Chapter three continues the messages to the churches.
Sardis was commended for a few of their members who were living godly, but the majority of the church was dead. Jesus commanded them to wake up, repent, and strengthen what little bit they had left.
Philadelphia was the second church for whom Jesus had only praise. Although they were not strong, they were faithful, even in persecution.
Laodicea was the single church for whom Jesus had nothing good to say. Their only option was to repent, let Jesus back into their assembly, and accept his loving discipline and care.
The threat to all of the erring churches was that, if they did not change their ways, their light (symbolized by the lampstands in Jesus’ hand) would go out. That none of these churches is in existence today proves that Jesus was not simply speaking figuratively.
Many scholars see various periods in church history represented by these long-gone local congregations. If this is accurate, Laodicea seems to represent today’s church at large, what Paul prophesied as “maintaining an outward appearance of religion but will have repudiated its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). In Revelation 3:20, Jesus claimed to be on the outside of this church trying to get in. While that accurately represents some churches today, it certainly does not reflect all of them. It is probably best to see all seven types of churches represented throughout all of church history. Thus, even today, there are both good and bad churches which, in one way or another, take after the characteristics of these seven. In effect, these chapters provide Jesus’ personal insight on his Church and our local assemblies.