What does Revelation 3 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Revelation chapter 2 began a series of messages intended for specific churches in the region of Asia Minor. The first four, already discussed, were Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, and Thyatira. All four of these were commended for certain accomplishments, and all but Smyrna were criticized for certain shortcomings. This chapter completes the messages by speaking to the last three churches: Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.

The church at Sardis is given a positive comment, but that remark is really just a springboard to their criticism by Jesus. This church has a good reputation—this is a good thing—but that reputation doesn't actually match their spiritual state. Jesus warns the church at Sardis to "wake up," and stop resting on their laurels. This church was too proud of their prior accomplishments to diligently work for the good of the Kingdom of God. Still, there are those who have been faithful among the church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1–6).

Philadelphia is one of only two churches, out of seven mentioned, that is not given any particular rebuke from Jesus. Instead, they are praised for their perseverance in the face of dire persecution. Like the church of Smyrna, Philadelphia seems to have been attacked by a specific group of non-believing Jews, referred to as a "synagogue of Satan." In response to this hardship, Jesus reassures them that His return will happen suddenly, and they will be rewarded for their faith (Revelation 3:7–13).

Laodicea has the unfortunate distinction of being the only church which receives no positive commentary, whatsoever. Sardis barely earned a hollow reference to a good reputation. Laodicea is charged with being spiritually inert: lukewarm, rather than either hot or cold. This evokes the disgusting sensation of room-temperature water in one's mouth. Jesus heavily criticized this church for being arrogant and apathetic. Rather than being spiritually passionate, they are passive. Instead of being cold, meaning they are more likely to respond to the gospel, they are just familiar enough with God to brush Him off. Jesus still offers a chance for repentance—but He describes Himself as "outside", knocking at the door and expecting them to answer (Revelation 3:14–22).

This concludes the messages intended for the seven churches in Revelation. The rest of this "revealing" will describe events which, at the time John wrote, were still in the future. These catastrophic moments are what modern people would consider the "end of the world."
Verse Context:
Revelation 3:1–6 comprises the letter Jesus dictated to John to send to the church in Sardis. The church's reputation was a far cry from reality. It had a reputation of being a live church, but actually it was dead. While this reputation is—technically—a praise, it's a hollow one. Jesus instructed this church to wake up and strengthen what remained. All was not lost, though. A few members of the church were true to the faith, and Jesus promised they would walk with Him in purity. He would also keep their names in the book of life and confess their names before His Father.
Revelation 3:7–13 contains Jesus' letter to the church at Philadelphia. Philadelphia, was a center for exporting the Greek language and culture into the interior of Asia Minor. Thus, it had a secular missionary calling. Just as the city had an open door to the interior, so the church had an open door to spread the gospel. Jesus commends the church in verse 10 and promises to keep it from the tribulation period. He also instructs the church to retain the truth and promises each conqueror special recognition in the New Jerusalem. Smyrna and Philadelphia are the only churches in Revelation not to receive any particular criticism. The church at Philadelphia's characteristics are similar to those of the Church in the 19th and 20th centuries that was a period of frequent revivals and missionary activity.
Revelation 3:14–22 is Jesus' final and most strident message, addressed to the church at Laodicea. We learn from this assessment that the Laodicean church was lukewarm, smug, and self-satisfied. It boasted about its wealth and need of nothing. But the church deceived itself. In terms of its spiritual condition, it was wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Jesus urged the church to turn to Him, as He was positioned outside the church, inviting whoever heard His voice to open the door and welcome Him. Laodicea is the only church of seven which receives only criticism, and no positive remarks.
Chapter Summary:
These final letters symbolize Church history from AD 1500 to the Rapture, the event that transports the Church from earth to be with Jesus. Sardis had a good reputation, but it was actually spiritually dead. Philadelphia had a good opportunity to spread the gospel, and it had kept Jesus' word and had remained loyal to Him. As such, Jesus promises to reward this church's conquerors. Laodicea was proud of its wealth, but was spiritually lukewarm, a characteristic that Jesus detests. He promises to fellowship with anyone in the church who would heed His voice and welcome Him. Laodicea is the only church given no praise by Christ.
Chapter Context:
This chapter concludes the letters Jesus instructed the apostle John to write to seven churches in Asia Minor. Those messages began in chapter 2. This passage ends the section of Revelation that describes the things that are (Revelation 1:19), meaning the things which existed in John's lifetime. Chapter 1 describes what John had seen (Revelation 1:19), and chapter 4 begins John's account of what was to take place in the future (Revelation 1:19).
Book Summary:
The word ''revelation'' means ''an unveiling or disclosure.'' This writing unveils future events such as the rapture, three series of judgments that will fall on the earth during the tribulation, the emergence of the Antichrist, the persecution of Israel and her amazing revival, as well as Jesus' second coming with His saints to the earth, the judgment of Satan and his followers, and finally, the eternal state. This content, combined with the original Greek term apokalypsis, is why we now refer to an end-of-the-world scenario as ''an apocalypse.''
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