Revelation 3:3
Remember, then, what you have received and heard. Keep it and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know the hour when I will come upon you.
A Dead ChurchD. Tasker, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
A Life Akin to DeathC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 3:1-6
A Living ChurchH. Cooke, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
A Name to LiveT. Guthrie, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
A Show of LifeH. Macmillan, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
Christ's Message to the FormalistJ. J. Ellis.Revelation 3:1-6
Death in the ChurchA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
Formalism and True ChristianityC. Garrett.Revelation 3:1-6
God Knows the Works of MenW. Fenner, B. D.Revelation 3:1-6
Moral DeathWm. Fenner, B. D.Revelation 3:1-6
Nominal ReligionJ. W. Cunningham.Revelation 3:1-6
On Formality and Hypocrisy in ReligionS. Lavington.Revelation 3:1-6
SardisJ. Hyatt.Revelation 3:1-6
Sardis -- the Fickle ChurchA. Mackennal, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
Semblances of LifeC. Bowes.Revelation 3:1-6
Some Causes of Spiritual DeathC. P. Thwing.Revelation 3:1-6
That a Minister May be in Fault that the People are DeadWm. Fenner, B. D.Revelation 3:1-6
The Address to SardisG. Rogers.Revelation 3:1-6
The Epistle to the Church At SardisS. Conway Revelation 3:1-6
The Epistle to the Church in SardisR. Green Revelation 3:1-6
The Semblance of LifeC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 3:1-6
The Seven Spirits of GodA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
The State of All Men Known to ChristD. Wilcox.Revelation 3:1-6
The Warning Voice Re-Echoed from SardisJohn Gibson, B. D.Revelation 3:1-6
The Words of Christ to the Congregation At SardisD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 3:1-6
The Words of Christ to the Congregation At SardisD. Thomas Revelation 3:1-6
Uselessness of Mere ProfessionJ. Trapp.Revelation 3:1-6
WorksH. H. Gowen.Revelation 3:1-6
God Will Search Whether We be PerfectWm. Fenner, B. D.Revelation 3:2-3
IndifferenceBp. Woodford.Revelation 3:2-3
Methods to be Taken for the Revival of ReligionD. Some.Revelation 3:2-3
Perfect the Work of Grace in the SoulC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 3:2-3
SardisJ. Hyatt.Revelation 3:2-3
Spiritual ConsumptionHomilistRevelation 3:2-3
Spiritual Graces Need InvigorationThomas Marten.Revelation 3:2-3
The Decline of Religion -- its Causes and RemediesJohn Griffin.Revelation 3:2-3
The Duty of Holding Fast the TruthJ. T. Judkin, M. A.Revelation 3:2-3
The Evidences and Causes of the Decay of Religion in the SoulT. Boston, D. D.Revelation 3:2-3
The True Method of Securing a RevivalF. Wagstaff.Revelation 3:2-3
The Weak Things of the SoulJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 3:2-3

Were any one visiting the actual sites where the several Churches spoken of in these letters once stood, he would, ere he came to Sardis, have gone a long way round the circle on the circumference of which they all were. Beginning with Ephesus at the southern end, and proceeding northwards along the seashore, he next would come to Smyrna, then to Pergamos, then to Thyatira, and then, coming down the inland side of the rude circle we have imagined, he would reach Sardis, and proceeding on would come first to Philadelphia and then to Laodicea, the last of the seven. But now we have come to Sardis - a notable city in the ancient world, because associated with the great names of Cyrus, Croesus, and Alexander. With this historic fame, however, we have nought to do, but with the religious condition of the Church there as shown in this letter. And, as in all the previous letters, so here, the title assumed by the Lord Jesus has special reference to the condition and need of the Church addressed. Ephesus needed encouragement and warning alike. The Lord, therefore, speaks of himself as "he who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand." Smyrna needed strong support under her heavy trial. The Lord therefore speaks to them as "The First and the Last, who," etc. Pergamos needed that the Word of God should be sharply and severely brought to bear upon her. The Lord therefore tells of himself as "he who hath the sharp sword with the two edges," etc. Thyatira needed to be reminded of the holy and awful wrath of the Lord against such as she was harbouring in her midst. The Lord therefore declares himself to be "he whose eyes are as a flame of fire," etc. And now this Church of Sardis needed to be won back again to true godliness, for though she had a name that she lived, she was dead. The Lord therefore speaks of himself to her as "he who hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." Now note how this name of the Lord bears -


1. It was not that of others. Nought is said of Nicolaitans and followers of Balaam, or of such as Jezebel was. Nothing of false doctrines or of vicious life. These things which are denounced so terribly in other letters are not charged against this Church, and we may therefore assume that they could, perhaps they did, thank God that they were not as those other Churches were.

2. Nor was it that they did nothing. On the contrary, their works are mentioned repeatedly. No doubt there were all wonted ministries, religious observances, charities, and missions. There must have been, for:

3. They were no scandal to others. On the contrary, they had a name, a reputation, an honourable character, as a living Church. Laodicea deceived herself, thinking she was rich; but it is not said she deceived others. This Church, Sardis, did deceive others; she was reckoned by them to be really living, though in fact she was dead; and very probably she had deceived herself also. But:

4. Their works were not perfect before God. Well enough before men, but before him quite otherwise. They were of such sort that he said of those who did them, that they were "dead." They were done, as were the prayers, alms, and lastings of the hypocrites, "to be seen of men." Assuredly not with single eye or with pure motive. They had their reward: people talked of them, and gave them credit as having life. But before God they were dead. Let us remember that it is as "before God everything is to be estimated. Let all who engage in any form of Christian service remember this. It is terribly apt to be forgotten. Remember how St. Paul said, It is a small thing to me to be judged of you or of any human judgment: he that judgeth me is the Lord; I labour to be accepted of him." The one question for us all is, how will our work appear before God? For:

5. Their condition was one most displeasing to him. The severe tone of the letter proves this. True, we have had such severity before, and shall have it again; for rebuke, and often stern rebuke, was what was needed then and still is by the majority of Churches, always and everywhere. Nevertheless, there is no one of these letters in which the tone is more severe, or the smiting of the Sword of the Spirit sharper, or the solemnity of the appeals addressed to them more arousing or impressive. The epistle to Laodicea is the only one which can be compared with it, and it is to be noticed that the wrong in that Church, whilst very great, is like this in Sardis, that it is free from the foul stains tither of vice or heresy. In the sight of the Lord of the Church there is, it is evident, something more hateful to him than even these. Love to the Lord may linger in hearts even where these are; but if love, the true life of every Church and every individual soul, be gone, then are they to be described as none others are, for they are "dead." Hence in this letter there is no softening, mitigating utterance at all, no mention of good works, but the keynote of the epistle is struck at once, and a startling one it is. But:

6. What was the cause of it all? Now the name our Lord takes to himself in this letter reveals this cause. He by that name declares that in him and from him is all-sufficient grace. Treasure store inexhaustible, riches unsearchable, both for pastor and people. For his were "the seven Spirits of God," and his "the seven stars." And yet, in spite of all this, they were as they were. Oh, was it not shameful, is it not shameful, utterly inexcusable, when the like exists now, that, though abundance of grace is in Christ for us all, we should yet be what he terms "dead"? It was plain, therefore, they had not sought that grace; the fulness of the Spirit's help neither pastor nor people had implored; and so, as we find, they had given in to the world's ways. It is evident from the honourable mention of the "few" who had "not defiled their garments," that the rest had. That is to say, they had given in to the world's ways. Hence St. James speaks of pure religion as being in part this, "Keeping your garments unspotted from the world." And in proof of this there seems to have been a good understanding between the Church and the world at Sardis. They seem to have got along together very well. In every other Church, save this and Laodicea, mention is made of some "burden" which the enmity of the surrounding world laid upon the Church. But not here. As it has been well said (Archbishop Trench), "The world could endure it because it, too, was a world." This Church had nothing of the spirit of the "two witnesses" (Revelation 11:10) who "tormented them that dwelt in the earth" by their faithful testimony; or of the Lord Jesus either, who "resisted unto blood, striving against sin," and because he would not yield was crucified (cf. also Wisd. 2:12, etc.). But there was nothing of all this at Sardis. It might have been said of them, as was cynically said the other day of a certain section of ministers of religion amongst us, that "you would find them very well bred, and you might be quite certain they would say nothing to you about your soul." It is an ill sign when the Church and the world are so happy together. There has been compromise somewhere, and it is rarely the world which makes it. It is bad to have no life at all in God's love; it is worse to have had it and to have lost it; but it is worst of all - and may God in his mercy deliver us therefrom - to have the name and reputation of possessing this life, and yet to be, in fact, as it was with Sardis, dead in regard thereto. For all around us conduces to deepen such fatal slumber of the soul, and there is an everlasting soothing of them by themselves, the Church and the world alike, saying continually, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.

II. ON THE PUNISHMENT WITH WHICH THE CHURCH IS THREATENED. (Ver. 3.) This solemn warning of danger speaks of the Lord's advent to judgment. But:

1. What is that judgment? The name the Lord has assumed in this letter reveals it. Now, that name was meant partly to show that they were without excuse, but also to remind that, as the Spirit is his to give, so also is it his to withdraw and to withhold. As he can open the doors of grace, and then no man can shut; so also can he shut them, and then none can open. This, then, was what they were to fear, lest he should leave them alone, lest he should take his Holy Spirit from them. David dreaded this, and implored that the Lord would not deal so with him. Better any punishment, any suffering, any pain, any amount of distress, than that the soul should be thus left alone of the Lord.

2. And this judgment would come as a thief; they should not know when or how. There was an ancient proverb that the feet of the avenging gods are shod with wool. Dii laneos habent pedes. The meaning is simply what is here said, that the Divine judgment comes silently, stealthily, secretly, invisibly, unexpectedly, "as a thief." Who can mark the hour when God's Spirit leaves a man? Who sees the master of the house rise up and shut the door? It is not always true, as the much misleading verse tells-

"While the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return." Before that lamp is quenched, the Holy Spirit's blessed flame may have been quenched, and he, resisted, grieved, done despite to, may have for ever gone away. And it is equally untrue to affirm that the point of death bars all return. It is not death, but the determined character of the soul, that decides that matter. Death cannot shut the Spirit out nor life ensure that he remain, but the fixed bias and character into which we have settled down. And then:

3. There follows the blotting out of the name, etc. (Ver. 5.) Of him who overcomes Christ says, "I will by no means blot out his name." Hence it is implied that the rest he will blot out. Yes, the name may be in that book; through the blessed atonement and sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ our names are there; but the question is - Will they be allowed to stay there? The branch may be in the Vine; it is so; but "if it bear not fruit, then," etc. Christ has put us all in, but we can force him, all unwilling, to blot us out again. And to be as Sardis was will do this. Have mercy upon us, O Lord!

III. ON THEIR RESTORATION. Their sin had not altered the fact that he still had "the seven Spirits," etc. And should the Lord's earnest word have the effect designed, it would, and we may well believe it did, awake many that slept, and arouse them from the dead, that Christ might give them life. And how would they be encouraged by this revelation of the Lord's grace! "How sweet the name of Jesus" would sound in their ears! Did it not enable them to say to their adversary, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me." The effort they would have to make would be severe, but here in this name was abundance of grace for all their need. And to encourage them the Lord points them:

1. To the "few" who had overcome. There was, then, no irresistible might in the thraldom in which they were held. These had overcome, so might they. The grace that enabled these was waiting for them likewise. Not only would these "few" be greatly strengthened by the Lord's remembrance of and special promise to them, but the rest also would learn that victory was possible for them through him who had the "seven Spirits,': etc.

2. To means that, if faithfully used, would be effectual.

(1) Let them become wakeful - such is the meaning. This was a primary and imperative need. And when thus awake, let them

(2) remember how they had received and heard. With what earnestness and joy and devotedness of spirit they had begun their Christian career! Let them look back on that. And let them

(3) hold fast, i.e. keep, what remained, for all was not lost yet. The door of hope was not shut. And let them

(4) repent, i.e. have done with all habits, practices, and conduct, with all ways of thinking and speaking, which had lured them into and all but lost them in their deceitfulness. Let them confess it all before the Lord, and come away from it at once and for ever. And

(5) let them strengthen the things which remained. As the traveller crossing the Alps in snowstorm, all but benumbed, striking his foot against the body. of one who had just before passed that way and had sunk down in the snow, overcome by the deadly torpor of the cold - as he, roused by the blow and proceeding to use all efforts to awaken the fallen one, happily succeeds, he is made at the same time altogether wakeful and alive himself: so let any whose own spiritual condition is feeble try to make others strong, and they, too, in the endeavour will win strength. Let them thus act. And next he points them to:

3. The reward of these who overcome.

(1) The white robe, symbol of victory, purity, joy.

(2) The fellowship with Christ. "They shall walk with me in white." What enhancement of their blessedness this!

(3) The retention of their names in the book of life. "I will by no means blot out," etc. All the loving purposes which he cherished for them when he entered their names there, they shall realize and enjoy.

(4) The confession of their names before his Father and his angels. What a compensation for the contempt of the world! how insignificant and despicable is that contempt when placed over against this honour which Christ here promises! Ah! who would stay in the sad state of Sardis when a way like this is opened out of it for them? All grace is his, and his for us, if we will avail ourselves of it; for he "hath the seven," etc. - S.C.

Hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches &&&



(R. Ferguson, LL. D.)

1. Let me warn all who are living only for the world to take heed what they are doing. You are enemies to Christ, though you may not know it.

2. Let me warn all formalists and self-righteous people to take heed that they are not deceived. Where is your faith? Where are your evidences of a new heart? Where is the work of the Spirit?

3. Let me warn all careless members of Churches to beware lest they trifle their souls into hell.

4. Let me warn every one who wants to be saved not to be content with the world's standard of religion.

5. Let me warn every one who professes to be a believer in the Lord Jesus not to be content with a little religion.

(Bp. Ryle.).

Behold, a door was opened in heaven.

1. The place where the open door was seen: "In heaven." This implies several important things.(1) The changed sphere of operation.

(a)The "golden lampstands" represented Churches, not in heaven, but on earth.

(b)The "seven stars" represented the pastors of those Churches.

(c)Now the seer's attention is called from the condition of things on earth to a condition of things in heaven. This is fruitful of suggestion.(2) That the door is represented as "open" is noticeable.

(a)That now, for the first time, heaven is to be laid open to saints on earth.

(b)That now these heavenly things, as here revealed, should be prayerfully pondered: an open door, ever inviting entrance.(3) Though this is a vision of the heavenly world, the objects seen are symbols; the things symbolised are as real as heaven itself is real.

II. THE INVITATION: "Come up hither."

1. The authoritative character of the invitation. The speaker is no less than the risen Lord.

2. The distinguished honour of the invitation.

3. The gracious purpose of the invitation.(1) These "things" contain the substance of the Divine purposes concerning the destiny both of the people and the enemies of God.(2) These purposes had never been disclosed till now.(3) They are purposes in which all God's people should take a lively interest.


1. Its suddenness.

2. Its significance.

IV. THE SUBLIME VISION. Practical lessons:

1. The great importance of the study of the laws of "prophetic symbols."

2. The symbols of this chapter are not only interesting as throwing light on the place this chapter occupies in the prophetic scheme of this book, but they are also full of practical value.(1) They should impress us profoundly with the-awe-inspiring presentation of the majesty, sovereignty, and holiness of God, whose name we should revere.(2) They should deeply impress us with the Divine activity, and the multiplicity of Divine agents in the bringing about the Divine purposes concerning the children of men.(3) They should impress us with the faithfulness of God, and the sure reward of those who love and serve Him on earth.

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

I. A DOOR OF INTERCOURSE BETWEEN GOD AND MAN. A door of intercourse was virtually opened in the covenant of grace, when the sacred persons of the Divine Trinity entered into solemn compact that the chosen should be redeemed, that an offering should be presented by which sin should be atoned for and God's broken law should be vindicated. In that covenant council chamber where the sacred Three combined to plan the salvation, a door was virtually opened in heaven, and it was through that door that the saints who lived and died before the coming of Christ passed into their rest. But the door was actually and evidently opened when our Lord Jesus came down to the sons of men to sojourn in their flesh. There is no little comfort in the belief that heaven's gates are opened, because then our prayers, broken-winged as they are, shall enter there. The ports of the glory-land are not blockaded; we have access by Jesus Christ unto the Father; and there is free trade with heaven for poor broken-hearted sinners.


1. A door is opened in heaven whenever we are elevated by the help of God's Spirit to high thoughts of the glory of God. Sometimes by investigating the works of nature we obtain a glimpse of the infinite. More often by beholding the grace and mercy revealed in Jesus Christ our hearts are warmed towards that blessed One who made us, who sustains us, who redeemed us, to whom we owe all things.

2. A door is opened in heaven whenever the meditative spirit is able to perceive Christ Jesus with some degree of clearness.

3. We sometimes get a door opened in heaven when we enjoy the work of the Holy Spirit in our souls.

4. A door is often opened in heaven in the joys of Christian worship. Yes, but if it be sweet to-day to mingle now with Christians in their praise and prayer, when we are so soon to separate and go our way, how passing sweet that place must be where the saints meet in eternal session of worship, the King ever with them, etc.

5. Another door is opened in heaven in the fellowship which we enjoy with the saints on earth.

6. A door has often been opened in heaven to us at the communion table. Astronomers select the best spots for observatories; they like elevated places which are free from traffic, so that their instruments may not quiver with the rumbling of wheels; they prefer also to be away from the smoke of manufacturing towns, that they may discern the orbs of heaven more clearly. Surely if any one place is fitter to be an observatory for a heaven-mind than another, it is the table of communion.

7. Another door that is opened in heaven is the delights of knowledge. The philosopher rejoices as he tracks some recondite law of nature to its source; but to hunt out a gospel truth, to track the real meaning of a text of Scripture, to get some fresh light upon one of the offices of the Redeemer, to see a precious type stand out with a fresh meaning, to get to know Him and the power of His resurrection experimentally; oh! this is happiness.

8. Another door of heaven may be found in the sweets of victory. I mean not the world's victory, where there are garments rolled in blood, but I refer to victory over sin, self, and Satan.

III. A DOOR OF ENTRANCE. Christian, the message will soon come to thee, "The Master is come, and calleth for thee." Soon, I say, that door will open; surely you do not want to postpone the day. What is there amiss between you and your Husband that you wish to tarry away from Him?

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. THE NEARNESS OF THE HEAVENLY WORLD. We are at its "door." Heaven is simply that which is heaved up. An uplifted life. We are always on the threshold of the pure, the noble, the blessed.

II. THE POSSIBLE REVELATION OF HEAVEN. It is not merely near and closed against us. It is near, and may be known. A door into it may be opened.

1. The Bible is such a door.

2. The death of good men is such a door.

3. The life of Christ is such a door.

4. Our own best experience is such a door.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

This passage derives intense interest from its position as well as from its terms; for it occurs at the close of one group of scenes and at the beginning of another. My text, then, forms the transition between the earthly and the heavenly pictures. There is something striking, surely, in this sudden contrast, for the former chapters contain the most emphatic references to this present life of conflict and of sadness. They speak to those whose dwelling is "where Satan's seat is"; they speak of their labour and their patience, their tribulation and their poverty. "Watch, repent, hold fast, overcome," are the solemn, stirring words urged repeatedly on those addressed. How well we can understand their position, for it is our own I Instructed by the glorified Son of Man, the apostle saw and wrote those things. But "after this," he says, "I looked, and behold, a door was opened in heaven," and through that open door he saw a sight how different. In place of the strife and tears and guilty stains which he saw before there was perfect splendour, sanctity, and bliss. He saw God's throne with its rainbow emblem of mercy, etc. How complete the contrast between that world above and this world below, described before. I propose now to regard this transition passage as suggesting some relations between these two separated worlds.


1. The fact that heaven and earth are divided by so wide a gulf seems to me cue of the strangest facts in our experience, though long habit prevents the strangeness from striking us so much. We should have expected the very opposite. Comparatively few cross the Atlantic to America, yet, though we may never see it, we require no act of faith to realise its existence and condition. But the world of heaven is so far removed beyond the range of our knowledge that we have need of faith to be convinced even that it exists. The material universe has been called the garment of God, and so far it reveals Him; but it hides Him too. Little can be said in explanation of our exclusion from all direct knowledge of the unseen world and God; but that little springs out of the very things which make it strange. If heaven were not invisible, if God sometimes appeared, the chief trial of our pro. sent life would be removed, and we should have perfect assurance instead of wavering faith. Our life, in fact, would cease to be the discipline which it is at present. His wisdom appoints that we walk by faith, not by sight; no wonder, then, that all the arrangements of our life are in keeping with this purpose. Moreover, to this separation of earth from heaven we may observe several analogies, e.g., as a thoughtful writer has pointed out, the material universe might have been one great plain allowing of the freest intercourse between its countless inhabitants, instead of which it is broken up into myriads of globes, divided from each other by abysses of space impassable to those who inhabit them. We are separated from the dwellers in Jupiter or Sirius (if such there are) as completely as we are separated from the dwellers in heaven. And note how the same policy is carried out even on earth. Two-thirds of the surface of our globe is water; vast oceans separate us from the inhabitants of America or Japan almost as entirely as if they lived on another planet. Nay, the majority of even English people are and will remain perfect strangers to us. Moreover, the periods of time contribute to this end as well as the expanse of space, for how entirely we are cut off from intercourse with those who lived in the past, and we are still more completely divided from future generations, and we come into contact with only a few of the people who are now living. Now these facts show that it is God's will to break up His vast family into little groups, in order, perhaps, that each individual may, in comparative seclusion, be tried by the mystery of existence, instead of finding many of its problems solved by the combined experiences of all. All this is in keeping with the strange division between heaven and earth.

II. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN EARTH AND HEAVEN. One point of connection between the two, which at least helps to make heaven seem nearer to us, is that life in heaven, just as much as our life here, is proceeding now. We cannot see, indeed, that bright and holy world for which we yearn, as we should like to do, but there are those who do see it, who do enjoy it now. Their bliss is a present feeling arising from the presence of God now. Their endless life runs along a parallel course to our transient life. The present, which we call time, they call eternity. We cannot see them or hear of them, for there is a great division between earth and heaven, but there is a real connection, too, since those we love are present with the Lord, and are now receiving and returning the love of Christ, whom they "see as He is." But there is a deeper lying connection between the two than this. We mourn over God's absence from our earth, but what would earth be without Him? "In Him we live, and move, and have our being." And the angels from whom we are so divided, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?" So far from being independent of and forgotten by God, it is true rather that all we see and all we are was made and is upheld by God's ever present power, and the ministrations of His angels. And if nature's laws are God's will, it may be said also that human history is the evolution of His providence. Individuals and nations, with all their wild and reckless freedom, do but accomplish what God's hand and God's counsel determined before to be done. We may trace this on the large scale when we note, in the Bible history, how God's purposes have been wrought out by men, though we often cannot trace it in the narrow region of our own observations. But if God is present in the great, we may be sure He is present in the little, of which the great is made up. In history and in nature, too, we see effects, an endless tangled chain of them, but causes we do not see and cannot find out. Causes, forces, are beyond our reach, for there is a great division between earth and heaven. Ours is a God who hides Himself. But as we must believe that without these indiscoverable forces the universe would cease to be, so we believe that all depends upon the unseen God. Earth and heaven, then, are divided by a gulf we cannot pass, but the connection between the two is nothing short of complete dependence.

III. THE DOOR IS SET OPEN BETWEEN EARTH AND HEAVEN. The division is maintained between the two in order that our discipline may not cease. But sometimes the door is opened that our faith may not fail. That has happened "at those sundry times and in divers manners when God spake unto the fathers by the prophets." And in later days there was a still more wonderful exception. The door was opened wider, and, attended by a train of angels singing "glory in the highest," the Son of God passed through, and dwelt among us, and men beheld His glory. And whenever a Christian pilgrim reaches his journey's end, then, too, it may be said that the door between earth and heaven is set open to let the wanderer pass into his home. How close, then, heaven is to earth in spite of the separation, for at any moment the transit may be made. In yet another sense we may say that to us on earth a door is opened in heaven, and that is when we worship. The prayers and praises to which we give utterance on earth pass that strange division between earth and heaven which we cannot cross, and mingle with the nobler worship of the temple above, making us one with friends already there.

(T. M. Herbert, M. A.)


1. Man has the ability to look into the world around him — in nature, in society, in the nation.

2. Man has the ability to look into the world within him. It would be well for the moral life of men if they would enter more frequently into the chamber of the heart, and inspect the sentiments and energies reigning there.

3. Man has the ability to look into the world before him. This is his noblest ability. It brings into requisition the keen eye of a Divinely-enlightened soul. This vision is sublime, captivating, inspiring, elevating.

II. THE SOUL HAS THE OPPORTUNITY TO PERCEIVE HEAVENLY VISIONS. God allows man to gaze into the mysteries of the life above. Kings do not often give men free access to their presence-chamber. Here we see the love of God, in that: He reveals the unseen to the race; His wisdom in that He casts a little light upon the problems of futurity. This opportunity is the most frequently given:

1. To men in lonely sorrow (Revelation 1:9, Ezekiel 1:1). Men can see a long way through tears.

2. To men in humble duty (Matthew 3:16).

3. To men in dying circumstances (Acts 7:55).


1. It is called by the voice of God as heard in Scripture; by the voice of Christ, whose earthly life was one continued gaze into heaven; by the Holy Spirit, who purifies the life of the soul that it may be capable of celestial vision.

2. The soul must ascend to heavenly vision. Elevated above flesh, above the world, above reason, even to faith.


1. From the heavenly vision men learn that all human events are under the wise providence of God.

2. From the heavenly vision men learn wisely to estimate the passing events of life.

3. From the heavenly vision men learn calmly to wait the destinies of the future. Lessons:

(1)Learn in all things to look heavenward.

(2)Seek to rise morally to the level of heavenly vision.

(3)Learn to read history in the light of clear prophecy.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. The reality of a heavenly world, and of its concern and connection with this. That world has its inhabitants, its plans and its purposes, its presences and its agencies, even like this. The subjects of its chief deliberations are the interests and the fortunes, the events and the destinies, of this lower world.

2. What an astonishment would it be to any one of us, to see that door into heaven suddenly opened! Oh, what a marvel, what a confusion, what a discomfiture, must it be to a worldly man or to a sinner to find at the moment of death that this thing which we have so long seen and handled, in which we have so long lived and moved, was not, after all, the whole or the chief part of that which is!

3. To Christian persons, to those, that is, who mourn for sin, and renounce and forsake it, and trust in Christ only, and pray for the grace of the Holy Spirit to make them and keep them His, it ought to be and will be a real comfort to remember that just inside that door there is a heaven, and a throne set, and a God seated thereon, and a holy and loving council gathered, and plans under preparation for purposes of good to the poor struggling and suffering people below; and that round the throne is the covenant bow, promising evermore a clear shining after rain, and pledging the very faithfulness of God to their final rescue and deliverance.

4. Life and death, things present as well as things to come, accident and disease, want and age; yes, things more outward still, the bread and the water, the fire and the covering, the judgments of sword and famine and pestilence, the mercies of dew and rain and fruitful seasons; all are God's, all are Christ's; and if God's, if Christ's, then the Christian's too (1 Corinthians 3:22, 23). Oh, what an antidote to life's cares, for those who can use it l It springs from the fact that creation itself, in all its parts, rational and irrational, has its representatives before the throne in heaven, and ascribes the glory, the honour, and the strength to Him who sits upon the throne.

5. But if the thought of the four living beings which typify creation has something of comfort for us in reference to the world above, how much more that of men of our own flesh and likeness, who are already clad in the robes of priesthood, and admitted to the sight of God and to the ministrations of the heavenly temple! That world is not all peopled with strange and unknown forms.

6. Are our faces and our feet set heavenwards?

(Dean Vaughan.)

1. After the first vision, John gets a second, which shows that God continues and multiplies His favours on the godly, who make a good use thereof, and are desirous of more.

2. He looked, and was not disappointed; neither shall any be who looks up to God for grace, or growth of heavenly knowledge.

3. He could not see till a door was open to him; neither will we ever see heavenly mysteries till the Lord opens the door of our mind and heart (Luke 24:45; Acts 16:14).

4. This and the other visions were seen in heaven; which shows that all that falls out on earth is first decreed in heaven, and the future to us is ever present to God.

5. The first voice that talked with John was as a trumpet; and so is the trumpet of the law the first voice that talks with a sinner for his conversion (Isaiah 58:1).

6. John is bidden come up thither; to show that the knowledge of heavenly things requires a heavenly and elevated mind.

7. This also shows that we should have God's warrant for all our doings, and be bidden do what we do.

8. God only is able to foretell all future things, because He is omniscient, and determines the event thereof, which is a great comfort to His own elect; therefore it is said here, "I will show thee," etc.

9. This also is for their warning, that trials and troubles must be; and also for the comfort, that their delivery must be, and shall be in like manner.

(Wm. Guild, D. D.)


1. The time. "After this I looked." He looks up for a vision. He is prepared and looking for a further revelation. Those who have seen heavenly things once will look twice. Oh, how much nearer than we commonly imagine, faith borders upon sight, and the spiritual upon the heavenly state!

2. The manner in which the vision was brought under the notice of John.(1) He saw a door open in heaven. He says not an open door merely, but a door that had been opened. It had not been always open. It had been once closed. A door opened in heaven signified to John that more of the counsels of heaven were about to be revealed. The door of the Church was closed against him, the door of ministerial usefulness was closed, the door of liberty, and every door of human hospitality, but a door was opened in heaven. In proportion as the people of God are precluded from the world, they have intercourse with heaven. They find readiness of access above, when hemmed in around; as water pressed on all sides rises in a fountain. To Isaiah visions were given in affliction, to Jeremiah in prison, to Ezekiel in captivity, to John in exile. This appearance to John may have been emblematical, in some degree, of renewed supplies of the Spirit of prophecy. In allusion to the manna which descended round the camp of the Israelites, God is said to have "opened the doors of heaven." In Malachi you have these words: "Prove .hie now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing." Compare this with "the heavens opened, and the Spirit descending" upon Christ at His baptism, and the descent of the Spirit upon the apostles and.the primitive. Churches.(2) John informs us of what he heard. The tones of this voice were encouraging to John, and expressive at once of its design.(3) John tells us what he felt on this occasion. Heaven is first opened by God to sinful man. It is opened by His mercy, not by our prayers. We love Him because He first loved us. Having opened a door He invites us to come, and promises rich manifestations of His wisdom and grace to our souls. But how can we come to Him? How rise to the door of heaven? By the power that invites us. The invitation guarantees the ability to act, and the promise ensures success.


(G. Rogers.)



1. The nature of the throne. There is a manifold throne attributed to God: there is a throne of grace and mercy, of glory and majesty, of dominion and sovereignty.

2. The properties of the throne. These are great and manifold. It is a throne high and lifted up; it is Divine, supreme, and universal; it is infinite, eternal, and immutable; it is from everlasting to everlasting; it is eternal in its date, and endless in duration; it has neither beginning nor end, succession nor change.

3. The position of the throne. It is "set in heaven." The throne of judgment, the great white throne, is placed in the clouds; the throne of grace is erected in the Church; the throne of glory is placed within the vail; the throne of the universe is placed in the heavens (Isaiah 66:1).

4. The stability of the throne. It is "established in the heavens." It is ordered and arranged, guarded and disposed by infinite wisdom and unerring skill. It is firmly fixed, stable, and immutable.

III. THE POSSESSOR OF THE THRONE: "One sat upon the throne." He sits on the throne, in a state of deep repose, undisturbed felicity, and eternal blessedness.

IV. THE MAJESTY OF THE THRONE. This. is represented by two sacred emblems — sitting and similitude. He sat upon the throne, and He was to look upon like three sacred stones.

1. Here we behold the fulness of the Divine perfections. He is possessed of infinite, eternal, and immutable excellence — He is the source, the centre, and the sum of all worth and glory.

2. Here we behold the variety of Divine perfections: "I am the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering," etc.

3. Here we behold the unity of Divine perfection. All these perfections are displayed in Immanuel, who is the image of the invisible God.


1. The history of the rainbow is very remarkable. We first find it in the clouds; then established in the heavens, as the faithful witness of God's eternal truth (Psalm 89:39). It forms the glorious diadem of the angel of the covenant (Revelation 10:1.); and in the verse before us it forms the gracious canopy of God the Father's throne.

2. The rainbow round the throne was the blessed symbol of God's glory and perfections; it was the token of His love, the emblem of His mercy, and the pledge of His faithfulness, His counsel and His covenant.

3. The position of the rainbow: "The rainbow was round about the throne." It surrounds the seat of Divine majesty, above, below, and on every side. The majesty of Deity, the glories of the Godhead, and the splendours of the Trinity all beam benignantly through the rainbow of the covenant.

4. The likeness of the rainbow: "It was in sight like unto an emerald." Amid the varied hues blended in the rainbow, green is the prevailing; and the colour of the emerald is a deep, living green.(1) The comparison implies the beauty of the covenant. God beholds His people enrobed in all the beauties of the rainbow, and the deep, living loveliness of the glowing emerald.(2) It also implies the riches of the covenant.(3) It likewise supposes the perpetuity of the covenant. The rainbow, like the emerald, is ever fresh and green.(4) The comparison teaches the unity and variety of the blessings of the covenant.


1. Their names. They are called "elders." This is the sign of their age, their honourable office, and dignified condition; their wisdom, experience, and venerable character.

2. The number of the elders: "They are four and twenty." There is an enlargement of the Church implied in the number. He was then the God of Israel, but He is now the God of the whole earth.

3. Their posture and position: "There were four and twenty seats." The saints sometimes stand; but here the elders sit, the emblem of dignity and undisturbed felicity, dominion and authority, rest and holy happiness, and their great reward.

4. Their glorious clothing: "They were clothed in white raiment." White robes are beautiful, they are Zion's loveliest garments — white robes are excellent, they form the best robe — white raiment is resplendent, it is both white and shining.

5. Their golden crowns: "They had on their heads crowns of gold."


(James Young.)

The first voice...
I. REVELATIONS ARE MADE TO US OF GREAT AND SOLEMN REALITIES. What a world this would be if there were no voices from heaven, no Divine utterances, no spiritual revelations, to meet our needs and our questionings! We have a gospel not of figures but of facts, a gospel symbolised by the priest blowing the trumpet over the sacrifice, by the blast of the trumpet through the length and breadth of the land, ushering in the year of jubilee, by the great trumpet which was blown, that men in exile and ready to perish might return to their own land.

II. THE REVELATIONS MADE TO US ARE PRESENT AND PERSONAL We hear a voice talking with us (Hebrews 1:1, 2). The voice of Christ is reproduced in every believing and loving heart. His words do not die, they are still spirit and life. Revelation is not a dead, imprisoned truth, but a living fountain, the streams are as bright and pure as they were yesterday.

III. THE REVELATIONS TO WHICH WE LISTEN ARE OFTEN TRUMPET-TONED. Those voices have been trumpet-toned that have uttered great truths in this world; truths that yet live in it, speak in it, rule in it. Those voices have been trumpet-toned that have uttered the watchwords of liberty, that have raised the war-cry round which men have rallied, and which have stirred their souls like the blast of a trumpet. The voices that come to us in revelation are trumpet-toned, in their earnestness, in their importance. In our personal history there have been dispensations of Providence, that have been "as the voice of a trumpet talking with us." How clear and distinct the voice that came to us in the season of sickness, in the hour of temptation, when death entered our home, etc. There is a sense in which we find it true, that the "first voice" we hear is "as of a trumpet talking with us." We hear the awful words of the Divine law in the depths of our souls, and are convinced of our sinfulness and become conscious of our unrighteousness.

IV. THESE REVELATIONS CONDUCE TO OUR SPIRITUALITY. "Immediately I was in the Spirit." A man must be in the Spirit to see the glory that streams through the opened door in heaven, to see the throne and Him that sits on it, to see the sign of the covenant of peace, etc. If the windows of our hearts are opened towards Jerusalem, we shall sometimes see the light and glory of that golden city. The design of the sanctuary, of the Sabbath, of ordinances and sacraments, is our spirituality.

(H. J. Bevis.)

Come up hither
I. THE PLACE TO WHICH WE ARE INVITED — "HITHER." Geographers, geologists, and travellers have described the earth, its islands, continents, mountains, rivers, plains, and products; but heaven is a domain beyond all merely scientific research. What we know of it is from revelation alone.

1. It will be a place exempt from ignorance. Seated there, we shall know as we are known; our views of things will not be as "through a glass, darkly," "but face to face," and in the highest sense we shall have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things.

2. It will be free from all kinds of evil.(1) No slavery will be there. All its sons, of whatever clime, are freeborn. All are without shackle, brand, or chain. All walk at liberty.(2) No sin will be there. The imagination will never conceive an unholy thought, the lips never utter a corrupt speech, nor the judgment, the conscience, the will stoop to an unholy action.(3) No famine will be there. The bread is enough and to spare. The supply of fruit from the tree of life is constant and abundant.(4) No tears, sorrows, pains, or death will be there.

3. Then there is nothing wanting to complete its happiness.

(1)There are great possessions.

(2)The society there is most blessed.

(3)The joys there are lasting.

(4)The life there is everlasting.


1. There is a way to reach this place.(1) What road to heaven is wrong?

(a)Sin is the wrong road.

(b)Self-righteousness is the wrong road.(2) What road is right? In Virginia, in South America, and other parts, there are natural bridges of solid rock, whose stupendous arches join mountains together, and make a path firm and safe over the rolling rivers and dashing torrents beneath them. But there is no natural bridge to heaven. There was once, but man broke it down by sin. But there is still a path for man, formed by the Son of God — a path formed by His blood and righteousness. Along this path our pious fathers travelled and never found it give way, nor shall we. It is the path that leads from guilt to mercy, depravity to holiness, earth to glory.

2. Then the invitation also implies you cannot reach the place unless it be obeyed. Heaven in the gospel is set before men as an open door. It is not Christ that closes it, but unbelief. Let this be gone.

(S. Fisher.)

The standpoint from which God views everything is vastly different from that which men commonly regard as their standpoint. God is for quality, clearness of vision and fundamental principles; man too often for mere quantity, haphazard vision, superficial estimates. God is ever seeking to draw man up to His level, man thinks to reduce the things of God to his convenient level, from which he hopes, without much trouble, or even thinking, to form some opinion or gain some knowledge of that which, in the deeper moments of his nature, he knows to be of vital and eternal importance. The higher the standards are the more must energy strive to reach them. It is a vastly different thing to brave the Matterhorn or Mont Blanc, or those gigantic mountains which rear their heads heavenward and lose their summits in the clouds. Climbing them means the hardest kind of toil and steadfast courage. Our standards determine the height of our aspirations, our aspirations press us on in the climbing and furnish the impetus to the outreach of our faith and courage, hut they must be fed by God, who leads us to His own standard and bids us look up and beyond, even beyond the material, into the realms of the spiritual, with a faith that does not shrink from the lessons such leadings bring. The question of questions is, Do we see, do we behold these high level truths of God? or have we so little interest in beholding that we skim them over, as we do the pages of a book that has proved uninteresting? John says, "After this I looked and, behold." God can never do anything for a man who is blind, unless open his eyes; but God will not do anything for a man who wants to be blind. Looking shows desire. Beholding suggests power. John saw, and behold a door was opened in heaven and the first voice which he heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with him, which said, "Come up hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." That seems to us to be a beautiful but exceptional sight. Picture John's lonely exile life on Patmos. There did not seem to be much for him to live for, shut out and away from the busy work of life, and perhaps we have a theory that God was very gracious to him for that very reason. But such visions always come to souls that can see — long to see — and needing the blessing of such a vision. Whatever the outward life, the inner life is the condition of beholding. Lives need to be broadened and exalted. Heaven is not only to make life more tolerable, but life is to determine heaven. The vision came not to the place, but the soul, and was determined not by the meagreness of the surrounding, but by the condition of the heart-life of him who beheld. By every analysis we are to know, then, that life is not in itself either omnipotent, or satisfying, or self-sufficient, nor has it any high standard, nor is it enough to be merely practical — doing without seeing, deeds without visions. God gives us to see what we are, in order that we may see by the aid of this revelation what we may become. Ignorance is simply fatal to all progress and enlightenment. "And immediately I was in the spirit," John says. The thought for us is this: the power that exalts life is of God and comes from above. Look above, then, though you walk the earth. Open your heart and mind and soul to the unseen realities of the eternal. Higher and higher we must go and grow, like the vine upon the trellis, abiding in the branch, lifting its myriad shoots towards the summer shining and the clear, pure air. From His standpoint, God will give us to see what must be hereafter. Our privilege is to hear God's blessed invitation, "Come up hither, higher, to higher altitudes, with waiting, expectant attitude." God help us to break the spell that keeps us down; God help us to unlock the bolts that shut us in; God help us to fling aside the shutters that keep us in the dimness; God help us to be as free as His truth makes us, and then, when we truly behold, how beautiful everything will grow. Just as the little child, long blind, having at last her sight restored, said to her mother, as she looked for the first time upon the beauty of nature, "How beautiful! Why didn't you tell me how beautiful everything was!" The element of the ideal must occupy a large place in our practical life if we are to grow at all strong, buoyant, and symmetrical. Visions are not mere air castles. Some one has said, "All men who have shown our race how great things are possible have had their inspiration in dreaming of the impossible." The vision changes and goes on changing, adapting itself to our need and our life, but the reality always remains. Visions, therefore, are the wings which bear us upward and aloft. You do not have to teach a bird how to fly. The soul, saved by the power of the Divine Christ, rises because it can; it ascends because it has within it the irresistible yearning to do so, and faith and hope give impetus. This is the revelation which is constantly coming to your life, to my life. God help us, above all, to be "in the Spirit," as in meditative quietness of life we steadfastly watch for and behold the visions that come to us. The cross and visions of the Christ are the inspiring themes of the Christian life. Life is truly potent, as we see its lines shaped according to the Cross of the Lord Jesus, as the symbol of our salvation and the standard of our service. Look and live, then live and look, is the whole of the Christian life. Let us not be satisfied with plodding, but let us be climbing. Let our lives take on daily newer beauty, the beauty of holiness, which is the adornment of righteousness.

(C. E. Eberman.)

Of course it was not the bodily senses of John that were thus addressed — not the body that was commanded to ascend. His outward eye saw not the material heavens open. Elevation of soul, then, is our subject. What is it? First, is it the elevation of sensuous excitement? The souls of all men have great variation of mood. Sometimes they are buoyant and sometimes sluggish. Such souls often soar aloft on the pinions of an excited imagination, but in their own fancy they indulge in a hind of spiritual reverie, and find a heaven for the hour upon the mountain heights of their own creation. But this is not what we mean by elevation of soul. Secondly, is it elevation of intellect? "Is it the elevation which arises from study and culture? This is important, this is essential to soul elevation; but this is not it. Some of the greatest and most cultured intellects have often been found in alliance with souls deeply sunk in passion, depravity, and vice. It may be represented as consisting in three things:

1. An uplifting sense of the Divine favour.

2. An uplifting sense of moral right.

3. An uplifting sense of the spiritual world.

I. THAT SOUL ELEVATION IS ATTAINABLE. The apostle saw "a door open in heaven." Christ is this "door." By His teaching, His death, and His ascension, He has opened the new and living way for man into the "holy of holies."

1. He is the exclusive door for man's spiritual elevation.

2. He is the door for man's spiritual elevation, and man's only.

3. He is the door for man's spiritual elevation available only for him on earth.


1. I hear this Divine command sounding in the starry firmament. The great universe is the domain of mind. "Come up hither," immortal man, wing your flight from orb to orb, system to system; count our multitudes, mark our movements, gauge our dimensions, bathe in our brightness, rise beyond us, scale the wondrous heavens still far away, revel in the Infinite, be lost in God!

2. I hear the Divine command sounding through the biography of the sainted dead. Our nature speaks from heaven. There are the voices of the goodly fellowship of prophets and apostles, of the glorious army of martyrs and confessors, etc. There are the voices of our favourite authors, the sacred poet, the holy sage and the learned divine.

3. I hear this Divine command sounding through the gospel of Christ.

4. I hear this Divine command sounding in the depths of our higher nature. Reason and conscience unite in urging us to ascend, etc.


1. Man's happiness is greatly dependent upon bright prospects of the future.

2. Those bright prospects are secured by soul elevation.


Suppose that I had gone away from here for years, and came back to find my daughter living in some low, obscure place, bound out to hard labour. Suppose my son were in another place, half-clothed, half-fed, and suffering all manner of ill-treatment. And thus with all my children. What should I be likely to do? Should I not at once set about lifting them out of such situations, and getting them up where I was? I should say to them, "Come up, my children; you were not born to live down there. Your place is where I am. Come up here to me; here is where you belong." Well, this is what God is doing to men. He has a few, a very few, children living in the high places of spiritual life — those regions of hope and love where He Himself dwells. "Come up hither — come up into the region of warmth and love, where your Father dwells. You were not made to live down there. This is where you belong. Come up hither."

(H. W. Beecher.)

It is said of Anaxagoras, the philosopher, that one night when in the act of studying the stars, his countrymen came to confer upon him an inheritance, in token of their appreciation of his genius. His reply was, "I wish it not — these heavens are my country." Can we say the same in a grander, Diviner sense?

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