In his mind's eye, John had already shifted his prophetic gaze up along the coast of Western Asia Minor from the South to the North. After so doing, he next addressed the Congregations of Ephesus and Smyrna and Pergamos.
Then, after moving his mind's eye further "in the Spirit" due east to Thyatira, the Apostle (as Jesus' agent and spokesman) next extended his range more and more inland in a south-easterly direction. For he next went on ("in the Spirit") to address the inland Congregations of Sardis and Philadelphia and Laodicea.
First. His prophetic gaze fell upon the Congregation in Sardis. That part of His Church had apparently "escaped"73 the persecutions which some of the other Congregations had suffered.74 Yet this was a mixed blessing.
For persecutions tend to deepen the faithfulness of Christ's Church.75 And some in the apparently 'unpersecuted' Congregation of Sardis, had become "dead."73 They, in particular, needed to be revived and perhaps even through persecution.
Yet Christ did not hastily reject His Church. Rather did He enjoin her to be watchful, and to strengthen those that remained as a 'remnant' which was ready to die.
Said Christ, "I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard…. Keep on holding fast and repent!"76 For soon, Christ Himself would come and visit that Congregation in temporal judgment.76
May we too not reject our 'frozen' (though perhaps still 'chosen') brethren! But may we instead lovingly warn them of their impending judgment!
72 Rev. 3:3,9 cf. n. 30. 73 Rev. 3:1. Sardis may mean "escapees." 74 Rev. 3:3,10,13,19. 75 Jas. 1:2-21 & chs. 4 to 5. 76 Ta loipa, "the remnant" or "the things that remain," vs. 2, means all those who are still alive. As such, it is not necessarily a minority of the Congregation. On "I will come," vs. 3, cf. n. 30.
Christ converts Judaists and thus expands the Christian Church
As the Geneva Bible here comments: "Be awake!"76 That means, to some: "Stay awake!" and to others: "Wake up!"
Second. Not merely was the Congregation at Sardis 'strengthenable.'76 It also had a solid believing core on the basis of which, true revival could indeed be promoted.
Said Jesus to that Congregation: "You do have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments. And they shall walk with Me, in white. For they are worthy. He who overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment. And I will not blot out his name from the book of life. But I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels."77
He Who says these things, speaks efficacious words. For "He possesses the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars."78
Yes, Jesus Who says these things possesses the fullness of the sevenfold Holy Spirit. Indeed, He also possesses each of the seven star-like and luminous because Spirit-filled Angels or Messengers who lead His work in the Congregations of His Presbytery. Consequently, as pointed out by Martin Luther in his great hymn A mighty fortress is our God, even today because we do indeed have 'the right Man on our side,' namely 'Christ Jesus' 'He must win the battle!'79
Third. It is, however, especially Christ's message to the Congregation in Philadelphia that is remarkable in the encouragement it offers. The Philadelphian Christians had, like those in Smyrna,80 apparently been persecuted by the Pagan Romans at the instigation of influential local Judaists.81 The Philadelphian Christians were, moreover even as John was then writing to them on the verge of again being intimidated in a new wave of persecution that was then about to sweep through the whole World of the Roman Empire.82