Summary: A sermon designed to motivate complacent Christians to become more committed and involved in the church.
Introduction: When I was a kid growing up on the farm, one of the annual jobs I always looked forward to was the "chicken harvest." I guess I should apologize in advance for the somewhat graphic nature of this illustration; however, it best illustrates my point. Nonetheless, I looked forward to the chicken harvest. No, I wasn‘t some deranged youngster, there was something I considered out of the ordinary that would always happen and it amazed me. Now, for those who have never experienced this, well, let me say it’s not for anyone with a weak stomach. You see, on our farm, the chicken harvest was woman’s work, but being a young boy, I was allowed to participate. The chickens would be caught early in the morning and brought to my grandmother. She would then methodically remove their heads. Here’s where the amazing part happened. With their heads gone, these chickens would run around the yard like crazy. I just couldn’t believe it. It just amazed me. Once, I asked why the chickens did this? The answer – “they don’t know they are dead yet!”
Turn you Bibles to Revelation chapter three, beginning with verse 14. We are going to study a church that was like a bunch of chickens running around with their heads cut off. Why? Because they didn’t know they were dead yet! If my illustration made you sick at your stomach, well I guess it accomplished it’s purpose for this church made Jesus sick at His.
Before we look at our text, we need to develop a better understanding of the overall context of the first three chapters of Revelation and more particular, we need a better understanding of the city known then as Laodicea. Let’s deal with the overall context of chapters one through three of Revelation first, then we will look closer at Laodicea.
Revelation – A Brief Introduction
For those of you who studied Revelation with me in our auditorium class, I trust, at a minimum, you learned that the bulk of Revelation is prophecy surrounding events that will soon transpire in relation to the church and the Roman Empire. Before revealing to John these prophecies in a series of visions, Jesus asks John to: write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea (Rev. 1:11). Now, I believe these churches represented a central core, a circle if you will, by which the entire book of Revelation would be delivered to, read, copied, and then distributed to other churches throughout the Roman Empire. Likewise, I think, given this distribution strategy, Jesus decided to address specific issues (good and bad) within each of these individual congregations. We are fortunate today to have these letters because their contents can certainly apply to us as well!
Laodicea was a very, very wealthy city, founded by Antiochus II and named after his wife Laodice. The city was strategically located where three highways converged, thus it was highly commercial. It was well known for its banking industry, its manufacture of black wool and a medical school that produced eye ointment. The wealth in the city had been used to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths and fabulous shopping centers. Sound familiar? Sounds like any typical American city. So wealthy was this city that when an earthquake almost entirely destroyed it in 60 AD, its wealthy citizens refused help from Rome in rebuilding the city. If you were a real estate agent at the time it wouldn’t be hard to sell Laodicea. It was a great place to live. The land of opportunity. Sound familiar? The only real negative about the place was its lack of an adequate water supply (we will deal with the details regarding this shortly).
The church here in Laodicea was most likely founded by Paul. He actually wrote a letter to them that was lost (cf. Col. 4:16). It will be quite apparent when we “get into” the text that the Christians here had become victims of their environment. Indeed, a valuable lesson for us all today!
Vs. 14 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write…
For those of you who were not in our class, there is no commendation here! In writing to the other six churches, Jesus found something good to say, he recognized something positive about the congregation. Not here!
The Amen… says this – In the Greek, this phrase means firm, stable, sure, established and trustworthy. What point is Jesus trying to get across? He’s saying, "Don’t kid yourselves, what I’m about to say may shock you, but you can take it to the bank!"
The faithful and true Witness… says this – Who is on trial? This church! Who is the key witness? Jesus Christ. Thus, there can be no excuses, it’s time for an honest examination followed by honest repentance and a genuine desire for a change of life.