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and hold fast, and repent. 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. 4 Thou hast a few names
quently used to show the manner of his coming. This is the first time we have met with it in the Apocalypse. It is a very striking one, if we understand it with due limitations, and obtain the precise idea which the revelator intended to convey. The thief comes at night, when men are asleep, and are off their watch. He is more likely to come, too, at an hour when he is not expected. It was for these reasons that our Lord compared his own coming to that of a thief. “Watch, therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore, be ye also ready : for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh;” Matt. xxiv. 42– 44. Paul uses the same comparison, 1 Thess. v. 2, 4; and Peter uses it, 2 Epis. iii. 10. It will appear still more striking, if we consider the state of the church at Sardis at this time. They were not watchful. They had fallen into a state like profound sleep, or spiritual death; they were exposed, therefore, to be taken unawares by the approaching judgment; or, as it is said in the verse, “Thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” We see, by the figure before us, the utter folly of pushing the Scripture metaphors and comparisons too far. When we have ascertained the one object which the writer had in view in using the figure, that is sufficient. We are not to push the comparison to every point. Readers of the Bible, ay, and preachers too, sometimes carry out a comparison at all points. They think their duty is to get as much truth as possible out of the Bible. Hence, in the parables of the New Testament, they must find a meaning for everything, however
trivial. For instance, in interpreting the parable of the good Samaritan, (Luke x.,) which was designed merely to show that our benevolence should not be confined to our friends, our countrymen, or the professors of the same religion, the interpreters referred to must have a spiritual meaning for Jerusalem ; for Jericho ; for the thieves; for stripping the wounded man; for leaving him half dead; for the priest; for the Levite ; for their passing by on the other side; for the oil, and wine, with which the Samaritan bathed the wounds ; for the inn ; and for the beast on which he bore the sufferer thereto. There can scarcely be anything more fatal to truth, than such a manner of interpreting the symbolical language of the Scriptures. In the case before us, the point to be illustrated was, that our Lord would come in an hour when he was not looked for, and when men were asleep. This was sufficient to justify the comparison, and to lead him to represent himself as being about to come like a thief in the night. But, if we push the application to all points, we could proceed to show that our Lord came to steal, to kill, and to destroy, (for this is the purpose for which thieves generally come,) than which nothing could be further from the truth. We see, then, that much discretion is to be used in the application of scriptural similitudes ; and that there is more need of sound judgment to aid us in that matter, than of a vivid fancy. 4. A fen, names. – Names are put for persons. Nothing is more common in the Old Testament than the use of the word name for Jehovah, his person, his nature, his statutes. To praise, or call on the name of the Lord, was to praise, or call on God himself. To trust in the name of the Lord was to trust in Him. So, the even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white ; for they are worthy.
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,
heathen were said to call on the name of their gods. We read in Acts i. 15: “And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples, and said, (the number of the names together were about a hundred and twenty.”) Here names again are put for persons. The word names, it is possible, may have been used, in the verse before us, in reference to the roll of the church, in the following sense : “Thou hast a few names enrolled, even in Sardis, which have not defiled their garments.” . Even in Sardis. – Here the city is referred to as a very wicked place; it seems to have been somewhat remarkable that even a few were found there. From all that is said of Sardis in the Apocalypse, we should conclude that of the
seven Apocalyptic churches, this had ||
fallen furthest from Christ. They had the reputation of living, but were dead, with the exception of the few names referred to ; and these were certainly worthy of the greater praise for showing such an example of steadfastness in the midst of a general decline. T Walk noith me in white. — Garments are used to represent the conduct and character of men. Sin is sometimes expressed under the idea of nakedness; Rev. iii. 17; and sometimes under that of mean clothing; Job viii. 22; Rev. xvi. 15. But righteousness and purity are spoken of as clean, pure, beautiful garments. Men called on to leave their sins and turn to righteousness, are exhorted to put on their beautiful garments; Isa. lii. 1. So the saints are said to walk in white, the emblem of purity. “Let thy garments be always white;” Eccl. ix. 8. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow;” Isa. i. 18. The Ancient of Days had on garments white as snow; Dan. vii.
9. When Jesus was transfigured, his
raiment was white as the light; Matt. xvii. 2. The angels are supposed to be clothed in white; Matt. xxviii. 3; Acts i. 10. Thus the redeemed are said, in the verse before us, to walk with Christ in white, i. e., all pure. The same sense is expressed in the following verse. —See Dr. Campbell's note on John xvii. 11. 5. Overcometh. — This is another instance of the phraseology of John. Compare 1 John v. 4, 5, with Rev. ii. 7, 11, 17, 26; iii. 5, 12, 21; xxi. 7. * White raiment. — See the remarks under the preceding verse. White raiment was supposed by the Jews to be worn in the presence of God; and heralds from the invisible world are clothed in white raiment in the descriptions of the sacred writers. The four-and-twenty elders, that sat round about the throne, were clothed in white raiment, and had crowns of gold upon their heads; Rev. iv. 4. White raiment was a mark of purity, distinction, and honor. It was a sign of acceptance with God. Hence men were exhorted to obtain it; Rev. iii. 18. The wedding garment, mentioned Matt. xxii. 11, 12, was a long white robe; and garments of that kind, in many cases, especially at the weddings of the rich, were prepared and presented to the guests. – See Whittemore’s Illus. of Par., 289—291. * Out of the book of life. — Here it is presumed that his name was in the book of life, – the promise is, that it shall be retained there. The greater part of the names attached to the church in Sardis were to be blotted out; but a few had the promise that their names should not be affected by this expurgating process. The names of God's servants are supposed metaphorically to be enrolled in a book. It was the custom of earthly kings to
keep rolls of those they had under but I will confess his name be
fore my Father, and before his
angels. 6 He that hath an ear, let
him hear what the Spirit saith
unto the churches. 7 And to the angel of the
church in Philadelphia write:
their command. In cities, also, these rolls were kept; and those who had the honor of being admitted to freedom and citizenship were enrolled in the public register. If at any time they did that which was treasonable, then their names might be erased, and they were no longer confessed before the world, and before the sovereign, to be members of the city. From these customs, which were very ancient, came the scriptural phrase, book of life. God's chosen people and church are represented under the figure of a city. He is represented as keeping a roll of his friends, from which the names of the unfaithful would be erased. Moses’ prayer was founded on this metaphor. “And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt, forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written;” Exod. xxxii. 31, 32; comp. Rom. ix. 3. The phrase “book of life” is peculiarly expressive. It signifies the roll of the living, — the roll of those who had been raised to the enjoyment of spiritual life; and, as the greater part of the church in Sardis had only a name to live, (i. e., their names were still kept on the roll,) while they were really dead, their names were to be erased from the book of life; while the names of those few who still enjoyed their spiritual life should be retained there. The phrase “book of life” may be found Phil. iv. 3; Rev. iii. 5; xiii. 8; xx. 12, 15; xxi. 27; xxii. 19. T But I mill confess his name. — This is the counterpart of the blotting out. The unfaithful should have their names blotted out. On the contrary, the faithful should have their names retained; and in
this way they should be confessed before the Father, and besore his angels. Christ himself had previously expressed the same thing in similar words. “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven;” Matt. x. 32, 33. As if he had said, “If you be faithful, I will own you, as my disciples, before my Father and his angels, — I will acknowledge you in the most public manner ; but if you fall into sin, or indifference, — if you, in this manner, deny me, then I shall disown you. Your name shall be erased from the roll of my sollowers; I shall not confess you, but deny you, as you have denied me.” Such seems to be the import of the verse. While men will not be Christians, they certainly ought not to be acknowledged as such. 6. He that hath an ear. — See the remarks on Rev. ii. 7, 11, 17, 29.
7. Philadelphia. — The ancient city bearing this name was east of Sardis about 28 miles. It was in that section of Asia Minor called Lydia, and was named from Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamos, by whom it was founded. It stood on a branch of Mount Tmolus, by the river Cogamus. Strabo relates, that in his time, which was not far from the date of the Apocalypse, this city had suf. fered much by frequent earthquakes. In 1312 it resisted the Turkish armies more successfully than the other cities of maritime Asia; but at length sunk under the common calamity. It is now a mean, but considerable town,
These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth ;
and shutteth, and no man openeth : S I know thy works; behold,
I have set before thee an open
called Ala-Shehr; and contains from a thousand to fifteen hundred Greeks and Christians, who have a bishop and several inferior ecclesiastics. TI He that is holy. — The reference here is unquestionably to the Son of God. He was the Holy One, whom the Father anointed, and set apart, for the great work of human redemption. See Acts iii. 14; iv. 27, 30. * He that is true. — This refers to the same personage. The phraseology is peculiarly that of the apostle John. See 1 Epis. v. 20: “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true; and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.” This is almost the precise language employed in the Apocalypse. Jesus called himself “the way, the truth, and the life; ” John xiv. 6; and one of John's favorite expressions in regard to him was, “He that is true.” See also Rev. xix. 11. T Hath the key of David. — There seems to be a reference here to Isaiah xxii. 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.” The key was a mark of office, either sacred or civil. It is certainly an agent of power. With the key to a dungeon, men may open it, and discharge all the inmates. With the key of a coffer, or casket, they may have access to all the treasures therein contained. If a man be invested with a key, therefore, it is a sign that great confidence is reposed in him, and great power is conferred upon him. He can open, and none can shut, — he can shut, and none can open. The key, therefore, has been used metaphorically, as a sign of confidence and power, from long
antiquity. The gods and goddesses of the heathen had their key-bearers. But it is peculiarly an appropriate metaphor when applied to the Lord Jesus. He accused those who prevented men from entering the kingdom of heaven, of taking away “the key of knowledge;” Luke xi. 52. He had the key of knowledge, and hence he said to the people, “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you ;” Matt. vii. 7. Isaiah prophesied of him, “That he should bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house;” xlii. 7. And again, the same prophet says, speaking in the name of Jesus, “He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” lxi. 1. Such being one of the principal offices for which the Redeemer came into the world, how appropriate is the metaphor of the key. The Saviour, then, probably intended that, like the individual mentioned in Isa. xxii. 22, he had a key which conferred on him the power to shut, and no man could open, – to open, and no man could shut. The lock was supposed to be one which no other key would fit, and which could not be opened by any other means. Such was the power of the key mentioned in the passage referred to; and Jesus intended to say that he had the same power. 8. I knon, thy works. – This was said to all the churches. The meaning is, “I know what thou doest, and the motives by which thou art governed.” Or, as it is said in another place, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings;” Jer. xvii. 10. And so again, Rev. ii. 23, “I will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches: To him that overcometh will I give to eat
of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. 18 And unto the angel of the
the Hebrews employs a comparison instead of a metaphor. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart;” Heb. iv. 12. The word of God being the sword, is said to be the sword of the mouth. By that word they would be condemned, if they did not reform. 17. He that hath an ear. — See the remarks on verses 7 and 11 of this chapter. T Hidden manna. — The manna was that food from heaven by which the children of Israel were sustained in their forty years' journey through the wilderness. It was a favorite custom of the apostle John to represent the gospel under the figure of food. He learned it of his Master. Jesus called himself the bread of God, that came down from heaven to give life to the world. It was the same style of metaphor to represent the gospel by manna, – hidden, not visible manna. This may have reference to the manna being kept in a pot in the temple; or it may mean spiritual manna, such as is not visible to the outward sense of sight. In ver. 7 we read that he who overcame should “eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” The hidden manna is another metaphor to describe the same thing. The intention was, to signify that the Christians who were faithful under the trials described in the Apocalypse, should be entitled to, and should enjoy, the highest delights of the gospel. I White stone. — This was a mark of honor. The stone here referred to was a beautiful white tab
let. It was a sign of worth and purity. The figure perhaps was drawn from the breast-plate of the high priest, which had four rows of precious stones, three in each row, and on each stone was engraved the name of one of the tribes. In this way Aaron bore the names of the children of Israel in the breast-plate of judgment upon his heart, when he went in before the Lord. He thus presented them justified in God's sight; Exod. xxviii. 29, 30. God threatened the Jews who showed signs of idolatry, that he would destroy them, “and blot out their name from under heaven;” Deut. ix. 14. Here are the opposites. Those who forsook the true God, and turned to idolatry, were to have their names blotted out; while those who were faithful to the end, and kept themselves free and uncontaminated by the idolatry by which they were surrounded, should have a new name, a more honored name, which, like the names of the tribes on the breast-plate of judgment, should be engraved on a stone, white as a sign of purity and honor. And this name should be a pass-word to glory and distinction. None should know it, except him who received it. It could not, therefore, be counterfeited ; and it was a sure security to the individual who possessed it that his honors should never be lost.
EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA.
18. Thyatura. — This was a considerable city, not a great distance from Pergamos, and in the way from the latter place to Sardis. It is mentioned in Acts xvi. 14, where we are told that the pious Lydia, who received Paul and Silas at Philippi,