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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.
EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH ADELPHIA.
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 suffered 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. *I 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 door, and no man can shut it; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
9 Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie ; behold, I
am he which searcheth the reins and hearts; and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” TI An open door. —In the preceding verse it was said, that Jesus had the key of David; that he opened, and no man could shut; that he shut, and no man could open. After having asserted the possession of this power, he then said, “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” The meaning of this is, we think, “I will make thy way plain before thee; I will remove every obstacle ; I, who alone can do this, will do it in thy behalf.” To open a door in the metaphorical sense, is to give a man liberty to pursue his proper vocation without hindrance; to give free course to him in his pursuits. When God took away the obstacles which had prevented the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, it is said, “he had opened the door of faith” to them; Acts xiv. 27. So when Paul met with much success at Ephesus, and was induced thereby to prolong his stay there, he said, “I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost; for a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries;” 1 Cor. xvi. 8, 9. He had opportunity to preach the gospel; and notwithstanding the many adversaries, he met with much success. See, also, 2 Cor. ii. 12. When Paul prayed that a “door of utterance” might be opened to him, Col. iv. 3, he meant that he desired great liberty to preach the gospel. . When, therefore, the Son of God promised to the Philadelphian church that he would set before them an open door, and no man could shut it, did it not mean, that he would give them full liberty in their proper Christian duties; that they should have free course and be glorified ; and that their enemies should not
have the power to throw any insurmountable obstacles in their way * A little strength. —Notwithstanding all this church had suffered, it had not been effectually crushed. It had some strength left. It had shown decisive signs of spiritual life, even in its worst condition, for it had been faithful,-more so, perhaps, than either of the other seven churches. I Hast kept my nord. —This is the proof of what we have said. They had held fast the gospel; they had not renounced the word of Christ. T Hast not denied my name. — This is a further proof of their steadfastness. From all that is said, we are clearly of the opinion, that this church had shown a firmer devotion to Christ than any other of the seven. 9. Synagogue of Satan. — We have Once before been called on to notice this phrase. See the notes on ii. 9. A Synagogue of Satan signifies a wicked synagogue, a synagogue of adversaries, the synagogue being put for the worshippers therein. To Which say they are Jen's. – There were certain persons at Philadelphia who claimed to be pious Jews, and were outwardly very devout. But they were not truly the children of Abraham. They were Jews outwardly, or by descent; but were not Jews in the dignified and noble sense of the expression. John had learned this distinction from his master. During the ministry of Christ certain Jews boasted to him that they were Abraham's seed; but Jesus said in reply, “If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham;’ John viii. 39. He did not mean to deny that they were the posterity of Abraham ; but they were not his children in character. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a
will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, 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. 11 Behold, I come quickly :
murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth; because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own : for he is a liar, and the father of it;” Idem, 44. Possibly John had these facts in his mind when he wrote the passage in the Apocalypse which we are considering, — “Which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie.” T Worship before thy feet. —I will make them do thee homage. They are now thine oppressors; they persecute thee; they cause thee to be cast into prison; thus proving, by their works, that they are not possessed of true religion, but are in fact the synagogue of Satan. They shall be humbled; and shall come and bow before thee. I Knon, that I have loved thee. — They shall see so many proofs of the protection of Heaven extended out in thy behalf, that when I come in my glory, and they are cast down, they shall see that I have loved thee. 10. The nord of my patience. —We think the meaning here is, the word in which I have enjoined the duty of patience, illustrated by my example. It was necessary for Christ and his apostles to enjoin the duty of patience on their fainting followers. Jesus said to them, in his memorable discourse concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake. But there shall not a hair of your head perish. In your patience possess ye your souls. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh;” Luke xxi. 17–20. The persecution would be so ardent, and the hope of escape from it at the coming of Christ would be so strong, that Jesus feared his disciples would become
impatient. Paul said to the Thessalonians, that he gloried in them, “for their patience and faith in all their persecutions and tribulations;” 2 Epis. i. 4. And again, “The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ;” Idem, iii. 5. See also Jas. v. 7, 8. T Hour of temptation. — This was to be the reward of their patience; and it was certainly a very natural one. They were to be preserved from the hour, or season, of temptation. Their severest trials, perhaps, had not then fallen upon them. But Jesus promised them help to bear them safely through. The troubles to which he referred were doubtless those that were to attend his coming. T All the norld. — The troubles were to come on all the world, to try them that dwelt on the earth. The word here (oikoumene) signified the inhabited world,— the Roman empire; to try them that dwelt in the earth, or land to which the judgment was confined. This was not a judgment in the immortal state; but here on the earth. It was a judgment simultaneous with the coming of Christ; and it was said it would “try them that dwelt upon the earth.” 11. Behold, I come quickly. —This shows that the troubles mentioned in the preceding verse were the troubles attending the coming of the Lord Jesus. The "invariable language which our Lord used concerning his coming showed that it was near when he was on the earth. It was still nearer when the Apocalypse was written. Again and again, we are told in that book, it was to transpire quickly See i. 1, 3, and the notes on those passages. See also xxii. 6, 7, 10, 12, 20. How unwise do those
received of my Father. 28 And I will give him the morning-star. 29 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
CHAPTER III. A” unto the angel of the
church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and
Christians at Thyatira with the promise that they should share the glories and honors belonging to himself. He shared the glories and honors of the Father, and they should share the glories and honors of the Son. Jesus said, when on earth, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was ;” John xvii. 5. This primitive glory might be called the glory of the morning-stars, because it was when the foundations of the earth were laid, that “the morning-stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy;” Job xxxviii. 6, 7. The same glory was to be shared by Christ's “Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am ; that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world;” John xvii. 24. “And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one;” Idem. 22. Hence Jesus promised to his followers, that they should reign with him in his kingdom, and like him sway the nations with an iron sceptre. Their glory should be like his glory. Daniel, whose style the revelator closely imitates, had said, “They that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever;” xii. 3. In chap. i. 16, it had been said of the Son of man, “his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” The Christians were called “the light of the world;” Matt. v. 14. Jesus, being preéminently the light of the church, called himself “the bright and morning-star;” Rev.
xxii. 16. But even this glory he was willing to share with his followers. “I will give him that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end,” i.e., unto the time when I come, “the morning-star.” “He shall share my full glory, the glory which I had with thee before the world was. I will clothe him with radiance like that of the morning-star.” 29. He that hath an ear. — See the notes on verses 7, 11, 17.
CHAPTER III. EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH IN SARDIs.
1. Angel. — The angel of the church was its minister, or presiding officer. See the notes on ii. 1, 8, 12, 18. Paul was an angel of God; Gal. iv. 14. T Sardis. – In the Scriptures we find Sardis mentioned only by the revelator; i. 11; iii. 1, 4. It was an ancient city of Lydia, the capital of the monarch of the country. It was situated at the foot of Mt. Trmolus, on the river Pactolus, which run through the place. It was a city of great wealth, Croesus the rich being one of the Lydian kings; and the influences which were exerted here were almost altogether unfavorable to the prosperity of Christianity. A miserable village called Sart is now found on the site of this once famous city. The seat of royalty, of wealth, of human greatness, we ought not to be surprised to learn that the gospel declined more rapidly here than in either of the seven churches. T Seven spirits of God. — We have largely considered this form of expression under ch. i. 4, to which we refer. It is not designed to represent God as septiform; but the figure is drawn from the customs of ancient mon