Revelation 3-4

Sunday Evening Bible Study

May 13, 2001

Layout of the letters

As we mentioned last week, as a general rule, each of these seven letters contain pretty much the same seven elements, though there are some exceptions.  Generally, each letter contains –

Addressed to an angel – Each letter is addressed to the angel of that church.  We believe Jesus is talking about the pastor of each church as the “angel”, or the “messenger”.

Jesus’ Description – Jesus describes something about Himself, taking this description from the vision John saw in chapter one.

Commendation – Jesus usually has something nice to say about each church.

Rebuke – Jesus will share with each church the problem they are having.

Remedy – Jesus will tell the church what they need to do to fix the problem.

Promises – Jesus has a special promise for the people in each church that overcome the problems.

Listen – Jesus says to each church:

(Rev 3:6 KJV)  He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

How do we look at these letters?

1.  These are real churches in real cities that were in existence in John’s day, AD 95.  We need to be careful that we don’t ever miss this point.

2.  There is a sense in which in the world, at any given time, there are examples of each of these seven churches.  For example, there are churches or groups of churches that are similar in nature to the church of Thyatira, etc.

3.  There is a sense in which there is within each local church these seven types of churches, seen as seven types of believers.  For example, there are some in our church who ought to pay attention to the letter to the Ephesus, etc.

4.  There is a sense in which we ALL can have attributes of these seven churches within each of us individually.  Jesus says at the end of each letter, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.  We are all responsible to pay attention to the lessons for each one of the churches.  In other words, I have a little bit of Ephesus in me, I have a little bit of Smyrna in me, etc.

5.  I think there is also a reason to the order and characteristics of these churches in that they become a picture for us of the panorama of church history.  Each church can be seen as a period within church history, with Ephesus being the early church and Laodicea as being the church of the last days.

We have seen so far that the churches fit into history like this:

Ephesus – left first love, AD 33-100

Smyrna – the persecuted church, AD 100 ->

Pergamos (“married”) – the church “marries” the state, corruption begins to seep in, AD 300 ->

Thyatira – the church continues to compromise with the world, AD 600 ->

Revelation 3

Sardis – the Dead Church

:1  And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars;

Sardis – The town was situated on a 1,500 foot spur of Mt. Tmolus (now Boz Dag) above the Hermus Valley, and was easily defended from invading armies since it could only be approached from one side.  The other three sides had shear cliffs down to the valley below.

Sardis had a long history, dating back to 2000 BC.  As a city, it felt invulnerable.  The city only had to be defended on one side, at least until Antiochus sent his army up the cliffs and conquered the city from behind in 214 BC.  In AD 16, a huge earthquake destroyed most of the city, and now in AD 95, the city is only a shadow of what it used to be.

This is a city that used to have a great name, but now was pretty puny.

Historical church records show that there was a church in Sardis as late as the ninth century AD, but few if any Christians remained in Sardis after that.

The town was destroyed by the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane in 1402.

Jesus’ Description

Jesus describes Himself as the one that has the seven Spirits and the seven stars.

We’ve seen that the “seven Spirits” is a description of the Holy Spirit (Rev. 1:4)
The seven stars are the seven “angels” or “messengers”, most likely the pastors of the seven churches.
Jesus’ description of Himself focuses on the pastors and the Holy Spirit.  These two qualities are vital for a church to be “alive” and not “dead”.

:1  I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.


There really is no “commendation” for this church.  It is only one of two churches for which Jesus has nothing good to say (the other is Laodicea).


This is a “dead” church.

They have a name (“Christian”) that says they are alive, but there is no life in this church.  The church is very similar to the city.


This is something that if we're not careful, we can throw around lightly. It's common to hear people talking about this church or that church, and call them "dead" churches.

Some people think that a dead church is where people don't raise their hands during worship and sway from side to side.
Some people think that a dead church is where they don't sing the latest Christian worship songs, or where they don't have a rockin' worship band.

Deadness is when the Spirit of God isn't at work in a church.

It's the Spirit that gives life.
(2 Cor 3:6 KJV)  …for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

If we want to see if the Spirit is working, we need to look for the results of the Spirit, the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23)

Keep in mind, this is addressed to the “angel”, the pastor of the church.  I wonder if the pastor in Sardis was not a Christian?

:2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.


things which remain, that are ready to die – This church isn’t completely dead yet, but they’re getting close.

perfectpleroo – to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full; to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally; to render full, i.e. to complete

beforeenopion – meaning “in the presence of”. Perhaps the works look finished to others, but in God’s presence, it’s clear that they’re not done yet.


Finish the work.

If you've started something, but haven't finished it, pick it up again and get moving.  Don’t stop until you’re finished.

:3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent.

How had they “received and heard”?

Through faith

(Gal 3:2 KJV)  This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

The church (and the pastor) need to get back to simple faith in Jesus.

:3  If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.

This could be a reference to the Rapture, or simply Jesus coming in judgment.

(Mat 24:48-51 NLT)  But if the servant is evil and thinks, 'My master won't be back for a while,' {49} and begins oppressing the other servants, partying, and getting drunk-- {50} well, the master will return unannounced and unexpected. {51} He will tear the servant apart and banish him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

:4 Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.

There were some in Sardis that were following Jesus.

:5 He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.


clothed in white raiment – Clothing is a picture of a person’s deeds.

Bad deeds are “filthy rags”

Isa 64:6  But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

Good deeds, “righteousness” are seen as white clothing

Re 19:8  And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

not blot out his name

Does this mean that a person could lose their salvation if they are not an “overcomer”?

I think that is what Jesus is saying.
You can't blot out what hasn't been written down.
Revelation 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book (NASB - tree) of life, and out of the holy city, and [from] the things which are written in this book.

BUT, keep in mind, this is a promise of security.

The point that Jesus is making is that those who overcome have His assurance that their is no way their name could be blotted out from the book of life. 
He promises security.
If you want eternal security, don't mess around with the things of the world.

I will confess his name – Jesus said,

(Mat 10:32-33 KJV)  Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. {33} But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

:6 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


Whether or not you are living in Sardis, if you have ears to hear, you ought to pay attention to what Jesus is saying to the church at Sardis.  Trust the Lord.  Let His Spirit work in you.  Finish the work.


We see the church of Sardis being a picture of the churches that sprang up around the time of the Reformation.  We would peg it in history from 1500 to 1800 AD.  Interestingly, I ran across this a few years ago –

John Gill (writing in 1747):  "This church represents the state of the church from the time of the Reformation by Luther and others, until a more glorious state of the church appears, or until the spiritual reign of Christ in the Philadelphian period; under the Sardian church state we now are …
Hmmmm. Interesting.  Even Gill saw the pattern of the churches as far back as 1750, and he was only halfway through the sequence!

Philadelphia - Outreach

:7 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true,

Jesus’ Description

It’s here in Philadelphia that the description of Jesus is not taken from John’s vision of chapter one.

:7  he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;

the key of David – Jesus is quoting from –

(Isa 22:22 KJV)  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.

This is a promise to a man named Eliakim who would become King Hezekiah’s “chief of staff”, who would determine who would get in to see the king, and he would be able to make decisions that only the king would be able to change.
Jesus is referring to Himself as the “chief of staff”, as God the Father’s “chief of staff”.
Nobody gets in to see the boss except with His permission.

Jesus can open doors that no one else can shut.  Jesus can shut doors that no one else can open.

:8 I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it:


This church is similar to Smyrna in that it does not have a rebuke from Jesus.  It doesn’t need a “remedy” either.


open door – an opportunity to go through.


An open door isn't an easy door.

Paul wrote:
(1 Cor 16:5-9 KJV)  Now I will come unto you, when I shall pass through Macedonia: for I do pass through Macedonia. {6} And it may be that I will abide, yea, and winter with you, that ye may bring me on my journey whithersoever I go. {7} For I will not see you now by the way; but I trust to tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit. {8} But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. {9} For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.

Paul was planning on visiting the Corinthian church, but for the moment he was going to be staying in Ephesus, because a door was opened there.

He had opportunities to share the gospel.

But there were also “many adversaries”

Sometimes we get to thinking that for God to open a door means that everything has to be easy.

When things get difficult, we often say, "Well, I guess God is closing the door..."

Not so!

:8  for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.

An unfortunate translation

It sounds as if nobody can shut the door because the Philadelphians only have a little strength.

It would be better to translate this, “I know your works, I have set before you an unshutable door because you have a little strength and have kept My word and have not denied my name”

littlemikros – (“micron”) small, little

It doesn’t take much strength.

strengthdunamis – strength, power, ability


Opening the doors

Jesus opens the opportunities for this church because:
1.  They have a little strength.  Not much, but some.
2.  They have obeyed Jesus.
3.  They have not denied Jesus’ name.
I have a feeling that if we want to see God open up opportunities for us as a church, this is all it takes.

:9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.


worship before thy feet – Literally, “I will make them to come and worship in the presence of your feet.”

Two possible ideas:

1)  Jews who are not following the Lord, trying to convert Gentile believers to Judaism.

Paul writes that it's not what you do outwardly that makes you a Jew, like circumcision, it's what goes on in your heart. (Rom. 2:28-29)

2)  Those that say that the Jews are no longer God's chosen people, but the church has now replaced them.

I don’t want to get too dogmatic about this possibility, but the idea sure fits the wording of the text.
This doctrine is at the root of many bad doctrines, as well as misunderstandings concerning the end-times.
Without going into depth (which could take a week to do), let me say simply that it’s at the root of teachings like:
“anti-semitism” - the Jews are no longer viewed as God’s chosen people, but as “Christ-killers”, and then openly hated.  This was at the root of the holocaust of WWII.
“amillenialism” - there is no millennial reign of Christ on earth, some see this as the church reigning instead.
“postmillenialism” - Jesus will come back AFTER the thousand years, in which the church reigns.  A form of this is behind some of the Christian political movements, when people say that the church must rise up and “take dominion” over the earth.
“post-trib-rapture” - instead of the purpose of the tribulation being for Israel, they see that the whole church must go through the tribulation
Those who subscribe to these doctrines need to read Romans 11:
(Rom 11:1 KJV)  I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

:10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience,

One of the qualities of the Philadelphia church is the “word”.

in verse 8, they have “kept my word”.

here “thou has kept the word of my patience”.

:10  I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.

Jesus is talking about a special time in history.  He is not talking about every day, ordinary trials and temptations, but a special time that is coming upon the whole world.  He is talking about the “Great Tribulation”.

I believe this is the greatest promise to the church, that those like Philadelphia will escape the “Great Tribulation”.  I believe this will happen at the rapture.  I believe the rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation.

:11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.


Don’t let others do your work

Jesus isn’t talking about losing your salvation.  He’s talking about not letting others do the work that you’re supposed to be doing, and hence get your “crown”.
Esther was a young Jewish gal who became queen of the Persian Empire.  One day evil Haman hatched a plot to get rid of the Jews. 
Her Uncle Mordecai said,

(Est 4:14 KJV)  For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

God wants His work done, and He gives us each a chance to do a portion of it.  If we obey, we will receive rewards in heaven.  If we don't obey, God will use someone else, and we miss out on the rewards.

:12 Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

pillar … temple – talking about the temple in heaven.  How could a person become a pillar in heaven?  I’m not sure.  Sounds pretty stable and solid though.

write upon him my new name – I kind of like the idea of having “Property of Jesus” written on me.

:13 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


Whether or not you are living in Philadelphia, if you have ears to hear, you ought to pay attention to what Jesus is saying to the church at Philadelphia.  We need to hold on to Jesus’ Word.  We need to take the opportunities that He opens before us.


Philadelphia is a picture of the church from 1800 onward, as missionary activity began to flourish and the gospel began to be preached from people like Finney, Spurgeon, Moody, right into our modern times.  I hope that we are similar to the church at Philadelphia.

Laodicea – Lukewarm

:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;


Three things the city was noted for:

1.  They were a wealthy city, a city of bankers. 
2.  They raised a special kind of black sheep in the area, and the shiny raven black wool cloth they made was world famous.
3.  They had a school of medicine in Laodicea that was famous for it's medicines. 
They had developed a special treatment of spices for the ears, and also had developed a salve for the eyes called collyrium which Aristotle called "Phrygian powder".

Jesus’ Description

the Amen, the faithful and true witness

This comes from
(Rev 1:5 KJV)  And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness ...
The church in Laodicea is going to hear a lot of things about themselves that they’re not going to want to hear.  To them, Jesus will remind them that He is a “TRUE” witness.  He’s telling the truth.

the beginning of the creation of God – better understood, “the origin of the creation of God”

(Col 1:16 KJV)  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.


Besides Sardis, Laodicea is the only other church about which Jesus has nothing good to say.


cold nor hot

We often look at this as if “cold” is bad and “hot” is good.  But I’m not sure that’s the case here. "Cold" doesn't have to be bad.

In fact, the only other place in the New Testament where this Greek word for "cold" is used is found in:
Mt 10:42  And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

It's definitely used in a good way here.

I think it helps to know the situation of the city.

Six miles to the north was the city of Hierapolis, which had become a kind of resort town by the Romans, because of its natural hot springs. 
The wealthy Laodiceans built an aqueduct to carry the hot water from Hierapolis, but by the time the water reached Laodicea, it was no longer hot, but lukewarm.
To the south, in Colosse, the water was cold.
And cold water is very refreshing.
To the north was Hierapolis, the resort city with a hot springs.
The hot water was therapeutic, good for what ails you.
But in Laodicea, the water was just lukewarm.
Not cold enough to be refreshing.
Not hot enough to be therapeutic.
Good for nothing.

:16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

spueemeo – to vomit, throw up.  Not a pretty picture.

Jesus is now going to define “lukewarm” for us.

:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods,

I am rich – The ancient historian Tacitus records that when the city was hit by an earthquake in A.D. 60, they refused financial help from Rome to rebuild, because they were able to pay for it themselves.


The danger of wealth

It’s not impossible to be wealthy and be an “on fire” Christian.  But it’s very difficult.
Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy:
(1 Tim 6:9-10 KJV)  But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. {10} For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

There’s a lot in our world that tells us that if we only had more money, more toys, more everything, that our lives would be happy and fulfilled.

Part of the warning about the dangers of wealth is not just for those with money, but for those who want more money, those that “will be rich”.

When Thomas Aquinas visited Rome, and was shown the gorgeousness of the papal palace, the pope, it is said, remarked to him, “Well, Thomas, the church in our day can not say, Silver and gold have I none. “
“No,” replied Aquinas, “neither can she say, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”

:17  and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

wretchedtalaiporos – enduring toils and troubles; afflicted, wretched

miserableeleeinos – to be pitied, miserable

poor – spiritually poor



It was Hans Christian Andersen that told the story of the Emperor and his new clothes.  The great emperor was a man who liked to impress people with his clothes.  He wanted to have a new suit, the finest in the world. A pair of con-men told him they would make a suit out of a rare, invisible cloth and only those lacking wisdom could not see the cloth.  The emperor commissioned the new wardrobe.
Finally the day came for the emperor to show off his new clothes, and he began to parade himself around the streets, naked.  The people of the city didn’t have the courage to tell the emperor the truth.  It was a small child who was brave enough to remark, "The emperor’s naked!"

These people in Laodicea think they are well off, but spiritually they are doing horrible.


How needy are you?

The danger is when we stop caring about our spiritual walk.

Among the great number of books authored by C.S. Lewis is the highly provocative The Screwtape Letters.  In it the profound Englishman had the devil brief his nephew, Wormwood, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people.  The goal, he counsels, is not wickedness but indifference.  Satan cautions his nephew to keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs.  If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans; not to worry, it could induce indigestion.  And then this definitive job description:  "I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people.  Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with the people who do not care."

:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich;



True riches come from growing through your tough times

The Laodiceans thought that the size of their bank account determined their wealth.
Jesus says that there is something more valuable to be concerned with.
(1 Pet 1:6-7 KJV)  Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: {7} That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
Gold is refined by keeping it on the heat.  The impurities rise to the surface of the liquid metal and are scooped off by the goldsmith.  The goldsmith knows his gold is pure when he is able to see his own reflection in the molten metal.
Your ability to trust Jesus is more valuable than gold.  Your ability to trust in Jesus grows more and more valuable as you allow Jesus to change you through your tough times.
Don’t run from your problems, grow through them.
What kinds of impurities have been coming to the surface in your latest trials?

:18  and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear;


Clothe yourself in good deeds

Keep in mind, Jesus is talking to wealthy people.  It’s not impossible for a Christian to be wealthy.  Paul gives Timothy some instructions for those that are wealthy:
(1 Tim 6:17-19 KJV)  Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; {18} That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; {19} Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
Did you ever have one of those dreams where you found yourself at school without any clothes on?

:18  and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

eyesalvekollourion – a preparation composed of various materials and used as a remedy for tender eyelids

The city of Laodicea was known for it’s eyesalve, but God says that these people are really blind.

They were blind to the things of God, but they didn’t even know it.


Open eyes

Do we see the things that God cares about?
(Acts 3:1-8 KJV)  Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. {2} And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; {3} Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. {4} And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. {5} And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. {6} Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. {7} And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. {8} And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
This man had been at the temple for years, but on this one day, Peter “saw” him.  Peter saw that God wanted to do something in this man’s life, and he reached out to touch him.
Do we see the needs around us?  Do we see the people that God is concerned about?
The king of Syria was upset that the prophet Elisha kept giving away his secret plans to the king of Israel.  So the king of Syria sent an army to get Elisha.
(2 Ki 6:15-17 KJV)  And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? {16} And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. {17} And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.

Do I have a clue as to what is going on in the spiritual world around me?  Can I see that God is on my side?

:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Jesus is being tough on this church, but it’s not because He doesn’t like them.  He loves them.


Pay attention to God’s rebukes

I am not a person who likes to be criticized.  I usually react pretty poorly to it.
But I need to pay attention when God puts His finger on something in my life.
Warren Wiersbe writes,
The Laodicean church was blind to its own needs and unwilling to face the truth. Yet honesty is the beginning of true blessing, as we admit what we are, confess our sins, and receive from God all that we need. If we want God’s best for our lives and churches, we must be honest with God and let God be honest with us.

:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

Lit. - “Behold, I have stood and am still standing here, right up on top of this door, and am continually knocking”.

where’s the door?  your heart

sup – to sit down and have a meal with someone, speaking of intimacy, closeness, friendship.

These are the only two conditions for relationship to Jesus:

Hearing - Do you hear Jesus speaking to you?

Opening - He is a gentleman, He won't bust down the door if you won't open it.

Have you had Jesus knocking on the door of your heart this morning?

:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.


Jesus promises that we will rule and reign with Christ (Rev. 20:4).

:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.


Whether or not you are living in Laodicea, if you have ears to hear, you ought to pay attention to what Jesus is saying to the church at Laodicea.


The church in Laodicea is a picture of the church in the very last days before Jesus returns.

The Churches in History

Yr.   Church

33     Ephesus

100   Smyrna

300   Pergamos

600   Thyatira

1500 Sardis

1800 Philadelphia

1950 Laodicea


Revelation 4

:1  After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.

After this … things which must be hereafter

John gave us a key to the book back in 1:19 –

(Rev 1:19 KJV)  Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
As we saw last week, chapter one contains the things which John saw (the vision of Jesus), chapters two and three contain the “things which are” (the times of the church).
The phrase “the things which shall be hereafter” translates the Greek words “meta tauta”.

Now here in Rev. 4:1, the verse in the Greek text begins with the phrase “meta tauta” (translated “after this”), and ends with “meta tauta” (translated “things which must be hereafter”).

John is clearly telling us that this is the third section, the section that takes place in the future, after the times “that are”, after the times of the church on the earth.
We are now venturing into a peek at the future.

Come up hither – in a sense, John becomes a picture of what will happen to the church on the earth. We will be caught up into heaven at the rapture, just as John was.

(1 Th 4:16-17 KJV)  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: {17} Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Note:  It’s interesting to note that John’s “rapture” happens after the times of the church on earth, just as the time of the tribulation is beginning.  This “rapture” of John’s is a picture of the pre-trib rapture.

:2 And immediately I was in the spirit; and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne.

John finds himself in heaven, before the throne of God.

God is simply referred to as the “sitting one” on the throne.  He is not called a “man” as in Mormon theology.

What John sees is the throne room of God.

If you don’t know the Old Testament, this can become confusing.

But what John sees is the very thing that the Tabernacle was built as a model of.

The Tabernacle was the portable tent structure that Moses was told to construct for Israel’s place of worship.
As you came into the courtyard, there would be an altar for burning the sacrifices.
Then there would be a brass bathtub, a laver, for the priests to wash in.  In Solomon’s temple, the bathtub was upgraded to a large brass swimming pool, called a “sea”.
As you enter the first room of the temple, the “holy place”, there would be a table with twelve loaves of bread on it, a golden lamp with seven branches (the Menorrah), and a small golden altar to burn incense on.
Inside a second veil was the inner room, the “holy of holies”, where the Ark of the Covenant was placed.  On top of the Ark was a golden lid, called the “mercy seat”, which was to be a picture of God’s throne.  Molded as one piece with the lid were two angels called “cherubim” which looked over the lid, their wings touching each other.

If you pay attention, you’re going to see just about every one of these elements in John’s description of heaven in the next two chapters.

:3 And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.

jasper - iaspis - jasper, a precious stone which could possibly come in different colors (purple, green, brass color), though in Revelation it is described as being "clear as crystal" (Rev.21:11).  The idea is that it is translucent, we’re not sure what color.

sardine stone (or, sardius stone) The sardius, named after the city "Sardis" where it was supposedly found, was blood red in color.

John’s description is all about various colors of light.

Paul writes:

(1 Tim 6:16 KJV)  Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.

rainbowiris – a rainbow.  The word used here could be used to describe a “halo” as well.  It seems that this is not an “arc” over the top of the throne, but a circle of green light around the throne.

:4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.

four and twenty elders

elders - presbuteros - comparative of presbus (elderly); it's used not just of older folks, but of people in a leadership position, it's used of the leaders of Israel, it's used of the leaders of the church.

Who are the twenty-four elders?

1)     They are angelic beings.

2)     They represent the church.

3)     They are a combination rulers among the Old Testament saints and the New Testament saints.

Twelve tribes, twelve apostles. 12+12=24
In other words, the leadership of God's saved humans.


Unlike other elements of Revelation 4-5, they do not appear in any of the other visions of heaven. (such as Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1,10; Daniel 7; Numbers 24:10; 1Kings 22:19-23)
Could this be because John's vision takes place after the Rapture?
It could also simply be because it takes place after the Resurrection, when Jesus took all the righteous saints (OT) to heaven.  All NT saints go directly to heaven.

All other prior visions of heaven take place before the resurrection.

:5 And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.

seven lamps of fire – this corresponds with the Menorrah in the tabernacle.  Here, John says the lamps are the “seven Spirits of God”.  Back in Rev. 1:4 that this is most likely a picture of the Holy Spirit.

This fits very well with the pictures in the Bible.  Oil in the Bible is a picture of the Holy Spirit, and here the lamps that are burning are oil lamps.  The church is described in Rev. 1:20 as the “candlesticks”, or the “lamp stands”.  We are the ones that the Holy Spirit burns in to light the world.

:6 And before the throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal: and in the midst of the throne, and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.

sea of glass – this is the “laver” in the Tabernacle, the place where the priests were to wash.

In heaven, the “sea” isn’t made of brass, it’s made of glass. It’s not that it’s a big pool filled with glass, it’s a big pool made out of glass.

What’s this for?  I’m not sure.

beasts - zoon - a living being

:7 And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.

:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

We really don’t have to guess who these “beasts” are.  They are the cherubim, the angels that cover the throne of God.

In the Tabernacle, the lid of the mercy seat had two angels bending over with their wings touching.

Isaiah refers to these beings as “seraphim” (Isa 6:2)

Ezekiel also sees these beings and helps us fill out a little more detail, that each creature actually has four faces, with each of these creatures on their faces.  John only sees one side of each of the cherubim, so he only records one face for each, but Ezekiel tells us that they each actually have four faces.

Ezekiel also clearly tells us that these are the “cherubim” (Ezek. 1:4-14; 10:15)

:9 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever,

:10 The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.


God deserves to be worshipped

These are the beings that know Him best.  And they continually worship Him.


Worship prompts worship.

When the “beasts” gave God worship, the elders just had to join in.
When I see someone giving God glory and honor, it makes me realize that I too need to give Him glory and honor.
When you want to encourage someone to worship, sometimes the best thing you can do is to worship yourself.
This is important for worship leaders to understand.

If you want the people you're leading to worship, the best thing you can do is get your eyes off of the people, and worship yourself.

You need to "lead" the people into God's presence, to be the first one before the throne yourself.


Worship involves giving everything of value to the Lord.

This is the basis of worship.
If you hold anything of higher value than the Lord, that thing has become an idol in your life.
When something has come in between you and your relationship with the Lord, when something is keeping you from loving the Lord as you ought to, it has become an idol.
Rather than having things come between us and the Lord, we ought to be throwing them at the Lord's feet, giving Him honor by giving it to Him.