Revelation 3:2
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found your works perfect before God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) Be watchful.—Rather, become wakeful. It will not do simply to rouse and sleepily grasp at their spiritual weapons, or even to stand for once at arms; you must become of wakeful habit. Strengthen the remaining things which were (when I roused you) about to die; for I have not found thy (or, any of thy) works perfect—completed or fulfilled, fully done in weight and tale and measure—before my God.

Revelation 3:2-3. Be watchful — Therefore awake to a sense of thy danger, and stand on thy guard against the enemies, visible and invisible, which threaten thy eternal destruction; and strengthen — By prayer, hearing and reading the word, by meditation thereon, and a conscientious use of every private and public means of grace; the things which remain — In thy soul: such as knowledge of the truth, good desires, convictions of sin, of depravity and weakness, and of thy duty and interest; which are ready to die

Wherever pride, self-confidence, lukewarmness, indolence, levity, or the love of the world revives, every fruit of the Spirit is reader to die. For I have not found thy works perfect — Greek, πεπληρωμενα, filled up, or complete; before God — As not being performed from a right principle; a principle of love to God and man; to a right end, the glory of God; by a right rule, his holy will; and in a right spirit, a spirit of humility, resignation, and patience; of meekness, gentleness, and long-suffering: and therefore the good things, which might still remain in part, were very defective, wanting those qualities required in the gospel to render them acceptable in the sight of God. Remember therefore how thou hast received — How humbly, zealously, affectionately, and seriously thou didst once receive the enlightening, pardoning, and renewing grace of God; and hear — His word; and hold fast — That knowledge of and faith in the truth, and whatever degree of grace thou yet retainest; and repent — Of that carelessness and negligence through which thou hast lost so many opportunities of gaining and doing good. If, therefore, thou wilt not watch — As thou art now directed to do; I will come on thee — By some sudden and unforeseen judgment, as a thief in the night comes on those that are buried in sleep; and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee — So that the surprise will throw thee into the greatest consternation and distress.3:1-6. 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.Be watchful - Be wakeful; be attentive and earnest - in contradistinction from the drowsy condition of the church.

Strengthen the things which remain - The true piety that still lives and lingers among you. Whatever there was of religion among them, it was of importance to strengthen it, that the love of the Saviour might not become wholly extinct. An important duty in a low and languishing state of religion is, to "strengthen the things that still survive." It is to cultivate all the graces which do exist; to nourish all the love of truth which may linger in the church; and to confirm, by warm exhortation, and by a reference to the gracious promises of God's word, the few who may be endeavoring to do their duty, and who, amidst many discouragements, are aiming to be faithful to the Saviour. In the lowest state of religion in a church there may be a few, perhaps quite obscure and of humble rank, who are mourning over the desolations of Zion, and who are sighing for better times. All such it is the duty of the ministers of religion to comfort and encourage; for it is in their hearts that piety may be kept alive in the church - it is through them that it may be hoped religion may yet be revived. In the apparent hopelessness of doing much good to others, good may always be done to the cause itself by preserving and strengthening what there may be of life among those few, amidst the general desolation and death. It is much to preserve life in grain sown in a field through the long and dreary winter, when all seems to be dead - for it will burst forth, with new life and beauty, in the spring. When the body is prostrate with disease, and life just lingers, and death seems to be coming on, it is much to preserve the little strength that remains; much to keep the healthful parts from being invaded, that there may be strength yet to recover.

That are ready to die - That seem just ready to become extinct. So, sometimes, in a plant, there seems to be but the least conceivable life remaining, and it appears that it must die. So, when we are sick, there seems to be but the feeblest glimmering of life, and it is apparently just ready to go out. So, when a fire dies away, there seems but a spark remaining, and it is just ready to become extinct. And thus, in religion in the soul - religion in a church - religion in a community - it often seems as if it were just about to go out forever.

For I have not found thy works perfect before God - I have not found them complete or full. They come short of what is required. Of what church, of what individual Christian, is not this true? Whom might not the Saviour approach with the same language? It was true, however, in a marked and eminent sense, of the church at Sardis.

2. Be—Greek. "Become," what thou art not, "watchful," or "wakeful," literally, "waking."

the things which remain—Strengthen those thy remaining few graces, which, in thy spiritual deadly slumber, are not yet quite extinct [Alford]. "The things that remain" can hardly mean "the PERSONS that are not yet dead, but are ready to die"; for Re 3:4 implies that the "few" faithful ones at Sardis were not "ready to die," but were full of life.

are—The two oldest manuscripts read, "were ready," literally, "were about to die," namely, at the time when you "strengthen" them. This implies that "thou art dead," Re 3:1, is to be taken with limitation; for those must have some life who are told to strengthen the things that remain.

perfect—literally, "filled up in full complement"; Translate, "complete." Weighed in the balance of Him who requires living faith as the motive of works, and found wanting.

before God—Greek, "in the sight of God." The three oldest manuscripts, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic, read, "before (in the sight of) MY God"; Christ's judgment is God the Father's judgment. In the sight of men, Sardis had "a name of living": "so many and so great are the obligations of pastors, that he who would in reality fulfil even a third of them, would be esteemed holy by men, whereas, if content with that alone, he would be sure not to escape hell" [Juan D'avila]. Note: in Sardis and Laodicea alone of the seven we read of no conflict with foes within or without the Church. Not that either had renounced the appearance of opposition to the world; but neither had the faithfulness to witness for God by word and example, so as to "torment them that dwelt on the earth" (Re 11:10).

Be watchful, against sin, and unto thy duty, to perform it in a better manner than formerly.

And strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; improve those gifts and good habits which are left thee as yet, but are faint and ready to die, if thou dost not look after the improvement and strengthening of them.

For I have not found thy works perfect before God; for I have not found thy works before God (whether thy works in thy ministry, or in thy conversation) such as they ought to be; thou mightest have done me more service, and thou mightest have done what thou hast done with more uprightness and sincerity. Be watchful,.... Which may respect both ministers and members: the ministers of the Gospel, whose business is to watch over themselves, their conversation and doctrine, and watch every opportunity to preach it, and the success of their ministry; and that they do not grow careless, or be drawn aside through frowns or flatteries; and over others, as shepherds do, to know the state of their flock; as watchmen of cities to give the time of night, and notice of approaching danger; and to see that the laws of Christ's house are put in execution: and this may also respect the members of these churches, who ought to be watchful, and constant attenders on the word and ordinances, and in the duty of prayer; and should watch over themselves, their hearts, thoughts, affections, words, and actions, and against sin, Satan, the world, and false teachers: or "be awake"; which shows that both ministers and churches are asleep, or much inclined to it; which is the present case of both in this period of time:

and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; not good works; though these may be said to be ready to die when men grow weary of them, are lifeless in the performance of them, and want zeal for them; and may be said to be strengthened when men do their first works: nor the graces of the Spirit; for the whole work of grace remains, and though it is imperfect, yet no part is, or can be taken away from it; yea, there is an increase of it, though it may not be discerned; the work of grace cannot die, or be ready to die; there may be a decline as to the exercise of it, and a want of liveliness in it; and things may be ready to die in appearance, and in the apprehension of believers, but not in reality; and besides it is God's work, and not man's, to strengthen this: therefore they may intend the truths of the Gospel, which at the beginning of the Reformation were revived, and were preached with great life and liveliness; but towards the close of this state, as now, would be just ready to expire, to be almost lost, and dead, and buried, as they are; and which it becomes both ministers and members of churches to hold, and hold up, establish, and confirm: or else the rest of the members of this church may be meant, those of them that remained, that were not wholly sunk and apostatized; and yet were in a very faint and sickly state, scarce any life in them, ready to give up their religion and profession; which should be strengthened, by preaching the pure Gospel, by faithfully administering the ordinances of it, and by speaking comfortable and encouraging words to them. The Complutensian edition and some copies read, "which thou art about lose"; which seems a good reading; and the Arabic version, and some other copies, "which thou art going to reject":

for I have not found thy works perfect before God; meaning that the reformers, and reformed churches, stuck where they first began; and did not carry their works neither with respect to doctrine, and especially with respect to discipline and worship, to a greater perfection, as they ought to have done: and however perfect they might appear before men, they were not so in the sight of the omniscient God, nor found so by Christ, before whom all things are naked and open: the Arabic version reads, "before me"; and the Alexandrian copy, the Complutensian edition, the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, read, "before my God". This church, though she has departed from the corrupt church of Rome, and from her evil doctrines and practices; yet did not go on to that perfection which might have been expected and desired, and which would have rendered her praiseworthy, whereas she is now discommended. It is an observation of a Jewish writer (h), that "if one departs from an evil way, and does not do that which is good, he does not , "make his work perfect", and he is not pronounced blessed.

(h) R. David Kimchi in Psal. i. 2.

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are {c} ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.

(c) Other things, whose state is such, that they are now going, and unless they are confirmed, will perish without delay.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Revelation 3:2. γίνου γρηγορῶν, become watchful. This idea, Grot. interprets as indefinite: “beware of all sins.” N. de Lyra, with an oblique reference: “watchful for the recognition of defects in thyself and thy flock.” The Lord demands the condition of spiritual watchfulness, which is opposed to indolence or security, as spiritual sleep or death, and is occupied in holy works, or a holy life.[1327] Upon the essential identity of meaning in the two ideas of spiritual death and sleep, depends the connection of the command γίνου γρηγορῶν with the judgment νεκρὸς εἰ, and, again, with the admonition combined with the γίνου γρηγορῶν, viz., καὶ στηρ. τ. λ. ἃ ἐμ. ἀποθανεῖν. The last member of Revelation 3:2, in its connection with γάρ, and its reference to the works,[1328] is further explained from the proper conception of the one as well as of the other figurative designation.

καὶ στήρισον τὰ λοιπὰ ἃ ἔμελλον ἀποθανεῖν. Grot.: “See to it lest, by neglecting one charge, you become altogether flagitious.” Thus the τὰ λοιπὰ appear as the blessings still remaining to their own souls,[1329] “the virtues which still have remained with thee;” as Ewald says, who, by the explanation necessary with his recension of the text (ἁ ἔμελλες ἀποθανεῖν): “Strengthen the other things which, by dying, or keeping at leisure, thou art about to lose,” commends that interpretation of the τὰ λοιπὰ the very least.[1330] The neuter form by no means hinders us from referring the expression personally, i.e., to that part of the entire church which was already on the point of dying[1331] This personal reference is supported as well by the idea of the ἀποθανεῖν,[1332] as also of the ΣΤΉΡΙΣΟΝ.[1333] Only we must not understand “the rest” as meaning the laity,[1334] under the presupposition that the angel of the church was the bishop, or the college of officers (Vorsteher); but the church contemplated in its unity and entirety, and, just because of the connection of its members, made in a mass responsible,[1335] has, in its actual reality, on the one hand,[1336] still vigorous living members, but also, on the other hand, and that, too, in a preponderating majority, those who could be preserved from the death already threatened only by strengthening on the part of the church again recovering, in its entirety, unto active, wakeful life.

The imp. ἜΜΕΛΛΟΝ can be understood from the standpoint of the writer of the letter, just as the aor. ἘΜΑΡΤΎΤΗΣΕ (1, 2);[1337] but it is more probable, that, as in the immediately following ΕὝΡΗΚΑ, the Lord himself, who speaks, looks back upon the investigation of the church previously undertaken by himself.[1338]

Οὐ ΓᾺΡ ΕὝΡΗΚΑ, Κ.Τ.Λ. The entire preceding admonition to the church, in mass, to be watchful, and to strengthen their members already dying by rising to a new, energetic life, is founded upon the reference to their defective works, in which it has become visible to the eyes of the Lord that they have been dead,[1339] or sleeping. By ἜΡΓΑ, as in Revelation 3:1,[1340] the entire activity of the inner life in its external activity and deportment is designated; it is not “good works”[1341] that are meant, as though they were blamed only because they were not altogether perfect in their goodness. This idea, which in itself is not altogether incompatible with the tenor of the words, is much too weak for what precedes. It would first be necessary, with De Wette, to find a litotes: “Thy works are not less than perfect.” But just in the simple precision, as the words proceed from the mouth of the Lord who judges his church, do they have their most forcible significance. The Lord who has tested[1342] the works of the church according to the absolute norm[1343] has found them not perfect, and therefore not corresponding to the measure applied to them.[1344] Whether much or little be wanting for the required perfection of the works, is not to be asked: it is enough that the only and unconditionally prescribed measure is not reached. The express allusion to the absolute norm of all Christian morality is here the more forcible, as the church, according to human judgment, has the name that it lives.[1345] Incorrect references, in Grot.: “You are inconstant; some things you do well, others ill;” and in Bengel: “However good the beginning was.”

[1327] Cf. Ephesians 5:8-14.

[1328] Cf. also Revelation 3:4.

[1329] Beng.

[1330] Ew. ii.: “The other things on account of which thou wouldst die.”

[1331] Cf. Ezekiel 34:4; 1 Corinthians 1:26 sqq. So Andr., Areth., Calov., Vitr., Eichh., De Wette, Ebrard, etc.

[1332] Cf. the νεκρὸς εἶ, Revelation 3:1.

[1333] Luke 22:32; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 2 Thessalonians 2:17; Romans 1:11; Romans 16:25; Jam 5:8. Cf. Psalm 51:14; Psalm 112:8.

[1334] Hengstenb.

[1335] See on Revelation 1:20, Revelation 2:15.

[1336] Revelation 3:4.

[1337] Ew.

[1338] Cf. De Wette, also Volkm.

[1339] Revelation 3:1.

[1340] Cf. Matthew 7:20 sqq.; Hengstenb.

[1341] Ebrard.

[1342] Cf. 1 John 4:4.

[1343] ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ μου; i.e., God being witness and judge. Grot., Vitr., De Wette, etc.

[1344] Cf. Colossians 4:12; John 16:24; John 17:13; 1 John 1:3; 2 John 1:12.

[1345] Revelation 3:1. Hengstenb.Revelation 3:2. ἔμελλον, epistol. impf.—σου ἔργα, “any works of thine”. Judged from the Divine standpoint (ἐνωπ. θ.), no matter how satisfactory is the verdict of outsiders upon her or of her own complacency, her condition is decadent.2. Be watchful] Literally, Become watching: “awake and watch.”]

the things which remain] The elements of goodness, or means of goodness, which thou hast not yet lost. Cf. Revelation 2:6, and the first note there.

that are ready] Read, which were ready, i.e., would have died, but for the strengthening them. We may perhaps say, that it seems to be taken for granted that the warning, sharp as it is, will be effectual.

perfect] Lit. fulfilled; as we say “up to the mark.”

before God] Read before my God. The Church had name of being alive among men: its works therefore may have come up to their standard.Revelation 3:2. [45] ἜΜΕΛΛΟΝ) Thus the Al. And. Pet. 3, the Cov. Areth. and also Uff. read ἔμελλεν: Er. from the comm. of Andreas, μέλλει: Leicestrensis and eight others, and also Comp. Arab. εμελλες (ἈΠΟΘΑΝΕῖΝ being on this account changed into ἈΠΟΒΆΛΛΕΙΝ). This reading of the clause formerly did not displease me, Ἃ ἜΜΕΛΛΕς ἈΠΟΘΑΝΕῖΝ, in this sense: Strengthen that which remains, which, unless you were here admonished, you were about to lose by spiritual death. There is a very similar phrase of Philo, τὸν τῆς ἀρετῆς βίον θνήσκειν; also, ΤΆς ΨΥΧᾺς ΤΕΘΝᾶΣΙ. And of Heraclitus in Philo, ΤΕΘΝΉΚΑΜΕΝ ΤῸΝ ἘΚΕΊΝΩΝ ΒΊΟΝ. But that expression of itself appears more philosophical than prophetical. The simple and genuine sentiment must be that, which the Latin imitates, the things which were about to die;[46] and so the Armen. Copt. Syr[47]

[45] Ver. 1. ὄνομα, name) This (a “name”) does not establish the corresponding reality; ch. Revelation 2:2.—V. g.

[46] AC Vulg. h, Memph. Syr. read ἔμελλον; but B, ἤμελλες. Rec. Text, without good authority, μέλλει.—E.

[47] yr. the Peschito Syriac Version: second cent.: publ. and corrected by Cureton, from MS. of fifth cent.Verse 2. - Be watchful; literally, become watching. The use of ψίψνομαι implies that the watchful state is not the normal one - a change is needed before the watching can come about (comp. Revelation 1:9, 10, 18; Revelation 2:8; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 6:12, etc.). The use of the present participle instead of an adjective ("watching!" for "watchful") makes the charge more definite; not merely "be of a watchful character," but "become a watcher" (comp. Revelation 16:10; Mark 1:4; Mark 9:3, 7; Hebrews 5:12). Stablish the things that remain, which were ready to die. The reading, "were ready to die," is the best attested, and as being less smooth than "are ready to die," was more likely to be altered. It anticipates the time when the command will be obeyed: "which were ready to die when thou didst begin to stablish them." No doubt τὰ λοιπά may be masculine in signification, and mean those members of the Church who have still some life in them. But this interpretation anticipates ver. 4, which apparently introduces a new fact. It seems better, therefore, to retain the neuter, and interpret "the things that remain" as meaning the few good elements of faith and practice which still survived. The externals of the Christian life were there; otherwise it could not have been even nominally Christian. And these externals might be made realities to support the revived life of the Church. For I have found no works of thine. The difference between the Authorized Version and the Revised Version here depends upon the presence or absence of the article before ἔργα. The balance of probability is against τά, and its absence makes the reproach stronger. Fulfilled before my God. The substitution of "fulfilled" (Revised Version) for "perfect" (Authorized Version) is important. The Greek is πεπληρωμένα (John 16:24; John 17:13, etc.), not τέλεια (1 John 4:18). And "fulfilled" is better than "complete" (Alford, Tregelles), in order to bring out the connexion with the numerous places in which the same verb occurs, especially in the writings of St. John (Revelation 5:11; John 3:29; John 7:8; John 12:38; John 13:18; John 15:11, 25, etc.; 1 John 1:4 2John 12); in many of which passages "complete" would not stand as a rendering. "Fulfilled," or" made full," means made up to the right standard of excellence. The works of the Sardian Church have been weighed, and found wanting before God. "A minister of Christ is very often in highest honour with men for the performance of one half of his work, while God is regarding him with displeasure for the neglect of the other half." "Before my God" is undoubtedly the true reading, whatever may be the case in Revelation 2:7. Only in the writings of St. John does Jesus Christ speak of the Father as "my God;" and this fact is one more link between the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse. In this chapter we have five instances - here and ver. 12 (comp. Revelation 2:7 [possibly] and John 20:17). In Matthew 27:46 Christ adopts the language of Psalm 22:1, and addresses the Father as" my God;" and St. Paul uses similar language (Ephesians 1:17). The expression, "before God" (ἐνώπιον τοῦ Θεοῦ), is specially common in the Apocalypse and in the writings of St. Luke and of St. Paul; it does not occur in either St. Matthew or St. Mark. Be watchful (γίνου γρηγορῶν)

Lit., become awake and on the watch. See on Mark 13:35; see on 1 Peter 5:8. Become what thou art not.

Strengthen (στήριξον)

See on 1 Peter 5:10, and compare Luke 22:32; Romans 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:3.

That are ready to die (ἃ μέλλει ἀποθανεῖν)

Read ἔμελλον were ready or about (to die).

I have not found thy works (οὐ εὕρηκά σου τὰ ἔργα)

Some texts omit the article before works, in which case we should render, I have found no works of thine. So Rev.

Perfect (πεπληρωμένα)

Lit., fulfilled. So Rev.

God

The best texts insert μου, "my God."

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