Revelation Chapters 2 and 3, Part 3
by Karl Kemp
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We will finish the verse-by-verse study of Revelation chapters 2, 3 here in Part 3, starting with Rev. 3:7.
(7) And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true [cf. Rev. 19:11], who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens [[See Isa. 22:22; Rev. 1:18. Jesus Christ has the "key of David" in that He is the greater son of David, who (for one thing) fulfills the prophecies regarding David's lineage reigning worldwide forever (cf., e.g., 2 Sam. 7:12, 13, 16; Isa. 9:7; and Luke 1:32, 33). He has all authority (e.g., Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23), but the primary idea here seems to be that He is the One with the authority to say who will, or will not, enter God's yet-future eternal kingdom. (It could be important to know, and to be on good terms with, Someone like that.) The Christians at Philadelphia were in the category of those who would find an open door to eternal glory. This was one of the two churches of the seven to which Christ had only positive things to say. He required of them only to continue to be faithful.]], says this: (8) "I know your deeds [works; cf. Rev. 2:2, 19; 3:1, 15]. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut [[I understand the idea here, at least the dominant idea, to be that the door to God's yet-future kingdom will be open for them. They will enter the door to eternal glory at the time Christ returns, with the added very significant benefit that they will be kept "from the hour of testing" (Rev. 3:10) taking place on the earth throughout the second half of Daniel's 70th week - they will be raptured from the earth with all the saints when Christ returns.
The devil and those who were persecuting them, including at least some of the Jews of Philadelphia, who claimed that they (not the Christians) were the ones who would inherit/enter the messianic kingdom (see Rev. 3:9; cf. Rev. 2:9), will find a closed door to God's yet-future eternal glory. It's also true that the door to God's presence and to His present blessings was open to these faithful Christians (and all faithful Christians; cf. Rom. 5:2; Heb. 10:19-22) and that a door to witness to the world for Christ Jesus was open for them (cf. 1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:3).]], because you have a little power, and have kept My word [cf. John 8:51, 55; 17:6; and Rev. 3:10], and have not denied My name [cf. Rev. 2:13]. [[I understand these words in the sense that, even though this church only had a little power (in the sense that it was poor, small, and not influential from the world's point of view), they were, nevertheless, faithful to God through His sufficient grace (which includes His power). The BADG Greek Lexicon (under "dunamis") says that this Greek noun is used here "of the externals of power...[and being combined with the adjective "little" here it means] have few resources."]] (9) Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not [They aren't true Jews; they aren't part of God's true Israel (cf., e.g., Rom. 2:28, 29).], but lie - I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. [See under Rev. 2:9. Ultimately God will demonstrate before all mankind that He loved (and loves) His faithful followers at Philadelphia, and all those like them.] (10) Because you have kept the word of My perseverance [Or, steadfastness. They had kept His word (they had remained faithful to Him and His word), as Rev. 3:8 demonstrates, which required perseverance/steadfastness. On perseverance/steadfastness (by grace through faith), cf. Rev. 1:9; 2:2, 3, 19.], I also will keep you from [or "out of"; Greek preposition "ek"; He didn't say "I will keep you through"] the hour of testing, that hour which is about [or "which is going to"] to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. [[This verse was briefly discussed under Rev. 3:8. It probably is the most important verse in the Bible to show that the saints will be raptured from the earth before God pours out His wrath, including the seven bowls of wrath of the book of Revelation. God's wrath includes His raising up Antichrist, an extremely evil ruler (cf. Dan. 8:19; 11:36; Zech. 11:15-17; 2 Thess. 2:3-12 [Daniel chapters 8, 11; Zechariah chapter 11; and 2 Thess. 2:1-12 are discussed verse-by-verse in my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"]).
The "HOUR of testing" correlates with the HOUR of the reign of Antichrist mentioned in Rev. 17:12 and with the HOUR of God's judgment mentioned in Rev. 14:7. (Antichrist, who will seem to be invincible at that time, will demand that all people take his mark and submit to him, but God, who is the Creator and Judge, will demand that all people repent and submit to Him.) It isn't that these faithful Christians at Philadelphia (and all faithful Christians) avoid being tested; during their time of testing on the earth, they are found faithful (by grace through faith). For a more detailed discussion of Rev. 3:10, see pages 40-42 of "The Mid-Week Rapture."]] (11) I am coming quickly [cf. Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:7, 10-12, 20]; hold fast what you have [cf. Rev. 2:25], so that no one will take your crown. [[Assuming that the "crown" refers to the "crown of life" mentioned in Rev. 2:10, for someone to take their crown would mean that they would be denied partaking of eternal life with all the overcomers in God's yet-future kingdom. It is also true that we will reign with God from the time of our glorification (cf., e.g., Rev. 2:26, 27; 3:21; 12:5; 20:6; and 22:5). The Christians at Philadelphia didn't need to repent, but we must always hold fast what we have in God and press on until the end of the race. Also, as we are faithful and press on, we will experience growth (by God's grace).]] (12) He who overcomes [see under Rev. 2:7], I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore [[These glorious words are a figurative way to say that the overcomers will experience a never-ending, intimate relationship with God (as His bond-servants), being pictured as pillars in the temple in which He dwells (cf., e.g., Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet. 2:5). Revelation 21:22 shows that there won't be a literal temple in God's new Jerusalem. We won't need a literal temple when we are permitted to fully dwell in the presence of God. All new Jerusalem could be considered God's temple.]]; and I will write on him the name of My God [Compare Rev. 14:1; 22:4. The overcomers (all the members of true Israel) are the bond-servants of God; they are set apart for Him; they belong to Him in a very special sense, which is a great privilege for the saints.], and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God [This is a symbolic way of saying that the overcomers will have a place in new Jerusalem; it is their city (cf. Rev. 21:2; 21:9-22:5; and 22:14, 15).] and My new name [cf. Rev. 2:17; 19:12]. [Even as the overcomers are set apart for God the Father, they are also set apart for God the Son. They are His people, and everything He is as the victorious Son of God and the Savior of true Israel, which is reflected in His new name, will be eternally shared with His people, who will have His name written on them and will experience the glory contained in this new name.] (13) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (14) To the angel of the church in Laodicea [[Compare Col. 2:1; 4:16. I'll quote George E. Ladd's introductory paragraph under this verse ("Commentary on the Revelation of John" [Eerdmans, 1972], page 64.) "Laodicea was situated at the convergence of three important roads. Its situation contributed to its becoming a prominent center of banking and industry. Its wealth is illustrated by the fact that when it, together with other cities in Asia, suffered severe damage from an earthquake in A.D. 60-61, it was able to finance its own rebuilding and did not need, like other cities, substantial subsidies from the imperial treasury. The city was famous for a beautiful black woolen cloth used to make clothing and carpets. Laodicea was also the seat of a flourishing medical school which was particularly noted for its ear ointment and for 'Phrygian powder' which was used in the manufacture of eye salve." Laodicea was founded by the Seleucid king Antiochus II (262-246 BC); it was named after his wife Laodice.]] write: The Amen [[I'll quote a few sentences from G. B. Funderburk's article on "Amen" ("Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible," [Zondervan, 1975], page 127.) " 'Amen' in both Greek and English is a transliteration from the Hebrew, while the same spelling is also retained in Latin and German. In fact, it is probably the most universal of all words, with only 'ma' for mother a close second. ... In Hebrew it is usually an adjective, 'true' or 'faithful.' " Christ is the truth (e.g., John 14:6), and He speaks the truth.]], the faithful and true witness [See under Rev. 1:2 and 1:5.], the beginning of the creation of God, [[In the margin the NASB has, "I.e. Origin or Source [of the creation of God]." The NIV translates the Greek noun ("arche") differently: "the ruler of God's creation." The NIV is reasonable; Christ is the ruler of God's creation, but I prefer the idea here that the Son of God is the origin/source of the creation in the sense of John 1:1-3 - all things were created by/through Him. He, with the Father, is the Alpha and the Omega (cf. Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13).
I wouldn't translate "beginning" (with the NASB and KJV) because this translation lends itself to the heretical idea that the Son of God is a created being, the first creation of God the Father. The Son of God isn't a created being: He is deity; He is God the Son; He was with the Father in the beginning, before creation began (e.g., John 1:1). The NKJV's "Beginning" is better, but I prefer a translation like "the origin of God's creation" with the NRSV, or "the Source of God's creation" with the New American Bible. See my paper "More on the Trinity."]] says this: (15) "I know your deeds [works; cf. Rev. 2:2, 19; 3:1, 8], that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. [It's quite clear that the Lord Jesus won't tolerate lukewarmness in His disciples (Rev. 3:16). He won't tolerate their being cold either, but at least if they're cold it's much more obvious that they're not true Christians.] (16) So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. [[The Lord Jesus certainly stated the fact in powerful, graphic terms (designed to wake Christians up) that, if they didn't repent (see Rev. 3:18-20), they would be rejected by Him and would be His disciples no longer. Even though the words spoken to the Christians at Ephesus and the words spoken to most of the Christians at Sardis were spoken in less graphic terms, the end result of ceasing to be Christ's people, if they didn't repent, was equally applicable for them and for all other Christians in the same situation.]] (17) Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' [[It seems clear that the Christians at Laodicea were too focused on the things of the world, including financial prosperity. They wrongly assumed that because things were going well in those areas they were quite secure in Christ. (Many have pointed out that we Christians in the United States, and in other parts of the world, are in danger of being deceived even as the Laodicean Christians were deceived, because of our material blessings, limited persecution, etc. Let's make sure we don't let the material blessings and other blessings we have become a curse to us.)
They didn't realize that they were in desperate need of the things of God, things like truth, righteousness, and holiness. That is, they didn't realize their desperate need for the things of God until they heard these shocking words from the Head of the church, assuming they took these words seriously. I assume that many of them did repent after receiving this message from the Son of God. What a blessing for Christ to call us to repent when repentance is required. Judgment day will too late to find out that repentance was required.
As Rev. 3:19 shows, this call to repent was/is motivated by His love for His people. It's not exactly good news to find out that we need to repent, but it's a great blessing to know the truth. Once we see our need for repentance, and the awesome consequences for not repenting, it shouldn't take true Christians very long to make repentance top priority.
We Christians must face the fact that God's people are typically very slow to see their sin, and they are often slow to repent. It's shocking to read through the Old Testament and see the sin of generation after generation. Also, the people of Israel of Jesus' day had a very different idea of how well they were doing than Jesus did (and He knew the truth). See Luke 13:1-5, for example. For one thing, we must realize that God takes the sin of His people to be far more serious than the sin of those who aren't His people. The more He reveals to us and gives us, the more He expects from us, and rightly so.
If God considered the sin of Israel to be a serious matter, and He certainly did, how much more does He consider our sin (the sin of born-again children of God) to be a serious matter? The old-covenant people weren't born again, since Jesus had not yet conquered sin and spiritual death through His atoning death (cf., e.g., Gal. 3:21). We must make it a top priority to be open to God and His word to discern where there is a need for repentance. This isn't optional; as these verses show, our salvation could very well depend on it.]] and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked [[Christ's judgment of how the Christians at Laodicea were doing was quite different than their opinion. His words had to come as a great shock. The Laodicean Christians thought they were rich, but according to Christ, they were poor. The Christians at Smyrna, by contrast, were poor (with respect to the things of this world), but Christ said they were rich (Rev. 2:9). Again, each Christian of each generation must be open and humble before God and His word to discern their true status in Christ, and where it is required we must make repentance a top priority item (by His grace).]], (18) I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich [Compare Isa. 55:1-3; Matt. 13:44; and 1 Pet. 1:7. True "gold" goes with the true riches of the things of God, things like truth, purity, godliness, righteousness, holiness, and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22, 23). This true "gold" would solve the problem of their being "poor," which was mentioned in Rev. 3:17.], and white garments so that you may clothe yourself [["White garments" in the book of Revelation often refer to our yet-future garments (see under Rev. 3:4), but the primary idea here is of acquiring white garments now, by repenting and living right now through the grace of God in Christ (cf., e.g., Rev. 7:14; 19:8 and 22:14).], and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed [The "white garments" would solve the problem of their nakedness, which was mentioned in Rev. 3:17. Compare Rev. 16:15]; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. [By cooperating with God's grace, we can see the truth; we can see things as they really are, from God's point of view. Anointing the eyes with this eye salve would solve the blindness problem, which was mentioned in Rev. 3:17.] (19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous [If they become zealous and repent, they will no longer be "lukewarm" (Rev. 3:16).] and repent. [[On the call to repent, cf. Rev. 2:5, 16, 21; and 3:3. These words regarding Christ's love for these Christians (His very special love for those who had been adopted and born into the family of God through His atoning death), who desperately needed to repent are very important to establish the right perspective. The Lord Jesus Christ isn't trying to get rid of us. (He's proven that to me many times.) Quite the contrary!
He still loved these Christians at Laodicea and wanted for them to repent. We had better not, however, single out these positive words we like about the love of Christ and use them for an excuse to not take His words seriously regarding being spit out of His mouth if we don't repent (where repentance is required). That, to say the least, wouldn't be wise. Anything that Christ does to help His people wake up and see their need to repent (including His reproving and disciplining them) is good, very good, and it will work for great good if we rightly respond to it. Compare Prov. 3:12; 1 Cor. 11:31, 32; and Heb. 12:5-17.]] (20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. [[Compare John 14:23. These glorious words were/are addressed to the Christians at Laodicea who needed to repent and all other Christians in the same situation, not to unbelievers. It's true, however, that the invitation to repent and become Christians/believers has been extended to all unbelievers, and the door to God's saving grace and His presence will be opened for all who respond to His offer of salvation.]] (21) He who overcomes [see under Rev. 2:7], I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame [On Christ's overcoming, see John 16:33; Rev. 5:5.] and sat down with My Father on His throne. [All overcomers (all the members of true Israel) will reign forever with God the Father and God the Son (cf., e.g., Matt. 19:28; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26, 27; 5:10; 20:4, 6; and 22:5).] (22) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." ' "
May God's will be fully accomplished through this paper and His people be edified!
© Copyright by Karl Kemp
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