[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
3 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.
They had a reputation for being a vibrant, living church. Apparently, however, their focus was more on themselves (Jude 1:12; 1 Timothy 5:6; James 2:26).
2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3 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.
If Jesus comes as a thief, that does not mean He could come at any time. Jesus said, in John 10:10, the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. His coming, as a thief, refers to the wrath of God. There are four times the Bible speaks of Jesus coming as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3; 16:15), and all refer to the Day of the Lord. Also, the other three verses are speaking to unbelievers, while this one is speaking to Christians that act like unbelievers. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 says that day will come as a thief to unbelievers, but it will not surprise us because we walk in the light. We cannot, however, know the day of His coming (Mark 13:33; Matthew 25:13).
4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5 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.
“Clothed in white raiment” is symbolic of spiritual purity. We will later see that the martyred saints “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:9-11; 7:9-17). (See also- Jude 1:23; Zechariah 3:3-4; Revelation 3:18)
The dead will be judged by what is written (or not written) in the book of life (Revelation 20:12). The followers of the Antichrist will not have their names written in the book of life (Revelation 13:8; 17:8).
6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
7 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;
8 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.
9 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.
10 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.
Many people believe that the church will be raptured before the tribulation, and point to this verse as “proof” that Christians will not go through the tribulation period. This verse, however, does not teach that you can earn an exemption from the tribulation. Particularly, it does not teach that a person can avoid the tribulation by becoming a Christian before a certain time. Moreover, this verse clearly says that the hour of temptation is for all the world, rather than just for Christians. The word translated as “keep thee from” literally means to guard or watch over. It does not mean remove.
While Christians will still be here in the hour of temptation, it is specifically for “them that dwell upon the earth.” We shall see, throughout Revelation, that these earth-dwellers are the unbelievers (Revelation 6:10; 11:10; 13:8, 14; 17:8). This verse is speaking of the time when the unbelievers will crawl into caves and under rocks to hide from the face of God (Revelation 6:15-17).
Many people have trouble understanding Revelation, because of a confusion between the tribulation and the wrath of God. Many people tend to clump both events into one bad time that they don’t want to be in. These are, however, two separate events that happen at two different times, concerning two different groups of people. The tribulation is the wrath of Satan, and the wrath of God is the wrath of God. The tribulation is directed at Christians and Jews, while the wrath of God is directed at unrepentant non-believers. There are Christians present throughout the tribulation, but there are no (non-resurrected) Christians during the wrath of God (1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). The Antichrist will be exalted by the nations during the tribulation (Revelation 13:4-8), but God alone will be exalted during the wrath of God (Isaiah 2:11). Jesus is in heaven during the Great Tribulation, but comes to earth at the outpouring of God’s wrath. The wrath of God will end the tribulation period. We must clearly differentiate between the two events if we are to have any hope of understanding the book of Revelation.
Another point to consider is that, contrary to what many believe, the Great Tribulation is not synonymous with Daniel’s 70th week. The Great Tribulation begins at midpoint of Daniel’s week (Daniel 9:27; 12:11). Also, the tribulation will end before the wrath of God begins, and both events occur during the seven year period.
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
The words “I come quickly” does not mean “at any time”. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus can come at any time. The scriptures repeatedly state that certain things must happen before the rapture or the wrath of God. Two of those events, will be globally visible. They are the abomination of desolation (2 Thessalonians 2:2-4), and the cosmic disturbances of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17). We will cover these two events in following chapters.
The crown is a symbol of honor which we will receive at the second coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:19). The crown is called the crown of life in James 1:12, the crown of righteousness in 2 Timothy 4:8, and the crown of glory in 1 Peter 5:4.
12 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.
Jesus makes two promises here- one for the millennium, and one for the new heaven and earth at the end of the millennium. To be made a pillar in the temple of God, refers to reigning with Christ in the millennium (Revelation 14:1-5). In the new heaven and earth, after the millennium, there will be no temple. The new Jerusalem will also be after the millennium, in God’s eternal kingdom (Revelation 21:1-8).
13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
14 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;
That Jesus is “the beginning of the creation of God” is not saying that Jesus was created by God, but that Jesus is the source of all creation. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 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:
18 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.
“Tried in the fire” means to be tested through troubles. We tend to think that tribulation shows that God doesn’t love us, but it is tribulation that makes us spiritually rich.
The white garments are the righteous deeds of the saints (Revelation 19:8). Jesus says, in Revelation 16:15, to keep those garments on through perseverance.
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Everyone will be judged by God. Believers will be judged now, and chastened to make us better. Unbelievers will be judged on judgment day (Revelation 20:12, 13; 1 Corinthians 11:32).
20 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.
21 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.
This is referring to reigning with Christ in the millennium (see also- Matthew 19:27-29).
22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.