Revelation 3 – Chapter Study
The message last Sunday was on Jesus’s message to the last two churches of ch. 2, Pergamos and Thyatira.
We saw the danger of compromise, and how if it isn’t resisted in its first stages, it grows to become something hideous.
On Sunday, we didn’t study the promises Jesus concludes each letter with, so as we begin tonight, we want to take a look at them.
The promise to the church at Pergamos is found in v. 17 – but this is such a great verse, I’ve decided to save it as my text for Sunday morning.
So, let’s start with v. 24 . . .
Though Thyatira was a church that had been largely taken over by corruption, there were a few who had remained faithful to the Lord and had not been caught up in the moral filth and false teaching.
In v. 24 we read –
24“Now to you I say, and to the rest in Thyatira, as many as do not have this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden. 25But hold fast what you have till I come.
Remember who this letter was addressed to – the pastor of the church at Thyatira.
Jesus knows that he’s remained faithful; he and a handful of other believers.
Though their church has been virtually taken over by error, they’ve managed to evade its trap.
So Jesus says that he will put no other burden on them than the burden of resisting the corrupting influences around them.
You know – it’s bad enough to have to live in a world that hates us and is hostile to our faith in Christ.
What makes it even more difficult is when the church itself becomes corrupt and begins to attack those who are genuinely seeking the Lord.
This is precisely what happened from about the 6th to the 16th Centuries.
The Roman Church took over the seat of civil power and become hopelessly corrupt.
Numerous reform groups sprang up, small groups of sincere Christians who recognized the corruption in the church and wanted to break away.
For this they were mercilessly hounded and persecuted by the Church.
Jesus tells the faithful in Thyatira, to hold on and maintain their faith. Making sure they don’t get sucked up into the corruption all around them.
Then, to encourage them to hold fast, he gives them the precious promise of v. 26.
26And he who overcomes,
To the one who faces the trials and challenges of life and comes through them victorious -
and keeps My works until the end,
To the one who holds fast to what Christ has taught, and doesn’t get pulled into the compromise and corruption -
to him I will give power over the nations—27‘He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter’s vessels’— as I also have received from My Father; 28and I will give him the morning star.
Remember that what prompted the compromise with the world in the first place was the tremendous persecution and hostility the Christians were facing at the hands of the State.
The false teachers were saying that if Christians backed off their pursuit of holiness a bit and learned to blend in a little more, then they wouldn’t have it so tough.
So the primary reason for compromise was persecution at the hands of the State.
As Jesus has called them to stand fast and remain faithful, He reminds them that as they do, the day will come when the roles will be reversed.
His people will rule the nations!
In Rev. 20:6 we read –
Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
Reign over what? Over the Earth during the Millennium.
Jesus quotes Psalm 2:8-9 in v. 27 -
8 Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.’”
The Father is speaking to His Son, the Messiah who will rule the earth.
Psalm 2 shows us the character of God’s government during the Millennium.
While there will still be nations, Christ will rule over all.
And His justice will be swift and without appeal.
There’s no need to appeal His judgments because they are perfect!
When there is a crime or rebellion – the judgment and the punishment are all simultaneous.
They’ll be no more of this long delay we see today between the commission of a crime, apprehending the criminal, the trial, the long appeals, and then the eventual carrying out of the punishment.
The reason WHY justice will be so swift during the Millennium is because Christ is going to elicit our participation in ruling the Earth – as He says here.
Just as the Father will entrust all authority and rule to Christ, He will then delegate to us a portion of that task.
Since we will be in our redeemed and glorified state – we won’t be hampered by the many of the limitations we have now.
And the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit will ensure that when a case comes before us, we’ll be given the insight and wisdom we need to carry out the will of God perfectly.
So while the faithful in Thyatira were being brutally persecuted by the State, the day will come when the tables will be turned – and Jesus encourages them to hold out for that day.
Then, He promises them the Morning star.
In Rev. 22:16 Jesus says -
“ . . . I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”
When He promised the overcomers the Morning Star, he was promising them Himself!
HE was their reward!
One of the reasons the heresy of compromise was so popular and was spreading so rapidly in Thyatira was because it appealed to the flesh.
One sure fire way to get a big following is to sanctify people’s carnality and to tell them they can have the best of both the world and the Faith.
Jezebel was popular as a teacher because she was telling people they could grow in spiritual things by pursuing sin!
Jesus encouraged the faithful by reminding them of what’s important.
Following Him meant turning away from carnal pleasures.
But what they will gain far outweighs what they give up.
29“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
What Jesus wrote to the church at Thyatira applies to everyone.
We must ever be on the lookout for compromise.
We must always be on guard against those who would seek to seduce us into some carnal way that denies Christ.
1“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,
In John’s day, the ancient city of Sardis had already seen its best days and was well into a state of decline. But it was still a wealthy city.
It was located at the junction of several important roads and trade routes.
And the connection between money & Sardis was well known.
It was a city in which investors and speculators had made some “easy money.”
The historian & Bible scholar William Barclay says that it was in Sardis where coins were first minted in Asia Minor.
This was during the reign of Croesus, a fabulously rich and famous King of Sardis.
In fact, it was the way the coins were used in Sardis that really began the modern usage of coined money as we know it today.
Sardis’s long history as a city of fabulous wealth had resulted in it becoming the scene of overblown luxury and softness.
It had a well-deserved reputation throughout the region and Empire for being apathetic and immorality.
Contributing to this reputation was a large temple to the mother-goddess, Artemis.
We know from the ruins of this temple that its columns were 60 ft. tall and were over 6 ft. in diameter.
The pagan worship of Artemis was typical for the worship of fertility and prosperity gods; the men visited ritual temple prostitutes, while it was the women’s duty to serve in that capacity for a set period of their lives.
The combination of easy wealth and immorality made the people of Sardis notoriously soft and pleasure loving.
Barclay says that even on the lips of pagans in other places of the Empire, the name of Sardis was held in contempt.
The decadence of Sardis was scandalous, even by the standards of Greco-Roman paganism.
This softness & lack of discipline was the bane of Sardis on a couple occasions.
The Greek historian Herodotus tells the story of the fall of Sardis in days of the Persian King Cyrus.
Sardis was ideally suited for defense.
It sits atop a steep cliff and the only way to take it is to scale the walls which is inordinately difficult, in fact, suicidal, if the men manning the walls are shooting at you from above.
So Cyrus offered a rich reward to any soldier in his army who could figure out a way to get up to the city.
One Persian solider studied the problem carefully, and as he looked he saw a Sardian soldier drop his helmet down the cliff walls.
He watched as the soldier climbed down a hidden trail to recover his helmet.
He marked the location of the trail and led a detachment of troops up it that night.
When they came to the city walls that had been built atop the cliff, they found them unguarded.
The soldiers of Sardis were so confident in the natural defenses of their city they felt no need to keep watch.
So the city was easily conquered.
What’s outrageous is that the same thing happened almost 200 years later when the Greek, Antiochus attacked and conquered the City, which again had become overconfident and didn’t set a watch.
This history of Sardis will figure into what Jesus has to say to the church in this city.
‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars:
The 7 spirits of God speaks of the 7-fold, or complete work of Holy Spirit.
The 7 stars, as we learn in 1:20 represent the seven messengers of the 7 churches of chs. 2 & 3.
Jesus describes Himself as the One in Whom is the fullness of the Spirit and Who is the Head of the Church.
As we’ll see, what the church at Sardis was lacking was the presence of the Holy Spirit.
They were nearly spiritually dead, and there was only one thing that could revive them – the Breath of God.
The church doesn’t need new and better methods, the church needs new and better men and women who are filled with the life and strength of the Holy Spirit.
“I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.
With the other churches, Jesus gives them a commendation at this point – but for Sardis, there is none!
All they get is the withering rebuke that they have a reputation they don’t deserve!
Their reputation was that they were alive – meaning to outward appearances, the church was doing well.
If you didn’t look past the list of activities and service times, you probably wouldn’t have seen much difference between Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira and Sardis.
But Jesus did look past the list, to the spiritual reality and dynamic behind it all – and to put it simply – there was none!
The Sardian church was nothing but a religious show!
Please note that there’s no mention of persecution or trouble in this church.
There’s no mention of struggle or patience or faith.
There’s no mention of it because there was nothing in this church the devil found worthy of opposing!
This church wasn’t contesting his dominion in the least.
So he was happy to leave them alone and let them carry on in their useless religious charade.
William Barclay says - “The church of Sardis was at peace - but it was the peace of the dead.”
The word translated ‘name’ is the Greek word ‘onoma’ – from which we get our word ‘denomination.’
There are those who say, “Hey, look at this group, that movement, or this denomination. Look at how successful and busy they are.”
But the Lord says, “Don’t depend on your reputation, on your history – on what used to be. What about now? Do you love and serve Me? Or is it just a show?”
As you go out tonight to your car and look toward the north; find the North Star.
As you gaze at it, realize that you don’t know if it’s really there – because what you are seeing is the light that left the North Star 33 years ago!
Who knows, maybe it went nova 30 years ago, and we won’t know it for another 3 years!
The oil in Sardis’ lamp was all gone, and all that was burning was the wick.
It wouldn’t be long till even that light went out.
2Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.
When Jesus said, “Be watchful!” he used a term that would have caused them to cringe.
It was a failure to be watchful that had resulted in the City being taken by their enemies twice before.
It was the self-confidence, lack of discipline, and love of pleasure that had resulted in their being over-run.
And the Church at Sardis was now in the very same place spiritually – self-confident, lazy, and sensual.
Though it’s late, it isn’t too late for them.
While spiritual death and apathy seem to rule, there’s still the faintest glimmer of life that has to be fanned into flame before it flickers and goes out.
When backpacking, one of the greatest challenges can be getting the campfire started.
Usually, it’s pretty easy – but there are times, because of altitude, or because of a lack of dry kindling, when starting a fire can be a real test of skill.
It’s kind of a game we play to start the fire with only one match.
So you gather the kindling and scruff, make a little nest, strike the match and then insert it.
As the flame catches, because of the thinness of the atmosphere, you have to blow on it.
Any little spark or ember gives you hope that the thing may catch – and you blow like mad trying to get the thing to start.
That’s the picture here – Jesus is telling them that they’ve got to look for any signs of spiritual life & genuineness and use that as a beach-head to reverse the red-tide of death that has all but taken over the church.
Jesus had not given up on them – not yet.
But is was late, and if they failed to take immediate heed to His words here, it would be too late.
Jesus said, “I have not found your works perfect before God.”
‘Perfect’ means complete.
See, the church at Sardis had works – this wasn’t a church that was inactive.
But their works had become aimless.
Like the Galatians, they had begun in the Spirit but had gotten sidetracked by the flesh.
They had lost touch with the clear purpose for all their activity, which ought to have been the glory of God and the salvation of the lost.
Let’s stop right now and take careful heed to what Jesus is saying here.
Why are we doing what we’re doing at CCO?
Are our works perfect before the Lord?
Do we do what we do for His glory, for the maturing of the saints and for the salvation of the lost?
Or are we just caught up in busyness because it’s expected that a successful church will have lots going on?
As we launch this new outreach on Monday nights and we put so much time and effort into it – WHY? What’s our real motive?
As Jesus looks at all we’ve done in getting ready for this, does it please Him, or is it all just a lot of misplaced and pointless activity?
Quite frankly, this is something we need to constantly think about and bring before the Lord.
I’m confident that our initial motives for Monday Nights were born of the Spirit’s leading and honorable before the Lord.
But have we gotten carried away in our excitement and started planning and plotting things ourselves – divorced for the Spirit’s guidance?
I hope not!
But these are the kind of questions we need to be open to, to ask, and find answers to.
Our goal for Monday Nights is to see God glorified through His people being built up in their faith and through the lost being won to Faith.
Everything that we’re doing is aimed at providing an environment where Christians will be encouraged to bring the lost, knowing they will hear a clear and powerful presentation of the Gospel.
3Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.
Recovery from the brink of disaster for the Sardians began with their remembering what it was like when they first came to faith.
What first prompted their faith was what they heard – the Word of God.
They needed to go back to the Word of God and draw their guidance from it instead of their traditions.
If you study the history of revival, you’ll quickly discover that every genuine revival has been sparked by a return to the Word of God as the basis of belief and practice.
And then, as the revival grows, what happens is that people are motivated to get back tot eh Bible.
The Spirit of God works through the Word of God to bring the Life & Power of God.
Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
Just as the City of Saris had been taken by stealth because they were not watching, Jesus says that if they don’t watch, take heed to His warning and repent, then His coming will be a surprise to them.
Now – how are we to understand Jesus here?
By “coming” does He mean the Rapture, or is this a coming in judgment?
Either way, the point is that they are to be watchful and ready for the Lord.
If they are, then He won’t be coming in judgment!
4You 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. 5He 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.
Throughout the OT, we find that no matter how corrupt things got among the people of God, there was always a faithful few, a remnant of faith who clung to Him.
Such was the case in Sardis.
No matter how far gone a church or group might be, we need to recognize there may very well be genuine believers among them.
Let’s be cautious and not paint with too broad a brush when we’re pointing out the errors of others.
There were true believers at Sardis who grieved over the spiritual deadness around them.
Jesus said they had not defiled their garments.
In pagan worship, when a person went to the temple, he or she went with clean clothes.
It was blasphemous to enter the temple with dirty garments.
In fact, at Sardis, if someone tried to enter the temple of Artemis with dirty clothes, they were stripped of their citizenship!
Jesus uses this picture and says that while the rest of the people are coming to Him with defiled garments, there are a few who’ve kept themselves from getting caught up in the spiritual pollution that’s just about choked the life out of the church.
They’ve chosen holiness over compromise and sin.
White speaks of purity – and for those who hunger for holiness, what promise could be more precious than the promise Jesus makes here – that the day will come when they shall walk with HIM – be with Him, and finally, the struggle with sin will be over!
They will be arrayed in white – and never, ever have to be concerned with defiling their garments!
Then Jesus promises that He will not blot out the overcomer’s name from the Book of Life.
Jesus is drawing an allusion here to one of the practices of Sardis and of many of the cities of Asia.
Rights were tied to citizenship – which was only granted to those deemed worthy of it.
Citizenship was attached to the City where you lived.
A record, a book was kept of the Citizens of the City – their names inscribed in its pages.
If a person committed a serious crime or some other terrible social faux pax, then their names was blotted out and they lost their citizenship, and so the rights that went along with it.
The other way to remove a name from the City register was to die.
Jesus promises the overcomers that their names are safe and secure in the Book of Life – heaven’s registry of citizenship.
But what Jesus says here has been troubling to many because He says that for those who overcome, their names won’t be blotted out of the Book of Life.
Does this mean that those who fail to overcome WILL be blotted out?
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jesus is giving a promise of assurance and security here –
But to whom? To those who overcome!
And who are those who overcome? Those who maintain their faith in Christ to the end!
So once again, we see that our security is not in the Book of Life – but in Christ.
If I’m abiding in Christ, I’m secure; if I’m not, I’m not!
Then Jesus says –
I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
It’s one thing for us to confess His name before men – after all, He is the King of Glory.
But to think that He will confess our name before the Father and the angels! Wow!!!
One of the things I love to do is to introduce some of the people of CCO to notable guests that we occasionally have.
Several weeks ago I took Timo and Derek down to Harvest Monday Night in Anaheim and got backstage.
Ricky Ryan met us in the hallway, and I was just so stoked to be able to introduce them to Ricky and to TC and the rest of the Harvest staff!
When Pastor Chuck came and did the dedication, it was such a thrill to be able to introduce the staff and elders to him.
One day, you and I are going to stand before the Father, and Jesus is going to say, “This is _________.”
6“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
We must listen to what the Lord says to the church at Sardis.
We must listen because it’s easy to drift in sleepy apathy towards spiritual death, especially when you have a good reputation.
In some ways, spiritual maturity can become a trap – if it leads to an attitude of, I’ve come far enough.
It’s a spiritual principle – if we aren’t moving forward, then we’re moving back!
If tonight, you realize your relationship has grown cold and stale and the glory days are all in the past, remember that Jesus is an expert at raising the dead.
Sardis teaches us that we must beware of our success.
The city was wealthy and knew easy living, but it made them soft and spoiled.
This attitude was carried over into the church and their approach to ministry.
Has the abundance and ease of living we enjoy in our culture led to some unhealthy attitudes about spiritual life and growth?
Do we expect spiritual maturity to be a painless and carefree process?
Is the idea of commitment and sacrifice understood as a necessary part of being a disciple, or do we come to God on our own terms?
Sardis also teaches us that we must be watchful at our strongest points.
Sardis thought it was unconquerable, and so it was conquered.
7“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
Philadelphia was a special city.
It was a colony, a kind of missionary city for Greek culture and language.
It had been very successful in this purpose and had served as an important beachhead of the Grecian Empire.
But one of the things that made life difficult in Philadelphia was that this was a volcanic area and prone to numerous earthquakes.
A huge earthquake in both 17 & 37 AD had leveled the city – but the citizens had rebuilt it.
Ever since, the city suffered daily tremors that knocked masonry off of buildings.
For this reason, more people lived outside the walls of Philadelphia in small communities of huts, than inside.
‘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”:
What’s interesting about the description Jesus gives of Himself to this church is that, unlike the other descriptions to the other churches, it’s not drawn from the vision of Chapter 1.
He is the One who is holy and true.
In the OT, God is regularly called “The Holy One.”
That title is ascribed to Jesus here.
‘True’ means ‘genuine.’
Jesus is making a distinct claim to being the true God, the Holy One.
Then he uses a rather obscure reference to the Key of David.
Keys are symbolic of authority.
If you have a key, it means you have the right to open or use something.
In the vision of Jesus in 1:18, He has the keys of Hades and death
But here He says he has the key of David.
The key of David is mentioned in - Isa. 22.
It was the key to the treasury of the Kingdom.
In the days of King Hezekiah, a corrupt treasurer named Shebna stole some of the money from the treasury and so lost his position to a new and faithful steward named Eliakim. 
Eliakim becomes a type or picture of the Messiah, in that he takes over from the corrupt leaders of Israel who have been plundering the people of God for their own ends.
In Hebrews 3:6, Jesus is called the faithful steward over God's household.
The key of David speaks of the authority to open all the treasure of the Kingdom of God.
He opens and shuts and no one can resist Him.
8“I know your works.
We expect to read what those works were but Jesus precedes their works with a promise -
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.
It appears that the church at Philadelphia was not a very big or notable church.
In fact in the records we have of this period of church history, there is little mentioned of it.
But the group of disciples there were living pure and acceptable lives before the Lord.
They loved His word, faced opposition bravely, and used what little strength they had to glorify the Lord.
For all this – the Lord promises an open door, one that He Himself will make sure stays open and effective for them.
Because the Philadelphians knew the history of their city and that it had been planted as a door of Greek culture into the wilds of Asia, they knew that Jesus was saying they would become a missionary base of the gospel to that entire region!
This was an example of the parables Jesus told, that faithfulness in little things results in a reward of greater things.
9Indeed 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.
We encountered the synagogue of Satan last week in our study of Smyrna.
These were those who were Jews by birth and ancestry but who were not Jews in the heart and faith of Abraham.
As Paul writes in Romans, true Jews are not Jews by physical birth but by spiritual birth.
There was a Jewish synagogue in Philadelphia, and the devil had stirred them up to persecute and make trouble for the Christians.
Jesus promises the day will come when those who have opposed them will come before them in humility, honoring them as the servants of God.
Some will eventually come to faith in Christ.
The rest will fall before the Lord on that day when all creation bends its knee to confess Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God.
10Because 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. 11Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.
We took a look at these two verses in detail two Sundays ago, so I won’t cover them tonight.
12He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.
These were great and precious promises to the people of Philadelphia.
The constant earthquakes had badly rattled them, but a pillar spoke of strength.
To be a pillar in the unshakeable Kingdom of God spoke of the final release from fear and insecurity.
The Philadelphians, who’d had to live outside the city walls, would enjoy peace and safety inside the Kingdom of Heaven – and they’d never have to go running for cover ever again.
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.
To write your name on something meant ownership.
Three names will be written on us –
The Name of Our Maker.
The Name of Home – the New Jerusalem.
The Name of our Master who bought us with His blood.
We occasionally find bibles left around the church.
The first thing we do is to look in the front cover to see who it belongs to.
But a lot of bibles don’t have any name in them.
So we keep them for a while, then we give them away.
Their fair game, cause there’s no mark of ownership.
If I go out to the park across from my house and find a basketball with no name on it, and no one standing around, I’ll leave it there for a long time, but if no one returns to claim it, I’ll take it home.
If, however, I see a name on that ball, I’ll leave it right there – the name means someone has a claim on it and it’s off limits to me.
What if I look at the ball and it’s says “From President George Bush, The White House, Given to Shaquille O’Neal?”
I’d be a complete fool to even touch the thing!
That’s you and me.
Our Maker has given us to His Son, and we belong to them, eternally!
13“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
We have only one church left – Laodicea – but that one’s a scorcher so we’ll leave it for next week.
We’ll start off next week by seeing how each of the churches we’ve looked at so far gives us a picture of all of church history, starting with the Church of the Apostles, right up to the Return of Christ.
Let me just give a quick preview of that right now.
The first church was – Ephesus – The Busy but Passionless Church – an apt description of the church of the end of the 1st to mid 2nd Century.
The second church was – Smyrna – this is the Persecuted Church – a good description of the church through the 2nd to 4th centuries when it was the official policy of Rome to persecute Christians.
The third church was – Pergamos – this is the Compromising Church – when beginning in 316 and the conversion of Constantine, the Church began to buddy up to the world by getting cozy with the throne.
The fourth church was – Thyatira – the Comprised Church – this period of church history began in about the mid-6th Century, when the church actually took over as the civil authority and became hopelessly corrupt – merging many of the pagan practices of the old Roman religions with Christianity, and brutally oppressing any group that tried to break away and return to Biblical Christianity.
The fifth church was - Sardis – the Dead Church – this is the church whose works were not complete and represents the Reformation Church from the 16th to the mid 18th Century. We’ll see how Sardis is such a perfect picture of the Reformation Age next week.
The sixth church is – Philadelphia – the Faithful Missionary Church – this well describes the Protestant Church from the mid 18th Century up through today.
The seventh and last church is – Laodicea – the Lukewarm Church. What Jesus has to say to this church sounds eerily like a lot of what we see in our own time.
 Barclay, William - “It is of interest to note that the
first coinage ever to be minted in
 Walvoord & Guzik
 Isaiah 11:2
 2 Kings 18:17-18