1Pe 5:3). So it is possible that the complacent and independent attitude of the Laodicean church is the result of it having been "conquered" by tolerating worldly methods imposed by those seeking control. The church is to be a "holy priesthood" (1Pe 2:5) and not an ecclesiastical hierarchy.
Laodicea was on the Lycus River at the junction of two fertile valleys and at the intersection of three busy trade routes. It was militarily defensible and eventually became the capital of that Roman region. It became wealthy and its banks stored the gold which was refined locally by a special process. Perhaps this is why Jesus said "'You say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing''" (Rev 3:17). He instructed "'I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich'" (:18). In the valley they had developed a special breed of black sheep. Also they had invented a process of weaving without using yarn and produced a popular outer garment called a "trimeta." Jesus advised for them to buy "'white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed'" (:18). They had a famous medical school and it was known for its ear salve and eye ointment. However, they attributed their success to worshipping the healing God Asclepios. Jesus instructed to buy from him "'eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see'" (:18).
Jesus begins this message with him being the "'Beginning of the creation of God'" (:14). Laodicea was only six miles from Colossae and is mentioned four times in the epistle to the Colossians. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible" (Col 1:15-16). "He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together" (:17). "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (Jn 1:3). The Laodiceans felt self-sufficient and had lost their spiritual perspective. They had become "lukewarm" (Rev 3:16) and Jesus instructed them to "'be zealous and repent'" (:19). He said, "'You do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked'" (:17). They did not even realize that their communication with him had broken down and the relationship had deteriorated. He said, "'I stand at the door and knock'" (:20). He had even announced his presence with "'My voice'" (:20). We shouldn't be so preoccupied with our normal lives that we ignore the "upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Php 3:14). It is our responsibility to open the door (Rev 3:20). Then fellowship will be renewed and Jesus will "'come in to him and dine with him'" (:20).