Summary: Does the church of today resemble the lukewarm Laodiceans? Are we the last era of the Christian Church?
Revelation is the scariest book in the Bible, yet it’s also one of the most comforting, reassuring, and exciting books in the Bible.
The beloved disciple John is almost certainly the author of the book, but unlike other New Testament letters, the first few chapters of this book seem to be like a dictation straight from Jesus. In fact Jesus is quoted several times throughout the entire book.
Obviously the book of Revelation is highly symbolic, but that doesn’t mean many of these symbols can’t be interpreted. Many of them are also found in some of the Old Testament prophet’s writings, as well as earlier books in the New Testament.
This book like much of Scripture, is very much on two levels. On one level it’s written to the people of John’s time and the seven churches specific to the first century, but it’s also a book that was written to the everlasting church of Christ before he comes back to claim His bride. Through all ages of church history, this book can be understood. This is one of the reasons so much symbolism is used, because these symbols are unspecific and can be used throughout time with similar meaning.
The difficulty of course is agreeing upon the meaning of all the symbols as there are at least four basic interpretive schools of thought.
So that’s a general background, and many interpretive issues will come up throughout the book, but for now let’s start by looking at the first three chapters where Jesus writes to the seven churches in Asia or modern day Turkey.
In the first three chapters of Revelation Jesus himself is making comments about the churches. All but two get commendations, and only two escape any rebuke or judgment. I’m not going to spend much time on each church as I believe it is the last church, Laodicea, that represents our church era.
Why are only seven churches mentioned? There were many more throughout this region. For one, the number seven is a number of completeness and it’s pretty much accepted that these churches represent the seven different ages, or eras of the Christian church. Therefore it is a complete prophetic history of Christ’s church both present in John’s time, and future up to and beyond today. We can learn from all these churches, but it’s generally accepted that we are now in the final church era, represented by the Laodicean church.
We are in the final stage of church history, the church that will see the end times. Laodicea was known as the rich/poor church, high on reputation, low on substance. Most importantly they didn’t recognize their own state in God’s eyes.
The city of Laodicea today is nothing but rubble and half buried tombs that have long ago had their contents rifled through. Like every other man-made empire, whether it be the Romans, the Mayans, the great communist block, the twin towers in New York or any other, they all have their day and are no more.
The only empire that has lasted for the last two millenia is the church. Yes many individual churches have died, but Christ’s church is still very much alive and always will be. Are we living as if we are Christ’s church? Because if we take ownership and try to make it our own little empire, we know the ultimate destiny of it.
I want to set the stage for the rest of Revelation by showing how the last church mentioned by Christ includes us, and how the rest of the book of Revelation is written pretty much directly to us in the final era of church history.
So how do we look like this 1st century church? Four similarities are striking, starting with:
I. We are Lukewarm (vv 15-16)
These are chilling words, especially the opening line – “I know your deeds. You are neither cold or hot”. You know the first thing that comes to mind with this statement - milk. I love a nice cold glass of milk, and I like hot chocolate, but a room temperature glass of milk is gross. Lukewarm food, lukewarm pop, lukewarm anything that is supposed to be either hot or cold is usually disgusting, and if God tastes his church and it’s lukewarm, he will spit it out.
The Lord said of the religious but misguided Pharisees, “The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” While of the non-religious multitudes he only said, as he looked on them with compassion, “They are as sheep having no shepherd.”
Elijah said to his people, “If Baal be God, serve him;” “better be hearty in his service
than serving neither God nor Baal, as you now are.”
The Laodiceans knew what Jesus meant because their city was fed by a wonderful hot spring via aquaduct from the north. But by the time it got to the city, it was lukewarm, not cold enough to be refreshing to drink, and not hot enough to sooth as a bath or make tea with. The word that the Lord uses for spit really means vomit, so He’s saying that the lukewarm faith of the Laodiceans made him nauseous.