Revelation 3:14-22 “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 in to 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.’ ”
We come to the final church addressed by Jesus in the prologue of the book of Revelation. These seven letters were written to real churches and actual cities in the Roman province of Asia. These churches are representative of all the churches of all the ages. Laodicea is the last and if you will the worst of the churches. Only two of the churches received no condemnation, Smyrna and Philadelphia. The other five churches in the list reflect the serious problems that are seen even today. Beginning with Ephesus that had left its first love and continuing to Laodicea — a church that caused Jesus to vomit because it was so far from what it should be.
Ephesus was on the brink of judgment because it had left its first love. Pergamos was on the brink of judgment because it was tolerating sin. Thyatira was in a full-blown compromise with evil. Sardis was dead. Laodicea, imagine this, was an unsaved church!
Jesus pours on it unsparing condemnation. There is no redeeming virtue in this church. Sardis still had a few believers though it was dead as far as being a church is concerned. Even though Jesus sees only condemnation in the church at Laodicea it was a proud church — proud and unconverted. At the beginning of the letter Jesus designates that it is to go to the angel of the church in Laodicea and then…
Jesus identifies himself. The Colossian church was in the same general region of the world, and one or two generations before, Paul wrote the church in Colossae this description of Jesus. Colossians 1:15-20. 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.
In the book of Revelation there are three things said about Jesus: He is identified as the Amen; the faithful and true witness and the beginning of God’s creation. Being the Amen, Jesus confirms all God’s promises. He is faithful and true. He is reliable. He himself said that he is the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). He is the perfect witness the Laodiceans would have known about Paul’s letter to the Colossians. They would have recognized these truths about Jesus. He’s the very image of the unseen God. He created all things. He holds everything together. He is the head of the church which is his body! He died for our sins and conquered death and hell. In him all the fullness of God is pleased to dwell. Through him God reconciles all things to himself! By the blood of his cross he makes peace!
In identifying himself he is…
Beginning as God. Let’s see what the writer of Hebrews has to say. Hebrews 1:1-4. Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
This description of Jesus, as well as the one we found in Colossians, does not refer to Jesus as the first to be created instead the Scriptures refer to Jesus as the premier one of all creation. Not only is he the premier but also by him all things were created. He is the light that brings glory to God. He is the exact imprint of God’s nature. He now holds everything together and he holds everything up by the word of his power. That is an amazingly wonderful truth but the most important thing is that he made purification for our sins. Oh how we need Him! Because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God! (Romans 3:23) And the wages of sin is death! But the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23) He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we could become the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21) These are all truths that the Laodiceans would have known and yet they completely ignored the truth. You see…
Laodicea was neither cold nor hot. Jude, who had wanted to write about their common salvation found himself needing to appeal to his hearers that they should contend for the faith. Jude 3-4 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
The church at Laodicea had been infiltrated by ungodly people who perverted the grace of God just as much as those that Jude wrote to. They said they were rich! They said they had prospered! They said that they needed nothing! They did not realize that they were really wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. In the midst of their proud congregation they were in need of everything! There are churches today in exactly the same condition! Pray, pray, pray that our church will never descend into that pit of despair. In spite of all this…
Jesus’ counsel. Even with all the condemnation that Jesus poured out on them he still counseled them to buy from him gold so they could be really rich. Isaiah had written 700 years before “Come buy… without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) Just as Jesus advocated when he was on earth as recorded in John 7:37-39. On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
Those who thirst should come to Jesus not to the philosophies of the world! No matter how we dress up our robes of human righteousness are simply dirty rags (Isaiah 64:6). Seeing the condition of the church in Laodicea Jesus appealed to them to let their gold go. Like the rich young ruler that asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus counseled him to give up his earthly wealth, give it to the poor, and follow him (Luke 16:18-30). The gold that counts is kept in heaven for us!
The Laodiceans depended on a mineral rich water that was lukewarm when it arrived and caused those who drank it to be nauseous. They couldn’t see spiritual truth because they had never really committed their lives to Christ.
Laodicea was complacent. These people were surrounded by Christian churches. It is only about ten miles to Colossae. In the opposite direction it was a little further to Philadelphia and then on to Sardis and beyond that was Smyrna. The church of Ephesus was near enough to walk to. Yet, with all this reinforcement, the people of Laodicea simply didn’t care. What could’ve been wrong? Paul answered that question in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
The Laodiceans could not see what their need was because their spiritual eyes were blinded. Jesus then counseled with them to buy salve to anoint their eyes so that they may see. The only cure for the veil covering the eyes of unbelievers is God’s healing salve.
And having purchased godly gold, white garments and salve to anoint their eyes they could begin to see the love of God. The love that’s mentioned here is not the agape love normally associated with Jesus. It is the phileo love that God has for all his creation. This is a divine kind of love that does not involve relationship. Those who are spiritually blind need to repent and come to Christ.
What is repentance? What does it really mean?
David Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote on repentance: “Repentance means that you realize that you’re a guilty, vile sinner in the presence of God, that you deserve the wrath and punishment of God, and that you are hell bound. It means that you begin to realize that this thing called sin is in you, and that you long to get rid of it, and that you turn your back on it in every shape and form; you renounce the world, whatever the cost – the world in its mind and outlook, as well as its practice – and you deny yourself, and take up the cross, and go after Christ, your nearest and dearest. And the whole world may call you a fool or say you have religious mania. You may have to suffer financially, but it makes no difference: that is repentance.”…
Love equals discipline. Hebrews 12:7-8 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.
We find in Hebrews God’s kind of love even the phileo love he has for all people includes a call to repent! When God disciplines he is treating us as his children. Even those who are not his children receive discipline in order to cause them to become aware of their need to repent. Their problem is…
Jesus is on the outside! Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
This passage of Scripture is often used, wrongly, in speaking of Christ being on the outside of the individual knocking on the door of the heart. That is the popular idea of the meaning of this verse. What’s going on here? Jesus stands at “the door” what is he talking about? Is it the door of a heart? No it is the door of a church! This is a church — the one in Laodicea — that Christ is not in. Jesus is on the outside! The picture that is usually used to depict this shows a door with no outside handle meaning that it has to be opened from the inside. I believe that is accurate. In order for Jesus to come in to the church those on the inside have to open up and let him in. Jesus is saying that he will come in if someone, anyone, hears his voice and will repent with zeal and be saved. That’s all it takes, one true Christian in a church and Christ is there. He may not be in control but he is present.
The act of saving faith rejects good works as spiritual bankruptcy, spiritual nakedness, and spiritual blindness. Saving faith abandons all self-righteousness, good works, and self-sufficiency and turns from sin and opens the door. If just one person will do that Jesus will enter that church. Salvation will happen inside that church. Then Jesus says that he will have fellowship, communion and a shared life with that person and begin the process of bringing that church into a useful condition. And as a result…
There can still be conquerors. Just as with all the other churches — real churches — Jesus speaks of one who conquers.
The church in Laodicea is filled with unsaved people. There’s not any commendation at all coming from Jesus and yet, at the same time, he speaks of “conquerors”. If anyone hears Jesus’ voice and opens the door that person will be a conqueror. And when Christ comes that person will sit with Jesus on his throne. Coming from a church that is completely dead the one who repents will bring life and there will be an abundant outpouring of the love of God. The church will no longer be lukewarm but will be either refreshingly cool or encouragingly hot! If you have a spiritual ear listen to what the Spirit says to the churches!
The letter to the church at Laodicea is one of the most frightening passages of Scripture to me. It represents the church that was born in evangelistic outreach and died in self-centered mediocrity. They had begun to live in the routine day to day activities that no longer lifted up Christ or proclaimed the gospel. Think about it!
Have you put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? We have all sinned and come short of God’s glory. The bad news is that the wages of sin is death! But the good news is God demonstrated his love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. So, if we will confess Jesus as Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead we will be saved.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.