The False Church
Revelation 3: 14-22
I want to begin this final section by pointing out once again that the seven churches were seven literal churches. This is important to remember as we interpret what is written, yet in hindsight of the scriptures it is easily seen that these churches have represented sections, times, or dispensations within the church age. It is necessary at this point of our study for me to point out the dispensations that I believe these churches represent. All have elements that apply to the church today, but it is clear in hindsight that they represent sections of the church age. I do not believe in strict dispensations, rather, I believe that dispensations overlap and form God’s plan for man.
Ephesus was a church that had their first love wane. They needed a fresh love. They were the church that needed a second honeymoon. Everything they did was out of duty. They had lost their fervor. We see the early church, and at the end of the age leaven slipped in and corrupted their reasons for serving the Lord. This would be a picture of the first century church.
The second church to whom a letter was written was Smyrna. This was the church that needed courage because they were a persecuted church. Here is the picture of the second and third centuries, as the height of persecution agaisnt the church was prevalent.
Third, we see the church at Pergamos. This was a church, much like today, it had a problem with tolerating sin, hence my title for them, the church of tolerance. The compromising church was prevalent from 300 to about A. D. 500. The word pergamos means married, and
during this age the church was married to the world. The doctrine of Balaam mentioned was the doctrine of tolerance. God has always hated the tolerance of sin.
The next church was Thyatira. This was the permissive Church since they allowed sinful leaders to pervert the church. The time frame is longer now and extends to the 1500’s. This was the church during the Dark ages, a time that sin was prevalent.
We come to the church in Sardis, the dead church. They had a few saved, but they had died in their orthodoxy and rituals, and allowed carnality. This church time began in the 1500’s and extended to about the early to mid 1700’s. The Reformation was during this time. Toward the end of this age the printing press began to make the Scriptures readily available. Every major language had a translation completed from the Textus Receptus manuscripts. The Word of God began to flourish and was used to form laws and nations.
Revival began to sweep around the world. This is pictured by the church of Philadelphia. The only church of which God did not scold in some way. This began with the age of the awakening of world wide missions and evangelization. This is the time from the 1700’s until now. But we can see the great day of the Philadelphian church is waning.
Now we come to Laodocea. This is the church about which God had nothing good to say.
This is the last of the seven churches. Laodocea was located about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia. Approximately 35 years prior to this letter being written, the city had been destroyed by an earthquake, but it was such a wealthy city that it had the ability to rebuild in a short time. They were famous for rich black wool, a medical school, and close by were the hot springs of Hieropolis and the cold water of Colossae. The water would meet in this city and be neither cold nor hot.
We have no record that Paul ever went to Laodocea, but he was concerned for the church. In Colossians 2:1-2, he wrote,
For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ.
Granted there were a few saved in this church, as far as the literal application is concerned. It is surprising of how Jesus spoke to this church.
The great Judge now speaks as this letter to this church is begun. He is the “Amen.”
This was a recognized Hebrew name of God! We find it used in Isaiah 65:16, that says, “That he who blesseth himself in the earth shall bless himself in the God of truth.” The word “truth” is the Hebrew word “Amam,” from which we get our word “Amen.” He declares his Deity repeatedly to this church, and here calls Himself the Truth. What a reflection of John 14:6, where Jesus declared He was the Truth. He is also the faithful and true Witness. And so He will be in the day of judgment. By His Word and testimonies, a swift witness against all ungodly men will be heard. Mankind will stand without excuse before a holy God.
Jesus then declares Himself to be the Originator of all, the Beginning. This does not mean that He was the first creation of God, but the first cause of the creation. In the fact that Jesus is the creator reveals further His deity. It was Jehovah who created the world as we see in Psalms 33:6: “By the word of the LORD (Jehovah) were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Then in Isaiah 45:12, we read, “ I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.” Verse 18 of the same chapter continues, “For thus saith the LORD (Jehovah again) that created the heavens; God (Æelohiym) himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.” It is clear that Jehovah is the self existent God that needs no other, the Creator of all. Thus it is evident and simple to believe that Jesus is Jehovah. John 1:3 declares that “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” We also read in Colossians 1:16-17: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.” Jesus is the Beginning of all creation.
In verse 14, we find Jesus declaring His ownership of the church. If you will take the time to look back at the other six churches, you will find a difference between our last one and the other six. Jesus addressed all other churches as either the “church of” or the “church in” their particular city. He did not address this one to the church in Laodocea, rather it was to the church of the Laodoceans. It was their church, not Christ’s. The ownership of this body was themselves! It was a humanistic filled church that was not of Jesus, but of the current society and culture. This was an empty, religious group. They were a lost church.
In verses 15-17, we find the self-deception of this church. Jesus declares that He wished they were either cold or hot. They were not cold in their own eyes, they thought they were hot. A proper title for this section would probably be, “When you think you’re hot, but you’re not.” This church had an outer religion, but no inner relationship. They had a profession without possession. They had empty professions made without faith, and were just as lost as before, yet they think they are rich! Jesus wanted them to be cold or hot so that they would recognize their needy position. They were not hot in God’s eyes, they were deceived and floundering as lukewarm. God declared that He would vomit them away. God would cast them away in the most repulsive way describable. This church literally made God nauseous.
This church declared that they had it all, yet they were a lost church. Notice the words in verse 17 that Jesus uses to describe them. Though they said they were rich, Jesus said that they were “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
The word “wretched” means to be afflicted. It does not necessarily prove someone is without Christ, for Paul used it of himself in Romans 7:24, when he said, “24 O wretched man that I am!” He was referring to the battle within his flesh, so the wretched part was the affliction of the battle.
The next word that Jesus uses to describe this church is “miserable.” This word means that they should be pitied. It is only used one other time in the Scriptures, and that is in 1 Corinthians 15:19. That verse says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” The misery in this passage is descriptive of us if Jesus is not risen and we are yet in our sins, lost without Christ. Som why would Jesus use this word to describe this lukewarm group of people? Why was this church to be pitied?
Jesus then uses the word “poor” to describe this church. This church, in an earthly sense, lived in a very prosperous and wealthy city. IN the beginning of this verse “they say that they are rich,” so why would He say that they are poor? The word means to be destitute of wealth, influence, position and honor. It is translated 30 times as poor in our English Bible. At least once it is used to describe the “poor saints” in Macedonia. Once, James uses the word to describe a physically “poor man” that comes into the church in “vile raiment,” and how the church should accept him. The other times it is translated as “beggar” speaking of Lazarus. All other times I can find, it is dealing with someone who is physically poor. But these were rich physically, so how were they poor? They were poor in the area that was most important, Spiritually. None have to be poor spiritually. 2 Corinthians 8:9, speaking of what Christ did for those that will be saved, says, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” A saved person is not poor, and cannot be spiritually poor. Jesus has paid it all. We are made rich through His poverty.
The next word used is the word, “blind.” In 2 Peter 1:9, it is used of saved people that
have an impaired Spiritual vision. Any other time, we see that blindness is a picture of the lost.
The strongest adjective, in my opinion, is the last. Jesus announced that they were
“naked” This means that they had no robe. The Robe of righteousness was not theirs. Think of the story Jesus told of the wedding in Matthew 22. In oriental weddings, a wedding garment was freely given by the host. For someone to enter, not being properly clothed, was an insult to the wedding. Jesus tells of one that was without a garment and was cast out. At the marriage supper of the Lamb, there will be none that do not have the garment of salvation. This church was naked, without a garment, without a robe. This is a picture of the carnal, lost church of the last days. This church will be cast into the tribulation because they do not belong to Christ. Religion is full of this type of people.
My position that they are a lost church makes the invitation of verses 18 and 21, even more clear. The great Counselor of heaven appeals to them to come and get what they need from Him. Gold so that they would not be poor and raiment so they would not be naked. He said they needed His “eyesalve”, so that they would not be blind. In Laodocea there was a famous medical school, and they were accustomed to treating themselves. God has said you need some spiritual eyesalve to remove your blindness! He used terms that they clearly understood. He was not saying that they could buy salvation, but was using language similar to Isaiah 55:1, that says, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” What Jesus has for all that will come is priceless. The price has been paid. It has already been tried by the fire, so they were invited to come and possess what Jesus had provided. They could now be rich, eyes opened, without pity, and clothed in righteousness.
In verse 19, we see the literal church, as said before, had a remnant of saved. Even tho this church represents the lost church, there was a remnant that knew the Lord. Dispensationally, these still belong to the age of Philadelphia. The times are overlapped until the rapture, at which point they are separated. In this verse, Jesus uses Greek word for love, “phileo” instead of “agapao.” This is not a coincident with God. In His sovereignty He knew what word He intended to use. In this church was a literal small remnant of saved that did not belong among this lost group. It is this small remnant that is commanded to turn away from this false church zealously and repent! In the literal church at Laodocea, there were a few who could be chastened, they were God’s, but the church as a whole was lost as it could be.
In verses 20-22, we see an invitation to all as the telegrams are coming to a close. This is to all that have lived during the church age. The invitation is to come. When we preach, we are saying “come.” When we witness, we are in harmony with Jesus and saying “come.” Jesus said “come” in Matthew 11:28. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Verse 29 of that chapter speaks of the victorious Christian life, as one finds rest after they take the yoke of service upon themselves, but that is not the case in the verse that we have just seen. Any that come to Christ with the burden of sin, Jesus will freely give them rest. The invitation in Revelation three is a personal invitation. Jesus said that it was He who stands at this door. It is a beckoning call, for Jesus is knocking, beckoning others to be saved. It is a universal call, for any man that opens the door will find salvation. It is also a call of promise, for if any man answers the call of Christ, they will find a relationship, fellowship, and citizenship.
We are now in the age that remnants of Philadelphia and Laodocea are mingled. Remember, the promise of deliverance was given to Philadelphia, the truly saved church of the last days. When Jesus comes in the clouds, those who are of Philadelphia will be taken out, raptured if you will. At this point Jesus calls His church away, He enters the atmosphere, but does not come to earth. The tares, false teachers and Christians of the Laodocean age will be left behind, spued out by God into the Tribulation. Let us look again at the Promise to the Philadelphian church in Revelation 3:10. It says, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” The genuine church will be kept from that time of trouble. Look at the promises of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Paul wrote,
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
This passage is not dealing with the same as the gathering of saved Israel in Matthew 24:31. It is obvious if the Scriptures are compared. In Matthew 24, the 144,000 and tribulation saints are caught away. At that time Jesus sends his angels to gather them. When the church leaves, the Bride, Jesus is not sending the angels, He is coming Himself. He will come and take His bride home with Him, to the place that He has prepared. This is illustrated in Jewish history and customs. The groom did not send someone else to get his bride and bring her to him. He would come Himself! Imagine Paul telling the church, “You are going to go through the tribulation of God’s judgment as God punishes the world, “wherefore, comfort one another with these words.”
The question must be asked, are you ready for Jesus to come? If Jesus came would you be raptured or would you be left behind? Some teach that there is a second chance to be saved in the tribulation. There will be some saved during that time, but not because they had a second chance. Based upon 2 Thessalonians 2: 7-12, any that have rejected the conviction of the Holy Spirit will not be saved, it will be too late. It describes these as those that have rejected the “love of the truth.” In John 15:26, Jesus said of the Spirit, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” If someone rejects that testimony, they will be without hope. In verse 7, the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, that is the protection of the earth is lifted. At the same time, the Church is delivered from the hour of temptation. Then in verses 10-12, we read:
And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. (Literally they rejected Christ.) And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
This clearly teaches that if someone refuses to heed the Gospel, if they are convicted of the Holy Spirit and reject Christ, then after the rapture occurs, they will be doomed! I do not think every Gospel tract or sermon dooms someone to hell. What I am saying is that if the Holy Spirit has convicted someone of their sin and they push that conviction aside, then they have “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” They will believe the lie of the Anti-Christ. We must warn others of the coming doom. For those that are saved, deliverance lies ahead.
G. Campbell Morgan, said, "I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. I am not looking for death. I am looking for Him." The first phase of his coming will be to take the church out of harm’s way. Jesus may come today.
A traveler in Switzerland came upon a beautiful villa on the shores of a lake, far from the beaten path. He met there an aged gardener caring for the place. “You have a beautiful home here!”, the traveler declared. “O it is not mine. I care for it for the owner. I have lived here alone for many years.”, replied the gardener. The traveler inquired, How often does the owner come?” To which the faithful servant answered, “Not often, he has not been in years.” This interested the traveler, and he said, “But you have everything in such beautiful order, clean and flourishing. Have you received word he is coming soon?” “Oh no,” said the old man, “I am expecting him today.” The gardener was ready for the owner to return. He did not know when, but he would be ready. Jesus may come today and I want all to be in order.
This tells us why Jesus would dictate letters to His church before He revealed the coming judgment on the earth. Seven literal churches give us elements of our churches today. At the same time, we see the prophecies of the church age. Oh that God’s children will be faithful to look for the appearing of our Groom, Lord, and King.
May we possess the crown of which the Apostle Paul spoke, when he said in 2 Timothy 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” And as we love the appearing of our Savior, may we say with the Apostle John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”