To Sardis.* 1“To the angel of the church in Sardis,* write this:
“‘The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this: “I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent. If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief, and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.a 4However, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy.b
5“‘“The victor will thus be dressed in white,* and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels.c
6“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
To Philadelphia.* 7“To the angel of the church in Philadelphia,* write this:
“‘The holy one, the true,
who holds the key of David,
who opens and no one shall close,
who closes and no one shall open,d
8“‘“I know your works (behold, I have left an open door* before you, which no one can close). You have limited strength, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9Behold, I will make those of the assembly of Satan who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying, behold I will make them come and fall prostrate at your feet, and they will realize that I love you.e 10Because you have kept my message of endurance,* I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come to the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. 11I am coming quickly. Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take your crown.f
12“‘“The victor I will make into a pillar* in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it again. On him I will inscribe the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, as well as my new name.g
13“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
To Laodicea.* 14“To the angel of the church in Laodicea,* write this:
“‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God’s creation, says this:h 15“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.* I wish you were either cold or hot. 16* So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17* i For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire* so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see. 19Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.j
20“‘“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.* 21I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne.k
22“‘“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”
* [3:1–6] The letter to Sardis does not praise the community but admonishes its members to watchfulness, mutual support, and repentance (Rev 3:2–3). The few who have remained pure and faithful will share Christ’s victory and will be inscribed in the book of life (Rev 3:4–5).
* [3:1] Sardis: this city, located ca. thirty miles southeast of Thyatira, was once the capital of Lydia, known for its wealth at the time of Croesus (6th century B.C.). Its citadel, reputed to be unassailable, was captured by surprise, first by Cyrus and later by Antiochus. The church is therefore warned to be on guard.
* [3:5] In white: white is a sign of victory and joy as well as resurrection; see note on Rev 2:17. The book of life: the roll in which the names of the redeemed are kept; cf. Rev 13:8; 17:8; 20:12, 15; 21:27; Phil 4:3; Dn 12:1. They will be acknowledged by Christ in heaven; cf. Mt 10:32.
* [3:7–13] The letter to Philadelphia praises the Christians there for remaining faithful even with their limited strength (Rev 3:8). Members of the assembly of Satan are again singled out (Rev 3:9; see Rev 2:9). There is no admonition; rather, the letter promises that they will be kept safe at the great trial (Rev 3:10–11) and that the victors will become pillars of the heavenly temple, upon which three names will be inscribed: God, Jerusalem, and Christ (Rev 3:12).
* [3:7] Philadelphia: modern Alasehir, ca. thirty miles southeast of Sardis, founded by Attalus II Philadelphus of Pergamum to be an “open door” (Rev 3:8) for Greek culture; it was destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17. Rebuilt by money from the Emperor Tiberius, the city was renamed Neo-Caesarea; this may explain the allusions to “name” in Rev 3:12. Key of David: to the heavenly city of David (cf. Is 22:22), “the new Jerusalem” (Rev 3:12), over which Christ has supreme authority.
* [3:8] An open door: opportunities for sharing and proclaiming the faith; cf. Acts 14:27; 1 Cor 16:9; 2 Cor 2:12.
* [3:10] My message of endurance: this does not refer to a saying of Jesus about patience but to the example of Christ’s patient endurance. The inhabitants of the earth: literally, “those who live on the earth.” This expression, which also occurs in Rev 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 13:8, 12, 14; 17:2, 8, always refers to the pagan world.
* [3:12] Pillar: this may be an allusion to the rebuilding of the city; see note on v. 7. New Jerusalem: it is described in Rev 21:10–22:5.
* [3:14–22] The letter to Laodicea reprimands the community for being lukewarm (Rev 3:15–16), but no particular faults are singled out. Their material prosperity is contrasted with their spiritual poverty, the violet tunics that were the source of their wealth with the white robe of baptism, and their famous eye ointment with true spiritual perception (Rev 3:17–18). But Christ’s chastisement is inspired by love and a desire to be allowed to share the messianic banquet with his followers in the heavenly kingdom (Rev 3:19–21).
* [3:14] Laodicea: ca. forty miles southeast of Philadelphia and ca. eighty miles east of Ephesus, a wealthy industrial and commercial center, with a renowned medical school. It exported fine woolen garments and was famous for its eye salves. It was so wealthy that it was proudly rebuilt without outside aid after the devastating earthquake of A.D. 60/61. The Amen: this is a divine title (cf. Hebrew text of Is 65:16) applied to Christ; cf. 2 Cor 1:20. Source of God’s creation: literally, “the beginning of God’s creation,” a concept found also in Jn 1:3; Col 1:16–17; Heb 1:2; cf. Prv 8:22–31; Wis 9:1–2.
* [3:15–16] Halfhearted commitment to the faith is nauseating to Christ; cf. Rom 12:11.
* [3:16] Spit: literally, “vomit.” The image is that of a beverage that should be either hot or cold. Perhaps there is an allusion to the hot springs of Hierapolis across the Lycus river from Laodicea, which would have been lukewarm by the time they reached Laodicea.
* [3:17] Economic prosperity occasioned spiritual bankruptcy.
* [3:18] Gold,fire: God’s grace. White garments: symbol of an upright life; the city was noted for its violet/purple cloth. Ointment,eyes: to remove spiritual blindness; one of the city’s exports was eye ointment (see note on Rev 3:14).
* [3:20] Christ invites all to the messianic banquet in heaven; cf. Is 25:6; Lk 14:15; 22:30.
a. [3:3] Mt 24:42–44; Mk 13:33; 1 Thes 5:2; 2 Pt 3:10.
c. [3:5] Ps 69:29; Dn 12:1 / Mt 10:32.
e. [3:9] 2:9 / Is 45:14; 60:14.
g. [3:12] 21:2–3; Ez 48:35 / Rev 19:13.
j. [3:19] Prv 3:11–12; 1 Cor 11:32; Heb 12:5–11.
k. [3:21] Lk 22:28–30; Mt 19:28.