We are continuing today with the second part of Jesus’ message to the church in Laodicea. Last week, we went through the first half of this letter that was carried from the Isle of Patmos where John was exiled. The messenger would deliver the letter to the church to be read aloud.
The letter was far from flattering. There was no commendation to the church, like the other 6 letters. Only rebuke. The message of Jesus to the church was this. There is nothing good you are doing. There is nothing really wrong you are doing for me to correct. You are apathetic and lukewarm and because you are lukewarm, I want to vomit you out of my mouth. Not the kind of message a church would want to receive from our Lord.
It would be helpful to remind you about the city of Laodicea. It was a very wealthy and affluent city. In AD 60, a great earthquake ravaged the area which utterly destroyed the city. It rebuilt with the massive financial reserves the city-owned. The city could do this because of its banking industry. It was very wealthy and self-sufficient.
In addition to banking, the city of Laodicea was known for making beautiful black wool. It also had a prominent medical school. There were many famous doctors there and they developed an eye salve that helped cure blindness. The downside of living in Laodicea was the water system. The water had to be piped into the town through a series of aqueducts, but the water was contaminated with calcium carbonate and is described as being brackish. You can go to the ruins of Laodicea today and find pipes almost clogged with the sediment. It was said that it made people sick when they drank it.
This was in contrast to the 2 sister cities in the area, Hierapolis to the North, which was known for its hot springs that contained healing properties and Colosse to the South, which was known for it cold and refreshing springs. Laodicea had stale lukewarm water, which is where Jesus gets his rebuke that the church was neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. Jesus said the lukewarm church makes him want to vomit.
So how does a church get to this point and what are we to do about it when we find ourselves in this place? Today’s message addresses both of these questions.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” (Rev 3:14-22)
The Condition of the Church
The condition of the church is probably the condition of the American church today. The church of Laodicea was that like the City of Laodicea they were self-sufficient. They had everything they needed that they were apathetic in their relationship with God. Ephesus was doctrinally pure but lost their zeal. They held fast to the faith and the gospel. Laodicea lost their love for Jesus and found themselves denying his Lordship.
They had a warped Christology that denied Jesus as God. Christological heresy had infiltrated Colossae. It had attacked particularly the deity of Christ and reduced Him to a created being, some kind of angelic being. They believed he was a good man that reached a higher level of spirituality, but they denied his preeminence over all creation. This is why Jesus opens his letter to them as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.”
A similar situation was happening in nearby Colossae. This is why Paul tells the church in Colossae to share his letter to them with the Laodicean church and visa versa (Col 4:16). The Problem in Colossae was the belief that Jesus came in the flesh, but did not eternally exist. Rather, he obtained a god-like status through his good works and so can you.
Look at Paul’s introduction to the letter of Colossians 1:13-20:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him, all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
When the church begins to alter or deny the divinity of Christ and his preeminence, it is on a slippery slope. The liberal mainline churches today are doing just that. It starts by questioning and doubting the authority and inerrancy of Scripture and the slope continues to deny the saving power of Christ. The church becomes a form of religion that denies its power. It is happening all over the US. Once we understand and affirm the authority of Christ as the eternal God and that every Word in this Book. It changes everything. Either we hold onto it or we deny it but there is no lukewarmness.
(John 3:31) He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.
We are in serious trouble morally and ecclesiastically when we start to pick and choose. Churches are splitting over issues of homosexuality and abortion, but there’s no talk about the warped Christology in these places. That’s where the problem begins and why it is so important. Once you undermine Jesus’ authority and this book inerrancy, you can justify just about anything. It is a damning faith and the church is blind to their condition.
17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Non-believers tend to assess their spiritual condition wrongly, which is why we need the guidance of the Bible. The focus is not on their spiritual condition, but on their emotional and physical assets. There’s nothing in Christ’s words that makes them Christians. Christians are not wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. There are so many who think you’re spiritually rich when you’re bankrupt; of thinking you’re beautiful when you’re wretched; of imagining that you’re to be envied when you’re to be pitied; of believing you see everything clearly when you see nothing and are stone blind; feeling you are clothed, when you’re naked.
This is a church of non-Christians and these are the most difficult people to minister to in the church. The church in Laodicea is proud. They’re rich, prosperous, and self-sufficient in their own eyes, but to Jesus, they are poor, blind, and naked; wretched. The church of this condition focuses its messages on prosperity, health, wealth, and character building.
Revelation Christ’s Disgusted Assessment
The problem was not their wealth but what their riches had done to them. Many great believers have been wealthy, such as Abraham in the Bible and such as Robert Haldane, who used his money to support a great revival in Geneva. The question is whether we hold our wealth as a stewardship from God, to be used for his glory, the good of others, and the work of the gospel.
Also, notice that the Laodiceans drew their assessment of themselves from the secular world around them. They said they were rich, when in fact they were poor. It’s a false sense of security. If they would only see themselves the way they are spiritual, Christ can help them:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)
Jesus’ Loving Counsel to Laodicea
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
Even though Jesus’ letter is the harshest and condemning, maybe in all of Scripture, there is also much tenderness and love in His words. “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Re 3:19). He counsels them in 3 areas of their lives: poverty, nakedness, and blindness. Not surprisingly, the counsel fo hope is Jesus himself. The church is being reproved to repentance and Jesus tells them what exactly they need to do (3 things):
1. Buy from him gold refined by fire. Jesus told a parable of a rich fool who stored up wealth for his security, not realizing that his life could be forfeit at any minute. Jesus called this the folly of “one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). To be “rich toward God” is to have your sins forgiven, to possess justification through faith in Christ, and then to have a godly character that has been made pure and strong by enduring trials and tribulations.
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.\
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37
2. Buy “white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen” (Re 3:18). This is reminiscent of the realization of Adam and Eve’s nakedness in the garden. The Laodiceans were known for their lush, beautiful black wool. Throughout Revelation, white garments symbolize those who are justified through faith in Christ and have confirmed their salvation (see 3:4; 4:4; 7:9; 22:14). Here, Jesus speaks also of covering our shame. In the ancient world, the greatest humiliation was to be stripped naked, whereas the greatest honor was to be dressed in the finest clothes.
3. Jesus tells the Laodiceans to purchase eye slave. The Laodiceans had developed an eye salve that helped cure blindness, but it did not prevent the church from being spiritually blind. Many today are just that. They go through the motions and even know the language, but they are blind to what is happening around them spiritually. Jesus is not the author of confusion but clarity. We need to see ourselves as we really are and we need to the full glory of Jesus revealed in our lives and our church.
All these gifts are freely given by Jesus. He only asks for our zeal (meaning boiling hot). Not a tentative faith or a half-hearted attempt. Following Jesus means that we forsake all other things and we put him first.
Jesus’ Commitment to the Laodicean Church
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
Verse 20 is probably one of the most well-known verses in all Revelation. I love the picture of Jesus standing outside of a door and waiting to come into the heart of whoever is on the other side.
The proper interpretation of this verse is not an individual appeal. Whose door is Jesus knocking on? The church. He’s saying if anyone opens it, I will come in. Christ “is knocking at the closed hearts of those who are his but who have turned their backs on him and shut him out of their complacent, self-satisfied, worldly lives. (Boice). Whether it is the unredeemed churchgoer who has yet to receive Christ or the Christian who has fallen away and living a worldly life, Christ is knocking on the church’s door. He’s knocking on our door today. Look at what happens when we open it:
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Christ is saying if anyone - just anyone - will answer and open the door, I’ll come in. Look at the significance here. The willingness of God to bring hope and healing. This church 5 years ago was in trouble. The doors were ready to be closed, but there was a willingness to allow God to heal and redeem us. Now is not the time for us to become self-sufficient nor depend on what we did then to survive to maintain us today. Our zeal must grow and it must grow outwardly.
The result is a warm and intimate fellowship. The idea of sitting around a table here is for a feast. A time of eating together is something that lasting. That’s his desire.
21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ”
“He who conquers,” That’s the believer. First John 5:5. He who overcomes is the believer. “I’ll grant to him to sit down with me on my throne as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.” What is He saying? If you let me in, I’ll not only have fellowship with you now and at the marriage supper and in the Kingdom and throughout eternity, but here’s another thing, I’ll grant you a place with me on my throne as I also overcame and sat down with my Father on His throne.
That’s a transformation. Jesus goes from, I want to vomit you out of my mouth to I’ll lift you up to sit with me in the heavenly. That’s an absolutely amazing statement. He doesn’t say I’ll let you around the fringes. He says I’ll take you to the throne and I’ll seat you there. What’s the difference? Their trust and full faith in Jesus. Trading their own self-sufficiency and allowing Christ to have his way in our lives and in our church.
Take it to the Cross