A Message to the Messengers
A Bible Study on What Jesus has to Say to the Ministerial Force Entrusted with Feeding His Flock
Ministers, the messages of Revelation 3 are directed to you. They are calculated to enrich and empower your preaching. They were written to wake the church.
“Because thou sayest…and knowest not.”
Laodicea converses each weekend regarding salvation, assurance, and the gifts of grace. These topics are broached in Sabbath school with characteristic boldness. We, as members of the church, are looking forward to Christ’s coming. But we don’t understand.
Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? The day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
Amos uses metaphors familiar to us: the serpent, the lion, the comfort of getting home after danger. Perhaps we are not as mindful of the bear, that animal called by God to punish the mocking of his special messenger, Elisha. Adventists, waiting and hoping to go home to heaven, anxious to escape the roaring lion on their track, will find at last that they have been deceived by the serpent and that they must account for their treatment of Heaven’s prophet.
We are expecting great things from the Coming of Jesus. Our riches, whether or not they include material prosperity, include an assurance that all will be well with us in the end. Laodicea knows, in a superficial way, that her destiny depends on her love and her faith. She is aware that those with a faith/love relationship are the ones that are justified. But rather than being a source of worry, this thought comforts her. She is confident enough of her standing with God to speak of it.
“I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing"
Laodicea might be more conscious of her need if she understood the nature of faith and love. Men mistakenly believe they have both.
James speaks of those that are “rich in faith” and identifies them as the same class as those that “love” God. These are the spiritual riches of the gospel.
Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
Our God is “rich in mercy.” This is shown by the “great love wherewith he loved us.” Eph 2:4. Faith and Love are combined in a number of other passages. A working faith can never be separated from love, for “faith works by love.” Gal. 5:6. It would be appropriate in a study of Laodicea to take a moment to probe the meaning of these golden values.
The Nature of Faith
“The just shall live by Faith.” “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” Either there are two ways to live, or faith is living by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Faith is a relationship with the Word. Faith submits to the Word. It lives and acts as if the Word itself has power to do the thing it promised.
What does faith look like? That depends on the nature of the Word on which it rests. When faith comes to a warning, faith looks like preparation and “taking heed.” When faith comes to a rebuke, faith looks like confession and repentance. Faith lets the principle of the creative Word become the ruling power in the life.
When faith comes to Calvary and lets the glory of that story move the will, it looks like tears, penitence, humility and love. When faith comes to a promise, it looks like “hope.” When it comes to a command, it looks like obedience.
This could be partially expressed as a graph.
The Nature of the Word The Appearance of Faith
A Warning Preparation
A Rebuke Confession and Repentance
A Promise Hope
A Command Obedience
Counsel A Desire to Please
The Story of Calvary Tears, Penitence, Humility, Courage, Selfless Love
A Spiritual Hymn Spiritual Music
When the Bible asserts that we are saved “by hope” and justified by “works” and excused by our “thoughts” and condemned by “idle words” the Book makes no contradiction with those statements that faith alone can save us. The repeated statements that we are judged according to our works and even the statement that we are justified by our “words” are only a development of the theme that man “shall live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
The Word “every” must be allowed to have its meaning. Unbelief is selective. It may heed the promises and stories while spurning the counsels and commands. It may acknowledge the laws and regulations while slighting the Sacrifice. Unbelief has never saved a soul and never will.
Just as Laodicea has falsely supposed she had a great deal of faith, she has been misinformed regarding love and does not recognize her dearth of the treasure.
The Nature of Love
Love is a fruit of the Spirit. Unspiritual people do not love. “Everyone that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.” “He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love.” Love is so rare that its possession attracts the attention of "all men."
This is not to say that unconverted mothers do not love their children. Neither can we justly deny that an unconverted man may truly love his converted wife. But selective love is a mere reflection of the virtue itself. Jesus counseled his audience that the love they showed their families and friends did not indicate any relationship to their “Father in Heaven.” If they would be His children they must love their enemies.
Loving our enemies does not change the fact that they are our enemies. Love is not an ecumenical cover-up of differences. Love is, on the contrary, selfless service. Service of others, at the expense of one’s own interests and comfort, will be an identifying mark of God’s last day people.
Love in the Last Days
The Bible makes a number of statements regarding the significance of love to end-time events. Laodicea must be “knit together” in love. This need is signified in the term “lukewarm.”
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
Enduring love, the warmth of the church, characterizes the finally saved. The cooling of this selfless principle characterizes the church in its Laodicean condition. The love of the penitent, however, not only survives.
God makes it to thrive toward "one another" and toward "them that are without" "to the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness . . . at the coming of our Lord Jesus." If it is not growing, it will be dying.
Visit your neighbors in a friendly way, and become acquainted with them. . . . Those who do not take up this work, those who act with the indifference that some have manifested, will soon lose their first love, and will begin to censure, criticize, and condemn their own brethren.
What does love look like? That depends on the need of the one that is brought into our sphere of influence. In the home, love looks like a father cheerfully doing the dishes day after day. Love looks like disciplining oneself to keep tracts on hand to give away at gas-stations and super-markets. Putting the needs of others first, true love, may look like taking fewer pictures and giving a larger offering for Mission Extension.
If your brother has done you wrong, love looks rather like faithful rebuke and attempted reconciliation than like gossip. So Christ illustrates his own. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.”
Hot or Cold
Somewhat selfless Christians make the universe confusing. The Lord of Glory, with sympathy for those whose destinies will be decided by the vacillating witness of the church, says that He is repulsed by half-measures in self denial.
His promise to “spew out” those that continued on with their mixture of self-interest and God-pleasing ought to lead our church to remember Jerusalem. She, the chosen of God, once dreamed that she would always be in his favor. Jesus, John the Baptist, and Jeremiah all argued against the smug “we are the people” mentality.
To this point we have discussed Laodicea’s opinion of herself. She has thought her correct opinions were faith and her sentimentalism love. But her ignorance and denial has endangered her position as the chosen of God.
Wretched, Miserable, Poor, Blind, and Naked
The Greek word talaheeporos, translated “wretched,” is found in only one other passage in the scriptures. There, in Romans 7, it describes a man that is in bondage to his desires, a man that wants to do right but who finds himself captive to sin—not yet made "free from the law of sin and death."
Eleeinos, “miserable” in Revelation 3, is also found in just one other passage of scripture. There it modifies the condition of men who have an ill-founded hope of heaven.
If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 1Co 15:19
The assurance of pardon felt generally by Laodiceans deludes them into a state as dire as if there were no resurrection from the dead. Wretched and miserable, wanting to do right and hoping for heaven while captive to sin and doomed to death—This is, in the main, our condition.
The gold of Revelation 3, the gold of Scripture, is faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Laodicea is poor in the same sense that she is lukewarm.
Luke’s gospel presents “the poor” as the recipients of heaven’s choicest blessings. Jesus came to preach the gospel to “the poor.” He called “his disciples” “ye poor” and blessed them saying “yours is the kingdom of heaven.” Luke 4:18; 7:22.
But our church is not “poor in Spirit” in the beatitudal sense that would bring the blessings of which Luke wrote. She is “proud, knowing nothing” of her condition, arguing “about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings,” 1 Tim 6:4. Her contentions do not tend to increase her affection and self-less disposition.
Jesus spoke to Pharisees as to Laodicea regarding her lack of sight. “Ye blind guides” “fools and blind" Their superficial religion, ignorant of the smallness of institutional piety, focused on the largeness of the institutional offerings.
But when certain Pharisees asked Jesus “are we blind also?” He answered almost cryptically.
If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
They denied their blindness in their hearts while asking about it with their lips and Jesus quoted to them their heart’s answer. This is precisely Laodicea’s problem. She may even come to Jesus and ask “am I blind?” But her question is unbelief. Jesus has already told her that she can not see and offered to heal her eyes.
Tragic denial! "Wretched, miserable, poor, blind” persons are the very ones the gospel has been custom-made to help. Ministers are called to open spiritual "eyes" turning men "from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me."
The words we have studied thus far are all code for “unconverted.” Jesus has said to Laodicea, “you are unconverted, unconverted, unconverted, unconverted.” And He says it again with the word “naked.”
We are familiar with the idiom of wearing Christ’s righteousness. We think we are clothed. How embarrassing to find that we are not! Our confusion stems from our ignorance of Christ’s righteousness and of how to put it on. Jesus offers us “white raiment” and we will study that offer after considering His first proffered gift—Gold.
I Counsel Thee to Buy
The Heavenly Merchantman has presented His wares in the Old Testament as well. There we learn how one as poor as Laodicea may “buy” riches as Christ offers here.
Ho . . . he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy . . . without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good. . . .Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live.
What can we pay? We can pay attention. Isaiah does not say that listening carefully to God and forsaking our evil way is the cost of God’s blessings. His mercy is “without money and without price.” But these actions of our will are nonetheless the condition upon which we may “buy” and satisfy our soul hunger.
This passage is too much for many persons. They can not see consistency in having conditions attached to a free gift. “If we have to buy it, it is not free. If it is free, we don’t have to buy it.” Let them argue with Jesus in Isaiah and Revelation. We only want to believe the marvelous offer and to seek the Lord “while He may be found.”
And White Raiment
Perhaps the Clothing that Christians wear is one of the least understood aspects of Righteousness by Faith. In the minds of many this spiritual robe is about equivalent to having “pardon” written by our names in Heaven.
The Bible does not speak of covering filthy garments with clean ones, but of removing the first to make room for the second.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: . . . Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
This “true holiness” as it is called in Ephesians 4 stands very distinct from the sham righteousness that is called “Christ’s” by those that know Him not. What a light Laodicea would be in the world if she were stripped of her filthy rags and covered with Christ’s robe of lovely living.
The man in Matthew 22 that accepted the invitation to the wedding but failed to put on the wedding garment typifies Laodicea. He thought that accepting the invitation was all that was required.
There are many who are represented by this man. They have accepted the invitation to the marriage supper, but have failed to comply with the conditions for entrance to the feast. They will not lay aside the garments of their own self-righteousness, and put on the robe prepared for them at an infinite price. They have accepted the theory of the truth, but they do not possess and cultivate the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. They do not appropriate the truth to their individual needs, and become partakers of the divine nature. They are not willing to have the earthliness removed from their character, in order that the heavenly graces may be imparted. They will be speechless before the King when he comes in to examine the guests, and asks them why they have not put on the righteousness of Christ.
And Eyesalve that thou Mayest See
We have observed already that blindness is lack of spiritual understanding. Eyesalve is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our need of the Holy Spirit, and the ability of that Spirit to bring us all that we need, these were the favorite themes of Jesus. A thorough study of the promise of the Spirit would dwarf our study of Revelation 3.
As Many as I Love I Rebuke
The Love of Jesus would not be appreciated by many. Those that perceive revulsion in rebuke and condemnation in correction could not bear the searching Love of our Sin-Bearer. The church age that is warned of its lack of true love is given an illustration of the nature of that love in the love-inspired rebuke of the True Witness.
Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him.
This is not to say that all rebuke is produced by selfless service. If some “preach Christ of contention” there can be no doubt that some rebuke “for strife and debate and to smite with the fist of wickedness.” But all the false-hearted instruction ever given can ever make true-hearted instruction less needed.
“Reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”
“Despise not the chastening of the Lord.” This thrice repeated maxim reflects the deep-seated antipathy of men for having their wrong course pointed out. One of the most self-deceiving ways of despising reproof is to simply avoid hearing it. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:20.
Be Zealous and Repent
The question, “repent zealously of what?” is answered by the next verse.
Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock
This is the last of the code-phrases for “unconverted.” Jesus dwells in “hearts by faith.” But for unbelieving Laodicea He patiently waits at the door.
He is not repulsed by scorn or turned aside by threatening, but continually seeks the lost ones, saying, "How shall I give thee up?" Hosea 11:8. Although His love is driven back by the stubborn heart, He returns to plead with greater force, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." The winning power of His love compels souls to come in. And to Christ they say, "Thy gentleness hath made me great." Ps. 18:35.
Two Conditions of Christ’s Entrance
“If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
Jesus presents the case to Laodicea as if it is not a matter to be assumed that she will “hear” his voice. If she does not hear his voice, she will not think to open the door. At the door he says "repent." Repent of what? Throughout Bible history the Lord has answered that question testifying "by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law . . . ."
The Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy. Those who will not read the Testimonies have neglected the first of the two conditions for special fellowship with Jesus in our day. For them the command to repent in verse 19 is a vague call, perhaps for someone else.
Some are willing to receive one point; but when God brings them to another testing point, they shrink from it and stand back, because they find that it strikes directly at some cherished idol. Here they have opportunity to see what is in their hearts that shuts out Jesus. . . . Those who come up to every point, and stand every test, and overcome, be the price what it may, have heeded the counsel of the True Witness, and they will receive the latter rain, and thus be fitted for translation.
The "shaking" is caused by some who will rise up against the searching message of the True Witness.
I saw that the testimony of the True Witness has not been half heeded. The solemn testimony upon which the destiny of the church hangs has been lightly esteemed, if not entirely disregarded. This testimony must work deep repentance; all who truly receive it will obey it and be purified.
The message will purify some and harden the rest. Some have been frightened, almost as if the shaking will cause weak Christians to lose their way. But it is not weak Christians that refuse the voice of Jesus. It is false ones. The chaff and not the small grains of wheat will be blown away.
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.
I will Come in and Eat with Him
The most special fellowship is offered to those that open the door. They will share with Jesus as feast of good things—truths that hit the spot of their soul hunger. On the surface it might seem that all have access to this feast. But it is not so. They may eat the words alone. But if they would eat them with Jesus, they must open the door. And the words, without Jesus’ indwelling, will not profit.
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.