Lesson 3 -- (Chapter 3:1-13)


To show the importance of being in the right church.


How many different kind of churches can you name? Name some. I wonder which of these would be classed a Sardis church and which a Philadelphia church? Today we will study these two churches. One of these pictures the kind of church to which we should belong.


Briefly review the first four churches: their characteristics and the period that they represent. Now, today, our lesson will cover the next two churches. Both of which are present in the world today.

I. The Church at Sardis (Chapter 3:1-6) -- The church that was dead and did not know it.

A. The Christ (Verse 1) -- Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit (John 3:34). The Bible teaches us to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). We are filled by complete surrender to the Will of God. Jesus speaks to this church as a Judge and not as a comforter.

B. The Characterization (Verses 1-4)

(1) His Commendation.

a. I know thy work. They were a working church -- active and busy. But the power had gone and they did not know it. Many churches are like that today.

b. They had a name. A good reputation for accomplishments but they were dead. This church turned in good reports, baptized people and they grew, but were dead. They would have been at home in a cemetery. Many churches today have great programs, elaborate rituals and many programs, but have substituted these for the Word of God and real spiritual life. Such a church is a sorry substitute and cheap counterfeit for a church going forth in the fulness of the Spirit.

c. A few names... (Verse 4) -- Just a few left who loved God, who won souls, who came to prayer meeting, who loved the Word of God. I believe the greatest sin of those few was staying in Sardis. I do not believe that God would want one of His children to freeze to death in a dead church even if Grandma did go there.

(2) His Condemnation

a. "I have not found thy works perfect before God." They fell short of what God expected of them. God does not expect any more out of us than we are capable of doing but these did not live up to their ability (Romans 12:1,2).

C. The Consequences

(1) The Counsel

a. Be watchful -- One of the fastest ways to wake up a dead church is to get the members to be watching for Jesus to come. Any church looking for Jesus to come is not going to be dead.

b. "Strengthen the things that remain" -- Save the remains. Put life and love into your works and service. Do not quit coming to church but when you do come, really worship, etc.

c. "Remember the things you've heard" -- This church had received the truth and left it. God says to them, hold on to those truths. We must ever hold on to the Gospel truths we have received.

(2) The warning -- Repent and hold fast or else I will come, suddenly, without warning as a judge. The city of Sardis had been captured twice, in its long history, through carelessness.

a. 549 BC. C A Median soldier scaled the Parapet while the guard slept.

b. 218 BC. -- A Cretan, likewise, slipped over the wall while the sentries were careless. Thus this injunction had real meaning for them. Christ has many ways of bringing punishment upon the disobedient.

D. The Conqueror's Reward. (Verse 5).

(1) Clothed in white raiment -- This refers to the righteousness of Christ with which were our clothes (II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 61:10; Romans 3;21,22).

(2) Not blot out his name -- God has a Book of the names of every man. Those who fail to trust Him as Saviour are blotted out of His Book, but those of us who have been born-again are listed in His Book.

(3) I will confess his name -- What grace to have Him confess us before the Father and the created intelligences of Heaven.

II. The Church of Philadelphia -- The Church of Brotherly Love (Verses 7-13) -- Philadelphia means "brotherly love." This church exhibits the characteristics of the true church even in its name (I John 4:7-11). Churches are splitting in two for lack of love. Let us keep loving each other. People can tell when they walk into a church whether the people love each other or not.

A. The Christ (Verse 7) -- Christ reminds them He is holy -- holy at His birth (Luke 1:35), holy at His death (Acts 2:27) and holy in His present priestly office (Hebrews 7:26).

He is likewise true (John 1:9; 14:6; 15:1). True means genuine. Christ is the true bread (John 6:32-35). He has the key of David (Isaiah 22:22). This speaks of His regal claims as the Ruler of the universe (Luke 1:32). He is Sovereign today! He opens and shuts according to His Will.

B. The Characterization

(1) The Commendation

"I know thy work..." -- And knowing this He still gave NO condemnation to this church.

(2) Note the three reasons for an open door.

a. They had a little strength. They knew it and depended on God for power.

b. They had kept the Word of God. They had convictions and guarded the cardinal doctrines.

c. They had not denied the name of Jesus. They boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus.

(3) They kept the Word of His patience -- they had kept the Word of God in patience. They were patiently waiting on the Lord to come and take them out of the world.

C. The Consequences.

(1) An open door -- Because of their love they had great opportunities for witnessing. We have great opportunities for winning souls. An open door -- If we fail to go through it, God will close it.

(2) False religions would be humbled before them (Verse 9) -- The remnant of Israel which was being saved had left the synagogue by this time and had given up the law as a means of salvation and sanctification (Romans 9:8; 11:5). Those who continued in the synagogue were now in a false religion. They were no longer true Jews. Jesus will make the enemies of the Philadelphia church to know that He loves this church.

(3) They would escape the Tribulation Period (Verse 10 and 11). They would be taken out of the world before the 70th week of Daniel would occur.

D. The Conqueror's Reward (Verse 12)

(1) A pillar in the temple -- This speaks of a place and position of honor in Heaven (Matthew 19:27-29; 20:23). A pillar denotes beauty, stability, and strength. The church that had a little strength down here will have greater strength in Heaven. This all speaks of permanence and honor.

(2) He shall go no more out -- Forever they will be citizens of heaven. Aaron wore a crown of gold which had engraven upon it, "Holiness to the Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38). This is the passport and visa of the believer which will enable him as a citizen of Heaven, to pass freely upon this earth or anywhere in God's universe. He is a "pillar to go no more out," but with God's passport he is to go everywhere. Although this is paradoxical, it is all wonderful and blessedly true.

(3) I will write upon him my new name (See note on chapter 2:17). This is the new name of Christ for each believer. All of this is in contrast to earth conditions where those in the Great Tribulation receive the mark of the beast in their foreheads (Revelation 13:17).


Sardis was a church to get out of. Philadelphia was the kind of church to be a member of. The Philadelphian church was on fire for God, winning souls and teaching the Word with love. Are you in the right church? If you are a member of a good church, what are you doing to make the church like the church at Philadelphia? And if all the members were like you would your church be like Sardis or Philadelphia?


1. What is the three-fold interpretation of these seven letters?

2. What did Jesus say about the life of the church at Sardis?

3. Was Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit?

4. What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit?

5. Jesus said the church at Sardis had a ____________?

6. What was the greatest sin of those faithful saints in the Sardis church?

7. What did Jesus tell them to do which would help them get on fire again?

8. What did Jesus tell this church to do?

9. If they did not repent what was Jesus going to do?

10. Overcomers would receive a white raiment. What did that mean?

11. The word Philadelphia means __________________.

12. What were the two attributes that Jesus reminds this church of about Himself?

13. Why did this church have an "open door" in its service for Christ?

14. What three things did Jesus promise as a result of their service?

15. Did Jesus have any condemnation for the Philadelphian church?



Lesson 4 (Chapter 3:14-22)


To teach what Jesus had against the Laodicean Church and to lead pupils to desire to be on fire for God.


If Jesus were to write you a letter with 231 words in it, I wonder if it would say the same thing as the letter to the Laodicean church. To probably 90% of Christians, Jesus would write such a letter. Let us see what He said to them.


Someone has called this letter, "the autopsy of a dead church." In this letter Jesus tells us what was wrong with this church and why she was dead. We also see in this letter the great concern that Jesus had for this church. He wants this church to come back to Him and serve Him and become lovingly devoted to Him. Let us see how He speaks to this apostate church.

I. The Church of Laodicea (Chapter 3:14-22) -- The church that made Jesus sick -- The word "Laodicea" means "the people rule." Nicolaitanism is to rule over the people. Laodiceanism is for the people to rule over themselves. This name represents the spirit of this age in a special way. "People's rights" -- "Nobody has the right to tell me what to do and what I can not do." All authority is refused, especially religious authority. We should not go to the extreme of the Nicolaitanes, but God's Word tells us that we are to respect religious authority. Pastors and teachers are His gifts to the church. He gives them because they are to be heeded, and His Word exhorts all Christians to "obey them that have the rule over you" (Hebrews 13:17; Ephesians 4). When one joins a local church, he thereby submits himself to the leadership of those men whom God has given to that church as leaders.

A. The Christ (verse 14) -- Amen means "so be it" or "so it will be." Jesus is saying that the things He is about to say will come to pass. Jesus is THE faithful one and THE true one (John 14:6; II Timothy 2:13).

The Beginning (arche or ar-khay) -- This does not teach that He was the first of God's creations but that He is the originating cause of God's creation (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2; Colossians 1:15). In the Greek this is a word for rank and dignity. In Luke 12:11, it is translated magistrates. In I Corinthians 15:24, rule, and in Ephesians 6:12, principalities. It implies that He is the source and ruler of God's creation. Since He is the creator, He is also the consumator. He will bring all things to pass in His own time.

B. The Characterization -- Jesus found nothing good about this church.

(1) Even the good works of this church are bad because of lukewarmness. Cold indicates one who is in active opposition to the church, fighting the proclamation of the Gospel. Hot is the word for those with real spiritual fervor and passion. In Romans 12:11, hot is translated fervent. Between these two positions are those who are lukewarm -- who give the outward appearance of spiritual fervor but inwardly are as opposed to Christ as are those who are cold. Perhaps they do not realize the opposition they are presenting to the Gospel but their indifference is just as formidable a foe as outright opposition. In the ranks of those who are lukewarm may be those who attend church quite regularly, may give commendably, may even give to missions, but they themselves are "too busy" to give themselves. They just do not take the Word seriously. A lukewarm drink is nauseating and these folks are also nauseating to Christ.

(2) They were a rich church -- rich in this world's goods. Laodicea was the richest of all the cities mentioned. Thousands of churches today are like this church. They have all their debts paid and they have need of nothing. Worldly wealth is the measuring rod for the modern church. Spiritual values have been lost sight of or are entirely ignored. However, God says they are unhappy (worldly wealth will not produce happiness), poor (worldly wealth is not the true wealth), blind (fine churches that have no indication of spirituality), and naked (they have nothing with which to commend them.)

(3) Their greatest sin was a lack of zealousness (verse 19).

C. The Counsel and the Consequences (verse 18)

(1) His Counsel (verse 18)

a. Buy of me gold tried in the fire -- Jesus wants to put them on the spiritual gold standard. He wants them clothed with real righteousness (Romans 3:21-23). "Tried" is "burned." Gold is a frequent symbol for the righteousness of God which is received by faith. This gold can be bought only by faith (I Peter 1:7).

b. White raiment -- This refers to the practical righteousness of saints. This is a clothing with which we clothe ourselves (Revelation 19:8). In other words, serve me, get on fire and start storing up your righteousness.

c. Eyesalve -- This city was famous for its eyesalve which cured many kinds of blindness. That with which we need to anoint our eyes so that we may see, is the Word of God. Without it we may think that we have all the blessings of God upon us and yet be blind. In our use of the Word, we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 2:12,13). Christ is about to terminate the whole business. The only solution is for individuals to buy from Him true riches, to produce true works, and to receive true illumination from the Holy Spirit.

d. I Stand at the Door (verse 20) -- Christ longs for fellowship but will not force it upon us. He wants to save us but will not force us. This verse is applicable to the lost and to the saved who are out of fellowship. To "sup" means a "full meal."

(2) The Consequences (verse 19) -- Repent, turn around, or else I will rebuke and chastise (punish). In this final word to the church, Jesus asserts his authority. He threatens rebuke and chastisement.

How many preachers today have the courage to rebuke their own congregations? How many congregations will accept rebuke? A preacher that does not stand against the sins of his people does not love them. God shows us His love by chastening us (Hebrews 12:5-10).

D. The Conqueror's Reward (verse 21) -- As the Father's throne is shared by Christ, so Christ shares His throne with believers. They shall reign with Him (I John 5:4,5).

II. The seven different kind of church members these letters picture are noted:

A. Those that have lost their first love -- Ephesus

B. Those that are suffering for Christ -- Smyrna

C. Those that have married the world -- Pergamos

D. Those that are continually sacrificing either by adhering to false doctrine or by trying to be saved by good works -- Thyatira

E. Those that are dead and do not know it and those that think they are saved and are not -- Sardis (I Corinthians 15:1-3)

F. Those that are fervently on fire for Christ -- Philadelphia

G. Those that are lukewarm, indifferent, and complacent -- Laodicea


What kind of a church member are you? Remember, Jesus had no condemnation for the Smyrnan or the Philadephian church. He wants you to be a Philadelphian Christian and a Smyrnan Christian.


1. What does Laodicea mean?

2. What does amen mean?

3. Who is the true one? Give Scripture for this.

4. Was Jesus created by God?

5. Is Jesus God?

6. Describe a lukewarm Christian.

7. Does worldly wealth produce happiness? True wealth?

8. How can we get on the spiritual gold standard? (By trusting Jesus for salvation)

9. What do we need to anoint our eyes with so that we can really see things in their true light?

10. Why did Jesus threaten to chastise this church? (They were hurting His cause and He loved them.)

11. Which church married the world?

12. Which church was dead and did not know it?

13. Which church was on fire for God?

14. Which church left their first love?

15. Which church made a continual sacrifice?

16. Which church suffered for Christ?