On the Revelation of Yahshua Christ, Part 6: The Churches at Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea

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On the Revelation of Yahshua Christ, Part 6: The Churches at Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea

In our last presentation, having concluded our commentary on Revelation chapter 2 we discussed the messages to the assemblies at Pergamos and Thyatira. In those messages, each of these assemblies were criticized by Yahshua Christ for having accepted men and women who were advocating the same sin, but in a somewhat different manner. The assembly at Pergamos had evidently had at least several unnamed members who upheld what Christ had described as the “teaching of Balaam, who had taught Balak to put a trap before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.”

Consulting the Old Testament Scriptures in order to find what the teaching of Balaam had been, in Numbers chapter 25 we find that the Moabites had instructed their women to seduce the men of Israel into engaging in illicit acts of sexual intercourse. There we read, in part, “1 And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.” Then a little further on: “3 And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.” But it is not until this incident is mentioned again later, in Numbers chapter 31, that we find that it was indeed Balaam who had taught this, where we read that it was done “through the counsel of Balaam, to commit trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the LORD.” So Balaam, who was hired to curse Israel, could not curse them as Yahweh had caused only blessings to emanate from his mouth. Therefore, perceiving that if the men of Israel could be coaxed into such a sin that they would lose the favor of their God, he instructed Balak to do that very thing.

While it is not stated explicitly, it is evident that certain of the Midianites had joined with the Moabites in their acts against the children of Israel. This is first seen in Numbers chapter 25, where Phinehas had been rewarded with an eternal priesthood for executing a man of the princes of Simeon and the Midianitish woman with whom he was apparently engaged in sexual intercourse. That act of vengeance also stopped the plague which had come upon all Israel as many of them were committing that very sin. Then in Numbers chapter 31, where the children of Israel later defeated those same Midianites when they sought to avenge them in battle, every male and every female who was not a virgin was slain, but the maidens, the female children, were spared and taken. The Midianites were kindred to Israel, having been the descendants of Abraham and Keturah. Evidently their children were not bastards, and they were not Moabites since the law in Deuteronomy chapter 23 had prohibited any and all Moabites from entering the congregation of Yahweh. [As a brief digression, some centuries later where Ruth was called a Moabite it can be established from the account of her life that the term was used as a geographical label, and that she was actually of the race of Israel dwelling in Moab.]

Since the Midianites were of the same general race as Israel, which is also evident in the acceptance of the female virgins, which must have been in accordance with the law, then from this episode it may be concluded that fornication, which is the word used by Christ here and also by Paul of Tarsus in 1 Corinthians chapter 10 to describe the event of the seduction of the Moabites, may only describe acts of illicit sex, but that conclusion is partial. The Midianite virgins were spared without a care that their parents had been pagans, and their parents were certainly never married in any church. But here in the Revelation, Yahshua avowed that He would kill the children of fornicators, where in the message to the assembly at Thyatira, the same terms which described the teaching of Balaam are used once again to describe the teachings of the woman called Jezebel, whom that church had tolerated as she “teaches and deceives My servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.” So in repsonse to their having accepted that sin Christ had said “22 Behold, I cast her into a bed, and those committing adultery with her into great tribulation if they do not repent from her works, 23 and I shall slay her children with death...”

Reconciling the difference between the treatment of the virgins of the Midianites, the treatment of all the children of the Canaanites, and the treatment of the children who committed the fornication which was taught to them by this Jezebel, one must accept that fornication is more than merely illicit acts of sexual intercourse between people of the same race, and that it also must describe race-mixing. That is because the children of men who committed illicit acts of intercourse with women of the same race were never killed in the Old Testament, but at diverse times Yahweh did indeed demand the killing of bastards, of people of mixed races, including their children. Speaking of the conquests of the Canaanites of Bashan and the surrounding areas, we read in Deuteronomy chapter 3: “6 And we utterly destroyed them, as we did unto Sihon king of Heshbon, utterly destroying the men, women, and children, of every city.” Likewise, we read in 1 Samuel chapter 15: “3 Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.” The Amalekites were descendants of Esau and his Canaanite wives, and were also mingled with the Horites [Genesis 36:20 ff.] The Canaanites were mingled with the Kenites, Rephaim and other races long before Esau had taken such wives [cf. Genesis 15:19-21]. In a pronouncement of vengeance against Edom which is apparently unfulfilled, so it must yet be in the future, we read in the 137th Psalm “9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.”

In the messages to both assemblies, Pergamos and Thyatira, the warnings against fornication include the eating of things sacrificed to idols. In the formative years of Christianity, before corrupted versions of it had become the compulsory religion of States, to accept the Gospel of Christ was practically an assurance that one was of the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”, as Christ had said that “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them and they follow Me” (John 10:27). But on the other hand, idolatry and the worship of pagan idols made one susceptible to race-mixing even if one was not alarmed at the appearance of people of other races, since in Roman times the Arabs, Edomites and other Canaanites had often looked just like the people of the White nations which had descended from the ancient Israelites. For the most part, it was only under the conquests of Islam and the introduction of sub-Saharan negroes into the formerly Roman world that it began to darken considerably.

If the children of men who merely engaged in illicit sexual activities with women of their own race are to be slain, then both Pharez and Zarah, the sons of Judah, should have been slain because their mother had conceived them by playing the harlot. Yet they obtained the blessings of Jacob. Jephthah should also have been slain, as he was called the son of a “strange woman” by his own brethren, a woman other than his father’s wife, yet he was chosen by God to deliver Israel from the Ammonites and to rule over his brethren. Solomon also should have been slain, as he was the son of David with Bathsheba, and David had confessed his sin against another man for having arranged to take his wife. Yet all of these men became great men in Israel, and Pharez and Solomon are among the earthly ancestors of Christ Himself. So it is not the children of illicit relationships between people of the same race who are killed, but only the children of bastards, of race-mixing relationships whom Yahshua has promised to kill, and therefore fornication refers not only to illicit acts of intercourse, but also to race-mixing.

As Paul of Tarsus had also illustrated in Hebrews chapter 12, one is either a son or a bastard, where he also attested that Yahweh receives and seeks to correct His sons, but not the bastards. So the fornication of Revelation chapter 2 is race-mixing. In Scripture, there is no such thing as “sex outside of marriage”, because every sexual relationship is either an act of marriage, or an act of adultery or fornication, without exception. As Solomon wrote in chapter 4 of his Wisdom: “6 For children begotten of unlawful beds are witnesses of wickedness against their parents in their trial.” As a result of them, we also read in that same chapter: “ 3 But the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting from bastard slips, nor lay any fast foundation. 4 For though they flourish in branches for a time; yet standing not last, they shall be shaken with the wind, and through the force of winds they shall be rooted out. 5 The imperfect branches shall be broken off, their fruit unprofitable, not ripe to eat, yea, meet for nothing.” As Christ had also said, in Matthew chapter 15: “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.” Every bastard is something which Yahweh did not plant.

Now we shall commence with Revelation chapter 3, where there are messages to three more Christian assemblies, those of Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea:

III “1 And to the messenger of the assembly in Sardeis, write: Thus says He having the seven Spirits of Yahweh and the seven stars, I know your works, that you have a name that you may live, and you are dead.

The Lydian cities of Anatolia were said to have been ransacked or destroyed by the Persians in the 6th century BC. The ancient city of Sardis was once the capital city of Lydia. It was an important city to the Persians, and held by them throughout most of the Classical period. During the later Persian War with the Greeks, the Athenians and Ionians again took control of Sardis, where both Lydians and Persians were dwelling, and burned much of it (Herodotus, The Histories, 5.101-102). But while Persia was defeated when Xerxes attempted to conquer the Greeks in the early decades of the 5th century BC, the Persians continued to hold dominion over Sardis and most of Anatolia until the coming of Alexander of Macedon. In 17 AD the city was destroyed once again by an earthquake, but rebuilt with Roman funds and tax relief during the reign of the emperor Tiberius. From that time it persisted until the 15th century, where it was evidently destroyed by the Turks and Mongols.

Sardis was named after the usually transparent-reddish or transparent-brownish sardion stone, which is called carnelian by the English. This stone was used in the making of jewelry by the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans, and in the making of cylinder seals by the Assyrians. It was also widely used by the Romans for signet seals, which may add to the depth of the meaning here, since there is apparently question as to whether these Christians are indeed as sealed, or assured, of their salvation as they seem to think that they are. The color of the stone can vary greatly, from pale orange to near-black, and perhaps that is also why this assembly was picked out for this message. The Christians of Sardis were not admonished for having committing any identified or explicit sin, but they were warned that they should stay alert and be sure to fulfill their Christian obligations. It seems that as the sardion stone has a wide range of colors, the people of assembly at Sardis had a wide range of attitudes and behavior. The Sardians had the Word, but seem not to have acted on it, having the works also. As James warned in chapter 2 of his epistle, “Faith without works is dead”, and that warning is also evident in the message here.

The seven Spirits are first mentioned in Revelation chapter 1 in the same context as the seven churches. Later they are mentioned in chapter 4 where they are described as being one and the same as the seven lamps of fire. There in a description of the throne of God we read in part: “5 And going out from the throne stars and voices and thunders, and seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of Yahweh”. Since each of seven lampstands belong to one of these seven churches, we may imagine that these words do indeed refer to the spirits of these seven churches that are reflected in each of these seven messages, representing the attitudes and behavior which have evidently been held in common among Christians throughout the age of the Gospel. This is corroborated at the end of Revelation chapter 1 where we read of “20 the mystery of the seven stars which you see in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are messengers of the seven assemblies and the seven lampstands are seven assemblies.” So where Christ refers to Himself as “He having the seven Spirits of Yahweh and the seven stars”, He is attesting that the seven churches, which seem to represent all of the children of Yahweh, all belong to Him , they are in His hand.

Where we read His attestation that “I know your works, that you have a name that you may live, and you are dead”, although the children of Israel have a promise of life in Christ even Abraham had confessed that he was nothing but “dust and ashes” where we read in Genesis chapter 18: “27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.” In that same manner, Paul of Tarsus professed in Colossians chapter 2 “13 And you, being dead in transgressions and in the foreskin of your flesh, you He made alive together with Him, forgiving us all those transgressions.” Christians should acknowledge that in the flesh they are no better than dead, but that their true life is in Yahshua Christ, if indeed they have His spirit. Thus Paul wrote in Romans chapter 8: “9 However you are not in the flesh, but in Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of Yahweh dwells in you; and if one has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not of Him: 10 but if Christ is in you, indeed the body is dead because of fault, but the Spirit alive because of righteousness. 11 Moreover, if the Spirit of He who raised Yahshua from the dead dwells in you, He who raises the Anointed from the dead will also produce alive your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwells in you.” Therefore according to Paul, the Christians at Sardis were still living according to the flesh, and not according to the Spirit, since they were considered dead, and the meaning of this opening statement of this message certainly seems to be explained further where Paul continued a little further on in that same chapter and said: “12 So then, brethren, we are obligated not to the flesh, to live in accordance with the flesh; 13 for if in accordance with the flesh you live, you are about to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

2 You must be alert and establish the remaining things which were about to die, for I have not found your works completed before My [The King James Version followed the MT manuscripts of Andreas of Caesareia which want “My” here] God. 3 Therefore [א wants “therefore”] remember how you have received and have heard and keep [the MT wants “and keep”] and repent. Then if you should not be alert [א has “repent”] , I shall come [א inserts “upon you”] as a thief, and you may not know what hour I shall come upon you.

Perhaps watchful, as it is in the King James Version, may have been a better translation of γρηγορεύω here in this context, where we have alert. The reference to “the remaining things which are about to die” in relation to the statement that “I have not found your works completed”. or perhaps perfected, or literally made full, seems to be an indication that the assembly at Sardis has already abandoned some of the instructions which they had learned from the Gospel of Christ, and that they are about to abandon even more, for which they are warned they must establish them instead, which is literally to make them to stand, although the King James Version translates the verb στηρίζω as strengthen. The admonition to “remember how you have received and have heard and keep and repent” therefore seems to both warn the assembly to keep what things they have continued to maintain, while repenting of abandoning the things which they have already let die. But as it was with the assembly at Ephesus, we are not told precisely what doctrines they had abandoned, and we are not told explicitly what sin it was from which they needed to repent.

This is in contrast to the assemblies at Pergamos and Thyatira which were explicitly rebuked for tolerating the sins of fornication and idolatry. By this we should understand the gravity of those sins which were mentioned explicitly. Paul had also illustrated this, in 1 Corinthians chapter 6 where he wrote “15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Then having raised the members of the Christ, shall I make members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he joining himself to the harlot is one body? ‘They shall be,’ He declares, ‘two into one flesh.’ 17 But he joining himself to the Prince is one Spirit. 18 Flee fornication. Every error which perhaps a man may make is outside of the body, but he committing fornication, for his own body he fails. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit in you? Which you have from Yahweh, and you are not your own? 20 Indeed you have been purchased for a price; so then you honor Yahweh in your body.” We may take this one step further, since every child of Israel is a member of the body of Christ, and we may insist that a man or woman committing fornication sins against the entire body of Christ.

However since Sardis seems to have persisted longer than many of the other seven cities, perhaps upon receiving John’s message here it was taken to heart, and they did repent. The much later destruction of medieval Christian Anatolia in the Islamic conquests was for entirely different reasons, and they are a subject of prophecy in later chapters of the Revelation, namely in chapter 9. Now once again there is a message of hope, but perhaps not for the entire assembly:

4 But you have a few names in Sardeis which [the MT has “who”] have not soiled their garments, and they shall walk with Me in white, because they are worthy. 5 He who prevails thusly shall [the MT has “He who prevails shall himself be”; the text follows א, A and C] be cloaked in white garments and his name shall not be wiped out of the Book of Life and I shall profess his name before My Father and before His messengers. 6 He having an ear must hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies!

Where we read “you have a few names”, citing this passage as well as Acts 1:15 and Revelation 11:13, Joseph Thayer wrote the following in his definition for ὄνομα, which in the plural here is names: “In imitation of the Hebrew שמות [shemoth] (Numbers 1:2, 18, 20; Numbers 3:40, 43; Numbers 26:53), the plural ὀνόματα is used equivalent to persons reckoned up by name.” So where in Revelation 11:13 the King James Version has only “of seven thousand men”, the Greek as it is translated in the Christogenea New Testament has “seven thousand names of men”, where in order to represent every Greek word in the original a literal translation was preferred. This is a significant Hebraism in the Greek language of the Revelation which was also used by Luke on one occasion in Acts, although there have also been several more subtle Hebraisms which we have not mentioned here.

We have mentioned that the sardion stone for which Sardis was named was used for making signet seals, and here it is revealed that there are certain Christians in this assembly who shall walk with Christ in white garments. In Revelation chapter 7 we see that a hundred and forty-four thosand men of Israel were sealed, and when we offer our commentary on that chapter we shall posit that the sealing must have happened before the fall of Rome which is described in the chapters which both precede and follow that sealing. In verse 3 of that chapter, the act of sealing is presented as an intermission in those events surrounding the fall of Rome.

Later, the one hundred and forty-four thousand are described further, in Revelation chapter 14 where we read: “1 And I looked, and behold! The Lamb stood upon Mount Sion, and with Him a hundred forty-four thousand having His Name and the Name of His Father written upon their foreheads. 2 And I heard a sound from out of heaven like a sound of many waters and like a sound of great thunder, and the sound which I heard like lyre-players playing on their lyres. 3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders, and no one was able to learn the song except the hundred forty-four thousand, those having been purchased from the earth. 4 These are they who have not been defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are they who follow the Lamb wherever He should go. These have been purchased from among men, a first-fruit for Yahweh and for the Lamb, 5 and in their mouths a lie is not found: they are blameless.” So it is evident that this is the signification of the promise by Christ made here, that some of those in Sardis shall be among those who “walk with Me in white”, because they had not soiled their garments.

But the concept which is held by some modern denominational churches, that only the one hundred and forty-four thousand are saved, is errant -- to say the least. Later in Revelation chapter 7, after the sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand, there is a description of an innumerable multitude from all nations, evidently from all nations which are of Israel, who had “washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” These are saved, although they had soiled their garments, yet they were able to cleanse them in the blood of Christ. As the Scripture says in Romans chapter 11, “26 And in that manner all of Israel shall be delivered; just as it is written, ‘From out of Zion shall come the Deliverer, and He shall turn away impiety from Jakob’”, and in Isaiah chapter 45, “25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

But we cannot imagine that Yahweh God actually has an actual book in heaven, or that He would need one. The Book of Life mentioned here can only be the Bible itself, or at least, the Bible as we know it is a reflection of the Book of Life. The copy we have is not perfect, but it is the story of the history of our race in the earth and the Law and the Words of our God. Paul tells us that they who keep the Gospel of Christ uphold the “Word of Life”, where in his epistle to the Philippians in chapter 2 he admonished them to “14 Do all things apart from murmuring and disputing, 15 that you would be perfect and with unmixed blood, blameless children of Yahweh in the midst of a race crooked and perverted - among whom you appear as luminaries in the Society, 16 upholding the Word of Life for a boast with me in the day of Christ, that not in vain have I run nor in vain have I labored. ”. Having unmixed blood, Christians are not products of race-mixing fornication as Christ shall not accept bastards, according to His Own law. The veracity of this interpretation shall be further corroborated as we examine the message to the assembly at Philadelphia.

In the opening verse of his first epistle the apostle John informed his readers that the apostles had touched the “Word of Life”. So it is evident that if Christ is the Word of Life, then the Book of Life is His gospel and His profession. He tells us that if we do not deny Him, then He will not deny us before His Father. If we keep His words, then we are written in the Bible – being of the Adamic Race about whom the Bible is written and for whom the Bible promises salvation, and if we are Israelites, it is also written in us since His Word is written in our hearts. Christ told the Judaeans, as it is recorded in John 8:51, that “Truly, truly I say to you, if one would keep My Word, he would not see death for eternity!” Then in John chapter 15, after telling His disciples that “14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you”, Christ also told them to “Remember the word which I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they have persecuted Me, they shall also persecute you. If they have kept My word, they shall also keep yours. But all these things they shall do to you on account of My Name, because they do not know He who has sent Me.” If you are one of “they”, one of those who would be responsible for the persecution of both Christ and His disciples, then you are not of the Adamic race, and your name is not in the Book of Life, and it cannot ever be found there.

This concludes the message to the assembly at Sardis, and next we have the message to the assembly at Philadelphia:

7 And to the messenger of the assembly in Philadelphia, write: Thus says the Holy One, the Truthful One [א and A transpose “Holy” and “Truthful”; the text follows the MT and C], He having the Key of David, He opening and no one shall close [once again the MT follows Andreas of Caesareia, whose manuscripts have “and no one closes”; the text follows א, A and C], and [A wants “and”] closing [C has “closes”] then no one opens [A and the MT have “”shall open”; the text follows A and C], 8 I know your works. Behold, I gave before you a door having been opened, which no one is able to close it [א wants “it”], because you have a little strength and have kept My Word and have not denied My Name.

Here Christ refers to Himself as “He having the Key of David”, and that informs us as to the fact that it is He who now possesses the throne of David. This is presaged in a prophecy found in Isaiah chapter 22 where we read: “20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah: 21 And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house.” But this situation was temporary, which is evident where the prophecy continues: “23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house. 24 And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the issue, all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of flagons. 25 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off: for the LORD hath spoken it.” So the Key of David had fallen, ostensibly when Judah was taken into captivity and its kings had no longer ruled. Yahshua Christ, upon His incarnation, is declared to be the King of Israel, and now He holds the Key of David. So we see, for example, in John chapter 1 where Nathanael had marvelled at the prescience of Christ, that: “49 Nathanael replied to Him: ‘Rabbi! You are the Son of Yahweh! You are King of Israel!’” Christ was also pronounced king by the people of Jerusalem at His triumphal entry through the gates of the city a week before His crucifixion. This is in spite of the fact that members of the house of David, and even descendants of Judah through Zarah, may have continued to rule over various portions of the children of Israel throughout subsequent periods of history.

The name Φιλαδέλφεια or Philadelphia comes from a Greek compound word which means brotherly love, and in this message this assembly was not criticized by Yahshua Christ, which is certainly why this assembly must have been chosen for this message, for the meaning of its name, just as Smurna, which means ointment in reference to the state of being anointed was chosen for a similar message. By observing the anointing of Yahweh God and by loving one’s brother, one shall not be ciriticized by Christ. This also accords with the words of Christ in the Gospel in response to a question concerning which is the greatest commandment of the law, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 22 where it is referring to Christ and we read: “37 And He said to him: ‘Love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 The second is thusly: You shall love him near to you as yourself. 40 By these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’”

The apostle John had explained in chapter 2 of his first epistle that “27 ... the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you...” By disregarding that anointing one dishonors God because the anointing comes from Him and from Him alone. Then according to Christ, the second greatest commandment is to love one’s brother. That commandment is found in the law only in Leviticus chapter 19, where one’s neighbors are also defined as the children of one’s own people and we read: “18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.” This is what Christ had referred to as the second greatest commandment, although in the law in the Old Testament it is only found in this passage of Leviticus, and not even in the ten commandments, which we would better refer to as the ten primary commandments since they were given first and many other commandments followed.

While Matthew recorded that exhortation of brotherly love by Christ, the same exhortation is frequently found in the Scriptures recorded by John, but in different ways. In John chapter 13 we read in the words of Christ: “34 I give to you a new commandment: that you should love one another; just as I have loved you that you also should love one another. 35 By this they shall all know that you are My students, if you would have love for one another.” Evidently the commandment was new to the apostles because they were not being taught the law from Leviticus at the time of Christ. Instead, the scribes and Pharisees were teaching the so-called “traditions of the elders” which were not found in the law. Further on, in John chapter 15 Christ had said once again: “10 If you will keep My commandments you shall abide in My love, just as I have kept the commandments of My Father and I abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you in order that My joy would be in you and your joy would be fulfilled. 12 This is My commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. 13 A greater love than this no one has: that one would lay down his life on behalf of his friends. 14 You are My friends if you would do the things which I command you.” So another aspect of loving our brethren is to make sacrifices on their behalf.

In an application of these instructions, in the first epistle of John, in chapter 2, the apostle wrote: “7 Beloved, I do not write to you a new commandment, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the Word which you have heard. 8 Contrariwise, I write to you a new commandment, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness passes by and the true light already shines: 9 He purporting to be in the light and hates his brother is in darkness even now. 10 He loving his brother abides in the light and there is no offense in him. [Just as Yahshua had not found fault with the assembly at Philadephia.] 11 But he hating his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness and knows not where he goes, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”

Consequently, in chapter 5 of the same epistle, the apostle professes that Christians actually exhibit their love for both their God and their brethren by keeping the commandments of God: “1 Each believing that Yahshua is the Christ has been born from of Yahweh, and each loving He who engendered loves he having been engendered by Him. 2 By this we know that we should love the children of Yahweh, when we would love Yahweh and we would keep His commandments. 3 For this is the love of Yahweh, that we should keep His commandments: and His commandments are not burdensome! 4 For everything which has been engendered by Yahweh prevails over Society, and this is the victory prevailing over Society: our faith.”

So there is no man who can truly and honestly love God without actually also striving to abide by the commandments of God. In this message to the assembly at Philadelphia, they are commended for having “a little strength and have kept My Word and have not denied My Name.” So they must have kept the commandments of Christ, or if they had done otherwise they would have also been denying His Name.

Here in these messages to the seven churches, we have seen many promises in reference to those who prevail, or who overcome, as the King James Version translates the word. As John continues in the same chapter of that epistle, he explains how it is that Christians may prevail or overcome: “5 Now who is he prevailing over Society if not he who believes that Yahshua is the Son of Yahweh? 6 This is He having come through water and blood, Yahshua Christ. Not by water only but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit which testifies, because the Spirit is the Truth.” Coming through both blood and water, one is a true child of God, an Israelite and not a bastard, who came through obedience to the law. Remaining in the Faith of Christ, one remains obedient to His commandments. This is also indicative of the reason why in the admonishments and warnings contained in these messages to the seven churches, the only sins which are mentioned explicitly are the sins of fornication and idolatry. For the products of those sins cannot be forgiven, and for that Yahshua Christ had stated that He shall kill the children of fornicators.

9 Behold, I shall give [א has “I gave”; the MT “I give”; the text follows A and C] those from of the congregation of the Adversary saying for themselves to be Judaeans, and they are not but they are liars, behold: I shall make them that they shall come and they shall worship before your feet and they [א has “you”] may know that I have loved you.

Once again we see a description of the Jews, those who did not believe Christ because they were not His sheep, as He told them explicitly in John chapter 10 where He had also professed that He had come only for His sheep, for the children of Israel. This we read in the 100th Psalm: “3 Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” Then, in a parable relating to those same so-called “lost sheep of the house of Israel” for whom Christ had come [Matthew 15:24], we read in Isaiah chapter 63, where it is putting these words into the mouths of the chilkdren of Israel: “16 Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting. 17 O LORD, why hast thou made us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear? Return for thy servants' sake, the tribes of thine inheritance. 18 The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down thy sanctuary. 19 We are thine: thou never barest rule over them; they were not called by thy name.” Those same adversaries who had trodden down the sanctuary [the Edomites of Psalm 137:7 and 1 Esdras 4:45] are those who later claimed to be Judaeans, but who are actually of the synagogue of Satan [Romans 9:1-13], and they are today’s Jews. As Paul had explained in Romans chapter 9, first in verse 6 where he said “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”, and then in verse 13: “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated”, the Edomites had taken over Judaea as well as the government and temple in Jerusalem in the centuries just prior to the ministry of Christ. In John chapter 8, Christ had explicitly told His adversaries -- the priests who were appointed by the Edomite rulers of Judaea -- that they were the children of the Devil.

Here it is also apparent that the same call to brotherly love also seems to be relevant to the reference to the Key of David. In order to find where the key fits, one must know which door it unlocks. Yahshua Christ had professed in John chapter 10 that “1 Truly, truly I say to you, he not entering through the door into the pen of the sheep, but going up from another place, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he entering through the door is the shepherd of the sheep.” So we see that the Key of David opens the door to the sheepfold in the correct manner, and anyone else who enters in, who does not belong to the Shepherd, is a thief and a robber. No one is able to close the door to the sheep, and no one is able to open it but Christ. The true message of the covenants of God which are exclusively with His people Israel are there for any one of the sheep to enter into, if perhaps they have the strength to do so and do not deny His Name. For those who stand strong, their enemies will one day be forced to acknowledge that they are indeed the true children of Yahweh. Christians are also assured that if we keep His Words, they shall be spared the wrath that is to come upon the evildoers. So if they continue in brotherly love, they may also evidently be kept from the trials in this world:

10 Because [A has “and”] you have kept My Word with [literally “of” or “from”, in English we may also say “out of”] patience, I also shall keep [א wants “shall keep”, but the meaning may be inferred] you from the hour of trial about to come upon the whole inhabited earth to test those dwelling upon the earth.

While they are very similar in some significant aspects, here we must contrast the messages to the assemblies at Smyrna and Philadelphia. Smyrna, which we assert is a reference to the anointing of God, is not criticized, although the assembly was still warned that they would suffer persecution at the hands of these same Jews, who are the congregation of the Adversary. Philadelphia, which means brotherly love, is also never criticized, but they have a promise that they would be kept from the hour of trial that the rest of the world would suffer. This circumstance is just as relevant today. Simply being a White Christian Israelite, observing the anointing which is from of God, is not sufficient to avoid trials in this world. But those who do so and who also love their brethren in keeping with the Word of Christ may indeed avoid suffering in those trials.

The ancient city of Philadelphia was a part of the Attalid kingdom, whose capital was Pergamos, which was bequeathed to Rome by king Attalus III. The city was established in the opening decades of the 2nd century BC, and acquired its name from king Eumenes II, who sought to honor the loyalty of his own brother, Attalus II, who had also succeeded him in 159 BC. The city had suffered in the same earthquake that damaged Pergamos and largely destroyed Sardis in 17 AD, however after that it evidently thrived until it was taken by the Turks late in the 11th century. It was soon recovered by the Byzantines and held until the 15th century, when Constantinople had finally fallen and the Turks prevailed over Eastern Orthodoxy on account of its sins, a subject of prophecy in Revelation chapter 9. Having thrived for so long, it is evident that the city was indeed spared the “hour of trial about to ... test those dwelling upon the earth.” The message of hope continues:

11 I come quickly! Hold fast that which you have, that no one may take your reward [literally “crown”, στέφανος]. 12 He who prevails I shall make him [א has “I shall make for him”] a pillar in the temple of My God that he would no longer [א has “would not”] go outside, and I shall write upon him the Name of My God and the name of the City of My God, of the new Jerusalem which descends from heaven from My God, and My new Name. 13 He having an ear must hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies!

The New Jerusalem which descends from heaven is discussed at length in the closing chapters of the Revelation, for which we shall reserve our commentary. That the name of God is ultimately written on the heads of Christians is also discussed in those same chapters. Both brotherly love (hence Philadelphia) and a recognition of the Anointed People of Israel (hence Smyrna) are of the utmost importance to Christians, and this message to the seven assemblies makes that absolutely clear. Once again, fornication and idolatry are the most grievous of sins, as they are the only sins mentioned explicitly in these seven messages. Yet Christians may have other faults which are not necessarily sins punishable under the law, as we shall see next, in the message to the church at Laodicea:

14 And to the messenger of the assembly in Laodikeia, write: Thus says the Sure One [or “the Amen”, ὁ Ἀμήν], the Faithful and Truthful Witness [א has “and the Faithful Witness and the Truthful One”, as does C although it omits both conjunctions; the text follows A and the MT], [א inserts “and”] the Beginning of the creation [א has “assembly”] of Yahweh, 15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would be obliged you were cold or hot! [A wants the final clause “I would be obliged you were cold or hot!”]

The name Laodicea is from a Greek compound word, λαοδίκεια, which literally means “righteous people”, from the Greek words λαός and δίκαιος. Yet it may be shown that δίκαιος was understood in the Greek mind as being that which is deemed righteous by man, as opposed to another word, ὅσιος, which denoted that which was deemed righteous by the gods, or from a proper Christian perspective, by Yahweh God. In his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Joseph Thayer alluded to that distinction, but Liddell & Scott mention it explicitly in their entry for ὅσιος. Therefore the word may be interpreted here as denoting a self-righteous people, and thus the message fits the name of the assembly. Some commentators define the word λαοδίκεια as “justice of the people”, which is also acceptable in relation to our assertions concerning the meaning of the term, as the justice of the people is opposed to that justice which is of God.

Where Christ refers to Himself as “the beginning of the Creation of Yahweh” there is a parallel where in Revelation chapter 13 He referred to Himself as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”, because Yahweh understood before He made the world that He would have to sacrifice Himself in it on behalf of His people, and He also corroborates Paul of Tarsus where the apostle had referred to Him as both “the likeness of the invisible God” and the “first born of all the creation” in Colossians chapter 1 [1:15]. Since Christ is also the “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world”, as the apostle John professed in the opening verses of his Gospel, and since the first thing Yahweh is said to have uttered in the Creation account in Genesis are the words “Let there be light” even before the creation of anything that emits light, such as the sun, moon or stars, we may see that Christ is the light of Genesis 1:3, and in that manner He is indeed the first born of all creation. Otherwise that light cannot be identified except as a vague concept.

Now the Laodiceans are warned:

16 So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold [A has “neither cold nor hot”], I am going to vomit you out of My mouth! 17 Because you say that ‘I am rich’ and ‘I have become wealthy’ and ‘I have need of nothing’, and you do not know that [א and the MT want “that”] you are miserable and pitiful and poor and blind and naked,

The Codex Sinaiticus (א) has verse 16 to read: “So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold your mouth stops”, which is rather strange.

The people of Laodicea are neither hot nor cold: they have heard the Gospel of God and evidently they claim to be Christians, but they seem to care not for His will nor His works. So here it is apparent that it is better to not be a Christian than to be a Christian in name only, to claim to accept Christ but not to do according to His works or His Word. They also sought and counted upon their material wealth, while they were destitute of the treasures which truly matter most – those treasures which are stored up in heaven by loving one’s brethren and keeping the commandments of God. This condition stands in strong contrast to that of the assembly at Smyrna which was not criticized by Yahshua Christ, where the people were in poverty but did not know that they were wealthy, as they had treasure stored in heaven.

Evidently Laodicea was built in the middle of the 3rd century BC by the Seleucid king Antiochus II Theos in honor of his wife Laodice, on the site of an older town which was in ancient times called Diospolis. Antiochus II had assumed the pretentious title Theos, or God, after defeating the tyrant Timarchus and freeing the Milesians over whom he had ruled. His father, Antiochus I, had also assumed a pretentious title, having called himself Soter, or Savior, apparently after having won a victory over the Galatae. Later, during the rule of Antiochus III who called himself “the Great”, the king commanded the general of his army to transfer two thousand families of the captivity of Judah in Mesopotamia, who must have retained their identity there for nearly four centuries by that time, to be moved with their belongings into Phrygia and Lydia. This was recorded by Flavius Josephus along with a reproduction of the letter commanding the move in Antiquities, Book 13 (13.145 ff.) Evidently Ephesus and Laodicea as well as other places in western Anatolia and Phrygia, most of which later became known as Galatia, were populated in part by these Judaeans, as they were also later known, and they must have accounted for many of the Judaeans encountered by Paul and the other apostles of the first century. The presence of these Judaeans in Laodicea is found once again where Josephus records a letter from the high priest Hyrcanus to the Greek magistrates of Laodicea concerning the relocated Judaeans in Antiquities Book 14 (14.241 ff.)

But Laodicea had nevertheless remained an obscure city and became part of the Attalid kingdom in the early 2nd century BC. From that time the city rose to prominence during the Roman period as an important stop on the trade routes of western Anatolia. During that period the town did indeed become very wealthy, but it was completely destroyed by an earthquake in the reign of Nero, around 60 AD. At that time, the surviving citizens had refused assistance in rebuilding the town which was offered by Rome, and they rebuilt the city by their own private means, which is an indication of the wealth of the citizens as it is described in the words of Christ here. Nevertheless the people being wealthy were actually destitute as they lacked treasure in heaven, so Christ now admonishes them further:

18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire in order that you would be wealthy, and white garments in order that you would be cloaked and the shame of your nakedness not be manifest, and eye-salve to anoint your eyes in order that you may see. 19 I as many as I should love I censure and I discipline, therefore be zealous and repent!

Here the Laodiceans are admonished to trade in their worldly riches for the heavenly, to purchase white garments from Yahshua. This is how Christians may wash their robes in the blood of the Lamb, by keeping His commandments and loving their brethren, as we have already demonstrated here. But for that, the assembly needs to acquire what the church at Smyrna already had, which is ointment in order to anoint their eyes so that they may see, evidently so that they may acknowledge the meaning and the obligations of the covenants of God.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 3 Paul discussed the gold of which Christ speaks here where he wrote in reference to the foundation which is in Yahshua Christ and said: “12 Now if anyone builds upon that foundation gold, silver, precious stones, timber, fodder, straw, 13 the work of each will become evident; indeed the day will disclose it, because in fire it is revealed; and of what quality the work of each is, the fire will scrutinize. 14 If the work of anyone who has built remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If the work of anyone burns completely, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be preserved, although consequently through fire.” Evidently, not having any gold in one’s heavenly treasure, perhaps one had never washed his garments in the blood of the Lamb, and may be resurrected to the everlasting contempt which was described by the prophet Daniel (12:2).

It is apparent that this message to the assembly at Laodicea describes the condition of today's modern evangelical churches far beyond any of the others. While the modern churches profess Christ with their lips, in actuality their justification is of themselves because they do not follow His commandments. They seek after worldly riches, and therefore they are also naked and poor. Furthermore, they also admit all sorts of beasts into their congregations – people who are not involved in the covenants which Yahweh had made with Israel, and therefore they are pitiful and blind. They encourage race-mixing and turn a blind eye to Sodomy and other forms of fornication, so their sins are the most greivous of all the sins of these churches.

Now Christ offers an opportunity and a promise of hope:

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If one should hear My voice and open the door [א has “and I open the door”], then [A wants "then", as do the manuscripts of the MT from Andreas of Caesarea, and therefore also the King James Version; the text follows א and the MT] I shall enter in to him and I shall dine with him and he with Me. 21 He who prevails I shall give to him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also have prevailed and I have sat with My Father on His throne. 22 He having an ear must hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies!

This evokes the words of Christ recorded in Luke chapter 13: “25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.” Once again addressing the denominational churches, they are full of people whom Christ does not know, as He only came for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:27) and the Word of God attests that He only knows Israel out of all the families of the earth, for which reason He punishes them for their iniquities (Amos 3:2).

But these words also evoke the words of Christ to His disciples which are recorded in John chapter 14 where the apostle Jude had asked Him “Prince, what comes to pass that You are going to make Yourself manifest to us and not to Society?” So after that question we read: “23 Yahshua replied and said to him: ‘If one would love Me he shall keep My word, and My Father shall love him and We shall come to him and We shall make an abode with him. 24 He not loving Me does not keep My words. And the word which you hear is not Mine but is of the Father who has sent Me.’” Evidently the Laodiceans knew of Christ, but they did not quite love Him as they remained lukewarm.

Perhaps we should also note that these words evoke the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew chapter 25, where half of them did not make it to the banquet before the door was closed, since they had to go off to the market first, to buy oil for their lamps, and they arrived too late. So we read in conclusion: “11 Then later the rest of the virgins also came, saying ‘Master, master! Open for us!’ 12 But responding he said ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you!’ 13 Therefore you must be alert, because you know not the day nor the hour!” It is no coincidence that a little further on in that same chapter is the parable of the sheep and the goats. Yet here Christ has assured that “I as many as I should love I censure and I discipline, therefore be zealous and repent!” So while at least many of the people of this assembly must have been Israelites, perhaps this indicates the reason why the entire group was lukewarm. But perhaps the Laodiceans did repent, as the city seems to have remained relatively intact from when it was rebuilt in the 1st century until the time of the Turkish conquests of Anatolia from the 11th century.

Finally, as we have also already explained, to prevail is to keep the commandments of God and by that Christians also exhibit their love for both God and their brethren, as John had illustrated in his first epistle and as Christ had professed in His Gospel. In others of our commentaries on Scripture, we have asserted that race-mixing fornication is the most paramount of sins, and that it is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Here we see that once again in these messages to the seven churches, as it is the only sin which is mentioned explicitly, and for which Christ has explicitly stated that He will kill the children.

This concludes our commentary on Revelation chapter 3 and the messages to the seven churches.

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