THE 4TH LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA: Rev.2:18-29
(The False church)
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.2:18
Christ describes himself as the Son of God, who hath eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass. This indicates that nothing escapes Christ’s gaze.
Thyatira was the smallest of the seven cities, but it was the one that received the longest letter. It lay about 45 miles to the southeast of Pergamum. It was famous for its textiles, especially the production of purple dye (cf. Acts 16:14), and its trade guilds.
Flame-like eyes suggest discerning and severe judgment (cf. 1:14). Burnished (highly reflective) bronze feet in this context picture a warrior with protected feet (cf. 1:15; Dan.10:6). “Son of God” emphasizes Jesus Christ’s deity and right to judge.
This is the only use of this title in Revelation, though it is practically equivalent to “Messiah” (cf. Ps.2:12; Luke 4:41; John 1:34, 49; 3:18; 5:25; 10:36; 11:4, 27; 20:31). The main local god in Thyatira was Tyrimnas who, as his worshippers said, was a son of the gods. They pictured him on the city coins as a warrior riding a horse and wielding a double-edged battle ax in judgment.
2. Commendation 2:19
The church was strong in good deeds, love for others, trust in God, service of their Savior, and patient endurance in trials. Moreover they had become even more zealous recently. Love shows itself in service, and faith demonstrates itself in perseverance through persecution.
3. Rebuke 2:20-23: Jezebel
Her name may or may not have been Jezebel. We do know that this woman’s behavior reflected that of wicked Queen Jezebel (1 Kings 16—2 Kings 9) who led Israel into immorality and idolatry by advocating Baal worship along with YHVH worship.
In the Hebrew, the name Jezebel means literally “without cohabitation”. She will not live or “cohabit” with those she cannot dominate and control. She will have no equals. The story of Jezebel is set in the turbulent period of the divided kingdoms, as various dynasties struggled for political power.
Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Zidonians or Tyre and Sidon (Lebanon). Jezebel became queen of the northern kingdom of Israel, ruling with her husband King Ahab.
Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, and also led her husband into the same idolatry and fed the prophets of Baal at her own table. Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth and when he could not obtain it, Jezebel slandered Naboth.
He was then stoned and the vineyard was given to Ahab. The name Jezebel is also mentioned as the licentious false prophetess of the church of Thyatira. Which fulfills the age of the Church from the dark ages unto the present time, when their last works are more than the first?
The prophecy of the tribulation is in these last days which includes the greater part of Christendom that has allowed idolatry and the teaching of Jezebel to flourish in the church and subsequently into all areas of society. Without an attitude of holiness, grace turns into licentiousness.
By using hermeneutics which is the study of interpretation of scripture, we are able to pull the principals of the story of Jezebel and are able to make them prevalent in our age today.
The local trade guilds
By Jesus calling this woman Jezebel we do know one thing either her name was Jezebel or the fleshly characteristics of Jezebel were clearly manifested in her life. This Jezebel of the church evidently a woman claiming to be a prophetess had been influencing some in this church to join the local trade guilds which without it no tradesman could not work in Thyatira.
This meant participation in the guild feasts that included immoral acts and the worship of idols. With her Nicolaitan orientation, the prophetess could suggest that since ‘an idol has no real existence’ (I Cor. 8:4),
Believers need not undergo the privation which would follow from unwillingness to go along with the simple requirements of the trade guild.
A sensuous form of worship was introduced by Jezebel, by her approving the pagan festivals of this guild what she would be saying is, it was fine to be Christians and participate in this immoral act. These things were adopted to please the pagan members of the church and to attract new pagans to the church.
Christianity mixed these trade guilds of immorality with the grace of God; God had not brought judgment on her previously so she might repent (2 Pet. 3:9). Since she refused to change her ways, God would judge her and her followers unless they repented.
She might experience a fatal illness (cf. 2 Kings 1:4; 1 Cor. 11:29-30), and her followers might experience great tribulation. But it seems more likely to refer to severe divine discipline similar to what is coming during the Tribulation. Death would also be the punishment of her spiritual children (v. 23).
The other churches would recognize her punishment as coming from God, who knows all people intimately (cf. Ps. 7:9; Prov. 24:12; Jer. 11:20; 17:10; 20:12). To understand the characteristics of Jezebel we need to read what she did from
1st kings 18 to 2nd kings 9:22
What are the Traits of Jezebel?
1. Jezebel cuts off God’s prophets.
1st Kings 18:4 –
For it was so, when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, that Obadiah took an hundred prophets, and hid them by fifty in a cave, and fed them with bread and water
2. Jezebel will rally as many people as possible to its cause.
1 King 18:19
Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.
3. Jezebel threatens.
1 Kings 19:1-2
1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, so let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.
4. Jezebel assumes authority for herself.
1 Kings 21:8-9
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters unto the elders and to the nobles that were in his city, dwelling with Naboth. 9 And she wrote in the letters, saying, proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
5. Jezebel bears false witness; she lies.
1 Kings 21:10
And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die
6. Jezebel does not bring peace.
2nd Kings 9:22
And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, what peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?
7. Jezebel is known for witchcraft.
2nd Kings 9:22
And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, what peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?
8. Jezebel is known for Idolatry.
2nd Kings 9:22
And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, what peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?
9. Jezebel is self-appointed “prophetess.”
Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols
10. Jezebel is unrepentant
21 And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. 23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he who searched the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.
4. Exhortation 2:24-25
Apparently, this woman’s teaching (that Christians can indulge in the flesh with impunity) was deeper than the apostles’ teaching, this was, of course, the depths of satanic doctrine. Gnosticism, which taught that only its members could understand deep spiritual truth, was growing in popularity in this region at this time.
It may have been part of her teaching. Jesus Christ exhorted the faithful in the church to continue with their present good conduct (v. 19). He would soon purge the wicked ones from their midst. He cast (ballo) Jezebel and her children into conditions of unparalleled suffering (vv. 22-23).
5. Promise 2:26-29
The prize for faithfulness was the privilege of reigning with Christ in His earthly kingdom Ps. 2:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:12, this one promise is probably for all believers and would encourage them to overcome the temptations this Jezebel held out.
The Lord intended the prospect of this blessing to motivate the unfaithful in the church to return to God’s will for them and to encourage the faithful to persevere. Believers who are faithful will receive authority in heaven from Jesus Christ and will “rule” (lit. shepherd) others during the Millennium (Luke 19:11-27; 1 Cor. 6:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 3:21).
This is the nearest we have in the seven letters to a definition of the conqueror. He holds fast the traditions of faith and life delivered to the Church till the coming of Christ (v. 25), and he keeps Christ’s works till the end (v. 26)—whether that ‘end’ be the Lord’s parousia or his own death.
While not all Christians will remain faithful to the Lord (2 Tim. 2:12), He evidently described believers as faithful to motivate them to remain faithful. John identified the “morning star” (v. 28) elsewhere as Jesus Christ Himself (22:16).
THE PROMISE OF THE MORNING STAR
The morning star (usually the planet Venus) appears in the night sky just before the dawning of a new day. From Babylonian to Roman times the ancients regarded the morning star as a symbol of sovereignty and victory.
Jesus Christ will guide faithful believers in the future as the new day of His rule dawns (cf. Titus 2:13). The gift of the morning star must refer to the fact that the exalted Christ shares his messianic status with the believer who conquers.
There were faithful believers, but there was also a strong encouragement coming from those who claimed higher authority to do things contrary to the teachings of Scripture. This came primarily from the Roman Catholic Church.
(4) CHRIST’S CHALLENGE: to the Thy-a-ti-ra church
The Lord reaches back into the Old Testament for the name of a woman who brought Baalism into Israel and perverted the nation, using her as a point of comparison for those who brought paganism and its devilish teachings into the church.
The teaching of the false prophetess, Jezebel, took two forms:
- “By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality”, which is a symbol of the idolatry brought in during this period, and
- “the eating of food sacrificed to idols”, a symbol of the union of the church with the world. During this time Rome sought to bring the kingdom of the world under the domination of the Pope in Rome.
Though contrary to the teachings of our Lord who said, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36), Church leaders seriously attempted to make their kingdom of this world. “I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling”. Plenty of opportunity was given to this church to repent; almost a thousand years was granted, yet “she is unwilling”.
Christ’s Future Judgment of this Church: “So I will cast her on a bed of suffering”. Our Lord here predicts that this church and those that are persuaded to follow her false teachings will go into the Great Tribulation, when she will, according to Revelation 17, be the Church of the Tribulation.
“To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations”. There are two aspects of the challenge of our Lord to the individual overcomer of this period:
(1) He will give such a one a position of leadership and authority during the millennial age if he or she is faithful in this age;
(2) “I will also give him the morning star”. This beautiful title is clearly understood in the light of our LORD’s word in Revelation 22:16, where He explains that He is “the Bright Morning Star”. This promise is clearly the promise of Christ to come and “abide” if you “overcome”.
This period dealt with Jezebelism which is a mixture of worship of YHVH and Baal. The church introduced statues and idol worship so people can bow down and honor them, this was called the mediaeval ages or dark ages which lasted to the reformation. Who is an overcomer? First John 5:1-4 clarifies that it is “everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ!”
THE 5TH LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN SARDIS: Rev.3:1-6
(The dead church)
The letter Jesus Christ sent was to commend the few faithful Christians in Sardis for their good deeds and to challenge the negligent majority to remember what they knew and to obey Him. Remember Jesus began the Book of Revelation by dictating seven letters to seven churches. These were seven actual Churches in cities that existed in the Roman Province of Asia,
However Cyrus the Persian had captured it about 549 B.C. by following a secret path up a cliff. Antiochus invaded the city in the same way about 218 B.C. “The dominant religion of the city appears to be that of the general Anatolian religious forms: a worship of the forces of nature, which were viewed as subject to death but also as having the power of self reproduction.”
The Lord presented Himself to this congregation as the all-wise God. The “seven Spirits” may refer to the seven principal angels of God (cf. 1:4). The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, Christ also reminded the readers of His lordship over the churches (the “seven stars,” 1:20; 2:1).
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.2:8
Christ, describes himself as the one who hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, this indicates that Christ as the government of God. And holds his servants in his hand.
Sardis (modern Sart) stood about 33 miles southeast of Thyatira on a major highway that led all the way to Susa in Mesopotamia. It had been the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia. It was famous for its military history, jeweler, dye, and textiles. Due to its situation on a steep hill, many people thought the city was impregnable.
2. Commendation and rebuke 3:1c, 2b
The Lord tells the church you have a name, you are not known for my name but you are known for your name. He gave less praise to this church than to any of the churches except Laodicea, which received none.
The only good thing He said to these Christians was that they had a good reputation, evidently among the other churches. However, they were really a dead church and their good works were not as impressive as they should have been. Only a few of their number were faithful to the Lord (v. 4). The temple to Artemis (possibly Cybele) equaled in size the famous temple of Artemis in Ephesus.
However, the temple at Sardis was never finished. This tendency to fail to finish what they had begun characterized the Christians too. No city of Asia at that time showed such a melancholy contrast between past splendor and present decay as Sardis.
3. Exhortation 3:2a, 3
These believers needed to awake from their spiritual slumber, to examine their condition, and to realize their needs (cf. Matt. 24:42; 25:13; 26:41).
Their city had fallen into enemy hands more than once due to the carelessness of sentries who had relied too much on the town’s natural fortifications. They also needed to strengthen the areas of weakness in their church.
Which was almost dead. As the Ephesians, they needed to remember the rich spiritual heritage of their church and to return to the attitudes and activities their teachers had taught them.
Failure to heed these warnings would result in Jesus Christ sending discipline on the believers that would surprise them. It would be similar to the surprise that earth-dwellers will experience at the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 24:43; Luke 12:39; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 16:15).
These Christians were not watching expectantly for the Lord to return. Note the many allusions to Jesus’ teachings in the Gospels in this Sardis letter.
THE PROMISE OF THE WHITE GARMENTS Rev.3:4-6
Jesus Christ held out blessings for the faithful few in the congregation to stimulate the rest to repent. White garments symbolic of one’s works (19:8) are pure and free of defilement (cf. 7:9, 13; 19:14; Matt. 22:11-12).
Sardis boasted of her trade in woolen goods and dyed stuffs. Only the Christians who were faithful to Jesus Christ could enjoy His intimate fellowship (“walk with Me;” cf. 7:14; 22:14). The reference was to the day of a Roman triumph.
All work ceased and the true Roman citizen donned the pure white toga. The specially privileged few—usually the civic authorities and sometimes relations or friends of the victorious general who was being honored—had a part in the triumphal procession.
Clad in white, these Sardian believers were also to walk in triumph with their Captain in the day of His triumph. They had remained loyal to Him and would share His honor in the day of His glory.
God will eventually clothe all overcomers with special garments that declare their inward joy, victory, purity, and heavenly state (cf. 7:9, 13; 19:8).
Second, He will not erase their names from the “book of life” (cf. Luke 10:20), another metaphor for eternal life (cf. 2:7). There appear to be several “books” (records) that God keeps in heaven (cf. 20:12).
People keep books for later recollection, so the figure of a book is an instance of contextualization: giving revelation in terms the recipients can easily understand. There is the book of the living, namely, those who are presently alive on the earth, including the unsaved (Exod. 32:32-33; Deut. 29:20; Ps. 69:28; Isa. 4:3).
There is also a book containing the names of the lost and their deeds (Rev. 20:12). There is a book with the names of the elect in it (Dan. 12:1; Rev.13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27). A fourth book evidently contains the names of faithful followers of the Lord (Mal. 3:16; Phil. 4:3; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 3:5).
The Book of Deeds and the Book of Life are distinguished in Rev 20:12. The motif of having one’s name erased from, or blotted out of, the Book of Life is a metaphor for judgment (Exod 32:32-33; Ps 69:27-28) based on the notion of expulsion or disenfranchisement from the record of citizenship.
Thus at the end the book contains only the names of believers. The term “name” (Gr.onoma) also has more than one meaning. Biblical writers used it of the name of a person, his reputation (as in “he has a good name”; cf. Job 30:8; Prov. 22:1; Isa. 56:4-5), a synonym for the person himself.
In view of the previous use of the word “name” (v. 1), where it means reputation, that is probably what it means here too (cf. 2:17; 3:12). The Christian has a good reputation in heaven that results in his receiving an honorable eternal identity.
Practically every city of that day maintained a roll or civic register of its citizens and in that record was entered the name of every child born in the city. If one of the citizens proved guilty of treachery or disloyalty or of anything bringing shame on the city, he was subjected to public dishonor by the expunging of his name from the register.
(The name was, in any case normally obliterated at death.) He was deemed no longer worthy to be regarded as a citizen of the city. If, on the other hand, a citizen had performed some outstanding exploit deserving of special distinction,
Honor was bestowed upon him, either by the recording of the deed in the city roll or by his name being encircled in gold (or overlaid in gold) in the roll.
The litotes here (cf. 2:11) means the overcomer’s name will be especially glorious forever. “The purpose of the promise is to provide certainty and assurance to those who are ‘worthy’ (cf. v. 4), not to indicate anything about the fate of those who do not overcome.
Third, Jesus Christ will acknowledge all overcomers as His own (cf. Matt. 10:32; Mark8:38; Luke 9:26; 12:8). The faithful, in the white toga of the freeborn, would walk in the triumphal procession with the Victor; they would be brought into the banquet and clad in the shining festal robe.
Their names would be honored in the civic register of heaven; and finally they would be confessed before the Sovereign of the universe. Just as, in the presence of the emperor and his court, the victorious general related the deeds of the warriors who had done exploits in the battle and presented these men before the august court in acknowledgement of their worth,
So the Lord Jesus Christ would recount the deeds of His followers and present them to His father. Faithfulness in trial now is to be rewarded beyond measure in the life to come.
In view of these coming realities the Christians in Sardis would have felt encouraged to live in keeping with their calling (cf. Eph. 4:1).
(The Missionary church)
The Lord sent the letter to the church in Philadelphia to praise the Christians for their faithfulness in spite of persecution and to encourage them to persevere.
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.3:7
Christ, describes himself as He that is Holy and true, this indicates that in Christ alone there is holiness, and truth fulness.
Philadelphia (lit. brotherly love; cf. Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; et al.) lay about 30 miles southeast of Sardis. A Pergamenian king, Attalus II (159-138 B.C.), found it. The town received its name from his nickname, “Philadelphus” or “brother lover.” This king had a special devotion to his brother, Eumenes II.
The city stood in a wine producing area and was the so-called gateway to central Asia Minor. The modern name of this town is Alasehir.
It was a missionary city, founded to promote a unity of spirit, customs and loyalty within the realm, the apostle of Hellenism in an Oriental land. Because it experienced earthquakes from time to time more of the population than normal chose to live outside the city walls.
Jesus Christ presented Himself to these saints as holy (cf. 4:8; 6:10; Ps. 16:10; Hab. 3:3; Isa. 40:25; Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35; 4:34; John 6:69; Acts 4:27, 30; 1 Pet. 1:15; 1 John 2:20), true (genuine), and authoritative (cf. 1:5; 6:10).
THE PROMISE OF THE KEY OF DAVID
It seems to refer to Isaiah 22:20-23 where Hezekiah’s servant, Eliakim, received authority over David’s house, including access to all the king’s treasures.
20. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will call my servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah.21. And I will clothe him with thy robe, and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand: and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.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 23. And I will fasten him [as] a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father’s house
Jesus claimed to have God’s full administrative authority over salvation and judgment and to distribute or not distribute all God’s resources according to His will.
2. Commendation 3:8
THE PROMISE OF THE OPEN DOOR
The Philadelphia Christians had received an “open door” to opportunity for spiritual blessing, perhaps opportunity for evangelism (cf. 1 Cor. 16:9; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3). Since there is no article before “little” in the Greek text, possible to understand their “little strength” (NIV) as a reference to their small influence.
Evidently because of their small number. They had faithfully obeyed God’s Word, and they had maintained a faithful testimony for the Lord in the past, presumably by word and by deed. They also enjoyed the prospect of an open door into the messianic kingdom because they had been faithful.
3. The Promise 3:9-12
Jesus Christ gave no rebuke to this church, as was true of the church in Smyrna. He gave the Christians five promises instead.
Their Jewish antagonists would eventually have to acknowledge that the Christians were the true followers of God (cf. 2:9). These foes claimed to be the true followers of God, but they were not, having rejected Jesus Christ (cf. John 8:31-59).
Eventually they would have to admit their error, at the judgment of unbelievers (the great white throne judgment) if not earlier (Isa. 45:23; 60:14; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11).
However the future repentance of Israel at Messiah’s second coming that will result in the Jews’ respectful treatment of Gentile believers seems to be in view here (cf. Isa. 45:14; 49:23;Ezek. 36:23; 37:28; Zech. 8:20-23).
God promised the Christians in this church that they would not go through the Tribulation period(Rev. 6—19). He promised to keep them from the hour of testing. The combination of the verb and the preposition in Greek in this verse clearly means that He would keep them out of it (the pretribulation position).
Would God not keep them from the hour of testing? In other words, only faithful or watchful Christians experience the Rapture, God has promised all Christians deliverance from that outpouring of His wrath (1 Thess. 1:10). Furthermore, it is not just the testing God promised to deliver them from but the “hour” of testing, the time in history during which these trials will come (cf. John 12:27).
The Greek word translated “testing” (PEIRASAI) means to test to demonstrate the quality of a thing, not to purify its quality. This hour of testing will involve the “whole world” Greek word (OIKOYMENES) (the inhabited earth), not just a local area.
Its purpose is to demonstrate the quality of those who “dwell upon the earth.” This term refers to earth-dwellers as contrasted with heaven-dwellers, the unsaved as contrasted with Christians. As with the promises given to the other churches in chapters 2 and 3, this one is applicable to all Christians, not just the original recipients of the letter.
Verse 10 appears at first reading to be another inducement to remain faithful to the Lord (cf. 2:10c, 25; 3:4). The implication may appear to be that if a Christian denies Christ (v.8) he or she will not participate in the Rapture.
the Lord also promised to come quickly (Gr. TACHY ; cf. 1:1, 7; 2:16; 22:7, 12,20; 2 Pet. 3:8). This can hardly be His return to earth described in Rev. 19:11-21, because this phase of His coming will be preceded by all the events described in chapters 6-18.
So its dealing with an imminent event that will come suddenly and unexpectedly only this nearness of the Lord’s coming to reward the faithful provides an effective motive to be tenacious, It is the only view that can honestly say that Christ could return at any moment, because it alone teaches that Christ will come to rapture the church before the 70th week of Daniel 9 or the Tribulation period begins and that nothing else must happen before His return.
God promised He will make them pillars in the temple. When Solomon built the temple following his ascension to the throne, he had a worker of brass from Tyre construct two massive pillars for the porch.
Solomon named one of these pillars ‘Jachin,’ meaning establish, and he named the other pillar ‘Boaz,’ meaning strength (I Kings 7:13-21). The overcomers in Philadelphia were promised future positions with Christ which appear to be described by the meanings of the names given to these two pillars.
The promise to the overcomers that they would ‘go no more out’ refers to their fixed position as pillars in the temple; and with the two massive pillars in Solomon’s temple in view, saying that overcoming Christians will be placed in the position of pillars in the temple
This is the same as saying that these Christians will occupy sure, secure, firmly established positions of strength and power, positions which will be realized when they rule and reign as co-heirs with Christ in the [millennial] kingdom.”
Jesus Christ will identify with His faithful people. Since they have honored Him on earth He will acknowledge them in heaven (cf. 2:17; 14:1; 19:12). Writing one’s name on something indicated ownership in John’s day, as it does now.
In the ancient world columns often bore the names of conquerors. In the pagan world devotees of certain gods often wrote the name of their god on their forehead (cf. Exod. 28:36). Scripture does not reveal Jesus Christ’s new name elsewhere.
The threefold occurrence of onoma (‘name’) is impressive and amounts to a threefold assurance of his identity with God.
4. Exhortation 3:11b, 13
Since Jesus Christ’s return is imminent the believers should remain faithful to Him so their detractors would not rob them of their crown. This implies we have crowns already.
THE 7TH LETTER TO THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA: Rev.3:14-22 (The lukewarm Church)
The Lord sent the letter to the church in Laodicea declaring that He knows their works, he knows what they’re doing and they are neither hot nor cold, and he wishes they were one or the other.
DESCRIPTION OF CHRIST Rev.3:14
Christ, describes himself as the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. This indicates of Christ being faithful and the first a many brothers.
The word “ruler” here is more frequently translated “beginning” (KJV) or even “first cause”. When considered in the light of the Word and parallel passages (Col. 1:15), this phrase is perhaps best translated “the beginner of the creation of GOD”.
It is obvious that all things are created through Christ’s power when we consider John 1:3, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made,” and Colossians 1:16-17, “For by him all things were created”.
Things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Taken in reverse order, the three titles here selected by our LORD present Him as the beginner of creation, the faithful witness of everything that emanates from GOD, and the final authority (as He certainly will be at His second coming).
The last of the seven cities (modern Eski-hisar, “the old fortress”) lay about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 90 miles east of Ephesus. It was a wealthy town that specialized in:
B. producing black woolen cloth,
C. and health care.
It had suffered a severe earthquake that had destroyed it, but its prosperous citizens had rebuilt it. Neighboring Hierapolis had hot, spring water, valuable for its medicinal, effects. In its journey to Laodicea it lost some of this heat and consequently medicinal value by the time it arrived either overland or by aqueduct in Laodicea.
Jesus Christ sent this letter to shake the Laodicean Christians out of their self-sufficient complacency and to exhort them to self-sacrifice for higher spiritual goals. The Laodiceans knew how the Lord felt because their city drinking water came from a spring six miles to the south over an aqueduct, and it arrived disgustingly lukewarm.
The word Laodicea means in the Greek is made up of two words (LAO) = people; (DICEA) = rulers, people rulers. So the word means people rulers, this was a church ruled by the people and not Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ should be the one ruling the church. Apostle Paul express great concern in his letter to Colossians about Laodicea when he wrote:
1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;
Paul has the same conflict for Laodicea as Colossians, the hearts of the people are not comforted, they’re not knitted together in Love and in the riches of the full understanding, they don’t have assurance in the mystery of God the Father and of Christ.
16 And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.
It looks like Archippus was the pastor of Laodicea, and was told by Paul take heed of the ministry and fulfill it. Remember Jesus began the Book of Revelation by dictating seven letters to seven churches. These were seven actual Churches in cities that existed in the Roman Province of Asia.
Jesus Christ called Himself the “Amen”.
(lit. So be it). We should probably understand this title as a testimony to His ability to produce what He predicts (cf. Isa. 65:16). As a “Witness,” His testimony to the situation in Laodicea was trustworthy. The Laodiceans had a reputation for saying and doing whatever was necessary to preserve their own wellbeing.
In contrast, Jesus spoke the truth. The “Beginning [Origin] of God’s creation” sets forth His authority to pass judgment. The Laodiceans were creative, but Jesus alone was the Creator.
THE REBUKE OF THEY’RE NOT HOT NOR COLD Rev.3:15-17
This church received no commendation; a fact that makes this letter unique compared to the other six. The deeds of the Laodicean Christians manifested their heart attitude. They were neither cold nor hot in their love for God, just lukewarm.
They had no passion in what they were doing, they were not on fire for the Lord, they were just passive Christians, thinking that the blessing of the Lord is on them because they had material possessions. The Lord’s vomiting His people out of His mouth (v. 16) simply indicates His intense disgust.
Because you sayeth I am rich:
The Laodiceans enjoyed material prosperity (v. 17) that led them to a false sense of security and independence. “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing”.
The expression “I am rich, and have become wealthy”, here it stresses that the wealth attained came though self-exertion. They don’t have the presence of Jesus in the church, but they say they have need of nothing.
They are not concerned with the presence; they are concerned with appearance, they are concerned about how the church looks on the outside, but they don’t care they are having services without Jesus.
They think they are rich, but they are not sensitive enough to know the Spirit of God is not there. Jesus says to them in all reality you knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, the church considered themselves to be rich but were really spiritually poor.
3. Exhortation 3:18-19
Jesus urged them to “buy”, imagine Jesus says buy from me, what does that mean?
So Jesus is saying I counsel thee to be thirsty and come to the waters, I will exchange your thirst for my riches.
Thirsteth For Gold tried by Fire
So Jesus is saying I counsel thee to be thirsty and come to the waters so you can become gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.
Thirsteth For White garments
Instead of the black garments that were popular in Laodicea Jesus is saying “I counsel thee to be thirsty and come to the waters for white garments” that symbolize righteous relationship with God. This church had church services but had no relationship with Christ, (19:8).
Thirsted For Eye Salve
Instead of the eye salve that the Laodiceans produced and sold, they should be thirsty and come to the waters so they can have spiritual “eye salve”. The Lord reminded His readers that He said because He loved them (cf.Prov. 3:11-12).
They should, therefore, be zealous (Gr. zeleue, cf. zestos, “to become hot,” vv. 15, 16) and repent (i.e., repent with zeal). The only way cold people can become hot in their love for the Lord is to repent (i.e., do an “about face”).
THE PROMISE OF HIM KNOCKING ON THE DOOR Rev.3:20-22
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: In the context we note that God is not addressing the unbeliever, to open the door, Jesus is speaking to the Church. He is saying I’m outside of your service, I’m outside of your church, I’m outside of your spiritual life and you have not noticed.
You are too busy being religious; you are too busy being emotional to sense my presence left the Church. It became your service and not mine. But if you hear my knock, representing the conviction of their sin, if you hear my voice, representing the correction to his church, He will come, open the door and he will come in.
I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
The Lord urged to open the Christian’s heart’s door and to invite Jesus Christ in for intimate fellowship. When He enters, He takes whatever the individual may offer to Him, and then Christ gives the individual all riches.
This verse expresses a truth taught elsewhere in Scripture, namely, that Jesus Christ desires intimate fellowship with all people (cf. Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10; John 10:10; 1Tim. 4:10).
To him that overcomes 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, the privilege of reigning with Christ will be the portion of the overcomer.
“THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH”: Rev.4:1
“After this”, with these first two words, John tells us that the vision of the divine initiation of the Tribulation follows directly after the vision of Christ and His message to the seven churches. It is more than interesting to note Christ’s message about the seven eras of the Church Age.
The Door: In the visions of God, John sees heaven opened (cf. Ezek.1:1; Matt.3:16; Acts 7:56; 10:11; 2Cor.12:1-5; Rev.19:11), and is spiritually ushered into the “third heaven”, the unseen throne room of God. (1) This door opens into the third heaven through the barrier of the heavenly sea (on which see below).
What John evidently saw in this vision was a door standing in the sky (cf. Ezek. 1:1). A voice (cf. 1:10; Exod. 19:20, 24-25), bid him enter through the door into heaven. This is the rapture
Now it is an exceptional thing to think of sinful mankind being able to penetrate beyond the veil of heaven, and such a thing is only possible in any sense or at any time because of the work and the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ who by His death broke down for us this barrier between God and sinful mankind (Eph.2:14-18; 4:7-10; Col.2:13-15; Heb.9:24).
Jesus is the only true door into heaven (Matt.7:13-14; Lk.13:24-25; Jn.10:7-9; 14:6; cf. Ps.118:19-27), for He is the One whose blood has opened an entrance for us into the very presence of God Himself (Matt.27:51; Heb.10:19-20).
Only through Him, and in Him, and by following Him where He has gone (Heb.6:19-20; cf. Heb.2:10, 12:2), can we too enter into the holy of holies for fellowship eternal with the Father, the Son, and the Spirit forevermore (Lk.23:43; Rev.3:21).
13But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For 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: 17then 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. 18Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
Caught up: is the Greek word HARPAZO which means: to carry off by force, to seize on, to snatch out or away. In the Vulgate it says RAPIEMUR, the Greek word HARPAZO is used again for Philip when he was translated in Acts 8:39.
Evidence for the Rapture
In this next scripture lets pay close attention to what Jesus is saying concerning the rapture
20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.22 Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them. 24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day. 25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise, the one who is in the field, let him not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two men in one bed: the one will be taken and the other will be left. 35 Two women will be grinding together: the one will be taken and the other left. 36 Two men will be in the field: the one will be taken and the other left.”37 And they answered and said to Him, “Where, Lord?” So He said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”
Let’s break this down: Jesus says as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: Likewise, as it was also in the days of Lot:
The Events Jesus is describing will be like the days of Noah and Lot
When the disciples heard these things, they answered and said to Jesus, “Where, Lord?” So, Jesus said to them, “Wherever the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together.” This is a clue
Jesus makes it clear this event happens where the eagles gather together which is in the air. Also Noah enter through a door in the ark just like there is a door in heaven
Not Let’s look carefully at what Jesus is saying about the judgment to come
Jesus says “They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
First Noah enter the Ark then the judgement came, Noah’s hair or clothes where not even wet, because he was in the Ark when the judgment came.
Second did Noah enter the Ark in the middle of the flood? No! did Noah enter the Ark at the end of the flood? No! therefore the church cannot get rapture in the middle of the tribulation or the end of the tribulation, this will be like the days of Noah.
Its stated here by Jesus that before the Judgement came Noah was in the Ark, therefore we can conclude that an event will take place that will happen to the church protecting us from the Judgement of God.
Jesus also says “Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all”
We se here that before the Judgement came to Sodom and Gomorrah Lot was removed from Sodom, then came fire and brimstone
Since the time of the end will be like the time of Lot, look what Genesis. 19: 21-22 has to say about the time Lot was removed “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.”
The Judgment could not occur until Lot arrived at his destination, These saying of Jesus bring us comfort that before the Judgment comes, there will be a shutting in, a removal from the place of Judgement
Also, Luke 21:24-36 says
34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Here Jesus makes it very clear Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things
1st Corinthians 15:51-55
Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also
1st John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
Here is a small key, look at the word “he shall appear”, this is almost setting us up that right after the rapture we will be in the Judgment seat of Christ.
“After these things”, the only possible antecedent for this phrase is the content of chapters two and three immediately preceding.
Conversely, this simple phrase also validates the interpretation of the seven churches as historical eras, for they are what precede the tribulation events whose unfolding John will witness once the seventh seal is opened.
This two-fold division of events between the Church Age and the Tribulation is also exactly what we find in Christ’s initial description of what was to be revealed to John in this prophecy:
“Both the things that are [in the process of] happening (i.e., the entire Church Age), and the things that are going to happen after them (i.e., the Tribulation and events following it)” (Rev.1:19)
The Requirements to go in the Rapture
Lk.21:36: Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Heb.9:28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation
Rev.3:10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.
Rev.2;3; 21:7: Must be an Overcomer;
THE THRONE ROOM OF GOD: Rev.4:2
Having received in chapters two and three a complete panorama of the events of the entire Church Age from the divine point of view, we are now given in chapters four through seven a vivid glimpse of the heavenly reality at the end of the era of Laodicea on the threshold of the commencement of the Tribulation.
Just as the discourse of the seven churches explained to us how God interprets the two thousand years of Church Age history, so in a similar way this unveiling of events at the true center of the universe.
The very throne room of God Almighty presents vividly to our view the divine initiation of the final phase of human history prior to the assumption of visible ruler ship of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ.
John had been viewing Christ in authority over the churches and their messengers (1:10—3:22), but now he would see a throne-room in heaven. “After these things I looked” is a clause that, with variations, introduces a new vision each time it occurs in Revelation (cf. 7:1, 9; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1).
4:2 As soon as John heard this invitation, he entered another visionary state (cf. 1:10). He saw a throne and someone sitting on it in heaven. The tense of the Greek verb translated “sitting” (present participle here and in v. 3) suggests continuous sitting.
The Lord is in His holy temple, The Lord, His throne is in the heavens,
That purpose is, namely, to function as the residence of God Himself, as His temporary “battle headquarters”, so to speak, from which He will continue to survey and direct earthly events until returning to the new earth in total victory at the end of human history at (Rev.20-22).
The portion of the “temple” wherein John now finds himself is the throne room of what might also be described as God’s heavenly “palace”. For while the Greek word used here (NAOS) does mean “temple”, the Hebrew word which it translates (in both the Septuagint and the New Testament) means both “temple” and “palace” (HEYCHAL).
The person on the throne was undoubtedly God the Father; John apparently saw a very large room with a throne in the center of it and someone sitting on the throne.
The major focus of chapter 4 upon the throne is its symbolism of God’s sovereignty exercised in judgment. The court scene describes a divine council in session.
In it God decides the worthiness of the Lamb to receive the covenant inheritance, symbolized by the seven-sealed scroll, by a process of investigative judgment Daniel, the prophet, saw the same glorious sight (Daniel 7): the Ancient of Days enthroned, and “One like unto a son of man brought near before him” and given “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, and languages should serve him.”
Behold, a throne had been placed in the [third] heaven, and [some] One was sitting [upon it]. Revelation 4:2b Since God is the King of the universe, it is not surprising that a throne as a symbol of His divine kingship is often mentioned or implied in scripture.
Moreover, the throne is particularly prevalent in the book of Revelation as a symbol emphasizing the Father’s ultimate authority as we have just seen. God’s heavenly throne is represented in the Jewish tabernacle and temple by the “mercy-seat” above the ark of the covenant with its attendant golden cherubim, the place where God “meets” with His servants,
The place of the resident of the glory of God (Ex.25:10-22; Lev.16:2; Num.7:89; Heb.9:1-5). The earthly “golden throne” which was placed above the Ark of the Covenant represented this real throne of God attended by real living creatures whereon He manifests His Presence as John beholds it here.
Several important characteristics of the Father’s heavenly throne that we need to know (but which are not necessarily obvious to the reader at the throne’s first mention in this context) need to be pointed out here:
It is very clear that through scripture no one has seen God the Father with their physical eyes, Jesus himself said this in Jn. 6:46. Daniel saw a vision of the Ancient of Days, in the Old Testament the appearance of God was done by Jesus as “the Angel of the LORD” before He was born.
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.
THE PERSON ON THE THRONE
The very first thing John sees is God Himself sitting on a throne in Heaven. What a thrill that must have been! To go to the White House and meet the President would be an honor. To go to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen of England would be an honor.
But, to walk into the very throne room of God and see Him sitting on His throne would be glorious beyond description! Yet, that is the honor John was given and it is an honor we will enjoy one day soon! Let’s listen in as John describes his encounter with Sovereign God.
v. 2 He Is The Ruling One –
The first thing John sees is a “throne set in Heaven”. A “throne” speaks of “sovereignty and authority”. We are viewing One Who occupies the place of absolute authority over all the affairs of Heaven and earth, Psa. 47:8; 103:19.
The word “set” speaks of “stability, firmness, durability”. God’s throne is an eternal throne! No foe will ever be able to force Him down from the place where He rules and reigns, Psa. 45:6.
This world may not recognize God’s authority and rule today, but He reigns nonetheless! Men do not give a second thought to the existence of God; but He notices all; controls all and He will ultimately judge all.
Men may not give Him the time of day now, but we will all face Him some day. Man may not bow today, but they will one day, Phil. 2:9-11; Rom. 14:12.
v. 3a He Is The Resplendent One –
John attempts to do the impossible: he attempts to describe God. The One on this throne is God the Father. How do we know? God the Son takes the seven sealed book out of His hand in Rev. 5:5-7.
John describes God as being like a “jasper and a sardine stone”. The word “like” lets us know that we have encountered symbolic language. God is not a mineral or a stone, but His appearance reminded John of these two precious stones.
The “jasper” is clear and bright. It is possible that it is the same as a diamond. A diamond is a very hard stone and it speaks of “firmness”. This comparison reminds us that our God is “firm and unchanging”.
Since we are in the context of a throne room, where sovereign authority is about to be exercised, this tells us that God’s laws, like God Himself, are firm and unchanging. There are certain laws in nature that are firm and unchanging.
Take gravity for instance, what goes up will come down! God has established the Law of Gravity, it is firm and unchanging.
The “sardius” stone is a blood red stone. It reminds us that while God is a God of sovereign rule and absolute authority, Who holds men to a high standard of holiness, He is also the God of redemption! He is a God Who saved all those who will turn to Him by faith.
Thank God He is a saving Lord as well as a Sovereign Lord. If He wasn’t, then we wouldn’t have a chance! But, it was this holy, righteous, God of judgment and wrath, who was moved by mercy, love and grace to provide a way of salvation for all who will come to Him!
It is worthy to note that the “Sardius” and the “Jasper” were the first and last stones in the breastplate of the High Priest, Ex. 28:17-21. The “sardius” represented the tribe of Reuben, and the “jasper” represented the tribe of Benjamin.
These two stones were representative of all twelve stones and were a reminder that God always kept His people and His covenants with His people close to His heart.
In other words, these stones were a constant reminder that God would keep His Word and do everything He had promised to do.
Judgment will come, but it will be carried out by One Who has walked among us. There is a human side to His judgment. He will judge, but it will be tempered by His compassion and mercy.
His Body Is Light
This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
1st Timothy 6:16
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.
Who dwells in light so “unapproachable” that it is impossible for a man to see Him and live, has clearly made it possible here for John to do in the third heaven what is not within the realm of human capacity or survivability to do on earth, namely to view the very glorious image of God without being consumed by His brilliance.
Common to all four possibilities is the sparkling quality of the material which recalls the organism color of fire and gives the Father’s appearance a tangible, substantive aspect.
The work of the Father God is the being the source of all 1st Cor.8:6
The work of the God the Son is the expression of the source Jn.1:1-8
The work of the God the Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the source Ac.1-28
THE ANCIENT OF DAYS
9 “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; 10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; Ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
The Father’s clothing is described as “white as snow” and His hair “white as wool”.
In Daniel 7:9-10, the Father’s clothing is described as “white as snow” and His hair “white as wool”. Compare the description of Christ in Revelation 1:14: “His head and his hair were as white as wool or as snow”.
The resemblance pointed out here in almost all particulars between the appearance of the Father and that of our glorified Lord Jesus Christ as He appeared to John in Revelation chapter one is hardly accidental.
For the Son is the very “shining forth of [the Father’s] glory”, and “the precise image of [the Father’s] essence” (Heb.1:3a; cf. Jn.1:14; 2Cor.4:4; Phil.2:6; Col.1:15). Jesus Himself tells us that whoever has seen Him has indeed seen the Father (Jn.14:9; cf. Jn.1:18; 12:45).
After all, He is the Father’s unique representative (1Tim.2:5-6; Heb.8:6; 9:15; 12:24), the One anointed to reconcile the world to Him and Him to the world (2Cor.5:17-20; Col.1:19-20; Heb.10:7),
The One sent into the world to be the true Light of the world (Jn.1:4-9), it is really Jesus who has been seen on this earth in all theophany that has occurred on the earth.
The description of the Father in Revelation 4:3 as being like a “jasper or sardius” gemstone refers to the appearance of His “body” and is reminiscent of the description of Christ’s feet as like “white-hot bronze” (as well as to the “glowing metal” description in Ezekiel 1:27).
The jasper referred to here is a dark colored stone (black to red to purple), while the sardius is also characterized by fiery earth-tones (orange to red). Moreover, the latter’s Hebrew equivalent is the `odem (אודם), whose similarity to the name “Adam” is not coincidental (אדם, `adham).
For the name “Adam” means “ruddy” and refers to the earth-tone color of the first man whose body was taken directly from the earth. In choosing to represent Himself in the form of a man whose “body” exhibits a similar hue (albeit with a brilliant glory never before borne by man save our resurrected Lord).
The Father here signals all who read the words of this prophecy of His clear intention and purpose to re-establish divine rule and residence with man on the earth, a reality certainly future in the New Jerusalem (Rev.21-22).
The “rainbow” around the throne was apparently the shape of a rainbow rather than the color of one since this one was green. This bow completely encircled the throne, perhaps resembling a halo. It evidently symbolizes God’s mercy that surrounds His rule (cf. Gen. 9:8-17; Ezek. 1:28).
The rainbow is thus an important symbol of God’s peace, prosperity, and restoration following the impending judgment of the Tribulation, and foreshadowing His final return to earth when God’s glory will no longer be seen only “in the heavens” but also on the earth (cf. Rev.21:23 “the glory of God gives it light”).
By allowing John to see His glory in this “blessed aftermath” form of the rainbow, God is assuring him and us that in spite of the devastating nature of the coming Tribulation, earth will not be completely destroyed.
Therefore, in Revelation 4:3, the “rainbow around the throne” can only be understood as the manifestation of that glory for all who have capacity to see it, and we may well imagine that its brilliance, brightness, and iridescence exceed by orders of magnitude the reflection of that glory in the earthly rainbow whose appearance we are occasionally blessed to see.
In terms of its color, John describes the rainbow as “similar in appearance to [something] made of emerald”. We should not, however, imagine that the color of the rainbow is totally or even predominantly green (the usual color associated with this particular gemstone).
But the emerald was the most valuable gemstone in wide circulation in the ancient world (the diamond and ruby being rare and relatively unknown). This consideration, coupled with the sparkling, flashing quality of the emerald no doubt prompted John’s description of the rainbow-aura of God’s glory as being “emerald-like”.
Finally, in addition to its status as most precious jewel, and in addition to its sparkling character, one other factor may have influenced John’s choice of the adjective “emerald-like” once it seemed appropriate to represent the rainbow’s palpable, sparkling, and impressive appearance by reference to a gemstone.
Namely, the fact that the name of its Hebrew counterpart (bareqeth, ברקת) means “flashing” or “glittering”, and would thus be most evocative of this rainbow’s brilliant, refulgent nature.
4:4 John saw 24 thrones surrounding the main throne in what is obviously a subordinate relationship. The throne is a place of rule. Evidently these elders will have positions of authority under God. The Greeks called Smyrna “the crown of Asia Minor” because of its beauty as a city.
These elders wore crowns (Greek word STEPHANOUS). This Greek word often refers to a victor’s crown (2:10; 3:11), but John also used it to describe a crown that represents authority (6:2; 9:7).
Moreover, every year a few city administrators, rulers, and priests received a crown of leaves for their faithfulness to their duties.
The identity of the 24 elders (Greek word PRESBYTEROS) is not difficult to determine. The numerical adjective 24 is significant. King David divided the Levitical priesthood into 24 orders (groups) (1 Chron. 24:3-5). The twenty-four groups represent the whole priestly order.
The order represented the entire priestly tribe and the whole nation of Israel, therefore, these 24 elders are a picture of the heavenly priesthood, and they represent all the kings and priests unto God. That means you and I belong to one of these 24 orders of Kings and Priests.
The elders represent the church saints:
1. The elders are sitting on thrones before God (Rev 2:26-27; 3:21; 20:6; cf. Eph 2:6). While Christ is not seated on His earthly throne, these kingly ones, having been presented “blameless with great joy,” must be with Him (Jude 24-25).
2. The elders are clothed in white raiment; this is the (Greek word HIMATION) is the same clothing that Christ gives his church saints Rev.3:5, 3:18, 4:4. Now there are two different types of white robes given in revelation.
The Elders and the church have white raiment (Rev.3:5, 3:18, 4:4), which in Greek is the word HIMATION: which is a inner or outer dress like the priestly clothing.
The martyrs have white robes (Rev.6:11, 7:9-14), the Greek word being STOLE:
this is a long gown. These are different positions in the priesthood of God.
3. The elders have crowns of gold on their heads. These crowns (STEPHANOUS) indicate achievement and Victory (Rev 2:10; 3:11). The Bible seems to distinguish between the word STEPHANOUS, which is used of a crown of reward for faithful endurance, and DIADEMA, which is the crown of royalty or authority.
Note: the crowning of these elders also indicates that the rapture and resurrection is past, for disembodied spirits wear no crowns.
4. The term “elder” PRESBYTEROS is only used of men in Scripture (e.g., Luke 7:3; Jas 5:14; 1 Pet 5:1). “Elders” is often used of leaders and representatives of the churches (Acts 15:2; 20:17; Titus 1:5-9).
5. The elders are “kings and priests” (Rev 5:10). Church-age believers are a royal priesthood (Rev 1:6; 1 Pet 2:9). Since Christ is a King-Priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5-7), believers who are in Christ are also king-priests.
6. The elders are carefully distinguished from both the four living creatures and angels in Rev 5:11.
7. In Rev 5:9, the elders are seen singing a song of redemption.
It appears that they sing of their own personal redemption because they say that God has made them to be kings and priests and they have been redeemed out of every kindred and tongue and people and nation (Rev 5:10).
Note: Exodus 15:13, 16-17 demonstrates that it is possible to sing a song about yourself in the third person.
8. In the other visions of heaven in Isaiah and Ezekiel, there was only the throne and the four living creatures. There were no 24 elders. If the 24 elders were angels then they would’ve been in the visions of heaven in Isaiah and Ezekiel.
It is significant that the 24 elders are seen in the New Testament and not in the Old Testament. It may also be significant that the elders and their thrones are not mentioned after Rev 19:7-9.
The Characteristics of These Elders Are:
- They have thrones Rev.3:21
- White raiment Rev.3:25, not the white robe multitude Rev 7:13
- The song of the redeemed Rev.2:10; 3:11
- They are called elders Rev.5:9-10
- They are kings and priests Rev. 5:10