Vincent's Word Studies
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.
The capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It was situated in a plain watered by the river Pactolus. The city was of very ancient origin. Herodotus (i., 84) gives the account of its siege and capture by Cyrus, and of its previous fortification by an old king, Meles. It was ruled by a series of able princes, the last of whom was Croesus, celebrated for his wealth and his misfortunes. In the earlier part of his reign he extended his dominion over the whole of Asia Minor, with the exception of Lycia and Cilicia. The Lydian rule was terminated by the conquest of Cyrus. From the Persians it passed into the hands of Alexander the Great, after which, for the next three hundred years, its fortunes are obscure. In b.c. 214 it was taken and sacked by Antiochus the Great after a siege of two years. The kings of Pergamus next succeeded to the dominion, and from them it passed into the hands of the Romans.
In the time of Tiberius it was desolated by an earthquake, together with eleven or twelve other important cities of Asia, and the calamity was increased by a pestilence.
Sardis was in very early times an important commercial city. Pliny says that the art of dyeing wool was invented there, and it was the entrept of the dyed woolen manufactures, carpets, etc., the raw material for which was furnished by the flocks of Phrygia. It was also the place where the metal electrum was procured. Gold was found in the bed of the Pactolus. Silver and gold coins are said to have been first minted there, and it was at one time known as a slave-mart. The impure worship of the goddess Cybele was celebrated there, and the massive ruins of her temple are still to be seen. The city is now a heap of ruins. In 1850 no human being found a dwelling there.
The seven Spirits of God
See on Revelation 1:4.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Be watchful (γίνου γρηγορῶν)
That are ready to die (ἃ μέλλει ἀποθανεῖν)
Read ἔμελλον were ready or about (to die).
I have not found thy works (οὐ εὕρηκά σου τὰ ἔργα)
Some texts omit the article before works, in which case we should render, I have found no works of thine. So Rev.
Lit., fulfilled. So Rev.
The best texts insert μου, "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.
Thou hast received and heard (εἴληφας καὶ ἤκουσας)
The former of these verbs is in the perfect tense: thou hast received the truth as a permanent deposit. It remains with thee whether thou regardest it or not. The latter verb is ill the aorist tense, didst hear (so Rev.), denoting merely the act of hearing when it took place.
See on Revelation 3:2.
As a thief (ὡς κλέπτης)
Thief, as distinguished from hp λῃστής robber, a plunderer on a larger scale, who secures his booty not by stealth, but by violence. Hence the word is appropriate here to mark the unexpected and stealthy coming of the Lord. Compare 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10.
Thou shalt not know what hour l will come upon thee
The Greek proverb says that the feet of the avenging deities are shod with wool. The sentiment is voiced in the two following fragments from Aeschylus:
"Whether one sleep or walk or sit at ease,
Unseen and voiceless Justice dogs his steps,
Striking athwart his path from right or left;
Nor what is foully done will night conceal:
Whate'er thou doest some God beholdeth thee."
"And dost thou deem that thou shalt e'er o'ercome
Wisdom divine? That retribution lies
Somewhere remote from mortals? Close at hand,
Unseen itself, it sees and knows full well
Whom it befits to smite. But thou know'st not
The hour when, swift and sudden, it shall come
And sweep away the wicked from the earth."
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.
Thou hast a few names
The best texts insert ἀλλὰ but between these words and the close of the preceding verse. So Rev. But, notwithstanding the general apathy of the Church, thou hast a few, etc. Compare Revelation 3:1, thou hast a name, and see on Revelation 11:13. Names is equivalent to persons, a few who may be rightly named as exceptions to the general conception.
Even in Sardis
Omit καὶ even.
See on 1 Peter 1:4.
See the same figure, Jde 1:23. The meaning is, have not sullied the purity of their Christian life.
In white (ἐν λευκοῖς)
With ἱματίοις garments understood. See on Revelation 2:17, and compare Zechariah 3:3, Zechariah 3:5. "White colors are suitable to the gods" (Plato, "Laws," xii., 956). So Virgil, of the tenants of Elysium:
"Lo, priests of holy life and chaste while they in life had part;
Lo, god-loved poets, men who spake things worthy Phoebus' heart:
And they who bettered life on earth by new-found mastery;
And they whose good deeds left a tale for men to name them by:
And all they had their brows about with snowy fillets bound."
"Aeneid," vi., 661-665
The same shall be clothed (οὗτος περιβαλεῖται)
For οὗτος this, or the same, read οὕτως thus: "shall thus be arrayed." so Rev. The verb denotes a solemn investiture, and means literally to throw or put around.
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.
Book of life
I will confess (ἐξομλογήσομαι)
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
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;
Seventy-five miles southeast of Sardis. The second city in Lydia. The adjacent region was celebrated as a wine-growing district, and its coins bore the head of Bacchus and the figure of a Bacchante. The population included Jews, Jewish Christians, and converts from heathenism. It suffered from frequent earthquakes. Of all the seven churches it had the longest duration of prosperity as a Christian city. It still exists as a Turkish town under the name of Allah Shehr, City of God. The situation is picturesque, the town being built on four or five hills, and well supplied with trees, and the climate is healthful. One of the mosques is believed by the native Christians to have been the gathering-place of the church addressed in Revelation. "One solitary pillar of high antiquity has been often noticed as reminding beholders of the words in Revelation 3:12 : 'Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.'"
He that is holy (ὁ ἅγιος)
See on Acts 26:10. Christ is called holy, Acts 2:27; Acts 13:35; Hebrews 7:26; in all which passages the word, however, is ὅσιος, which is holy by sanction, applied to one who diligently observes all the sanctities of religion. It is appropriate to Christ, therefore, as being the one in whom these eternal sanctities are grounded and reside. Ἅγιος, the word used here, refers rather to separation from evil.
He that is true (ὁ ἀληθινὸς)
See on John 1:9. Αληθινὸς is not merely, genuine as contrasted with the absolutely false, but as contrasted with that which is only subordinately or typically true. It expresses the perfect realization of an idea as contrasted with its partial realization. Thus, Moses gave bread, but the Father giveth the true bread (τὸν ἄρτον τὸν ἀληθινόν). Israel was a vine of God's planting (Psalm 80:8), Christ is the true (ἡ ἀληθινὴ) vine (John 15:1). The word is so characteristic of John that, while found only once in the Synoptic Gospels, once in a Pauline Epistle, and four times in the Epistle to the Hebrews, it occurs nine times in the fourth Gospel, four times in John's First Epistle, and ten times in Revelation, and in every instance in these three latter books in its own distinctive signification.
The key of David
See on Revelation 1:18, and compare Isaiah 22:22. David is the type of Christ, the supreme ruler of the kingdom of heaven. See Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23; Ezekiel 37:24. The house of David is the typical designation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Psalm 122:5). The holding of the keys, the symbols of power, thus belongs to Christ as Lord of the kingdom and Church of God. See on Matthew 16:19 : He admits and excludes at His pleasure.
No man shutteth (οὐδεὶς κλείει)
Read κλείσει shall shut So Rev.
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.
I have set (δέδωκα)
Lit., I have given. For a similar phrase see Luke 12:51.
An open door (θύραν ἀνεῳγμένην)
Rev., more literally, a door opened. This is variously explained. Some refer it to the entrance into the joy of the Lord; others to the initiation into the meaning of scripture; others again to the opportunity for the mission-work of the Church. In this last sense the phrase is often used by Paul. See 1 Corinthians 16:9; 2 Corinthians 2:12; Colossians 4:3. Compare Acts 14:27. I have given is appropriate, since all opportunities of service are gifts of God. See on Revelation 2:7.
For thou hast (ὅτι ἔχεις)
Some texts make behold-shut parenthetical, and render ὅτι that, defining thy works, etc. So Rev.
A little strength (μικρὰν δύναμιν)
This would mean, thou hast some power, though small. Many, however, omit the indefinite article in translating, and render thou hast little strength; i.e., thou art poor in numbers and worldly resources. So Alford, Trench, and Dsterdieck.
Hast kept my word (ἐτήρησάς μου τὸν λόγον)
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.
I will make (δίδωμι)
Rev., rightly, I give. See on Revelation 3:8. The sense is broken off there and resumed here.
Of the synagogue (ἐκ τῆς συναγωγῆς)
Certain ones of the synagogue. Most interpreters refer to the Jews. Others explain more generally, of the bowing down of the Church's enemies at her feet. Trench refers to a passage in the Epistle of Ignatius to this Philadelphian church, implying the actual presence in the midst of it of converts from Judaism, who preached the faith which they once persecuted.
See on Revelation 2:9.
I will make them to come (ποιήσω αὐτοὺς ἵνα ἥξωσιν)
Lit., I will make them that they shall come.
Worship before thy feet
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.
The word of my patience (τὸν λόγον τῆς ὑπομονῆς μου)
Not the words which Christ has spoken concerning patience, but the word of Christ which requires patience to keep it; the gospel which teaches the need o a patient waiting for Christ. On patience, see on 2 Peter 1:6; see on James 5:7.
From the hour (ἐκ)
The preposition implies, not a keeping from temptation, but a keeping in temptation, as the result of which they shall be delivered out of its power. Compare John 17:15.
Of temptation (τοῦ πειρασμοῦ)
See on Luke 2:1
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
That no one take thy crown (ἵνα μηδεὶς λάβῃ τὸν στέφανον)
Take it away. The idea is not that of one believer stepping into the place which was designed for another, but of an enemy taking away from another the reward which he himself has forfeited. The expression is explained by Colossians 2:18. It is related by Mahomet that, after having attempted, in vain, to convert one Abdallah to the faith, and having been told by him to go about his business and to preach only to those who should come to him - he went, downcast, to a friend's house. His friend, perceiving that he was sad, asked him the reason; and on being told of Abdallah's insult, said, "Treat him gently; for I swear that when God sent thee to us, we had already strung pearls to crown him, and he seeth that thou hast snatched the kingdom out of his grasp." For crown, see on Revelation 2:10. Thy crown is not the crown which thou hast, but the crown which thou shalt have if thou shalt prove faithful.
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.
The word occurs, Galatians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:15; Revelation 10:1. The reference here is not to any prominence in the earthly church, as Galatians 2:9, but to blessedness in the future state. The exact meaning is doubtful. Some explain, he shall have a fixed and important place in the glorified church. Compare Matthew 19:28. Others emphasize the idea of stability, and find a possible local reference to the frequent earthquakes from which Philadelphia had suffered, and which had shaken its temples. Strabo says: "And Philadelphia has not even its walls unimpaired, but daily they are shaken in some way, and gaps are made in them. But the inhabitants continue to occupy the land notwithstanding their sufferings, and to build new houses." Others again emphasize the idea of beauty. Compare 1 Peter 2:5, where the saints are described living stones.
See on Matthew 4:5.
The conqueror, not the pillar. Compare Revelation 7:3; Revelation 9:4; Revelation 14:1; Revelation 22:4. Probably with reference to the golden plate inscribed with the name of Jehovah, and worn by the High-Priest upon his forehead (Exodus 28:36, Exodus 28:38). See on Revelation 2:17.
See Ezekiel 48:35. The believer whose brow is adorned with this name has the freedom of the heavenly city. Even on earth his commonwealth is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). "Still, his citizenship was latent: he was one of God's hidden ones; but now he is openly avouched, and has a right to enter in by the gates to the city" (Trench). The city is called by John, the great and holy (Revelation 21:10); by Matthew, the holy city (Matthew 4:5); by Paul, Jerusalem which is above (Galatians 4:6); by the writer to the Hebrews, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:22). Plato calls his ideal city Callipolis, the fair city ("Republic," vii., 527), and the name Ouranopolis, heavenly city, was applied to Rome and Byzantium. For new (καινῆς), see on Matthew 26:29. The new Jerusalem is not a city freshly built (νέα), but is new (καινὴ) in contrast with the old, outworn, sinful city. In the Gospel John habitually uses the Greek and civil form of the name, Ἰεροσόλυμα; in Revelation, the Hebrew and more holy appellation, ἱερουσάλημ.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
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;
Of the Laodiceans (Ααοδικέων)
Read ἐν Ααοδικείᾳ in Laodicea. Laodicea means justice of the people. As Laodice was a common name among the ladies of the royal house of the Seleucidae, the name was given to several cities in Syria and Asia Minor. The one here addressed was on the confines of Phrygia and Lydia, about forty miles east of Ephesus, and was known as Laodicea on the Lycus. It had born successively the names of Diospolis and Rhoas, and was named Laodicea when refounded by Antiochus Theos, b.c. 261-246. It was situated on a group of hills between two tributaries of the Lycus - the Asopus and the Caprus. Towards the end of the Roman Republic, and under the first emperors, it became one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor. One of its citizens, Hiero, bequeathed all his enormous property to the people, and adorned the city with costly gifts. It was the seat of large money transactions and of an extensive trade in wood. The citizens developed a taste for Greek art, and were distinguished in science and literature. Laodicea was the seat of a great medical school. During the Roman period it was the chief city of a Roman conventus or political district, in which courts were held by the proconsul of the province, and where the taxes from the subordinate towns were collected. Cicero held his court there, and many of his letters were written thence. The conventus represented by Laodicea comprised not less than twenty-five towns, and inscriptions refer to the city as "the metropolis." The Greek word διοίκηδις, corresponding to the Latin conventus was subsequently applied to an ecclesiastical district, and appears in diocese. The tutelary deity of the city was Zeus (Jupiter). Hence its earlier name, Diospolis, or City of Zeus. Many of its inhabitants were Jews. It was subject to frequent earthquakes, which eventually resulted in its abandonment. It is now a deserted place, but its ruins indicate by their magnitude its former importance. Among these are a racecourse, and three theatres, one of which is four hundred and fifty feet in diameter. An important church council was held there in the fourth century.
Used only here as a proper name. See Isaiah 65:16, where the correct rendering is the God of the Amen, instead of A.V. God of truth. The term applied to the Lord signifies that He Himself is the fulfilment of all that God has spoken to the churches.
The word occurs in the New Testament in two senses: trusty, faithful Matthew 24:45; Matthew 25:21, Matthew 25:23; Luke 12:42); and believing, confiding (John 20:27; Galatians 3:9; Acts 16:1). Of God, necessarily only in the former sense.
See on Revelation 3:7. The veracity of Christ is thus asserted in the word faithful, true being not true as distinguished from false, but true to the normal idea of a witness.
The beginning (ἡ ἀρχή)
The beginner, or author; not as Colossians 1:15, the first and most excellent creature of God's hands. "The stress laid in the Epistle to the Colossians on the inferiority of those to whom the self-same name of ἀρχαὶ, beginnings principalities was given... to the One who was the true beginning, or, if we might venture on an unfamiliar use of a familiar word, the true Principality of God's creation, may account for the prominence which the name had gained, and therefore for its use here in a message addressed to a church exposed, like that of Colossae, to the risks of angelolatry, of the substitution of lower principalities and created mediators for Him who was the Head over all things to His Church" (Plumptre). Compare Hebrews 12:2, ἀρχηγὸν leader.
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
Attached to the world and actively opposed to the Church. "This," as Alford remarks, "as well as the opposite state of spiritual fervor, would be an intelligible and plainly-marked condition; at all events free from the danger of mixed motive and disregarded principle which belongs to the lukewarm state: inasmuch as a man in earnest, be he right or wrong, is ever a better man than one professing what he does not feel."
From ζέω to boil or seethe. See on fervent, Acts 18:25.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Only here in the New Testament.
Foremost and most numerous among the lost, Dante places those who had been content to remain neutral in the great contest between good and evil.
"Master, what is this which now Ihear?
What folk is this, which seems by pain so vanquished?
And he to me: "This miserable mode
Maintain the melancholy souls of those
Who lived withouten infamy or praise.
Commingled are they with that caitiff choir.
Of angels, who have not rebellious been,
Nor faithful were to God, but were for self.
The heavens expelled them, not to be less fair;
Nor them the nethermore abyss receives,
For glory none the damned would have from them."
"Inferno," iii., 33-42.
I will (μέλλω)
I am about or have in mind. Not a declaration of immediate and inexorable doom, but implying a possibility of the determination being changed.
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:
Because thou sayest
Connect, as A.V. and Rev., with what follows, not with what precedes. Some interpret I will spue thee out of my mouth because thou sayest, etc.
Increased with goods (πεπλούτηκα)
Rev., have gotten riches. The reference is to imagined spiritual riches, not to worldly possessions.
Wretched (ὁ ταλαίπωρος)
Rev., better, giving the force of the article, the wretched one. From τλάω to endure, and πειρά a trial.
Only here and 1 Corinthians 15:19. An object of pity (ἔλεος).
See on Matthew 5:3.
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.
I counsel (συμβουλεύω)
With a certain irony. Though He might command, yet He advises those who are, in their own estimation, supplied with everything.
Compare Isaiah 4:1; Matthew 13:44, Matthew 13:46. Those who think themselves rich, and yet have just been called beggars by the Lord, are advised by Him to buy. The irony, however, covers a sincere and gracious invitation. The goods of Christ are freely given, yet they have their price - renunciation of self and of the world.
Often of gold money or ornaments. So 1 Peter 1:18; Acts 3:6; 1 Peter 3:3. Also of native gold and gold which has been smelted and wrought (Hebrews 9:4). There may very properly be a reference to the extensive money transactions of Laodicea.
Tried in the fire (πεπυρωμένον ἐκ πορὸς)
The verb means to burn, to be on fire: in the perfect passive, as here, kindled, made to glow; thence melted by fire, and so refined. Rev., refined by, fire. By fire is, literally, out of the fire (ἐκ; see on Revelation 2:7).
Rev., garments. See on Revelation 3:4.
Mayest be clothed (περιβάλῃ)
Rev., more literally, mayest clothe thyself. See on Revelation 3:5.
Do not appear (μὴ φανερωθῇ)
Rev., more literally, be not made manifest. See on John 21:1. Stripping and exposure is a frequent method of putting to open shame. See 2 Samuel 10:4; Isaiah 20:4; Isaiah 47:2-3; Ezekiel 16:37. Compare also Matthew 22:11-13; Colossians 3:10-14.
Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve (κολλούριον ἔγχρισον τοὺς ὀφθαλμούς σου)
The correct reading is ἔγχρισαι, the infinitive, to anoint, instead of the imperative. So Rev., eye-salve to anoint thine eyes. Κολλούριον, of which the Latin collyrium is a transcript, is a diminutive of κολλύρα a roll of coarse bread. See 1 Kings 14:3, Sept.; A.V., cracknels. Here applied to a roll or stick of ointment for the eyes. Horace, describing his Brundisian journey, relates how, at one point, he was troubled with inflamed eyes, and anointed them with black eye-salve (nigra collyria. Sat., i., v., 30). Juvenal, describing a superstitious woman, says: "If the corner of her eye itches when rubbed, she consults her horoscope before calling for salve" (collyria; vi., 577). The figure sets forth the spiritual anointing by which the spiritual vision is purged. Compare Augustine, "Confessions," vii., 7, 8. "Through my own swelling was I separated from Thee; yea, my pride-swollen face closed up mine eyes.... It was pleasing in Thy sight to reform my deformities; and by inward goads didst Thou rouse me, that I should be ill at ease until Thou wert manifested to my inward sight. Thus, by the secret hand of Thy medicining, was my swelling abated, and the troubled and bedimmed eyesight of my mind, by the smarting anointings of healthful sorrows, was from day to day healed." Compare 1 John 2:20, 1 John 2:27.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
As many as Ilove
In the Greek order I stands first as emphatic.
See on John 3:20. Rev., reprove.
See on Luke 23:16.
Be zealous (ζήλευε)
The verb is akin to ζεστός hot in Revelation 3:16, on which see note.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
I stand at the door and knock
Compare Sol 5:2, Κρούω I knock was regarded as a less classical word than κόπτω. Κρούω is to knock with the knuckles, to rap; κόπτω, with a heavy blow; ψοφεῖν of the knocking of some one within the door, warning one without to withdraw when the door is opened. Compare James 5:9. "He at whose door we ought to stand (for He is the Door, who, as such, has bidden us to knock), is content that the whole relation between Him and us should be reversed, and, instead of our standing at His door, condescends Himself to stand at ours" (Trench). The Greeks had a word θυραυλεῖν for a lover waiting at the door of his beloved. Trench cites a passage from Nicolaus Cabasilas, a Greek divine of the fourteenth century: "Love for men emptied God (Philippians 2:7). For He doth not abide in His place and summon to Himself the servant whom He loved; but goes Himself and seeks him; and He who is rich comes to the dwelling of the poor, and discloses His love, and seeks an equal return; nor does He withdraw from him who repels Him, nor is He disgusted at his insolence; but, pursuing him, remains sitting at his doors, and that He may show him the one who loves him, He does all things, and sorrowing, bears and dies."
Christ not only knocks but speaks. "The voice very often will interpret and make intelligible the purpose of the knock" (Trench).
Hear - open the door
No irresistible grace.
Will sup (δειπνήσω)
See on Luke 14:12. For the image, compare Sol 5:2-6; Sol 4:16; Sol 2:3. Christ is the Bread of Life, and invites to the great feast. See Matthew 8:11; Matthew 25:1 sqq. The consummation will be at the marriage-supper of the Lamb (Mark 14:25; Revelation 19:7-9).
He with me
It is characteristic of John to note the sayings of Christ which express the reciprocal relations of Himself and His followers. See John 6:56; John 10:38; John 14:20; John 15:4, John 15:5; John 17:21, John 17:26. Compare John 14:23.
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.
He that overcometh
See on Revelation 2:7.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.