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Christ’s Letter to Sardis

Write the following to the messenger of the congregation in Sardis,[a] for these are the words of the one who holds the seven Spirits of God[b] and the seven stars:

I know all that you do and I know that you have a reputation for being really “alive,” but you’re actually dead! Wake up and strengthen all that remains before it dies, for I haven’t found your works to be perfect in the sight of my God. So remember all the things you’ve received and heard, then turn back to God and obey them. For if you continue to slumber, I will come to you like a thief, and you’ll have no idea at what hour I will come. Yet there are still a few in Sardis who have remained pure,[c] and they will walk in fellowship with me in brilliant light,[d] for they are worthy. And the one who experiences victory will be dressed in white robes and I will never, no never erase your name from the Book of Life. I will acknowledge your name before my Father and his angels. So the one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is now saying to all the churches.

Christ’s Letter to Philadelphia

Write the following to the messenger of the congregation in Philadelphia,[e] for these are the solemn words of the Holy One, the true one, who has David’s key,[f] who opens doors that none can shut and who closes doors that none can open:

I know all that you’ve done. Now I have set before you a wide-open door[g] that none can shut.[h] For I know that you possess only a little power, yet you’ve kept my word and haven’t denied my name.[i] Watch how I deal with those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews but are not, for they’re lying. I will make them come and bow down[j] at your feet and acknowledge how much I’ve loved you. 10 Because you’ve passionately kept my message of perseverance, I will also keep you from the hour of proving that is coming to test every person on earth. 11 But I come swiftly, so cling tightly to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown of victory. 12 For the one who is victorious, I will make you to be a pillar in the sanctuary of my God,[k] permanently secure.[l] I will write on you the name of my God and the name of the city of my God—the New Jerusalem, descending from my God out of heaven.[m] And I’ll write my own name on you. 13 So the one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is now saying to all the churches.

Christ’s Letter to Laodicea

14 Write the following to the messenger of the congregation in Laodicea,[n] for these are the words of the Amen,[o] the faithful and true witness, the ruler[p] of God’s creation:

15 I know all that you do, and I know that you are neither frozen in apathy nor fervent with passion.[q] How I wish you were either one or the other! 16 But because you are neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, I am about to spit you from my mouth.[r] 17 For you claim, “I’m rich and getting richer—I don’t need a thing.”[s] Yet you are clueless that you’re miserable, poor, blind, barren, and naked! 18 So I counsel you to purchase gold[t] perfected by fire, so that you can be truly rich. Purchase a white garment to cover and clothe your shameful Adam-nakedness.[u] Purchase eye salve to be placed over your eyes so that you can truly see. 19 All those I dearly love I unmask and train.[v] So repent and be eager to pursue what is right. 20 Behold, I’m standing at the door, knocking.[w] If your heart is open to hear my voice and you open the door within, I will come in to you and feast with you, and you will feast with me.[x] 21 And to the one who conquers[y] I will give the privilege of sitting with me on my throne, just as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 The one whose heart is open let him listen carefully to what the Spirit is saying now to the churches.


  1. 3:1 Sardis can mean “those who have escaped” or “red ones” (jewels). How we need to escape every form of religious bondage on our journey into Christlikeness. By the blood of Christ, we are redeemed and set free to be his fiery (red) ones, like jewels before God. Twice in the history of Sardis it had fallen to its enemies because it was not alert and watching. It was conquered once in 549 BC by King Cyrus of Persia, and again in 214 BC by Antiochus the Great. For this reason, the people of Sardis were asleep and needed an awakening.
  2. 3:1 Or “the seven-fold Spirit of God.” See 1:16.
  3. 3:4 Or “You have a few names in Sardis who have not soiled their garments” (with sin).
  4. 3:4 Or “in white.” This is walking in the full enjoyment of our justification before God. We walk in “white” for we have been washed whiter than snow by the blood of Jesus.
  5. 3:7 Philadelphia means “brotherly love.” A powerful earthquake nearly leveled the city in AD 17, so hearing these words of encouragement from Christ would have greatly helped them. To be made into “pillar[s]” of the temple (v. 12) would give them security in the world shaking around them.
  6. 3:7 The key of David unlocks intimacy and prayer. David was a man who lived in grace centuries before the gospel of God’s grace was unveiled. In that sense, the key of David allowed him to view the future and live in the grace it would reveal.
  7. 3:8 Or “a door having been opened in your sight.” This open door is likely an invitation to come into the fullness of God’s kingdom of joy and power in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17; Rev. 4:1). Or it may refer to an open door of opportunity to give witness to others of God’s power and grace (1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:3).
  8. 3:8 See Isa. 22:22.
  9. 3:8 Note that it takes “little power” to keep (obey) God’s word and not deny his name. Imagine what having great power would look like!
  10. 3:9 Or “worship [God] at your feet.”
  11. 3:12 Since the image of a secure pillar is figurative, the sanctuary (temple) is also figurative, for there is no temple in the New Jerusalem reality (21:22). The word for “pillar” is also used for a pillar of fire. The emblem of a pillar points to a sure and fixed position upholding and supporting the kingdom purposes of God.
  12. 3:12 Or “never again will he leave it.”
  13. 3:12 We are not going up to the New Jerusalem; this heavenly “city” is coming down to us on earth. It’s new in quality, not simply new in time.
  14. 3:14 Laodicea means “human rights” or “self-righteousness.”
  15. 3:14 There is only one other place in the Bible that “the Amen” or “the God of Amen” is found. See Isa. 65:16.
  16. 3:14 Or “the beginning [originator, source] of God’s creation.” The Greek Septuagint uses this word (archē) for ruler/authority in Gen. 40:13, 21; 41:13. See also A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed.
  17. 3:15 Or “you are neither cold nor hot.”
  18. 3:16 This is not a complete rejection, for Jesus gives them a call to repent and return to a place of being passionate and zealous for God. The Aramaic uses an idiom that can mean “I am about to reprimand you (lit. ‘give you of my mouth’).”
  19. 3:17 Although Laodicea was known as a very prosperous city, a financial center of the region, Christ’s estimation of them was that they were spiritually poor. Only in Christ are we made rich (2 Cor. 8:9).
  20. 3:18 That is, Christ will be our gold. The wealth of Christ is not purchased with money but by faith. See Job 22:25; Prov. 23:23; Isa. 55:1–3.
  21. 3:18 Or “so that the shame of the nakedness of you will not be exposed.” Christ will be our white garment and our eye salve that helps us to see things as they truly are.
  22. 3:19 Or “rebuke and discipline.”
  23. 3:20 The Aramaic can be translated “I have been standing at the door, knocking.” Jesus knocking on the door points us to the process of an ancient Jewish wedding invitation. In the days of Jesus, a bridegroom and his father would come to the door of the bride-to-be carrying the betrothal cup of wine and the bride-price. Standing outside, they would knock. If she fully opened the door, she was saying, “Yes, I will be your bride.” Jesus and his Father, in the same way, are knocking on the doors of our hearts, inviting us to be the bride of Christ.
  24. 3:20 This is likely taken from Song. 5:1–2, where the king knocks on the door of the heart of the Shulamite, longing to come in and feast with her.
  25. 3:21 Each of the seven churches is given a wonderful promise to the one who “conquers” (or “overcomes,” or “is victorious”). The Greek verb tense in each of the seven instances is “one who continually, repeatedly, and habitually conquers.” The seven churches at seven locations indicates that believers are at that stage in their growth as overcomers. Ephesus means “desirable” (deeply loved by the Lord). Smyrna means “myrrh” (the trials and troubles we all go through). Pergamum means “elevated place” (seasons of praises and favor). Thyatira means “the incense [odor] of affliction” (learning to praise and overcome hardships). Sardis means “those who escape” (breaking free of our past). Philadelphia means “brotherly love” (learning lessons of loving others). Laodicea means “people’s rights” (surrendering our rights to him).