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hope this was not the case with all the individuals in that church. But the phrase seems to imply, that it was thus with a majority of them, at least. They had taken their lamp without the oil. This is an awful prelude to eternal and most aggravated condemnation, as in the case of the foolish virgins; and of the hope of the hypocrite, that shall perish.
Ver. 2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard ; and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come
They were here warned immediately to awake, and cherish whatever of Christianity was still existing among them, lest it become utterly extinct; to give the more earnest heed to the things which they had heard; to repent, and bring forth fruits meet for repentance; or Christ would soon visit them in some unexpected and fatal
Ver. 4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white : for they are worthy.
Even in this church, thus dead as a body, were contained a few faithful members, who were in a good degree uncontaminated with the general corruption of the body. They had dared alone to stem the torrent of evil, and to stand firm. Their walking with Christ in white, may allude to the following facts, that white is a natural emblem of purity, and also of victory; that the singing Levites of old were ordered to minister in their service before God “being clothed in white;" and that the Ancient of days (Christ) appeared in Daniel, and on the mount of transfiguration, in a garment intensely white. These few names, then, should walk with Christ in purity and victory.
“For they are worthy:" not with legal or
condign worthiness; but with a worthiness of congruity; or fitness by divine grace within them, and by their interest in Christ. Here is a blessed encouragement, in a time of general corruption, to dare to be bold and singular for Christ, at whatever expense of name, property, or even of life.
Ver. 5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
"To encourage, effectually, those few names, and all similar characters, to the end of the world, the general declaration is made, that all who thus follow Christ, and overcome, shall be treated as conquerors ; confirmed in eternal purity; shall find their names in the book of life in heaven; and shall be owned of Christ before the Father, and all the angelic hosts. Their not having their names erased from the book of life, is spoken only after the manner of men; inasmuch as professors who have never forfeited their characters, are received and spoken of as the righteous, and consequently as having their names in the book of life. And, following the same language, if they fall away, they are noted as turning from their righteousness to iniquity, and having their names taken from the book of life. But the literal fact is, apostates discover only that they never were truly of the righteous; and their names were never in the book of life. Had they been there, they would never have been suffered fatally to apostatize. “ The righteous fall seven times, and rise again.” The Holy Ghost assures us that nothing shall ever separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. This address, like the others, is closed with the call to all who have ears, to hear or obey.
In view of the charge, “ Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead !” let professors tremble; and each one say,
“ Lord, is it I ?" “ Search me, O Lord, and prove me! Try my reins and
May the few faithful names found in dead churches, be stimulated to new zeal. May they“ be strong, and bold, and very courageous,” at the direction of him who says to them, “ Watch ye: stand fast in the faith ; quit ye like men; be strong." And, when the dead mass of false brethren shall sink in ruin ; they will be crowned as conquerors before the general assembly of angels and saints. In the darkest scenes, they have it for their encouragement, that “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his !"
Ver. 7. And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: 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;
This city, southward of Sardis, contained a church not to be censured. They were, indeed, according to the name of their city, friendly brethren! The Saviour now takes his name from those traits of character that are most encouraging :-"He that is holy;" or full of pure and perfect love: “He that is true;" and hence is faithful to his promises : “He that hath the key of David ;" or has infinite power to save, resting on the covenant of redemption made with him as the antetype of David. “He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth ;" or, has infinite power either to unfold, or to hide the plan of salvation ; to open the door of the human heart, that it shall receive salvation; and also power to open the door of heaven or of hell to the souls of men.
Ver. 8. I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
All their faithful deeds Christ noted, and would unfold for their reward. He had laid open before them a door both of Christian usefulness, and of eternal glory, which no enemies could close. Such doors Christ opens to the
faithful ;-doors of securing a bright reward, and of his conserring it upon them. These saints had a little strength,” moral strength ; not from themselves, but from the grace of God, which they had received and cultivated in the most trying days. Such gracious habits of soul, Christians may and ought ever to cultivate, in the strength of Jesus Christ. Then they have an open door, indeed, which the kingdom of darkness can never shut; a door of usefulness and of salvation.
Ver. 9. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
This church, too, had been annoyed by vile impostors, calling themselves Jews, meaning here true friends of God. But their claims were false. Christ declared them to be “ of the synagogue of Satan!” And these vile characters should, sooner or later, be made to feel and to confess the excellency of the characters they had thus injured. And their confusion in this thing is denoted by the proverbial phrase of their coming and worshipping before the feet of those they had despised and injured ; as in the prophet: “They shall come bending unto thee. They shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet.” Scenes of eternal and intolerable mortification await all such impenitent offenders of Christ's little ones. Christ had before said, that it had been better for such if a millstone were hanged about their necks, and they cast into the sea, than that they should thus offend. Such hints will be found to contain infinite terror to very many, who here delight to torture and oppose the true people of God!
Ver. 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.
6 The word of my patience !” thus called, because
that to obey it, in such a time, and to endure the consequent persecutions, required great patience; and also because the wonderful patience of Christ towards his enemies, was exhibited in such scenes of their cruelty and outrage! Christ now engaged to such, to keep them in all their future scenes; not from being tried, but from being overcome. A tremendous scene of temptation and terror then awaited the Christians of the Roman earth, in the persecution under the Emperor Domitian. The Roman empire is often spoken of in Revelation, as the earth, and the world. That bloody persecution was then coming “upon all the (Roman) world, to try them that dwelt upon the (Roman) earth.” In this, Christ would sustain that church. Christians in all ages have their special trials, in which their Lord graciously engages to keep them.
“ Fear not! for I am with thee!” “ It is I; be not afraid.” The covenant of grace assures, that “ in every temptation, God is faithful ; who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able; but will with every temptation make a way for your escape, or enable you to bear it." “My grace is sufficient for thee: my strength is made perfect in weakness." But such grace is derived and enjoyed only in the way of diligent Christian faithful
Hence our blessed Lord adds :
Ver. 11. Behold, I come quickly : hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
12. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my
God: and I will write upon him my new
13. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
Christians are ever to remember, that behold their Lord cometh quickly! at all times must they “ look for, and haste unto the coming of their Lord” and Judge. He may speedily come in their individual death. And the time that intervene between this and his final coming,