Delivered By
C.C. Risenhoover
Delivered On
February 28, 2016
Central Passage
Revelation 3
Promises of God

February 28, 2016


Revelation 3

Sardis was a degenerate city.  It had once been capital of the ancient Kingdom of Lydia…feared by its neighbors because of its military might.  But, the Persians conquered the kingdom…and it later became a part of the Roman Empire.

In 17 A.D., Sardis was devastated by an earthquake.  The Roman Emperor Tiberius rebuilt it…but under the Romans it never achieved its former glory and importance.

Some churches are like the city of Sardis.  When God builds and rules them…they're glorious and important to His kingdom's work.  But, when man decides he can build a better church than Jesus can…when a church becomes like the degenerate community it’s supposed to be winning to Christ…it loses its God-given glory and importance.

When speaking to this church, Jesus said that He knew them…that He understood them…and that He had them and their spiritual nature in the palm of His hand.  There wasn't anything that the Lord didn't know about this church.

Based on the condemnation and warning in verses 1-3, the church at Sardis was not quite dead…but it was definitely about to die.  It was on life support…and Jesus was about to pull the plug.

It seems that the Church at Sardis wasn't troubled by false teaching…or opposed to the evil going on in the city.  Since the congregation didn't oppose anything…no one opposed them.  When a person or church stands for truth and right…there's bound to be opposition. So, I don’t think this church in Sardis stood for anything.

The Lord gave this church a charge tobe watchful” in verse 2…and then gave them a warning to be “on guard” in verse 3.  “If you will not watch…I will come upon you as a thief.”

Sardis was a well-fortified city high upon a hill.  The bulk of its natural fortification were the rocks and the natural impediments that kept someone from getting to the top of the hill.  Cyrus, King of Persia, laid siege to the city in 546 B.C., but for about three months his army was stymied.  But, one night Persian soldiers saw a man make his way down a narrow passageway from the city to near the bottom of the hill and realized that there was a secret passageway up to the city.

So at 3 o’clock one morning, Cyrus took his forces up that secret passageway.  The Sardinians were so confident that they could not be taken that they had not even posted a guard.  When they awoke the next morning the Persian army was in the city and had them surrounded.

Some people don't learn anything from history, so in 214 B.C. Sardis was taken by Antiochus the Great in very similar fashion. They once again let their guard down and weren't watching.  Members of the church at Sardis would have been aware of these two incidents.

Jesus' condemnation of this church was severe…but he said, “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”

Even when a church is experiencing rampant apostasy…there may be some within the body some who are worthy to walk with the Lord in white.  The Lord promised that “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

You don't “overcome” by your own goodness…or perceived importance…but because of your association with…and obedience to…the Lord.

In verses 7-13 we find that the church in Philadelphia is afaithful church”…quite a contrast to Sardis being a dying church.  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write 'These things says he who is holy, he who is true, “he who has the key of David, he who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.  I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept my Word, and have not denied my name.  Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but lie - indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.  Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.  Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.  He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more.  I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him my new name.'  He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Philadelphia, located about 28 miles southeast of Sardis, was founded in the 2nd Century B.C.  A Roman highway in the 1st Century connected Sardis to the north, and Philadelphia and Laodicea to the south.  It was part of the system of highways that the Romans built that helped them maintain their power.

Philadelphia was in a region known for earthquakes. The city was largely destroyed in about A.D. 17, but was rebuilt.  It was a wine-producing region…and there was an active pagan cult there that worshipped the god of wine.

Jews were the principal opponents of the church in Philadelphia.  So in verse 9 Jesus refers to these Jews as the “synagogue of Satan.” There is no mention of persecution by Roman officials, or others.  Keep in mind that Philadelphia and Smyrna are the two churches that received no condemnation at all from the Lord.

In verse 7, Jesus describes himself as beingholy” and “true.” Leviticus 20:7 says, “Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.”

And, 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'”

God and His Son share the same attributes…“holy” and “true.”  The English word for “true” comes from a Greek word that literally means “what is genuine” or “what is real.”

There had been many false “messiahs”…and there would continue to be many more after Revelation was written.  But, he is the “true” one.  Revelation 19:11 says, “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And he who sat on him was called Faithful and True.”

He is “…the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him” (John 14:6).

Keys in the Old Testament represented authority” and power, so the reference to the “keys of David” comes from Isaiah 22:22.  “The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.”

This is Messianic prophecy.  Jesus can “open the door” and he can “shut the door.” If he “opens the door”…then no one else can “shut the door.”  He is the only one who can admit a person into God's Kingdom…and into Christ's Church.

In verse 8, he says, “I have set before you an open door.”  This is a reference to “opportunities.”  An open door represents an opportunity for something to happen…or for someone to do something.  In the Scriptures, it is a symbol of new and promising mission work…like the open door that was presented to Paul in Troas and in Ephesus.

The Lord said to the church in Philadelphia, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept my word, and have not denied my name.”

The church in Philadelphia was a small congregation with not much strength or influence…but they were a working church.  So Christ had set before them opportunities.

But, it's not the Romans or pagans who are problems for the church in Philadelphia.  It's the Jews.  Jesus described them as a “synagogue of Satan.”

The Jews were (and are) no longer God's people in the way that they had been.  When they came in direct opposition to the Lord's church and to the Lord's people…as they did in Smyrna and in Philadelphia and in many other places… they became instruments of Satan as they opposed, persecuted and tried to stop the progress and growth of the church.

In verse 11, the Lord says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”

Instead of speculating about when Jesus will return we are tohold fast”…to “hold tight”…to “keep on keeping on”…and not let anything happen to that “crown.”  Mark 13:32-33, 37 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is…and what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!”

Verse 12 says a lot to the members of the church at Philadelphia. “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God. And I will write on him my new name.”

The last of the seven churches in Asia Minor spoken of in Revelation is the church in Laodicea.  So far we've talked about a loveless church, a persecuted church, a compromising church, a corrupt church, a dead and dying church, but here we have a lukewarm church.

Laodicea was a wealthy city located about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia.  It had flourished under Roman rule…becoming a prominent banking and manufacturing center…known for producing cloth for garment making.  It also had a flourishing medical center and a medical school.

About this church, Jesus said, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.  “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot I will vomit you out of my mouth.  Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me.  To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

When Jesus…the faithful and true witness…says something, you can say “amen” to it.  It's going to be correct…it's going to be truthful…and it's going to be right.  That's what Jesus wanted to get across to the church at Laodicea…that He was present with the Father from the dawn of time.

John penned these marvelous words in his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3).

Jesus condemned and warned the church at Laodicea saying, “I know your works.”  The overall attitude of the church as a whole was one of indifference or lethargy…of “lukewarm” commitment.  The implication is that they were busy…but not busy doing the things they should be doing…winning souls…exhorting people and learning the Word.

A lukewarm Christian is more dangerous to the church than a cold pagan.  Lethargy is contagious…so Jesus said to these lukewarm Christians, “You make me sick.  I will vomit you out of my mouth because you make me sick.”

This church considered itself wealthy…in need of nothing.  But, the Lord referred to the church as wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.  Why?  Well, the city was wealthy…and they made fine black woolen garments there…along with salve for the eyes.  So Jesus said, “Despite the wealth here, you're poor…despite the eye salve made here, you're blind…and despite fine black garments made here, you're naked.”

When Jesus says “Buy gold from me,” he's not talking about literal gold.  He's talking about spiritual wealth.  He tells them they need “…white garments, washed in the blood of the Lamb.”  And, He tells them the eye salve manufactured in Laodicea doesn't compare to what the Great Physician can provide.  He tells them to open their eyes…to have a diagnostic reality check…to see themselves as God sees them.

Jesus told the church at Laodicea what he's telling us today.  And, that’s to repent of lethargy…to get out of our lukewarm attitude toward Him…the church and the Gospel…and to rekindle the spiritual fire that once burned within us.

He's standing at the door knocking…so if you eat another meal without Jesus, what does that say about you?  It should tell you that you're lukewarm…almost dead…and that He will vomit you out of His mouth. 

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