New Defender's Study Bible Notes
3:1 Sardis. Sardis, once the capital of ancient Lydia, was a wealthy city about thirty miles southeast of Thyatira.
3:1 name that thou livest. The church at Sardis had many members who were not truly born again, possibly second or third generation “members” who were only nominal Christians, without the zeal or commitment of their forebears who had founded the church. This is typical of many so-called “main-line” denominational churches today.
3:3 as a thief. Every believer, in every age of church history, should be watching for the coming of the Lord (Mark 13:37), for “the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (I Thessalonians 5:2; II Peter 3:10). Each of the last four of the seven epistles has a reference to the imminent return of Christ.
3:5 book of life. All whose names are not in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), and all who reject the words of Scripture will have their names blotted out (see note on Revelation 22:19). On the other hand, those who overcome will never compromise their faith in Christ, even at the risk of their lives (Revelation 13:8). It seems probable that all who enter the world have their names in the Lamb’s book of life, and are safe in Him until they reach an age of accountability and become conscious sinners. At that point they are spiritually dead and need salvation, but their names are not actually blotted out of the book of life until they have irrevocably rejected Christ.
3:7 Philadelphia. Philadelphia means “brotherly love,” and was named by King Attalus of Pergamum, its founder, in honor of his brother. Philadelphia still survives as the modern town Alasehir, located about twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis.
3:7 no man openeth. The Lord here claims to have “the key of David,” referring to Isaiah 22:22: “And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” In Isaiah’s context, this promise was made to Eliakim, a servant of King Hezekiah. The “key” was the key to the national treasury, and figuratively to control of the government. Eliakim thus was a type of the Messiah, and Christ here asserts in effect that He controls the governmental economy of the whole world and all that happens therein.
3:8 little strength. Literally, “a little strength” simply reads “little strength,” since the article is not present in the Greek. The Lord’s promise of a continuing open door, therefore, is conditioned on the premise that the church (or any Christian ministry, for that matter) have little strength of its own, and thus relies wholly on the strength of the Lord. Worldly marketing methods may seem to yield large numerical results for a time, but will also produce gradual spiritual compromise and eventual disintegration.
In addition to the “little strength” criterion, of course, the church or other ministry must keep (that is “guard”) the absolute integrity of God’s Word, and uphold the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in all its sovereign power.
3:9 are not. See note on Revelation 2:9.
3:9 worship before thy feet. These Jews who were of the synagogue of Satan would not worship the Philadelphia believers themselves (not even angels will accept such worship—note Revelation 22:8-9), but in the presence of these believers, they will bow down to the Lord whom they had rejected on earth (Philippians 2:10).
3:11 come quickly. Even though they have “little strength” (Revelation 3:8), there will indeed be Philadelphia-type churches bearing their testimony on earth when the Lord comes.
3:14 Laodiceans. Laodicea was near Colosse (note Colossians 4:16), about forty-five miles southeast of Philadelphia and almost one hundred miles east of Ephesus, and was a wealthy city, with its wealth also shared by the Christians in the church there. Instead of having “little strength,” as at Philadelphia, its members boasted of their riches (Revelation 3:17).
3:14 beginning of the creation. The Laodicean church was not an apostate church, for its candlestick had not been removed, but it was a neutral church, agreeing with the Scriptures and Christian doctrine in general, but so enamored of its worldly eminence that it would not stand firmly on such controversial doctrines as true creationism and full Biblical inerrancy, perspicuity and authority. It was “lukewarm” (Revelation 3:16). Thus the Lord introduced Himself as “the faithful and true witness,” whose Word therefore must be inviolable. He is the one who had created the universe itself, “the beginning of the creation of God,” allowing no doctrinal position that could accommodate the pagan evolutionism of their well-to-do neighbors and associates. Furthermore, He is the “Amen” as well as the Creator, the Omega as well as the Alpha, so they should have been looking toward His imminent coming, rather than trying to impress the world. Their sister church at Colosse had experienced the same kinds of pressures, and Paul some thirty years previously, in a letter to the Colossians that was also intended for the Laodiceans (Colossians 4:16), addressed these same concerns (note Colossians 1:13-20; 2:3-10; 3:1-4).
3:16 out of my mouth. Note that Christ would prefer not only a hot church like Philadelphia but also a cold church like Sardis to a lukewarm, neutral, accommodationist, comfortable church like Laodicea. At least Sardis was not harming anyone because it was not influencing anyone.
3:17 have need of nothing. There are multitudes of large and affluent churches today that are evangelical and nominally Biblical. They have become so comfortable with evolutionism and modern life styles that they are spiritually impoverished, filled with half-converted babes in Christ who are easy prey for the world, the flesh and the devil. The Lord is calling them to repentance (Revelation 3:19), for they are still His churches, and therefore He must rebuke and chasten them sooner or later.
3:20 at the door. Compare Matthew 24:33; Revelation 19:9. When we see the signs of His imminent coming all around us, including many neutralist Laodicean-type churches, we know that He is at the door, about to come in, as it were, soon to sit down with all His saints at the great marriage supper of the Lamb.
3:20 come in to him. Although it is often used as such, this verse is not a gospel verse, appealing to the unsaved to accept Christ. There is nothing in it about Christ’s sacrificial death for sinners or about believing on Him for salvation, or any other gospel essentials. It is addressed directly to the neutralist, self-satisfied Laodicean church, calling them to repentance. In context, the Lord is calling worldly, compromising believers to allow Him back into their lives.
3:21 in my throne. Here is a marvelous testimony to God’s grace. Those whom the Lord had just threatened to “spue” (Revelation 3:16) out of His mouth He now invites to share His throne!
3:22 unto the churches. This is the last reference to churches in Revelation until the very last chapter (Revelation 22:16). This fact strongly reinforces the inference that Revelation 2 and 3 reflect the entire church age, with the rest of the book dealing with the period after all true churches have been raptured and taken to be with the Lord.