"Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book."
Rev 22:7

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Sardis - Revelation 3:1-6


Revelation 3:1 - "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write..."

The name Sardis: is the plural form of the Greek word "sard," which is an orange, red, or brown variety of chalcedony, used as a gemstone.

Historical background of Sardis:

    Sardis was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia, one of the important cities of the Persian Empire, the seat of a proconsul under the Roman Empire, and the metropolis of the province Lydia in later Roman and Byzantine times.... Its importance was due, first to its military strength, secondly to its situation on an important highway leading from the interior to the Aegean coast, and thirdly to its commanding the wide and fertile plain of the Hermus.

    The city was captured by the Cimmerians in the 7th century, by the Persians in the 6th, by the Athenians in the 5th, and by Antiochus III the Great at the end of the 3rd century. In the Persian era Sardis was conquered by Cyrus the Great and formed the end station for the Persian Royal Road which began in Persepolis, capital of Persia. During the Ionian Revolt, the Athenians burnt down the city. Sardis remained under Persian domination until it surrendered to Alexander the Great in 334 BC. Once at least, under the emperor Tiberius, in AD 17, it was destroyed by an earthquake; but it was always rebuilt. It was one of the great cities of western Asia Minor until the later Byzantine period.

    The early Lydian kingdom was far advanced in the industrial arts and Sardis was the chief seat of its manufactures. The most important of these trades was the manufacture and dyeing of delicate woolen stuffs and carpets. The stream Pactolus which flowed through the market-place "carried golden sands" in early antiquity, in reality gold dust out of Mt. Tmolus; later, trade and the organization of commerce continued to be sources of great wealth. Sardis and the Hebrew Sepharad may have been one and the same (Obadiah 1:20).


Description of Christ

Revelation 3:1 - ...These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars...

Jesus establishes His authority in His introduction to the church of Sardis. As shown in Revelation 1:16, Jesus is the guardian of the seven stars, who are the angels, or messengers of the churches. Moreover, the Lord administers the seven-fold Spirit of God, who is the Holy Spirit (Revelation 1:4), or the "Helper":

John 15:26 - But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.
John 16:7 - Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

What is known

Revelation 3:1 - "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead."

A reputation, usually based on fame, honor, or notoriety, is to "have a name," as shown in the passages below:

Genesis 11:4 - And they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth."
Deuteronomy 25:7 - But if the man does not want to take his brother's wife, then let his brother's wife go up to the gate to the elders, and say, 'My husband's brother refuses to raise up a name to his brother in Israel; he will not perform the duty of my husband's brother.'
Jeremiah 32:20 - You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel and among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day.

In the case of the church of Sardis, their reputation was that they were "alive," apparently because of their works. But the Lord said that the church was "dead." In other words, the church of Sardis was relying on their flesh to do their good works, and not the Holy Spirit:

John 6:63 - It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.
Romans 8:13 - For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.


Revelation 3:2 - Be watchful...

The flesh is weak. Therefore, relying on the flesh, as did the church of Sardis, is a recipe for failure. Being watchful and praying "in the Spirit," can help prevent the trap of temptation that the flesh is easily subject to:

Matthew 26:41 - "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Ephesians 6:18 - Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.

The Holy Spirit has seven eyes that denote His watchfulness over the Earth, through the lamp stand with seven lamps, which represent the churches and believers abiding in the Lord (Revelation 1:13):

Revelation 5:6 - And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
Zechariah 4:1-2, 6, 9-10 - Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.... So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts.... "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."

Revelation 3:2 - ...and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.

Fruit can only grow on branches, if the branch abides in the life-giving vine. Likewise, fruitful works only come through those who rely on the Lord:

John 15:4-6 - Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned."

Notice that the Lord said to: "strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die". Some may take this to mean that salvation for the members at the church of Sardis was in jeopardy; that the unfruitful branches were withering and about to die and be taken off the vine. On the contrary, those in the church of Sardis, who confessed that Jesus was God, still abided in Him; their salvation remained secure:

1 John 4:15 - Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Only through the Holy Spirit are believers able to produce fruitful works, and not dead works that are not perfect. Imperfect works are those done through the flesh, rather than the Holy Spirit. In the passage below, we see that doing works contrary to the flesh, and only possible through the Holy Spirit, does the Lord consider perfect:

Matthew 5:43-47 - "You have heard that it was said, 'you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

So, we see that the works done by Sardis were not perfect because they did them in the flesh and not through the Spirit.


Revelation 3:3 - Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent.

Those who become believers hear the word and then receive it:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 - For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.

Faith comes after a person receives the word of God they heard:

Romans 10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Believers receive the Holy Spirit though the "hearing of faith":

Galatians 3:2-7 - This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? - Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain - if indeed it was in vain? Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? - just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
Acts 19:1-2 - And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" So they said to him, "We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit."

After a person hears and receives the word of God and the Holy Spirit, they are to hold fast to those things that Spirit-led believers ought to do, after the example given by Paul:

Philippians 4:8-9 - Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

Not holding fast to the things heard through God's word and the Holy Spirit will cause believers to "drift away" in their walk with the Lord:

Hebrews 2:1 - Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.

The believers in the church of Sardis where exhorted by the Lord, to hold fast to the things they had been originally taught, similar to the church of Ephesus, whose members were to "remember" from where they had "fallen" (Revelation 2:5). They were also to repent of doing works in the power of their flesh, instead of relying on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 3:3 - Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.

Again, the Lord urges the church of Sardis to watch. If they were not going to watch, He said He would come to them "as a thief." Jesus coming as a thief portrays destruction and judgment, particularly on unbelievers.

John 10:10 - The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-4 - For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.

Jesus coming as a thief also implies that He would come unexpectedly, even to believers if they are not watching:

Matthew 24:43 - But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

This passage in Matthew is for believers in the Tribulation waiting for the Lord to come. However, the lesson is the same for all believers of all dispensations: Those that fail to watch for the Lord in the Spirit, and rely on the flesh and drift away, not heeding what they heard from the word of God (Hebrews 2:1) - they are not ready to meet the Lord, whether it is judicially in chastisement, or face-to-face in the rapture.


Revelation 3:4 - You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.

While Sardis was a church that had apparently made a name for themselves of their own merit, there were a few "names" or members in the church that sought to please the Lord instead; they had not "defiled their garments." These "few names" were true believers. The next verse tells us that it is the "overcomers," or believers (1 John 5:4-5), the Lord will clothe in white, which represents cleansing from sin (Revelation 3:5). In other words, most of the members of the church of Sardis were unbelievers because they were not worthy to wear white as overcomers.

Jude shows that unbelievers wear defiled garments, as he pleads with believers to share the Gospel with those lost in any way possible - with love for the sinner, but not the sin:

Jude 1:22-23 - And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

The prophet Zechariah explains the defiled garments, where the Lord "plucked from the fire" Joshua the high priest, saving him from eternity in Hell. A change of garments, from defiled into clean, is a picture of the removal of iniquity though the salvation process:

Zechariah 3:1-4 - Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes."

Isaiah even calls these heavenly robes "garments of salvation":

Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Jesus also illustrated in the following parable that a guest must wear the proper garment to enter the wedding in the kingdom of Heaven:

Matthew 22:2, 8-13 - "The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son...." Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.' So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'"

What color is the proper wedding garment? White of course:

Revelation 19:7-9, 14 - "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!'" And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God." And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Promise to overcomers

Revelation 3:5 - He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments...

Click here for the full discussion on the overcomer.

All overcomers, those who believe Jesus is the Son of God (1 John 5:4-5), they lose their defiled garments upon salvation, as illustrated by Joshua the high priest in the last section (Zechariah 3:1-4). In the kingdom of Heaven, overcomers will wear white garments. This includes believers of all dispensations, as we will see in later studies:

Revelation 4:4 - Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.
Revelation 6:11 - And there was given them to each one [Tribulation martyr] a white robe; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little time, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, who should be killed even as they were, should have fulfilled their course.
Revelation 7:9 - After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.
Revelation 19:14 - And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses.

Recall from Revelation 1:14, white represents cleansing from sin:

Isaiah 1:18 - "Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
Psalms 51:5-7 - Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Cleansing from sin is possible only by the blood of the Lamb:

Revelation 7:13-14 - Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Atonement means that sin is "covered," so putting on a white garment symbolizes the covering of sin with the blood of the Lamb:

Exodus 30:10 - And Aaron shall make atonement upon the horns of it once in the year; with the blood of the sin - offering of atonement once in the year shall he make atonement for it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto Jehovah.
Hebrews 9:11-14 - But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

Revelation 3:5 - ...and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

God promises not to blot out the names of overcomers, or believers from the "Book of Life." The names in the "Book of Life" were there before the foundation of the world:

Revelation 13:8 - All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Revelation 17:8 - The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.

The structure of the verbs in both verses in the Greek are identical and literally read "have not been written," which means the names of those who reject Christ and worship the beast during the Tribulation were never in the "Book of Life." But it is not just the names of the beast worshippers that are not written in the "Book of Life," because anyone since the beginning of time, whose names are not found in "Book of Life," will ultimately find their destiny in the "lake of fire"- this is the second death to eternal destruction (Revelation 21:8):

Revelation 20:11-12, 15 - Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.... And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

But those who overcome never see the second death (Revelation 2:11). The Lord wrote the names of the overcomers in the "Book of Life" from the foundation of the world, because He foreknew, being omniscient, who would choose Him:

Romans 8:29-30 - For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
Ephesians 1:3-6 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

God used His foreknowledge to choose who He would adopt as sons to partake in redemption and predestined them to receive an inheritance in Heaven putting their names in the "Book of Life" before the foundation of the world to "register" them as citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 12:23):

Ephesians 1:7-12 - In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth - in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Predestination working in tandem with free will is a paradox to many, but it is important to recognize that while God uses His foreknowledge to plan the believer's eternal future. The Lord goes through the process of drawing people to Him through the Holy Spirit to a salvation decision, but it does not negate the free will to choose their eternal path, or the fact that He desires all men to come to salvation (1 Timothy 2:3-6, 2 Peter 3:9). In other words, God's foreknowledge does not equal predetermination of whether someone get saved or not. Just because the Lord knows the future and has determined our pre-appointed times and boundaries, He still desires that people seek Him of their own free will:

Acts 17:26-27 - And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us....

Free will and the ability to choose is necessary to have true love. If God choosing people by election meant that people do not have a choice to freely accept or reject Him, then they cannot love and serve God of their own free will. There are numerous examples in Scripture where God tests a person's free will to see if they will follow Him or not. The Lord first tested Adam and Eve, and their failure led to the fall of man. Unfortunately, free will can lead to sin which has consequences, and God being just has to deal with sin, but He was willing to send His Son, the Lamb of God (John 1:36), to pay the price for our sin so that we might have eternal life because He loved us so much (John 3:16-17):

1 Peter 1:18-20 - Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

When the Lord wrote the overcomers names in the "Lamb's Book of Life" before the foundation of the world, it was forever His promise is that He will never blot out anyone's name written in the "Book of Life":

    "Some people see in Revelation 3:5 the picture of God's pen poised, ready to strike out the name of any Christian who sins. They read into it something like this: "If you mess up and don't win the victory, then you're going to lose your salvation! In fact, I will erase your name from the Book of Life!" But this is NOT what the verse says. Jesus is giving a promise here, not a warning."

    "Never does Scripture say that God erases a believer's name from the Lamb's Book of Life - there is never even a warning that He is contemplating it! The wonderful promise of Revelation 3:5 is that Jesus will NOT erase one's name. Speaking to the "overcomers" - all those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb - Jesus gives His word that He will not delete their names. He affirms that, once a name is there, it is there forever. This is based on the faithfulness of God."

    Source: Got Questions

Some point to the following passage to prove that the Lord blots out, or removes names from the "Book of Life":

Revelation 22:18-19 - For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

But those who tamper with God's word are liars:

Proverbs 30:5-6 - Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.

Liars are in the list of unbelievers who do not inherit anything - Their place is in the lake of fire and not the heavenly city. This means that those who take away from God's word, their names were never in the Book of Life to begin with:

Revelation 21:7-8 - He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Revelation 21:10, 27 - And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.... But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life.

Some also point out the following passage to prove that the Lord blots people out of the "Book of Life":

Exodus 32:32-33- Yet now, if You will forgive their sin - but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written." And the LORD said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book."

But the following makes a good argument that this is a different book from the "Book of Life":

    Christ further promises every true Christian that He will not erase his name from the book of life, but will confess his name before the Father and before His angels. Incredibly, although the text says just the opposite, some people assume that this verse teaches that a Christian's name can be erased from the book of life. They thus foolishly turn a promise into a threat. Exodus 32:33, it is argued by some, supports the idea that God may remove someone's name from the Book of Life. In that passage the Lord tells Moses that "whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book." There is no contradiction, however, between that passage and Christ's promise in Revelation 3:5. The book referred to in Exodus 32:33 is not the Book of Life described here, in Philippians 4:3, and later in Revelation 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27. Instead, it refers to the book of the living, the record of those who are alive (Psalms 69:28). The threat, then, is not eternal damnation, but physical death.

    In John's day, rulers kept a register of the citizens of a city. If someone died, or committed a serious crime, their name was erased from that register. Christ, the King of Heaven, promises never to erase a true Christian's name from the roll of those whose names were "written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain" (Revelation 13:8).

    On the contrary, Christ will confess every believer's name before God the Father and before His angels. He will affirm that they belong to Him. Here Christ reaffirmed the promise He made during His earthly ministry: "Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in Heaven" (Matthew 10:32). The comforting truth that true Christians' salvation is eternally secure is the unmistakable teaching of Scripture. Nowhere is that truth more strongly stated than in Romans 8:28-39.

    Source: Grace to You - By John McArthur

Jesus also told the believers in the church in Sardis that He will confess their names before His Father and the angels, affirming that they belong to Him, as noted by John McArther in the excerpt above. Overcomers come to salvation by confessing that Jesus is the Lord and Son of God and calling on His name and believing that He is the promised Messiah that died and rose again:

1 John 5:5 - Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Joel 2:32 - And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls.
Romans 10:9-10 - ...that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

The Pharisees had rejected Jesus as being the Lord and Son of God (Matthew 26:63-65), they rejected Him as the promised Messiah, and accused Him of working through the power of demonic spirits instead of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:14-23, Matthew 10:25), this is why Jesus said the following to the people when pointing out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees:

Matthew 10:32-33 - "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."
Luke 12:8-10 - "Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven."

In other words, true believers will not reject the Lord before men like the Pharisees and the Lord will confess their names to the Father and the angels because they have confessed Him as their Lord and Savior. This, along with the promise that the Lord would never blot their names out of the "Book of Life," are evidence that salvation is sure and secure and no one will ever be able to snatch them out of the Lord's hand:

John 10:28-29 - And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand.

Call to hear

Revelation 3:6 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Spirit-led believers can understand the "mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:8-10), some of which the Lord includes as promises to the "overcomers" in the letters to the churches in Revelation.

Click here for the full discussion on the "call to hear."

Summary and Theme

Most of the members of the church of Sardis had made a "name" for themselves (Revelation 3:1). They were doing works based on their own merit and coveting the praise from men, instead of God. In fact, the Lord was clear that there were only a few true believers in Sardis. Therefore, most of the congregation did not have the leading or the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within in them. No wonder Jesus considered the church of Sardis dead (Revelation 3:1)!

Three times the Lord derides the "name," or reputation, the congregants at Sardis had made for themselves. He said only the "few names" that were worthy, would walk with Him in white (Revelation 3:4), and He would not blot out their names from the "Book of Life," but confess their name before the Father and the angels (Revelation 3:5).

The Lord exhorted the church of Sardis to remember what they had received and heard (Revelation 3:3), which was most likely the Gospel presented by apostles or other believers. Jesus alluded to this when He established His authority over the seven stars, which are the seven angels to the churches (Revelation 1:20). Those that would repent and accept the Lord as Savior would receive the life-giving Holy Spirit (John 6:63), who also gives spiritual eyes to watch for the Lord, and who would otherwise come to them as a "thief" (Revelation 3:3). Furthermore, works done through the Holy Spirit, instead of the flesh, will endure as a precious stone, like the sardine stone, the namesake of the church of Sardis:

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 - Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Prophetic Church Age Type

The Spiritually Dead Church - 1500s to the rapture

The Sardis Church Age best describes the Reformation period, when Protestantism became established by Martin Luther, John Calvin, and several others. These reformers "protested" many of the false doctrines and ecclesiastical hierarchy (Revelation 2:14-15) of the Roman Catholic Church, born out of the Pergamos Church Age, which carried over to the Thyatira Church Age.

A large history of the Sardis Church Age was magisterial, or supported by ruling authorities. This led to development of many state churches. As a result, many church members turned from pleasing God to pleasing man instead. Subsequent generations began to attend church because of family tradition and because the government sanctioned it. Instead, they should have gone to church as a result of hearing and receiving the word of God and the Holy Spirit (Revelation 3:3) to help grow in their spiritual walk with the Lord.

The work of the Holy Spirit was all but dismissed during the height of the Church Age of Sardis, until the Pentecostal, charismatic, and evangelical movements emerged in the 19th century. Without the Holy Spirit, Sardis type congregations are full of members that are spiritually dead, wearing "defiled garments" (Revelation 3:3).

Like Thyatira, many believe that the Sardis Church Age will continue to the rapture of the Church. For those in the Sardis church type, alive at the rapture, who they think they have a "name" (Revelation 3:1), but have not received the Holy Spirit, will find the Lord's return as a "thief in the night" (Revelation 3:3), where they will unexpectedly be left behind to face the darkness of the Tribulation period:

1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 - For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober.

If these members in the Sardis type of church deny Christ in the Tribulation, He will not acknowledge them before the Father or the angels (Revelation 3:5). If they accept Christ during the Tribulation, they will become "overcomers" as Tribulation saints, and receive their white robes which represent their salvation (Revelation 3:4):

Revelation 7:13-15 - Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, "Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?" And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them."

Philadelphia - Revelation 3:7-13


Revelation 3:7 - "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write..."

The name Philadelphia: comes from the Greek roots "phileo," which means "I love," and "adelphos," which means "a brother"; together known as "brotherly love."

Historical background of Philadelphia:

    [Philadelphia] was established in 189 BC by King Eumenes II of Pergamon (197-160 BC). Eumenes II named the city for the love of his brother, who would be his successor, Attalus II (159-138 BC), whose loyalty earned him the nickname, "Philadelphos," literally meaning "one who loves his brother." Lacking an heir, Attalus III Philometer, the last of the Attalid kings of Pergamum, bequeathed his kingdom, including Philadelphia, to his Roman allies when he died in 133 BC. Rome established the province of Asia in 129 BC by combining Ionia and the former kingdom of Pergamum.

    Philadelphia was in the administrative district of Sardis. In AD 17, the city suffered badly in an earthquake, and the emperor Tiberius relieved it of having to pay taxes. In response, the city granted honors to Tiberius. Evidence from coinage reveals that Caligula helped the city; under Vespasian, Philadelphia received his cognomen, Flavia. Under Caracalla, Philadelphia housed an imperial cult; its coins bore the word Neokoron (literally, "temple-sweeper"--caretaker of the temple). A small theater located at the northern edge of Toptepe Hill is all that remains of Roman Philadelphia.


Description of Christ

Revelation 3:7 - These things says He who is holy, He who is true...

"Holy" means to set apart:

Leviticus 20:26 - And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.

The Lord is "holy" and is also known as the "Holy One":

Isaiah 43:15 - "I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King."
Isaiah 47:4 - As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel.

The Church should strive for holiness because God is holy. He has called believers to separate from thier "former lusts":

1 Peter 1:13-16 - Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am Holy."

As discussed in Revelation 1:5, Jesus is the "faithful witness." The Greek word translated "faithful" can also mean reliable, trustworthy, or true. We see a similar title of Jesus later in Revelation:

Revelation 19:11 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.

Revelation 3:7 - "He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens..."

A prophecy of Isaiah, fulfilled in the time of King Hezekiah, reveals the meaning of this passage:

Isaiah 22:15-19 - Thus says the Lord GOD of hosts: "Go, proceed to this steward, to Shebna, who is over the house, and say: 'What have you here, and whom have you here, that you have hewn a sepulcher here, as he who hews himself a sepulcher on high, who carves a tomb for himself in a rock? Indeed, the LORD will throw you away violently, O mighty man, and will surely seize you. He will surely turn violently and toss you like a ball into a large country; there you shall die, and there your glorious chariots shall be the shame of your master's house. So I will drive you out of your office, and from your position he will pull you down."
Isaiah 22:20-22 - Then it shall be in that day, that I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah; I will clothe him with your robe and strengthen him with your belt; I will commit your responsibility into his hand. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. The key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and no one shall shut; and he shall shut, and no one shall open.
Isaiah 22:23-25 - "I will fasten him as a peg in a secure place, and he will become a glorious throne to his father's house. 'They will hang on him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the posterity, all vessels of small quantity, from the cups to all the pitchers. In that day,' says the LORD of hosts, 'the peg that is fastened in the secure place will be removed and be cut down and fall, and the burden that was on it will be cut off; for the LORD has spoken.'"

Shebna was a scribe (2 Kings 18-19), who served as steward over the house of Hezekiah, the King of Judah. Shebna apparently was a man of pride. While it was customary for wealthy men to hew new tombs for themselves, Shebna went beyond the norm by carving out an extravagant tomb in a high place. Ironically, he died in exile and no one buried him in his tomb.

The Lord replaced Shebna, with Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. Eliakim served the Lord, rather than himself. As a type of the Lord Jesus Christ, Eliakim had authority over the house of David, given the "key" that opens and closes access to the king. Likewise, Jesus is the way to the Father, who is also a secure "peg" that the "glory of His Father" hangs on.

What is known

Revelation 3:8 - "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it..."

Jesus sets an "open door" before the church in Philadelphia. It appears that an "open door" is an unhindered opportunity for spreading the Gospel:

Colossians 4:3-4 - ...praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.
Acts 14:27 - Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

It is interesting to note that Philadelphia was on the main trade route going east and west. As a result, there was opportunity for the church in Philadelphia to spread the Gospel to the far reaches of the earth. We will see more about Philadelphia's works in the next section.


Revelation 3:8 - ...for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name...

The Lord commended the works of Philadelphia. He told the congregation that they had "little strength." This shows that they relied on the power of Christ, as did Paul and the rest of the apostles:

1 Corinthians 4:9-13 - For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 - And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

The Lord also praised the church of Philadelphia for keeping His word. Like the disciples, those who receive and keep the word of God are those who have accepted Jesus as their Savior. Sanctification, or holiness, comes by the truth of God's word:

John 17:6-8, 17 - "I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.... Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth."

In addition to keeping the word of God, the church of Philadelphia did not deny Christ before men. Like the promise to the overcomers of the church of Sardis, those who confess the Lord before men, He will not deny before the Father (Revelation 3:5):

Matthew 10:32-33 - "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."

Revelation 3:9 - Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie - indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.

Recall from Revelation 2:9, those of the "synagogue of Satan" are those who call themselves Jews, yet deny that Jesus is the Messiah. It is a "lie" for people to call themselves Jews, merely by ancestry, or by trying to keep the Mosaic Law, which has been an impossible task for all but Christ (Acts 15:10). Only those circumcised in the heart, who do not resist the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51), God considers true Jews (Romans 2:17-29). Do not confuse being spiritually Jewish with God's covenant with Abraham's physical seed and the nation Israel. Doing so leads to "replacement theology," which teaches that God has permanently done away with the Jews and He will give the promises He made to them to the Church instead.

The religious leaders in Jerusalem, during the first century, mandated that anyone who confessed Jesus was the Messiah be barred from the synagogues, where Jewish believers gathered to worship (John 9:22, John 12:42, John 16:2). Someday those of the "synagogue of Satan," who afflicted believers in Christ, will "come and worship before [their] feet."

Worship of the Lord "before" the Philadelphia believers is acknowledgment of the Lord's work through them and the love that He has for them. King Nebuchadnezzar's reaction to Daniel's interpretation of his dream illustrates this:

Daniel 2:45-48 - "Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold - the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure." Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, "Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret." Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.

The following passage shows another example of "worship before feet" by those who afflict and despise the chosen of the Lord, where God personifies Jerusalem:

Isaiah 60:14 - Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you the City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations. You shall drink the milk of the Gentiles, and milk the breast of kings; you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob."

Revelation 3:10 - Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.

Recall from Revelation 1:9, perseverance, or patience comes through trial and tribulation. The following example shows the process from tribulation to patience:

2 Thessalonians 1:3-8 - We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The "manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God" shows how He directs believers' lives. Whether by trial, or tribulation, which builds character, or chastening, intended to correct sin, these are evidence to the world that you are a Christian. Consequently, God will not judge or condemn you with the world (1 Corinthians 11:31-32).

In other words, while salvation is all about grace (Ephesians 2:8), and you can do nothing of yourself to "be counted worthy of the kingdom of God," God gives evidence to the world that you belong in His kingdom, by acquiring patience through trial and tribulation that cultivate proper Christian conduct. Therefore, it may seem ironic that those who persevere through the trials of life, as did Philadelphia, the Lord promises they will escape the trial coming to those "who dwell on the earth":

Luke 21:35-36 - "For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."

The hour of trial coming to the "whole earth" is the Tribulation period, described in later chapters of Revelation, and by the Lord in His "Olivet Discourse." If the letters to the churches were strictly for the first century, the Lord's promise that He would keep the church of Philadelphia from the Tribulation would seem out-of-place.

It is true that no member from the first century church of Philadelphia will go through the Tribulation, as all have passed away. That said, most will agree that this promise may relate better to the generation that will be alive at the time of the rapture, where believers will "escape" instead of suffer through the trial coming to the Earth dwellers. Believers do not "dwell on the earth." Rather, they are sojourners whose citizenship is in Heaven:

Philippians 3:20 - For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 11:13-16 - These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.


Revelation 3:11 - Behold, I am coming quickly!

The Greek word translated "quickly" means swift, speedily, or without delay. This is the same Greek root word used in Revelation 1:1, where it says that the prophecies in Revelation were to take place "shortly." The context here looks like the same as the opening verse of Revelation, in that when the prophecies begin to happen, they will occur rapidly. The Lord coming in the clouds, calling up the Church to Himself in a "twinkling of an eye" (1 Corinthians 15:52) would certainly qualify as "quickly"!

The Lord's return described as being quickly, instead of "soon" in this passage, does not negate its imminence. The teaching of Jesus' imminent return pre-dates the writing of Revelation. The apostle Paul believed that the Lord could rapture the Church during his life. Paul believed that the rapture was the event that would start the domino of events that would lead up to Christ's return to set up His kingdom (2 Thessalonians 2:1-8). Paul even comforted others with his belief in Christ's imminent return:

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 - For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

As a cautionary note, be careful not confuse the Lord's coming to take the Church to Heaven before the Tribulation, with His coming to set up His kingdom on the earth after the Tribulation. Click here for a chart that explains the many scriptural differences between these two events.

Revelation 3:11 - Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

The Lord encourages the church of Philadelphia to "hold fast" to what they have. This seems to relate to a "crown" that they have earned. As shown in the "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" study, the Lord rewards believers with crowns at the "Judgment Seat of Christ," based on their works. The crown that seems to best fit Philadelphia is the "crown of life," as they kept the Lord's command to persevere (Revelation 3:10):

James 1:12 - Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

It is interesting to note, the Lord promised the church of Smyrna the same crown, as they persevered, but were also "faithful unto death":

Revelation 2:10 - Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.

The lesson to learn from the Lord's exhortation to the church of Philadelphia is that believers should constantly be on guard, as to not allow others to deceive them. Being deceived will result in the loss of rewards:

2 John 1:7-8 - For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.

Promise to overcomers

Revelation 3:12 - He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more.

Click here for the full discussion on the overcomer.

Pillars are the supporting beams, or poles that help support a structure, such as a temple (Judges 16:26). It is interesting to note, the two pillars in the temple of God in the Old Testament had names that fit their purpose. "Jachin" means "he establishes" and "Boaz" means "strength" (source):

2 Chronicles 3:1, 17 - Now Solomon began to build the house of the LORD at Jerusalem on Mount.... Then he set up the pillars before the temple, one on the right hand and the other on the left; he called the name of the one on the right hand Jachin, and the name of the one on the left Boaz.

While the two pillars in the temple of God were bronze, as shown in a parallel passage (1 Kings 7:16), some pillars in the Old Testament were also made of stone (Genesis 28:18-22, 31:45, 35:14, Leviticus 26:1). Peter depicts believers as "living stones" that make up the spiritual house, or temple of God:

1 Peter 2:4-5 - Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Similarly, Hannah's prayer likens the saints as "pillars of the earth," who will inherit the heavenly throne. This prophetic prayer will find fulfillment during the Millennium:

1 Samuel 2:7-9 - The LORD makes poor and makes rich; He brings low and lifts up. He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the beggar from the ash heap, to set them among princes and make them inherit the throne of glory. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and He has set the world upon them. He will guard the feet of His saints, but the wicked shall be silent in darkness. For by strength no man shall prevail.

While there will still be a temple during the Millennium (Ezekiel 40-48), there will be no physical temple in eternity:

Revelation 21:22 - But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.

However, the spiritual temple made up of believers will continue into eternity. Unlike the departing of the Lord from the physical temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 10:18), the Lord "shall go out no more" from the spiritual temple:

Revelation 21:3 - And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God."

Revelation 3:12 - I will write on him the name of My God...

From the last section, we saw that believers will be "pillars" that make up the spiritual temple of God. Since God put His name on the earthly temple (1 Kings 9:3), it makes sense that He will put His name on the spiritual temple, made of believers. The following passage shows, that in eternity, all the Lord's servants will have His name on them:

Revelation 22:3-4 - And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads.

Putting or writing a name on someone, or something, denotes ownership. God blesses those He has chosen to put His name on:

Numbers 6:23-27 - "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."'" "So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them."

During the Tribulation, the 144,000 servants will have the Father's name written on their foreheads:

Revelation 14:1 - Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads.
Revelation 7:3-4 - "...Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads." And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.

A man dressed in linen put a similar mark on the foreheads of men who grieved the abominations against the Lord in Jerusalem, though we do not know if this mark was God's name:

Ezekiel 9:4-6 - ...And He called to the man clothed with linen, who had the writer's inkhorn at his side; and the LORD said to him, "Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it." To the others He said in my hearing, "Go after him through the city and kill; do not let your eye spare, nor have any pity. Utterly slay old and young men, maidens and little children and women; but do not come near anyone on whom is the mark; and begin at My sanctuary." So they began with the elders who were before the temple.

The context in the passages above shows that protection is part of this "seal," or "mark" of the Lord. Someday all of God's people will be eternally secure from all harm:

Revelation 21:3-4 - And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Revelation 3:12 - ...and [write on him] the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God.

God will also write the name of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, on believers. The following passages show examples where Jerusalem (earthly and heavenly), and its inhabitants are one entity bearing one name:

Daniel 9:19 - "O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name."
Isaiah 62:12 - And they shall call them the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken.
Revelation 21:2 - Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 3:12 - And I will write on him My new name.

Just as overcomers will receive a "new name" (Revelation 2:17), the Lord will also have a "new name." The Lord's "new name" might be the one only He knows at the time of His return to the earth:

Revelation 19:11-12 - Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.

It is interesting to note, both Jacob (Genesis 32) and Samson's parent's (Judges 13) asked for the name of the "Angel of the Lord," which many believe was the pre-incarnate Christ. Curiously, Lord did not reveal His name to them, but both parties recognized that they had seen God. Perhaps this hidden name is the "new name" that God will reveal someday and write on the overcomers.

Call to hear

Revelation 3:13 - "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

Spirit-led believers can understand the "mysteries of the kingdom of God" (Luke 8:8-10), some of which the Lord includes as promises to the "overcomers" in the letters to the churches in Revelation.

Click here for the full discussion on the "call to hear."

Summary and Theme

Philadelphia had a history of earthquakes that prevented it from becoming a great city. With a large earthquake devastating the area in 17AD, just decades before John penned the Revelation, this letter would have brought great encouragement to the congregation in Philadelphia. Despite having "little strength" (Revelation 3:8), the church of Philadelphia not only stayed faithful, but apparently the Lord gave them the ability to spread the word of God with an "open door" (Revelation 3:8). Conversely, Paul had many doors closed and prayed for the ability to spread God's word without hindrance:

Colossians 4:3-4 - Meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak.

With the uncertainties of life, especially in an earthquake prone area, the Lord gives assurances to the church of Philadelphia of stability in the life to come. Those who overcome will be "pillars," the support in the spiritual temple of God (Revelation 3:12). Just as Abraham looked for that heavenly city that had sure foundations, the church of Philadelphia could also look forward to the everlasting New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12):

Hebrew 11:8-10 - By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Prophetic Church Age Type

The Missionary Church - 1800s to the rapture

The Church Age of Philadelphia is known by their "brotherly love" they poured out in the missionary fields, after the evangelical movement began in the 1800's. The Philadelphia Church Age has certainly had an "open door" (Revelation 3:8) to spread the Gospel to the far reaches of the earth, during the last century. The technology described in Daniel that characterizes the last days, certainly has played a role in the success of spreading the Gospel (Daniel 12:4). Today, one person can reach millions through television or the internet, even if they only have a "little strength" (Revelation 3:8).

The two main doctrines revived at the birth of the Philadelphia Church Age were: The literal interpretation of Scripture, and the physical return of the Lord, followed by a literal thousand-year reign. With excitement, the Church Age of Philadelphia looks for the imminent return of the Lord, who will come "quickly" (Revelation 3:11), in the "twinkling of and eye," to take them to the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12), the city and house of the Father:

1 Corinthians 15:51-52 - Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed - in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
John 14:2-3 - In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

Believers from the first century church of Philadelphia that have gone to be with the Lord are surely still looking forward to their resurrection at the rapture. But believers who are alive today continue in the same hope of the first century church of the imminent return of the Lord. The following passage brings great encouragement to believers in these last days, characterized by instability, that they might not taste death, but be taken alive in the rapture before the "hour of trial" comes on the "whole world" (Revelation 3:10):

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 - For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
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