Revelation Jewish New Testament, JNT, CJNT, David H. Stern

chapter 3
1. “To the angel of the Messianic Community in Sardis, write: ‘Here is the message from the one who has the sevenfold Spirit of God and the seven stars: “I know what you are doing — you have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead!
The people of Sardis were spiritually apathetic, as a result of their luxurious, loose way of life.
The sevenfold Spirit of God. See 1:4N.
The seven stars. See 1:16, 20.

You have a reputation for being alive, but in fact you are dead! Today this statement about hypocrites describes people (Jews, Christians, other) who support charitable works but have no spiritual connection with the living God (Isaiah 64:5(6)); people who feel close to God or have correct theological doctrine but produce no evangelistic or social action fruit (Ya 2:17); people whose lack of faith in God and ignorance or rejection of Yeshua produce dead religious formalism, social clubbiness, fortress mentality defensiveness, and/or pride in self-accomplishment; and people who try to fill their spiritual vacuum with sensual gratification. 

2. Wake up, and strengthen what remains, before it dies too! For I have found what you are doing incomplete in the sight of my God.
3. So remember what you received and heard, and obey it, and turn from your sin! For if you don’t wake up, I will come like a thief; and you don’t know at what moment I will come upon you.
I am coming like a thief, that is, suddenly and unexpectedly. The way to be prepared for it is to be ready and alert always, that is, always leading a godly life. Yeshua gives the same warning at 16:15; compare his remarks at Mt 24:42-50 and Lk 12:39-46; also 1 Th 5:2-8 and 2 Ke 3:8-13, which speak of the Day of the Lord itself coming like a thief. 

4. Nevertheless, you do have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; and they will walk with me, clothed in white, because they are worthy.
5. He who wins the victory will, like them, be dressed in white clothing; and I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life; in fact, I will acknowledge him individually before my Father and before his angels.
The Sardis congregation was severely backslidden; Yeshua prescribes the only possible cure: spiritual revival.

Soiled their clothes... clothed in white. Throughout the Bible white, clean clothes refer to the righteous deeds God gives his people to do so that they may exercise and express their faith (19:8, Isaiah 61:10, Ep 2:10); also see below at 3:18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 16:15: 19:14. Contrast the outwardly righteous works which people without faith organize for themselves to do; these God calls "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:5(6), cited above, v. 1N).

I will not blot his name out of the Book of Life. Compare Pp 4:3. On 'Book of Life" see 20:12bN.
I will acknowledge him individually before my Father and before his angels.
Compare Mt 10:32-33, Lk 12:8-9, Yn 10:3. 

6. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”’
7. “To the angel of the Messianic Community in Philadelphia, write: ‘Here is the message of HaKadosh the key of David, who, if he opens something, no one else can shut it, and if he closes something, no one else can open it' (Isaiah 22:22):
Of the seven cities Philadelphia was the one founded most recently. Its congregation was in a healthy condition, for Yeshua only praised it.
HaKadosh means "the Holy One." At 6:10 the term designates God the Father. Moreover, in the Talmud, the Prayerbook and other Jewish writings, it is common to refer to God as "HaKadosh, barukh hu" ("the Holy One. blessed be he"). But here (and possibly at 1 Yn 2:20) this title refers to Yeshua. (So there is no need for a "blessed be he," because here the Holy One is talking about himself.) Thus Yeshua is to be identified with God. yet he is not the Father (see 1:17N).

Yeshua is also the True One, the one who is faithful and trustworthy.
At Isaiah 22:20-22, Elyakim was given "the key of the house of David," that is, full authority to act on behalf of King Hezekiah in his household. Likewise Yeshua, "the Root and Offspring of David" (5:5,22:16), has full authority (Ml 28:18) to act on behalf of God, our King. Yeshua does not permit others to usurp this authority (see v. 9), yet he voluntarily shares "the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven" with those who commit themselves to him (Mt 16:19). Two others named Elyakim appear in the genealogies of Yeshua (Mt 1:13, Lk 3:30). For other "keys" Yeshua has in his possession see 1:18&N. 

8. “I know what you are doing. Look, I have put in front of you an open door, and no one can shut it. I know that you have but little power, yet you have obeyed my message and have not disowned me.
I know that you have but little worldly power, but much spiritual power, since you have obeyed my message and have not disowned me. 

9. Here, I will give you some from the synagogue of the Adversary, those who call themselves Jews but aren’t — on the contrary, they are lying — see, I will cause them to come and prostrate themselves at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you.
Those who call themselves Jews but aren't. On these Gentile pretenders, see 2:9N. I will cause them to come and prostrate themselves at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you. In his remarks on this phrase the non-Jewish commentator George Eldon Ladd notes verses from the Tanakh in which it is prophesied that the pagan nations of the world will come and bow before Israel (Isaiah 45:14, 49:23, 60:14; Ezekiel 36:23, 37:28), and then writes, "These and many other passages look forward to a day of the triumph of Israel over the nations; sometimes it is expressed in terms of the humiliation of the gentiles before Israel, sometimes in the conversion of the gentiles to the faith of Israel." (Revelation, Eerdmans, 1972, pp. 60-61) On the term "Israel" see Ro 11:17-26&NN, Ga 6:16&N, Ep 2:11-16&NN. 

10. Because you did obey my message about persevering, I will keep you from the time of trial coming upon the whole world to put the people living on earth to the test.
The time of trial (or: "temptation") coining upon the whole world is spoken of in the Tanakh at Daniel 12:1; in other books of the New Testament at Mt 24:4-28, Mk 13:5-23, 2Th 2:1-12; and in Revelation throughout Chapters 6-18. Premillennialists call this period the Tribulation (on these two terms see 4:1N, 7:14&N, I1:1-2N; 1 Th4:15b-17N). I will keep you from the time of trial. Those who believe in a "Pre-Tribulation Rapture" (see 4: IN, 1 Th 4:15b-17N) understand Yeshua to be saying here that he will remove ("rapture") the faithful from the earth before the time of the trial begins. Others are satisfied to take it in a general sense to mean that God will seal his people against harm when the trial comes (9:4) and will warn them to flee impending judgment (18:4).

The people living on earth. There are two equivalent Hebrew phrases in the Tanakh. "Yoshvei-tevel" appears in the Tanakk five times. Four times it means "inhabitants of the habitable world," all human beings (Isaiah 18:3, 26:9, Psalm 33:8, Lamentations 4:12); but at Isaiah 26:18 it seems to exclude God's people and refer to the world's pagans. "Yoshvei-ha'aretz" ("inhabitants of the Land" or "...of the earth") appears over 20 times and can mean:
(1) all human beings (Isaiah 24:6,26:21; Jeremiah 25:30; Psalm 33:14),
(2) the pagan tribes of Cana'an (Exodus 23:31, Joshua 2:9, Jeremiah 47:2, Nehemiah 9:24), or
(3) the Jews in their Land, Israel (Jeremiah 6:12; 10:18; Hosea 4:1; Joel 1:2, 14; 2:1).

Here, by context, "the people living on earth" are, as at Isaiah 26:18, all humans on earth except those devoted to the Lord, in other words, all pagans, all who follow the beast (13:3, 8) and do not turn to God. This expression has the same meaning also at 6:10; 8:13; 13:8, 14; and 17:8 (13:12. 17:2 and Ac 17:26 are similar); but at 1U0&N it probably refers to Jewish people living in Israel. The pagans will be put... to the test of experiencing God's judgment upon the earth (Chapters 6-18). Some will pass the test by repenting (11:13), which is God's fervent desire (2 Ke 3:9); but most will not (9:20-21; 16:8-11, 21). 

11. I am coming soon; hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.
12. I will make him who wins the victory a pillar in the Temple of my God, and he will never leave it. Also I will write on him the name of my God and the name of my God’s city, the new Yerushalayim coming down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.
I will make those winning the victory pillars (leaders, Ga 2:6-9) in the Temple of my God. In Solomon's Temple were two pillars named Bo'az and Yakhin (1 Kings 7:21). Compare 1 Ke 2:5, where believers are said to be "living stones,... being built into a spiritual house." Later in Yochanan's vision there is a Temple in heaven (7:15, 11:19,14:15, 15:5, 16:1). and Yeshua ministers there as cohen gadol (MJ 2:17&N). But in the New Yenishalayim coming down out of heaven (see 21:2&N), God himself will be the Temple, so it is not surprising that its pillars will be believers.

I will write on him the name of my God. People signify by the names they bear whom they belong to. In the Tanakh, God put his name (YHVH) on the people of Israel by having the cohanim recite the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-27). The faithful bear the name of God (here, 22:4) and the name of the Messiah (14:1), including his own new name (2:17,19:12). Likewise, the followers of the beast signify that they belong to him by bearing his name (13:17).
The name of my God's city. This signifies citizenship in that city (see 21:2N). 

13. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”’
14. “To the angel of the Messianic Community in Laodicea, write: ‘Here is the message from the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Ruler of God’s creation:
Sha'ul worked hard for Laodicea's congregation (Co 2:1,4:13), greeted them as brothers (Co 4:15), and even wrote them a letter (Co 4:16). Perhaps the fact that their letter is now lost is a sign of how little good it did them. Here Yeshua finds the Laodiceans worthy only of blame and exhortation; he does not praise them for anything.

The word "Amen," from the Hebrew word meaning "truth," confirms the truth of a previous statement (see Mt 5:18N, Ro 9:5N). Compare "the God of Amen" (Isaiah 65:16). Yeshua is the Ruler (Greek arche) of God's creation, literally, "the beginning of God's creation," who as the Word of God began it and continues to uphold and rule it (Genesis 1:2, Yn 1:1-3. Co 1:17, MJ 1:3). But the word "arche" as used at 21:6 and 22:13 suggests a philosophical understanding of Yeshua as the supertemporal one, "the 'A' and the 'Z'"( 1:8&N). Thus in relation to the Laodiceans, Yeshua is the Amen, confirming how serious is their spiritual condition. He is the faithful and true witness (see 19:11N) whose testimony on the subject cannot be controverted. And he is the Ruler of God's creation, capable of bringing judgment upon them if they do not repent. 

15. “I know what you are doing: you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were either one or the other!
While "hot" is best, believers who feel threatened by people hostile to the Gospel and are more at ease with the apathetic, the indifferent, the complacent and the nominal should conform themselves to Yeshua's preference for "cold" over "lukewarm." "Zeal for God but not according to knowledge" (Ro 10:2) is more fertile ground for the Gospel than zeal for nothing.

And now a drash: what about people who are "cool" (in the slang sense current since my high school days)? Someone seeking to be "cool" wants to be well regarded by the "in-crowd." If his referent "in-crowd" consists of believers in Yeshua, then — "cool" is hot. 

16. So, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth!
17. For you keep saying, 'I am rich, I have gotten rich (Hosea 12:9(8)), I don’t need a thing!’ You don’t know that you are the one who is wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked!
Yeshua's strong words of judgment are meant to jar the Laodiceans from their complacency, so that they will repent (vv. 18-20). To their false claim of spiritual well-being (I am rich) they add the spiritual pride of the "self-made man" (I have gotten rich by my own efforts) and a false and dangerous (Ya 4:13-16) sense of self-sufficiency (I don't need a thing). Compare Hosea 12:9-10, where Efrayim (the Northern Kingdom, Israel) says, "I have become rich, I have found wealth for myself, in all my labors they will find no iniquity in me that is sin"; and in consequence God promises to make them dwell in tents (as nomads). 

18. My advice to you is to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich; and white clothing, so that you may be dressed and not have to be ashamed of your nakedness; and eyesalve to rub on your eyes, so that you may see.
Yeshua here does not command but offers his advice. Being infinitely wise, he knows the Laodiceans are far too undisciplined to obey orders. Likewise, observe his courtesy at v. 20.

Of course one does not buy for money Yeshua's spiritual gold which makes people truly rich; it is free (22:17. Isaiah 55:1, Ro 3:24). But Yeshua is catering to the psychology of people who measure everything in monetary terms, who think that if you don't buy it, it isn't worth anything.

Laodicea had a famous medical college where "Phrygian powder" was used to make eyesalve. Yeshua can heal not only the physically blind (Yn 9:1-7), but also the spiritually blind; however, these must first admit that they cannot see (Yn 9:39-41). White clothing. See 3:4-5aN. 

19. As for me, I rebuke and discipline everyone I love; so exert yourselves, and turn from your sins!
I rebuke and discipline everyone I love. Compare MJ 12:6. Yeshua still loves the errant Laodiceans; this is why he criticizes them in vv. 15-18. Because God loves Israel he criticizes them throughout the Tanakh; this is one of the glories of biblical truth.

Exert yourselves, and turn from your sins. Repentance is not a gift placed in waiting hands. The excuse, "I'm not ready to repent yet," often hides such a passivisi theology of repentance. Yeshua, however, has a different idea, a Jewish idea: it takes effort to lift oneself out of apathy and turn from sin. 

20. Here, I’m standing at the door, knocking. If someone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.
God's readiness to receive repentant sinners, well known from the Tanakh (for example, Zechariah 1:3: "Thus says Adonai of Heaven's Annies: 'Return to me, and I will return to you.'") and restated in the New Testament (Ac 2:38), is the ground for what Yeshua says in this verse. Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. Yeshua does not barge in or bang at the door, but courteously stands there knocking, waiting to be invited in. He does not force his way into people's hearts, either those of believers who have turned away from him like the Laodiceans, or those of nonbelievers who have not yet received him. On the other hand, he does not stand silently, so that no one could suspect his presence, but he makes his presence insistently yet not intrusively felt through the behavior of believers, through the preaching of the Gospel, through the conformity of history to prophecy, through nature, through conscience.

He waits until someone hears Yeshua's still small voice prompting belief and trust, removes the intellectual and emotional barricades, and opens the door to faith and the first steps of repentance. Then, when thus invited, I will come in and eat with him, and he will eat with me. It might be added that unlike most guests Yeshua provides the food, the spiritual nourishment that gives the strength needed for exerting oneself to take the more difficult steps of repentance. The metaphor of meal-sharing (compare Lk 15:2, Yn 14:23, Ac 11:3) is appropriate to Jewish and to most oriental cultures, where table fellowship implies affection, intimacy and mutual confidence. In short, Yeshua is promising to be intimately and truly present with anyone who genuinely asks him, Jew or Gentile alike. 

21. I will let him who wins the victory sit with me on my throne, just as I myself also won the victory and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22. Those who have ears, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the Messianic communities.”’”
Yeshua presents himself as the model for anyone who wants to win the victory over evil, temptation and apathy. Compare Pp 2:6-11, and also MJ 2:9-11,18; 4:15-16. There too the Messiah is depicted as having overcome temptation, and we are invited to "approach" God's throne boldly when we have need. Here Yeshua promises that believers who overcome will actually sit with him on the throne (see 20:1 IN) which he shares with God the Father. 

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