Revelation 3, Sermon by Wilfred Starrenburg
Revelation 3, The Church of Sardis
Sardis (/ˈsɑːrdɪs/) or Sardes (/ˈsɑːrdiːz/; Lydian: Sfard; Ancient Greek: Σάρδεις Sardeis; Old Persian: Sparda; Biblical Hebrew: ספרד Sfarad) was an ancient city at the location of modern Sart (Sartmahmut before 19 October 2005), near the Salihli in Turkey's Manisa Province. Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, the seat of a Seleucid Satrap, the seat of a proconsul under the Roman Empire, and the metropolis of the province Lydia in later Roman and Byzantine times. As one of the seven churches of Asia, it was addressed by John, the author of the Book of Revelation in the New Testament, in terms which seem to imply that its church members did not finish what they started, that they were about image and not substance. Its importance was due first to its military strength, secondly to its situation on an important highway leading from the interior to the Aegean coast, and thirdly to its commanding the wide and fertile plain of the Hermus. Sardis was situated in the middle of Hermus valley, at the foot of Mount Tmolus, a steep and lofty spur which formed the citadel.
The excavations unearthed perhaps the most impressive synagogue in the western diaspora yet discovered from antiquity, yielding over eighty Greek and seven Hebrew inscriptions as well as numerous mosaic floors. (For evidence in the east, see Dura Europos in Syria.) The discovery of the Sardis synagogue has reversed previous assumptions about Judaism in the later Roman empire. Along with the discovery of the god fearers/the osebeis inscription from Aphrodisias, it provides indisputable evidence for the continued presence of Jewish communities in Asia Minor and their integration into general Roman life at a time when many scholars previously assumed that Christianity had eclipsed Judaism. The synagogue was a section of a large bath-gymnasium complex, that was in use for about 450–500 years. In the late 4th or 5th century, part of the bath-gymnasium complex was changed into a synagogue.
Title: A commentary on the Revelation of John. The glory of Sardis lay the sixth century B.C., she had been the capital city of the kingdom of Lydia and later a center of Persian government. ln New Testament times, she had sunk to relative obscurity. Her one claim to prominence was that she provided the meeting place of several major Roman roads, and was an important industrial center, the home of woolen and dyed goods. The chief cult in Sardis was that of Cybele, the goddess of one of Asia's most famous mystery religions. Sardis was also zealous in promoting emperor worship. The people of the city were widely known for their luxurious, loose way of life. It is significant that nothing is said in the letter about Jewish hostility, about open persecution, or about heretical teaching. The main problem is that of a deep spiritual apathy, which may have resulted from the softness and love of luxury which characterized the secular socíety.
Who is a dead Christian?
The church of Sardis is known for its works, however, it was outward. It had been alive, it had an outstanding reputation for life and vitality, but in the sight of God it was dead. It is a picture of nominal Christianity, outwardly prosperous, busy with the externals of religious activity, but devoid of spiritual life and power. The Christian who is fully occupied in the church, with the work of God, but who forgets his or her personal relationship with God in Bible reading and prayer.
A more literal translation for "awake" would be "be watching." This admonition was particularly relevant in Sardis, for in the city was an impregnable acropolis which had never been seized by frontal attack; twice, however, in the history of the city, the acropolis had been taken by stealth because of lack of vigilance on the part of its defenders. An example of the Christian who has fallen asleep in his or her spiritual life. Fully occupied by worldly things, might even be in caring for his/her neighbour, in social work and social media. However no time spending in reading the Bible, in praying and seeking the Will of God.
This church was praised by men for its good works, but which before God stood condemned because they were imperfect. They were incomplete, inadequate. The church was not troubled by persecution; it was not disturbed by heresy; it was not distressed by Jewish opposition: it was well known as an active, vigorous Christian congregation, characterized by good works and charitable activities. But in the sight of God, all of these religious activities were a failure because they were only formal and external, and not injected by the Holy Spirit.
John recalls the church to its earliest experience of love and devotion to Christ. He remembers to the early days when they received the gospel, to hold fast to their first devotion and to repent of the indifference into which they had fallen. If not, verse 3, Jesus will come like a thief in the night. Many Christians are not reading the Bible, are not aware what is going on with this Covid-19 virus. Are not aware that they are the preparations of the coming of the AntiChrist and Great Tribulation. The Rapture of the Church will come as a thief in the night and they will notice that persons are missing and they have stayed behind. They will not have known the hour when Jesus came back. This is the letter to the fifth church, so one cannot say that this church has already past during the last two centuries. NO, TODAY this letter is very actual, we are approaching the Rapture of the Church. Now it is time to awaken the Christians and warn them to REPENT. Verse 4 In Sardis are still a few names who walk worthy. A some group of Christians are fully aware of the forthcoming Rapture. But today strangely enough ALSO NON-CHRISTIANS. Non-Christians are aware that something very strange is the matter with this Covid-19, that it is NOT normal. They investigated and are investigating. And come to the conclusion that the book Revelation is fullfilling. Things described in the book Revelation are already or nearly developed. In my following sermons I shall explain. That is too much in relation with this chapter.
Verse 5 He or she who shall clad thus in white garments means that although the works were good, still their minds wish for the luxury and pleasure worldly things. They were not entirely living under the control of the Holy Spirit. The promise of Jesus is IF you remain faithful to ME, leave the worldly things, THEN I shall NOT erase your name from the book of life (Rev. 20:12) and I Jesus will confess your name before My Father. Let Christians pay attention to the words I have given to the church of Sardis.
Revelation 3, The Church of Philadelphia
Alaşehir in Antiquity and the Middle Ages known as Philadelphia (Greek: Φιλαδέλφεια), is a town and district of Manisa Province in the Aegean region of Turkey. It is situated in the valley of the Kuzuçay (Cogamus in antiquity), at the foot of the Bozdağ Mountain (Mount Tmolus in antiquity). The town is connected to İzmir by a 105 km (65 mi) railway. It stands on elevated ground commanding the extensive and fertile plain of the Gediz River (Hermus in antiquity), presenting an imposing appearance when seen from a distance.
Alaşehir began as perhaps one of the first ancient cities with the name Philadelphia. It was established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon (197–160 BC). Eumenes II named the city for the love of his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159–138 BC), whose loyalty earned him the nickname, "Philadelphos", literally meaning "one who loves his brother".
Lacking an heir, Attalus III Philometer, the last of the Attalid kings of Pergamum, bequeathed his kingdom, including Philadelphia, to his Roman allies when he died in 133 BC. Rome established the province of Asia in 129 BC by combining Ionia and the former Kingdom of Pergamum.
Roman Philadelphia was in the administrative district of Sardis (Pliny NH 5.111). In AD 17, the city suffered badly in an earthquake, and the Roman emperor Tiberius relieved it of having to pay taxes. In response, the city granted honors to Tiberius. Evidence from coinage reveals that Caligula helped the city; under Vespasian, Philadelphia received his cognomen, Flavia. Under Caracalla, Philadelphia housed an imperial cult; its coins bore the word Neokoron (literally, "temple-sweeper"—caretaker of the temple). A small theater located at the northern edge of Toptepe Hill is all that remains of Roman Philadelphia.
Christians of Philadelphia are true followers of Jesus Christ?
Philadelphia was the youngest of the seven cities of Asia. Apparently the church was in a healthy condition, for the letter includes no words of censure or criticism. The church was rather a weak one, possessing only a little power, but she had remained faithful to her Lord.
The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens. The mention of David puts this verse in a messianic context. Someday Jesus will exercise His authority to allow saved individuals, both born-again Gentiles and saved Jews to enter His earthly 1000-year kingdom. Also, He will use the key to lock out all unbelievers. Because Jesus is the son of David, He has the indisputable right to the royal line of David. As Israel's promised king, He will rule the nations from the throne of Israel. He has also the key to death. He died at the Cross, but also had the key to live and rose from the death at the third day. Only JESUS has the key of live and dead, see also Revelation 20:11-15.
I know your works, I know you have but little power. Still in this letter no rebuke, only praise. Although this church had little power (few members, not much wealth to share?) still they did a lot of good work. Let that be an example to small communities with few members, they can do a lot of good work. They are able to proclaim the gospel, do social work, raise money to buy meals for the poor and distribute. They are able to encourage the sick, comfort people. In verse 8 Jesus tells that HE KNOWS their works. I know you ARE PROCLAIMING and KEEPING MY WORD. Not only are they proclaiming the gospel AND the Words of the Bible, but they are living accordingly, (un)bleievers are SEEING what they teach, they ALSO PRACTICE.
Also in this verse 9, as in Rev. 2:9 the synagogue of the Jews, is called a synagogue of satan. The Jews called themselves children of Abraham, but Abraham worked was faith in God. While the works of the Jews was not faith and repentence, but works, doing the law (Torah and 10 commandments).
Verse 10 Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, in Dutch language "Because you have kept the order to keep expecting Me" which refers to Matthew 24:3-13, 32-34 From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place. The order of Jesus in Matthew 24 is to watch the signals. Well, the signals are very clearly visible with the Covid-19, but there is much more going on which I shall inform you in my next sermons. If the Christian keep proclaiming the gospel, the Words of the Bible, practicing the Words of the Bible, keep living under the control, THEN the promise here in verse 10 is true, I WILL KEEP YOU FROM THE HOUR OF TRIAL which is coming on the whole world. That is the Rapture of the Church, before the Great Tribulation will start, these Christians will be removed from earth and taken up into Heaven. The others will be tried on earth.
Verse 11, Jesus says He is coming soon. Well as said, for God 2000 years is as 2 days. BUT NOW we KNOW it is SOON. We are at the end of 2000 years. The signs are all there. We KNOW IT IS SOON. Therefore hold on to living under control of the Holy Spirit, so that no one seize your crown (Rev. 2:10).
Verse 12 I will make him (her) a pillar in the temple of my God (the Father). A Christian is sealed with the Holy Spirit and a royal priest. He or she is a member of the temple service. Since Revelation tells little about the New Heaven, I cannot inform you more about the meaning of this verse. That the Christian will find out when in the New Heaven.
Revelation 3, The Church of Laodicea
Laodicea on the Lycus (Greek: Λαοδίκεια πρὸς τοῦ Λύκου; Latin: Laodicea ad Lycum, also transliterated as Laodiceia or Laodikeia) (modern Turkish: Laodikeia) was an ancient city built on the river Lycus (Çürüksu). It was located in the Hellenistic regions of Caria and Lydia, which later became the Roman Province of Phrygia Pacatiana. It is now situated near the modern city of Denizli, Turkey.
Laodicea is situated on the long spur of a hill between the narrow valleys of the small rivers Asopus and Caprus, which discharge their waters into the Lycus. The town was originally called Diospolis, "City of Zeus", and afterwards Rhodas. Laodicea, the building of which is ascribed to Antiochus II Theos in 261-253 BC in honor of his wife Laodice, was probably founded on the site of the older town. It was approximately 17 kilometres (11 mi) west of Colossae, and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) south of Hierapolis. It was approximately 160 kilometres (99 mi) east of Ephesus and, according to Strabo, it was on a major road. It was in Phrygia, although some ancient authors place Laodicea in differing provincial territories – not surprising because the precise limits of these territories were both ill-defined and inconstant; for example, Ptolemy and Philostratus call it a town of Caria, while Stephanus of Byzantium describes it as belonging to Lydia.
At first, Laodicea was not a place of much importance, but it soon acquired a high degree of prosperity. In 220 BC, Achaeus was its king. In 188 BC, the city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamon, and after 133 BC it fell under Roman control. It suffered greatly during the Mithridatic Wars but quickly recovered under the dominion of Rome. Towards the end of the Roman Republic and under the first emperors, Laodicea, benefiting from its advantageous position on a trade route, became one of the most important and flourishing commercial cities of Asia Minor, in which large money transactions and an extensive trade in black wool were carried on.
The area often suffered from earthquakes, especially from the great shock that occurred in the reign of Nero (60 AD) in which the town was completely destroyed. But the inhabitants declined imperial assistance to rebuild the city and restored it from their own means. The wealth of its inhabitants created among them a taste for the arts of the Greeks, as is manifest from its ruins, and that it contributed to the advancement of science and literature is attested by the names of the sceptics Antiochus and Theiodas, the successors of Aenesidemus and by the existence of a great medical school. Its wealthy citizens embellished Laodicea with beautiful monuments. One of the chief of these citizens, Polemon, became King of Armenian Pontus (called after him "Polemoniacus") and of the coast round Trebizond. The city minted its own coins, the inscriptions of which show evidence of the worship of Zeus, Æsculapius, Apollo, and the emperors. It received from Rome the title of free city. During the Roman period, Laodicea was the chief city of a Roman conventus, which comprised twenty-four cities besides itself; Cicero records holding assizes there ca. 50 BC.
Paul had not visited this church at the time of his imprisonment (Col. 2:1). The church was possibly founded by Epaphras (Col. 1:7). Paul knew this church for he wrote a letter to the Laodiceans from Rome (Col. 4:16) which is lost. In Sardis remained a nucleus who had perserved a vital faith, while the entire Laodicean church was permeated by complacency. Likely they were heavy involved in the economic business which had a deadly influence upon the church.
Verse 14 The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. Originally, AMEN is a Hebrew adjective that literally means “sure, faithful.” It indicates what is certain, sure, that is true. It is Jesus Who was present at the creation of the earth, and He was been watching earth from the beginning of creation through the centuries up to today. He knows all things what is going on during the years.
Verse 15 The church members in Laodicea were cold nor hot. They had no censure for false teaching nor immorality. How true for much Christians today. Many go to church, but they do NOT protest against abortion, free sexs, immorality, accept laws from government which goes against the commandments of the Bible, accepting genero, false teaching at schools and universities, violence and corruption. They are indifferent. They are well off, have what they want, they prosper, do not need anything. However they are blind and poor, do not know what is going on in the world. They are not aware that satan and people guided by satan are destroying the world. Wish to kill people five in every six person. There is no work for people, because work will be done by computers and robots, steered by human brains connected to supercomputers. They are pitiable and naked (without spiritual value, without spiritual clothing, empty without Holy Spirit). And Jesus Christ will spew these Christian out of His Mouth. Like lukewarm water which is revolting in one's month and one spits out. It sounds final, but verses 18-20 still gives a glimpse of hope, if one repents.
The advice of Jesus Christ is to awaken, see the statement where you are in. Start buying gold refined by fire. Gold which is heated in the fire and all impurity is removed. Remove your indifference, remove the immorality, the impureness of the world, your hung to richness, living in the world and not to me honor and glory, tolerating satan. The gold which Jesus Christ offers is pure, cloth with white garments, anoint your eyes so that you can clearly see the sins in your live. See what is going on in the world and deceive by people. The purpose of the Covid-19. See clearly that the Rapture of the Church is soon. If one repents and invites Jesus Christ to sit at his or her table, Jesus Christ will come. HOWEVER He has to be be invited into your house and to take place at your table and sit at the head of the table. He needs to take over the control of your live and you has to allow Him to open your mind and fill you with His Holy Spirit.
That is the end of the sermons about the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. The next sermon will be chapter 4 of Revelation and the Rapture has taken place. Let the past three sermons be a lesson. Make up your mind and decide where you wish to go to.