Episode #241. Today we’ll read Revelation chapter 3 together: We continue the seven letters to the churches, finishing with the letters to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Joy: You’re listening to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Episode #241. Today we’ll read Revelation chapter 3 together: We continue the seven letters to the churches, finishing with the letters to Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast. I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me as we simply read God’s word together. Some things require discipline and sometimes that’s just not easy to muster by yourself, no matter how badly you want to do it or how much you know you should. It’s just easier to do it with a friend. So refill your coffee or tea, get comfortable in your favorite chair and follow along as I read aloud. I’m so glad you’re here!
I found a great article at The Gospel Project, by Brian Dembowczyk, which gives a great overview of the structure of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3. Each of the seven letters follows the same basic structure, or outline, with a couple of exceptions where a church is either not commended for anything or not condemned for anything. Listen to what it says.
First, a Greeting. This is identical in each letter with only the recipient’s name being different. Each letter is addressed directly to the angel of the church. Some believe this is a literal angel. Perhaps God has assigned an angel to look over each church. Others believe that this references the primary elder, or pastor, of each church. Since “angel” means “messenger” in Greek, this certainly is a possibility.
Next, Reference to the Son of Man from Revelation 1. In the first chapter of Revelation, John described a vision he had of Jesus. The imagery John describes is highly symbolic and each letter draws from part of this description.
Then, Commendation. Jesus’ praise of the church.
Next, Condemnation. Jesus’ rebuke of the church.
Then, Warning/admonishment. A warning to “repent.”
On to Reward. A specific reward promised to those who are victorious or overcome until the end.
Finally, Refrain. Each letter ends with the same refrain: Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
While our local churches today are not the specific audience of any of these letters, we are to read them and learn from them all the same. Did you learn something new by reading these letters? Please share it with me at Lifting Her Voice.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
Revelation Chapter 3
The Letter to Sardis
“Write to the angel of the church in Sardis: Thus says the one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before my God. Remember, then, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. If you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come upon you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with me in white, because they are worthy.
“In the same way, the one who conquers will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and before his angels.
“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Letter to Philadelphia
“Write to the angel of the church in Philadelphia: Thus says the Holy One, the true one, the one who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and who closes and no one opens: I know your works. Look, I have placed before you an open door that no one can close because you have but little power; yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Note this: I will make those from the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying — I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you.
Because you have kept my command to endure, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come on the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown.
“The one who conquers I will make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God — the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God — and my new name.
“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.
The Letter to Laodicea
“Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: Thus says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.
For you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be zealous and repent. See! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me.
“To the one who conquers I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
“Let anyone who has ears to hear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Okay, let’s hit some highlights from these last three letters.
Jesus praised the church in Sardis for having a few people who had not soiled their garments. They had not allowed the culture around them to defile their walk with Christ.
At the same time, Jesus condemned the church for having a reputation for being alive but were actually dead. No substance. What a tremendous warning for our churches today. How many of our churches are resting on past works and reputations instead of pushing forward into new ways to glorify God?
The church is called on to be alert, to wake up. They were to strengthen what remained, remember what they had received, and repent. This is great advice for churches today. Recognize how God has gifted and blessed a church. Then focus on that as they repent of any sin that has prevented them from glorifying God more.
The church at Philadelphia is commended for keeping God’s word and not denying His name. The church is faulted for nothing. While the church was not perfect, there was nothing for Jesus to condemn them over. He also promised them several rewards for their perseverance.
Finally, it’s obvious that Jesus is not happy with the church at Laodicea. It think it’s safe to say that Jesus has no use for lukewarm Christians or churches. In the Gospels, He uses very dramatic language to describe how devoted we should be to Him. We are to choose him over all things and all people in our lives. And devoted Christians make up devoted churches. Let’s pray.
Jesus, thank You for these two chapters and for spelling out what You do and do not want to find in Your Church when You come again. Remind us daily that You will come again. Press us to revisit these chapters regularly for a refresher of Your expectations. In Your name we pray, Amen.
Thank you for joining me here today. I pray God will grow in you what has been planted and watered here. In this time of unprecedented struggle worldwide, we can look to God for guidance and comfort. Be sensitive to those in your circle of influence who need a word of encouragement and invite them to join us. If you like this show, it would be great if you give it a five-star review. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. See you right here tomorrow. Be well!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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