The Church in Sardis: Revelation 3:1-6.
The church of Sardis was a complacent church. Christ knew that it had a false reputation of being alive, when in fact it was dead (Revelation 3:1). Sardis was located 30 miles southeast of Thyatira. It was a wealthy city. The love for luxury led this city into its moral decadence. Sardis means “remnant”. There was a remnant of faithful believers in this church. The origin of this church is not clear. On the outside things looked good, but the One who sees all things knew their fault (3:1). Sadly many churches claim they are spiritual but do not show any sign of spiritual life. This church receives no commendation from the Lord. We can assume that it had life once. There is a divine call to wake up, and strengthen what little remains. There is a call to go back to what they had believed first (Revelation 3:2, 3). This call was to repent, remember and obey the word of God. They were to live in anticipation of the imminent return of Christ. Every church should long for the return of Christ and be occupied in serving him. Sad to see that many churches are preoccupied with their own things? This church may represent the reformation period of the church. Christ's warning to the church is stern, but he is merciful to all who repent. Repentance is necessary for spiritual health and vitality. We must hunger for His word and love Christ more than our reputation. God is always interested in the faithful remnant. They must not stain their garments with the pagan practices. The white robe speaks of purity and holiness. Those who are victorious receive threefold promises from the Lord. They will walk with Jesus in white cloth, God would never erase their names from the book of life and Jesus will acknowledge their names before God the Father and His angels (Revelation 3:5; Matthew 10:32, 33; 13:43; Revelation 20:15). Jesus wants us to listen to what the Spirit says and experience His blessings. Every church needs God’s help to wake up spiritually and grow strong.
The Church in Philadelphia: Revelation 3:7-13.
The church in Philadelphia was a mission oriented church and devoted its loyalty to Jesus Christ. Philadelphia was located about 25 miles southeast of Sardis. In A.D. 17 this city was destroyed by an earthquake but it was soon rebuilt. The church of Philadelphia received the Lord’s commendation for its steadfast faithfulness. The Lord identified himself as “The one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close and what he closes, no one can open" (3:7). Consider the significance of these titles. Jesus is the holy one (John 6:69). Jesus claims this title that belongs only to God. He is the true one. Jesus is the truth and speaks the truth (John 6:32). Jesus holds the key of David (Isaiah 22:19-22). All authority is given unto Him (Matthew 28:18). When Jesus opens, no one can shut it (John 10:7-9). His authority is ours when we share the gospel in the world. Jesus commented to this church that “Though you have little strength, yet you obeyed my Word and did not deny me”. These believers were despised and rejected socially. Yet they were faithful to the name of Christ and His Word.
This was an evangelistic church, using every opportunity to share the gospel. It is the duty of every church. Some churches are more evangelistically active than others. They enjoyed the Christian fellowship in their ministry. Christ promises that satanic forces will not prevail against the church. When Christ opens a door no one can shut it. This church may represent the great period of revival during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Christ promised this church His protection and deliverance in times of trial. Throughout church history, believers are preserved in their suffering. Pre-tribulation view is that the church will be caught-up and believers will escape the tribulation. Post-tribulation suggests that the church will endure tribulation with God’s help. Others believe that the church will be taken to heaven midway through the tribulation. Regardless of different views, God will preserve His people (Jude 24). The believers are delivered from the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). Christ will make the overcomers the pillars in the temple of God and they will enjoy His presence. Pillar speaks of stability and permanence in the presence of God. Secondly Christ would write on him the name of God. He will be identified with Christ. Thirdly Jesus would write on them the name of the city. They will live in New Jerusalem. Fourthly Jesus will write on them His new name. Some scholars suggest that this was the longest surviving church because it was evangelistic. Do you have an evangelistic purpose in your ministry and live in anticipation of Christ’s return?
The Church in Laodicea. Revelation 3:14-19.
The church of Laodicea was a lukewarm church. These seven churches lie within a semicircle beginning with Ephesus. The church of Laodicea closely resembles the present day church. It was located 100 miles east of Ephesus. Laodicea was known for black wool and medicine for eyes and ears . Jesus identifies himself as Amen, the faithful and true witness (3:14). Therefore the church should follow his counsel(Revelation 3:18). It was a wealthy and self-sufficient city. The word Laodicea means “the people’s right”. People were interested in personal rights and a comfortable lifestyle. Perhaps it may have contributed to its lukewarm spiritual condition. The headship in the church was taken over by the committees. Jesus rebukes this church for its worldliness. He is the ruler of creation (3:14). Amen is the transliteration of the Hebrew word meaning truth (Isaiah 65:16). Amen literally means “Let it be so”. God’s promises are always yes and amen. Jesus is the embodiment of truth. He will never deceive anyone. He is able to do what he has promised. He is the source of all creation.
God cannot tolerate lukewarm spiritual conditions in the church. The city of Laodicea received its water from a hot spring from the south. It was cooled off while in transportation. The water was neither hot nor cold. This water was of poor quality that it would make a person vomit at times. This church was like lukewarm water. They were self satisfied and did not see any need for God. They were wealthy but blind to see their spiritual poverty. Jesus said "If you do not change I will spit you out of my mouth” (3:15-16). The church of Laodicea failed to realize that it was wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (Revelation 3:17). But Christ extended His mercy and promised that He will restore them if they repent. Those who respond to Christ's warnings will have clothing for their nakedness and ointment to restore their blindness (3:18; Isaiah 61:10). Lukewarm Christians never understand the preciousness of their faith.
Jesus Standing at the Door Knocking: Revelation 3:20-22.
It is almost unbelievable that Christ is outside His church waiting for entrance. "Behold I stand at the door and knock". Many gospel preachers use this passage to invite people to Christ. But it has nothing to do with the salvation of sinners. Here the Lord waits at the door of the church for admission. What a gracious Savior! He longs for intimacy and fellowship with His people. Every church should open its door for Christ to lead and bless. Those who are victorious and conquer will reign with Him on His throne (3:21). Though Jesus rebukes this church harshly He gave her the greatest promise. "If you open the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me" (3:20). These messages are for the churches in general. If we repent, Christ will revive us. He can take us from the lowest state to the highest spiritual height. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.