Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Revelation 3 - Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea

LINK: Revelation 3

BACKGROUND

Sardis was a center for trade that was at the junction of five main roads and 30 miles east of Ephesus and 30 miles southeast of Thyatira. It was on a plateau that made it an important military center also. It was the center of pagan worship of the goddess Artemis. It was also known for its manufacture of woolen garments. Archaeologists have found the ruins of a Christian church next to the temple that may be the church that is spoken of here. 

As I have mentioned before, the seven spirits are believed to refer to the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3; Zechariah 4:1-14; Revelation 1:4; 4:5; 5:6), but it is a strange way to refer to Him. The seven stars are the leaders or pastors of the seven churches in Revelation. 

Sardis never really receives a commendation, only exhortation! The problem was that they had a reputation for being alive, but they were actually dead (Matthew 23:27-28). They were exhorted to:
1) Wake up  
2) Strengthen what life they still had 
3) Remember 
4) Obey 
5) Repent
Despite the fact that the majority of the church was dying, there was still a remnant who followed God and would be dressed in white (a symbol of the righteousness of God), their names would not be erased from the book of life, and they would be acknowledged before the Father. There is always a godly remnant in a dying church! 

Philadelphia was 28 miles southeast of Sardis. It was called "the gateway to the East" because it was on the main route of the Imperial Post from Rome to the East. It had many temples. It sat on a geological fault and was destroyed in 17 B.C. by a severe earthquake. Its name means "brotherly love."  The church is still in existence today.

Jesus Christ is referred to as holy and true which means, "the original, not a copy; the authentic God and not a manufactured one" (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, p. 578). He described Himself as holding the key of David (Revelation 6:10). The "key of David" reference hearkens back to Eliakim, who held the key of the house of David and had access to all the king's wealth (Isaiah 22:15-25). It is sometimes interpreted as a picture of Jesus Christ holding "the keys of death and hades" (Revelation 1:18). 

Opposite of Sardis and Laodicea, Philadelphia is commended and not rebuked! They are told to "hold on" to what they already have.  They are given a promise of an "open door" and protection from the "synagogue of Satan" that is interpreted as Jews who opposed them. According to people who believe in a pre-tribulation rapture, they are also promised protection from the "hour of trial" that will unfold in Revelation 6. 

The overcomers will be permanent pillars in the temple of God in the New Jerusalem (21:22). God has a permanent place in heaven for believers! 

Laodicea was a wealthy banking city 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia. Its main industry was wool cloth and was famous for black wool garments. 

This church is not commended for anything. Instead, they are accused of being "lukewarm, wretched, miserable, poor, and blind"! Lukewarm because the water in this city was piped from far away (cold from Colossae and hot from Hieropolis), and by the time it reached them it was lukewarm.

The exhortation to buy refined gold (spiritual treasure) was probably to contrast with the material pleasure they enjoyed as a banking center. The exhortation about white clothes probably was in contrast to the expensive black wool garments they wore. The eye salve was probably to contrast with the special eye salve used to heal eye trouble in the Middle East that came from the medical school at the temple of Asclepius. They needed spiritual treasure, garments of righteousness, and spiritual sight! They needed to "be earnest and repent"!

Revelation 3:20 is often quoted when we encourage people who do not know Jesus to "open the door" of their heart to Him, but most scholars believe this is talking to the believer!  

The Laodicean church had left Jesus out, and I think this is true for us today. We get really involved with the kingdom work, and we leave the King outside in the cold! We need to invite Jesus to come into every area of our lives and ministries. Jesus wants intimate, hot fellowship so that we can do the work He has planned for us to do! If we respond to this, we will sit with Him on His throne and share all of His blessings! Read My Heart, Christ's Home for a great picture of this. Every believer should read this little story!


REFLECTION/APPLICATION

Take some time to reflect upon the seven churches. It might be good to make a chart. First, list all the characteristics of Jesus. Then let it lead you into a time of worship and praise.

Then, list the commendation, rebuke, exhortation, and promise for each church with sincere evaluation about where you are in your walk with God. Do you have an "ear to hear" (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22) what God is saying to you? Take some time to REALLY listen to Him. He wants intimate fellowship with You!

Next, pray for your church to be protected from the pitfalls of these churches.

Studying the seven churches has made me want to go on a trip there! 

PRAYER

Lord, come into our life and dine with us. We want to be 100% committed to You. Bring us into intimate fellowship with You and teach us to listen to Your voice and to obey it. Amen. 
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