Revelation 3

What is Now continued…

In the previous chapter, we were shown the first four of the Seven Letters that John was told to write to the churches, which form the Second Section of the Book of the Revelation concerning what is now. As we will see in this chapter, the three remaining letters will follow the same pattern as the previous four, with each letter containing instructions for the local church as well as a promise to those who will follow the Lord in martyrdom.

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 description of the churches found in the First Four letters, the picture we are given of the Church in Sardis could fit the description of any number of churches at any time in Church History. Therefore, as we discussed in previous chapter, the instructions found in the Letters to the Seven Churches are still applicable to our current times and continue to 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, and who are told that they will sit down with the Lord on His throne. As mentioned in the previous chapter, the word victorious refers to those who will maintain their testimony to the point of death just as the Lord was victorious on the cross and ascended to the Father’s Throne. The eternal perspective that is contained in the word victorious, where death in this world is seen as a victory, is continued 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[1] the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. Rev. 3:10

In this verse, The term, “inhabitants of the earth,” refers to the unrepentant among mankind (See: Rev. 3:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 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 . As we read in this passage, when the Inhabitants of the Earth are tested God’s people will be kept. In the original language, the word kept (Strong’s 5083; eteresas) means to spiritually guard or keep intact. To understand how we are to interpret the use of this word in the above passage, we must examine the rest of the Scriptures to see how this same word is used in a similar context such as the one below.

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect (Strong’s 5083; eteresas) them from the evil one. John. 17:15

In this prayer for His disciples, the word translated as “protect” comes from the same word in the original as the word that is translated as “keep” in the letter to the Church in Philadelphia. In this case, the disciples are prayed for that they would be protected or kept from the evil one. Since history tells us that the Apostles, who are mentioned in this prayer, were killed for their testimony, we learn that the Lord’s prayer for protection refers to a person’s eternal life, and not their life in this world. Thus, when we are told that we will be kept from the Hour of Trial, it means that none of the events of this hour will be allowed to steal our faith. This point is confirmed by how the Lord further states that His prayer of protection does not mean that His desires is for His people to be taken from this world. In other words, Jesus is making it clear that He is not asking for the Father to remove His disciples to prevent them from being martyred, but that the Father will keep them in the faith to eternal life.

The need to interpret the above passages in the context of a person’s eternal destination can also be seen in another set of verses where 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 Scriptures, Jesus’s followers are told that not a hair of their head would perish, which we would normally interpret to mean that none of them would suffer death by another person’s hand. However, in this case, they are also told that some of them would be put to death, which is definitely a description of the martyrdom that many of His disciples would experience. From this, we learn 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. In this way, 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

We will read more about the Hour of Trial in later chapters. In the mean time, this chapter ends with the letter to the Church in Laodicea.

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

As mentioned in Chapter 1, 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. Accordingly, any church, at any time could look through the Letters to the Seven Churches and find events and circumstances that they are also experiencing or that they can expect to soon take place within their own church as well. (In this case, the word church refers to the believers that come together in a particular city). In addition, the comparison of the Church in Laodicea to the modern church concerning her wealth and self-sufficiency can only be applied to the Western Church. This same comparison does not hold true for those nations and regions where the church lives under constant attack and persecution. In those cases we cannot say that the modern church is wealthy and self-sufficient. Having recognized the above, the letter to the Church in Laodicea ends with a promise to the martyrs.

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 of the Revelation concerning what is now, which addresses the circumstances faced by the churches from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to our present time.

Footnotes:

[1] In this passage, we read that during the Hour of Trial, God’s people will be kept from the events that will test the Inhabitants of the Earth, which has led some to believe that the church will not be present on earth when this event occurs. However, the word from could 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)

Revelation Chapter 2
Revelation Chapter 4

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Bryan Coray is the author of Keep Watch: The Order of Events of the Last Days. Available on Amazon