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14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot.

16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

17 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me.

21 To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.

22 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

 

PART 2

 

*** Recipient -> “To the Angel of the Church in Laodicea” ***: Once again, the letter is addressed to the leader of the church, but applicable to all the members. Please see the comments in study #9#12, and #14.

*** Sender -> “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” ***: Jesus introduced Himself to this church in three ways: 1) the Amen; 2) the faithful and true witness; and 3) the beginning of the creation of God. The word Amen actually comes from the Hebrew through the Greek word amēn, and means ‘in truth’. It is an expression that confirms that a statement is the absolute truth. We see Jesus using this expression many times. He would often start a sentence by using the word amēn, translated as “Verily I say” (Matthew 5:18; Matthew 5:26; Matthew 6:2; Matthew 6:5; Matthew 6:16 - just to mention a few). As we saw in lesson #5, Jesus is also the true witness, who testified unto death. He speaks the truth about Himself, and about the One who sent Him. He is also the beginning of God’s creation. The word “beginning” was translated from the Greek archē, which can also mean “origin”, or “ruler”. It carries the sense of priority, the starting point, and what comes first. Jesus has the dominion of absolutely everything since creation, because creation started with Him. He is the origin of creation itself (Colossians 1:15-16). In other words, Revelation 3:14 says: Jesus is the truth, He speaks the Truth, and he has everything under His control, because He is the Creator.

*** Assessment -> “I know…” ***: Since Jesus has control over everything, He knows the condition of the church in Laodicea.
Works: the Laodiceans are neither cold nor hot, just like the city's water supply. The lukewarm water that arrived in Laodicea was only good for bathing. Not cold enough to be good for drinking, not hot enough to be used for medicinal purposes. Spiritually, the Laodiceans were just using the convenient portions of the Gospel. They were soaking away in a message that had its temperature adjusted to a more comfortable level. As they remained in their comfort zone, they never really stepped into the extremes of the water temperature. If they had experience the extreme temperatures, they would have not been unaware of their lukewarm condition. The Laodiceans never got to continuously drink from the cold and refreshing Living Water, absorbing every word that proceeded from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4). And they never applied the daily hot compress of truth over their sore and broken spirits (Luke 4:18). Revelation 3:16 says that the tepid Christians will be spat out of the body of Christ. True Christians are in fact called to follow an apparently inconvenient and uncomfortable path of extreme temperatures. Jesus said, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me (Matthew 16:24). But He also said that His yoke is easy and that His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Carrying a cross is not an easy task, but it is made easier because Christ has already carried the burden of the final death for His people. All is left to do is to endure temporary earthly problems while we go on, being nourished and cared for by the One who is in control of the Universe.

Indifference and self-sufficiency: The church members in Laodicea suffered from an acute case of lack of awareness. They had a completely distorted and delusional idea of who they were. Jesus warned them about this problem. The Laodiceans had the impression they were spiritually filled, spiritually rich, that they could see all the spiritual truths, and that they were righteously dressed. Even though they had access to the true Gospel message, they were actually filled with themselves, and therefore spiritually “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (verse 17). They were not getting their wealth straight from Jesus. They had substituted the rich message of God with a generic version. Their understanding of the scriptures was not protected with the eyedrops of the Holy Spirit. And they thought they could dress themselves up with their own opinions and doctrines of convenience. Both in the material and in the religious sense, the church in Laodicea felt it had need of nothing (verse 17).

*** Appeal -> “I have what you need; repent by opening the door of your heart for Me” ***: The church was so blind, it could not even see its own wretched state. Jesus was calling them to repent, but they not only didn't think they needed to, but also didn't know how to do it. Jesus had to give them step by step instructions on how to repent. They needed to look to Jesus to get the truth that was refined by fire. They needed to let Him dress them with His white robes of righteousness, washed by the blood of His sacrifice. And they need to let Jesus open their minds so they could see God’s will for them clearly. The way to get all these supplies from Him was to follow his simple instructions. Each person was being called to open the door of his or her heart so Self could go out, and Jesus could come in.

Jesus used an interesting word when He said people need to acquire the means to salvation from Him. He used the word “buy”. The word in Greek is agorazó, which means to buy in the marketplace, or purchase. Jesus’ statement seems strange, since we know the grace of God is a free gift to us (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:15; Romans 6:23). How are we to buy these things from Him? It is not hard to understand that He is the only source of those things. But how are we going to pay for them? And why do we need to purchase them? Could we not just receive them as a gift? The answer to those questions come in verse 19 and 20. As Jesus had already pointed out, we have nothing to offer. We are miserable and devoid of righteousness. And that is why He says, in verse 19, that He is allowing our going through this process: because He loves us. He is calling His people to be zealous and repent. When true repentance happens, we naturally stop living the life we were living before. When we give Christ our old Self, we make room for all those goods Jesus is offering. Jesus is calling us to stop living a Self-centered life and start living a Christ-centered life.

*** Call to hear the Spirit -> The Spirit says to the churches ***: The message of “I am the only source of salvation, therefore repent and open your heart for me” was to be heard by all churches. There are no excuses not to hear this call. Please see the notes on study #14. Jesus is calling the church to become aware of its spiritual misery, poverty, blindness, and lack of righteousness.

*** Promise -> To the one who overcomes ***: The one who overcomes received a very important promise:

Sit with Jesus in His throne: When we think of a throne, the first thing that comes to mind is the picture of a western royal chair. The ancient Near East throne was not like that. It looked more like a couch than a chair. In any case, we can just trust Jesus’ word, and accept that there will be room there for the one who overcomes. The same way Jesus sat down with His Father when He overcame, we will also have our turn to sit with Him. Christ will elevate His people that much. Not because there is any merit in them. But because of His love for them. The fulfillment of this promise is seen in Revelation 20:4.

*** Church history view and prophetic application ***: Laodicea is the last church of the seven. This means that there will be no other prophetic period on the history of this world that will come after this one and before Christ’s Second Coming. The prophetic view of this church fits the period before Jesus returns. It represents God’s people living in the last days of this planet. Like no other time in history, the people in the last days are being bombarded with a culture that elevates Self: “solutions to problems can be found in yourself”; “believe in yourself”; “pick yourself up, and press on”; “you can do it”. At the same time, Christ is being leveled down and pushed out of the scene. Acting this way, society thinks it will be able to accommodate cultural diversity, and remain politically correct. The philosophies in the world today seem very good, and seem to be concerned with the welfare of a globalized civilization. But we must not be tricked. Colossians 2:8 says: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." The challenges Christians face today are different than the ones in the previous prophetic times. It is much harder to overcome a problem you don’t even know you have. Just as with the 1st century church in Laodicea, Christ is calling us today, His end time church, to come to Him and let Him show us what we really need.

*** Overview ***: Once again, we see contrasting realities being addressed in this letter. But this time around, the contrast is not between the world and the church. It is between the idea the church has of itself and the opinion Christ has of the church. Those two concepts are completely opposite from each other. Jesus did not point out the division in the church. He did not point out any heretic groups, or any specific sin that is prevalent among the members. There were no words mentioned about persecution. That doesn’t mean those things weren’t there. Christ’s approach shows His priorities when it comes to the salvation of a group who is unaware of its own wretched condition. There can be no doubt about how these people will be saved. There is no way they can be saved by any of their good deeds, or by their own merit. They have none. It is only through the grace of God that we can be saved. Only by accepting His white garment of salvation, we can present ourselves before God, as complete and pure beings, worthy to sit with Jesus in His throne. The gift of salvation is free in the sense that there is nothing we can do to add to Christ’s perfect offer. But in order to receive this free gift, we need to make a choice: to overcome the world, or to give in to it. We can either hand over to Jesus the nothingness that we are, and receive everything in return; or we can keep our belief in our own self, hold on to the thought we can have things done our way, but miss out on all the promises Jesus made to the one who overcomes. We live today in the prophetic period of Laodicea. We are this church. But we also are the object of Christ’s infinite love. There is hope, and He is just waiting for us to open our heart and let Him in.

14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot: I would that you were cold or hot.

16 So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.

17 Because you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and know not that you are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

18 I counsel you to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich; and white clothing, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness does not appear; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.

19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me.

21 To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father in his throne.

22 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

PART 1

*** Historical Setting ***: Laodicea was located 45 miles southeast of Philadelphia, and about 40 miles east of Ephesus (some sources say about 100 miles). It was, however, very near to Colossae, about 10 miles away. Today, its ruins are near the village of Eskihisar, in the district of Denizli Province, Turkey. It changed names a few times. During the reign of king Antiochus II Theos, who was in power from 261-243 BC, the city had its name changed to Laodiceia, in honor of his wife, Laodice. The Greek meaning of the name Laodicea comes from laos (people) + dike (just, right; relating to judgement). In 188 BC, it was ruled by the king of Pergamum, and in 133 BC, it fell to the Romans. Under the Roman Empire, the city flourished, and became one of the most popular commercial centers of Asia Minor, strategically located on the trade route. Laodicea received from Rome the title of Free City. During the reign of Antiochus III the Great (222 - 187 BC), 2,000 Jewish families were transported from Babylon to Frygia. And so, many inhabitants of Laodicea were Jews. It is believed that the they were sending gold from to the temple in Jerusalem annually.

The city was very beautiful, and even today, its ruins reflect a vibrant city of ancient times. Laodicea had a stadium, gymnasium, theaters, bath houses, a Senate House (bouleuterion), temples, and a sarcophagus. Its wealth contributed to the advancement of science and literature. Laodicea was also famous for the local school of medicine, especially because it offered treatment of eye problems, through a salve prepared there. Laodicea was also well known for the manufacturing of black wool, and for its banks. Yes, they already had banks back then! The city was so rich, it was able to mint its own coins. The inscription on those coins makes it evident that Laodiceans worshiped Zeus, Asclepius, Apollo, and the emperors. In the year 60 AD, there was a great earthquake that destroyed the city. The citizens refused Imperial funds to restore it, and decided to pay for the reconstruction themselves. They felt that no outside help was needed.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Laodicea was the city’s aqueduct system. It received water from Hierapolis. There was a source of hot spring water in that region, and the Laodiceans found an ingenious way to bring it all the way to a few tanks in the outskirts of town. From there it was distributed inside the city. There was a problem keeping the water hot over the distance of 6 miles. The water was also heavy with minerals. By the time the it arrived in Laodicea, it was no longer hot. It was also not cold, but it had become lukewarm. The tepid temperature of the water made it good for bathing, but not good for human consumption. Not fresh enough for drinking, not warm enough for healing purposes.

*** Biblical View ***: Laodicea is not only mentioned in Revelation, but also in the book of Colossians (Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13; and Colossians 4:15-16). In Paul’s writings to the church in Colosse, he expressed his concern for them, and for the congregation in Laodicea. He cared deeply for the churches of the neighboring cities of Laodicea, Hierapolis and Colosse. Paul mentioned a letter to the Laodiceans that we do not have today, and encouraged the Colossians and Laodiceans to read each others epistles (Colossians 4:16).

The beginning of the letter to the Colossians reminds us of the beginning of the Revelation letter to Laodicea: “[Jesus,] Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him [...]. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Colossians 1:15-20)

In the letter to the Colossians, Paul is saying that Jesus is the center of everything that was ever created. All things were created by Him and for Him, not only on Earth, but also in Heaven. This text makes it clear that humans are not in the same category as Jesus and the Father. Our own status as created beings cannot be compared to Jesus’ oneness with the Father, as God.

Laodicea was in serious trouble according to Jesus’ assessment. The church members had need of nothing (verse 17). They were self-sufficient. But there is always a big problem with this mindset. It is a lot harder to make people understand their need for a Savior when they don’t need anything outside themselves and their possessions. They were looking to fulfill their physical and material needs aside from Jesus. They felt they deserved more material blessings, based on their own merits or size of their monetary contributions. The “I” and the “My” had become the center of everything, and Christ had been pushed out of the picture. As we read in verse 20, Jesus was outside, knocking at a shut door. Once more, we read about the problem of an ever-growing “Self”. The church in Ephesus had started to backslide on their love for God. With each of the five “not so good churches”, love for Self started to grow more and more. The problem became so bad in the church of Sardis, that they turned into a dead church. Laodicea then broke the record, and managed to become even worse than the dead church. And yet, it was unaware of its own condition.

We can see that the attitude of this church was the exact opposite of what John the Baptist preached: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). Laodicea had replaced the Christ-centered Gospel with a Self-centered message. The selfish need ‘to increase' tends to strengthen with time. The elevation of Self to the status of divinity is the oldest evil concept of all. It worked on Eve. She was tempted with the idea that she would be like God if she ate of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:5).

The truth is, not even on the Last Day, when we are transformed into perfect beings, we will be like God. The Laodiceans were focusing on material things, while keeping Jesus outside the door. They had an attitude of entitlement, as if they were worthy of being in the same level as God, on their own merit. They had their own gold, their own garments, and their own eye salve. All counterfeit signs of a relationship with Christ. No matter how good we are, Jesus is the only one who can save us from our misery, nakedness, and blindness. And to this church, Jesus offers the biggest blessing of all. This amazing blessing does not seem to fit the pitiful state of the church. To sit in God’s throne is a privilege that goes beyond anyone’s imagination. Jesus is not asking that we become gods ourselves in order to deserve such honor. He just asks that we let Him in. The reality is, we do not deserve anything other than death. But through Jesus’ blood, we are made worthy to sit with Him.

*** Overview ***: The church in Laodicea is a terrible church. It is egotistical, selfish and materialistic. But the one who overcomes such miserable lukewarm condition, will receive a blessing beyond measure. This act of repentance seems almost impossible, especially because the church is completely aloof as to how much it lacks spiritually. Only by the grace of Jesus Christ can this church overcome such an adverse reality. This will make it clear to the world that there was no merit in the overcomer. There could not be any worth in the one who overcomes, based on the church description we read in this letter. Nothing we do by ourselves can change our own nature to remotely resemble the one who is found worthy to sit in the throne of God. Such perfect character can only be developed by a daily relationship with Christ. Faith in ourselves, on our own “righteousness”, and on our own limited knowledge do not measure up to the gifts God can give us when we are connected to Him. The things we bring to this relationship are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, has made us alive together with Christ, (by grace you are saved;) And has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9). To the church that reached spiritual rock bottom, Jesus promised the greatest demonstration of grace and mercy. The church can experience the power of His transforming Love. Those who are willing will be pulled up to the highest position in the entire universe. They will sit with the Father in His throne, not because they are as God, but because they opened their heart for Christ to come in.

7   And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;

8   I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.

9   Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

10   Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

11   Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.

12   He that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

13   He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. 


PART 2

 

*** Recipient -> “To the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia” ***: Once again, the letter is addressed to the leader of the church, but applicable to all the members. Please see the comments in study #9#12, and #14.

*** Sender -> “He that is holy; true; holds the key of David; opens, and no man shuts; shuts, and no man opens”  ***: Jesus starts by asserting His divinity (Isaiah 6:3). We see a similar declaration in Isaiah 43:15: “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.” His name is Holy (Isaiah 57:15). His name is also Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). In Revelation 1:18, Jesus has the keys to death and Hades. Here, He has the key of David. We saw in lesson #10 that Jesus has full authority over death and the grave, because He conquered them. That is why He has that set of keys. So, what did Jesus receive or do that gave Him the right to have the key of David? This key of David is actually a reference to a prophecy about Jerusalem. The section is in Isaiah 22:20-24. We read that God promised to give Eliakim “the key to the house of David”, and by doing so, whatever Eliakim “opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open”. God was giving Eliakim full authority over Jerusalem and Judah (Isaiah 22:21). By saying He has the key of David, Jesus is saying He has authority over His people. Jesus received all authority from the Father (Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 28:18), and has dominion over all the Earth. Jesus (and not a human being) is the “head over everything for the church” (Ephesians 1:22). He is the one who controls the door that no one else can shut or open. Please see the comments on Jesus’ control of the door in study #24.

*** Assessment -> “I know…” ***: Jesus knows better than anybody else all the things going on in this congregation. Nothing negative is mentioned about it. In fact, the church receives two promises right in this section of the letter.

Works: The works in Philadelphia were the result of the members’ faithfulness in using the open door that Jesus had placed before them. Even though they had little strength, they were firmly keeping His word and not denying His name. Having insufficient resources is not an excuse to not carry on the message. When people are willing, Christ will not only provide the door, but He will also provide the means to accomplish the task. Philadelphia was strategically located. It was already an established gateway for communication. All they had to do was to use the system that was already in place. And if they faced any road blocks, Jesus could easily open the path for them.

The synagogue of Satan will worship at the feet of the faithful ones in Philadelphia (promise): Just like Smyrna, Philadelphia is opposed by those who call themselves Jews, but are actually the synagogue of Satan. This is a very heavy statement. Once again, we see that there are only two groups. People can only choose between two sides: God, or Satan. If we are not following God, we are automatically following His enemy (Matthew 12:30). Those who oppose God can have many labels. Evil teachings can take many shapes and forms, and even seem to clash with each other. The true followers of Christ follow only one principle: God’s Word. Jesus promised the church that the enemies of God would one day humble themselves before God, in the presence of the church, and recognize that Jesus has always loved His bride. In Revelation 3:9, Christ says something very important about the people who say they are Jews, but are not. These people were lying about their identity. They were portraying themselves as the chosen nation of God (symbolically represented in the text as 'Jews'), when in reality, they were worshiping Satan. They were projecting one thing, when internally, they were actually something totally different. The point of the promise is that these people will one day recognize that: 1) Jesus has a church; 2) He loves that church; 3) He has always loved that church. This means that they will recognize that everything Jesus has done is because of His love for His people. This act of humility is their defeat.

Jesus will keep the church of Philadelphia from the hour of trial coming over the Earth-dwellers (promise): The Philadelphians had kept the word of Jesus' endurance. They had not moved away from Jesus’ teachings, despite their little strength. In turn, Jesus told them that He would keep them from the hour of trial, meaning His judgement. We can ask ourselves, why? Why was Jesus going to spare them from the hour of trial? Because His judgement will not fall on the just. Revelation 3:10 specifies that the judgement will fall over the ones who dwell on Earth. This expression is used throughout the book of Revelation, and it is a solid reference to the wicked (Revelation 6:10; Revelation 11:10; Revelation 13:8, 14; Revelation14:6; Revelation 17:8). The remnant can be assured that Jesus’ judgement will not fall on them, only on the ones who are not citizens of Heaven. The hour of trial is something the faithful people can look forward to as a moment of great celebration, and is not reason for fear. In this verse, Christ is offering His people protection during  that hour of trial. We see this hour of trial in Revelation 16, with the seven last plagues. These plagues are not intended for those with the seal of God. Those plagues are, as the verse says, directed to “those who dwell on the Earth”. Throughout the Bible, when the people of God were facing diffucult times, God always came to their help, and saved them through their tribulation. Just to mention a few: God saved Noah and his family through the flood; God saved Joseph through slavery, imprisonment, public office, and famine; God saved the Israelites through the 10 plagues, before He took them out of Egypt; God saved the Israelites through captivity in Babylon, before they were allowed to return home. Jesus once prayed: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:13-19).

*** Appeal -> “I’m coming soon; keep the truth and you’ll keep your crown” ***: Jesus starts His appeal with a promise: He is coming soon. The statement that His Second Coming is so close, makes knowing and keeping the truth even more important. If they didn’t keep the truth, or lived the truth, they could risk losing their victory crown (stephanos crown - please see study #15 and #16). This is how important following the truth is. Not holding on tight to the truth can make someone lose the spiritual battle being waged in this planet. There are several examples in the Bible about people who ended up losing their crown because they did not keep God’s word. But there is one person in particular that stands out: Saul, who not only lost his literal crown to David, but also lost his spiritual crown. This happened when Saul decided to follow himself, instead of what he knew to be God’s truth. So the idea that once you get your crown, you will always have it is not Biblical. Jesus clearly says that you can lose it if you are not careful to follow the truth.

*** Call to hear the Spirit -> The Spirit says to the churches ***: The message of “I’m coming soon; keep the truth and you’ll keep your crown” was to be heard by all churches. There are no excuses not to hear this call. Please see the notes on study #14. Jesus is calling the church to be prepared for His coming, by keeping His true message.

*** Promise -> To the one who overcomes ***: The one who overcomes received several promises:

Pilar in the temple of God: When Solomon built the temple, he had two very large pillars put in it. These pillars were so important that they had names (1 Kings 7:21). A pillar serves both a structural and a decorative purpose. It is a weight-bearing structure in a building, and at the same time, it can be visually appealing. Being that the Philadelphians lived on a region with frequent earthquakes, we can imagine that the concept of becoming a supporting structure in the temple of God was very comforting. A spiritual column with only visual appeal is really of no use. But a strong column in God’s temple is a reflection of God’s character.

Forever in the temple: Jesus promised the one who overcomes that this pillar will be forever in the temple. It is not going anywhere. It will never be destroyed. This statement solidifies even more the certainty of safety, and permanence;  and a lasting placement in the presence of God. Nothing can shake it down.

An inscription: Jesus promised to write on the one who overcomes, the name of God (the Father), of His city (New Jerusalem), and Jesus’ new name. Jesus told the overcomer that he will be taken care of. Jesus paid the price for all those people who overcame, and so He has the right to imprint on them the Heavenly address, where they will be going to. In a sense, God is the recipient, the Holy City is the destination, and Jesus is the sender. The fulfillment of this promise is shown in Revelation 14:1. Ezekiel 48:35 says that the name of the new city would be “The Lord is There”.

*** Church history view and prophetic application ***: The prophetic view of this church fits the period of the 18th and 19th centuries. During that time, Protestantism went through a great revival, and the true message of God began to be preached once again. This period is known as the Great Awakening. Missionaries went to India, Africa, and China. Several Bible societies were formed, making the Bible readily available to the people. Through this prophetic time period, God started to purify His church with His truth. God had opened the door not only for the spreading of the Gospel, but also for the truth to come back into His church.

*** Overview ***: In our studies of the previous churches, we can see the evil earthquakes that were trying to shake the truth out of God’s church. God had His remnant people throughout history, even if His church was reduced down to a group of very little strength. But size, in the way humans tend to consider it, is never a barrier in God's sight. He only needs a short and willing David to strike down a giant. The Living Rock of the truth is more than enough to strike the massive lies permeating the church. Just as David saw the Giant’s open helmet, Philadelphia was faced with an open door for the truth. That church grabbed the stone of truth, ran with it, and used it. And that was pleasing to God. Jesus’ promise once again reassures and comforts His people. They do not need to fear the trial that will one day come, because that hour is not reserved for them. The one who overcomes is destined to Heaven and eternal life.

7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things says he that is holy, he that is true, he that has the key of David, he that opens, and no man shuts; and shuts, and no man opens;

8 I know your works: behold, I have set before you an open door, and no man can shut it: for you have a little strength, and have kept my word, and have not denied my name.

9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

10 Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.

12 He that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

13 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

 

PART 1

 

*** Historical setting ***: Philadelphia was located in the region of Lydia, in the western area of Asia Minor, about 25 miles southwest of Sardis. Today, it is the city of Alşehir, Turkey. The ancient city was built on a volcanic plateau. It was established by king Attalus II, in 189 BC. His brother, Eumenes II of Pergamon, was the king of Pergamum. The city was named in honor of their close relationship. It means brotherly love, from the Greek phileo (to love) and adelphus (brother). In 167 BC, the Romans attempted to persuade Attalus to betray his brother and take over the Pergamene throne, but Attalus refused.

The city was strategically located, right at the junction of the borders of Mysia, Lydia, and Phrygia. It was a gateway to the East, by the Imperial Post-Road. This road essentially connected Rome to the East. The city was located at a perfect place to help spread the Greek language and culture. The city was founded with that purpose. It was quite literally an open door for the spreading of the Greek philosophy throughout Asia. It was a prosperous place, and sat on a fertile area near a river, by the foot of Mount Tmolus. But it had a big disadvantage. That region was subject to Earthquakes. The earthquake of 17 AD destroyed Philadelphia, as well as other nearby cities (including Sardis). Because of this, those cities were exempt from taxation, and were offered funds for relief.

Due to the seismic activity in that region, not much is left of the ancient city today. Some of the remaining ruins are: a small theater (Odeon), which sat between 2,000 and 3,000 people; a large 60,000-seat amphitheater, built around the 1st century; and some broken pieces of columns. Under Byzantine rule, Philadelphia was known as “Little Athens”, because of its pagan temples and festivals. Around 600 AD, the Basilica of St. John (St Jean) was built. Some of its ruins still remain as well.

*** Biblical View ***: This is another city only mentioned in the book of Revelation. The church in Smyrna and the church in Philadelphia have some things in common: they did not receive any rebuke, were persecuted by the so called Jews that were the synagogue of Satan, and the faithful remnant of God had a victory crown they should hold on to. It is interesting to note, that Jesus did not address the unfaithful members of the church in Philadelphia. The letter is directed only to those in the church with little strength, who had kept His word, and had not denied His name (verse 8). But Jesus identified, once again, the opposing side at the time, even though He was not addressing them directly. In the letter, we see two sides, very well defined:
- The ones with little strength: faithful Christians. Revelation 14:12 identifies the people of god as being those who “keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”.
- The synagogue of Satan: everybody else; and also referred to as ‘those who dwell on Earth’.

A strong theme in the letter is the idea of a key and a door. Jesus has the key, and the church in Philadelphia received the door from Him. This door was open. Even though they had little strength, the door remained open to Philadelphians. That’s because they kept His word and did not deny Jesus’ name. There were no barriers between the church and Jesus. In contrast, in Laodicea, Jesus was found outside, knocking at a locked door (Revelation 3:20).

There is a very important door that once closed, will never be open again. We read about this door in Luke 13:22-30. In these verses, Jesus explains that the owner of the house is the one closing that door of Salvation on the last days. Whoever is inside, will remain inside, and whoever is outside will remain outside. He does not recognize the ones left outside, and therefore they cannot come in. Jesus called those people evildoers (Luke 13:27). This closed door is actually a reason for celebration and feasting to the ones inside. But it is the cause for weeping and gnashing of teeth to the ones outside (Luke 13:28-29). We see this same concept in the story of Noah. God locked the door of the arc, and the ones inside were saved, while the ones outside perished (Genesis 7:16, 22-23).

The idea of this closed door is a very strong message. But when Jesus lays an open door before His chosen people, powerful things can also happen. Paul mentioned that a “great door for effective work” was open for him for the preaching of the Gospel, while he was in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 16:9). In a similar way, he found an open door for spreading the message in Troas (2 Corinthians 2:12). When writing to the Colossians, he requested that the church pray for God to open a door for successful evangelistic efforts (Colossians 4:2-6). Where there are willing servants, God will provide the way to spread His Word. Clearly, we should pray for this type of door to be open, and at the same time, we need to be prepared to use it.

Perhaps the most important door that He opened was an unconventional door, located in the temple in Jerusalem. When Jesus died, the “door” that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, in the temple, was permanently open. It was torn down from top to bottom (Mark 15:37-38). Christ was the ultimate sacrifice, and He had become the bridge between His people and the Father. Through Jesus, the blessing of Eternal Life could now be given to the people. And no one, in Heaven or the on Earth, can ever change this. This is exactly the message of the Gospel: that in Jesus, we have an open door to salvation, eternal restoration, and unbreakable reconnection with the Father.

When we think about the concept of the open and the closed door, we can see that the church in Philadelphia had a great responsibility on their hands. Their city was already optimized for the rapid and effective spreading of information. We can understand that Jesus expected the members to utilize the door He had opened for them. We cannot forget the main feature of this door. Christ is the one who controls it. He is the one holding the keys. As we saw in the texts from Paul’s letters, we can pray for God to open the doors for us. To His faithful servants, His door means salvation. To the one who keep His word and do not deny His name, this open door means a direct link with their Creator. Luke 11:9-10 says: “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” But what exactly is it that we should be asking for? What are we supposed to seek? Why do we need an open door? Jesus gives the answer a few verses later, in Luke 11:13: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” It is through this open door that we can receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit will power the people who receive Him. And they will be able to do great things, and produce “effective work”, as Paul mentioned.

*** Overview ***: The church in Philadelphia had an open door. No barriers stood between the members of the church and the Lord. Not even the opposition from the synagogue of Satan could separate them from God. The only thing that could shut that door, or make them lose their victory crown (verse 11), was if they did not keep the truth they already had. This door was held open not by the strength of the believer, but by the faith the believer had on the One holding the keys. By believing in the Lord, Noah was protected by a closed door during the flood, and was saved by an open door after it. Through an open door, Paul was able to preach throughout Asia, despite persecution and multiple incarcerations. When we knock on the door, we will receive the Holy Spirit. And that is the single most important thing we should ask God for when we knock at His door. He has the keys to it. He is in control. Whatever will help us in our spiritual journey, be it a closed door, or an open one, Jesus will provide it.

1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things says he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.

2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God.

3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you will not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

4 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.

5 He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white clothing; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

6 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.


PART 2

*** Recipient -> “To the Angel of the Church in Sardis” ***: Once again, the letter is addressed to the leader of the church, but applicable to all the members. Please see the comments in study #9#12, and #14.

*** Sender -> “He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars” ***: Like in Ephesus, Jesus comes to the church in Sardis as the one who holds the seven stars. The seven stars are the leaders of the church (Revelation 1:20; please see also lessons #9 and #14). Jesus knows them, and cares for them. Jesus also says He has the seven spirits of God. In other words, He has the cure for their problem: the Holy Spirit (see lesson #5).

*** Assessment -> “I know…” ***: Jesus has complete knowledge of all the issues in the church. Nothing good is said about it. It needs to work on everything:

Problem: The first thing we read about it is alarming. Jesus said the church had a name, but it was actually dead. The word “name” was translated from the Greek onoma, which means: name, character, fame, reputation. Jesus is saying that Sardis is quite literally just a name. It has no meaning. The church was dead, being carried forward in time by the fame of a previous era. It had a reputation but a stagnant substance. The church looked like it was alive, with all of the works that would be expected from a live and Spirit filled congregation. But the reality was, it was spiritually dead.

Works: It had works. But it was the type of work God considers insufficient. It seems that the ones doing the works were those who were about to die, but had not completely passed away just yet. As we saw in lesson #21, the work that God requires is this: "to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). If the members were not presenting works that measured up to God’s standards, it’s because they were not really believing in the One He had sent, or at least not wholeheartedly. If their beliefs were not based solely on God’s teachings, then it means that they were based on human traditions instead. They had become empty rituals. Their beliefs were incomplete, not perfect. Having just part of the truth that has been revealed already was not good enough in God’s eyes.

Warning: Just as one of the possible meanings of the word Sardis, the few remaining ones, those who escaped from spiritual death, were not out of danger either. Verse 2 says they are about to die. Jesus is calling the dead leader to wake up and do something for the dying congregation.

*** Appeal -> “Remember, keep, and repent, or else” ***: Jesus explained how the church can turn around and come back to life. The appeal is very similar to the one given to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:5). Ephesus displayed the initial symptoms of this spiritual disease. The illness had already run its full course in Sardis. The members were dying, even though they had the antidote with them all along. Jesus was telling them to remember the true message they had received. They were being called to keep that message in mind, and not move away from it. But Jesus didn't stop there. They had to keep it. They had to act according to that message. Simply knowing it was not enough. They had to do something about it.

This call reminds us of what Jesus said to the paralyzed man in Capernaum, and the one in Bethesda (Mark 2:1-12; John 5:1-15): “Get up, pick up your mat and walk”. He didn't just declare the men healed, and expected them to remain lying down on the ground, just as they had been for years. Jesus told the men to get up. How different would their life be from before if they had not gotten up? Paralyzed and lying on the ground versus cured and still lying on the ground? When Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead, He didn't expect His friend to remain in the tomb. Jesus called him out of the tomb. “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43). In order to remain spiritually revived, we cannot continue on doing the same things we were doing (or not doing) before we were restored. The key to understand how it would be possible to raise Sardis from the dead, and get it to stand up again, comes at the end of the phrase: repent. Jesus was telling the church then, and us today, that we need to recognize our faults, and our dependence on God. We see this same forgiving attitude from Jesus in the stories of the paralyzed men: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” (John 5:14). “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5).

The appeal to Sardis comes with a serious warning. If the church doesn't wake up, return to God, and practice the truth, Jesus will come to it as a thief in the night. There are two very important elements in this warning:

1) This warning is said to the church members. Jesus will return unexpectedly, as a thief, to people who call themselves Christians. Jesus is not addressing the non-believers here.

2) His coming will only be unexpected to those not practicing the complete message in the Word of God - those who are not keeping watch (Matthew 24:42-44; Mark 13:35-37). But how do we know we have the complete Word? How can an imperfect human being have all of the truth? The answer is in the beginning of verse 3. We are expected to practice the truth according to what we received and heard. But, the more we walk with God, the more we receive and hear. Learning God's truth is not a static experience. The level of responsibility for our actions increases the more we learn. Choosing to remain in a comfortable level of ignorance, is not going to keep us from being caught by surprise when Jesus comes. The end of verse 3 says that to the ones who chose not to live His message, He will come against them, for judgement and destruction. But to the ones who choose to truly follow Him, He will come for them, and will take them to the Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:36-43; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

The coming as a thief is a reminder of how the city of Sardis had been conquered before. The soldiers were so confident, that they were not keeping watch as they should. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 says: "for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief." Now it is even more clear that Jesus' coming as a thief will only happen to those not keeping watch. The ones in the light will not be surprised, and His coming will not be like a thief. They will be expecting His arrival. The day He comes as a thief, the Earth will be completely destroyed, so He is giving us a chance now to repent (2 Peter 3:9-10). There will be no more chances after He comes as a thief. "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:11-13).

Jesus concludes His appeal with a promise to a special group in Sardis. A few members have not been contaminated by the germs of the spiritual disease that had spread throughout the church. They not only had not soiled their garments with pagan influences, but also still had names that meant something. These names were alive, and were worthy to walk with Jesus. They were wearing a special white garment of victory. The Christians back then were familiar with the concept of wearing white for a special occasion. The Romans would wear white to celebrate a war victory. At the end of times, the remnant of God will be the ones wearing white. This moment is described in Revelation 7:9-17, and Revelation 19:7-8.

*** Call to hear the Spirit -> The Spirit says to the churches ***: The message of “remember and keep the truth, and repent” was to be heard by all churches. There are no excuses not to hear this call. Please see the notes on study #14. Jesus is calling the church to be vigilant and diligent. Knowing and living His truth is literally a matter of life and death.

*** Promise -> To the one who overcomes ***: The one who overcomes received several promises:
1) White garments:

God has been clothing human beings since Creation. Adam and Eve lost their original robes of glory, and found themselves naked after sin. They quickly went on to make some coverings out of fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). The original in Hebrew says they made aprons (ḥă·ḡō·rōṯ) out of the leaves. That certainly did not provide enough coverage, and the leaves would definitely not last very long. So God made new garments of skin, and clothed them (Genesis 3:21). Even though that was also a temporary outfit, it gave them full coverage.

God designed the robes the priests were to wear in the service of the temple (Exodus 28).

God is also the one who gives the white garments to the saved (Revelation 6:11). Isaiah described this robe that God gives to His people: "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”(Isaiah 61:10). The sacrifice of Jesus is what covers the sinner completely, transforming the overcomer into a blameless new creature. Just like when He resurrected Lazarus from the dead, Jesus wants to remove our filthy grave clothes (John 11:44), and dress us up in a pure robe of righteousness.

2) Name on the book of Life: Jesus promised He will not erase the name of the overcomer from the Book of Life. The overcomer has a name, and a name that matters. A name worthy enough to remain in the most important book in the universe. Only the ones with their names found in this book will enter the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:27). The Bible tells us that names can be blotted out of this book: “The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”(Exodus 32:33). Psalm 69:28 also talks about the unrighteous being blotted out of this book. Both passages referred to the Old Testament church. And this remains true for the New Testament church as well. The blotting out of the name means eternal death (Revelation 20:15). Being part of a church, or going through baptism, does not guarantee a name in God’s book. Unless we wake up, keep watch, and live the way God wants us to live, we will not be able to enter the Kingdom. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Jesus says He never knew them, because they never knew Him. They never really wanted to keep walking in Him (Colossians 2:6;  1 Thessalonians 4:1).

3) Name confessed: This is a two-part promise. Jesus will confess the name of the overcomer to the Father. Jesus will also confess the name of the overcomer to His angels. The word ‘confess’ is translated from the Greek homologēsō, which means: to promise, agree, confess, publicly declare, praise, celebrate. This is not the first time Jesus promises to confess the names of His faithful people before the Father and His angels. We read these promises in Matthew 10:32-33 and Luke 12:8-9. Christ will make a public announcement, celebrating all of those who wholeheartedly confessed His name before the world.

*** Church history view and prophetic application ***: The prophetic view of this church fits the period between the 16th and 17th centuries, which is the time that came after the Reformers had woken up the church. The Reformers had brought awareness to the differences between what the Bible was actually teaching, and what the established church was preaching. A number of Protestant churches came out of this movement. But after the Reformers passed away, the following generations became focused on doctrinal debates and controversies, and fell on the same error the Reformers had fought so hard to move away from: formalism. This church seemed to be alive, but it was not. It had works, but they were not works that reflected the never ceasing learning process started by the original Reformers. Towards the end of this period, it was then easy for the emerging philosophies of rationalism and secularism to permeate the church. This further affected the lifeless condition of the church.

*** Overview ***: The church in Sardis thought it had all the truth it needed. The congregation was sustained by the fame it once had. But Sardis had nothing behind its name anymore. No anchors were deeply rooting it in the Word of God. The members were going on, partially following the Scripture. So, Jesus called them to remember His message. Christ calls His children to follow Him completely, not just partially. Unlike Lazarus, Sardis had made the choice to remain in the tomb. The members did not want to get up and get off the mat where they were lying. They were not walking with Christ as they should have. The letter to Sardis brings such a powerful message. Are we so comfortable with the initial knowledge we got, that we think we have a complete outfit of the Gospel, when in reality, we are walking around with an apron of fig leaves? Jesus is saying it is time to get up, and come forth, out of the grave! It is time to put on the complete robe of righteousness, and walk with Christ. Walking with Him, and confessing His name is how we get to know Jesus. As, Christ said in Matthew 7:21-23, only the ones He knows will enter the kingdom of Heaven. In the words of Jesus: “[..] I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

1 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things says he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know your works, that you have a name that you live, and are dead.

2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God.

3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore you will not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

4 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.

5 He that overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white clothing; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

6 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

 

PART 1

 

*** Historical setting ***: Sardis, or Sardes, was located about 30 miles southwest of Thyatira, on Mount Tmolus. Today, its ruins are near the village of Start, in Turkey. At the end of the Assyrian Empire, around 612 BC, Babylon dominated Mesopotamia, and Sardis became the capital of the Lydian kingdom. Sardis was a natural citadel. The common citizens lived at the foot of the mount, near the Pactolus river, while the royalty and the wealthy lived on the top. The city stood strategically located, at a junction point for trade. Sardis was very advanced, and it was the industrial center of the manufacturing and dyeing of wool fabrics and carpets. The industry of metallurgy also grew under the reign of king Croesus, as they discovered how to separate gold from silver. They were able to coin pure gold and pure silver coins. This made Sardis very rich, and the birth place of modern currency.

The citizens considered their city impregnable, and so their guards were not always at their posts as they should. Cyrus the Great (the king who conquered Babylon and initiated the Persian era) conquered Sardis at some point between the years 546-548 BC, without much resistance. The city remained under Persian rule until 334 BC, when Alexander the Great conquered the region. The Greeks did not face much resistance either. The city was once again easily conquered in 218 BC by Antiochus, because the guards were not keeping watch. The lower city was rebuilt, but at a new location, and eventually they built a new city wall. Even though it was growing under these different empires, Sardis never quite reached the level of importance it once had under Lydian rule. But it remained living in the shadow of its former glory. In 133 BC, Sardis fell to the Romans. An earthquake destroyed the city in 17 AD. Sardis was so rich that they funded their own reconstruction. To aide with relief efforts, the Roman Empire offered Sardis exemption from taxation for some time. In 616 AD, the Persians attacked and destroyed the city.

The goddess of the city was Cybele, who was believed to be the mother goddess, and among other things, the mediator between the worlds of the living and the dead. Sardis had a temple for Artemis and very likely one for Zeus. We also know that there was a very large Jewish synagogue in Sardis. Archeologists excavated its ruins in 1962.

The most widely accepted meanings of the name Sardis are “those who escape”, or “those who come out”, or “that which remains”. But according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the name Sardis is a “plural of uncertain derivation”. Without complete certainty of what its actual meaning is, we can understand that Sardis is just a name.

*** Biblical View ***: The city of Sardis is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. Jesus started His assessment by saying that the church was nothing but a facade. The result of pressing on the dangerous road of lovelessness, started in Ephesus, is fully demonstrated in Sardis. 1 John 3:14 says that we remain spiritually dead if we don’t have love. We can now see more clearly, after studying the previous 4 churches, what happens when we live without love for others and for the truth. We lose focus on what is central to the Christian existence: Jesus. Without Him, what is left in the church are traditions, and meaningless talk (1 Timothy 1:3-6). This loveless frame of mind opens the door to the introduction and tolerance of false teachings, elevation of Self, and ultimately death. And those were exactly the steps the churches had taken up to that point. With the exception of Smyrna, we see this pattern with each of the churches leading up to Sardis. When we are not nourished with the Bread of Life, through the life-giving Spirit (Romans 8:6-10), we perish. There is no way around that. Jesus is calling this dead church to come back to life. Ephesians 2:4-5 tells us how we can be revived: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved”.

It is interesting to note that the problem group in the church was no longer those following Jezebel, or Balaam, or even the Nicolaitans. The issue went deeper than that. The majority of the members in the church was no longer filled with the Spirit, and that was a big concern. The danger here was that they looked alive. This was actually in itself a source of deception. We read Jesus’ urgent call in the letter: “repent”. He was calling them to ask God for forgiveness, and to walk with Him. He was, and still is, ready to forgive our sins.

Jesus’ message reminds us of the story of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-31). The father was patiently waiting for his son to come back home. When the son finally comes back home, the father asked his servants to bring his son a new robe, and to prepare a great party. The father announced to everyone “For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). The parable does not indicate that the son was surprised to see his father waiting by the road. The goal of his journey back home was obviously to return to his father. And the first words out of the son’s mouth to his father were words of repentance. Now, we can only imagine that the son would have been caught by surprise had the father arrived right at the moment when he was considering eating the pig’s rations. The thought of meeting with father there, next to the pigs, probably didn’t even cross his mind. Jesus doesn’t want us to be caught by surprise when He returns. Jesus’ message is: be watchful, be vigilant, and pay attention! We will not know He is coming if we are not looking in the right direction. When we develop a relationship with Christ, He will point us to the right direction. If we don’t seek Him, we can’t find Him. If we can’t find Him, we won’t be clothed in white, and our sinful nature will be uncovered. Without our Savior, we are not only dead, but also exposed. Jesus said: “Look, I come like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake and remains clothed, so as not to go naked and be shamefully exposed.” (Revelation 16:15).

*** Overview ***: Sardis lived in the shadow of their past fame, sustained by their own riches. The church was seamlessly blended with their city. The city and the church could be described in the same way. We don’t see any more contrasting opposites when comparing both of them. In this letter, Christ reminds the congregation of how Sardis had been conquered in the past, all because of their overconfidence and lack of proper vigilance. The church members were told to keep watch, and not leave their post unattended. Lack of diligence is sufficient reason for people to need repenting. Those who overcome will receive clean robes of righteousness. Jesus is also telling this same message to us today: to keep the truth we received, and to repent. God is powerful enough to raise us from spiritual paralysis, lethargy and even death. We will not be alone, as He promised to walk with us. But we need to make the decision ourselves to return home, just like the lost son did. We need to wake up, look up, get up, own up, and walk up to our Redeemer. Jesus said: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37).

18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God, who has his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine bronze;

19 I know your works, and love, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21 And I gave her time to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say; I will put upon you no other burden.

25 But that which you have already hold fast till I come.

26 And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father.

28 And I will give him the morning star.

29 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

PART 3

*** Recipient -> “To the Angel of the Church in Thyatira” ***: Once again, the letter is addressed to the leader of the church, but applicable to all the members. Please see the comments in study #9#12, and #14.

*** Sender -> “the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze” ***: In the vision of the Glorified Christ (lesson #8), Jesus is seen as “someone like a son of man” (Revelation 1:13). But here, for the church in Thyatira, Jesus comes as the Son of God. The Bible tells us that those who believe in the Son of God, they also accept His testimony, which is: “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:10-11). The one who overcomes the world is the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:5). Jesus also presents himself as having eyes like a flame of fire. As we studied in lesson #9, nothing can hide from His sight (Hebrews 4:13). He sees everything (Job 28:24; Proverbs 15:3). He is the one who searches minds and hearts (Revelation 2:23). Jesus ends His introduction by identifying Himself as the one having feet like burnished bronze. Again, in lesson #9, we saw that Christ was the sacrifice raised on the pole, just as the bronze snake in the desert. He was burned on the bronze altar, so we could be saved from our sins. He stands on strong, stable, and mighty feet, that cannot be moved away from the truth of God. This description is similar to the one found in Daniel 10:6.

*** Assessment -> “I know…” ***: Jesus knows more than anyone else what has been going on in the church. To this divided congregation, the message is given in pairs:
Works: Love and faith; service and patient endurance; recent works vs. first ones. This description gives us the impression that the church in Thyatira has sincere members. Love and faith are a common pair in the New Testament (Galatians 5:6; Ephesians 1:15; Ephesians 6:23;  1 Thessalonians 3:6;  2 Timothy 1;13; Philemon 1:5). It is because of love and faith that people become involved in service, and their hope in Jesus inspires their endurance (1 Thessalonians 1:3; Hebrews 6:10). Faith and endurance (or perseverance) are two of the most important characteristics of God’s people (Revelation 13:10; Revelation 14:12). The works of this church seem to be increasing as time passes.

Problem: The church in Thyatira had a serious internal problem. It had become tolerant of the so called prophetess Jezebel, who had been “teaching and seducing” God’s people to do things contrary to His will. In study #20, we saw that, in a prophetic view, Jezebel represents the unfaithful church. To the first century Christians, she was likely the leader of a heretic movement coming from within the church. She was leading people into the wrong type of worship (symbolized by the term sexual immorality). And she was teaching them false doctrines that do not point to Jesus as the central focus (symbolized by the eating of the food offered to the idols). The Christians of that church were being mislead both in the spiritual sense of this allegory, as well as in the physical sense. Jesus should be the Bread of Life the members consume daily. Instead, they were feasting on false teachings that corrupted the fundamental truths of the Gospel. Verse 21 says that Jesus gave Jezebel time to repent, but she refused. And that is why He gave this warning: He will afflict Jezebel and those who follow her teachings (symbolized by the term “commit adultery with her”). They were committing spiritual infidelity against God. The end of verse 22 indicates that this punitive statement of destruction had a redemptive purpose. Jesus made it conditional to her repentance. Just like the children of Ahab were killed because of his sin (2 Kings 10:6-8), and like Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah, was killed because of her wickedness, the children of Jezebel in Thyatira would also be killed. But before their destruction, Jezebel and her followers would suffer when thrown on a bed of tribulation. In verse 23, Jesus makes 2 promises: 1) the destruction of Jezebel and her followers would show all the churches that Jesus is the one with the fiery eyes, who brings on judgement, and who searches minds and hearts; 2) everyone would receive according to their works. The searching of minds and hearts are written in the original in Greek as “searches kidneys and hearts”. In ancient times, kidneys were thought to be the seat of emotions, and the heart was the seat of intelligence and will (Jeremiah 17:10). All the churches, faithful or unfaithful, would know that Jesus can see their motives behind each decision they make. Each person will be judged according to their works. Their works will be presented to God wether or not they reflect the result of a life purposefully committed to Christ and His truth. Those who believe in the Son of God and obey God’s commands have nothing to worry about, because they are already engaged in doing the work that God requires. According to Jesus, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). But how do we know if we believe in the one God has sent, and not in a counterfeit version of Him? In Revelation 12:17, Christ describes the children of His faithful church: “those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus”. And so, we should not follow those people teaching principles that go against or that alter God's commandments and the testimony of Jesus, because they are not pointing to the one who God has sent.

*** Appeal -> “Hold fast to what you have ” ***: The teachings of Jezebel are so dangerous, that in verse 24 Jesus calls them “the deep things of Satan”. Basically she was telling the people to take the easy way. To make the decision that would make them more comfortable. To compromise on just a few things in order to blend in better with the social demands of life. This seemingly innocent theology of the easy road is clearly not from God. A diluted dose of the Gospel will certainly not be the full strength dose required to keep someone on the narrow road to salvation. Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). The Christian life is not an easy walk, but it is a worthwhile journey through the “small gate and narrow road”. The extra baggage that 'Self' likes to hold on to needs to be left at the gate before going through it. The only thing that fits through the small gate that believers can carry with them is the truth. The truth is the balancing rod that keeps the follower of Christ from falling out of the narrow path. Jesus calls the few remaining in Thyatira, who were still on this narrow path, to keep holding on to the truth until He returns.

*** Call to hear the Spirit -> The Spirit says to the churches ***: The message of “hold on to God’s truth until Jesus’ return” was to be heard by all churches. There are no excuses not to hear this call. Please see the notes on study #14. Christ is saying that it is possible to keep the faith, the works, the love and perseverance even when the majority of the church is following corrupted beliefs.

*** Promise -> To the one who overcomes ***: Continuing on the theme of everything said in pairs, the one who overcomes receives 2 promises: authority over the nations, and the morning star.

Authority over the nations: this passage reminds us of the promise in Psalm 2:8-9: "Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with a rod of iron; you will dash them to pieces like pottery.” The one who overcomes will rule over the nations, and break them to pieces like one would break a clay pot. This image of broken pots reminds us of the instructions found in Leviticus 11:29-35, given to the Israelites regarding unclean animals. If one of those animals died and their carcasses touched their clay pots, the pots had to be broken in order not to contaminate their food. In Jeremiah 18:6-10, we read what God had to say regarding the work of a potter and the nations of the Earth: "He said, 'Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?' declares the Lord. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it'.” Jesus can give His authority to the overcomer because He received it from the Father (Matthew 28:18; Revelation 12:10). Christ also has an iron scepter that He uses to rule the nations (Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15). In the chapter of Revelation 20 and Revelation 21, we read about the people of God sitting on the throne, ruling with Jesus.

Morning Star: When Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites, he was unable to do it, and blessed them instead. God did not allow the cursing of His people. Instead, God used Balaam to prophecy the message we find in Numbers 24:17: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” Jesus explains this prophecy in Revelation 22:16: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.” The Bible tells us that we need to pay attention to the prophetic message of God “as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19). After a long walk in the darkness of this world, the one who overcomes will receive Jesus Himself, shining in all His glory on the day of Christ’s Second Coming.

*** Church history view and prophetic application ***: The prophetic view of this church fits the time known as The Dark Ages, or The Middle Ages, which spans from the 6th to the16th centuries. Interestingly enough, historians named this period very appropriately. The letter to the middle church represents the history of the church in the Middle Ages. The world went through a period of spiritual darkness. The simple message of the Gospel was replaced by pagan rituals and objects, all disguised as Christian theology. The worship and reverence to the image of Bible characters became accepted, expected, and required. The church leadership discouraged the people from reading the Bible, claiming it was for the well-studied clergy only. During the Middle Ages, we had the Crusades, and the Inquisitions, when the church led an intense campaign persecuting those who were not following the teachings of the Roman church. Towards the end of the Middle Ages, a new awakening began with the movement of Reformation. In 1517, Martin Luther posted his now famous work The Ninety-Five Theses, where he criticized the selling of indulgences, purgatory, merit of the saints, among other theological points. There had been other people before Luther, such as Jan Hus, Peter Waldo, and John Wycliffe, who criticized the church’s position on indulgences or proposed reform of the church. The church launched a Counter-Reformation movement, which started with the Council of Trent. Most of the battle against the Protestant movement was done by the order of the Jesuits. The Reform led to a revival of the people, and of the original message of the Scriptures.

*** Overview ***: In the letter to the Church in Thyatira we see the contrast between the few faithful ones and the many committing spiritual adultery; the truth of god and the lies of Satan; the works coming from faith and the works requiring that people repent from. Jezebel may deceive the people for some time, but she cannot deceive the fiery eyes of the Lord. He will bring His judgement on the unfaithful majority posing as Christ’s followers. God’s faithful church is the minority who continues on the narrow path to salvation. Its members are called to keep the one thing that can keep them from believing in the deceptive message of the majority. They are called to keep the truth. God’s truth gives the genuine Christians a type of joy that nobody can take away, not even when going through suffering and persecution. Their joy is the firm belief that the Redeemer has given them a prize far more valuable than temporary material possessions: eternal life with the Creator. He comes after a long period of spiritual darkness, shining bright as the morning star. His chosen people will reign with Him forever.

18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God, who has his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine bronze;

19 I know your works, and love, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21 And I gave her time to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say; I will put upon you no other burden.

25 But that which you have already hold fast till I come.

26 And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father.

28 And I will give him the morning star.

29 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

 

PART 2

As we saw in lesson #13, Jezebel was a Phoenician princess who married Ahab, King of Israel. She was the daughter of the king of Sidom-Tyre, Ethbaal. They worshiped the god Baal, who was a god believed to have power over lightening, wind, rain, and fertility. Jezebel had great influence over Ahab and the Israelites. She led them to apostasy, idolatry, and immoral conduct. As the Leader of the people, Ahab further encouraged the people to abandon the worship to the true God (1 kings 21:25). The Bible says that Ahab "did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him” (1 Kings 16:32-33). We probably cannot even imagine how bad that is! One of Ahab's first mistakes was to actually marry a pagan woman. God had already commanded that the Israelites should not marry people from the surrounding pagan nations (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).

God sent the prophet Elijah to Ahab and Jezebel. Due to their disobedience, there would be drought on the land (1 Kings 17:1). And just as he said, there was a severe drought for 3.5 years (Luke 4:25; James 5:17). After giving the news to the king, Elijah fled to the wilderness, where God miraculously fed him daily (1 Kings 17:2-7). He stayed away for the 3.5 years of drought.

At the end of that time, God ordered Elijah to return to Ahab. The drought was severe. Famine had spread throughout the land. All through that time, Jezebel had been killing out the prophets of God. Obadiah, who worked for the king, but who was a follower of the true God, had been hiding 100 of God’s prophets in a couple of caves, and supplying them with food and water (1 Kings 18:4). Elijah went back to meet with Ahab. The king had stopped following God’s commands, and was following Baal’s instead (1 Kings 18:18). Elijah requested that Ahab gather the people and meet with him at Mount Carmel. He also asked that Ahab bring 850 pagan prophets "who eat at Jezebel’s table" (1 Kings 18:19). Four hundred and fifty of those prophets were Baal's. This meeting was not a secret. All the Israelites were gathered there. The people had been caught in the middle, between the worship to the God of Israel and the pagan practices promoted by their royal leaders. They had not totally abandoned one or fully joined the other. Elijah pleaded with the people, calling them to make a decision, and stop wavering between God and Baal (1 Kings 18:20-21). They did not respond.

At Mount Carmel, Elijah stood alone on one side, and the 850 pagan prophets on the other. A pivot point in the history of God's people was about to happen. Both Elijah and the prophets of Baal prepared a sacrifice. Whichever sacrifice burned with fire sent from heaven would indicate which one was God (1 Kings 18:22-24). The prophets of Baal prayed and chanted all day long, from morning to evening, and received no response. Then it was Elijah's turn at the end of the day. All eyes were on this one man by the altar he had built for the Lord. Elijah prayed one time and God sent fire from Heaven, which consumed even the ground where the altar was on (1 Kings 18:38). God had answered Elijah's prayer: "Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." (1 Kings 18:36-37).

God had given Ahab, Jezebel, and the Israelites time to repent. Three and a half years to be exact. But they did not. After God consumed the altar with fire, Elijah prayed for rain seven times, until he saw a small dark cloud on the horizon. And a strong rain came pouring down. Ahab returned home and told Jezebel about all that had happened (1 Kings 19:1). He told her how God had sent fire from Heaven, and how all the prophets were also killed by the sword after that. God had made Himself very clear. Still, Jezebel did not repent. She actually called for Elijah’s death after hearing what Ahab had to say about the episode at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 19:2). But God continued to protect Elijah, and he did not die. He remained faithful, and some time later God took Elijah to Heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11).

Jezebel continued to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. One event sealed her fate. It was the Naboth incident. Naboth had a vineyard near Ahab’s palace, and Ahab wished to buy it. Naboth replied he could not sell it. When Jezebel heard this, she devised a plan, and told her husband she would get the vineyard for him (1 Kings 21:7). She wrote an official letter posing as the king, even used the king's official seal. She had a fake celebratory party organized in honor of Naboth. She had him sit at a prominent place, but she also had two of her man sit next to him. They were instructed to kill Naboth at a certain time during the party. After Jezebel’s men raised false accusations against Naboth, they took him outside, and stoned him to death (1 Kings 21:10). When Ahab learned of Naboth’s death, Jezebel encouraged her husband to go up and take possession of that land. And so he did. Because of this incident, Jezebel’s death was prophesied, along with Ahab’s and his children (1 Kings 21:20-25;  1 Kings 22:34-38;  2 Kings 9:6-10). They died just as God had revealed it to the prophets. Jezebel was devoured by dogs, and no one could recognize her body (2 Kings 9:30-37).

Jezebel had a daughter, named Athaliah. Her daughter was just as evil as the mother. Athaliah ordered the death of all her own relatives, including her grandchildren, just so she could be the queen of Israel (2 Kings 11:1). All but one of Athaliah’s descendants died. A little boy survived, and he was later crowned king at the age of 7 (2 Kings 11:2-3;  2 Kings 11:12;  2 Reis 11:21). He re-established the worship to the true God during his reign. Queen Athaliah was put to death for all the abominations she had committed (2 Kings 11:15-20).

God had said, through the prophet, that a king named Jehu would kill all Ahab’s male descendants. Ahab had failed to keep the Commands of God (1 Kings 18:18). Jehu did kill all Ahab’s male children, as well as all Baal’s prophets (2 Kings 10). But Jehu himself did not do all that God had requested either. Jehu did not follow God’s Law with all his heart, and God allowed the Israel territory to be reduced (2 Kings 10:31-32).

During the 3.5 years of drought during Jezebel’s time, the word of God was scarce. Jezebel was killing the Lord's prophets. Spiritual drought, or famine of the Word, is always more serious than the physical devastation caused by the lack of rain. But because God is so merciful and loving, He gives people time to see His truth. In the Bible, this time is often a period marked by the number 3.5 (half of the number 7):

- Abraham and Isaac went on a 3.5 day journey to Mount Moriah, where Abraham was supposed to offer Isaac in sacrifice. The Bible tells us they walked 3 days, left the 2 servants waiting at that location, and then continued on to the place God had determined * Genesis 22:1-6

- In the third year of his reign, King Ahasuerus hosted a party lasting 6 months. At the end of that time, the search for a new queen started, and Esther, a Jewish young woman was chosen. She ultimately was able to save the Jewish people from destruction * Esther 1:1-22;

- Prophecy of Daniel: the people of God would be under the rule of the fourth kingdom (Roman Empire) for a time, times and half of time (“time” is 1 prophetic year, “times” is 2 prophetic years, “half a time” is 0.5 prophetic years; for a total of 3.5 prophetic years * Daniel 7:25; Daniel 12:7);

- Jesus’s ministry lasted for 3.5 years before He was crucified (about 6 months into His ministry, He used prophetic language of 1 day = 1 year [Ezekiel 4:6/7; Numbers 14:34; Leviticus 25:8], when He prophesied about the length of His work * Luke 13:32);

- Stephen was stoned for his faith in Jesus 3.5 years after Christ’s death, marking the prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 (the stoning of Stephen: Acts 7:54-59);

- The gentiles would trample the Holy City for 42 months (42 months = 3.5 years, which is the prophetic time Christians would be oppressed and persecuted * Revelation 11:2);

- Jesus’ two witnesses will prophesy clothed in sackcloth for a period of 1260 days (1260 days = 3.5 years, which is a prophetic time when God’s people suffer persecution for bearing witness for Christ’s truth * Revelation 11:3);

- The woman who had given birth to a male child fled into the wilderness for 1260 days (Revelation 12:6); where she would be taken care of for the prophetic period of a time, times, and half of time (1260 days = 3.5 years) * Revelation 12:14;
- The beast was allotted 42 prophetic months to exercise his authority over the inhabitants of the earth (42 months = 3.5 years) * Revelation 13:5.

God also gave the Jezebel in Thyatira time to repent, but, like her counterpart in the Old Testament, she refused to do so (Revelation 2:21). She was set on her ways. This caused a definite tear in the church. Just like it happened at Mount Carmel, Thyatira was divided. On one side, the few faithful people, who had rejected the "deep things of Satan" (Revelation 2:24); and on the other, Jezebel and her children.

In Bible prophecy, women, wether faithful or unfaithful, represent the church (Jeremiah 6:2; Isaiah 51:16; Ephesians 5:25-32). This is a fundamental concept when studying the book of Revelation. Throughout the Old Testament, God compared His chosen people to a woman. His forgiving and transforming love would call this woman pure and perfect when Israel repented and followed God’s instructions (Isaiah 54:5-6; Ezekiel 16:8-14; Hosea 2:14-23; Amos 5:2) And at other times, God would call this same people an unfaithful woman, or a prostitute, when Israel turned into idolatry and immorality (Jeremiah 3:20; Hosea 1:2; Hosea 2:2-13; Ezekiel 16:15-19; Ezekiel 16:32) . This same concept of the church as Christ’s bride is carried into the New Testament (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:25-32; Revelation 12:1-6; Revelation 19:7-8). Later in Revelation 12 and 17, we will study more about two women. One represents the pure church, and the other an unfaithful church.

 

*** Overview ***: Jezebel represents the unfaithful church. Her children are her followers. In essence, her children are any church that does not teach the truth according to the Scripture. They are all considered to be an unfaithful church. And the members who had remained faithful to the original message of the Gospel were the remnant church of Christ - Jesus’ faithful bride. Jezebel from the Old Testament faked the authenticity of her rights over Naboth’s vineyard, falsely accused him, and became guilty of this innocent man’s death. Jezebel from Thyatira faked the authenticity of her rights to change God’s truth, seduced the church with false doctrines, and became guilty of the death of her followers. Just because the side of the church following Jezebel’s theology had a larger number of members, it didn’t make it the original church. Even if the world thought that the group with the most followers was the original church, that would not change Jesus’ assessment of the situation. Size is not a defining factor of character. It is usually the other way around. In the battle at the Mount Carmel, Elijah was standing alone against 850 false teachers. And yet, Elijah was the one representing God’s truth. He was the remnant of God, and His faithful witness. God made Himself known at the right time, showing everyone He is ready to defend His chosen people from anyone who stand to oppose His truth.

18 And unto the angel of the church in Thyatira write; These things says the Son of God, who has his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine bronze;

19 I know your works, and love, and service, and faith, and your patience, and your works; and the last to be more than the first.

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols.

21 And I gave her time to repent of her fornication; and she repented not.

22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.

23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searches the minds and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

24 But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say; I will put upon you no other burden.

25 But that which you have already hold fast till I come.

26 And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:

27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to pieces: even as I received of my Father.

28 And I will give him the morning star.

29 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.

 

PART 1

 

*** Historical Setting ***: The city of Thyatira was about 40 miles southwest of Pergamum. Unlike the previous 3 cities, Thyatira was not an intellectual center, or a prominent metropolis of the elite. It was in essence, a city of workers. Its significance came from its commercial strength. More guilds of commerce were found in the city of Thyatira than in any other city of the Roman Province of Asia. Much of the power came from different industries: wool, linen, garment, dyes, leather, pottery, bakery, slave-dealer, and bronze-smith. In fact, one of the strongest industries there was the purple dye trade. The Bible mentions a woman from Thyatira named Lydia, who was a dealer of purple fabric (Acts 16:14). This was a very rare color, because it was very hard to produce. This dye was made from the plant Rubia tinctorum.

In order for people to become part of the trade guild, they had to participate in the trade’s pagan festivals, and eat from foods offered to their gods. These events would often end in drunkenness and immoral behaviors. Even though those refusing to participate would not necessarily be persecuted, they would suffer social isolation and hardship. To be able to find work, a person had to be part of a trade.

Archeology tells us that Thyatira dates back at least to 3000 BC, and that it was one of the first cities to use money. In 290 BC, Seleucus I Nicanor changed the name of the city from Pelopia to Thyatira. There are many opinions as to the exact meaning of the name Thyatira. Today, it is the modern city of Akhisar, which means “white castle”. Some writers suggest that Thyatira means “sweet savor of labor”, others suggest that it means “daughter”, since Seleucus’s daughter was born around the time he renamed the city. Seleucus was actually one of the generals of Alexander the Great, and after Alexander’s death, Seleucus dominated a large portion of what Alexander had conquered. Seleucus gained power over some interesting areas: Babylon, central Anatolia, Persia, Mesopotamia, and several others. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, Seleucus took over the region of Phoenicia, including the cities Tyre and Sidon. These were sister cities that were consolidated into one kingdom by king mentioned in the Bible, king  Ethbaal. Some people speculate if the renaming of the city to Thyatira had something to do with the old Phoenician city of Tyre. When we compare the two cities we find much in common. One fact stands out when we look at the History of Tyre and the letter to Thyatira. King Ethbaal was the father of a woman who had the same name as the one mentioned in this letter to Thyatira. He was Jezebel’s father (1 Kings 16:31). This makes us think that there is a prophetic connection between the cities of Tyre and Thyatira.

The city of Tyre was a divided city. One part of it was on the mainland, and one on an island about 0.5 miles from the shore. Tyre was a daughter city of Sidon, but it surpassed Sidon at some point. Tyre, like Thyatira, was a commercial city (Ezekiel 27), and was also famous for the manufacturing and trade of purple dye (Ezekiel 27:16). Actually, the word Phoenician means “purple people”, from the Greek Phoinikes. They extracted their color purple from the Murex shellfish. This was a very rare dye, and was very valuable. That is why it became the color used by royalty.

Nebuchadnezzar II (the same one from the vision in Daniel chapter 2) seized Tyre from 586 to 573 BC, and when he finally captured it, he discovered that the majority of the people had moved to the island portion of the city. Tyre was a fortress, and had very tall walls. The name Tyre meant “the rock”. In 332 BC Alexander the Great conquered the island of Tyre, and in 323, after his death, Seleucus took control of Phoenicia. In 315, Tyre was destroyed once again by another of Alexander’s generals, Antigonus.

*** Biblical View ***: The city of Thyatira is mentioned only twice in the Bible. First, in the book of Acts, with the mention of Lydia, the seller of purple. And second, with the seven churches in Revelation. The city of Tyre, on the other hand, is mentioned several times. It was referred to as a fortified or fortress city (Joshua 19:29;  2 Samuel 24:7; Isaiah 23:4). We read several prophecies against Tyre, mostly about its destruction (Isaiah 23; Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:3-4; Ezekiel 26:3-4; Ezekiel 26:7-9; Ezekiel 26:12; Ezekiel 27). The Bible also mentions Tyre and Sidon as a group (Matthew 11:21-22; Matthew 15:21; Joel 3:4). At one time, Jesus visited the region of Tyre and Sidon, and performed miracles there (Matthew 15:2; Mark 7:31). We also read a passage when Paul, Luke, and their companions stayed with the Christians in Tyre for seven days on their way to Jerusalem (Acts 21:2-6).

Many things connect Tyre and Thyatira. Both were commercial cities, main seller of the purple dye, and at some point they were both ruled by the same person. But, the strongest thing that connects Tyre and Thyatira is Jezebel. We read in the Bible how Jezebel divided the Old Testament church, and in Revelation we see how the Jezebel from Thyatira divided that church. In lesson #13, we learned about the different groups of false teachers that were spreading non-Christian philosophies from within the congregation. The Nicolaitans were present in the first and third churches, and the Balaamites were present in the third. In Thyatira, Jezebel is the one splitting the church, and she seems to have many followers. She is influencing the Christians to participate in the pagan customs, but most importantly, she is seducing the people with “foods” other than the Bread of Life, and with immoral worship that replaced the worship to the true God.

In order for us to even begin to understand the depth of the message Jesus is saying to the church in Thyatira, we need to understand the conflict that happened centuries earlier in the Old Testament. A conflict between the Truth of God, and the false doctrines of this pagan queen named Jezebel. The main theme back in Jezebel’s time and here in the letter to Thyatira is the same: truth and worship. We will discuss this more in detail in the study #20.

The truth was substituted with teachings belonging to the pagan culture. The false doctrines were being practiced and preached openly. As the majority of the congregation followed Jezebel from Thyatira, the church started to move in a different direction. The identity of the church changed as a consequence. It was no longer the original church founded on the principles established by Christ.

*** Overview ***: It is to the most politically, intellectually and culturally insignificant city that Jesus writes the longest of the seven letters. The church in Thyatira has a situation that makes them very different from the previous three churches. The majority of the church now follows the teachings of a false prophetess. Jezebel has become the face of the church. The new theology Jezebel and her children preach is a mix of some good works with the knowledge of "the deep things of Satan". This is such a dangerous and deadly combination that Jesus has to spell it out plainly: He will strike the counterfeit church so all the churches may know that He is the all-knowing God who brings on judgement upon everyone. Once again, Jesus reassures His faithful people, the minority on His side, that they will be victorious by keeping God's works and His truth. A crowd following Jesus one time asked Him: "[...] What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.'" (John 6:28-29).

12 And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write; These things said he which has the sharp sword with two edges;

13 I know your works, and where you dwell, even where Satan’s seat is: and you hold fast my name, and have not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells.

14 But I have a few things against you, because you have there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.

15 So have you also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.

16 Repent; or else I will come to you quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

17 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said to the churches; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows saving he that receives it.

 

PART 2

 

*** Recipient -> "To the Angel of the Church in Pergamum" ***: Once again, the letter is addressed to the leader of the church, but applicable to all the members. Please see the comments in study #9, #12, and #14.

*** Sender -> “he which has the sharp sword with two edges” ***: As we saw in study #9, Jesus’s sword is His word, which is sharper than anything else (Hebrews 4:12). It is no surprise that to the church located in the intellectual center of Asia, where the power of reason and thought reigned, and where the seat of the father of lies was (John 8:44), Jesus comes with his mighty and powerful sword of His Word, the truth. That is how He will defend His people: with the truth.

*** Assessment -> "I know…” ***: Jesus knows first hand what the church is going through:
Works: Christians in Pergamum faced persecution. They lived in a society that practiced paganism to the point where Jesus considered it to be the place where Satan dwells. In spite of that, the members of the church decided to remain in Pergamum and bear witness for Christ, ministering to the people there.

Faith: Most members of the church were determined to remain faithful to the point of death, like Antipas. We do not know anything else about him, but Jesus tells us the most important thing about Antipas’ choice, and perhaps the only thing that really matters. Jesus considers Antipas to be not just a witness, but a faithful one. A witness to the truth of God. Jesus not only knows his name, but He also knows Antipas’ heart and sincerity. In the book of Revelation, Jesus Himself is called the faithful witness (Revelation 1:5; Revelation 3:14). Antipas had developed such a close relationship with Jesus, that he was consistent (or faithful) with his witnessing, just like Jesus was and still is. Christ elevates His faithful servants, and gives them His own title. They share this unity with Christ. Verse 13 gives us the idea of how the rest of the church reacted to the death of Antipas. They did not run away scared. They were still holding fast the name of Jesus. When Antipas was alive, and even at the time of his death, the church members did not deny their faith in Christ.

Problem: The first issue is that the Pergamum church is in a very dangerous place: where Satan has his throne. Jesus gives emphasis to this fact. He mentioned it twice in the letter (verse 13). This is not necessarily a problem in the church, but it is a problem for the church. This makes ministering in Pergamum that much harder. The beliefs of the Christians were in direct opposition to the pagan beliefs of their society. When Christians aren’t firmly and well rooted in their faith in Jesus, it is easier to pluck people out of the church with deceiving doctrines. But when Christians allow themselves to be strongly rooted in the love of Jesus, nothing can separate them from Him (Romans 8:36-39). The spiritual instability of some of the members was the cause of the initial rift in the church. It is possible that some time after Antipas’ death people started to be more afraid of the consequences they would face by choosing not to participate in their civic duties of emperor worshiping. The fact is that we do not know the exact point when some of them started follow the teachings Baalam and of the Nicaolaitans. But the pressures the members of the church were living under likely made them question their faith and start adapting to the false teachings of a compromised Gospel.

*** Appeal -> “Repent; if not, there will be war with His sword against the false teachers” ***: The people following the false teachings are called to repent. Believing in such false doctrines is something so serious that it warrants repentance. That's because they knew better. They had the truth, and still chose to follow different and more “convenient” philosophies. The war that Jesus and His children fight is not physical. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says: “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We are fighting a battle between the truth of God and the lies of Satan. We already know how it is going to end. Jesus' sword will prevail, and the false teachers will not stand a chance. Jesus will come quickly. And when He comes, His sword will set His people free, and will at the same time bring judgement on the ones who choose to believe in something different from His testimony.

*** Call to hear the Spirit -> The Spirit says to the churches ***: The message of “repent from altering God’s teachings” was to be heard by all churches. There are no excuses not to hear this call. Please see the notes on study #14.

*** Promise -> To the one who overcomes ***: The one who overcomes receives 3 promises: hidden mana, a white stone, and a new name engraved on the white stone.

Hidden Mana: Mana was the white bread sent from Heaven to feed the Israelites while in the wilderness (Exodus 16:11-16; Exodus 31-35). It appeared on the ground every morning, except on the Sabbath. Mana would go bad if kept from one day to the next, except on Fridays, when people were instructed to gather enough for 2 days (Exodus 16:21-24). God told Moses to keep a bowl of Mana for the following generations, as evidence of His care. And so, Aaron placed the bowl of mana inside the Arc of the Covenant, along with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 16:32-34). This Mana, however, did not go bad (it was kept for “the generations to come”), even though it was being stored for a long time, hidden inside a box, in the desert. God’s people were asked to eat the white bread, so they could live and be sustained in the wilderness. In John 6:28-40, we see that in a similar way, the followers of Christ are also asked to eat from the true Bread of Life (Jesus), whom God sent from Heaven to give life to the world. Colossians 2:2-4 says: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.” In this verse we see that “all treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are hidden in Christ. We are called to eat from the Word of God so we are not deceived by “fine-sounding” false arguments. We are called to feast in the truth, as opposed to eating from the “food” offered to idols (false teachings). Ephesians 5:25-32 talks about the relationship between Christ and His church, and compares it to the pure connection a husband must have with his wife. Ephesians 5:27 says the church has to be blameless. In this way, we can understand that Jesus is talking about the church committing adultery by practicing fornication (Revelation 2:14) with the false doctrines. Ephesians 5:26 says that Jesus makes the church holy when “cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”. This means that through the truth that is contained (or hidden) in Jesus, He cleanses and sanctifies His church.

White Stone: there are many views on what exactly the white stone symbolizes. No one view seems to be complete. Perhaps we need to consider all of them in order to get a more complete picture of this concept. 1) Stones in a trial: in John’s time, it was customary to have the jurors vote for acquittal or conviction using a white or a black stone. If a black stone was cast, then the defendant would be condemned. If a white stone was cast, then he would be absolved from all charges. 2) Tessera Hospitalis: this was a white stone given to winning athletes or gladiators. A nobleman could choose to send the champion a white stone with the nobleman’s name engraved on it. With this stone, the winner gained access to the post-game festivities. 3) The Living Stone: Jesus is not only the Living Bread, but also the Living Stone (1 Peter 2:4-8), who was rejected, but who became the cornerstone. Christ is the rock that gives people the spiritual drink (1 Corinthians 10:4). The Lord is the Rock Eternal (Isaiah 26:4), on whom we should securely build our house (Luke 6:47-49). He is the Rock not cut from human hands that will bring an end to all the earthly kingdoms (Daniel 2:44-45). Jesus is the engraved stone that can remove sin from the land in a single day (Zachariah 3:9).

Secret name on the stone: verse 17 says: only the one who receives this stone will know which name is engraved on it. Revelation 19:12 says Jesus “has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself”. As we can see, no matter how we look at this stone, all the different interpretations of the white stone point to Jesus. He is the rock that bears a name that no one else knows. But the next verse, Revelation 19:13, mentions a known name of Jesus: the Word of God. Jesus himself will give the one who overcomes a new name, or in other words, a new definition of who the overcomer is. It is not up to the overcomer to determine what the new name is. Christ is the one who gives this name. It is up to the Savior to determine. But the Savior Himself also has a name only known to Himself. And just as it was with Antipas, the restored state of the overcomer will be like Christ, who is “called faithful and true” (Revelation 19:11).

We can understand that the one who overcomes will receive the Bread of Life: Jesus Himself. The overcomer will no longer eat from strange false foods, but will eat from the truth of God, Jesus’ Testimony. At the cross, Jesus took to himself all the black stones of condemnation, and replaced them with white stones of saving grace. Christ took the sinner’s name for himself, and gave him His own, so the overcomer can come before the throne of God as a pure and renewed person by the blood of the Son. The one who overcomes now carries on his record the name of Jesus instead of his own. The one who overcomes is now free to enter the festivities of the wedding supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

*** Church history view and prophetic application ***: The prophetic view of this church fits the time between 313 AD and 538 AD. As we saw in the previous church of Smyrna, up to the year 313 persecution was extremely intense. But, on that year, the Roman Emperor Constantine played an important role in the issuing of the Edict of Milan. This edict was an agreement that included a change in the policy towards Christians. The decree called for tolerance of Christians, and made Christianity a legal status. It did not make it the official religion of the Empire, but it put an end to the cruel persecutions. Constantine was worried about the stability of the Empire and the exponential growth of the Christians. And so historians do not tend to attribute his position as one of a converted person. The document states the reason why all of these provisions regarding Christians should be established, it was so “public order could be secured”. Constantine actually did not get baptized until near the end of his life, in 337 AD. But while Constantine was alive, he summoned the First Council of Nicaea, which was an ecumenical council with the objective of defining the norms of the church. Constantine was originally a sun worshiper, and even after his alleged conversion to Christianity in 312-313 AD, he was still involved with pagan practices, and he created a law that changed original Bible principles regarding worship. He introduced false ideas, and led the people in a path contrary to God’s Word (Exodus 20:8-11). He passed this law in 322 AD, and it is referred to as the edict of Constantine:
“On the venerable Day of the sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits: because it often happens that another Day is not so suitable for grain sowing or for vine planting: lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."

In the Council of Laodicean, circa 364 AD, the church passed a new canon (Canon 29), commanding followers to do exactly the opposite of what God had said in Exodus 20:8. Canon 29 says:
“Christians must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring the Lord’s Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ."

The Edict of Thessalonica, issued in 380 AD, is the document that made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. The end of this phase is about 538 AD, which marked the decline of the Western Roman Empire, and the dawn of the Middle Ages.

*** Overview ***: The message to the church in Pergamum is a very powerful one. Jesus is showing His followers that the truth is what sets them free from the false teachings permeating the minds of some of the members. Jesus warns His children against false teachers, who will try to deceive many followers. Both the teachings of Baalam and Nicolaitans point to the eating of foods sacrificed to idols. And here Jesus is asking that His people eat from the true Bread of Life instead. In John 8:42-47, we read a passage where the Pharisees were challenging Jesus, saying God was their father: “Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Belonging to God is the only way we will be able to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. The promises to the overcomer are a definite sign that the winner belongs to God, and is able to participate in the Heavenly banquet, because the blood of Jesus cleansed him from sin.

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