What is Now continued…
In the previous chapter, we were shown the First Four Letters that John was told to write to the Seven Churches. In Chapter 3, John writes the remaining Three Letters. These letters follow the same pattern found in the messages to the First Four Churches with each letter containing instructions for the local churches concerning what is now, followed by instructions for anyone who has ears to hear concerning the martyrs.
The Letter to the Church in Sardis
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Rev. 3:1-6
As with the previous Four Letters to the churches, the church in Sardis could fit the description of a number of churches today. In this way, the instructions found in the Letters to the Seven Churches are applicable to us today and still fit the description of what is now.
The Letter to the Church in Philadelphia
“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Rev. 3:7-9
In this Letter, the local church is rebuked for their self-sufficiency, which made them blind to their need for repentance. It ends with a special message to those who are victorious, who are told that they will sit down with the Lord on His throne. As in the previous Letters, the word victorious refers to the those who will maintain their testimony to the point of death just as the Lord was victorious and ascended to the Father’s Throne. The eternal perspective that is contained in the word victorious can also be seen in the rest of the letter where we read that those who endure patiently will be kept from the Hour of Trial.
Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. Rev. 3:10
The promise to those who endure patiently that they will be kept from the Hour of Trial refers to being kept to eternal life and is not a promise that the church will be taken from this earth to escape martyrdom. This conclusion corresponds with the following verse where the Lord similarly prayed for His disciples that they would be protected from the evil one.
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John. 17:15
In these verses, the phrase, “protect them from”, comes from the same word(s) in the original (eteresas: SEC 5083)* as the phrase, “keep you from”, which is used in the original passage. From this context, we learn that the phrase, “keep you from”, should not be interpreted to be a guarantee of divine protection from martyrdom as history tells us that the Apostles, who Jesus prayed for to be protected, were killed for their testimony.
The need to interpret the above phrases in the context of a person’s eternal destination can be seen in another set of passageswhere Jesus told His disciples that some of them would be put to death, but not a hair of their head would perish.
You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life. Luke. 21:16-19
In these verses, the disciples are told that not one hair of their head would perish, while at the same time, they are warned that some of them would be put to death. These Scriptures make it clear that when the Lord speaks of being kept, protected, or not perishing, the context is a person’s eternal life and is not a promise that an individual will be kept from persecution that leads to death in this world. From this, we can conclude that during the Hour of Trial, the Inhabitants of the Earth will be tested and the faith of those who endure patiently will be kept. Accordingly, the letter to the church in Philadelphia ends with a promise to those who will be victorious in death.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Rev. 3:11-13
The Letter to the Church in Laodicea.
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. Rev. 2:14-20
The church in Laodicea is often compared to the modern church based on her wealth and self-sufficiency. This idea is part of a larger theory that teaches that the Letters to the Seven Churches represents seven different periods of church history. This idea is countered by the fact that in each of the Letters to the Seven Churches, we find instructions that could be applied to the Church throughout its entire history. For instance, the instructions concerning false teachers, persecution, and the need for spiritual renewal etc., which are found in the various letters, are circumstances that have always been present in the church and are not confined to just one period. In this way, any church, at any time could look through the Letters to the Seven Churches and find events and circumstances that are applicable to their own times along with the Lord’s corresponding instructions. This is also true of the Letter to the Church, in Laodicea, which ends with the following passages.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev. 3:21-22
The letter to the church in Laodicea completes the Second Section concerning what is now and is followed by the Third Section of the Revelation regarding what will take place later.
 In the Revelation, the term Inhabitants of the Earth always refers to the unrepentant among mankind. (See: Rev. 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 13:12, 13:14, 17:2, 17:8) Some Bible translations use the phrase, “those who live on the earth”, to describe this same group of people. Accordingly, the Hour of Trial refers to a period when the unrepentant will have their hearts tested through events that will determine their judgment. The Hour of Trial does not refer to the Great Tribulation when God’s people will be killed in numbers that cannot be counted. (See Rev. 7:9-14)
 During the Hour of Trial, God’s people will be kept through the events that will test the Inhabitants of the Earth. This conclusion corresponds with how the word from, which is used in the original passage, can also be translated as through, which would make the verse read:
“Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you through the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.”
The use of the above translation is corroborated by the authors of the New International Version®, NIV® Study Bible, who use the phrase keep you from the hour of trial in their translation of this verse, but who also include the following footnote: *3:10 “Keep you from”. The Greek for this phrase can mean either “keep you from undergoing” or “keep you through” the hour of trial. (Zondervan NIV® Fully Revised 2002; pg. 1970 footnote)
* The numbers in ( ) are a referenced in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance