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Revelation 3

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The study Index page.

     Again. This study is verse by verse, IMAGE by Image, IDEA by Idea, and concept by concept. Which means it is a Marathon.
     We are using sources that John the Apostle and those mentioned as the recipients of the letter, the Seven Churches and other First Century Christians, the majority of which were Jews, would / should / could have been familiar with. We will also reference newer translations and versions of the book, beginning with the 1560 Geneva Bible (the bulk source for the 1611 KJV, which we also use) all the way up to much more current publications, and examinations of the text from various scholars, as well as beginning the analysis of the text from the Greek.
     It should be said here, as we are beginning with the Greek, we are going in remembering that John was writing in an 'apocalyptic' style. It seems many translations have forgotten that and 'moderated' the language.
“It ain't those parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”
- Mark Twain (1835 - 1910)

Verse 1
     Sardis, sixty miles up the Hermus Valley from the sea and the port of Smyrna, started out as a Persian city, and had been the seat of the local Satrap (governor) before the Romans moved in. Roman Sardis had been entirely rebuilt not long before this letter was written after the city was virtually leveled by a major earthquake. Part of the reconstruction was an important Jewish Synagogue and had been given permission by the local proquestor to practice their religion in their own place of worship.
From Josephus' “Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV” (see link below):
Ch. 10 part 17. "Lucius Antonius, the son of Marcus, vice-quaestor, and vice-praetor, to the magistrates, senate, and people of the Sardians, sendeth greeting. Those Jews that are our fellow citizens of Rome came to me, and demonstrated that they had an assembly of their own, according to the laws of their forefathers, and this from the beginning, as also a place of their own, wherein they determined their suits and controversies with one another. Upon their petition therefore to me, that these might be lawful for them, I gave order that these their privileges be preserved, and they be permitted to do accordingly."
     When the city was a seat of power under the Persians it had a population of 50,000 or more, since then, under the Greeks and into the time after Christ, it had been in a slow decline. In more ways than just population as it turns out, but as dark as this message begins, it gets better as it goes.
     We now join the Letter, already in progress: “... He that holds the Seven Spirits of God and the Seven Stars”. The words 'Spirits of God' are in the Greek: “hepta Pneumata tou Theou”. He says he knows their deeds that characterize them as “being alive” (zes) but that “they are dead” (nekros / a corpse).

     The verbs here are active: “Be watching (gregoron) and strengthen (sterison) the things that remain (loipa) which are about to die (apothanein / wither)”, because HE has not found their works 'perfect before God'. The NIV begins that sentence with “Wake up!”, that is appropriate.

     The word 'remember' here is Exactly that: “mnemoneue”, a form of “mneme”. It brings to mind what it meant when rendered as a proper noun “Mnemosyne”. She was the Greek goddess of memory (and was the mother of Zeus who was just talked about with the Emperor who was going to hijack his temple), and, as is appropriate for a memory, she was one of the 'old gods', the Titans, the daughter of heaven and earth, literally. So, evidently, such recollections were/are important, and especially in this case.
     What were they to remember that was important enough to invoke something that dramatic? What they have received and heard, essentially, the Gospel, the proverbial “Good News”. Speaking of which, the GNT has this half of verse three as: “Remember, then, what you were taught and what you heard; obey it and turn from your sins.”
     The “repent” theme is constant throughout the Seven Letters. As it is throughout the New Testament. Except now, the consequences of Not doing so are painted as not to be easily ignored, and remember, these letters were written to those that at least were Supposed to be Believers.
     “If you do not watch”, the threat is that if they just keep on doing what they have always done, He will come upon them as “a thief in the night”. The phrase is from Christ's own words in Matthew 24, and from the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians. In First Thessalonians five it is referring to the Day of the Lord, the Second Coming. In the case of Sardis, it may be a little more personal than that, and is referencing the coming persecution of Christians which would end their local ministry and perhaps their lives. The next statement is another echo from Matthew: "thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." (American Standard - 1901)

     But there is good news. 1560: “Notwithstanding, thou hast a fewe names yet in Sardi, which have not defiled their garments: and they shal walke with me in white: for they are worthie.” That's pretty close to the Greek, and we can move on because, in Revelation, white is the color of purity and holiness, if they are “walking with Him”, that's a good thing.

5 and 6
     “Overcoming” and the one doing so, make another appearance here. As such we see that He is not playing favorites, He is the impartial judge and sees everything and everybody as it actually is instead of as they want to appear.
     They that do that will be clothed in white.
     And now we see the first mention in Revelation of "the Book".
     The reference goes back into Ezekiel 9 where those that mourned for the evil being done in the Holy City were marked. The “Book of Life” is a constant throughout the history of the Jews, and hence, to the Christians.
     From another Apocryphal book (note: 'execration' means 'something cursed or detested'):

“But on the day of turbulence and execration and indignation and anger, with flaming devouring fire as He burnt Sodom, so likewise will He burn his land and his city and all that is his, and he shall be blotted out of the book of the discipline of the children of men, and not be recorded in the book of life, but in that which is appointed to destruction, and he shall depart into eternal execration; so that their condemnation may be always renewed in hate and in execration and in wrath and in torment and in indignation and in plagues and in disease for ever.”
Jubilees 36: 10, 'Isaac's last words' (link below)
     One can see, and we will all see again later, the similarity of the language between this section of an Apocryphal book and the Apocalypse. There is no doubt that the writer of Revelation was familiar with books like Jubilees when he was composing his book and searching his memory for ways to describe all he was seeing and hearing.
     The Book of Life is also mentioned in Philippians 4 : 3 where Paul mentions Clement and others whose names are written in it. We'll revisit the GNT for the end of this verse in Revelation 3: “In the presence of my Father and of his angels I will declare openly that they belong to me.” And that is reasonably close to the Greek, so ....
     “Hee that hath an eare, let him heare what the Spirit saith vnto the Churches.” 1611

     Further inland was Philadelphia, which was the Roman administrative center for the district of Sardis. According to various histories there were several cities with this name or nickname in the Greek world, however, as this one is in line with the others on a reasonable 'courier route', it is probably the one intended.
     Rome had taken this city in 133 BC “without firing a shot” having the region under the last of the Pergamum kings in the area bequeathed to Rome, so when Attalus Philometer died, Rome simply moved in and took over. It wasn't really a very good deal in the end.
     While the city was built on a natural hill with a view of the valley the same earthquake in 17 AD that almost leveled Sardis also hammered Philadelphia. Minor earthquakes are frequent in the area, and major ones happen often enough to keep the people on edge. Roman historian Strabo lived in the city for a number of years and observed as follows (see below):

"Incessantly the walls of the houses are cracked, different parts of the city being thus affected at different times....Yet one may be surprised at the few (that live here), that they are so fond of the place when their dwellings are so insecure; and one might marvel still more at those who founded the city.”
     The population at the time of the writing of Revelation is unknown.
     The statement about the Key of David is first found in Isaiah 22 beginning at verse 22, and includes opening and shutting doors. Paul also said the Lord opened doors for him in Second Corinthians 2 : 12

     “I know your works/deeds” once again the word here is “erga”, as it is in most of the verses we've looked at. But then there is another reference to a “open door”. This time, it is a door that He has opened for them. Which sounds like the reference of Paul's from Corinth. He has done this because the local church has little power, but has kept the word and not denied His Name. We'll come to another 'door' in a few moments.

     Again, here we see those who claim to be Jews, but are not. And here also they are to be a “synagogue of Satan”, but then there is a somewhat more dramatic promise concerning them: “indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.” (NKJV) The word here that is 'worship' in English is “proskynesousin” and 'worship' is only part of the package, it is also used to describe how one prostrates themselves before the Emperor to beg for mercy. It is interesting to note that the “love” here is not the pure “agape” love, but instead is “egapesa” which is more along the lines of “find pleasurable” or "likes", which is a good thing in and of itself when you consider the context.

     We find another church that has Endured and kept the Word. This time, He promises to keep them out of the “hour of trial”. Here we come across another issue with the 1560 where it has “tentation”, the 1611 goes with “temptation” as does the NKJV. The NAS has “testing”, the Good News makes it “time of trouble”, while the NIV gets the closest to the original with “hour of trial” for “peirasmou” which could be 'proofing' as with the assaying of metal in a fire. In any case, this time is coming upon the whole world, except for them.

     Again, He is coming quickly, the exhortation is to hold fast, “that no man take thy crowne.”

     This may be the longest 'promise verse' to any of the churches.
     The first reference is to Boaz and Jachin, two somewhat obscure individuals from First Kings seven, verses 15 to 22. ... well ... While they were most assuredly, “individuals”, they weren't people. Boaz was the enormous bronze pillar on the north side of the vestibule of Solomon's Temple, and Jachin was on the south. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, one of the names, “Boaz”, in a slightly different form, meant “Strength”. The meaning of Jachin, other than being a family name, means “'he' will establish” without explaining who 'he' is, it might be God, it might be the king, it might be whoever the first "Jachin". There is no explanation as to why those names were chosen when the pillars were erected.
     The reference that “he will stay within” reflects on Jeremiah 52: 17 where Boaz and Jachin 'left the temple' and had a bad time of it doing so, and probably ended up recast into idols and coins in their new home town.
     The Temple listed is the Heavenly Temple of God as referenced in multiple sources including Ezekiel chapters 10, 40 and elsewhere in his visions, and is implied in visions such as Stephen's in Acts 7, and the statements in Hebrews 8, Isaiah 66, and Psalm 11.
     We see here where a Name is written on them, in this case, it isn't their new name, but the Name of God. An act which implies ownership. They also have the name of the City of God written on them, possibly as a 'forwarding address'. The Jews believed it to be the Earthly city of Jerusalem, and used their reading of Psalm 46 to prove it. However, it would seem that HE moved HIS Dwelling 'upstairs' for the duration, especially after the Jews allowed the desecration and then destruction of the temple.
     And also the name of the “new Hierusalem, which commeth downe out of heauen from my God” (1611).

Debunking Tangent on the 'Enochs':
     This section has people talking about the “City of Enoch” which is referenced in both the Book of Enoch and various other books with less status than that, being the New Jerusalem. The legend is that Enoch, the Seventh from Adam (by way of Seth), had founded a city which was also found righteous as he was, and it, and all of its inhabitants were translated to Heaven without tasting death. It is at best, an ancient legend. In any case, the “_Biblical_” (note that word) the Biblical Enoch with the city was the son of Cain (Genesis 4), and NOT the Enoch that was the grandsire of Noah and the one God Took in Genesis 5, with no mention of a city. But there are those that do not let the facts get in the way of a good myth. In any case, The Creator of the Universe doesn't need a subcontractor to make His New City, as is mentioned in Hebrews 11: 10.
End Tangent.
     In the Bible, the New Jerusalem is mentioned in several places. Ezekiel, Galatians 4: 25 and 26, and even back in Hebrews 12. So it EXISTS above, and evidently has for a long time, to descend later to where it will remain forever, which comes later in Revelation. We're still not done with this verse.
     Here again is the promise that HE will write His new name on the one that has overcome.

13 “Hee that hath an eare, let him heare what the Spirit saith vnto the Churches.”

     Laodicea was a Greek city built on a junction of the river Lycus a hundred miles due east of Ephesus. The city was built on a major trade route, and was simultaneously claimed by several different provinces. This area is also subject to frequent earthquakes and the city suffered from this as well as frequent military disputes. By some estimates, it may be the smallest city of the seven, others peg it somewhere in the middle with twenty to thirty thousand in the immediate area.
     “unto the Angel...” again. Then Christ calls Himself the “Amen, Faithful and True”. The next image is from John 1.

15 and 16
     Their works were neither “psychros” nor “zestos” (cold nor hot). So they are about to be vomited out of His mouth. The word in Greek is “emesai”, it made it into Latin as “emesis”, which is the medical term that means “to throw up”. Which is a bit more dramatic than some translations state as “spit out” or even the somewhat comical "spew".

     They say they are rich in possessions and don't need anything, being “Plousios”, having abundance, when in reality they are “talaiporos, eleeinos, ptochos, typhlos, and gymnos”. In order: wretched/miserable, pitiful (one commentator had it 'one who makes others look away'), destitute (beggars), willfully blind/unseeing/ignorant, and naked (resource-less).
     In today's imagery, they are the White Star Line executive who was still bragging about the TITANIC while the band was playing "Nearer My God To Thee".

     HE says: “I recommend” (symbouleuo) that they buy from Him pure gold, processed in a fire, then they'll be rich. He also suggests strongly that they acquire the white clothing mentioned earlier, and then something new: medical advice. That they use a poultice (kollourion) to anoint (enchrisai) their eyes, so they can see. The only working interpretation is that the Word is the medicine which needs to be applied to their own self-delusion.
     We see the image of Fire Purified Gold elsewhere in the Bible, in places it is compared to straw. It is an image that has survived even through the murkiness of classical alchemy:

"And You must conceive well of his commixtion, Which is by Nature and elements tempered so well, That he delights as gold in the fire to dwell. For to the creatures of the fire and his region, The fire is always most natural."
- Simon Forman (see below)
(commixtion, 'co-mixing', the combining/blending of different substances to create something new)
     Here He states that He rebukes and disciplines his philo (brothers), so they need to be zealous (zeleue) and as elsewhere, Repent.

     This is one of the best known verses in the entire Bible, it also inspired one of the greatest modern paintings with a purely Biblical message “Christ at Heart's Door” by William Sallman, painted 1942, AND it occurs in the section with the lukewarm church which was just described with that string of adjectives in verse 17.
     Also, at least with this one, the 'regular' King James gets the translation absolutely spot on, so we'll go with it. For the full effect, read it out loud as the book recommends:

“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 and 22
     Again, a promise to those that overcome: They will sit on the throne with Him, as he overcame, and is sitting with the Father on His throne. “He that has an ear....”

End chapter 3

Selected Sources for this chapter:
Josephus' “Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIV”


Greek Mythology and gods:

The Book of Jubilees: Isaac's Last Words and Admonitions: his Death. The Death of Leah

Strabo quote

More about Jachin and Boaz in Solomon's Temple

Anderson University: William Sallman paintings

As far as is known, the source file is Public Domain
the Division of Chaos, by Simon Forman (1552-1611)

Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages:

the Geneva Bible downloadable

the 1611 KJV

The study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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