Revelation 3

Letters to the Churches, Part Two


To the angel of the church in Sardis write . . . (Revelation 3:1)

Sardis was a city with seemingly impregnable defenses. In ancient times, Sardis was located on the top of a massive acropolis with 1,500-foot (460-m) cliffs on three sides and a steep approach on the other. The city’s natural defenses had made it the capital of great kingdoms in the past, but its importance had waned by John’s day, and the main city was now located on the plain below the acropolis. It was still a wealthy city with some notable features, but was not so important as Ephesus, Smyrna, or Pergamum.


To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write . . . (Revelation 3:7)

The ancient city of Philadelphia lies beneath the modern city of Alasehir, Turkey. Philadelphia was the youngest of the cities addressed in Revelation, having been founded only in the 2nd century BC. The abundance of seismic activity throughout the city’s history has created a chaotic situation for excavators. There have been few inscriptions found and almost no significant excavations have been attempted. Philadelphia was known as an important religious center, even dubbed “Little Athens” by the 5th century AD.

Pillars of Philadelphia

The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God (Revelation 3:12).

The word “pillar” (Gk. stulos) refers to the supporting portion of a structure, such as a column. The word picture of the pillar would have had special significance for the inhabitants of a city plagued by earthquakes. The pillars of the buildings that stood in Philadelphia in AD 96 have long since fallen. This photo shows one of the main pillars in the Byzantine-era Church of St. John the Theologian.


To the angel of the church in Laodicea write . . . (Revelation 3:14)

Laodicea is situated on a plateau of the Lycus River Valley at the junction of the north-south road from Pergamum to the Mediterranean and east-west road from Ephesus to the interior of an Asia Minor. This location made Laodicea an important commercial city. Ephesus lay about 100 miles (160 km) to the west. Laodicea was one of a triad of cities in this valley: 6 miles (10 km) to the north was Hierapolis, noted for its wool industry, and 11 miles (18 km) to the east was Colossae.

Neither Cold nor Hot

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot (Revelation 3:15).

The reference to hot and cold is usually taken to refer to hot water and cold water, with the nearby Hierapolis famous for its hot springs (shown here) and the nearby Colossae known for its cold waters. The hot springs were said to be useful for medical treatments of heart disease, nervous and physical exhaustion, circulatory problems, rheumatism, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nervous disorders, and eye and skin diseases. Cold water is refreshing and suitable for drinking. But while hot water and cold water each had value, lukewarm water was emetic, causing one to vomit.

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