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1. Sardis. 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.
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 entrepôt 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 chapter i. 4.
That are ready to die (a mellei apoqanein). Read emellon were ready or about (to die).
I have not found thy works (ou eurhka sou ta erga). Some texts omit the article before works, in which case we should render, I have found no works of thine. So Rev. Perfect (peplhrwmena). Lit., fulfilled. So Rev. God. The best texts insert mou, "my God."
3. Thou hast received and heard (eilhfav kai hkousav). 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.
Watch. See on verse 2.
On thee. Omit.
As a thief (wv klepthv). Thief, as distinguished from hp lhsthv 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 Thess. v. 2, 4; 2 Peter iii. 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."
4. Thou hast a few names. The best texts insert ajlla 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 verse 1, thou hast a name, and see on chapter xi. 13. Names is equivalent to persons, a few who may be rightly named as exceptions to the general conception.
Even in Sardis. Omit kai even.
In white (en leukoiv). With iJmatioiv garments understood. See on chapter ii. 17, and compare Zechariah. iii. 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 (outov peribaleitai). For ou=tov this, or the same, read outwv thus: "shall thus be arrayed." so Rev. The verb denotes a solemn investiture, and means literally to throw or put around.
7. Philadelphia. 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 chapter iii. 12: 'Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God.'" He that is holy (o agiov). See on Acts xxvi. 10. Christ is called holy, Acts ii. 27; xiii. 35; Heb. vii. 26; in all which passages the word, however, is osiov, 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. Agiov, the word used here, refers rather to separation from evil.
He that is true (o alhqinov). See on John i. 9. Alhqinov 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 (ton arton ton alhqinon). Israel was a vine of God's planting (Ps. lxxx. 8), Christ is the true (h alhqinh) vine (John xv. 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 chapter i. 18, and compare Isa. xxii. 22. David is the type of Christ, the supreme ruler of the kingdom of heaven. See Jer. xxx. 9; Ezek. xxxiv. 23; xxxvii. 24. The house of David is the typical designation of the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Ps. cxxii. 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 Matt. xvi. 19: He admits and excludes at His pleasure.
No man shutteth (oudeiv kleiei). Read kleisei shall shut So Rev. 8. I have set (dedwka). Lit., I have given. For a similar phrase see Luke xii. 51.
An open door (quran ajnewgmenhn). 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 Cor. xvi. 9; 2 Corinthians ii. 12; Col. iv. 3. Compare Acts xiv. 27. 77 I have given is appropriate, since all opportunities of service are gifts of God. See on chapter ii. 7. For thou hast (oti eceiv). Some texts make behold-shut parenthetical, and render oti that, defining thy works, etc. So Rev. A little strength (mikran dunamin). 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 Düsterdieck. And (kai). John's single copula instead of a particle of logical connection. See on John i. 10; vi. 46; 1 John i. 5; John viii. 20.
Hast kept my word (ethrhsav mou ton logon). Rev., rendering the aorist more strictly, didst keep. For the phrase, see John xvii. 6,8.
9. I will make (didwmi). Rev., rightly, I give. See on verse 8. The sense is broken off there and resumed here.
Of the synagogue (ek thv sunagwghv). 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.
Of Satan. See on chapter ii. 9.
I will make them to come (poihsw autouv ina hxwsin) Lit., I will make them that they shall come.
10. The word of my patience (ton logon thv upomonhv mou) 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 Pet. i. 6; James v. 7.
World (oikoumenhv). See on Luke ii. 1
11. Behold. Omit.
That no one take thy crown (ina mhdeiv labh ton stefanon). 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 Col. ii. 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 chapter ii. 10. Thy crown is not the crown which thou hast, but the crown which thou shalt have if thou shalt prove faithful.
12. Pillar (stulon). The word occurs, Gal. ii. 9; 1 Tim. iii. 15; Apoc. x. 1. The reference here is not to any prominence in the earthly church, as Gal. ii. 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 Matt. xix. 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 Pet. ii. 5, where the saints are described living stones.
Temple (naw). See on Matt. iv. 5.
Upon him. The conqueror, not the pillar. Compare chapter vii. 3; ix. 4; xiv. 1; xxii. 4. Probably with reference to the golden plate inscribed with the name of Jehovah, and worn by the High-Priest upon his forehead (Exod. xxviii. 36, 38). See on chapter ii. 17.
New Jerusalem. See Ezek. xlviii. 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 (Philip. iii. 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 (Chapter xxi. 10); by Matthew, the holy city (iv. 5); by Paul, Jerusalem which is above (Gal. iv. 6); by the writer to the Hebrews, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. xii. 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 (kainhv), see on Matthew xxvi. 29. The new Jerusalem is not a city freshly built (nea), but is new (kainh) in contrast with the old, outworn, sinful city. In the Gospel John habitually uses the Greek and civil form of the name, JIerosoluma; in Revelation, the Hebrew and more holy appellation, Jierousalhm. 78
14. Of the Laodiceans (Aaodikewn). Read ejn Aaodikeia 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 dioikhdiv, 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.
The Amen. Used only here as a proper name. See Isa. lxv. 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.
Faithful (pistov). The word occurs in the New Testament in two senses: trusty, faithful Matt. xxiv. 45; xxv. 21, 23; Luke xii. 42); and believing, confiding (John xx. 27; Gal. iii. 9; Acts xvi. 1). Of God, necessarily only in the former sense.
True (alhqinov). See on verse 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 stress laid in the Epistle to the Colossians on the inferiority of those to whom the self-same name of ajrcai, 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 Heb. xii. 2, ajrchgon leader.
15. Cold (yucrov). 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."
16. Lukewarm (cliarov). 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 I hear? 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 (mellw). I am about or have in mind. Not a declaration of immediate and inexorable doom, but implying a possibility of the determination being changed.
Spue (emesai). Only here in the New Testament. Compare Leviticus xviii. 28; xx. 22.
17. 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.
Wretched (o talaipwrov). Rev., better, giving the force of the article, the wretched one. From tlaw to endure, and peira a trial.
Miserable (eleeinov). Only here and 1 Cor. v. 19. An object of pity (eleov).
Poor (ptwcov). See on Matt. v. 3.
18. I counsel (sumbouleuw). With a certain irony. Though He might command, yet He advises those who are, in their own estimation, supplied with everything.
To buy. Compare Isa. iv. 1; Matt. xiii. 44, 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.
Gold (crusion). Often of gold money or ornaments. So 1 Pet. i. 18; Acts iii. 6; 1 Pet. iii. 3. Also of native gold and gold which has been smelted and wrought (Heb. ix. 4). There may very properly be a reference to the extensive money transactions of Laodicea.
Tried in the fire (pepurwmenon ek porov). 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 (ejk; see on Chapter ii. 7).
White raiment. Rev., garments. See on verse 4.
Mayest be clothed (peribalh). Rev., more literally, mayest clothe thyself. See on verse 5.
Do not appear (mh fanerwqh). Rev., more literally, be not made manifest. See on John xxi. 1. Stripping and exposure is a frequent method of putting to open shame. See 2 Sam. x. 4; Isa. xx. 4; xlvii. 23; Ezekiel xvi. 37. Compare also Matt. xxii. 11-13; Col. iii. 10-14.
Anoint thine eyes with eye-salve (kollourion egcrison touv ofqalmouv sou). The correct reading is egcrisai, the infinitive, to anoint, instead of the imperative. So Rev., eye-salve to anoint thine eyes. Kollourion, of which the Latin collyrium is a transcript, is a diminutive of kollura a roll of coarse bread. See 1 Kings xiv. 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; 6., 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 ii. 20, 27.
Chasten (paideuw). See on Luke xxiii. 16.
Be zealous (zhleue). The verb is akin to zestov hot in verse 16, on which see note.
20. I stand at the door and knock. Compare Cant. v., 2, Krouw I knock was regarded as a less classical word than koptw. Krouw is to knock with the knuckles, to rap; koptw, with a heavy blow; yofein of the knocking of some one within the door, warning one without to withdraw when the door is opened. Compare Jas. v. 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 quraulein 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 (Philip. ii. 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."
Will sup (deipnhsw). See on Luke xiv. 12. For the image, compare Cant. v. 2-6; iv. 16; ii. 3. Christ is the Bread of Life, and invites to the great feast. See Matt. viii. 11; xxv. 1 sqq. The consummation will be at the marriage-supper of the Lamb (Mark xiv. 25; Apoc. xix. 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 vi. 56; x. 38; xiv. 20; xv. 4, 5; xvii. 21, 26. Compare John xiv. 23.
21. He that overcometh. See on chapter ii. 7.