Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.III.
(1) Sardis.—The modern Sart—now a mere village of paltry huts—once the capital of the old Lydian monarchy, and associated with the names of Crœsus, Cyrus, and Alexander. It was the great entrepôt of dyed woollen fabrics, the sheep of “many-flocked” Phrygia supplying the raw material. The art of dyeing is said to have been invented here; and many-coloured carpets or mats found in the houses of the wealthy were manufactured here. The metal known as electrum, a kind of bronze, was the produce of Sardis; and in early times gold-dust was found in the sand of the Pactolus, the little stream which passed through the Agora of Sardis, and washed the walls of the Temple of Cybele. It is said that gold and silver coins were first, minted at Sardis, and that resident merchants first became a class there. An earthquake laid it waste in the reign of Tiberius; a pestilence followed, but the city seems to have recovered its prosperity before the date of this epistle. The worship of Cybele was the prevailing one; its rites, like those of Dionysos and Aphrodite, encouraged impurity.
The writer is described in words similar to those in Revelation 1:4, as the one who hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars; but there is a difference. There Christ was seen holding the stars in His right hand; here it is said He hath the seven Spirits and also the seven stars. In this language it is difficult to overlook the unhesitating way in which Christ is spoken of as owning or possessing that Holy Spirit who alone can make angels of His Church to shine as stars. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11). His promise is, “I will send the Comforter unto you” (John 15:26), as possessing all power in heaven and earth. “He is able,” to use the language of Professor Plumptre, “to bring together the gifts of life, and the ministry for which those gifts are needed. If those who minister are without gifts; it is because they have not asked for them.” This the angel of the Sardian Church had not done; his faith and the faith of the Church around him had sunk into a superficial, though perhaps ostentatious, state. Here, then, lies the appropriateness of the description given of Christ, as the source of life and light to His Church.
A name that thou livest.—It is only needful to mention, and to dismiss the fanciful conjecture, that the name of the angel was Zosimos, or some parallel name, signifying life-bearing or living. It is the reputation for piety possessed by the Church of Sardis which is referred to. Living with the credit of superior piety, it was easy to grow satisfied with the reputation, and to forget to keep open the channels through which grace and life could flow, and to fail to realise that the adoption of habits of life higher than those around them, or those who lived before them, was no guarantee of real spiritual life; for “the real virtues of one age become the spurious ones of the next . . . The belief of the Pharisees, the religious practice of the Pharisees, was an improvement upon the life of the sensual and idolatrous Jews whom the prophets denounced. But those who used both the doctrinal and moral improvements as the fulcrum of a selfish power and earthly rank, were the same men after all as their fathers, only accommodated to a new age” (Mozley). Self-satisfaction, which springs up when a certain reputation has been acquired, is the very road to self-deception. The remedy is progress—forgetting the things behind, lest looking with complacency upon the past, moral and spiritual stagnation should set in, and spiritual death should follow.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.(2) Be watchful.—Rather, become wakeful. It will not do simply to rouse and sleepily grasp at their spiritual weapons, or even to stand for once at arms; you must become of wakeful habit. Strengthen the remaining things which were (when I roused you) about to die; for I have not found thy (or, any of thy) works perfect—completed or fulfilled, fully done in weight and tale and measure—before my God.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.(3) Remember therefore how (or, after what sort) thou hast received and heard (or, didst hear—the tense changes).—Remembering that the words are addressed primarily to the angel himself, the change of tense may have been designed to point him back to some particular period of his life, such as the time when he was set apart to his ministerial work. The further expectation is to hold fast, or keep—i.e., as an abiding habit. It has been noticed that this counsel is identical with that given to Timothy to “keep the good thing which had been committed to his charge” (2Timothy 1:14; comp. also 2Timothy 2:2). “Repent” is the closing word; combined with the exhortation to hold fast, it reminds us that formal tenacity of truth and a fruitless inactive regret are alike useless. There must be the sorrow for the past, and a sorrow which shows itself in action—a repentance whereby sin is forsaken. (Comp. Revelation 2:5; Revelation 2:21.)
If therefore thou shalt not watch.—Better, If thou shalt not watch (or, have been awake), I will come (omit “on thee”) as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. The warning is an echo from the Gospels (Matthew 24:42-43; Luke 12:39-40). The coming of Christ to judge His Church would be in an hour unlooked for. What kind of hour He would so come was’ unknown; the sound of His approaching footsteps unheard. Shod with wool, according to the ancient proverb, stealthily as a thief, the Judge would be at the door. Yet they could not plead that they had been in darkness (1Thessalonians 5:4).
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.(4) The best MSS. commence this verse with “But,” or “Nevertheless.” The case of the Sardian Church was bad, yet the loving eyes of the faithful witness would not ignore the good. There were a few who had not defiled their garments. These had not succumbed to the oppressive moral atmosphere around them. The words cannot, of course, be understood of absolute purity. Their praise is that, in the deathlike, self-complacent lethargy around, they had kept earnest in the pursuit of holiness, and had not forgotten Him who could cleanse and revive. (Comp. Revelation 7:14.)
They shall walk with me in white.—This “white” is not the white of the undefiled robe; it is the lustrous white of glory, as in the promise in the following verse. (Comp. also Revelation 2:17.)
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.(5) He that overcometh.—The promise is repeated to all who overcome; all, not who have never fallen, or failed, but who conquer, shall be clothed in glistening white raiment. On this glistering appearance comp. Dante’s words, “robed in hue of living flame,” and the description so frequent in the Pilgrim’s Progress—“the shining ones.” Trench, who reminds us that this glistening white is found in the symbolism of heathen antiquity, says: “The glorified body, defecated of all its dregs and impurities, whatever remained of those having been precipitated in death, and now transformed and transfigured into the likeness of Christ’s body (Philippians 3:21), this, with its robe, atmosphere, and effluence of lights, is itself, I believe, the white raiment which Christ here promises to His redeemed.” Professor Lightfoot thinks (see his Epistle to Col. p. 22) that there may be a reference to the purple dyes for which Sardis, as well as Thyatira, was celebrated.
I will not blot out . . .—The negative is emphatic, “I will in no wise blot out.” This figure of speech—a book and the blotting out—was ancient. (See Deuteronomy 32:32; Psalm 69:21; Daniel 12:1; comp. also Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3.) The name shall not be erased from the roll or register of the citizens of heaven. “A process of erasure is ever going on, besides the process of entering. When the soul has finally taken its choice for evil, when Christ is utterly denied on earth and trodden under foot, when the defilement of sin has become inveterate and indelible, then the pen is drawn through the guilty name, then the inverted style smears the wax over the unworthy characters; and when the owner of that name applies afterwards for admittance, the answer is, ‘I know thee not; depart hence, thou willing worker and lover of iniquity’” (Dr. Vaughan).
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;(7) Philadelphia.—The town of Philadelphia derived its name from Attalus Philadelphus, the king of Pergamos, who died B.C. 138. It was situated on the slopes of Mount Tmolus, in the midst of a district the soil of which was favourable to the cultivation of the vine. On the coins of the town are to be found the head of Bacchus. The town was built on high ground—upwards of 900 feet above the sea-level. The whole region, however, was volcanic, and few cities suffered more from earthquakes; the frequent recurrence of these considerably reduced the population. But its favourable situation and fertile soil preserved it from entire desertion. And of all the seven churches, it had the longest life as a Christian city. “Philadelphia alone has been saved . . .; among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect, a column in a scene of ruins.” Such is the language of Gibbon, referring to its later history. As a light in the world at the present day, we must look to no Eastern Philadelphia; the hand of William Penn kindled a light in its great namesake of the West.
These things saith he that is holy. . . .—Better, These things saith the Holy, the True, He that hath the key of David, that openeth, and no man shall shut, and He shutteth, and no one shall open.
Holy.—The main idea of the word here used is that of consecration. It is used of what is set apart to God; it does not assert the possession of personal holiness, but it implies it as a duty. It becomes, therefore, pre-eminently appropriate to Him who was not only consecrate, but holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Prof. Plumptre thinks there may be a reference here to the confession made by St. Peter (John 6:69), where the right reading is, “Thou art the Christ, the holy One of God.”
True.—A favourite word with St. John, and expressing more than the opposite of “false.” It implies that which is perfect in contrast with the imperfect; the reality in contrast with the shadow; the antitype in contrast with the type; the ideal which is the only real in contrast with the real which is only ideal;—
“The flower upon the spiritual side,
Substantial, archetypal, all aglow
With blossoming causes”
in contrast with the flower that fadeth here. Christ, then, in calling Himself the True, declares that “all titles and names given to Him are realised in Him; the idea and the fact in Him are, what they can never be in any other, absolutely commensurate” (Trench). In some MSS. the order of these words, “the Holy,” “the True,” is inverted.
The key of David.—Some early commentators saw in this key the key of knowledge which the scribes had taken away (Luke 11:52), and understood this expression here as implying that Christ alone could unloose the seals of Scripture, and reveal its hidden truth to men. In support of this they referred to Revelation 5:7-9. The fault of the interpretation is that it is too limited; it is only a corner of the full meaning. He who is “the True” alone can unlock the hidden treasures of truth. But the use of the word “David,” and the obvious derivation of the latter part of this verse from Isaiah 22:22, points to a wider meaning. Jesus Christ is the true Steward of the house of David. (Comp. Hebrews 3:2; Hebrews 3:5-6.) The faulty, self-seeking stewards, the Shebnas of Jerusalem and Philadelphia, vainly claimed a right of exclusion from synagogue or church, where Jesus, the God-fixed nail in the sure place, upon which the bundle of earth’s sorrows and sins might securely be suspended (Isaiah 22:23-25), the Eliakim of a greater Zion, had the key of the sacred and royal house. In this, the chamber of truth was one treasure, as the chamber of holiness, the chamber of rest, the chamber of spiritual privileges, were others. In other words, though in a sense the keys of spiritual advantages are in the hands of His servants, “He still retains the highest administration of them in His own hands.” The power of the keys entrusted to Apostles gave them no right to alter the “essentials of the gospel, or the fundamental principles of morality.” The absolution given by them can only be conditional, unless the giver of it possesses the infallible discerning of spirits. The reader of Dante will remember how the cases of Guido di Montefeltro (Inf. xxvii.) and of his son Buonconte (Purg. v.) illustrate the belief which sustained so many illustrious spirits (John Huss, Savanarola, Dante), and in times of unjust oppression, tyrannical ecclesiasticism, and which this passage sanctions, that
“Nought but repentance ever can absolve;
And that though sins be horrible; yet so wide arms
Hath goodness infinite, that it receives
All who turn to it.”
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.(8) I know thy works: behold, I have set (better, given) before thee an open door (better, a door opened).—A reference to the passages (Acts 14:27; 1Corinthians 16:8-9; 2Corinthians 2:12-13; Colossians 4:3) in which a similar expression is used reminds us that the open door was not simply a way of escape from difficulties, but an opening for preaching the gospel, an opportunity of doing good, as well as an abundant entrance into the kingdom.
For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.—The tenses used point back to some epoch in the history of this Church when some heavy trial or persecution arose, which tested the sincerity, fidelity, or Christian love of the faithful. “The reward then of a little strength is a door opened” (Dr. Vaughan).
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.(9) Behold, I will make.—Better, Behold, I give some. There is no word to express this in the original, but as a word must be supplied to complete the sense, it is better to adopt “some” than the “them” of the Authorised version, as it is not a promise that all of the synagogue of Satan should come.
Of the synagogue of Satan.—We have here a re-appearance of the same troubles which afflicted the Church of Smyrna: the fixed and contemptuous exclusiveness of the Judaising party was their trial. But there was a time coming (perhaps the hour of temptation spoken of in the next verse) when these faithful ones, now abused and excommunicated by the fanatical synagogue, would be courted, acknowledged—nay, their aid invoked.
I will make them to come and worship before my feet, and to know that I have loved thee.—Some see in this a hint that the power of a large-hearted party to protect the Judaisers would be derived from the influence of the Gentiles, whose presence in the Church had been a stumbling-block to the Jewish party. This may have been, and doubtless was, often the case. But the promise seems to have a higher fulfilment. The course of events would show that the so-called latitudinarian was the nearest to Christ; time would transform the suspected into the respected. The Amorites would come, and the disinherited Jephthahs would be brought to be head of Gilead. In days of such trouble their strongest opponents would become their warmest supporters. An illustration of this will occur to the mind of the reader in the marvellous support which has been given to the growth of Christianity by Jews with the tongue, with the pen, with the harp and organ. Let the names of Neander, Rossini, and Mendelssohn stand for hundreds more.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.(10) Because thou hast kept (better, didst keep) the word of my patience.—The one who keeps God’s word is kept. Such is “the benigna talio of the kingdom of God,” as Archbishop Trench calls it. The promise does not mean the being kept away from, but the being kept out from the tribulation. The head should be kept above the waters; they should not be ashamed, because they had kept the word of patience. It is through patience, as well as comfort of the Scripture that we have the hope which maketh not ashamed. (Comp. Romans 15:5, and Revelation 3:3-5.)
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.(11) Behold, I come.—Omit “Behold.” Better, I am coming quickly; hold fast; continue your race as those who are striving for a garland (1Corinthians 9:24).
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.(12) Will I make a pillar.—A pillar, and an unshaken one. There may be reference to the frequent earthquakes which had shaken down buildings in their city. Those who overcome will prove real supports to the great Christian temple. (Comp. Galatians 2:9.)
Write upon him.—Or, grave upon it. On the sides of the four marble pillars which survive as ruins of Philadelphia inscriptions are to be found. The writing would be the name of God, the name of the heavenly Jerusalem and (omit the repetition, “I will write upon him”) the new, unknown name of Christ Himself. The allusion is to the golden frontlet inscribed with the name of Jehovah. (Comp. Revelation 22:4.) He will reflect the likeness of God; and not only so, he will bear the tokens—now seen in all clearness—of his heavenly citizenship (Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:22-23). And a further promise implies that in the day of the last triumph, as there will be new revealings of Christ’s power, there will be unfolded to the faithful and victorious new and higher possibilities of purity. Thus does Scripture refuse to recognise any finality which is not a beginning as well as an end—a landing-stage in the great law of continuity. (See Revelation 2:17; Revelation 19:12.)
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;(14) Laodicea.—Situated half way between Philadelphia and Colossae, and not far from Hierapolis. It received its name from Laodice, wife of Antiochus the second king of Syria, by whom it was rebuilt and beautified. It had borne in earlier times the names of Diospolis and afterwards Rhoas. It shared with Thyatira and Sardis in the dye trade; the woods grown in the neighbourhood were famous for their quality and the rich blackness of their colour. Prosperity in trade had so enriched the population that when their city suffered in the great earthquake (A.D. 60) they were able to carry on the work of rebuilding without applying, as many of the neighbouring towns were compelled to do, to the Imperial Treasury for aid. The language of St. Paul (Colossians 1:5-8) suggests that the churches of Colossae and the neighbourhood first received Christianity from the preaching of Epaphras, though it seems strange that so important a city, lying hard upon the great Roman road from Ephesus to the east, should have been passed over by St. Paul in his journeyings throughout Phrygia (see Acts 16:6; Acts 18:23); yet, on the other hand, Phrygia was a vague term, and the language of Colossians 2:1 is most generally understood to imply that the Apostle had never personally visited either Colossae or Laodicea. (See Note on Colossians 2:1.) But it was a Church in which St. Paul took the deepest possible interest; the believers there were constantly in his mind. He knew their special temptations to the worship of inferior mediators, and to spiritual paralysis springing from wordly prosperity and intellectual pride. He had great heart-conflict for those of Laodicea (Colossians 3:1), and in proof of his earnest solicitude he addressed a letter to them (Colossians 4:16), in all probability the epistle we call the Epistle to the Ephesians. Prom the Epistle to the Colossians we may gather that when St. Paul wrote the Christians at Laodicea assembled for worship in the house of Nymphas (Colossians 4:15) probably under the presidency of Archippus (Revelation 3:17).
Unto the angel of the church (or, congregation) of the Laodiceans.—Better, in Laodicea. By the angel we understand the presiding pastor. There is some ground for identifying him with Archippus. It is too much to dismiss this as a baseless supposition. (See Note in Trench.) It is a well-supported view which understands the passage (Colossians 4:17) to mean that Archippus was a minister or office-bearer in the Church at Laodicea.
These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness.—The “Amen,” used only here as a personal name. It is the Hebrew word for verily, and may have some reference to Isaiah 65:16; but more certainly it seems chosen to recall the frequent use of it by our Lord Himself. He who so often prefaced His solemn utterance by “Verily, verily,” now reveals Himself as the source of all certainty and truth. In Him is Yea, and in Him Amen (2Corinthians 1:20). In Him there is no conjecture, or guess-work; for He is (and the Greek equivalents of the Hebrew Amen are used following) the faithful and true witness, who speaks what He knows, and testifies what He has seen (John 3:11). “Faithful” is to be taken here as meaning trustworthy. The word sometimes means trustful (John 20:27; Acts 14:1), at other times, trustworthy (2Timothy 2:22; 1Thessalonians 5:24). In the Arian controversy, the application of the word to Christ was used as an argument against His divinity; it was enough to show in reply that the same word was applied to God, and expressed His faithfulness to His word and promise (1Thessalonians 5:21). “True”—He is not only trustworthy as a witness, but He combines in Himself all those qualifications which a witness ought to possess. The same word is used here as in Revelation 3:7, where see Note. Trench suggests the three things necessary to constitute a true witness. He must have been an eyewitness of what He relates, possess competence to relate what He has seen, and be willing to do so.
The beginning (better, the origination) of the creation of God.—This title of our Lord does not occur in the Epistles to the other churches, but very closely resembles the language used by St. Paul in writing to the Colossians (Colossians 1:15-18). The “beginning,” not meaning that Christ was the first among the created, but that He was the origination, or primary source of all creation. By Him were all things made (John 1:1-3 : comp. Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18), not with Him, but by Him creation began. In short, the word “beginning” (like the word “faithful”) must be understood in an active sense. He has originating power (Acts 3:14) as well as priority of existence. The appropriateness of its use will be seen when we remember that the Laodicean Church was exposed to the temptation of worshipping inferior principalities. (See Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15, where the plural of the word here rendered “beginning,” or origin, is used, and is translated “principalities.”)
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.(15, 16) Neither cold nor hot.—The “heat” here is the glowing, fervent zeal and devotion which is commended and commanded elsewhere (Romans 12:11). It is not, however, the self-conscious, galvanised earnestness which, in days of senile pietism, passes for zeal. It is an earnestness which does not know itself earnest, being all too absorbed in its work. It is self-forgetful, and so self-sacrificing, rather than ambitious of self-sacrifice. It is, in short, kindled of God, and sustained by
converse with the Divine One (Luke 24:32), and restored by intercourse with Him (see Revelation 3:20; comp. 1John 4:15-20). The “cold” describes the state of those who are as yet untouched by the Gospel of Love. An intermediate state between these is the “lukewarm”; such are neither earnest for God nor utterly indifferent to religion. They are, perhaps, best described as those who take an interest in religion, but whose worship of their idol of good taste, or good form, leads them to regard enthusiasm as ill-bred, and disturbing; and who have never put themselves to any inconvenience, braved any reproach, or abandoned any comfort for Christ's sake, but hoped to keep well with the world, while they flattered themselves that they stood well with God; who were in danger of betraying their Master, Judas-like, with a kiss. With the denunciation of “lukewarmness” here we may compare the exhortation to greater ministerial earnestness addressed to Archippus (Colossians 4:17).
I would . . . .—The wish is not that they might grow cold rather than remain in this lukewarm state, it is more a regret that they are among those who are in a condition which is so liable to self-deception; such a state is “both to God displeasing and to His foes.” And this is expressed in startling language, “I am about (such is the force of the words) to spue thee . . . .”
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:(17) I am rich.—The verse means, more literally, Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have grown rich, and in nothing have need, and knowest not that thou art the wretched (such is the emphasis) one, and the pitiable one, and beggarly, and blind, and naked. Thou art “the type, the embodiment of wretchedness.” The words should, I think, be taken as an amplification of the reason for their rejection. Christ was about to reject them for being in that tepid state which, beginning with self-satisfaction, led on to self- deception. They were rich in worldly goods (unlike the Church in Smyrna), but their very wealth led them into a quiet unaggressively kind of religion; they were proud also of their intellectual wealth; self- complacent because in comfortable worldly circumstances, and became puffed up with a vain philosophy, they learned to be satisfied with their spiritual state, and to believe the best of themselves, and then to believe in themselves. Hypocrites they were, who did not know they were hypocrites. They thought themselves good; and this self-deception was their danger. “For,” to use Prof. Mozley’s words, “why should a man repent of his goodness? He may well repent, indeed, of his falsehood; but unhappily the falsehood of it is just the thing he does not see, and which he cannot see by the very law of his character. The Pharisee did not know he was a Pharisee. If he had known it, he would not have been a Pharisee. The victim of passion, then, may be converted—the gay, the thoughtless, or the ambitious; he whom human glory has intoxicated; he whom the show of life has ensnared; he whom the pleasures of sense have captivated—they may be converted any one of these; but who is to convert the hypocrite? He does not know he is a hypocrite; he cannot upon the very basis of his character; he must think himself sincere; and the more he is in the shackles of his own character, i.e., the greater hypocrite he is, the more sincere he must think himself” (University Sermons, p. 34).
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.(18) I counsel thee to buy.—There is, perhaps, a touch of irony here. How could the poor and naked buy? But the irony has no sting, for the counsel but recalled the invitation of the prophet to buy “without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1).
Gold—i.e., golden coin, “tried,” or, fired out of fire, and so free from alloy or dross. Trench suggests that “gold” here stands for faith. Does not, however, the self-deceiving state of this Church rather point to love as the missing grace? The Laodiceans were as those who had many graces in appearance; they were not unlike one who had gifts, tongues, understanding, liberality, but lacked that fervent love without which all was as nothing (1Corinthians 13:1-3); or, to use Trench’s own image, they were lacking in the only grace accepted as currency in the kingdom of God.
“O merchantman at heaven’s mart for heavenly ware,
Love is the only coin which passes there.”
But the possession of this love would bring their zeal out of the tepid into the fervent state. Such love, pure and fervent, could only spring from God, who would shed abroad His love in their hearts (Romans 5:5).
White raiment.—The putting on of apparel and the stripping of it off were tokens of honour and humiliation. (See 2Samuel 10:1; Isa. 67:2,3; Hosea 2:3; Hosea 2:9; Zechariah 3:3-5; Revelation 16:15; Luke 15:22.) The wedding-feast was at hand. The unclad would then be put to shame (Matthew 22:11-13). Let them be prepared against this by putting on Christ (Colossians 3:10-14) and His righteousness (Philippians 3:9), that the shame of their nakedness do not appear—or, much better, be not made manifest.
Eyesalve.—They were blind; they were proud of their intellectual wealth; they boasted of their enlightenment. (Comp. Colossians 2:8.) Self-deceived, they thought, like the Pharisees, that they saw. (Comp. John 9:40-41.) Better would it be for them that they should receive the anointing of the Holy One (1John 2:20), which would teach them all things, and especially reveal to them their self-ignorance. This anointing might be painful, but “the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened” (such is the remarkably parallel thought in the Epistle to the Ephesians), and they would be enabled to see and appreciate things spiritual. (Comp. John 9:7; John 9:25; 1Corinthians 2:10-14; Ephesians 1:18; Ephesians 5:19.)
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.(19) I rebuke and chasten.—The first word is that used in the work of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8), and signifies to bring conviction; it is not empty censure. The second word signifies to educate by means of correction. The pronoun is emphatic, “I,” and calls attention to the fidelity of Christ’s love in comparison with the weak partiality seen in human love. (Comp. Hebrews 12:6.)
Be zealous.—Or, be in a constant zealous state; and now, once for all, repent.
(2°) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.—It is difficult not to see an allusion in this image to Song of Solomon 5:2-6. Perhaps, also, the memory of the first night spent by St. John with his Master and Friend (John 1:39) may have been strong in his mind. Indeed, the life of Christ on earth teems with illustrations which may well have suggested the image (Luke 10:38; Luke 19:5-6; Luke 22:11-13; Luke 24:29-30).
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.(21) To him that overcometh ... .—He will share Christ’s throne as Christ shared His Father’s throne. Here are two thrones mentioned. My throne, saith Christ: this is the condition of glorified saints who sit with Christ in His throne. “But My Father’s (i.e., God’s) throne is the power of divine majesty.” Herein none may sit but God, and the God-man Jesus Christ. The promise of sharing the throne is the climax of an ascending series of glorious promises, which carry the thought from the Garden of Eden (Revelation 2:7) through the wilderness (Revelation 2:17), the temple (Revelation 3:12), to the throne. The promise bears marked resemblance to the language of St. Paul to the Ephesians (Ephesians 2:6). This crowning promise is made to the most unpleasing of the churches. But it is well that thus the despondency which often succeeds the sudden collapse of self-satisfied imaginations should be met by so bright a prospect. Though their religion has been proved an empty thing, there is a hope which may well drive away despair. “The highest place is within the reach of the lowest; the faintest spark of grace may be fanned into the mightiest flame of divine love.”