Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible

Revelations Ch.3 / 22 Ch.s


* Epistles to the church at Sardis; (1-6) at Philadelphia;
(7-13) and Laodicea. (14-22)

#1-6. The Lord Jesus is He that hath the Holy Spirit with all
his powers, graces, and operations. Hypocrisy, and lamentable
decay in religion, are sins charged upon Sardis, by One who knew
that church well, and all her works. Outward things appeared
well to men, but there was only the form of godliness, not the
power; a name to live, not a principle of life. There was great
deadness in their souls, and in their services; numbers were
wholly hypocrites, others were in a disordered and lifeless
state. Our Lord called upon them to be watchful against their
enemies, and to be active and earnest in their duties; and to
endeavour, in dependence on the grace of the Holy Spirit, to
revive and strengthen the faith and spiritual affections of
those yet alive to God, though in a declining state. Whenever we
are off our watch, we lose ground. Thy works are hollow and
empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds
not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with
suitable devotion of soul to God. There are not inward
affections suitable to outward acts and expressions; when the
spirit is wanting, the form cannot long remain. In seeking a
revival in our own souls, or the souls of others, it is needful
to compare what we profess with the manner in which we go on,
that we may be humbled and quickened to hold fast that which
remains. Christ enforces his counsel with a dreadful threatening
if it should be despised. Yet our blessed Lord does not leave
this sinful people without some encouragement. He makes
honourable mention of the faithful remnant in Sardis, he makes a
gracious promise to them. He that overcometh shall be clothed in
white raiment; the purity of grace shall be rewarded with the
perfect purity of glory. Christ has his book of life, a register
of all who shall inherit eternal life; the book of remembrance
of all who live to God, and keep up the life and power of
godliness in evil times. Christ will bring forward this book of
life, and show the names of the faithful, before God, and all
the angels, at the great day.

#7-13 The same Lord Jesus has the key of government and
authority in and over the church. He opens a door of opportunity
to his churches; he opens a door of utterance to his ministers;
he opens a door of entrance, opens the heart. He shuts the door
of heaven against the foolish, who sleep away their day of
grace; and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and
confident soever they may be. The church in Philadelphia is
commended; yet with a gentle reproof. Although Christ accepts a
little strength, yet believers must not rest satisfied in a
little, but strive to grow in grace, to be strong in faith,
giving glory to God. Christ can discover this his favour to his
people, so that their enemies shall be forced to acknowledge it.
This, by the grace of Christ, will soften their enemies, and
make them desire to be admitted into communion with his people.
Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as
the reward of past faithfulness; To him that hath shall be
given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be
kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine
grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make
them faithful in times of persecution. Christ promises a
glorious reward to the victorious believer. He shall be a
monumental pillar in the temple of God; a monument of the free
and powerful grace of God; a monument that shall never be
defaced or removed. On this pillar shall be written the new name
of Christ; by this will appear, under whom the believer fought
the good fight, and came off victorious.

#14-22 Laodicea was the last and worst of the seven churches of
Asia. Here our Lord Jesus styles himself, "The Amen;" one steady
and unchangeable in all his purposes and promises. If religion
is worth anything, it is worth every thing. Christ expects men
should be in earnest. How many professors of gospel doctrine are
neither hot nor cold; except as they are indifferent in needful
matters, and hot and fiery in disputes about things of lesser
moment! A severe punishment is threatened. They would give a
false opinion of Christianity, as if it were an unholy religion;
while others would conclude it could afford no real
satisfaction, otherwise its professors would not have been
heartless in it, or so ready to seek pleasure or happiness from
the world. One cause of this indifference and inconsistency in
religion is, self-conceit and self-delusion; "Because thou
sayest." What a difference between their thoughts of themselves,
and the thoughts Christ had of them! How careful should we be
not to cheat our owns souls! There are many in hell, who once
thought themselves far in the way to heaven. Let us beg of God
that we may not be left to flatter and deceive ourselves.
Professors grow proud, as they become carnal and formal. Their
state was wretched in itself. They were poor; really poor, when
they said and thought they were rich. They could not see their
state, nor their way, nor their danger, yet they thought they
saw it. They had not the garment of justification, nor
sanctification: they were exposed to sin and shame; their rags
that would defile them. They were naked, without house or
harbour, for they were without God, in whom alone the soul of
man can find rest and safety. Good counsel was given by Christ
to this sinful people. Happy those who take his counsel, for all
others must perish in their sins. Christ lets them know where
they might have true riches, and how they might have them. Some
things must be parted with, but nothing valuable; and it is only
to make room for receiving true riches. Part with sin and
self-confidence, that you may be filled with his hidden
treasure. They must receive from Christ the white raiment he
purchased and provided for them; his own imputed righteousness
for justification, and the garments of holiness and
sanctification. Let them give themselves up to his word and
Spirit, and their eyes shall be opened to see their way and
their end. Let us examine ourselves by the rule of his word, and
pray earnestly for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, to take away
our pride, prejudices, and worldly lusts. Sinners ought to take
the rebukes of God's word and rod, as tokens of his love to
their souls. Christ stood without; knocking, by the dealings of
his providence, the warnings and teaching of his word, and the
influences of his Spirit. Christ still graciously, by his word
and Spirit, comes to the door of the hearts of sinners. Those
who open to him shall enjoy his presence. If what he finds would
make but a poor feast, what he brings will supply a rich one. He
will give fresh supplies of graces and comforts. In the
conclusion is a promise to the overcoming believer. Christ
himself had temptations and conflicts; he overcame them all, and
was more than a conqueror. Those made like to Christ in his
trials, shall be made like to him in glory. All is closed with
the general demand of attention. And these counsels, while
suited to the churches to which they were addressed, are deeply
interesting to all men.