About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapter 3
who believe these seven letters are addressed to seven churches throughout
history suggest that this church be called the "Dead
Church", which is the Reformation church, from about 1520 A D to the
present day. Even though this
church movement stressed faith in Jesus alone for salvation, there was
little life of the Holy Spirit in the movement, at least for the most
part. This church became state
churches and depended on the state for life.
For example, the
For those who believe this assembly represents a
community of Jews at the end of this age parallel this community to
was a wealthy city with old
money. Old money means
inherited money. Sardis
was on the way to decline but was not there yet.
Modern coins used for money were born in this city.
The first coins were minted there.
local temple had columns 60 feet high and 6 feet wide.
The god here was called the “mother god”, and once again, was
was a city of decadence, luxury,
and pleasure. It was extremely
description to these people of Himself is that He is the one who holds the
seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
We’ve noted earlier that the seven stars are the seven angels or
messengers. Some interpret
these as literal angels, and some view them as human messengers.
seven spirits of God are either seven spirits, or the seven fold Holy
Spirit. Isaiah 11:2 might give
some understanding on this for it lists seven aspects of God’s spirit.
They are; the Spirit of the Lord, wisdom, understanding, counsel,
might, knowledge and fear of the Lord.
doesn’t have a lot of good to say about these people as He does the
others. He says that they have
“a reputation of being alive”, but in fact they “are dead”.
Jesus is very straight forward.
He hasn’t been beating around the bush in any of these letters.
verse 2 Jesus tells these people that their deeds are not complete in the
eyes of the Lord. He tells
them to wake up and strengthen what little they have left.
These people had the good works, but the pure Biblical heart felt
motivation wasn’t there. Doing
the good works is simply not good enough.
Ephesians 2:8 to 10 tells us that we are saved by
faith and not by works. Evangelicals
have stressed this point almost to the exclusion of something else this
passage states. Paul also
tells his readers that they, us too, are ordained by God to do good works.
If this letter is addressed to Christians, they obviously aren't
doing the good works they are called to do.
That being said, those who believe this letter is written to Jewish
communities during the tribulation say that the emphasis on good works
here tells us that this letter is written to Jews who God is bringing back
to their vow to obey the Law of Moses.
They say that this letter is all about works and not grace.
verse 3 Jesus says to them to “remember” what they’ve received and
heard and “obey it”. Obedience
is not something that God only required in the Old Testament.
He requires obedience today as well.
says that if they don’t get back on track He will come to them as a
thief and they will not be ready or prepared for His coming.
Whether this means His second coming or simply His coming in some
way to this particular church is debatable.
Many futurists see this coming as the rapture of true Christians
prior to the Great Tribulation.
1 Thessalonians 5:1 and following tells us that the
coming of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
It will surprise everyone who is not expecting His coming.
That being said, Paul tells his readers that the coming of the Lord
shouldn't surprise them. He is
not coming as a thief in the night because they are expecting Him and
waiting patiently for Him.
verse 4 Jesus says that “there are a few in
these people haven’t soiled their clothes they will some day be
“dressed in white”. This
would be in reference to their clothing worn in the next life that Jesus
provides for them.
verse 5 Jesus says that those who overcome will never have their names
blotted out from the Book of Life, but will be acknowledged by Him to both
His Father and the angels. To
me, just the mere mention of blotting names out of the Book of Life
suggests its possibility.
is some debate over what the book of life is.
We see this book in Revelation 20.
We also see what is called the Lambs book of life in Revelation 13.
Some people believe these are two separate and distinct books.
They say you can have your name blotted out of the book of life at
death, but your name can't be blotted out of the Lamb's book of life.
The words "blotted out" have been the
centre of the debate over the doctrine of eternal security for years.
Some suggest this verse proves one can lose his salvation.
It all depends whether you believe in two books of life or one, as
again the admonition to hear what the Spirit of God is saying to the
churches ends this letter. This
is an admonition to anyone who hears these words and thus applies to you
recently pondered over these seven letters.
There are many references to works in these letters.
If you notice at the White Throne Judgment in chapter 20, those who
are judged are judged according to their works.
The works they are judged for are works of sin, the biggest,
although not mentioned in the list of sin in Revelation 20, is unbelief in
Jesus. This is how I see this.
Christians are saved by faith in God's grace.
Those who choose the way of faith and grace for their lives will
not be judged for their works, neither good nor bad.
Those who reject the path of faith and grace are therefore judged
for their works, including good and bad.
those who believe this letter concerns the Northern Kingdom of Israel that
had fallen to their enemies in God's judgment will point out that what
characterizes these people here line right up with the Northern Kingdom of
Israel. Most people in the
north gave themselves to idolatry.
There were a few that didn't soil their clothes as this letter
states. Many of them moved to
the southern kingdom known as
we see that Jesus is interested in these people's deeds or works.
He says that they are not complete.
As I've said before in the other letters.
This is Old Testament language.
This is Law of Moses language that majors on works.
Those who hold to the view that these letters are written to Jews
at the end of this age will tell you that this can't be written about the
church because our deeds, or, our works, are complete in Jesus.
we can learn from this letter besides what has already been said is that
even though our works are complete in Jesus, as Ephesians 2:8 - 10 states.
We are called to do good works.
These works are a product of our faith, our trust in Jesus.
They don't save us and they don't keep us saved, but we will be
rewarded for them.
those who believe the people to whom this letter was written represent churches throughout
history call this church the "Church that Jesus Loves", from
roughly 1750 A D to the present, or, to a pre-tribulation rapture.
It is associated with the Evangelical Movement.
For those who believe this letter is written to
Jewish communities at the end of this age, parallel this community to the
Kings of Judah in the Old Testament.
7 opens like the other letters describing Jesus in some fashion.
Jesus describes Himself as being holy and true. Being holy and true
is part of the very nature of who Jesus is.
These two attributes must not be forgotten in our understanding of
Jesus. Yes, Jesus is love, but
there is more to Jesus than love.
He says that he “holds the key to David”. This phrase could possibly be in reference to Isaiah 22:22. A man named Eliakim would replace another man who was in charge of the King of Juda’s household. That being said, some would suggest the house of David applies to the church while others would say it applies to Israel. It's my thinking that any mention to David would be in reference to Israel. This is yet another reason why some see this letter directed to Jews, not church age Christians.
matter how you view the keys of David, Jesus says that whatever door He
opens, no man can shut, and what ever door He closes, no man can open.
Jesus has final authority over all things, and whatever He does
cannot be undone unless He so desires.
says that He has set an open door before these people.
The term “open door” in other Scriptures suggests to us that an
“open door” refers to evangelical opportunities to spread the gospel.
This thought is important to those who believe that these people
are the Evangelical church that began in the 1800's. Jesus
used this church as a church of world wide evangelism.
More than any other part of the church throughout history, the
Evangelical Church as spread itself and gospel throughout the whole world.
verse 8 Jesus acknowledges the fact that these people “have little
strength”, yet even with little strength they have not given up.
They have kept the Word of the Lord.
Anyone who knows about the Evangelical church in the past will tell
you that it has appeared to be not a very strong looking church.
They had small congregations, met in small unimpressive buildings,
and weren't very wealthy. That
has changed in recent years due to the fact that many Evangelicals are now
embracing unscriptural doctrines such as the Prosperity Gospel, Hyper Faith,
Seeker Sensitive church structure, and more.
10 tells us where some of the persecution had been coming from.
Jesus speaks again of the “synagogue of satan who claim to be
Jews but are liars”. It is
thought by some that the synagogue of satan is Jews who have not turned to
Jesus. Jesus says that some
day these people will bow at these people’s feet.
The Jews in the arrogance who claim to be God’s people will
realize some day that God’s people are those who have given their lives
to Jesus, God’s Son. The
synagogue of satan is a highly debatable subject.
thing to note here is that if Jesus viewed the Jews in those days as being
the synagogue of satan, how He views them today.
It they are still rejecting Jesus, would He still not call them the
synagogue of satan.
You might recall Jesus in John 8 telling the Jewish leadership that their father was not Abraham as they claimed. In fact, Jesus told them that their father was the devil. At the moment I see this synagogue of satan as being apostate Jews whose father is satan and not Abraham.
tells the real Jews that some day the false Jews
verse 10 Jesus tells these people that since they have endured hardship He
will keep them from the trials that will come upon the whole world. Those
who claim that these letters have secondary meaning and that each church
symbolizes a church throughout history claim that this is in reference to
the rapture before the Great Tribulation, and that the
make mention that the verb tense of this verse does
says that this trial will “test” men on earth.
It will be a time of testing for those on the earth. People who
believe in a pre-tribulation rapture say that the “people on earth” in
the Bible always refers to non-Christians.
we are to believe Revelation 3:10 to speak of a pre-tribulation rapture
then I believe we have to consider what the whole verse is telling us.
Jesus says that those who patiently endure will not go through the
trials that will befall the whole earth.
Therefore, you can't get all excited about escaping the tribulation
period without also understanding that there will be much suffering to
endure prior to the period of the tribulation that must be patiently
This verse clearly tells us that the ones to whom
this letter is directed will live at the end of this age.
When Jesus speaks of trials over all the earth, we must see these
trials as taking place just prior to, or during, the tribulation period,
depending on whether you believe in a pre-trib rapture or a mid-trib
Verse 11 says, “I am coming soon”, yet another phrase why some believe this letter is to a church that exists at the end of the age. Of course, coming soon is a relative term. It means something different from person to person and might well mean something different in the mind of Jesus. Remember, Jesus lives outside of our time and space domain. Time is irrelevant to Him. He only uses time related phraseology because He is speaking to time and space humans.
Jesus is coming quickly He tells these people to hold on to what they
have. Don’t give up.
You’ve made it this far. You
can make it to the end because I will soon come to you.
In verse 12 Jesus says that those who overcome will
become a pillar in the
The next phrase says,
“Never again will he leave it”. The pronoun "he"
refers to those people who will reside in the New Jerusalem. The
word "it" refers to the New Jerusalem. This
says that to the one who overcomes, He will write these new names on him.
We will have new names. There
will be a New Jerusalem that comes down from Heaven.
Even Jesus Himself will have a new name.
When the Bible speaks of “all things becoming new”, that’s
exactly what will take place.
word "overcomes" clearly suggests that there will be trials and
sufferings to overcome prior to the tribulation period.
Again, as verse 3 states, those who patiently endure will escape
the tribulation period.
those who believe this letter relates to Jews at the end of this age and
represents the southern
this letter speaks of an open door those holding to the Jewish view do not
see this as an open door to spread the gospel but a door that opens to
number one thing I learn from this letter is that we should endure
hardship. These are the daily trials that we all face from day to day.
As time goes on in the western world, Christians will experience
many trials because of our trust in Jesus.
We must learn to endure the trials now if we are ever to survive
the days ahead.
For those who believe
these seven churches represent seven particular church ages or churches
within history, this church is known as the "Apostate
who view this letter as Jewish in nature, referring to Jewish communities
at the end of this age, parallel this assemble to Jews at the time of the
I begin a verse by verse commentary on this section I will now insert an
article I recently wrote. The
article is from the perspective that this letter is written to a church,
and, especially the apostate church that exists at the end of this age.
That being said, I'm not convinced that this letter actually does
represent that church, although I do see many parallels.
Before I begin a verse by verse commentary on this section I will now insert an article I recently wrote. The article is from the perspective that this letter is written to a church, and, especially the apostate church that exists at the end of this age. That being said, I'm not convinced that this letter actually does represent that church, although I do see many parallels.
The church in the western
world is being pressured into conforming to a secular doctrine of
tolerance. The Bible does
teach a form of tolerance; however, Biblical tolerance does not come at
the expense of Biblical truth. For
this reason conflict historically arises between culture and church,
Caesar and Christ. The demand
to conform is intensifying. Church
will eventually be forced to conform or cease to exist in its present
format. So we must ask;
"where do we go from here"?
To begin to answer this
question I refer you to Revelation 3:14 – 22 where in a letter Jesus
blasted the Laodicean church that exhibited all the outward appearances of
being a successful church. This
passage shows us that Jesus defines a successful church differently than
most of us.
Jesus addressed His
criticism to this church's messenger who I believe represented the church
as a whole. He ended His
criticism by addressing individuals within the church.
As we will see, this is important.
Jesus' anger towards this
luke-warm church was seen when He said, "I am about to spit you out
of my mouth". (Revelation 3:16) The
words "I am about to spit" are translated from the present
active indicative Greek verb "mello".
Present means that the saliva was already swirling around in Jesus'
mouth as He criticized this church. Active
means that He alone would spit. Indicative
means that Jesus' mind was made up. He
would spit this church out of his mouth.
The problem with this
spiritually spineless church was that it was consumed by its wealth
instead of Jesus as seen in verse 17.
It thought very highly of its self-sufficiency, but Jesus thought
differently. Despite the
church's wealth that could have funded all kinds of humanitarian efforts,
Jesus said it was wretched, poor, pitiful, blind, and naked.
It's funny how Jesus views church differently than us, but that's
usually the case.
In verse 18 Jesus advised
this church to find its wealth in Him.
The word "advised" is translated from the Greek present
active indicative verb "symbouleuo".
This means that Jesus' advice was a command that demanded an
immediate positive response.
As I noted earlier, Jesus
began His criticism by addressing the church as a whole.
He concluded it by addressing individuals within this church as
seen in verse 19. "Those
(individuals) whom I love I rebuke and discipline".
Jesus is then pictured
standing outside the church knocking on its door.
It's not that He wanted to come in and save the church because He
didn't. Remember, He was about
to spit it out of His mouth. His
intention is seen in verse 20. "If
anyone (any individual) hears my voice and opens the door I will come in
and eat with him". Jesus
wasn't intending on having a meal with the whole church in its fellowship
hall. He wanted to eat with
individuals within the church. In
Jewish terms, eating a meal with others was a matter of personal
relationships. Jesus was
inviting individuals into His life. He
wanted a workable personal relationship with them, which I might add, was
what Christian Evangelicalism was founded upon.
This brings me to the point of this article.
The first step in where church goes from here is a step that the individual must take. Church can't take this step for us.
The Apostle Paul told us
to examine ourselves to see if we're really in the faith. (2 Corinthians
13:5) If our devotion to Jesus
has died; if our love for Him has become lackadaisical; if our commitment
to Him has become casual; we must repent and return to the heart felt love
we had when we first met Him. Jesus
told the Ephesian Christians this very thing in Revelation 2:4.
They worked hard for Jesus but their work had become routine.
Repenting from this casual, hoe hum, routine faith, and returning
to our first love for Jesus is the next step we must take.
This will keep us from forsaking our faith and caving into our
anti-Christ culture as Jesus said would happen to some in Matthew 24:10.
Watchman Nee was a
Christian who didn't fall from faith despite his imprisonment in Chinese
prisons and labour camps for the last 20 years of his life.
He was executed and cremated in 1972 without his family knowing.
When his family was informed of his death they discovered a note he
had written with large letters and shaky hand writing.
"Christ is the Son of God who died for the redemption of
sinners and resurrected after three days.
This is the greatest truth in the universe.
I die because of my belief in Christ". (from "A Seer Of
The Divine Revelation Of The Present Age", by Witness Lee, 1991,
Living Stream Ministry) Watchman
Nee loved Jesus through all of his suffering, right up to his dying day.
If not for His heart felt love and devotion for Jesus and Jesus'
heart felt love and devotion for him, he would have caved into the Chinese
There are countless
Christians imprisoned, beaten, raped, and executed, in places like
now return to my commentary. Laodicea was devastated by an earthquake in 60 A D.
The city did not want any government help and it restored itself on their own. The
city was a rich
city. One important thing they
exported was a special eye salve that came from the temple.
city had a running water problem. They
had to import their water from
the above hot water and cold water understanding we should understand what
Jesus says here. He says that
He'd rather have these people either cold or hot.
He didn't like them being luke-warm.
We should not interpret this to mean that Jesus would prefer these
people to be outright horrible pagan sinners.
He's simply using an analogy based on their water system to explain
that He is not impressed with their casual attitude toward their faith
verse 14 we see how Jesus describes Himself to these people. He says that He is the
“amen”. When spoken by God or Jesus in the Bible “amen” means,
"it is so". When spoken by
man it means “let it be so”.
is the truth and therefore He Himself can be called the Amen. In other words, whatever Jesus says, it is so.
You can trust what He says.
In other words, whatever Jesus says, it is so.
You can trust what He says.
also says that He is the faithful and true witness, ruler of God’s
creation. God has placed
Jesus as the Lord and Ruler of all things.
There is no one like Jesus and His people needs to learn this.
I should comment on the word "ruler".
It's translated from the Greek word "arche" which in its
basic form means origin or beginning.
What I believe Jesus to say there is that He is the origin of all
things. In some circles
"arch" did mean "first' and was applied to someone in
charge, which, might be why the NIV uses the word "ruler" here.
At the moment I prefer the word "origin".
verse 15 we see Jesus telling these people that “He knows their
works”. Their works are
neither cold nor hot. They’re
doing good works simply out of routine, something that is not much
different than many church people today.
The surprising thing that Jesus says is that He wished they were
either cold or hot, not luke-warm. He’d rather have them cold instead of
luke-warm. You’d think luke-warm
would be better than cold, but it appears that Jesus wants all or nothing,
something I think we really don’t understand.
verse 16 we see Jesus’ response to these people being luke-warm.
He is ready to spit them out of His mouth.
Once again we see Jesus in light of the present person that He is,
that is the Lord of all things.
Because of the Greek verb tense of the words "I
will spit", we should know that this spitting is a present and
ongoing certainty. It's not
maybe I will spit. It's I will
Again we see the emphasis on works here.
For those who believe this letter is written to Jews and not the
church they point out this emphasis on Old Testament style works.
verse 17 we see this group of people being very rich and needing nothing.
They are self sufficient. But
this is not the way it should be. We
should not be self sufficient or self propitiating.
Many churches do well these days surviving on their own.
They can grow and do things that are good without Jesus.
This is the way it was with
has a fix for these people if they care to use it.
He says that they should buy from
Him. This means that
these people should think less of the things they buy from the world in
their material acquiring of things and think of what they can buy from
Jesus. Of course Jesus
doesn’t want our money. He
wants us. We pay with our
lives. In Malachi 3:3, the prophet speaks of such refining
of His people by fire as gold is refined by fire.
Again, we see allusions of
In Malachi 3:3, the prophet speaks of such refining
of His people by fire as gold is refined by fire.
Again, we see allusions of
goes on to give examples of what we can buy from Him with our lives.
One thing is gold refined in fire.
I believe this is speaking of true faith.
We see Peter in his first letter and first chapter speak of faith
being refined by fire. The
Laodiceans have a false faith. They
need a true faith that can stand the tests.
in verse 18 Jesus says, “so that you can be rich”.
This richness is in the gold refined by fire, that is a true faith.
Jesus does not care about worldly riches that belong to a church.
He cares about our faith.
also says that we can buy “white clothes” which I believe symbolizes
“righteousness”. With true
faith comes “white clothes”. We
become righteous in the eyes of God when we have true faith.
Another great export from
other thing that Jesus says these people can buy and that is “salve”
for their eyes so they can see. They
don’t presently see through the eyes of the Holy Spirit as they should.
These people see through carnal and earthly eyes because that is
what they are. Their lives
need to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.
verse 19 Jesus says, “those I love, I rebuke and discipline”.
The fact of the matter is that many don’t respond to Jesus’
discipline so after a while He let’s us go our own way.
Paul says this very clearly in his first two chapters of his book
to the Romans. Therefore we don’t experience any discipline by Him any
Christians don't think in terms of being disciplined
by God these days, but we are. The
sad fact of the matter is that some of the trials we go through are in
fact God's way of disciplining us. If
we don't know this, we won't learn from His discipline.
If we don't believe He disciplines us we won't even recognize the
verse 20 Jesus tells these people to repent.
He also says that He is outside the door of their assembly and He is
knocking. This tells you
something about this group of people. It has left Jesus out of its
living a humanistic life. If the door is opened to Him, He’ll come in
and commune with them. I
believe the reference to eating implies fellowship and relationship.
For those who believe this letter is written
to Jews and not the church, they suggest that the eating that Jesus speaks
of here is in fact the marriage supper of the Lamb that is spoken of in
these people don’t open the door Jesus will do as He has already said, that is,
spit these people out of His mouth. This
means He will stop knocking and walk away, and wash His hands clean of
the last two paragraphs I've used the pronoun "they" because
Jesus is speaking an assebmly of His people. That
being said, you will notice who verse 20 is actually directed to.
It is not directed to the assembly as a whole.
It is directed to individuals.
It is directed to anyone, as in any
person. It appears this
assembly has gotten so bad that Jesus says that if anyone, any one person,
just opens the door to "him", He will come in and dine with him.
If this is a picture of the last day church, as many think, this
shows you how bad things will get at the end, even in the church.
Even so, Jesus is still at the door waiting for individuals to
verse 21 Jesus says that for those who overcome, that is, for those who do
repent and do as He says, He will let them sit by Him on thrones. He says
that He has overcome and sits on a throne by God His Father, and the same
can be so with these people if they truly repent and overcome. This might well be in reference to Revelation 20:4
where we see saints ruling and judging with Jesus.
This might well be in reference to Revelation 20:4
where we see saints ruling and judging with Jesus.
ends this letter as He does the other letters.
“He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the
churches”, that is to all the churches.
All of us have ears. We
need to hear and take note and do as Jesus says.
If not, Jesus will treat us in the same way He treats these seven
assebmlies we see in Revelation 2 and 3.
seems the higher one is the greater the fall.
are many things to learn here. One
is the need for repentance, even among God's people.
Another is the fact that God does not like luke-warmess.
That being said, we can still open the door to let Jesus into our
also should take note of worldly riches.
They mean very little in the eyes of the Lord, and we should
certainly take note of that. Jesus
encouraged us to lay up treasures in heaven and not on earth.
We certainly see that is the message in this letter.
I write these words in the summer of 2014 there is much I am not sure of
when it comes to these letters. That
being said, there is also much I am sure of.
thing I'm sure of is that translating the Greek word "ekklesia"
as church in these letters is a mistake.
It is pure interpretation. If
it were up to me, I'd translated "ekklesia" as "the
community of God's people". Then,
the reader is given the opportunity to determine for himself what
community of God's people Jesus is addressing.
When you translate "ekklesia" as church, you do not give
the reader that opportunity. You
make them think that Jesus is speaking to the church in what many have
called the age of grace, and I'm no longer sure that is the case.
Translating the word "ekklesia" as church is interpretation.
It's not translation.
thing I am sure of is that we cannot rule out that Jesus is talking to
Jews in the last seven years of this age.
I would suggest that best book to read on this issue is E. W.
Bullinger's 1909 book entitled "The
Apocalypse". He does a
much better job than me to explain this position, and, for me, his book
has been a real eye opener.
thing I have always questioned is making these seven letters represent
seven stages in church history. I
have never been convinced of this and I'm still not.
One reason is that the text does not say this.
Another reason is that most who believe this seem to leave out the
eastern church in their thinking. Bullinger
in his book says these seven letters represent seven stages in Old
Testament Jewish history. I
question that too.
would suggest that maybe these letters speak to seven different aspects of
God's people who are alive during the time of the tribulation period.
would also point out that if you study these letters closely you'll note
that that they are very Jewish and Old Testament in their content.
Once you see this, you will have to decide if such content really
should be directed to the
bottom line to prophecy, including this section of Revelation, is that
when this Revelation is being fulfilled, then we will know exactly what is
meant in Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.