A Study In Revelation Chapter Three - Part One
By Jonathan Mitchell

1. “Next, to (or: by; in; for) the agent (or: messenger) of the called-out community within Sardis, write: ‘The One having (or: holding) the seven spirits of God – and (or: even) the seven stars – is presently saying these things, I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) your works (acts; deeds) [and] that you have a name (= reputation) that you are living, and yet you are dead!

Compare ch. 1:4 where the Seven Spirits were positioned in front of His throne – the place of authority and power. Here it says that the Christ Figure of this book is holding (or: possessing; having) these Seven Spirits – or the fullness of the Breath-effect; the full cycle and completeness of the Spirit of God.

Isa. 11:1-2 says, "And a Rod has come out from the stock of Jesse, even a Branch from his roots is fruitful. Rested upon His has (1) the Spirit of Yahweh, (2) the Spirit of Wisdom and (3) Understanding, (4) the Spirit of Counsel, and (5) Might, (6) the Spirit of Knowledge and (7) Fear of Yahweh." This is an example of personification of various aspects, or qualities, of God's Spirit.

He states to this community also that He is aware of what they are doing. He knows their reputation, but He speaks truth that invalidates their reputation before people. They have a name, or reputation, that they are a real "live church!" But He pronounces them dead. Both being alive and being dead, here, are figures of speech. One is from the human view; the other is God's view – this latter referring to the realm of their spirit. As the prodigal son was dead to his father, so this church is dead to the Father. We can look to Matt. 23:27-28 for a parallel case,

27. "Tragic will be the fate of you Law scholars and Pharisees – you who recite a front of your own opinions and answers (or: overly-critical folks)! [It will be] because you continue closely resembling whitewashed (i.e., smeared or plastered with lime) tombs (sepulchers; grave sites), which indeed, from outside, continue being made to appear in the prime of beauty, for a time – yet inside they contain a full load of bones of dead folks, as well as every uncleanness.

28. "In this way you, yourselves, also on the one hand are continually made to outwardly appear to people [to be] just (fair, righteous, in right relationships, and in accord with the way pointed out) – yet inside you continuously exist being men glutted and distended, full of opinionated answers (or: perverse detail-oriented scholarship; hyper-criticism and judgmentalism; well-sifted wicked interpretations) and lawlessness (= practice which is contrary to the Law [Torah]).

Another use of death as a metaphor is found in Rom. 8:6, "For the flesh's frame of mind (or: fleshly way of thinking; disposition of the flesh) [is] death." It may well be that this had inwardly slain them.

2. Come to be (Be birthed) awake ones (watchful people) and establish (set fast) the remaining things which were about to die (or: rot), for I have not found your works (acts; deeds) being fulfilled (being made full) in front of and in the sight of My God (or: before God – which is Me).

They are dead, so they must be birthed once more. They are asleep (often a figure of death); they must come to be awake and watchful. Birth and death are often simply metaphors of going from one realm to another, within the mind or spirit.

We are not told what it is that they must establish, only that they were things that were about to die and rot. Perhaps it was their first love – something that was not outwardly apparent, for they had a name of being alive. Perhaps it was Christ's way of thinking (Phil. 2:5, "You see, this way of thinking {this attitude and disposition} is continuously within and among you folks {or, as an imperative: So let this minding be habitually within you folks} – which [is] also within Christ Jesus,") which had been displaced by "the disposition (way of thinking) of the flesh."

Furthermore, their works were not fulfilled, or completed, in God's sight. Was this like fruit that never ripened? Was the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forebearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness/loyalty, meekness, self-control – Gal. 5:22) not come to maturity? Did the vine dry up (Joel 1:12); did the fig tree produce no fruit (Mark 11:13)? "This is the work of God: that you would be trusting and believing into the One Whom He commissions" (John 6:29). Perhaps it was their trusting and believing which did not come to fruition.

3. Remember, then, how you have received (or: taken with the hand) and heard! Continuously keep watch (or: Guard [it]) and change your way of thinking, [and turn to God]. If ever, then, you should not be watching, I will (or: may) arrive upon you as a thief, and under no circumstances would you know what hour I will (or: may) arrive upon you.

How had they received? "For you are (or: exist being) folks having been delivered (saved; made whole) by GRACE, through FAITH and TRUST" (Eph. 2:8). "Being, then, folks that were rightwised (placed in the right relationship of solidarity in the Way pointed out and made fair, equitable and just; also: acquitted; freed from guilt) from out of faith and as a result of trust, we continuously hold and progressively have [other MSS: let us (or: we can) habitually retain and enjoy] peace and harmony [directing and conducting us] toward God (or: face to face with God), through our Owner (or: Lord; Master), Jesus Christ ([the] Anointed Jesus), through Whom, also, we have had and now hold the conducted approach and access (or: the act of bringing toward to gain entrée), by faith and in trust, into this grace and joyous favor within which we have stood and in union with which we now stand, and so we keep on speaking loudly of and habitually boasting upon the expectation (or: hope) of God’s glory (manifestation which calls forth praise; splendor; and: good reputation)" (Rom. 5:1-2). "For you see, since (or: if) by (or: in) the fall to the side (the stumbling aside; the offense) of the one THE MANY (= the mass of humanity) died, MUCH MORE (= infinitely greater) [is] the Grace of God (God’s Grace; the favor which is God), and the gift (or: gratuitous benefit) within Grace and joyous Favor, by that of the One Man, Jesus Christ, surrounded (or: encircles) into superabundance (extraordinary surplus and excess) into THE MANY (= the mass of humanity)" (Rom. 5:15). This is how they had received. Eph. 2:8 continues, "... and this is not from out of you folks, it is God's gift." The Lord charges them to remember this, and to hear.

They are then charged to continuously keep watch. The sense here may be to guard what they had received, as one guards a possession against thieves (folks or organizations which present contrary views which take away their expectation or steal their freedom in Christ and lead them back into bondage of religion). It may also be to watch over in the sense of tending a crop so that there will be a harvest of fruit. To do this they must change their frame of mind – their way of thinking.

In the last part of vs. 3 judgment is inferred in the aspect of His coming – a decision from Him that will take one by surprise – if His community does not comply with His instructions. There is also the sense of the possibility of loss of what they have received – for this is what a thief does; he comes to steal and to destroy (John 10:10 – considering the context which follows vs. 10 there, could it be that He might come to them via a hireling that is sent to them?) Lu. 12:39 also speaks of a situation on not knowing what hour the thief would come. Usually we don't think of this as being a coming of the Lord, but we see here that it is. He comes to us in all things – and they are all for our ultimate good.

4. But still, you have a few names in Sardis which do (or: did) not stain (soil; pollute) their garments, and they will walk with Me in white [garments] because they are worthy ones (folks of corresponding value).

Here the word "names" refers to people, in this case a few folks to whom the previous complaints do not apply. Staining (polluting; soiling) the garments is a metaphor for allowing the impure aspects of the profane life of our environment, or just common everyday living, to detract from our life in the spirit (typified here by walking with Christ in white garments), or to bring things from the estranged system into the higher life in God. Being worthy, or of corresponding value, means that they live their lives in the realm of having been cleansed by His blood (see ch. 7:14) so that their lives are compared to white robes – a rightwised life that has been transformed by the work of Christ, so that is focused in the right direction. Ch. 19:8 gives an explanation of the white garment symbol: "Then it was (or: is) granted (or: given) to her to the end that she may clothe herself with bright and clean fine cotton (or: she may cast bright, pure, fine linen around her) – for the fine cotton (or: linen) is the effects of fair and equitable deeds and way of life (or: just awards; the results of rightwised behavior; the actualizations of justice; consequences of justice rendered; the effects of living in right relationship which accords with the Way pointed out) of the set-apart folks."

Jesus said, "And the person who is not taking his cross and following after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:38). Paul said, "For I consider that the sufferings and experiences of the current season are not worthy (of equal value) to the glory about to be revealed (unveiled) into us, indeed... the unveiling of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:18,19). For the metaphor of clothing we have Gal. 3:27, "For whoever are baptized into Christ put on [as a garment] Christ." It is Christ Himself who is our white garments.

5. “The person habitually conquering (repeatedly overcoming) may thus clothe himself in white garments, and under no circumstances will I erase his name from out of the scroll of The Life (or: Life’s scroll; the scroll which signifies life), and I will speak in accordance to his name (say the same thing as his name; confess and avow his name) in front of My Father, and in front of His agents (or: messengers).

6. “Let the one having an ear continuously hear what the Spirit (or: Breath-effect) is normally saying to the called-out communities.”

This continual overcoming through the One Who indwells us allows us to be constantly dressing ourselves with Christ, our "white garment." With this continual union with Christ a person's name will by no means be erased from the scroll of The Life – a figure for participation in the Christ Life, or as elsewhere termed, "The Scroll of the Life of the Lamb" (ch. 13:8). It is HIS LIFE that is being referred to; our name being written there just means that we are abiding in the Vine, His sap (life/Spirit) is flowing into and through us. Just as in John 15 there is potential for the branch to not abide in the Vine, so here there is potential to not remain in union with the Christ Life, and wither spiritually just like the branch that does not abide in the flow of the life of the Vine. The Lamb, the scroll of The Life, and the Vine are parallel metaphors.

The metaphor of "overcoming" or "being victorious" is parallel to what Paul referred to as "running a race" and "winning the prize" which pertains to the upward invitation in Christ. We can be disqualified from this by not abiding in Him, and thus by not being victorious. This passage is not talking about being a child of God, but about pursuing God in this upward call – once we have been born back up again into the reign and kingdom of God. If we do not abide in Him, we will wither. The potential for this is what Paul referred to when he said, "But I am belaboring my body and leading it into slavery, lest somehow, when heralding to others, I myself may become disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27, CLNT). In vs. 26 Paul had just said, "thus am I racing," and this is the context of "racing in a stadium," (vs. 24). Also in vs. 26 he says, "thus am I boxing." This all refers to how a person leads his life in the spirit.

In ch. 13:8 we read of a category of folks who "dwell upon the earth," i.e., not in the heavens (vs. 6), who worship the beast, "whose name[s] ha[ve] not been written in the scroll of the Lamb' Life..." Here we have the contrast via the figures of living "upon the earth" versus "in the heavens." Those whose lives are lived in the spirit, in heaven, in union with Christ are like citizens of ancient cities, who were registered as living in that city. Paul uses the metaphors of "the Jerusalem which is above" in contrast with the then existing physical Jerusalem on earth (Gal. 4:25,26). To have one's name in the book of the Lamb's life, is to participate in the Christ life – the upward invitation – and to be a part of the first-fruits and live in the anointing.

That He will speak before the Father and His agents in accord to the overcomer's name would suggest a tribute to the conqueror's accomplishments – perhaps that he built with gold, or with silver, or with precious stones (1 Cor. 3:12). rather than with the disqualifying materials which would not withstand the test of the Fire (God). He will confess the character that has been built into the overcomer. This can be compared to the time where Jacob blessed his sons, confessing their names and characters (Gen. 49). Vs. 6 repeats the admonition to listen and hear what God is presently or continuously saying to us.

A Study In Revelation
Chapter Three - Part Two

7. “And so to the agent of the called-out community in Philadelphia, write: ‘ The Set-apart One (The Holy One; The Saint), the True One, the One having (continuously holding) David’s Key, the One habitually opening – and no one keeps on shutting (or: locking) – and He is repeatedly shutting (locking) – and no one keeps on opening – [Isa. 22:22] He, is presently saying these things,

8. I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) your [note: pronouns & verbs are singular] acts (works; deeds). Consider! I have given before you an open door (or: a door having been opened in your sight) which no one is able (or: has power) to shut, because you continue holding a little power (having a little ability), and you keep watch over (guard) My Word, and you do not deny (or: disown) My Name.

9. Consider! I am constantly giving to those from out of the synagogue of satan (the assembly of the adversary) – the ones repeatedly saying [that] they themselves are Jews, and they are not, but are lying – Consider! I will form them (construct them; make them) so that they may arrive, and they may worship in front of your feet and can know that I, Myself, love you!

10. Because you keep watch over (observe; preserve; guard) the Word of My patient endurance (of My remaining under), I, also, will keep watch over (observe; preserve; guard) you from out of the hour of the putting to the proof (or: trial; test) which is presently about to be progressively coming upon the whole territory where folks normally dwell (or: inhabited land), to put to the proof (to test, try and put through an ordeal) those continually dwelling down in houses upon the Land (or: inhabiting the territory).’

11. “I am repeatedly (habitually; constantly) coming swiftly (or: = progressively coming soon)! You must be continuously strong in what you have (or: you must constantly hold in your power that which you possess) to the end that no one may take your winner’s wreath (your emblem of victory; or: your encirclement).

12. “The one habitually conquering (repeatedly overcoming) – I will make (form; construct; create) him [to be] a pillar (or: column) in My God’s Temple, and he (or: it) may nevermore (by no means any more) come (or: go) out (outside), and I will write upon him My God’s Name, and the name of the City of My God: ‘The New Jerusalem’ – the one habitually descending from out of the atmosphere (or: heaven), from God – and My new Name [Vatican MS #1006 and others read: and the new name].

13. “Let the person having an ear hear what the Spirit is repeatedly saying to the called-out communities!”

In vs. 7 note the continued identification of Himself by attributes of His character (e.g., holy, true) or of His power and authority (having David's key; the Seven spirits in vs. 1; the two-edged sword in His mouth, etc.). If such things are important to God, should they not also be so to us? Do we relate to ourselves, or to others, as being a holy one (one set apart), a true one, etc.?

He is continuously, or repeatedly, opening things for us, and presumably, for other. Yet, as He so chooses, He is also constantly and repeatedly shutting (presumably doors or opportunities). Can we accept this from one who love us? We love having opportunities (open doors), but do we just as much love closed opportunities and doors being shut to us? He is telling us that He is set-apart in this context, so can we assume that His decisions about opening or closing are made objectively, from His overarching purposes and goals? With our limited views and perspectives, can we thank Him for what He chooses in these situations? If we trust Him, if we have placed our faith into Him, then we can say, "Yes," and give thanks to Him for both open doors and locked ones.

David's key is a figure for control to access, for ability to be coming into or going out of situations, and for security. He is able to unlock secrets of the universe, and of His plans, for us. It is a symbol of His being in authority in His City, and in this case, in His called-out community in Philadelphia.

Yet further, the Lord is citing a reference to Eliakim in Isa. 22:20-25, who in turn was the spokesman for king Hezekiah when Rabshakeh and the hosts of Assyria came against Jerusalem (2 Kings 18:16-37). In this latter passage, this Assyrian general says to Eliakim, "Am I now come up without Yahweh against this place, to destroy it?" (vs. 25). The Lord's paraphrase of Isa. may be a veiled reference to the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. And through the figure Eliakim in Isa. 22:22 (upon whose shoulder is laid "the key of the house of David), we see that it is the Lord who now holds the key to the gates of the city of David (this city also being a symbol for the people of Judea) – and its/their fate is in His hands. So too is the situation for those of the "synagogue of satan" who are calling themselves Jews (vs. 9, above). His decision for them will stand.

Now in addressing Philadelphia, vs. 8, He announces an open door (= access or opportunity into something, or escape out of a bad situation) for them. It could apply to group situations, or individual leading by the Holy Spirit. Recall the saying of Jesus, "knock and keep on knocking, and it will be opened" (Matt. 7:7). That He has the power to keep the door open for them would give hope and courage to proceed. He recognizes even the little power and ability which they do have, and this opens opportunity to them: "to him who has shall more be given." He values having His Word kept and nurtured, and our being loyal to His Name – which implies to Him, to His character and qualities, to His reputation.

This is the second city where He mentions there being a synagogue of the adversary there (vs. 9), but it is the fourth community whose message from Him speaks of something regarding satan (2:9; 2:13; 2:24). Does He mean that those folks have an adversarial spirit that characterizes their group? Or is this a figure of the Judaizers who try to reintroduce keeping the Law? Or, does it symbolize the Jewish opposition to Christianity that was present? Whichever it is, it is obvious that satan's realm is the church, and its main activity is in relation to the called-out communities.

The Lord does not say what He is giving to those of satan's assembly, but it would seem to be a decision for transformation, because He "will form them (construct them; make them) so that they may arrive, and they may worship in front of your feet and can know that I, Myself, love you!" This is a picture of the removal of estrangement and enmity in these folks. So here we see the goal and the end for "the synagogue of satan." His gift is grace to them. It is also a picture of folks coming to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. In judgment He remembers mercy.

Vincent refers us to Isa. 60:14, "The sons also of them that afflicted you shall come bending unto you; and all those that despised you shall bow themselves down at the soles of your feet; and they shall call YOU 'The city of Yahweh, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.'" Then there is Isa. 49:23, "And kings shall be your nourishing fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers: they shall bow down to you with their face to the ground, and then lick up the dust of your feet, and thus you shall know that I am Yahweh – for they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me." In both cases, those people or those adversarial spirits who/which were previously enemies now acknowledge both God's people, and God Himself. They have been transformed.

Another echo of this figure comes from Gen. 37:5-11, where Joseph had dreams of his parents and his brothers bowing down to him. His brothers became adversaries to him and he winds up a slave in prison in Egypt. Then Yahweh creates a situation where they "arrive" and worship at his feet.

In vs. 10 we come to the phrase "the Word of My patient endurance (of My remaining under)" which they keep and watch over. Is this the message of His bearing the cross? Heb. 12:2-3 says, "... Who, in the place of the joy continuously lying before Him, remained under (endured) a cross – despising shame and disgrace... the One having remained under (having endured) such contradiction from sinners..." 2 Tim. 2:10 speaks of Paul constantly enduring all things because of the chosen folks.

So it seems that when we keep the same attitude which Christ has, and remain in situations to give support, that He will keep us out of trials. Why? Because if we keep His way of thinking as our way of thinking, we will not need to be put to the proof. But those who remain earthly-minded (= having the disposition and attitude and way of thinking that comes from the flesh), being designated here as "those continuously dwelling upon the Land (territory; earth)," still need to undergo the trials and pressures which will prove them and transform them.

Vs. 11 affirms once again that He is continually, repeatedly, progressively or, then, presently coming (the Greek present tense). Before He said that He comes as a thief; here He says that He comes swiftly – the opposite of a slow or gradual approach. It would seem that Philadelphia did not have long to wait for His coming. Then He tells them to continue being strong so as not to lose their victor's emblem. Paul, in Eph. 6:10, says, "... you must continuously empower yourselves within the Lord, and within (in union with) the strength of His might." He say a similar thing in 2 Tim. 2:1, but here they were to do it "in union with the grace which is within Christ Jesus."

The possibility of the loss of the winner's wreath is a metaphor from the games, where an opponent will always try to throw us down and beat us. Both Paul and John are given pictures which represent life as a contest. In life we find that there is often a struggle to survive – in one situation or another. This being the case, we should always look to the Lord for our strength, and for our ability to overcome adversity.

Vs. 12 tells us, as before, that there is a prize for this overcoming. We are formed into being part of the supporting structure (a pillar) in the body of Christ. It is the Lord that is building His church (Matt. 16:18), and recall Paul's words that we are the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16). Those in Asia Minor were growing together into a set-apart temple – God's dwelling place, in spirit (Eph. 2:19-22). Always being a part of the temple is like having your name in the story of the Lamb's life..

Next we come to having God's Name and "the New Jerusalem" written upon the overcomer. We are identified with God, and with the New Jerusalem (the one constantly descending out of heaven; "the Jerusalem above is free, who is our mother" – Gal. 4:26. This indicates that we have been born back up from above again – John 3:3, and corresponds to Eph 2:5-6 where Paul tells us that "He aroused [us] together and caused [us] to sit together within heavenly places within Christ Jesus"). We have God's and Jerusalem's character – what a promise. Then He stresses that we ourselves have His new Name: thus we are either married to Him, or we are His body, a part of Him. In all this we also represent God, the New Jerusalem and Christ, for we bear His Name.

As with Christ, it is the nature of the heavenly folks to descend to those of low position ("... continuously leading yourselves away together to the low folks" – Rom. 12:16). Thus is the New (Heavenly) Jerusalem continuously descending from God, out of heaven, taking the form of a servant.

The new name has its roots in Isa. 62:2 "... and you shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of Yahweh will specify." Also Isa. 65:15, "... and He will call His servants by another name." Again, recall the name changes of Abram, Jacob, and Simon. Vs. 13 repeats the admonition to listen and to hear. The Spirit is repeatedly and continuously saying things to us.

A Study In Revelation
Chapter Three - Part Three

14. “And then, to (by; in; for) the agent (or: messenger) of the called-out community within Laodicea, write: ‘The Amen (The It-is-so), the Faithful (or: Trustworthy) and True Witness, the Beginning of God’s Creation (or: the Origin of God’s creation; the First Place or Corner of God’s Framing; the Beginning of God’s act of building and founding; the Beginning of God’s act of reducing from a state of wildness and disorder) is presently saying these things,

Once again, the Lord identifies Himself with aspects of His character. In Isa. 65:16 we are told that Yahweh is "the God of truth," but in the Hebrew it reads "the God of the Amen." Jesus frequently used the Greek version of this word in His teachings. There is here an association with Yahweh, and with promises that can be relied upon. That He is the Faithful (or: Trustworthy; Loyal) and True Witness also calls to mind the teaching manner of Jesus: we can count on what He tells us; His evidence which He presents to us is trustworthy, and He is loyal in His taking a stand for us – witnessing to the truth of our situation. His witness to us is true; He is also faithful and loyal to witness on our behalf.

In 2 Cor. 1:20 Paul tells us "For whatever [are] the promises of God, [they are] in Him 'the Yes,' wherefore also, through Him, 'the Amen,' by (or: for; to; with) God, with a view toward glory – through us."

Next He calls Himself "the Beginning of God’s Creation (or: the Origin of God’s creation; the First Place or Corner of God’s Framing; the Beginning of God’s act of building and founding; the Beginning of God’s act of reducing from a state of wildness and disorder)." The Greek word for "beginning" is the same word which John used in the first vs. of his gospel, "In [the] beginning was, and continued being, the Word..." Many shy away from translating it this way for fear of portraying Christ as a created being. They emphasize the idea of His being in first place, i.e., the Ruler, or the first cause – the Originator. The Concordant Version reads, "God's creative Original." All of this may be true, and the Greek "arche" allows it, but if we see that He is not only God, but He in this unveiling represents the corporate Christ, then He, being the Head/Source of the Body, is the beginning of The Christ: God's New Creation – the Last Adam – God's construction plan of the Ages! He is the beginning of everything that God does.

He is the beginning of God's purpose. He is the beginning of the New Humanity that was/is created in Him. To paraphrase Preston Eby, He is "God (Who is Spirit) through Himself (the Word) and out of Himself expressing Himself on another dimension (the realm of form, and 'things')."

15. I have seen, and thus know (am aware of) your [singular] works (acts), that you are (continue being) neither cold nor boiling hot (or: zealous): O that you were being cold, or boiling hot (zealous)!

16. Thus, because you continue being lukewarm (tepid), and are neither boiling hot nor cold, I am about to vomit you out of My mouth.

He has witnessed their works, and gives faithful testimony about their condition: they are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. He is speaking of extremes and the hyperbole is obvious – they are neither passionate and zealous, nor uninterested and indifferent. They are somewhere in the middle, a mixture, perhaps turning one way then another. But He wishes them to be the one extreme or the other! We can easily discern this condition in the masses of Christianity today – and often within ourselves.

We can understand His wanting His called-out folks to be burning with zeal, but why this either/or? If the figure is of a drink, then we can see the pleasure of either a hot drink, or the refreshing of a cold one. Cold food is good; hot food is good; but food that has been sitting out for hours breeds salmonella and can make us sick, and we might throw up. But again, why not just say that He wants His people to be zealous? One would be boiling hot when he is being baptized in the Holy Spirit's fire. The three Hebrews were zealous for Yahweh even in the fiery furnace – and that was where the Son of Man made His appearance. The tongues of fire on the day of Pentecost might have been a sign that those folks were "boiling hot." Being hot speaks of being in God's presence; it can also speak of being purged in a lake of fire.

But what about being cold? The word is "psuchros" and comes from the same root as "psuche" (soul). Perhaps this is a metaphorical comparison between the soul and the spirit. When Saul was persecuting the church he zealous, even if it was a zeal of soul. Some have presented the idea that to be "cold" meant to be away from God and in the "world." To be tepid and lukewarm would refer to those who would think, "I'm saved, and that's enough." John Bevere has often said that the lukewarm are a mix – they can fit in with either the hot or the cold, yet they are neither.

If we look back to the gospels, we see that Jesus hung out with those that the Pharisees would have called cold: the outcasts and sinners. They knew their condition and of their need for mercy (Lu. 18:13), and they welcomed Him. It would seem that it was the Pharisees whom He would have vomited out. They were the whitewashed tombs – good appearance; foul contents. The form of piety, but denying God's Power. Here, in the church in the city whose name means "the people of the right path," we see this same condition as that seen in the Pharisees. Jesus indicated that the Pharisees would be thrown out into the outer darkness – a place where they would become cold. Folks in the cold of darkness become people who desire the heat and the Light. Christ spews out in order to bring folks to a place of receptivity.

17. Because your are habitually saying, “I am rich and have acquired wealth and continuously have need of nothing,” and you have not seen to know (or: are not aware) that you continue being wretched (or: miserable; in hardship) and pitiful and poor and blind and naked,

It has been noted that of the 7 churches addressed in this book, this is the only one of which Christ has nothing good to say: there is no redeeming feature. In the material realm, they were probably the most prosperous city in Asia Minor. The evaluation that they are poor, wretched, pitiful and naked would refer to their spiritual condition before the Lord.

In our day much of "the church" considers itself to be spiritually rich and increased with spiritual gifts, knowledge, revelation of God's word, and some within the institutional organizations think that they have it all and have need of nothing more from God. Some think that they indeed are the only group that really has anything of value; some think that only those of their group will be "saved." May the Lord open our eyes if indeed we are blind to our true condition. Recall Matt. 23:16-28, "Woe to you, blind guides (vs. 16).... stupid and blind (17 & 19).... blind guides (24).... blind Pharisees! (26).... resembling whitewashed tombs..." Of this they were unaware!

Such folks will disdain greater vision from God's word, and will oppose the present move of God. They think that they have it made, spiritually, but God says that they are wretched and to be pitied. Furthermore, to be symbolically naked indicates a lack of the covering of Christ's righteousness. What they have does not cover them. This could be a false gospel of religious works and of an "us and them" mentality. All they have are the bones of dead folks.

18. I continue advising you [singular] to buy from Me gold having been refined (set ablaze) forth from out of fire, to the end that you may become rich; and white garments, to the end that you may clothe yourself and the shame (disgrace) of your nakedness may not be manifested (brought to light; caused to appear); and eye-salve to anoint (rub in) your eyes, to the end that you may be continuously seeing (observing).’

Laodicea is said to have prided itself in its financial wealth, its extensive textile industry, and in is famous eye-salve. Plainly, the Lord is saying that what they have of themselves, what they can do for themselves, will not fill their real needs. They are poor, naked and blind. What they need they must buy from God. But how can we buy from God? Why buy gold? What is the medium of exchange when buying something from God? Keeping in mind that the messenger was sent to make things known by signs and symbols, what does gold signify?

Gold is spoken of in the Bible more than any other metal. It was used to make the furniture of the tabernacle and to gild the boards which formed its walls. It was also used to make idols. It was the most precious metal of those days. It was used to make the most precious objects. From these we can see that gold represents 1) something of highest value; 2) the qualities, character, realm and presence of God; 3) the act or qualities involved with worship; 4) the attributes or position of a king (see Dan. 2:38); 5) it represents wealth.

But how can we buy these? In those days, when one had nothing to give in trade for something, or to pay a debt, he could trade himself: he could sell himself into slavery. Was this perhaps why Paul called himself a slave of Christ? The Laodiceans were wretched and poor. What else could they give to God for this burning gold of His – except themselves? Perhaps this gold was to be used in the construction of His building (1 Cor. 3:9-15).

God's eye-salve is the anointing of His Holy Spirit. This too is something that He advised us to buy – to give our all for, or as Paul said, "... forgetting those things which are behind... press (pursue) toward the mark, for the prize which is the upward invitation from God, in union with Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14). In vs. 8 of this same chapter, Paul had said, "Yes, doubtless I also count all things loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Owner and Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them as dung (refuse), that I may win Christ." So deeming personal gain as refuse is one way of buying from God. This anointing with God's Spirit is that which enables us to see.

19. “Whosoever, if I may be having affection for them (regard them as fond friends), I constantly put to the proof (or: expose; reprove) and I continuously educate (discipline; give child-instruction). Therefore be hot (zealous) and change your mind (your way of thinking; your attitude and frame of mind)!

20. “Consider! I have stood, and continue standing upon the door, and I am constantly knocking; if ever anyone may (or: can) hear My voice (or: sound) and would open the door, I will enter (come or go in) toward him, and I will eat the evening meal with him, and he with Me.”

21. “To (In; For) him who is habitually conquering (repeatedly overcoming; normally victorious) I will give [the right? the ability? the honor?] to sit (or: be seated) with Me within My throne, as I also conquer (or: conquered; overcome; overcame) and sit (or: sat down) with My Father within His throne.

22. “Let the one who has an ear hear what the Spirit is presently saying to the called-out communities.”

Vs. 19 calls to mind Heb. 12:5-11 where the Lord speaks of the necessity of a son being educated and disciplined, if one is a true son. Also Job 5:17-18, "Behold, happy is the mortal whom Eloah corrects; Thus you must not reject the admonition of Him-Who-Suffices. For He Himself causes pain, and He shall bind up; He smites through, and His hands shall heal." See also Ps. 94:12; Prov. 3:11-12; 1 Cor. 11:32. Again we have the advice to be hot (zealous), as in vs. 15-16. Thus, of the hot/cold choices in those verses, He prefers the hot! To do this there must be an accompanying change in attitude and way of thinking that will result in reform.

In vs. 20 we see His position as being outside the community, seeking entrance. There is no mention of a lampstand in this group, and obviously His presence is outside. Yet, despite their wretched condition, He presents Himself to them, calls to them, knocks at their entrance and promises to share communion with them.

He asks for even one to open the door, and He will re-enter. This was happening in the 1st century, and I believe it has been happening in some "church" ever since. The conditions of each of these seven churches speaks of the conditions of the entire corporate and universal called-out body: some individual groups being represented by one of these listed here, other groups being represented by another. Through all of these 7, i.e., the entire "called-out," He is continuously walking (ch. 2:1) with feet of burnished brass (figure of judgment and cleansing at the brazen altar), yet He also stands at the door and continuously knocks. Those represented by this 7th church feel that they have need of nothing – not even His manifest presence, for I do not think that they are aware that He is not within their group, for you see, they are blind.

But even to this 7th church we find Him offering the challenge and opportunity to be an overcomer (vs. 21). He holds before them the prize of sitting with Him within His throne. Barclay remarks here that the ancient eastern throne was more like a couch than a single seat. But the emphasis is on shared ruling (or, shepherding – ch. 2:27), and the oneness of Christ and His body (John 17:21).

Another point to note is the parallel case between the disciple and the Master: they are to overcome "like as" He overcame. He overcame through the cross; they are to take up their crosses, follow Him, and thus also overcome. "For the word (message; idea) of the cross is stupidity, indeed, to those who are continuously being destroyed (or: lost), yet to us who are constantly being delivered it is the power and ability of God" (1 Cor. 1:18).

Finally, in vs. 22, we see the call to anyone who has an ear to hear the knock. This one will be able to hear the noise (whether the sound of a mighty rushing wind, or the still small voice), and will recognize that it is the Lord seeking entrance. Each letter, to each called-out community, finishes with these words of listening to what the Spirit is saying. Barclay points out that this generalizes the message of the letters – indicating that the messages are not confined to just those folks, but rather that they are speaking to every person in each generation – but also this closing individualizes the message: whoever can hear, this message is for you.

Before we leave this first vision, where John saw the risen Christ amidst His communities, let's review a few points. Notice how many time He emphasizes His presently, habitually, continuously or repeatedly coming to His called-out communities:

Then later we will see:

The concept that the Lord will come "a second time" off in the future seems to be a tradition of humans which makes His Word, quoted above, of no effect. The phrase "a second time" is a mistranslation of Heb. 9:28, which should read, "so also, the Christ, being once borne (or: carried) close into the many (or: being offered once unto and for the many) to carry failures (errors; sins mistakes; deviations; misses of the target) back up again, will be made visible (will be seen) forth from out of the midst of the second [place (cf 9:3,7 & 10:9; [comment: = the holy of holies])] – apart from failure (apart from sin; apart from a sin offering; apart from error in attempting to hit the target) – in those (or: by those; to those; for those) habitually receiving (or: taking) from out of the midst of Him, [progressing] into a deliverance (or: [leading] into a rescue; with a view to health and wholeness; into the midst of salvation)."

The word "time" is not in the Greek text of this vs. in Heb. 9. It could be "out of a second" situation, place, thing or time. This could refer to the subject discussed earlier in 9:7, where "the second" refers to the Holy of Holies, and that it is out of this place, which is a type of His throne room, that He shall be seen, made visible, since the veil has been torn. The subject of Heb. 9 is concerned with the sacrifice of Christ, the shedding of His blood, and the comparison of the Holy of Holies to heaven, in vs. 24.

Thus it is out of the heavenly Holy of Holies (remember: the body of Christ is now His temple – so this heavenly place is now within His people, in spirit) that He will be seen, i.e., be made visible within His called-out. The idea of place, rather than time, seems to be the subject of Heb. 9.

Another thing to note in these 7 messages is that a goal, an award, is held out to each of the seven communities. Even though He points out the problems which they have, and warns them of judgments, still He holds before them a promise of blessing – to "the person continuously conquering, or progressively overcoming." And as Heb. 13:8 reminds us, "Jesus Christ [is] the same... on into the ages."

Return To Jonathan Mitchell's Page or the Revelation Study Index