Revelation 3

An Exegetical Commentary

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 24 April 2011; Revised 26 June 2017

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Scripture: The Scripture text of Revelation used below is prepared by Blaine Robison with consideration given to the American Standard Version (which is in the public domain) and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Works by early church fathers may be found at Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.

Vocabulary: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).

To the Messenger in Sardis (3:1-6)

1— And to the messenger of the congregation in Sardis write: The One having the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, says these things: I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.

And: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions and beginning verses with a conjunction is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. In contrast to most Bible versions I translate all the instances of kai (and all the other conjunctions) as a reminder of John's Hebraic writing style.

To the messenger: Grk. angelos means messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders the Heb. malak (SH-4397), 'messenger," which occurs 213 times, almost half of which refers to humans. Angelos is typically translated "angel" in Bible versions, no doubt because angelos occurs 176 times in the Besekh, but outside Revelation is used only six times of men (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52; Jas 2:25). The use of angelos in John's letters is obviously of human beings since angels do not pastor congregations and if God wanted to say something to any of His angels He would do so directly. In my view angelos should be translated "messenger," as likely intended in the original Hebrew text, and consequently refers to the Lord's overseer and principal minister of the Body of the Messiah in the city.

Some versions do translate angelos as messenger (GW, ISV, NOG, REV, VOICE, YLT). Weymouth has "minister." Congregations of the apostolic era, having a largely Jewish constituency) mirrored the synagogue in organization, which included a panel of seven rulers (=presbuteroi, elders, Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5), the nasi (President=episkopos, overseer, Php 1:1) with two assistants, chazan (pulpit minister=angelos), and three parnasin (receivers of alms=deacons) (Moseley 9-10). Yeshua could have used poimēn, (pastor, shepherd, guardian), but the decision to use angelos emphasizes that regardless of the level of administrative or supervisory duties this person's most important responsibility is speaking for the Lord as the Messiah's duly appointed representative.

A common characteristic of all the letters is that Yeshua consistently uses second person singular masculine pronouns in addressing the recipient of the letter and most of the verbs and adverbs describing the conduct and character of the recipient are also second person singular. In some letters Yeshua addresses certain members of the congregation, which reinforces the overseer as the primary addressee. Commentators generally treat the singular nature of pronouns and verbs in a collective sense as indicative of the congregation as a whole. However, by recognizing "messenger" as the proper translation, then the straightforward meaning would be that the Lord's criticism or commendation is directed primarily at the congregational leader. Of course, a general phenomenon of human nature is that as the leader goes so goes the people and in Israel's history God held the people accountable for the actions of the leaders.

of the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia means assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation. In the LXX ekklēsia renders the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (SH-6951; BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or learning (Deut 31:30; Ps 35:18). Thus, the "assembly" means a group of Jews and Gentiles who professed trust in the Lord Yeshua, met together for worship and learning, and sought to enlist others to become disciples of Yeshua. In the first century there was only one "congregation," or "assembly" in any city no matter how many disciples there were or how many meeting places might be used for gathering on the Sabbath or the first day of the week. For more information on ekklēsia see the note on 1:4.

in: Grk. en, prep. generally used to mark position, lit. "in" or "within." Sardis: Grk. Sardeis was the chief city of Lydia in western Asia Minor. The city was situated on the east bank of the Pactolus River, about 50 miles east of Smyrna. In ancient times it was well fortified and easily defended, having been built on a rocky spur of Mount Timolus. When Sardis was rebuilt in the time of Alexander the Great, it was dedicated to the Asiatic goddess Cybele (Greek, Artemis) of whom the worship was most licentious. The patron deity was believed to possess the special power of restoring the dead to life. The origin of the congregation at Sardis is unknown, but it was likely connected with Paul's evangelism (cf. Acts 19:10).

The One: Grk. ho, definite article used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Most versions translate the pronoun simply as "He who," "whose," or "the one who," but "The One" is a better translation. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application, including (1) to possess with the implication of something being under one's control or at one's disposal; (2) to bear on one's person; (3) be in a position to do something; (4) view something in a particular way; or (5) experience a condition or situation. The first meaning applies here.

the seven: Grk. hepta, the number seven. A unique aspect of Revelation is found in its "sevenness." The sheer dominance of the number seven in Revelation declares that his Word is perfect and his prophecy about the end is complete and that nothing should be added or taken away (22:18-19). See my article A Book of Seven. spirits: pl. of Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). The spirit of man is that which man has in common with God who is Spirit (Gen 1:2; John 4:24). Pneuma is used frequently for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). While some versions capitalize the word, more versions render the identification in the lower case, "spirits."

Many commentators identify the seven spirits as symbolic language for the supposed seven-fold nature of the Holy Spirit deduced from Isaiah 11:2. Actually, Isaiah gives six characteristics, not seven, and Isaiah does not use the terminology of "seven spirits," which occurs only in Revelation. Stern believes that the Lord, who is opposed to angel-worship (19:10, 22:8-9), would not include a reference to created beings in his greeting, probably because the greeting speaks of grace and peace from the Lord. However, Hebrews 1:14 identifies angels as "ministering spirits" and God has used heavenly emissaries to proclaim his Word (Luke 1:26-37; Acts 7:53, Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2).

As for the text, there is no interpretation offered for the seven spirits anywhere in Revelation and there is no mention of "seven Messiahs" or "seven Fathers." The Holy Spirit is mentioned 14 times in Revelation without any designation of "seven." Moreover, the plural form of "spirits" never refers elsewhere in Scripture to the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit fulfills his important teaching ministry in the seven letters (cf. John 16:8-11), he does not offer a greeting here because the Spirit does not draw attention to Himself, but rather exalts and points to Yeshua (John 16:13f). There is, then, no textual need to capitalize "Spirits." The only reasonable conclusion is that the seven spirits are simply seven heavenly spirit beings. They could well be the seraphim that Isaiah witnessed (Isa 6:2).

of God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe and certainly not spirit as described in Scripture (John 4:24). In the LXX theos renders the Hebrew words for God, El, Eloah and Elohim, as well as the sacred name YHVH (DNTT 2:67-70). As with many other Greek words the LXX infused new meaning into theos. The only God in existence is the "God of Israel," an expression that occurs frequently in the Tanakh and twice in the Besekh (Matt 15:31; Luke 1:68). Every nation had their deities, but the true God revealed His name, His election and His commandments to the patriarchs and to Israel. Only the God of Israel saves (Jer 16:19-20).

the seven: Grk. hepta, the numeral seven, used here of quantity. stars: pl. of Grk. astēr, a luminous heavenly body other than the sun. In Scripture the term may refer to any object in the heavens, whether planets, asteroids, meteors or stars. The seven stars were first mentioned in 1:16 and then explained as symbolizing the seven messengers of the congregations who are held in Yeshua's hand (1:20). says: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether oral or in written form; say, tell, declare. The Greek verb "say" functions as quotation marks for the text following since ancient writings did not contain punctuation. these things: pl. of Grk. tode, neut. demonstrative pronoun, this, that, referring to what is present. The plural pronoun directs attention to the following content of the letter.

I know: Grk. oida, perf., to have seen or perceived, hence to know. The perfect tense refers to action completed in the past with continuing results in the present. The verb is used for experiential knowledge, whether (1) to know about someone; (2) to be intimately acquainted with someone; (3) to understand how to do something; and (4) to remember (BAG). In the LXX oida occurs frequently to render Heb. yada (SH-3045; e.g., Num 11:16; Deut 1:39; Josh 2:4; 2Sam 19:6), which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning (DNTT 2:395). "I know" is an affirmation of the most detailed intelligence report about the messenger's private and public life.

your: Grk. su, personal pron., 2p-sing. works: pl. of Grk. ergon, generally means a tangible deed, action or accomplishment that may be observed. The noun may refer either to evil or good actions of men, in either case exhibiting a consistent moral character, or the missional actions of God and Yeshua in the form of revelation, miracles, signs, and sacrifice, the ultimate good works. that: Grk. hoti, conj. that serves as a link between two sets of data, here indicating causality with an inferential aspect; for, because, that, inasmuch as. you have: Grk. echō, pres. a name: Grk. onoma, is used in its central sense of identifying someone with a proper name. In Hebrew literature it also carries the extended sense of qualities, powers, attributes or reputation. Yeshua alludes to the messenger's public reputation and character.

that: Grk. hoti, conj. you are alive: Grk. zaō, pres., 2p-sing., be in the state of being alive, used here in a fig. sense. but: Grk. kai, conj. you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-sing., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). dead: Grk. nekros, without life in the physical sense; dead, but used here in a fig. sense. This messenger was supposedly spiritually alive, but the one who is the Truth bluntly and boldly publishes his obituary. People can fool other people, but no one can fool God. The Sardis overseer exemplified Paul's prophecy that there would be those having the form of godliness (religious activity and ritual) but lacking spiritual life and power (2Tim 3:5).

2— Be watching, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your works completed in the sight of my God.

Be: Grk. ginomai, pres. part., to transfer from one state or condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process; be born or produced; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made, be performed; or (3) undergo a state of existence, change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen, occur, arise, be, appear, come, arrive. In the LXX ginomai renders Heb. hayah (SH-1961), "to fall out, to come into being, become, come to pass, to be." watching: grēgoreō, pres. part., be fully awake, to be on he alert, be watchful. The verb means to be awake as a sentry who keeps his eyes open while he is on duty. The present tense of the command means to "start and keep on being awake."

Sardis had been twice overthrown, once by the Persians and once by the Greeks. On both occasions the city's leadership assumed they were safe from attack and failed to post a guard (Mounce). Their experience certainly illustrates the maxim that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. The Lord pointed out that the leader of the congregation was exhibiting the same shortsightedness as the city leaders. and: Grk. kai, conj. strengthen: Grk. stērizō, aor. imp., to cause to be inwardly firm or committed. the things that remain: pl. of Grk. loipos, the remaining or what's left of a group. The overseer and those following his unfortunate example must take immediate action to recognize their peril and act appropriately.

Paul expresses a similar concern to Titus, "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains" (Titus 1:5). The phrase "things that remain" alludes to a physical body that, while life is ebbing away, still tries to rally against death. which: Grk. hos, relative pron. were about to: Grk. mellō, impf., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. die: Grk. apothnēskō, aor. inf., to die, generally used of physical death, but used here fig. of good things coming to an end. The overseer's "deeds" being incomplete suggests that his works had not achieved God's standard (Rienecker). Inertia had overcome progress toward righteousness. One ancient rabbi noted: "When a man's passions are stirred and he is about to commit an act of lewdness, all his limbs are ready to obey him…. On the other hand, when a man is about to perform an act of piety, all his limbs become sluggish" (Shulam 222).

for: Grk. gar (generally accepted as a contraction of ge and ara = certainly it follows that), conj., a flexible term used here as a connector in an explanatory sense; for. I have not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in denial or strong negation; not. found: Grk. heuriskō, perf., to come upon by seeking, to find. your: Grk. su, sing. second person pron. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See the previous verse. completed: Grk. plēroō, perf. pass. part., means to fill or to be filled (Rienecker). While life lasts, working for God never ends, and the Lord expects a certain intensity of passion enabled by the Spirit to overcome the natural "sluggishness" of the flesh in order to produce lasting benefit for the kingdom. Unfortunately, the cycle of original vision, growth, stagnation and decline had become the tragic story of the Sardis messenger. He had become content with his failure to impact the community for Yeshua. The life-blood of the believing community is found in its leaders and members continually seeking a close fellowship with the Lord through His Spirit and seeking to extend His message and ministry into the surrounding community, by which the unsaved will know that "God is certainly among you" (1Cor 14:25).

in the sight of: Grk. enōpion, prep., from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' my God: Grk. theos. See the previous verse. it may seem strange that the person dictating the letters (described in 1:10-19) and identified as the "son of man" in 1:13, presumptively Yeshua, should say My God. Thomas addressed Yeshua as My God (John 20:28), whereas Paul in his writings carefully distinguishes between "my God" and "Yeshua" (e.g., Rom 1:8; 1Cor 1:4; Php 4:19). However, twice in the Gospels "My God" is voiced by Yeshua: first, on the cross when he quotes from Psalm 22:1, and second, just after the resurrection when he says to Miriam of Magdala,

"Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'" (John 20:17)

The saying to Miriam illustrates that "My God" is parallel to "My Father (Rev 2:27; 3:5, 21). "My God" affirms the distinctive personality in the revelation of God to his people. The God of Yeshua cannot ever be associated with the god or deity of any other religion.

3— Therefore remember! What have you received and heard? Indeed keep it, and repent. Therefore if you should not watch, I will come as a thief, and you would not know at what hour I will come upon you.

Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which may (1) indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, 'so, therefore, consequently, then;' (2) indicate that one takes account of something in the narrative immediately preceding, 'then;' or (3) simply indicate a stage in the narrative, 'so, then.' The first application fits here. remember: Grk. mnēmoneuō, pres. imp., 2p-sing., to recall, with the focus on thoughtful recollection. The present tense exhorts a continuing attitude. What: Grk. pōs, adv., introducing a query concerning manner, way, or reason in respect to a matter; how? in what manner/way? Most versions translate pōs as an indefinite pronoun "what" and turn the question into a statement.

have you received: Grk. lambanō, perf., 2p-sing. The verb marks the transit of something from a position to another person who is the agent with the latter being also the receptor; to take or receive. Yeshua asks a pertinent question to stimulate self-examination. All disciples have received grace upon grace from the Lord and blessings without number. If we're honest to ask ourselves what we have received from the Lord then we would be driven to evaluate our stewardship of those gifts. and: Grk. kai, conj. heard: Grk. akouō, aor., 2p-sing., has a range of meaning, including to hear as a sense perception, to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. The verb here is a present participle, which denotes those who actively hear. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). Yeshua's question may be an allusion to the messenger's call and ordination to ministry.

Indeed: Grk. kai, conj. used to express intensity. keep it: Grk. tēreō, pres. imp., may mean (1) to maintain in a secure state with a focus on personal interest or obligation; keep; or (2) to be in compliance in regard to instruction; keep, observe. The additional command to keep indicates that merely being watchful is not sufficient. The messenger must actively conduct ministry in accordance with the Lord's instructions. As all the other pastors and teachers in the apostolic era, the overseer in Sardis had received his assignment based on his qualifications. He had also received the instruction of the apostles in pastoral care and personal holiness. Yet, there was perhaps a certain naiveté about the reality of spiritual warfare. Spiritual success requires being alert against the weakness of the flesh and taking appropriate counter measures to prevent napping.

and: Grk. kai, conj. repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. imp., 2p-sing., have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior, especially in the face of extraordinary developments. See the note on 2:15. The Hebrew concept of repentance means to turn away from evil in the sense of renouncing and disowning sin, and to turn toward the good or becoming obedient to God’s will expressed in the commandments (TWOT 2:909). Repentance is not just thinking differently, feeling sorry over being caught or apologizing, but humbling oneself before God and taking active steps to turn away from evil and turn or return to doing God’s will (e.g., 2Chr 7:14). The use of metanoeō may reflect a desire to emphasize the beginning point of change with a decision of the will. Proper remembering will lead to repentance (cf. Ezek 20:43; 36:31).

Repentance, then, is a personal responsibility, yet it requires God's grace to do it, as Jeremiah says, "Adonai, turn us to you, and we will come back" (Lam 5:21 CJB) (Stern 16). Repentance is always urgent on the lips of the prophets (Cf. Deut 30:10; Isa 45:22; 59:20; Jer 25:5; 35:15; Ezek 14:6; 18:30, 32; 33:11; Zech 1:3-6). After Malachi four centuries passed with no voice, vision or answer from God, but when the silence was broken, the message from John the Immerser was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 3:2) (Baron 14). When the One who was to inaugurate the kingdom began his public ministry, his first sermon was "Repent" (Mark 1:14f).

As Paul pleads, "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked me" (Heb 3:15). Paul also reminded the Corinthian believers, "Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation" (2Cor 6:2). The Talmud records the words of Rabbi Eliezer (A.D. 80-120), "Repent one day before your death." His disciples asked him, "But can a man know on what day he will die? He said, "So much the more must he repent today. Perhaps he will die tomorrow. It follows that a man should repent every day" (Shab. 153a). Because of the dire circumstances Yeshua calls his messenger in Sardis to repent, i.e. turn from sin and return to faithful obedience.

Therefore: Grk. oun, conj. if: Grk. ean, conj. that serves as a conditional particle and produces an aspect of tentativeness by introducing a possible circumstance that determines the realization of some other circumstance. you should not: Grk. , adv., a particle of qualified negation, generally subjective in nature; not. watch: Grk. grēgoreō, aor. subj., 2p-sing. See the previous verse. I will come: Grk. hēkō, fut., to have come, have arrived, or be present. The verb occurs three times in Revelation (cf. 2:25; 15:4). The verb is not used here of the Second Coming, but an imposition of judgment. as: Grk. hōs, adv., like, as, similar to, in the manner of. a thief: Grk. kleptēs, thief, one who steals, one who violates the eighth commandment (Ex 20:15; Deut 5:19).

In the LXX the noun kleptēs translates the Heb. gannab (SH-1590), which like the Greek word includes the sense of stealth (DNTT 3:377). The word first appears in Exodus 22:2 in the context of instruction on property rights. Even when theft was motivated by need or poverty, stealing was still regarded as dishonoring to God (Prov 30:9) and deserving of punishment. The Torah set the penalty for stealing as payment to the owner of four times what was taken (Ex 22:1). Thievery was a pervasive problem in the ancient world (Matt 6:19; 24:43; Luke 12:33; John 10:10; Eph 4:28 NASB; 1Pet 4:15). For Yeshua to employ the figure of "coming as a thief" is a shocking application, but he obviously does not mean that he will take something that doesn't belong to him.

The phrase "coming as a thief" is reminiscent of Yeshua's saying in the Olivet Discourse, "If the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert" (Matt 24:43 NASB). In other words, Yeshua will come in judgment when least expected. Although the "thief" metaphor is used elsewhere in reference to the Day of the Lord (cf. 1Th 5:2, 4; 2Pet 3:10), the idiom always points to the suddenness and unexpected nature of God's destruction of His enemies, not a secret removal of the believers. There is no reason to assume that the Sardis messenger would have begun watching the sky based on this warning. Yeshua may also be implying that he will deliver this overseer over to Satan for punishment so that his spirit may be saved (cf. 1Cor 5:5).

and: Grk. kai, conj. you would not: Grk. ou mē, lit. "not, not." The double negative asserts the strongest possible denial. know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. subj., 2p-sing., to be in receipt of information with the focus on awareness; know, learn, find out; or to form a judgment or draw a conclusion; think, understand, comprehend. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which has a similar wide range of meaning, but in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395). at what: Grk. poios, indef. pron., of what kind, sort or species. hour: Grk. hōra, an incremental period of time in the day; hour.

I will come: Grk. hēkō, fut. upon: Grk. epi, prep. expressing the idea of 'hovering,' used primarily as a marker of position or location; 'on, upon, over.' The preposition means that Yeshua will bring judgment as an attacker falls upon his prey. you: Grk. su, sing. second pers. pron. Yeshua emphasized that his coming in judgment would occur without any prior warning. Thus, in this context the thief metaphor is a warning that grace will not always abound if sinning persists. Warnings from God must be heeded.

4— But you have a few names in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

But: Grk. alla, conj. with a strong and emphatic adversative meaning, and used to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. you have: Grk. echō, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. a few: Grk. oligos, in reference to quantity, few. names: pl. of Grk. onoma. See verse 1 above. Most versions translate the plural noun as "people." The use of onoma is significant because God knows the names of those who are his (2Tim 2:19), the ones whose names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20; Rev 21:27). in: Grk. en, prep. Sardis: See verse 1 above. who have not: Grk. ou, adv. soiled: Grk. molunō, aor., to stain, defile, make impure or soil.

their: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. garments: pl. of Grk. himation, a covering for the body, generally referring to clothing or apparel, often in reference to an outer garment. In the LXX himation rendered the Heb. beged, meaning both the outer garment and the clothes as a whole (DNTT 1:316). In the Tanakh beged meant garment, clothing, raiment, or robe of any kind, from the filthy clothing of the leper to the holy robes of the High Priest, the simplest covering of the poor as well as the costly raiment of the rich and noble (BDB 94). Even in pagan culture soiled garments disqualified the worshipper and dishonored the deity (Rienecker). Perhaps embarrassing to the overseer the Lord points out that there were members of the congregation more spiritual than their leader.

and: Grk. kai, conj. they will walk: Grk. peripateō, fut., to engage in pedestrian activity; go about; walk about, walk around, walk; fig. to engage in a course of behavior. In the LXX peripateō is found in only 33 passages, of which more than half come from Wisdom literature, and renders Heb. halak (to go, come or walk), which is used fig. of how one conducts oneself in life (Deut 30:16; 1Kgs 11:38; Ps 1:1; 15:2) (DNTT 3:943). with: Grk. meta, prep. used to mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among. me: Grk. egō, sing. first person pron. The promise of walking with Yeshua is a encouraging reminder of the personal fellowship that disciples will enjoy with their Savior in the age to come.

in: Grk. en, prep. white: Grk. leukos, adj., of quality expressing impressive brightness, bright, gleaming, shining or of a color shade ranging from white to grey. In the LXX leukos translates Heb. laban, white, though white in the Tanakh may include half-yellow (DNTT 1:204) (e.g., Gen 30:37; 31:8; 49:12). Walking in white is an allusion to the resurrection and receipt of a glorified body like that of the Lord. The reference to "white" probably pertains to the garments mentioned in the next verse, and more specifically the radiance emanating from the clothing (cf. Matt 28:3; Mark 9:3). for: Grk. hoti, conj. they are: Grk. eimi, pres., 3p-pl. See verse 1 above. worthy: Grk. axios is a label that may be used to describe things or persons. When used of persons axios means worthy, fit, deserving or entitled. The word occurs seven times in Revelation: five times referring to praise of the Lamb (4:11; 5:2, 4, 9, 12), once of those bearing the mark of the beast (16:6) and here of the saints.

Being "worthy" stands in contrast to the idea of not getting what is deserved. Is not the atonement for those who are unworthy? While "worthy" can refer simply to those who demonstrate a readiness to receive the message of salvation (Matt 10:11; Acts 13:46), the word as it is used here seems to relate directly to the statement that these few had not "soiled their garments." The metaphor expresses the point that spiritually the believer is already wearing white clothing and the Lord intends that this spiritual clothing be kept pure from worldly contamination (Jas 1:27). The few good disciples in Sardis had remained faithful, and for their devotion they receive the welcome words of their Savior, "enter into the joy of your Master" (Matt 25:21).

5— The one overcoming will be clothed in white garments; and I will not blot out his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels.

The one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part., means to be a victor, to prevail, to conquer, to overcome or to vanquish, whether in a military battle, athletic contest, or a legal action. Nikaō occurs 28 times in the Besekh, over half of which occur in Revelation, often in a spiritual sense of overcoming evil. In the letters the allusion belongs first to the messenger, but then in its general application emphasizes the continued faithfulness of the individual believer. The verb "overcomes" points to the reality of spiritual warfare. The word refers to victory over the believer's two chief enemies in this life – Satan (1Jn 2:13) and the world (1Jn 5:4). The present tense reflects the character of the disciple. The overcomer is assured of three blessings.

will be clothed: Grk. periballō, fut. mid., to throw clothes around one's self (Rienecker), which may allude to the robe-like design of ancient clothing. Most versions translate the verb as passive voice, "will be clothed," but the middle voice indicates the subject of the verb performs the action. in: Grk. en, prep. white: Grk. leukos. See the previous verse. garments: pl. of Grk. himation. See the previous verse. Two simple and striking facts should be noted. First, clothing is issued. Unlike Adam and Eve in the original Garden of Eden the citizens of the restored Eden will be fully attired. Second, heavenly attire for the saints is white in color, which held special meaning for Levitical priests. In order to be ordained to office priests had to satisfy two requirements: be without physical defect and be of priestly ancestry.

Those who stood the twofold test were dressed in white clothing, and their names permanently inscribed in the roll of priests (Edersheim 66f). For the overcomer the whiteness of the clothing emphasizes both the spiritual character of the wearer and the status as a child of God whose adoption has been secured by the blood of Yeshua our High Priest. In 6:11 the martyrs are first given their white robes, presumably upon arrival, and in 7:9 the innumerable host of great tribulation martyrs are seen wearing white robes. In 19:8 the white clothes represent the righteous deeds of the saints.

and: Grk. kai, conj. I will not: Grk. ou mē, , lit. "not, not." See verse 3 above. blot out: Grk. exaleiphō, fut., means to obliterate, to wipe out or to blot out by wiping (Rienecker). In a judicial sense the verb was used in the sense of canceling obligations or entitlements. his: Grk. autos, masc. pers. pron. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 1 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. used to introduce an aspect of separation or origin, lit. "out of, from within." the book: Grk. biblos , the inner bark or rind of the papyrus, which was anciently used instead of paper, hence a written volume or roll, book, catalog or account (MDNT). Biblos occurs only twice in Revelation, both times in reference to the Book of Life.

of life: Grk. zōē, the state of being alive in the physical sense in contrast to being dead; life. The Besekh not only uses zōē in its normal meaning of physical existence in the present age, but over forty times for life that continues into the next age and eternity, half of which are in the writings of John. In the LXX zōē renders Heb. chay (SH-2416, alive, living) with both literal and figurative uses. The second blessing, stated in negative form, affirms that the name of the overcomer will not be removed from the Book of Life. The Book of Life, mentioned five times in Revelation, indicates a very unique book. Yeshua had once told His disciples "rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven" (Luke 10:20). The heavenly register parallels the practice common in ancient cities that kept a list of citizens according to their class or tribe and in which new citizens were entered and from which degraded citizens were expunged (Mounce).

Taken together the two statements of Yeshua affirm that the believer can know for certain his eternal destiny before death upon the exercise of faith and confession (Rom 10:9f). In the Tanakh the Book of Life represents a census roll of the righteous and is mentioned in Exodus 32:32 and Psalm 69:28 and alluded to in Psalm 87:6; 139:16, Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1 and Malachi 3:16. In the Besekh the Book of Life is a registry of those granted eternal life on the basis of trust in Yeshua (Php 3:20; Heb 12:23; Rev 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27). In addition, the usage affirms the certainty of personal knowledge that one's name is written, as Yeshua told His disciples "rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven" (Luke 10:20).

Moses was the first to mention the possibility of being removed from God's book when he prayed in response to Israel's sin with the golden calf, "But now, if You will, forgive their sin – and if not, please blot me out from Your book which you have written" (Ex 32:32). In contrast David prayed that his adversaries would be blotted out of God's book (Ps 69:29). The fact that God promises not to blot out an overcomer's name from the Book of Life implies that the opposite is possible for someone who does not overcome. God declared His prerogative over the Book of Life by informing Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book" (Ex 32:33). Perhaps Moses was simply ignorant of what it truly means to be blotted from God's Book. Not only did God reject the alternatives proposed by Moses, but went ahead and punished the Israelites for their sin in spite of the intercession of Moses.

Making an initial decision for God is not enough. Yeshua reminded His disciples in his discourse on the last days "the one who endures to the end, he will be saved" (Matt 24:13). The Lord also warned his disciples, "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned" (John 15:6; cf. Titus 1:16; Heb 10:26-31; 2Pet 2:1). Overcoming is not to be viewed here as a special level of holiness that only a few may achieve, but rather that commitment and loyalty that refuses to deny the Lord in word or deed as in the example of Antipas at Smyrna (2:13; cf. 2Tim 2:12). The blessing then has its fulfillment in the resurrection and the promise is for eternity.

and: Grk. kai, conj. I will confess: Grk. homologeō, fut., to express oneself opening and firmly about a matter; inform, declare, affirm, profess, confess. MDNT adds "from the Hebrew 'to accord praise' (Heb 13:15). In the LXX the verb is used once each to translate Heb. yadah, praise, (Job 40:14), nadar, make a vow (Jer 44:25) and shaba, swear (Ezek 16:8) (DNTT 1:344). The verb homologeō occurs 26 times in the Besekh with a wide range of usage. From a legal standpoint the verb is equivalent to a public statement made under oath.

his: Grk. autos. name: Grk. onoma. before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 2 above. my: Grk. egō, first pers. pron. Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr renders ab ("av"), which generally occurs in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel, not a Christian trinitarian personality as expressed in familiar creeds. Some dilute the biblical message to assert God as father to all mankind based on Paul's quotation of a Greek philosopher, "we also are His children" (Acts 17:28). While God gave physical life to mankind, he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel.

God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in the Tanakh (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18). In the Sermon on the Mount Yeshua speaks to his Jewish disciples a few times of "your heavenly Father" (Matt 5:48; 6:14, 26, 32), but many more times simply as "your Father" (e.g., Matt 5:45; Mark 7:11; Luke 6:36; John 20:17). Gentiles can claim God as Father by virtue of being adopted into the family of Israel (cf. Rom 8:15; 9:4; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5) and then He becomes "our Father" (Matt 6:9; Rom 1:7; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Col 1:2). However, in the Besekh only Yeshua speaks of God as "my Father."

and: Grk. kai, conj. before: Grk. enōpion, prep. His: Grk. autos. angels: pl. of Grk. angelos, here in reference to supranatural beings. See verse 1 above. The third blessing may be the most significant of the three. Not only is there the privilege of walking in white, and knowing one's name is on heaven's registry, but also Yeshua will confess the overcomer's name before the Father and the angels. Yeshua promised His disciples, "Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt 10:32). The encouraging aspect of the third blessing is that faithful disciples have nothing to fear from the coming judgment (John 5:24). Those who do remain true to the Lord will receive the greatest accolade that can be bestowed, "Well done, good and faithful slave" (Matt 25:21). What a glorious privilege that the King will declare to the residents of heaven that He knows personally each of the disciples and counts each a friend.

6— The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations.

The Lord ends his letter with an strong exhortation. Unlike previous letters this one does not include a promise following this exhortation. The one having: Grk. echō, pres. part. with the definite article. See verse 1 above. an ear: Grk. ous, the organ of hearing, the ear, as well as the faculty of understanding or perception relative to divine communication. It is striking that the word is singular when generally in the Besekh the word appears in the plural. The singular essentially means "if you have the ability to comprehend my words."

hear: Grk. akouō, aor. imp., 3p-sing., has a range of meaning, including to hear as a sense perception, to learn, to listen, to follow, or to understand. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). The command "to hear" occurs eight times in Revelation and eight times in the apostolic narratives, always on the lips of Yeshua (Matt 11:15; 13:9; 13:43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35). In the apostolic narratives the command is always a present imperative (start and keep on doing) whereas in Revelation the command is an aorist imperative ("do it now").

The exhortation "he that has an ear, let him hear" (rather than "read") is a Hebrew idiom that reflects the typical manner of first century learning. Scrolls were rare and knowledge of God's Word came from hearing the Scriptures read aloud and memorizing them (cf. Rom. 2:13). "Hear" is not a permissive directive, but a strong exclamation as if the Lord is yelling to a deaf person. Moses used a similar command to Israel in reiterating the Torah before their entry into Canaan, "Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully" (Deut 5:1). The same admonition to hear occurs in the apostolic narratives, though in every case there Yeshua enjoins those with "ears," not merely "an ear." Yeshua likewise used the exclamatory imperative "Hear!" on several occasions to introduce important teachings (Matt 13:18; 15:10; 21:33; Mark 4:3; 7:14; Luke 18:6), though the word is usually translated in modern versions with the softer request to "listen."

In Hebrew writing parts of the human body were often used as allusions to behavior, both positive and negative (cf. Matt 5:29f; Rom 6:13; Heb 12:13). Here the Lord makes a reference to the "ear" in order to make a point. The human ear is a beautifully designed organ to receive sound. The ear, of course, does not pick and choose the sounds it will accept. By turning the physical function of the ear into a metaphor, the Lord could address the root issue in obedience. The metaphor of having "an ear" points to the willingness to learn or to be open to the truth.

The call to hear may also be an allusion to a Hebrew practice. The Torah provided that if a man or woman was sold into service as a slave, the owner would set the slave free after six years. However, the slave had the option of remaining in the service of his employer rather than accepting freedom. In that event the owner was to take an awl and pierce the slave's ear as a sign of permanent ownership (Ex 21:5f). Piercing the ear was a visible sign that the slave lived to hear and obey his master's voice. Thus, David said to God, "My ears You have opened. ... I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart" (Ps 40:6, 8). Likewise, true disciples delight to do God's will and are ready to respond to the Spirit's voice.

The Lord does not assume that everyone in the congregation will understand and appreciate the rebuke and admonition of his messenger. Some members are tares, some are wheat; some are sheep, some are goats. Yeshua summed up the reality succinctly in his dialog with the Pharisees – "He who is of God hears the words of God" (John 8:47 NASB) and "My sheep hear My voice" (John 10:3). The Body of the Messiah at the end of the first century was facing a spiritual crisis not unlike Ezekiel's time – "Son of man, you live in the midst of the rebellious house, who have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear; for they are a rebellious house" (Ezek 12:2). It is interesting that only two out of Paul's seven letters contain rebukes for serious sin, both Corinth and Galatia having fallen prey to leaders advocating heretical teaching. But over forty years later five out of the seven congregations to whom John writes have the same problems.

what: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. the Spirit: Grk. pneuma (for Heb. ruach), wind, breath or spirit as the animating force for bodily movement (Luke 8:55). Pneuma is used frequently for transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Holy Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). says: Grk. legō, pres., 3p-sing. See verse 1 above. In the Tanakh when God spoke to an individual or His people the speaker is almost always identified as YHVH, the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2Chr 14:11; Isa 42:8), and none other than Yeshua (John 8:58). Only on a few occasions did the Spirit speak and then it was either speaking to a prophet (Ezek 3:24) or through a prophet to address Israel (2Chr 24:20; Ezek 11:5).

Since Yeshua ascended to heaven and God gave spiritual anointing at Pentecost the Holy Spirit has become God's megaphone to his disciples. Yeshua taught his disciples about the important role of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7-15). The Spirit never engages in idle conversation with people, but speaks when God has something important to say. The Spirit's role is to remind disciples of the Lord's words, to convict of sin (Heb 3:7), to convince people of Yeshua' divinity and righteousness and to convince all of the reality of the final judgment. Perhaps the key role of the Spirit is to lead all to the truth and provide insight to understand it. Many unbelievers make a pretense of seeking truth and yet recoil at accepting The Truth revealed by the Spirit.

The apostolic writings describe other aspects of the Spirit's speaking ministry. He intercedes in our prayers (Rom 8:26f), He helps disciples to testify for Yeshua (Matt 10:20), He inspires prophesying (Acts 2:18), He gives direction for evangelism (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12), He speaks to the congregation about its ministry and character (Acts 13:2; 15:28), and He testifies of one's suffering or death (Acts 20:23). There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit still speaks to God's people. Describing how the Spirit speaks, though, is difficult. People may refer to the Spirit's voice as the still small voice, an inner voice or inner impression. There are anecdotes in Acts in which the "Spirit said" (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12, 28; 13:2, 4; 15:28; 16:6f; 21:11), but no further description is offered as to the means of communication or just how people knew it was the Holy Spirit.

There are three tests that may be applied to any perceived message from the Spirit. First, a message from the Spirit will be consistent with God's will revealed in Scripture (John 16:13). Second, a message from the Spirit can be confirmed by its acceptance by other believers (Acts 13:1-3; 15:28; 20:23). Ask yourself: "if I were to post my message from the Spirit on the congregation's bulletin board how would people react?" Third, a message from the Holy Spirit has the purpose of fulfilling a spiritual goal or advancing the work of God's kingdom.

to the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 1 above. Through the Spirit the Lord has made it clear that laziness and complacency are incompatible with the victorious life in Yeshua. Spiritual death does not occur by a major capitulation, but by small failures of neglect. The disciple of Yeshua must recognize that flesh and spirit are at odds (Matt 26:41; Rom 8:6) and commit to daily renewal of spiritual life through the Word and prayer. The admonition of the Spirit to the Sardis congregation should be carefully considered by all communities of believers and their conduct amended where necessary to remain spiritually alert against the enemy of our souls.

To the Messenger in Philadelphia (3:7-13)

7— "And to the messenger of the congregation in Philadelphia write: The Holy One, The True One, The One having the key of David, The One opening and no one will shut, and shutting and no one opens, says these things:

And: Grk. kai, conj. to the messenger of the congregation: See verse 1 above. in Philadelphia: Philadelphia was situated on the Cogamus River about 28 miles southeast of Sardis in Lydia. The city was a center of wine production and not surprisingly its chief deity was Dionysus, the Greek god of wine (the Roman Bacchus). The city had been originally founded to promote and spread the Greek culture and language in the province, but another missionary program had come to Philadelphia and enjoyed success – the gospel of Yeshua. Four affirmations about the Lord are given in quick succession, literally "the holy one," "the true one," "the one having the key of David," and "the one opening" (Marshall).

The Holy One: Grk. hagios, here with the definite article, has two distinctive uses in Scripture: (1) as an adj. of things dedicated to God (e.g., the temple, Jerusalem), of persons consecrated to God (e.g., prophets), then of angels, of Messiah, and of God (Lev 19:2); (2) as a pure substantive in the neut. form hagion, used of the name of God (Luke 1:44), and then of what is set apart for God to be exclusively His, e.g., sacred places as the temple (Num 3:38; Matt 24:15), the holy land (2Macc 1:29; 2:18), Jerusalem (Matt 4:5), sacrifices (Lev 22:14; Rom 12:1), and angels (Zech 14:5; 1Th 3:13) and human persons (Isa 4:3; Acts 9:13). In the LXX hagios translates Heb. qadôsh (DNTT 2:224; SH-6918), which means separate, sacred, holy. Qadôsh is first used of God in Leviticus 11:44.

Hagios occurs 26 times in Revelation, 11 times in the singular, translated "holy," and 15 times in the plural referring to the "holy ones" or followers of Yeshua. The singular "holy" is used as an adjective of God, the angels and the New Jerusalem. The word "holy" is an important declaration of the Messiah's character. Hagios with the definite article functions as a substantive equivalent to the Hebrew title "Holy One" (Job 6:10; Ps 16:10; Prov 9:10; 30:3; Isa 10:17; 40:25; 43:15), "Holy One of Israel," which occurs 32 times in the Tanakh (first in Ps 71:22) and particularly in Isaiah (1:4 +25t) and "The Holy One of Jacob" (Isa 29:23). In the Talmud, the Jewish Prayer book and other Jewish writings, it is common to describe God as "the Holy One, blessed be he" (Stern).

Only God is intrinsically holy, which means that He is free from the moral, physical, and emotional imperfections and limitations of humanity. To refer to Yeshua as holy asserts that in his humanity He was consecrated to fulfill the Father's will and that He remained completely sinless (John 7:18; 2Cor 5:21; 1Jn 3:5). To be sinless means that Yeshua did not do anything prohibited or fail to anything required in the written Torah. Certain Pharisees and Torah teachers accused Yeshua of violating the Torah, but the charges relied on their failure to recognize His messianic and divine character, their flawed interpretation of how the Torah should be obeyed and their insistence on customs that should never have been given the force of law (e.g., Matt 9:3ff, 11ff; 12:2-8, 23ff; Luke 11:37-41; 13:10-16; 14:1-6). Moreover, Yeshua fulfilled the intent of the Torah (Matt 5:17).

None of the apostles had the temerity of Job to assert unequivocal blamelessness before God (Job 13:3; 27:5f; cf. Paul's humility in 1Cor 4:4). Personal testimonies of early disciples are appropriately modest in the face of God's holiness, a lesson all disciples should take to heart (cf. Matt 8:8; John 1:27; Acts 10:25-26; Php 3:8-15; 1Tim 1:12-16). While none of the apostles declared themselves to be holy, all of God's people from the time of Abraham have been enjoined to consecrate themselves wholly to God (Gen 17:1; Lev 11:44f; 19:ff; Deut 14:21; Ps 24:3f; Eph 1:4; 1Pet 1:15; Heb 12:14).

The True One: Grk. alēthinos, adj., here with the definite article, in accord with what is true; (1) true, in the sense of reliable or dependable; (2) opposite of superficial, real, genuine, authentic; or (3) in accord with fact or circumstance, accurate. The first meaning is probably most relevant here. As with hagios, al functions as a substantive making an affirmation of Yeshua's personality and character, a trait that clearly distinguishes him from man (Num 23:19) and Satan, a liar from the beginning (John 8:44). The name ho alēthinos reinforces the original assertion to the disciples, "I am the Way, and the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6). Not only is Yeshua the Truth, but He is willing to reveal and explain the truth to His disciples, as John says,

"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us discernment, so that we may know who is genuine; moreover, we are united with the One who is genuine, united with his Son Yeshua the Messiah. He is the genuine God and eternal life." (1Jn 5:20 CJB)

The word "true" has two important aspects, veracity and reliability. The Lord only and always speaks the truth. Scripture is a true record of history and His story. The Lord's predictions and promises about the present and the future will come to pass exactly as He said. The Lord needs no one to vouch for His truthfulness.

having: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 1 above. the key: Grk. kleis, anything used for locking, a key (BAG). The term is also used fig. of power or authority (MDNT). of David: Grk. David, which transliterates the Heb. David ("dah-veed") perfectly. David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2Sam 5:4; 1Chr 3:4).

David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capitol and solidified central authority. Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the "sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2Chr 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2Sam 23:2).

God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 1Chr 7:11, 14; 2Chr 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 23:5-6; 33:21). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2Chr 8:14; Neh 12:24).

In 1:18 Yeshua held the keys of death and Hades. Here He holds the key of David, an allusion to the prophecy in Isaiah, "Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open" (Isa 22:22 NASB). Isaiah's prophecy originally referred to Elyakim (Isa 22:20), who was given full authority to act on behalf of King Hezekiah in his household (Stern). Yeshua asserts the dual nature of the prophecy and applies the metaphorical language to himself, meaning that as the Root and Offspring of David he has full authority over the house of Israel, which he has inherited (Matt 28:18), as well as the Kingdom that he shall rule. The key of David is also the key to the city of David, i.e., the exclusive right to grant admission into the New Jerusalem and His Kingdom (Rev 3:21; 19:11-16; 20:4; 22:16; cf. Matt 25:10; Eph 1:22).

The One opening: Grk. anoigō, pres. part. with the definite article, to open, frequently used of doors to make a room accessible. and: Grk. kai, conj. no one: Grk. oudeis, adj., a noun marker used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment; no one, nobody, nothing. will shut: Grk. kleō, fut., close to prevent entry; lock, shut. and: Grk. kai, conj. shutting: Grk. kleō, pres. part. The verb combined with "The One "opening" functions as substantive and completes the title. and: Grk. kai, conj. no one: Grk. oudeis. opens: Grk. anoigō, pres. In ancient Asia a Roman deity called Janus was known as the "opener and shutter."

Janus was the god of gates and doors or beginnings (like January) and endings (Hislop 210). He was worshipped at the beginning of the harvest time, planting, marriage, birth, and other types of beginnings, especially the beginnings of important events in a person's life. Janus was represented with two faces looking away from each other and in his right hand he held a key. Against this cultural belief Yeshua asserts that he is the only one who has the power of opening and shutting. That which Yeshua does in the present can never be changed in the future by man. Once Yeshua acts there is no higher authority to which one can appeal to overturn a decision. says these things: See the note on verse 1 above.

8— I know your works. Behold, I have put before you a door having been opened which no one is able to shut it, because you have little power, and you kept my word, and have not denied my name.

I know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 1 above. your: Grk. su, sing. second pers. pron. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 1 above. As in the case of the messengers in Ephesus, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea, Yeshua performed a personal inspection of his messenger in Philadelphia and begins his report with a positive assessment. Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. of eidon, 2p-sing., the inflected aorist form of horaō ("to see"). The verb functions as a demonstrative particle to focus attention of the audience. I have put: Grk. didōmi, perf., to give something to someone or to give in the sense of grant, bestow or impart, often with the focus on generosity. In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan, to give, used in one of three settings (1) by men one to another; (2) by men to God; and (3) by God to men (DNTT 2:41).

before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 2 above. you: Grk. su, sing. second pers. pron. a door: Grk. thura, a device for opening and closing an entranceway; door, gate. having been opened: Grk. anoigō, perf. See the previous verse. With the "key of David" the Lord had opened a door of opportunity in Philadelphia, perhaps through disciples of Paul (cf. Acts 19:1, 7, 10). The metaphor of the open door is a common expression in the apostolic writings and indicates a continuing occasion for preaching the gospel in spite of hostile unbelievers (cf. John 10:7-9; Acts 14:27; 1Cor 16:9; 2Cor 2:12; Col 4:3). The Lord assures his messenger that the good news cannot be stopped in Philadelphia by any secular or Satanic power.

which: Grk. hos, rel. pron. no one: Grk. oudeis. See the previous verse. is able: Grk. dunamai, pres. mid., 3p-sing., to be capable for doing or achieving something as qualified in the context. to shut: Grk. kleō, aor. inf. See the previous verse. it: Grk. autos, pers. pron. Yeshua then cites three reasons for keeping the door of ministry open. because: Grk. hoti, conj. you have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 1 above. little: Grk. mikros, relatively limited in extent, whether in size, measure, quantity or rank; small, little. power: Grk. dunamis, having ability to perform something; power, might. In the LXX dunamis was used to translate Hebrew words that referred to military forces or the power of a ruler (DNTT 2:602).

The first reason, having "little power" may have a similar meaning as the assessment of the apostle Paul, "His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible" (2Cor 10:10). In other words, the messenger recognized his inherent weakness and utter dependence on his Lord to empower him with the Holy Spirit. Success of the Lord's work in evangelism relies totally on the power of the Holy Spirit working through His people (Acts 1:8). Human ingenuity by itself is insufficient to create ministry opportunities or to make other people want God in their lives.

In the second and third reasons the Lord affirms the messenger's loyalty, both in public and private situations. and: Grk. kai, conj. you kept: Grk. tēreō, aor. See verse 3 above. my: Grk. egō, first pers. pron. word: Grk. logos, a vocalized expression of the mind, as communication ranging broadly in extent of content and variety of form; word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar (SH-1697), which has a similar range of meaning: saying, speech, word, message, report, tidings, discourse, story, command, advice, counsel, promise, thing, or matter, whether of men or God (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). The active sense of "kept My word" meant the messenger proclaimed the good news and lived it out in public.

and: Grk. kai, conj. have not: Grk. ou, adv. denied: Grk. arneomai, aor. mid., to give a negative answer; say no, deny. my: Grk. egō. name: Grk. onoma. See verse 1 above. This compliment may refer to some distinct occasions when, being put to the test, he refused to recant his faith and so proved his loyalty to Yeshua. There is a famous letter to Emperor Trajan from Pliny, the governor of the province of Bithynia, which bordered the province of Asia on the north. Pliny reports efforts to make Christians deny Yeshua and offer an invocation to the gods, but writes, "none of which, it is said, those who are really Christians can be forced into performing" (Ludwig 107).

9— Behold, I give out of the synagogue of the Adversary, the ones declaring themselves to be Jews, and are not, but lie; behold, I will make them that they will come and they will bow down before your feet, and they should know that I loved you.

Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See the previous verse. I give: Grk. didōmi, pres. subj. See the previous verse. Many versions translate the verb as "I will make," but this imposes an interpretation inconsistent with the word Yeshua used. A few versions have "I give" (ASV, BLB, BRV, CJB, HNV, JUB, LITV, WEB). out of: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 5 above. of the synagogue: Grk. sunagōgē means a gathering-place or place of assembly and in the rest of the Besekh refers to the place at which Jews gathered for worship and learning as well as the congregation that met (Acts 6:9; 9:2), including that of Messianic Jews (Jas 2:2). Sunagōgē occurs 56 times in the Besekh, only twice in Revelation (the other at 2:9), but not at all in the writings of Paul.

While Gentiles today only associate "synagogue" with Judaism, the Jews did not invent the term. The origin of sunagōgē dates back to the 5th century B.C. and in ancient times was used to refer to any collection of things or people. Sunagōgē had a particular usage by Gentile trade guilds to refer to both their business meetings and religious feasts. In the LXX sunagōgē is used to translate the Heb. words qahal (a summons to an assembly) and edah (the assembly or congregation of Israel). (DNTT 1:292ff). The earliest archaeological evidence for the synagogue, found in Egypt, is dated to the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC (OCB 722).

The origin of the synagogue is not known for certain, but scholars generally date its beginning during the Babylonian exile. Pious Jews, far from their native land, without the ministry of the Temple, no doubt felt the necessity to gather on the Sabbath in order to listen to the word of God and engage in prayer (cf. Ps 137; Jer 29:7; Ezek 14:1; 20:1; Acts 16:13). Eventually meetings came also to be held on other days, and at the same hours as the morning and evening services in the Temple. According to the Jewish philosopher Philo (20 B.C. - A.D. 50) synagogues were houses of prayer and schools of wisdom (On the Life of Moses II, 39).

As Jews emigrated west synagogues followed. In any community where at least ten Jewish men lived, the Jews would meet together for study and prayer and eventually build a sanctuary (Heb. shul) for their meetings. In Israel where the Sadducees exercised supervision over the temple, Pharisees supervised the learning of Torah in the synagogue. By the first century, synagogues, especially in the Diaspora, emerged as the central institution of Jewish life as a place where study, worship, exhortation, celebration, and various other kinds of meetings take place. Ceremonies were conducted in full view of the participants, with the masses of people no longer being relegated to outer courtyards, as was the case in the Jerusalem Temple (OCB 722).

Most mentions of "synagogue" in the Besekh occur as the location in which Yeshua and the apostles introduced the Good News to the Jewish people. In first century Greek and Roman culture sunagōgē had a general non-Jewish meaning, so its presence in this verse does not automatically connote a meeting-place for ethnic Jews. Moreover, the leader of the Greek associations in Egypt and Chios that adopted Jewish practices was called archisynagogus, "ruler of the synagogue" (Tarn & Griffith 224), which indicates that Gentile Sabbatarian groups used the term "synagogue" to identify their meeting places.

of the Adversary: Grk. satanas, adversary, the chief enemy of God and all who belong to God. Satanas may be a name, but functions more as a descriptive title of his function as heavenly prosecutor. In both the Besekh and the LXX satanas transliterates the Heb. satan (pronounced "sah-tahn"), which means accuser or adversary (BDB 966). He is also called "devil" (Grk. diabolos, slanderer, accuser) many times. In the Tanakh the Heb. satan refers to a person, whether human (1Sam 29:4; 1Kgs 11:14, 24, 25; Ps 109:6) or heavenly being (Num 22:22, 32; 1Sam 29:4; 1Chr 21:1; Job 2:1; Zech 3:1), who opposes other humans. Satan is a created being and not equal to God in power or knowledge.

Many commentators believe that the taunt against the king of Babylon in Isaiah 14:11-15 and the lament for the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28:11-19 depict the original perfection and downfall of the leading cherub. Exactly when this evil character was created or became evil is not disclosed in Scripture. The angels were most likely created on the second day (cf. Job 38:4-7). In contrast to the common depiction of angels the cherubim and seraphim are the only heavenly beings described as having wings. All the other heavenly messengers, translated as "angels," appeared as ordinary men. Of importance is that the Adversary is not an angel, and is sometimes contrasted with angels (here; Zech 3:1; 2Cor 11:14; Rev 12:9).

In the Tanakh the Adversary is most frequently mentioned in the story of Job in which the prince of cherubs is an adversary of man. There is no question that the serpent in Genesis 3 who tempts the first couple is this person (Rev 12:9). Why the good and loving God permits the existence of this liar and murderer (John 8:44) is also not explained. In the Besekh satanas is never used to describe a human. In the apostolic histories Satan is depicted as an opponent of Yeshua and the good news (Mark 4:15), as a tempter (Mark 1:13) and as the head of a demonic empire (Mark 3:23-26). In contrast with the "God of peace" Satan's character and life goals are summed up in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”

The phrase "synagogue of Satan" is a powerful indictment and only in Revelation is the word "synagogue" invested with any derogatory connotation. Yeshua warned his disciples that they would suffer persecution in synagogues (Matt 23:34) and Saul (Paul) was the first to fulfill this prophecy by his pursuit and punishment of disciples in the synagogues (Acts 9:2; 22:19; 26:11). To call this group a synagogue of Satan is a very serious charge and may on the one hand denote a capitulation to the adversary of God. "For our struggle is…against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12 NASB).

Coincidentally Jewish leaders in the first century often hurled epithets against those who did not live what they taught. It was common for the School of Hillel to refer to the School of Shammai as "the synagogue of Satan" (Moseley 96). Frankfurter mentions that it was possible for Jews to criticize other Jews as demonically inspired (cf. 1QH 2:22), calling apostate Jews (from the Essene perspective) a "congregation of Belial" (469). As the Body of the Messiah expanded there were eventually members that caused division, rebelled against apostolic oversight and attempted to introduce false doctrines. Paul warned Timothy, who pastored in Ephesus, that more of such dangers would come (1Tim 3:1-3; 2Tim 3:1-9). In Smyrna the opposition came from a group that had a "form of godliness" but lacked soundness of biblical doctrine and respect for the true people of God.

Tragically the label "synagogue of Satan" convinced many Church leaders in the patristic era (2nd-7th cent.) that God had cut off all Jewish people from favor and as a result became a common epithet. Condescending attitudes, inflammatory rhetoric and prejudicial pronouncements against Jews, beginning early in the second century, were used by leaders of Christianity to justify and then enforce institutional discrimination and even persecution of Jews. See Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, Chapter Seven, for the sordid history of anti-Judaism.

the ones declaring: Grk. legō, pres. part. with the definite article. See verse 1 above. The verb is used here in the sense of calling by a name. themselves: pl. of Grk. heautou, reflexive pron., himself, herself. to be: Grk. eimi, pres. inf. See verse 1 above. Jews: pl. of Grk. Ioudaios, Judean, Jew, Jewish or Jewess with respect to birth heritage (BAG). In the LXX Ioudaios translates the Heb. term Yehudi (pl Yehudim), which first appears in 2 Kings 16:6 to refer to Judeans. Yehudi was derived from Yehudah, the name given to Jacob's son (Gen 29:35) and thereafter his tribal descendants (Ex 31:2).

The plural Yehudim first appears in 2 Kings 16:6; 25:25 and Jeremiah 34:9 for citizens of the Kingdom of Judah. The southern kingdom also included the tribes of Benjamin and Simeon, so Mordecai of the tribe of Benjamin is identified as a Yehudi (Esth 2:5; 6:10). The meaning of Yehudim expanded during the exile to refer to all those taken in captivity from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah living throughout the Persian empire (Esth 8:9, 11, and 17). This same usage is found in the writings of Josephus, the Jewish historian, in which he distinguishes Jews from other people groups (e.g., Apion 1:1, 5, 8, 13, 19, 22, 26-27, 32-35).

Stern contends that in apostolic usage Ioudaioi ("Jews") has one of three meanings: (1) members of the tribe of Judah; (2) followers of the Jewish religion; or (3) people living in or originating from Judea, however politically defined (160). To the first meaning I would add "members of the tribes belonging to the Kingdom of Judah" as defined in the Tanakh. In addition, I would clarify the second meaning to be "followers of the Judean religion." Paul identifies himself as a Ioudaios (Acts 21:39; 23:3), as well as an Israelite, a Hebrew, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1; Php 3:5). Nobody was more Jewish than him.

The Ioudaioi as represented in the apostolic narratives and epistles were observant traditional Jews. The Ioudaioi revered Moses, faithfully observed the Sabbath, kept God's prescribed festivals, circumcised their children and regarded the Temple in Jerusalem as the only place to worship the God of Israel with sacrifices (John 2:13; 4:20; 5:1, 16; 6:4; 7:2; 11:55; 19:31; Acts 2:5; 16:3; 21:21; 22:3; 24:14; Rom 2:17). Generally speaking the Ioudaioi followed the traditions of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). The same devotion could not be said of other Israelite descendants who were scattered throughout the world.

By the first century A.D. there were numerous Jewish settlements in Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Italy and the islands of the Aegean, that had resulted from emigration (sometimes voluntary and sometimes forced) from Babylon (Tarn & Griffith 219). Josephus reported that "the ten tribes are beyond Euphrates till now, and are an immense multitude, and not to be estimated by numbers" (Ant. XI, 5:2). All of these settlements became the starting point for the apostles to proclaim the fulfillment of prophetic promises, since the gospel was for the Judean Jew first (Acts 1:8; Rom 1:16). In obedience to Yeshua's instruction whenever Paul went to a city he first spoke in synagogues of the Ioudaioi to present the good news of the Messiah (Acts 9:20; 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1, 17; 18:4, 19, 26; 19:8). For more discussion on the categories of Jews see my web article The Apostolic Community.

and: Grk. kai, conj. are: Grk. eimi, pres. not: Grk. ou, adv., particle of strong negation. but: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 4 above. lie: Grk. pseudomai, pres. mid., to state what is false or to endeavor to create a false impression by lying; lie. The present middle form of the verb indicates that the lying was an intentional continuing practice for which the offenders were fully responsible. Apparently the messenger of the Philadelphia congregation had to contend with the same opposition as occurred in Smyrna and Yeshua repeats the description of 2:9, although moving the reference to the "synagogue of Satan" from the end of the statement to the beginning.

The identified source of the slander presents a difficulty in interpretation. For a group to "say they are Jews" alludes to the fact that there are people who would be correct in saying they are Jews. The Hebrew people used the name "Jew" with pride to connote their distinction from the idolatrous Gentiles, whereas down through history Gentiles have invested the name with considerable prejudice and malice. Jewishness has normally been traced through the mother (cf. Acts 16:1-3), even though inheritance and the family name passes through the father as evidenced by the genealogies in the Bible. In addition, among the Judean Jews no male could be considered part of the covenant people without being circumcised. A brief survey of the word "Jew" in the Besekh reveals that the word was applied only to biological descendants of Jacob (Matt 27:11; Mark 7:3; Luke 23:51; John 4:9; Acts 22:3; Rom 3:1; Gal 3:28).

While some Gentile Christians might view themselves as spiritual Jews by virtue of being grafted into Israel and possessing circumcision of the heart, the apostles never made such an application. Not even Gentiles who embraced Judaism were ever called Jews, probably because of the distinctive promise of the land of Israel to the Jews in perpetuity and the special relationship of the Jews to the Torah (Stern 339; cf. Gal 5:3). At the time of this letter there were well-established Jewish populations throughout Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, Italy and the islands of the Aegean, that had resulted from emigration (sometimes voluntary and sometimes forced) from Babylon in the centuries before Yeshua (Tarn & Griffith, 219; Schurer 2:223).

In this context "the ones claiming to be Jewish" apparently refers to a Gentile Sabbatarian group that advocated a legalistic doctrine similar to the Gentile Judaizers a generation earlier. The Lord denies in the most emphatic terms their claim to Jewishness and adds a significant element in his refutation. He pronounced them guilty of intentionally lying about their identity, knowing full well they were not Jews by any proper definition of the word. This charge expands the designation of this group being "of Satan" who is the father of lies (John 8:44).

behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. The repetition of the verb gives emphasis to the promise. I will make: Grk. poieō, fut., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; make, construct, produce, create; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition; do, act, perform, work. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX poieō renders chiefly Heb. asah (SH-6213), accomplish, do, make, work (first in Gen 1:7), and used of a wide range of human and divine activity. Poieō also renders the special word bara (SH-1254), 'shape, fashion, create,' used of God's creative deeds (first in Gen 1:1). The "making" does not necessarily mean forcing, but changing their attitude so they will want to come, perhaps to repent of their error and reconcile a breach that had occurred over theological differences.

them: pl. of Grk. autos, pers. pron. that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed; in order that. they will come: Grk. hēkō, fut., 3p-pl. See verse 3 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. they will bow down: Grk. proskuneō, fut., 3p-pl., to bow down, to worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to or welcome respectfully. BAG notes that the Greek word was often used in secular literature to designate the ancient custom of prostrating oneself before a person, such as a king, and kissing his feet, the hem of his garment, the ground, etc. A few versions translate the verb as "worship," but there is no intention of a treating the messenger as deity.

In the LXX proskuneō translates several different Hebrew words, with the basic meaning to bend down, stoop or bow, but principally shachah (SH-7812), to bow down or prostrate oneself (DNTT 2:876f). In the apostolic writings proskuneō continues the Hebrew meaning with a greater emphasis on submission to one of higher authority, especially God and the Messianic King (e.g., Matt 2:2). before: Grk. enōpion, prep. See verse 2 above. your: Grk. su, sing. second pers. pron. feet: pl. of Grk. pous, which referred to a foot of man or animal. The Lord makes an unusual promise – these imposters will offer homage to the messenger, perhaps to acknowledge his authority as the representative of Yeshua to oversee all the disciples in Philadelphia.

The Lord's prophecy here may be an application of the word given to Isaiah, "The sons of those who afflicted you will come bowing to you, and all those who despised you will bow themselves at the soles of your feet; and they will call you the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 60:14 NASB; cf. Isa 45:14; 49:23). Jews did not interpret the prophetic promise in the sense of religious adoration to which only God is entitled, but that the nations would recognize that God dwells with the true and faithful Israel (cf. Ezek 37:27f). An excellent example is Nebuchadnezzar who "fell on his face and did homage to Daniel" (Dan 2:46) and declared, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries" (Dan 2:47). The idiom "bow down at your feet," in its Hebrew origin, more likely conveys the meaning of "welcoming respectfully."

and: Grk. kai, conj. they should know: Grk. ginōskō, aor. subj. See verse 3 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. I loved: Grk. agapaō, aor., to have such an interest in another that one wishes to contribute to the other's well-being, even if it means making a personal sacrifice to do so. In the LXX agapaō translates aheb, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than agapaō. There are four words in Greek for love. Besides agapaō there is eros, desire or longing between a man and woman; storgē, family affection; phileō, affection of people who are close to one another, whether inside a family or out, also care and compassion, and then love of things that one enjoys. Aheb is like the English word "love" which is used to mean all these things. The verb points to both the character of God (1Jn 4:8) and the faithfulness of God to his covenant promises.

you: Grk. su, sing. pron. The second part of the promise is that Yeshua will help these pseudo-Jews understand his love for the messenger.  The expression "I loved you" may refer to the particular event of the sacrifice on the cross. While the promise may sound unusual, the Lord's words would have special poignancy if the overseer were of Jewish ancestry, especially if he was the son of one of the Jewish disciples that brought the good news to Philadelphia.

10— Because you kept the word of my perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, being about to come upon the whole world to test the ones dwelling upon the earth.

Because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 1 above. you kept: Grk. tēreō, aor. See verse 3 above. The verb may intend "you observed in a faithful manner." the word: Grk. logos. See verse 8 above. The noun may be intended in the sense of a report or the collective apostolic testimony of Yeshua's life, which had been written and in circulation well before John's exile to Patmos. of my: Grk. egō, first pers. pron. perseverance: Grk. hupomonē may mean either (1) capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action; endurance, perseverance, steadfastness; or (2) persistence in awaiting realization of something; expectation. This is a virtue particularly demonstrated in the face of toil and suffering.

Mounce suggests that "my perseverance is shorthand for "my command to endure patiently," although there is no such command recorded in the apostolic narratives. Paul spoke of the steadfastness of Messiah (2Th 3:5), so Ladd suggests that the thought here is that followers of Yeshua share and emulate his steadfastness in the face of the pressures about them. Other passages speak of Yeshua's endurance under trial (Heb 5:8; 12:2-3; 1Pet 2:23). The Lord congratulated the messenger on his perseverance. The adjective "my" means that Yeshua's example was the motivation for the Philadelphian messenger to endure.

I also: Grk. kagō, conj. that combines kai and egō and serves to link in parallel or contrasting fashion a personal affirmation by way of addition to or confirmation of a preceding statement; 'and I.' will keep: Grk. tēreō, fut. you: Grk. su, 2p-sing. pron. from: Grk. ek, prep. the hour: Grk. hōra. See verse 3 here. The noun is used in a fig. sense that hints at an appointment. of testing: Grk. peirasmos can refer to (1) a test or trial, (2) temptation or enticement to sin or (3) a testing of God by men. Earle suggests that the idiom of "keep from" does not mean that one is excluded from the hour of testing, but that one is not overwhelmed by it. Bible examples of "keeping in the midst of trouble" include Noah and his family protected from the flood that destroyed the earth (Gen 7:23), the Israelites in Goshen protected from the plagues (Ex 8:22; 9:26) and the three Hebrew young men in Babylon protected from the fire (Dan 3:25).

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (aka Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, Dan 1:7) in particular exemplified courage in their loyalty to God, even if God did not save them from Nebuchadnezzar's death sentence. In response to their testimony of allegiance God did not remove His faithful servants from the furnace or extinguish the fire, but shared the fire with them. Yeshua prayed to this end in His high priestly prayer, "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one" (John 17:15), and promised "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt 28:20). Similarly, Yeshua did not promise the overseer (or his congregation) removal from the earth, secretly or publicly, to avoid tribulation. Instead, the Lord would at the very least provide grace to endure or perhaps at the very best spare him from the persecution that lay in the immediate future. In spite of the devil's worst all around him, the messenger would be sustained.

being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part. See verse 2 above. to come: Grk. erchomai, pres. pass. inf., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. In the LXX erchomai renders Heb. bo (SH-935), to come in, come, go in, go, generally in a physical sense (first in Gen 10:19), but also a fig. in a temporal sense (1Sam 2:31; 2Kgs 20:17) (DNTT 1:320). Considering the historical events that occurred within a few years after this message suggests that the "hour of testing" most likely refers to an event in the immediate future. The immanence intended by the Greek phrase is obscured in most Bible versions. After all, the Lord would not give a promise that his overseer or his congregation could not receive.

The present tense of these two verbs, while speaking of an event that is obviously future from the standpoint of the letter writer, nevertheless reinforce the fact that it is the readers who should be concerned and not a distant generation two thousand years later. There is no textual connection between this "hour of testing" and the great tribulation or the period of God's final wrath on the earth. There had already been localized persecutions during the reign of Nero and then under Domitian who exiled John to Patmos, but the worst was actually to come. The congregation enjoyed a few years of peace under Nerva who followed Domitian, but the second century proved to be a truly perilous time.

The next emperor, Trajan (98-117), destroyed the Jewish nation that had rebelled under the Messianic pretender Bar Kokhba and then outlawed specific Jewish practices. Trajan then unleashed a persecution of wider scope than either Nero or Domitian against disciples of Yeshua. In one hour things changed for the worse when Trajan issued an edict declaring Christianity to be an illegal religion (Schaff, II, 2:13). Trajan functioned well as a type of the Antichrist because from a secular viewpoint he did good works, like conducting an extensive building program and promoting compassionate treatment of the poor.

However, many Christians were put to death throughout the empire with Syria and the land of Israel suffering the heaviest persecutions. Notable leaders were executed including Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch; Symeon, Bishop of Jerusalem; Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and Cleophas a reputed cousin of Yeshua (Schaff, II, 2:17. Also, Ludwig, 109). With "war" being declared on God's people persecutions became increasingly severe and determined under succeeding Roman Caesars for the next two hundred years.

upon: Grk. epi, prep. the whole: Grk. holos, adj. signifying that a person or thing is understood as a complete unit and not necessarily indicative of every individual part; all, whole, entire. world: Grk. oikoumenē, pres. pass. part. of oikeō, inhabit., thus 'inhabited earth.' In the earliest classical Greek literature the term was used of the world inhabited by Greeks in contrast to those lands inhabited by barbarians, but later literature included the lands of barbarians. In the Roman period the term meant the lands under Roman rule. In the LXX oikoumenē occurs 40 times, mostly in Psalms and Isaiah (DNTT 1:518). The term translates three different Heb. words: First, tebel (SH-8398), world (27 times); second, erets (SH-776), earth, land (12 times), and third, cheled (SH-2465), world, one time (Ps 49:1).

The verb oikoumenē is used in the LXX of (1) the earth as created and established by God and over which He rules, or (2) lands or the earth as the object of God's judgment. The adjective holos occurs together with oikoumenē six times in the LXX (Isa 10:14, 23; 13:11; 14:26; 24:1; 37:18), all in the context of devastation and judgment. to test: Grk. peirazō, aor. inf., may mean (1) make an effort to do something in the face of uncertainty about the outcome; try, attempt; (2) make trial of the quality or state of someone's character or claims; test, tempt; or (3) act in a manner that amounts to defiance of another's resources for retribution; tempt. The second meaning applies here. "Testing" as a spiritual concept is done to determine whether one is genuine and will remain faithful (Deut 8:2).

the ones dwelling: Grk. katoikeō, pres. part. with the definite article, means to live, dwell, reside, inhabit or make one's home as a resident. on: Grk. epi, prep. the earth: Grk. can mean (1) soil or earth receiving seed, (2) the ground, (3) the bottom of the sea, (4) land as contrasted with the sea; (5) the earth in contrast to the heavens or heaven; or (6) the inhabited globe, people, humanity (BAG). The LXX uses more than 2,000 times and translates the Heb. word erets (DNTT 1:517). In the Tanakh erets has the same range of meaning as , but especially (a) the earth in a cosmological sense, or (b) "the land" in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (BDB 75). The phrase "the ones dwelling on the earth" may be parallel to or further clarify the reference to the "whole world."

Without the former description the second phrase could intend the Hebrew idiom of dwelling in the land of Israel (e.g., Ps 37:3), but in this case means all people alive and dwelling on the earth (cf. Luke 21:35; Acts 17:26). The verb "dwell" connotes living in a house or other structure in contrast to God who "does not dwell in houses made by human hands" (Acts 7:48). The participial phrase occurs ten times in Revelation (See 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 17:8. Cf. Isa 26:18) and the remaining occurrences refer to those who persecute disciples of Yeshua, oppose God and give their allegiance to the beast (Stern). From God's point of view the testing would verify whether citizens will remain faithful to the spirit of worldly values and the dominant political power or be influenced by the model of faithful disciples and seek salvation.

11— I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one might take your crown.

I am coming: Grk. erchomai, pres. mid. Seek the previous verse above. quickly: Grk. tachus, adj., quick, swift, or speedy. The word is also used adverbially to mean quickly, at a rapid rate or without delay, quickly, at once (BAG). BAG acknowledges that it is not always easy to make a clear distinction between these meanings. The adverb occurs a total of five times in Revelation referring to Messiah's "coming" (2:16; 11:14; 22:7, 12, 20) and Danker assigns the adverbial meaning of "within a short time, soon" to these occurrences. Many versions also translate tachus here as "soon," which has a tendency to obscure its meaning in context. In Greek literature tachus referred to physical motion and meant swift or fleet of foot when used of humans and animals, the opposite of bradus, slow (LSJ). Even when used adverbially the word has the sense of the motion being hasty (DNTT 3:1169).

In the LXX tachus renders the Heb. verb mahar (SH-4116; BDB 554), to hasten (Gen 27:20; Isa 32:4; 49:17; Jer 48:16; Mal 3:5); its derivative adj. maher (SH-4118; BDB 555), hastening, speedy, swift (Ex 32:8; Deut 9:12, 16; Jdg 2:17; Ps 69:17; 79:8; 102:2; 143:7; Zeph 1:14); the noun mahera (SH-4120; BDB 555), haste, speed (2Sam 17:16; Ps 37:2; Eccl 8:11; Isa 5:26; 58:8) and the adj. mahir (SH-4106; BDB 5550, quick, prompt, ready, skilled (Ezra 7:6); and uts (SH-213; BDB 21), make haste (Prov 29:20); and qarob (SH-7138; BDB 898), near (of time, Isa 51:5). Throughout the Tanakh these terms denote swiftness of action. Even in passages of prophesied blessing (Isa 49:17; 51:5; 58:8) and prophesied judgment (Jer 48:16; 49:19; Nah 1:14; Zeph 1:14; Mal 3:5), tachus does not indicate how soon it will be until the action commences.

Some commentators treat the Lord's promise, at least from the perspective of the first century, as a reference to the Second Advent and then offer various explanations of "quickly," e.g., the rapidity of accomplishing the Second Coming when it occurs, the certainty of the event or simply an assurance that the Second Coming will not be delayed. Unfortunately, historical reality can only cast doubt on such explanations since Yeshua failed to inform them that the end of the age lay far into the future long after they would be dead. However, this saying must have direct relevance to the Philadelphian congregation. The solution lies in the fact that the idiom of the "Lord's coming" has both contemporary and future, literal and figurative meanings in Scripture (cf. Zeph 1:14; Zech 2:10; Matt 10:23; 16:28; 21:5; John 4:25f).

The apostle Paul used this same terminology when he promised to come soon (1Tim 3:14) and when he asked Timothy to come soon (2Tim 4:9), but no one would suppose that a millennium would pass before either arrived. The Lord does speak of coming in a contemporary sense to the seven overseers and certain heretical groups within their congregations. Yeshua threatened to "come" bringing judgment to Ephesus (2:5, "and remove their lampstand"), to Pergamum (2:16, "quickly") and to Sardis (3:3, "as a thief"). He also warned his messenger in Philadelphia of persecution in the previous verse, so the promise of coming here is likely to bestow grace for that trial and to punish the adversaries of the congregation, as well as make the pseudo-Jews come to the overseer in repentance.

hold fast: Grk. krateō, pres. imp., means to take into one's possession or custody, to hold in the hand or to hold fast to something or someone. what: Grk. ho, neut. rel. pron. you have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 1 above. so that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 9 above. no one: Grk. mēdeis, adj., not one, no one, none, nothing. might take: Grk. lambanō, aor. subj. See verse 3 above. your: Grk. su, 2p-sing. pron. crown: Grk. stephanos referred to a wreath or crown, often made from palm branches. In the Besekh the term is (1) used of a literal crown, e.g., the crown of thorns (Matt 27:29), a winning athlete's wreath (1Cor 9:25). In Revelation this crown is worn by the elders (4:4), pit locusts (9:7), the woman (12:1) and the Son of Man (14:14). In the LXX stephanos translates the Heb. atarah, the royal crown and corresponding figurative uses (e.g., 2Sam 12:30; 1Chr 20:2; SS 3:11) (DNTT 1:405).

Because of his coming, Yeshua admonishes the messenger to hold or guard his crown. It is possible to lose the "crown" through falling prey to the temptation of resentment and retreat. Yeshua challenges his representative not to give way to anger in the face of all the adversaries, but to trust the Lord to do justice. The same admonition applies to disciples at the end of the age. Persecution and the anti-messiah's war against God's people are coming, but so too is the Messiah's coming. Faith and faithfulness must not be surrendered. A crown awaits the victor.

12— The one overcoming, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out not anymore; and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from my God, and my new name.

The one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part. See verse 5 above. The Lord promises some tremendous blessings to all who overcome. I will make: Grk. poieō, fut. See verse 9 above. him: Grk. autos, 3p-sing. pers. pron. a pillar: Grk. stulos , supporting medium, for a structure, pillar or column. The metaphor of being a pillar would convey the idea of stability and permanence (Mounce). in the temple: Grk. naos temple or sanctuary and in the Besekh refers generally to the temple in Jerusalem. Naos designates the sanctuary proper in contrast to hieros, which refers to the entire temple complex with its outer courts. In Revelation only naos is used. The word "temple" occurs 16 times in Revelation, most of which refer to a temple in heaven (e.g., Rev 11:19; 14:17; 15:5). In the LXX naos occurs 61 times and renders almost exclusively Heb. hekal (SH-1964), palace, temple (first in 1Sam 1:9) (DNTT 3:782).

Where hekal is used to mean temple it is always of the temple of the God of Israel, whether the sanctuary at Shiloh, the temple of Solomon, Ezra's temple or Ezekiel's temple. In contrast to naos, hekal was even more specific designating the holy place, but not the Holy of Holies. The promised blessing would remind John of the pillars in the temple that once stood in Jerusalem. Around the inside of the temple wall were porches consisting of double rows of Corinthian pillars, all monoliths, wholly cut out of one block of marble, each pillar being 37 1/2 feet high. But, the "Royal Porch," which provided the entry to the Temple, had a triple colonnade, formed of 162 pillars, ranged in four rows of 40 pillars each, two rows 100 feet high and two rows 50 feet high (Edersheim-Temple 20f).

of my: Grk. egō, 1p-sing. pron. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. he will go: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj. See verse 10 above. out: Grk. exō, adv. of place, outside, used of a position that beyond a limit or boundary (e.g., Matt 12:46). not: Grk. ou mē. The double negative (lit. "not, not") conveys the sense of impossibility. anymore: Grk. eti, adv. expressing continuance of an action or circumstance, 'yet, still,' but with the negative here has the meaning of 'anymore, any longer.' This promise would have a special appeal since the area of Philadelphia suffered devastating earthquakes causing residents to flee their homes and erect temporary shelters in the countryside (Mounce).

and: Grk. kai, conj. I will write: Grk. graphō, fut., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. on: Grk. epi, prep. him: Grk. autos, 3p-sing. pron. Another promise of security is that Yeshua will write three things on the overcomer, although it is not clear when the writing will take place. Perhaps God does the writing when the overcomer is first born again. God promises to write three words on the overcomer. The promise probably refers to being embroidered or imprinted on the overcomer's white garment, since tattooing the body is forbidden in the Torah (Lev 19:28).

the name: Grk. onoma. See verse 1 above. of my: Grk. egō, 1p-sing. pron. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. See verse 1 above. The first word probably refers to the personal name YHVH, as God says in Isaiah 42:8, "I am YHVH [the Lord], that is My Name." The sacred name YHVH is the primary name used of God in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4. Then the blessed name is spoken by Chavvah (Gen 4:1), Seth (Gen 4:26), Lamech (Gen 5:29) and Noah (Gen 9:26). Abraham addressed the One who called him out of Ur as "Adonai YHVH" (Gen 15:2) and in that conversation God offered his first self-revelation as "YHVH" (Gen 15:7).

However, the full significance of the sacred name was not revealed until Moses (Ex 6:3). After the deliverance from Egypt God established the priestly blessing to continually remind Israel that He had put His name on them (Num 6:24-27). Having God's name is a sign of ownership, as if labeled "Property of Heaven." In addition, the use of "My God," four times in this verse, emphasizes the new life and joy in knowing God (cf. John 17:3) and having a personal relationship with Him, as Thomas exclaimed to the resurrected Yeshua, "My Lord and My God" (John 20:28). (For more information and discussion on the sacred name see my article The Blessed Name.)

and: Grk. kai, conj. the name: Grk. onoma. of the city: Grk. polis, a population center whose size or number of inhabitants could range broadly. of my: Grk. egō, 1p-sing. pron. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. the new: Grk. kainos has three applications in the Besekh: (1) of recent origin or unused, such as wineskins (Matt 9:17); (2) different and superior in quality relative to something old with no criticism of the old, such as the New Covenant; or (3) different in reaction generated for something not previously present, such as the authority exerted by Yeshua (Mark 1:27). Of the two Greek words for "new," (the other neos), only kainos is used in Revelation and it occurs nine times in seven verses (2:17; 5:9; 14:3; 21:1, 2, 5).

Jerusalem: Grk. Ierousalēm, a transliteration of Heb. Yerushalayim (SH-3390), which means possession or foundation of peace (BDB 436). The second word to be written on the overcomer is the name of God's city. What a precious name is Jerusalem! The name of God's holy city occurs only three times in Revelation, all in reference to the "new" Jerusalem. For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem that had been captured from the Jebusites and made Israel's capitol by David represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. One psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5-6). See chapter twenty-one for a description of the city.

descending: Grk. katabainō, pres. part., to proceed in a direction that is down. out of: Grk. ek, prep. heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Danker). In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. word hashamayim ("the heavens"), which is normally translated as singular (DNTT 2:191). The consistent use of the plural form for "heaven" is thought to signify completeness, yet different activities and places are associated with hashamayim. Interestingly, ouranos is possibly related to an Indo-European root meaning water, rain, or that which moistens (DNTT 2:188; cf. Gen 1:6ff). Uranus, the Latinized form of ouranos, was the name given to the personification of the sky in ancient Greek mythology and in the 19th century the name was assigned to the seventh planet in our solar system.

This verse contains the first of over 50 usages of "heaven" in Revelation, making it a significant point for the reader. The Hebrew and Greek words for "heaven" are used in Scripture to refer to at least three different places (Ps 148:1-4). The first usage in the Bible is Genesis 1:1 where hashamayim, "the heavens" is mentioned in contrast to the earth. Then "the heavens" is the name given the expanse stretched out from the initial watery black hole ("the deep," Gen 1:2, 6-8) and then populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth and function as signs for seasons, days and years (Gen 1:14-19).

The next use of heaven refers to the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1Sam 2:10; 2Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26). Finally, the third heaven is the abode of God the Father, the home of angels and the place where Yeshua sits at the right hand of God (1Kgs 8:30; 2Chr 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2-4; Eph 1:20). The majority of the occurrences of "heaven" in Revelation refer to the third heaven.

from: Grk. apo, prep. my: Grk. egō, 1p-sing. pron. God: Grk. theos, the God of Israel. Unfortunately, Jerusalem in Israel had suffered the peril of foreign armies many times. The Jews thought their beloved city to be impregnable, but God allowed the Babylonians, Greeks and Romans to overcome the city and in the latest war with the Romans the city was almost totally destroyed. Nevertheless, their love of Jerusalem anticipated a better world to come and the apostles, as all Jews, looked forward to a permanent Jerusalem, "the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. … the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 11:10; 13:22). The promised blessing here confirms the message of  that the disciple's true citizenship is in heaven (Php 3:20; cf. Gal 4:26), not in any earthly country. Regardless of one's love of country, the first loyalty of the disciples is the city of our God.

and: Grk. kai, conj. my: Grk. egō, 1p-sing. pron. new: Grk. kainos. name: Grk. onoma. The third word written on the overcomer is a "new name." The new name (cf. Isa 56:5; 62:2; 65:15) will be unique, which only an omniscient God could accomplish. Unlike an earthly name, which may be changed by marriage or other legal or administrative action, the name God chooses will be eternal. In 2:17 the new name is also written on a white stone. The fact that this name is special is illustrated in the encounter of the angel with the parents of Samson (Jdg 13:3-21). When Samson's father asked the angel his name, the angel declined to give it because "it is wonderful" (Jdg 13:18). The angel may have been saying that he had been given a unique name no one else had, which made him special in the eyes of God, but to share it would be a temptation to pride.

It should be noted that these three things are written "on him," not merely in heaven. While the 144,000 have God's seal on their foreheads (7:3; cf. Ezek 9:4), the expression here may have the same intention as the reference to the Torah being written on the heart (Rom 2:15). The important thing is that God does the writing and that it is a part of His welcome into the great family of God.

13— The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations.'

The admonition of verse 6 above is repeated verbatim. For the sixth time the listener is enjoined to hear what the Spirit is saying. Through the Spirit the Lord has challenged His messenger and disciples to make the most of opportunities to share God's love and message with others. In addition, opportunities invariably bring testings and trials. Yeshua's followers are urged to persevere, to hold on to faith in him and not to give up, no matter what may happen. All believing communities can learn and benefit from the Lord's encouragement in this letter. Let all disciples pray for open doors of ministry and work fervently in the great missionary cause before the night comes and no one can work (John 9:4).

To the Messenger in Laodicea (3:14-22)

14— "And to the messenger of the congregation in Laodicea write: The Amen, the Faithful and the True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says these things:

And: Grk. kai, conj. to the messenger of the congregation: See verse 1 above. in Laodicea: The prosperous city of Laodicea was located in the fertile Lycus Valley in the province of Phrygia in western Asia Minor. It was about 40 miles east of Ephesus and about 10 miles west of Colossae. The city boasted three marble theatres, had a vast wall to protect against invaders and, like Rome, was built on seven hills (Henry). The city was also known for its garment industry, which relied on the raven-black wool produced by the sheep of the area. Epaphras, Tychicus, Onesimus and Mark apparently assisted in bringing the gospel there (Col 1:7; 4:7-15), although it is doubtful that Paul ever visited the city (cf. Col 2:1). In the year 60 the city was destroyed by an earthquake (along with Colossae and Hierapolis), but being economically self-sufficient, the city leaders refused aid from Rome for rebuilding (Mounce).

The Amen: Grk. amēn means "so let it be" or "truly." Amēn transliterates the Heb. 'amen, which means "it is true, so be it, or may it become true" (Stern 26). The Heb. root means "truth, faithfulness." John is directed to remind the messenger in Laodicea of the dignity of the author. Isaiah speaks of "the God of Amen" (Isa 65:16), and the LXX translates it "the true God" (Ladd). the Faithful: Grk. pistos, adj., with the definite article, characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy. and: Grk. kai, conj. the True: Grk. alēthinos, adj., with the definite article. See verse 7 above. Witness: Grk. martus, is a legal word referring to one who testifies before a legal proceeding regarding first hand knowledge (cf. Matt 18:16; Acts 7:5).

Yeshua is the reliable One who can be trusted to keep faith with His people (Ladd). As Paul says, "For however many promises God has made, they all find their "Yes" in connection with Him; that is why it is through Him that we say the "Amen" when we give glory to God" (2Cor 1:20 CJB). the Beginning: Grk. archē means beginning, first or origin (Rienecker). of the creation: Grk. ktisis, creation, either of the act of creation or that which is created. The noun is used primarily of God's creation of the universe, whether of individual things or beings, or the sum total of everything created. The noun is also used of human institutions (cf. 1Pet 2:13). The expression "the beginning of the creation" is parallel to Paul's use of "firstborn of all creation," which refers to the preexistence and uniqueness of Yeshua as well as His superiority over creation (Rienecker 2:221).

The phrase likewise stresses Yeshua as the divine Logos, the source and agent of God's creation activity at the beginning of the universe. It certainly does not mean that Yeshua was a created being, as various cults allege. The definite article "the" before "beginning" emphasizes that the Son birthed the earth and its inhabitants. As John says, "All things came into being through him" (John 1:3). says these things: See verse 1 above.

15— I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish you were cold or hot.

I know: Grk. oida, perf. See verse 1 above. your: Grk. su, 2p-sing. pron. works: pl. of Grk. ergon. See verse 1 above. The Lord has first-hand knowledge of His messenger's accomplishments or the lack of them. Yeshua does not compliment the overseer, but goes immediately to the heart of his burden. that: Grk. hoti, conj. you are: Grk. eimi, pres. 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. neither: Grk. oute, conj. functioning as a negative particle, dismissing an activity or thing that follows the particle and often coupled formulaically with another oute, "neither…nor." cold: Grk. psuchros, cool or cold as a temperature, but used here of attitude. nor: Grk. oute, conj. hot: Grk. zestos means boiled, boiling or boiling hot, used here of fervent zeal.

The Laodicean congregational leader had failed to produce deeds that would cause others to give glory to God (Matt 5:16). To describe his condition Yeshua uses common metaphors, and yet their use has spawned considerable discussion as to their true significance. There probably would not be any debate if the Lord had not wished the recipient of the letter to be cold as an alternative to being hot.

O that: Grk. ophelon, an intensive wish or desire; o that, would that. you were: Grk. eimi, impf., 2p-sing. cold or hot: In order for a metaphor to work it must be based on an objective reality. "Cold" or "hot" obviously refer to the temperature of something. Mounce and other modern commentators make the plausible suggestion that the metaphors draw upon a contrast between the nearby hot medicinal springs of Hierapolis sought for their healing properties and the cold pure waters of Colossae ideal for drinking, whereas the tepid water of Laodicea was good for neither. Thus, the intent is to make "cold" a positive wish. After all, giving cold water has been likened to a ministry worthy of reward (Prov 25:25; Matt 10:42).

Commentators from previous centuries had no difficulty regarding "cold" as negative. The Lord described the Sardis congregational leader as spiritually dead and "cold" can certainly refer to being dead. Wesley interprets cold as "an utter stranger to the things of God, having no care or thought about them." The word "hot" in this verse comes from a verb used in Acts 18:25 and Romans 12:11 to refer to someone who is "fervent in Spirit." Thus, the contrast relates to degree of spiritual life (Henry). Victorinus thought the contrast was between believing (hot) and unbelieving (cold). The question, then, is why would Yeshua wish the messenger to be dead or no better than unbelieving sinners? The answer, as Wesley observed, is that the "cold" would have more hope of spiritual recovery to become "hot."

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

So: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done, in this manner, way or fashion, so. because: Grk. hoti, conj. you are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. lukewarm: Grk. chliaros means warm, tepid or lukewarm in reference to temperature but used fig. of not being seriously involved. While Yeshua contrasts His preferences, He diagnoses the overseer's condition as "lukewarm." Being tepid implies indifference to true spirituality and apathy to his accountability before the Lord, so the overseer could not plead ignorance. This indifference resulted in the overseer possessing only a form of godliness (2Tim 3:5). To the Lord being lukewarm was more than just the absence of spiritual fruit bearing for which the Lord could take corrective action (cf. John 15:2), but a disgusting condition that required a radical solution.

and: Grk. kai, conj. neither: Grk. oute, conj. See the previous verse. hot: Grk. zestos. See the previous verse. nor: Grk. oute. cold: Grk. psuchros. See the previous verse. I am about: Grk. mellō, pres. See verse 2 above. to spit: Grk. emeō , aor. inf., to spit out or to vomit. The euphemism means to reject with revulsion (Robertson). you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. The singular pronoun refers to the overseer, not the congregation. out of: Grk. ek, prep. my mouth: Grk. stoma, the bodily organ of the head used for eating and speaking. The phrase "out of the mouth," occurs seven times in Revelation (also 9:17; 11:5; 12:15; 16:13; 19:15, 21). Perhaps the Lord had in mind the Torah exhortation, "You are therefore to keep all My statutes and all My ordinances and do them, so that the land to which I am bringing you to live will not spew [lit. "vomit"] you out" (Lev 20:22). The Lord simply cannot tolerate lukewarmness in any congregation, especially in His own ambassador and spokesman in the community.

17— Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you know not that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

Because: Grk. hoti, conj. you say: Grk. legō, pres., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above.  I am: Grk. eimi, pres., 1p-sing., to be. See verse 1 above. rich: Grk. plousios, possessing an abundance, rich or wealthy, and used in the apostolic writings literally of earthly possessions and figuratively of virtues or spiritual qualities. The Laodicean congregational leader, not unlike the city, felt smug and had the chutzpah to boast publicly of his financial status, net worth and security. The confident "I am" says much about his sense of identity. He doesn't boast about the Lord (1Cor 1:31) or express the humility of other servants of the Lord (cf. Matt 3:11; 8:8; 1Cor 15:9-10).

and: Grk. kai, conj. have become wealthy: Grk. pleuteō, perf., to be or become rich. The perfect tense of the verb indicates the wealth had been acquired at some point in the past and maintained by diligent effort. Since the assessment is a criticism, then "rich" should be taken in its literal sense. The Lord expands on what he means by being lukewarm and replays an actual quote from the overseer! The verb "become wealthy" indicates that the overseer began with a modest income, but he probably benefited from the patronage of one or more wealthy citizens. With a focus on accumulating and hoarding, his diligence was rewarded with a personal fortune.

and: Grk. kai, conj. have: Grk. echō, pres. See verse 1 above. need: Grk. chreia, state or experience of necessity, need. The lack may be of well being or everyday things or both. of nothing: Grk. oudeis, adv. See verse 7 above. It should be noted that it is the attitude of the overseer that Yeshua condemns and not the mere fact that he was wealthy. The acquisition of wealth or living a prosperous life is not evil as the many promises of material blessing in the Torah, Prophets and Psalms testify (e.g., Deut 28). Being poor is not more virtuous than being prosperous. The apostolic writings echo the normal human desire for the security of prosperity, because it is those with resources who support the kingdom's work (Matt 6:33; 1Cor 16:2; Php 4:12-19; 3Jn 1:2). Yeshua called the rich as well as the "middle class" and poor to follow Him and they blessed him with their material possessions (Matt 27:57; Luke 8:3; 19:2; John 12:3).

How does a congregation leader called by the One who criticized coveting riches (Luke 16:14), had no personal wealth of His own (cf. Luke 9:58) and purposely identified with the poor (Luke 4:18; 2Cor 8:9), get to the point of being dominated by the love of money (1Tim 6:10)? Perhaps he had transformed the ancient retribution principle, (i.e., the righteous will prosper and the wicked will suffer) into prosperity theology - the righteous will be blessed materially and those with weak faith will miss out. He deceived himself into thinking that his faith had earned God's special favor. Even the early disciples had difficulty understanding that wealth was not a reliable indicator of personal righteousness nor standing with God (Matt 19:23-30). No wonder Yeshua described this leader as blind. Yeshua then offers a five-fold description of the overseer's condition that depicts the most desolate situation imaginable, even worse than the experience of Job.

and: Grk. kai, conj. you know: Grk. oida, perf., 2p-sing. See verse 1 above. not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle of strong negation. that: Grk. hoti, conj. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. The use of the pronoun makes identification emphatic. are: Grk. eimi, pres., 2p-sing. wretched: Grk. talaipōros, a word picture indicating carrying a weight and burden or enduring severe effort and hardship; wretched, miserable, afflicted. and: Grk. kai, conj. miserable: Grk. eleeinos, pitiable or pathetic. The word indicates one who is the object of extreme pity (Rienecker). and: Grk. kai, conj. poor: Grk. ptochos is the poverty of a beggar (Rienecker). and: Grk. kai, conj. blind: Grk. tuphlos, adj., inability to see; blind.

and: Grk. kai, conj. naked: Grk. gumnos, naked, bare, without clothing. The expression is idiomatic for being without essential possessions (cf. Job 1:21; Eccl 5:14-15). The word "naked" is an apt metaphor set against the garment industry of the city. The overseer may have made himself very presentable to others with the finest of clothes, but the God of heaven saw through the facade and knew the true spiritual condition of his shepherd. The combination of blindness and poverty is reminiscent of the blind beggars that Yeshua encountered (Matt 20:30; Luke 18:35; John 9:1) and speaks of the most severe need. Incredibly the overseer did not know his true state. Paul, in evaluating the people in the Corinthian congregation, lamented, "Some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame" (1Cor 15:34).

18— I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments, that you may be clothed, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.

I advise: Grk. sumbouleuō, pres., to offer counsel; advise, counsel, exhort. you: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. To solve the problem of verse 17 Yeshua dispenses some free advice to his messenger. to buy: Grk. agorazō, aor. inf., to conduct a commercial transaction; buy, purchase. The verb is used fig. of a spiritual transaction. from: Grk. para, prep., lit. "from the side of." me: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. The phrase "from the side of me" could be an allusion to the crucifixion when blood and water flowed from his side. gold: Grk. chrusion, the precious metal known as gold. The word is also used of coined gold, money. refined: Grk. puroō, perf. mid. part., cause to burn, be set ablaze, be made glowing hot. by: Grk. ek, prep. fire: Grk. pur, fire, as a physical state of burning.

The word picture of "gold refined by fire" may have its origin in an obscure law in Numbers 31:21-24, which details that gold and other precious metals captured in war had to be subjected to a ceremony of fire. that: Grk. hina, conj. you may be rich: Grk. plouteō, aor. subj., to possess material assets in abundance. The Laodicean overseer had become rich by worldly means, but his money had not been sanctified. The Lord's solution was to seek a different kind of gold, the quality of a life that when tested by the fire of persecution reveals the character of the Lord. and: Grk. kai, conj. white: Grk. leukos, bright, shining, gleaming and especially the color white. garments: pl. of Grk. himation. See verse 4 above. White garments are the clothing of the righteous and residents of heaven (cf. Eccl 9:8; Matt 17:2; 28:3; Acts 2:10; Rev 3:5; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14).

that: Grk. hina, conj. you may be clothed: Grk. periballō, aor. mid. subj. See verse 5 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. the shame: Grk. aischunē refers to the personal feeling one has for modesty or shame. Aischunē can also refer to a shameful deed or shameful nakedness (cf. Php 3:19). of your: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. nakedness: Grk. gumnotēs can mean nakedness in a disgraceful sense or destitution resulting in a lack of sufficient clothing. Not only was the leader's wealth tainted, but like the king in the Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, "The Emperor's New Clothes," the Lord's messenger was actually naked in spite of possessing what he thought to be clothing of the finest quality. will not: Grk. , adv., negative particle. be revealed: Grk. phaneroō, aor. pass. subj., cause to be in a state or condition that makes observation possible; make known, show, disclose, manifest, reveal. In ancient times conquering armies would sometimes subject defeated people to being stripped of their clothing, bringing complete humiliation (Mounce; cf. Isa 20:1-4; Ezek 16:37-39).

The sad irony is that the overseer had voluntarily surrendered his spiritual clothing to obtain the world's finest fashion and consequently stood nude before the Lord. The solution for the leader is to be clothed with heavenly attire. The warning of being publicly stripped bare could refer to temporal loss of his wealth through financial reverses, robbery or even persecution, or the ultimate shame of loss on the Day of Judgment.  The command to buy does not mean that the gold and clothing represent salvation, because the water of life is free (22:17).

and: Grk. kai, conj. salve: Grk. kollourion, medicinal application for an eye problem; eye-salve. This term occurs only here in the Besekh. The word for "eye salve" refers to a Phrygian powder apparently applied to the eyes in a doughy paste (Mounce). to anoint: Grk. egchriō, aor. inf., touch a surface with a rubbing motion, often with a beneficial product such as olive oil or salve; anoint. your: Grk. su, pron. of the second pers. eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight, but used fig. of the ability to comprehend spiritual things. that: Grk. hina, conj. you may see: Grk. blepō, pres. subj., may mean (1) possess the physical ability to see; (2) use one's eyes to take note of an object; (3) be looking in a certain direction; or (4) to have inward or mental sight. The fourth meaning applies here.

Laodicea produced an eye salve that was in great demand. Unfortunately, it could do nothing for the spiritual blindness of this leader. Yeshua's offer should have reminded him of the healing of the man born blind with a topical paste (John 9:6). In that situation certain Pharisees, who also were seekers of wealth (Luke 16:14), revealed their spiritual blindness in their rejection of the healed man's testimony.

19— As many as if I might love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

As many as: Grk. hosos, relative pronoun denoting a spatial and temporal equation, here signifying maximum inclusion; as many as, all who. if: Grk. ean, conj. See verse 3 above. Most versions do not translate this conditional term. I: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. might love: Grk. phileō, pres. subj., to manifest some act of kindness or affection toward someone, to love or regard with affection, to kiss, to like or be fond of, or to cherish inordinately. The verb, which occurs only 25 times in the Besekh, conveys an emotional content. In the LXX phileō translates Heb. aheb some 30 times, but aheb is a far more comprehensive word than phileō (DNTT 2:547). Aheb is like the English word "love" which is used to mean many kinds of love.

We should note that the subjunctive mood of the verb looks toward what is conceivable or potential. The phrase "if I might love" has the thrust of "just because I might love someone does not mean I won't correct him." Yeshua corrects out of friendship and caring by paraphrasing the dictum of Solomon, "For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the son in whom he delights" (Prov 3:12 NASB). Many seem to think that love tolerates, but as seen throughout the Scriptures love does not allow a loved one to continue in behavior that violates the will of God. Indeed, such permissive love would be hatred because sin exposes the sinner to the judgment of God. Two responses by the caring one are required in Scripture, both of which Yeshua reminds the messenger that he does care.

I reprove: Grk. elenchō means to bring to light, to expose and to convict. Elenchō is a rebuke that seeks to prove with demonstrative evidence (Rienecker). The present tense of the verb points to the very act of reproving contained in this letter. Biblical rebuking is not "dumping" feelings of anger, but pointing out the truth. The responsibility to rebuke is given to both individuals (Matt 18:15-16; cf. Lev 19:17) and to pastoral leadership (2Tim 4:2; Titus 1:13; 2:15). and: Grk. kai, conj. discipline: Grk. paideia means instructive discipline (Rienecker). The word has particular reference to the rearing of children. Yeshua's discipline echoes Hebrews 12:5-11, which explains that God's discipline proceeds from love and seeks to develop righteousness. Discipline may contain either moral persuasion to return to right behavior or punitive action if persuasion fails. In the Torah, parents have the right to use the "rod" to correct a child's misbehavior. God as the heavenly Father will wield the rod to spare His children from eternal damnation.

therefore: Grk. oun, conj. be zealous: Grk. zēleuō, pres. imp., 2p-sing., means to be eager or in earnest. In light of Yeshua's warning the messenger is commanded to be zealous, which means a passionate eagerness to do God's will. When Yeshua cleared the temple, his disciples described his actions as being the result of zeal for God (John 2:17). and repent: Grk. metanoeō, aor. imp., 2p-sing. See verse 3 above. Just as Yeshua took decisive action to remove the offensive elements from his Father's house in Jerusalem, so he wants the Laodicean messenger to show the same zeal and repent, that is, remove from God's spiritual temple those attitudes and values contrary to His rule.

20— Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one should hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me.

Behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp. See verse 8 above. I stand: Grk. histēmi, perf., be in an upright position, to stand, used of bodily posture. at: Grk. epi, prep. the door: Grk. thura. See verse 8 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. knock: Grk. krouō, pres., to knock, presumptively with the hand, at a door. To underscore the urgency of his plea, Yeshua describes himself as One seeking entrance in order to dine with the one He loves. Edersheim suggests that the picture of Yeshua knocking reflects the practice of peace offerings prescribed by the Torah. The peace offering was a season of happy fellowship with the Covenant God, in which He condescended to become Israel's Guest at the sacrificial meal, even as He was always their Host (Edersheim 99f). The perfect tense of "stand" means Yeshua has been there for some time and the present tense of "knock" emphasizes His persistence to gain admission. Yeshua is not easily put off.

if: Grk. ean, conj. any one: Grk. tis, indef. pron. should hear: Grk. akouō, aor. subj. See verse 3 above. Just imagine the letter from Yeshua being read in a public meeting of the congregation. The emphasis of the phrase "if any one should hear" means that revival in a congregation can begin with one person. my voice: Grk. phōnē can mean (1) an auditory impression, sound, noise defined in the context; (2) the faculty of producing speech, voice; or (3) a system of communication, language, 1Cor 14:10; 2Pet 2:16). In the LXX phōnē generally renders Heb. qôl (sound, voice, BDB 876), the first usage of which is God's voice (Gen 3:8), and second the human voice (Gen 3:17), and these usages occur frequently in the Tanakh with various kinds of expression (DNTT 3:113). The term emphasizes the nature of inspiration. Yeshua spoke and John wrote.

and: Grk. kai, conj. open: Grk. anoigō, aor. subj. See verse 7 above. the door: Grk. thura. I will come in: Grk. eiserchomai, fut. mid., to go or enter into a geographical area, manufactured structure or other place defined in the context. to: Grk. pros, prep. The root meaning is 'near' or 'facing,' but with the accusative case of the pronoun following the meaning is 'to, toward' (DM 110). him: Grk. autos, pers. pron., 3p-sing. and: Grk. kai, conj. will dine: Grk. deipneō, fut., to eat or dine, used in reference to partaking of a meal. with: Grk. meta, prep. See verse 4 above. him: Grk. autos. and: Grk. kai, conj. he: Grk. autos. with: Grk. meta, prep. me: Grk. egō, pers. pron. 1p-sing. Yeshua desires to be received, not merely as an honored guest, but as the new owner of the believer's heart, exercising his will and way in one's life.

Even at this moment Yeshua continues to knock at the heart's door, seeking admission. While this verse has been frequently and effectively used to witness to unbelievers, its message is directed to a prominent congregational leader and by extension to all members of the congregation that might be in a similar condition. Of course, the word picture should be taken in the same sense as the Lord's promises in the upper room: "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth…. …I will come to you," (John 14:16f, 18 NASB) and "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23 NASB). Thus, Yeshua is offering to give the true riches of the very presence of God.

21— The one overcoming I will give to him to sit with me on my throne, as I also overcame and sat with my Father on His throne.

The one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part. See verse 5 above. I will give: Grk. didōmi, fut. See verse 8 above. to him: Grk. autos, masc. pers. pron. to sit: Grk. kathizō, aor. inf., to sit, to take one's seat. with: Grk. meta, prep. me: Grk. egō, pron. of the first pers. on: Grk. en, prep. my throne: Grk. thronos refers to a throne or chair upon which a king sits. Ancient thrones typically had a high back-rest and arm-rests and sometimes with a foot-stool. The throne was the official place from which the king exercised his power, authority and judgment. The term is often used figuratively in Scripture of sovereignty or dominion (DNTT 2:611-615).

For the overcomer Yeshua promises a special dividend that far outclasses any investment made in surrendering lives and fortunes to him. Followers of Yeshua will share his throne. "My throne" may be a metaphor, such as "throne of David" (2Sam 3:10), and functions as a symbol of the King's authority, and, in particular, may refer to delegated authority during Messiah's millennial reign (cf. Rev 20:4). as: Grk. hōs, adv. See verse 3 above. I also: Grk. kagō, conj. See verse 10 above. overcame: Grk. nikaō, aor. and: Grk. kai, conj. sat: Grk. kathizō, aor. inf. The past tense of "sat" ("down" is supplied by many versions) may refer to His ascension and does not imply Yeshua remains in that position (5:6; cf. Acts 7:55f).

To sit with him on His throne would be another way of saying that the followers of Yeshua will rest from all their troubles of the present age and share in his rule in the age to come (cf. Matt 19:28; Luke 19:17; 1Cor 6:2), just as Yeshua is in heaven sharing the authority over the Kingdom with His Father. with: Grk. meta, prep. my Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 5 above. on: Grk. en, prep. his throne: Grk. thronos. The promised blessing for all overcomers proceeds from the reality that Yeshua gained the victory over all adversaries and sits at the right hand of the Father where He serves his people as King and High Priest and "always lives to make intercession for them" (Heb 7:25). Many places in the apostolic writings describe Yeshua as sitting at the "right hand" of the Father (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33f; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 1Pet 3:22), but that detail is not mentioned in Revelation.

22— The one having an ear, hear what the Spirit says to the congregations.

The admonition of verse 6 and 13 above is repeated verbatim. For the seventh time, those in the congregation listening to the letter are enjoined to hear what the Spirit is saying. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict and convince, and through the Spirit the Lord has communicated clearly His priorities. Yeshua desires a close relationship with His people. Modern congregations and their leaders must never allow the values of prosperity prized by the world, such as fine furnishings, beautiful facilities, and state-of-the-art equipment to interfere with or replace the one thing that God prizes the most – experiencing His presence.

Postscript

Yeshua raised important spiritual and moral issues with his congregational leaders and most of them exhibited unacceptable flaws in their spiritual character. The litany of problems must have been heartbreaking, given how much Yeshua had suffered to provide salvation. In every case Yeshua spoke of core issues that have a direct bearing on the congregation's ability to fulfill the Great Commission and represent him to the world, then and now. Yeshua indicted most of his shepherds with infidelity, idolatry, immorality, insolence, inattention and insipidness. For these problems the Lord identifies a penalty or punishment if the messenger and factious members do not repent.

Other controversies have captured and dominated the attention of the Body of Messiah down through history, but the Head of God's people is essentially concerned about the character of those who represent him in the community. Yet, in the midst of so much bad news, Yeshua offered encouragement and challenge to his faithful followers. The Lord has always had a loyal remnant, and his promised blessings for the future, particularly the New Jerusalem, are for those who overcome the trials, testings and temptations of this life (Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 20, 21). The overcomers are assured that God will lavishly bestow on them all His best gifts in that great day of redemption.

Works Cited

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DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.

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OCB: The Oxford Companion to the Bible. ed. Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan. Oxford University Press, 1993.

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