Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea – “discernment” v14, originally this town was named after Laodice the wife of King Antiochus II in 261BC, and through the centuries it became the regions banking center with many wealthy people living there. It also had a well known school of medicine which made ointments, which Jesus most likely refers to in v18. This is the only congregation of the seven which has no commendations from Christ, only criticisms.

“spew you out of my mouth” v16, This is God’s way of saying that his disappointment with them was awful. But he still loved them, v19. Their “works” were “lukewarm” which means they were apathetic to the core, about living the gospel, laboring to share the gospel was something they didn’t “need” to do, but would do it if it fit into their “rich” lifestyle.

“buy from me gold….white garments…eye-salve” v18, If they are going to repent, it will involve a sacrificial investment because of their poverty, nakedness & blindness. They totally forgot the first beatitude, Mat. 5:3. The church as a whole in the USA today is physically the richest in the history of Christianity, but do we take our spiritual riches seriously? It seems like the Laodicean congregation were all foolish virgins who didn’t invest in what was most important, Matthew 25:9. Solomon said “buy truth, wisdom & instruction and sell it not!” Prov. 23:23. How much have we invested in physical collections, and how much have we invested in spiritual collections?

“if anyone hears…and opens” v20, This congregation seems to have shut Christ out of it’s heart and needed to let him back in! If they were to become overcomers, they must put Christ at the center of their affections, Luke 9:23, DAILY.

Summary of the Seven Congregations:

Ephesus, a hard-working congregation that had let their love for Jesus wane.

Smyrna, this congregation shined with perseverance and endured opposition.

Pergamum, most of the congregation endured temptation, but some were sexually immoral.

Thyatira, this congregation seemed to be tolerating false-teaching, but some remained loving & faithful.

Sardis, they had a few who lived in purity, but most of the congregation were lazy.

Philadelphia, a bright congregation, loving, obedient and steadfast facing persecution.

Laodicea, the only congregation Christ had nothing good to speak of, they suffered from hypocrisy.

Three Facts all the Churches have in Common.

  1. Christ wants them to know who He is & that He knows who they are. Knowing your Savior is essential to being saved! John 1:10 & 8:32 & 10:14-15 & 21:24, this also defeats gnosticism.
  2. Christ wants all Christians to know they can Overcome & be Rewarded, 2nd Peter 3:9.
  3. Each congregation is unique, but also an example for others. Individually a Christian is a living letter, and the congregation is a type of letter as well, 2nd Corinthians 3:1-4 & 1st Peter 4:8

Descriptions of Christ:

2:1, who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands

2:8, the first and the last, who died and came to life

2:12, him who has the sharp two-edged sword.

2:18, the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

3:1, who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

3:7, the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David

3:14, the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation

Christ speaking to the churches in Chapter 2-3 is the same Christ revealed to John in Chapter 1, with the addition of the “key”, in order to keep the church healthy enough to proclaim the Kingdom, you must have the one who possesses the Key, What is true for the apostleship, is true for the church, Matthew 16:9

Revelation 3:1-13

Sardis – “the remains” v1, The Roman historian & senator Tacitus records that in 17AD Sardis was hit hard by an earthquake, he writes, “…fires blazed out amid the ruins. The calamity fell most fatally on the people of Sardis, and it attracted to them the largest share of sympathy”. While it used to be the ancient capital of Lydia, and had it’s own Temple of Artemis, it was very likely still fresh in the memory of the older Christians that remained during the time the congregation received the Revelation appx 95AD. It had an established Jewish Synagogue

“a name of being alive” v1, it seems most of the congregation were Christians in name only. “not found your works complete” v2, How few can say with the Master, “I have finished the work” 2nd Tim. 4:7 and of whom can it be said, like Paul, “He fulfilled his course”! Acts 12:25.

“white clothes” v4, This may suggest the Transfiguration,  Mat. 17:2, On the holy mount, the plain garments of Jesus shone with light; and so the inner purity of the living Christian shines through and glorifies our simplest acts. The holiness we love in this life will be rewarded by the white robes.

“confess his name before my Father”, v5, reminiscent of the promise Jesus made to his first disciples, Matthew 10:29-33 and so through the centuries we can take this personally, if we are overcomers feeding our faith and sharing His message of love & justice. The “Book of Life” had already been revealed to the church in Philippi by Paul, (Php. 4:3) and John has now mentioned it to those in the context of being a threat of being blotted out of it, it is also entitled the Lambs Book of Life in Rev. 21:27, and in 13:8 the SLAIN Lamb’s book. It leads us to wonder if our names were written by Jesus himself, the author of Life, which the Jews had killed, Acts 3:15. What kind of name will be written in this book? Is yours in it?

Philadelphia – “brotherly love” v7, The city had both ancient and current connections with Kings, it’s name came from King Eumenes giving its name in honor of the love he had for brother Attalus since 189BC, and during the church’s lifetime it had been granted riches from the Emperors Caligula 39AD and Vespasian 71AD, the citizens of which, were free from paying taxes!

“has the key of David” v7, This is a quote from Isaiah 22:22 and Jesus has already referred to it in Matthew 16:19. These Christians knew the King of kings and his authority was in their hearts and minds, which affects not only our thinking, but also our actions!

“an open door” v8, later in Revelation 21:24-27 the gate of the new Jerusalem is declared permanently open with access for the Kings of the earth to bring in their glory, and only purity enters. This is only the second church which has no criticisms listed by Christ, and he explicitly states his love for them, v9. It is interesting that the only other church with nothing but praise from Christ, is the one in Smryna, and both of them have won a victory over being infiltrated by the “synagogue of Satan” In some way Christ will make his approval obvious to the sinful Jews of Philadelphia, so much so, that they will be forced to show them adoration. 1st John 1:6 was literally true for their Jewish neighbors.

“that no man take your crown” v11, Paul didn’t want Timothy to lose his crown, 2nd Timothy 4:8, and neither does Jesus want anyone in Philadelphia to lose their crown – gk – “stephanos”, the victors wreath as a crown. An obvious allusion to winning a race wherein you exhibit both strength & skill. Why? Because we are in Christ who has removed barriers and distractions, it is his victory that he gives us who persevere, v10.

“make him a pillar in my temple…my own new name” v12, Columns or pillars in the ancient world were obviously supportive, but they were also renown for being ornamental, and being for a Temple had the clear idea of the beauty of holiness, see 2nd Chronicles 20:21 & Psalm 96:9. Paul instructed Timothy that the whole church was a type of pillar, 1st Timothy 3:15. Are you supportive of the truth, or simply feeding on it?

Revelation 2:12-29

Pergamum – “citadel” It is claimed to be the place of discovery for parchment, and also had a large library, with a large section dedicated to medicine. The city boasted it’s governor was given the power of the sword from Rome to exact life or death sentences. It also had two Temples, at the top of the city was the Temple of Serapis, granting worshipers health & fertility, the Greco-Egyptian deity Serapis combining aspects of Osiris & Apis in a humanized form that was accepted by Greeks of Alexandria. At the base of the city was the Temple of Askelpios, granting worshipers who were sick, healing and even promising resurrection. The rod of Askelpios is where we get the icon of a snake intertwined on a rod on many medical treatment centers and ambulances today.

“two-edged sword”, v12, see 1:16, this represents the word of God, Ephesians 6:17. The Bible can be used to convict our enemies, which martyred “Antipas”. We are engaged in a spiritual war, even when the world fights us physically. Always remember that we are handling his sword, not our own.

“Satan’s throne”, v13, It is likely how God would describe the Askelpion at the base of the acropolis. Here sick people would let non-venomous snakes crawl amongst patients and use products from snakes as medicine. It was not coincidental that both Christians & Jews would be reminded of a certain snake in the Garden of Eden seducing people to sin, and be ruling within their city. Tradition claims that Antipas was appointed an Elder by the Apostle John and was martyred in 92AD, if this is true, it puts the traditional date of 94-98AD on Revelation.

“Balaam teaching Balak” v14-15, “Nicolaitans” here is really the only hint we have about the false doctrine that affected the church. In Numbers 22-25 is the story of King Balak and the prophet Balaam, interacting in the high worship places of the idol baal, while blessing Israel from high places where baal was idolized. Balak took advantage of this fellowship and his women seduced the people of Israel into harlotry, Numbers 25:1-3 & 31:16. Therefore Nicolaitans might be teaching that Christians can entertain idolatry while trying to support God’s word, assuming God would bless them in His grace by Christ.

“Overcomers”, v17, will receive hidden manna, John 4:32-34 and a hidden meaning of a new name on a white stone. This is the comfort of eternal intimacy with God and holy strength from food that is spiritually nourishing to make us strong in righteousness, in contrast to immorality.


Thyatira – “sacrifice” In comparison this was a smaller town than most of the other six cities mentioned, but they were famous for their Guild of Dyers, making purple colored dyes. Lydia was from Thyatira, Acts 16:14, she was a worshiper of God before she met Paul, so many people believe there was a synagogue in Thyatira. Apollo-Tyrimnos was the patron god of the city as well as the supreme god of all the various trade guilds. Being a son of Zeus, he was often called “son of god” and was represented figuratively by rays of light and brass feet. To the church of Thyatira, Christ introduced himself in verse 18 as the Son of God, who hath eyes like unto a flame of fire, and … feet … like fine brass. This description penetrated to the heart of the matter right away, forcing the church to consider who the Lord of their economy really is. The choice was simple: either Tyrimnos or Christ.

“sexual immorality” v20 was leading servants of Christ astray because “Jezebel” was being tolerated by the congregation. Whoever “Jezebel” was in the church at Thyatira she taught the servants of God to get in bed with pagan idols, making them believe that they were somehow serving God by doing so. In spite of this sin, the Lord had given her more than ample opportunity to turn from her evil, v21, but, “she repented not”. The church had to trust and remember Psalm 103:8, The Lord is merciful & gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy, but Jezebel scorned the Lord’s goodness. For this, Thyatira receives the longest critical rebuke from the Lord than any of the other congregations, v20-23.

“rest in Thyatira” v24, these who were faithful, needed to stay faithful even unto death just as the innocent of Smyrna, 2:10 and Philadelphia, 3:11,which Christ was pleased with, both were given and if we are faithful, never be satisfied, always press on to the goal till you see glory, Philippians 3:12-14. If we run away from a congregation because of sinners within, we should not be church-hopping but rather standing fast!

“Overcomers”, v25-28, to be given authority rule with a rod of iron and also the morning star. Sharing in the same rule promised to the Christ/Messiah in Psalm 2:9. When all is finished and glory comes, His glory and power is ours, even as it was King David’s, Rev. 22:16. Peter knew the power of this promise, 2nd Pet. 1:19

Revelation 2:1-11

Ephesus – “desire”, some of the congregations are in towns with a name that has a meaning and/or cultural significance which is linked to the message of Christ’s letter to the congregation. This should alert Christians to the necessity of being able to enlighten the community we worship within. The real desire of the church should be to praise & glorify God in Christ. However, Christians in Ephesus (desire) had the Temple of Artemis (Diana) polluting their desire. Pliny tells us that the Temple took 120 years to build but is now represented only by one inconspicuous column. Over four centuries later, an inscription at Ephesus suggests why so little remains at the site “Destroying the image of the demon Artemis, Demeas has erected this symbol of Truth, the God that drives away idols, and the Cross of priests, deathless and victorious sign of Christ.” The assertion that the Ephesians thought that their cult image had fallen from the sky, is known at Ephesus from Acts 19:35.

“Who walks among the seven golden lampstands” v1, this scene must be comforting, intimacy with God, known only by Adam & Eve, remember Genesis 3:8. For the Christians in Ephesus, they may consider this, their second letter, which closes with a view of the tree of life God once walked amongst but had to remove. Their first letter was from Paul, instructing them on speaking the truth in love and walking in love, Ephesians 4:15 & 5:1, but now their love faded and hadn’t been fed.

“I know your works, labor, endurance… and you have not grown weary” v2-3, A Christian’s strength may not be dependant on love, but love is dependant on being nurtured and fed on the truth. It seems they had found a new love in their efforts and had become more satisfied with their performance in doctrine, rather than the One they should praise. Testing to prove what is right & wrong, can lead to knowledge that “puffs up”, 1st Corinthians 8:1.

“first love”, v4  – Protos Agape. It is curious how Jesus uses the word Protos to describe the robe which the Father gives the prodigal son upon his repentant return, Luke 15:22.

“first works”, v5  – Protos Ergon, every new bride treats her groom differently than most Moms treat Dads. This may seem to be an almost blasphemous way to compare the church as a bride with Christ, but we must fully realize what the first works of a Christian are, and never neglect them. Real faith, works! See James 2:17-18

“hate” & “overcomes”, v6-7, Every one of the seven churches are told of a reward if they “overcome”. Each church, no matter their predicament, problem or position, have challenges in front of them to overcome. Learning to love what God loves, and hate what God hates, is the key to experiencing the victory, wherein we taste the glory of being more than a conqueror, Romans 8:37 & John 16:33.

Smyrna – “myrrh” An ancient Greek myth derived the name from an Amazon named Smyrna. Smyrna’s chief export in ancient times was myrrh, but little is known about myrrh from Smyrna of the 1st century. It was densely populated and it’s economy relied on the Port to the Aegean Sea. Amazons were said to have founded the city and temple of Smyrna, and it’s possibly the home of Homer, author of the Iliad & the Odyssey. For a certainty, the city had a large Jewish Synagogue. In AD155, Polycarp, a student of the apostle John, was martyred at Smyrna.

“Slander”, v8-9, Christ encourages the congregation to be brave in the face of imminent persecution from the Jews. Many of the apostles had personal experience in this, 2nd Corinthians 11:26. Slander is often the precursor of physical persecution for God’s children, Psalm 31:13 & Proverbs 10:18.

“Synagogue of Satan…tribulation for ten days”, 10-11, Christ has no charge against the Christians in Smyrna, but expects them to remain faithful unto death, wherein they will not be injured. We should learn that when the church is healthy, Christ expects us to fight the good fight! 1st Timothy 6:12.