Unveiling the Symbolism in Revelation
To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead." (v.1)
Sardis was situated about 50 miles northeast of Smyrna, and was known for its wealth. It probably got its name, Sardis, meaning red ones, because the red sardian stone was found there. The stone is very beautiful in its transparent brilliance.
The church in Sardis was only concerned about its reputation. It had a reputation for being alive, but it was dead. It just looked as if it had life - like a beautiful person in a coffin made to look alive. The dead do not have life. The deeds of the spiritually dead are not initiated nor inspired by the Spirit.
This message to the leaders of the church in Sardis came from the seven Spirits of God as they are listed in Is.11:2, namely: the Spirit of the LORD, the spirit of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of strength, of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. These seven Spirits are seven manifestations of the Holy Spirit, for He is only one Spirit. He is the One who has power and authority over the churches, as we saw in chapter 1.
It's interesting to note that red is associated with the Hebrew Adem meaning to be red! So red symbolizes Adamic, natural thinking. This church looked at spiritual realities from a human, Adamic standpoint. That is why Christ reveals Himself to this church in the completeness of the Spirit - the seven spirits symbolizing seven manifestations of the Holy Spirit! They had forgotten that Christ's words are spirit and therefore have to be received spiritually.
In Romans 8:6 we read that to be carnally-minded is death. The natural mind is very religious, and religiosity is against the Spirit and against the truth. It understands everything literally, and thinks it can manipulate God by doing good deeds, by fastings and prayers, and by positive thinking. Carnally-minded people think they have a free will - a will that is not influenced by selfishness, situations, emotions and desires, and that this ability enables them to make right choices. They still think of Christ as He was in His humanity instead of recognizing that He is now Spirit. They see prophecies fulfilled in the natural, and live in this deception.
Those who have a humanistic, carnal view of spiritual realities will miss all the spiritual things God wants to give us. Their man-centered ideas displace the Christ-centered realities. They look very alive because they have programs galore and are ever so active. However, zealousness for God cannot bring us into life. The Jews in Jesus' time were very zealous for God, but they hated Jesus and crucified Him. Why? Because they did not have ears to hear spiritual realities! They received them in their carnal mind.
For example, when Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," the Jews were angry because they thought He was speaking of their physical temple. (Jn. 2:19) They did not understand that He was speaking of the temple of His body. Their ideas of God were also wrong, so they thought it was blasphemy for Jesus to call God His Father. Religiosity and philosophies cannot give us life. Many Christians are loving Jesus, yet living in their carnal mind.
Life can only be ours in union with Christ's life! So Christ told the church in Sardis that in spite of their good reputation, they were dead! Shocking, isn't it, that these good people could do so many good things, enjoy honor and prestige, yet be declared dead by the omniscient God! They were dead because their thinking came from their natural mind instead of from the mind of Christ. It did not come from the Holy Spirit.
The divine light of the Holy Spirit discovers what is hidden! We wonder how many churches today, are actually dead, even though they have a reputation for being alive spiritually, Shepherds who eat the butter and drink the milk of their flock, and cover themselves with the wool of their flock, but do not defend or guard or feed them, are spiritually dead. The Holy Spirit sees what is hidden from human eyes!
Only the Spirit can give us life. The things we do and say, cannot bring us into life; our ministries do not make us alive, and our church affiliation cannot make us alive. They can give us a reputation for being alive, but it is only Christ who can give us life!
"Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God." (v.2) Which deeds are complete in the sight of God, and which are not? Humanity thinks it has the answer. It believes that if it tries hard enough and often enough and long enough, it can be successful. The fact that humanity killed the exact representation of God's nature proves its inability to make right choices and to merit righteousness! If humanity's deeds could be complete in God's sight, there would be no reason for Christ's death and resurrection! Only the deeds that have their source in Christ and are performed according to His directives, can be complete in God's sight.
In John 1:51 Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." Notice that the ascending precedes the descending. God's messengers first have to ascend and receive a message before they descend to do His bidding!
"So remember what you have received and heard; and keep (or guard) it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." (v.3)
At school or family reunions a lot of "remembering" takes place. But these are not the things God is telling us to remember. He wants us to remember what we have heard from Him! Most people walk out of a church building and forget what they have heard. They either don't know how to hear spiritually, or they are preoccupied with thoughts of pleasure or cares. In their everyday life they forget that they have received Christ! Instead of walking in Christ, they are walking in their carnality! Instead of living in the power and strength He is within them, their eyes are on the devil, and they preoccupied with fighting him. They have to remember that Christ has already won the battle, so they only need to abide in Him. The road called repentance is the only way back into spirituality, and that requires a change in one's thinking!
If we have a mindset that refuses to wake up, beware! In my childhood I was aware of what would happen if I didn't get up at the first wake-up call! But this wake-up call is a spiritual one - not a physical one! Wake up from your state of spiritual unawareness! Get out of your carnal thinking and recognize that the spiritual is greater! Get into the faith that is in Christ!
If we don't wake up, He will come to us as a thief. A thief comes unexpectedly, takes what we treasure, and we lament because of our loss. When Christ comes as a thief, He does not take anything of eternal value away from us. Sometimes our earthly treasures have to be taken away so that we learn to focus on the things that cannot be corrupted - things that are impervious to moths, mildew and rust! Thieves cannot access them. When reverses and difficulties come into a Christian's life, they either come as a test, or as a reaping of what has been sown.
"But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy." (v.4) Here God declares that walking in carnal thinking dirties or soils our white garments of righteousness. We thought they were only soiled by sinful acts, didn't we? But God directs His arrows at the source - at the Adamic man! Everything that originates in the Adamic man is death, whether it comes in the disguise of good or in the monstrosity of evil.
In 1 Cor. 10:23 Paul wrote, "All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify." The Christian walk is one of love, not of legalism that trumpets commandments. Love does not flaunt its freedom and cause others to stumble. Actions that are not prompted by love will soil our garments.
Among the carnally-minded Christians in Sardis was a remnant which had not soiled its garments. They recognized that Christ had become their righteousness! This is not an imputed righteousness. An imputed righteousness does not recognize our union with Christ. It does not recognize that our new birth has truly made us a new creation in Christ! This new creation has been born of the Spirit, and is therefore righteous. To be justified means that we are not guilty and have never been guilty. This is only possible because we have been taken out of the man who sins and have been put into Christ, the Man who has never sinned. These are worthy to walk with Christ in white garments! Feeding on truth means living in life, and Christ's righteousness becomes ours experientially! Christ has become our life, and we now live in this new state of being!
"He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name (or nature) before My Father and before His angels (messengers)." (v.5)
The book of life is not a literal book. Paul wrote, "You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Cor. 3:2-3) So this book is actually a people who have the Spirit of the living God within them, leading and directing them. They live out of the Christ who is within them, and He has become their life. Carnally-minded people do not do that, so they have no place in this book.
Name and nature go hand in hand. The nature of someone is proclaimed by his name. Those who live in life have a new nature. They no longer live in the self-life of Adam (which is actually death) but in the love of Christ! The Father knows His sons and acknowledges them. When parents brag about their children, they are acknowledging them! Just as God boasted about righteous Job, so He also boasts about all who walk in His nature!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (v.6) This message is directed to those who have hearing ears. It is not for unbelievers. It is for the church, the ecclesia - the called-out ones. The church is not a denomination nor an organization; it is a living organism; it consists of those who have been called out of the carnal nature and into the living Christ!
"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:" (v.7)
Here Christ, the center of the lampstand, is revealed in His awesome power of truth and holiness! As truth marches on triumphantly, it reveals all the nothingness of lies dressed in either glorious or formidable fabrications. Holiness is truth, and truth is holiness! Christ is the truth! Satan, the liar, tries to convince us that truth will be detrimental to us - that it will withhold prosperity, honor and prestige from us. God wants us to know that He is sovereign; lies cannot triumph over truth; He holds the key that opens and closes doors! Any power that comes against Him will be utterly destroyed!
Doors are openings to a new place, a new dimension. Jesus said that He is the door! Before we enter in, we do not know what lies beyond the door. Jesus is the door to our salvation. He is an open door to all who come to Him; in fact, He invites us in to discover the wealth that is ours in Him! This wealth consists of spiritual realities that cannot be corrupted! No one can steal them, and no one can shut that door. This gives us great security!
However, the door is closed to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. The road that leads to destruction gives ample opportunity to yield to all lusting, and to experience its emptiness. Reality is only found in Christ!
The name Philadelphia means brotherly love. This church functioned in love, and this is the greatest virtue. It is the only church that is not reprimanded for anything! Love covers a multitude of sins. It is not selfish; it seeks the good of everyone concerned! If we say that we love God, but do not love our brother, we lie. (1 Jn. 4:20-21) Without love we cannot manifest Christ to the world!
This is not a namby-pamby permissive love. Loving those who wrong us or irritate us does not mean that we let them rule our thinking and our actions. The love of God has a very clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. It is not governed by what others do; it flows from a heart of grace! We have received grace and we pass it on. Our love for those who hurt us opens the way for them to repent.
This can be illustrated by a very moving testimony which we heard recently. The leader of a gang tried to intimidate a pastor and to move him to anger by every method he could think of. Besides speaking to the pastor angrily and defiantly, he scattered garbage all over his lawn. The pastor responded by inviting him in for a cool drink. He and his buddies even tried to burn the church down. The pastor remained friendly. Then they began to follow him around. They followed him into a restaurant just as the pastor was about to enjoy a chicken dinner, knife and fork in hand. As the gang trooped in, all eyes were upon them. In a belligerent voice the leader said, "Whatever you are going to do to this chicken, we are going to do to you." To everyone's amazement, the pastor picked up the chicken and kissed it. Laughter rippled through the restaurant, and the gang joined in. Love won this leader's heart, and he became a Christian and is now a powerful witness of the love of God.
"I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie - I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you." (vv.8-9)
Here is a word of encouragement for Philadelphia. "Don't worry, Philadelphia, I know they are trying to shut doors, but I have doors that are open, and no man can close them." An open door means that we have the right to enter in! We can enter the holy place, and then move into the holy of holies, because we have been given Christ's righteousness. The door is closed to all self-righteousness. Self is the only thing that can stop us from entering the throne room of God. Bemoaning the unrighteousness of the carnal man is mere religiosity. In Christ we have been made a new creation, and we are no longer the carnal man. All the depravity and sinfulness that used to be our nature, is no longer us! Love is the result and proof that God's nature has become our nature!
How do we deny His name? Both denying and confessing His name is demonstrated by the manner in which we live, as well as by the words we speak. If we call ourselves Christians, yet live in legalism and all that goes with it, we are denying His name. Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ! To confess His name means that we manifest His nature in our everyday walk. We live in grace and truth, and extend grace to others. We love even as He has loved us! Those who confess His name will find an open door to all the spiritual treasures that are in Christ!
Christ has a strong word for those who say they are Jews, symbolizing Christians, but do not live out of the mind of Christ. They are pretending to be something they are not. Pretense is not truth, and everything that is not truth does not come from Christ. Christ says they are of the synagogue of Satan - their thinking has been schooled by Satan. They make fun of the Christians who receive the Scriptures spiritually, because they are proud of their natural concepts of the scriptures. When people persecute us, it feels as if the world is triumphant - but things are not what they seem to be.
Accusations do not only come from people, but also from Satan. The word Satan means adversary. He is the accuser of the brethren. Our natural mind accuses us. Here it is called the synagogue of Satan. These accusations come to us internally, and therefore are more painful than those that come from others. Our natural mind loves to beat us up! It is ever ready to tell us that our failures keep God from loving us! It wants us to keep our eyes on self instead of on that which Christ has achieved for us! Repentance from listening to those accusations brings a change in our thinking, and a change in our words and actions! We no longer doubt God's love for us!
All that Christ asks of the churches is that they maintain their vital union with Him. As long as that is in correct order, nothing from the outside can ever move them. It's as if He is saying, "I am showing you that Satan has already been defeated, so you can relax about that. Don't get all uptight about those who don't understand you. I want you to know that I'm in charge. I know it doesn't seem like that when the world is breathing fire all over you, and you feel as if your light is almost extinguished. But don't worry, as long as you remain in union with Me, your light will ever shine brightly! When I rose from the dead, I overcame death. I have already overcome the world, and My life in you will also overcome it. Just keep on receiving from My Spirit, and you'll be OK. I want you to know that circumstances are going to change. I will cause your enemies to bow down at your feet - to come to you in humility. I will bring them to a place of humility, and they too will know that I love you!" Why? Because Christ wants us to know His love for us! What a comfort to know that God's love for us does not depend on how people treat us! In the midst of rejection and persecution we are secure in God's love!
"Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth." (v.10)
Although Philadelphia was quivering under heavy persecution, they did not get off track. They patiently endured it! Christ guards us and makes sure that no test is too hard for us. Then a promise follows. He will keep us out of the hour of testing that comes on all those who dwell on the earth. This testing is not for those who dwell in the heavenlies - in the mind of Christ! Rev. 12 teaches us that there are three dwelling places: in the sea (these are the multitudes that have no knowledge of God), and on the earth (those who have experienced salvation but are still living in their carnal thinking), and in the heavenlies (those who are living in the mind of Christ). Living in the heavenlies does not eliminate the pain we feel when our bones are broken, but it won't get us off course.
The carnality and deception in the natural mind will always test those who are living in the earth realm. As long as their faith is only in external things, it is not real faith. Real faith sees the promises of God that are in the unseen realm, and declares them to be true. These are kept out of the hour of testing, because they have died to that beastly nature. They have ascended into the heavenlies and are seated with Christ in heavenly places. Christ is our refuge - our place of safety!
"I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no on will take your crown." (v.11) What do we have? How do we hold on to it? We have faith and love! No one can rob us of that, but we can lose it through humanistic and legalistic thinking. Once we begin pointing fingers instead of looking to Christ, we will lose our love. We don't want to lose our crown of life! This is not a literal crown; a crown is worn on the head, so this symbolizes that our carnal thinking has been overcome and that we are now living in spiritual thinking! Jesus Christ is life! Abiding in Him keeps us!
"He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name." (v.12)
Those who overcome will be made a pillar in the temple of God. A pillar symbolizes permanency, strength, and the ability to carry weight. God has said that He dwells in His people. (2 Cor. 6:16) This is a permanent union. He completely satisfies; He takes away all our restlessness and all our selfish desires! It is not an on-again and off-again possession. It remains in place!
Pillars are load-tested. Overcomers have faced many trials; obstacles have been placed in their pathway, and they have encountered the many darts of the enemy. Instead of becoming weary and discouraged, they have become strong in the process of overcoming. This strength is not for the purpose of boasting and display, but for burden-bearing. Overcomers fulfill these requirements!
These pillars are in the temple. They are not Christians who think of themselves as pillars - legalistically spewing out rules and doctrines, and being offended when others do not conform - like the Pharisees of old. These overcomers have been placed in the temple by God. They are burden-bearers, for they lift up the weary, encourage them, and build them up in the Lord. They are intercessors and know how to communicate with God. Pillars are not moved or shaken by every wind of doctrine. They know Him who is their life!
"And he will not go out from it anymore," that is, he lives in Christ continually! He is the vine, we are the branches. Once we have experienced how wonderful life in Christ is, we will never leave it! We don't depart from life and go back into the death-realm of carnal thinking. We remain in life as we go out to minister to humanity. Jesus left the glory to minister to humanity, but He always remained in life! We also have to leave the glory we so enjoy in the presence of our Lord, and go out to lift up the weary and heal the broken-hearted, and impart life to them! This is the ministry of those who are in life!
"And I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name." He gives us His name, that is, His nature! Christ overcame every trial the devil could throw at Him physically, mentally and spiritually! Because He overcame He was given a name that is above every name. Now He shares that name with the overcomers! He has given us a new nature, a new heart! The city of God is the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven. So this new nature comes to us from heaven. Therefore it has to come to us spiritually! This nature has nothing to do with the old nature that came from Adam who was formed of earth! It is entirely new! The new Jerusalem and the bride of Christ are one.
Before Jesus died on the cross, He said, "It is finished." What was finished? His work on earth as a physical man was finished. He is not coming back in a physical body to finish some unfinished business. His work on earth now takes place by His Spirit and through His body - His called-out ones. He has put His nature within us so that His work on earth can continue! Let's remember that we have a new nature; the old nature no longer belongs to us!
This new nature was promised in Eze. 36:26. "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you." That which is new is not a revision or transformation of the old. Our new birth brings us into a new realm, and this is a spiritual realm! This spiritual new creation that we are, has a new heart and a new spirit! Out of the old heart came evil thoughts and words; out of our new heart come the things that are of God! If we don't have "ears to hear what the Spirit is saying," we won't hear them. We'll let our natural mind overrule what the Spirit is saying. However, if we have "ears to hear what the Spirit is saying," the spiritual mind will rule over the carnal mind. The "greater works" can only take place through those who have "ears to hear what the Spirit is saying."
MESSAGE TO LAODICEA
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this;" (v.14)
This message comes from the faithful and true Witness - from the One who can be trusted! The word Beginning comes from the Greek ARCHE, meaning the first in worth, commencement, or the Beginner of God's creation. "The Beginning" gives a wrong impression. The Son of God is eternal; He has no beginning and no ending! His message is true, so church take note of what He says!
Laodicea means justice of the people. This was a democratic church. They voted on things - just like many churches do today. God's church is a theocratic church. Christ is Lord and He leads and directs it. In God's church, the pastors, elders and whoever else is involved in ministry, do not control the church. Neither does the one who contributes the most money. In His church all hear from Him and do His bidding!
"I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth." (vv.15-16)
I would not like to have been the pastor of the Laodicean church. Can you imagine what it would be like to read a document like that at a Sunday morning service?
Their deeds proved that they were neither hot nor cold. Christ wanted them to be either hot or cold! So hot is good, and cold is good! What does that mean? To be hot means that they know what to accept, and to be cold means that they know what to reject. Their deeds proved that they did not have this discernment! Therefore they did not have truth, for without truth it is impossible to have true judgment. Without judgment we fall prey to deception and lies. When we have truth, we can have true judgment and know what to accept and what to reject. Thus hot is good and cold is good, but lukewarmness, the inability to make a judgment, is unacceptable!
Those who are lukewarm will accept anything that sounds good. They do not check things out with the scriptures, nor do they ask the Holy Spirit's guidance. We see this happening everywhere around us. For example, the scriptures do not teach that man has a free will, but Christians accept this teaching without batting an eye. A free will is not influenced by lust, emotions or situations. All the advertising that is taking place every day, proves that we are influenced by them. Many Christians also accept the teaching that man can make himself better by his free choices. But how can an unbeliever make the right choice when he is dead in his trespasses and sins? How can Christians who do not hear the Spirit make right choices? Hearing the Spirit is a life of obedience. Jesus only did what the Father told Him to do.
The lukewarm have no place in Christ. The true Witness says, "I will spit them out of My mouth." What does He mean by that? In His mouth are words of truth! His witnesses must also have truth coming from their mouths. God wants mouthpieces who speak the words He gives them! Anything that does not come from Him is not truth. Those who speak out of their own desires and thoughts are cast out! He has no need of them; they are unusable.
At one time Laodicea was a Christian city of eminence, the see (the official seat or center of authority) of a bishop and a meeting-place of councils. But then the Mohammedan invaders destroyed it, and it is now a scene of utter desolation - as was prophesied. The Laodicean Christians did not recognize their true state. They thought they were pleasing to God because of their material blessings, and therefore did not repent. They did not hear the Spirit's teaching!
"Because you say, `I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eyesalve to anoint your eyes so that you may see." (vv.17-18)
Fasten your seat belts! Our material wealth has nothing to do with our spiritual state! Our positive confession does not make us spiritual. The Laodicean church had a very positive confession. Its members were rich; they were a wealthy, healthy bunch! They thought they had need of nothing! They had a very positive confession, but it was not based on truth! A positive confession sees no need of repentance. God's judgments are based on truth, therefore we have to hear His judgment before we can make a true judgment. His evaluation or assessment is the one that counts, because it is the only true one! Had the Laodiceans heard the Spirit, they would have repented of their wrong ideas.
However, they remained ignorant of their spiritual state. They did not know that they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked. They were poor because they did not have the riches of God in their life. Their nature had not been refined by fire. They were blind because they could not see spiritually; they didn't have vision because they were only interested in a good reputation. They were good church-going people. They enjoyed their social Bible club and their bingo parties. They were proud of their "bigness", their large Sunday School enrollment, and their affluence.
It didn't matter that they were naked, for they were all blind. They could sit around and enjoy themselves in their naked state, and no one knew the difference. Only those who have eyes to see spiritually can see that!
Have you ever spoken to a group of people who sit with glazed eyes as you try to explain some spiritual realities? You may as well conserve your energy because they are not hearing a word you are saying. They may even become belligerent and angry!
This church was advised to buy gold refined by fire! This gold cannot be bought with money. It is a godly nature, and the only way we can get it, is by going through the fire! That is the real road to riches - not to worldly wealth, but to enduring wealth in God. The fire just consumes that which is not of God, and if we only want that which is of God, we have nothing to lose, and there is nothing to fear!
They were also counselled to get white garments - garments of righteousness! The only righteousness that counts is Christ's righteousness. Our own righteousness, obtained by trying to fulfill the law, does not count. Only the righteousness obtained through faith in Christ can take away our nakedness.
Unless the eye salve of the Holy Spirit has opened our eyes, we will remain blind. We won't see our true condition. When I was in that blind condition, I told God what a good church I was in, and how pure our doctrines were. When I was through telling Him how wonderful our church is, He startled me by saying, "Are you sure?" That broke me up, and I replied, "If I'm wrong, show me!" God applied that eye salve to my eyes. I went through the fire, and emerged with joy unspeakable! How we need His eye salve to open our eyes to our wretched condition, and to the riches we have in Christ!
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent." (v.19) Parents reprove and discipline their children because they love them. They don't discipline the neighbor's children. At times they may feel like punishing them, but they are not their responsibility. And there is a big difference between discipline and punishment!
Reproof and discipline are needed for correction. When a pilot veers off course, he receives a course correction. This is not a punishment; it is an advantage, for it helps him get to his destination. God loves us, and His goal for us is that we are to be the exact image of His Son! This change requires a lot of loving discipline, for we often get off course - we are headed in the wrong direction. Repentance simply means an about turn. Instead of going our way, we go God's way. This is our course correction, and it is to our advantage!
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." (v.20) This is a message to the church. The church is busy with its programs and Bible studies, and it does not realize that Christ is not a part of them. He is standing on the outside of the church, desiring to be welcomed in.
To this church Jesus said in effect, "I have excommunicated the entire church. You are so busy with all your committee meetings and plans for a big crusade and building program that you have no room for Me." Then He directed His attention to the individual: "If anyone hears My voice." In the midst of this church of which Christ is not a part, there is still hope for individuals.
Jesus said, "I am the door." He is the door that is open to us. He desires that we come in and receive of His wealth - and His wealth is His nature! Now He is standing before our door - the door to our understanding. Before our understanding can be opened to His understanding, we must pay attention to His knocking. This means we have to be willing to relinquish our own natural understanding. As long as we cling to our natural ideas of spiritual realities we are not letting Christ in! If we do not pay attention to His knocking, our door will remain closed.
Next, we have a wonderful promise to all who open the door to Christ and receive Him. When we receive Him, He dines with us! That means we are eating the same food Christ eats. Christ only dines on truth, so together with Him we will dine on truth! Anything that is not truth will be rejected.
"He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (v.21) What a glorious promise to the overcomers! Everything the Father has given to the Son, He shares with the overcomers! Notice the oneness! In John 17:22 Jesus prayed, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one." Here we see the answer to that prayer!
Oneness in authority! The throne symbolizes authority; a king's authority is manifested when he sits down on his throne. God's rule is one of righteousness. In Ps. 89:14 we read, "Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You." To share the honor of sitting on the throne with Christ, we need to be able to have correct judgment - the very thing the Laodicean church lacked! Dining with Christ brings us righteousness and truth and the ability to judge rightly!
Lovingkindess (mercy) and truth are incorporated in His righteousness! We are to be merciful even as our Father in heaven is merciful. Overcomers are given the honor of sharing Christ's authority because they have learned to submit to His authority! They are overcomers because they do not do their own will, even as Christ did not do His own will! Authority is ours only in submission to His authority!
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (v.22) The solution to every spiritual problem is to hear what the Spirit is saying! Christ goes from church to church and lists the wonderful promises for the overcomers! They may eat of the tree of life, they will not be hurt by the second death, for in Christ all loss is turned into gain! They may eat of the hidden manna and receive all the blessings and advantages that a white stone carries with it. They receive authority over the nations - the nations no longer have authority over them. They are clothed in white garments, and the Father brags on them. They become pillars in the temple of God and have the same nature Christ has. Therefore they are given authority to sit on the throne with Christ! To share His throne and His glory, does not rob Christ of any glory; in fact it intensifies it!
Christ's ecclesia, His called-out ones, is a company of people who are vitally united with Christ through the new birth. Anything less than that is not a church. He is the oil of the lampstand! Only those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying are connected to Him. If they do not hear, the lampstand will be removed.
Only a percentage of Christians down through church history have heeded the warnings issued to the seven churches. Instead of listening to the Spirit, they have listened to the carnal teaching of men, and their lampstand has been removed. Go to Ephesus, Thyatira, Pergamum, etc.; the ruins are still there, but the lampstand has been removed.
Just because we have a land full of church buildings, does not mean that a church is meeting in every building. The church is a people who are united with Christ! The buildings may be called churches, but that does not guarantee that there is a church. Let's heed the warning, and hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches! Our relationship with Christ can only grow when there is communication and intimacy!
This is the first vision. All the other visions relate to this one. The church needs to know that it is vitally linked to the risen Christ and that Satan has been defeated! The warnings and the blessings are for all ages!