The Lord Jesus judges the church at Laodicea that is materialistic (3:14-22).
SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT THE DOOR Learning from the Church at Laodicea
Philippe R. Sterling
One of the games I loved to play as an adolescent was Monopoly. According to my sisters I was ruthless in the acquisition of property and play money. In the context of the game, I was rich. Once the game was over, it didn’t matter. What would happen if I went to the store and said, “Give me an I-Phone; here’s $1000,” and hand the clerk the play money? It won’t work.
A similar thing is true of our earthly lives. In a way, we’re playing a game here. Some people get a lot of money. For the moment, they’re the winners. They can buy a lot of things that are in the long run, worthless. It may be a Maserati. But step out of this world, and that car doesn’t mean a thing. All that wealth is just play money when you look at it from God’s eternal perspective.
For the winner of Monopoly to think, “I’m rich!” because he has a handful of play money would be foolish. It’s just as foolish for a billionaire to think a portfolio of expensive real estate and blue-chip investments makes him rich in God’s eyes. Today we’re going to meet a church that made that mistake.
Destination: To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The seventh church of Revelation was at Laodicea. This city was forty-five miles southeast of Philadelphia. It lay along an important trade route stretching from Ephesus through the inland area off what is now Turkey. It was located in a valley along with two sister cities, Colosse and Hierapolis.
Laodicea was founded by Antiochus II and named for his wife, Laodice. The Romans took control of the city in 129 BC. It became a large and prosperous city.
There were three major industries in Laodicea. First, banking. It was an extremely wealthy city. After an earthquake in A.D. 17 devastated the area, the Roman Empire pitched in financially to help many of the cities. But Laodicea refused this aid and chose to rebuild itself. Second, eye care. There was an ointment produced in Laodicea that was famous for curing eye ailments. Third, textiles. The city produced a special wool that was popular throughout the empire.
Laodicea was a popular place for wealthy people to retire. The wealth of the city caused her to be proud and self-sufficient. Unfortunately, the material prosperity of the citizens produced a materialistic church.
One other thing you should know about this city: for all their wealth, they had a frustrating water problem. They had no water source nearby. They had to pipe in their water from a spring six miles south. We’re not sure whether this was a cold spring or a hot spring. But it didn’t matter, because as it traveled the six-mile aqueduct, it cooled or heated to a lukewarm temperature.
Portrayal of Jesus:The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God, says this:
Jesus calls Himself the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning (Origin or Source) of God’s creation. The solemnity of the titles prepares the way for the searching and severe criticism that follows. Amen is a Hebrew word for “Yes,” “That’s right,” or “So be it.” It’s something you say to God to indicate that you’re willing to go along with what He says. Jesus is trustworthy. What He promises, He will do. What He threatens, He will carry out. Jesus is Origin and Source of all that there is. Everything and everyone answers to Him.
Praise for the Church: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
Jesus knows the deeds of His people. There are no words of commendation for the church at Laodicea.
Criticism of the Church: You are lukewarm . . . rich but poor . . . blind and naked.
Jesus calls them lukewarm. Both cold and hot water were useful; lukewarm water was not. Because they were so wishy-washy, they were useless to the Lord, and distasteful.
What was the church’s attitude? The believers were confident, secure, and complacent.
What was their real situation? They were needy, desperate.
How would they react to the way Christ described them – wretched, pitiful, and poor?
They had the finest eye medicines. How could He call them blind? They produced beautiful clothing? How could they be naked? All their material wealth was insignificant in light of their spiritual needs.
Why did they not realize how needy they were? Their material wealth could blind them to their spiritual needs.
Exhortation: Acquire true riches.
What does Jesus want them to do? Come to Him for help. In language these commercially prosperous believers could understand, the Lord urges them to buy gold from Him that they might become rich, put on white garments that they might clothe themselves, and anoint their eyes with eye salve that they might see.
“Buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich” — rich in the age to come. There is gold in the age to come. You can buy it by your faithfulness now in this age. You may ask, “What do I want gold for?” Well, you will have gold in your mansion. You will have gold in your clothing. You will have gold in your crown. There will be gold in the many facets of your life. You will want that gold.
“Buy bright garments from me.” Here he says it again, this is the second time. In Rev 3:5 He mentioned the white garments, and now mentions them again. Instead of “white” put the word “bright”, bright shining garments. There are many facets of the garments. Not just one layer, many layers. There are many different types of garments in the age to come. And why do you want those garments? You need to be clothed so that in the life to come the shame of your nakedness — the shame of your faithfulness to the Lord being incomplete — will not be seen. I do not want to be lacking the garments which indicate my dedication to the Lord in this age.
Every believer has the robe of Christ’s righteousness as a free gift, but I also want garments which depict my love for Jesus in this age. He said that to lack those garments would be shameful in the age to come. It is great that we are grounded in the free gift of eternal life to all who believe. But let us not get so locked into what we get free in the city, that we lose sight of the value of what we do after we are born again.
“Buy eye salve to anoint your eyes that you may see.” The believers desperately needed to get into the Word of God and ask God’s Spirit to help them understand it. If they did that God would remove their spiritual blindness and help them to see (cf. 2 Pet 1:9). Spiritual awareness will continue to grow in the age to come.
Penalty or Reward: Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, therefore be zealous and repent. Open the door to fellowship.
The Lord said, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent” (verse 19). Jesus still loved this church and was concerned about its future. There was hope if they would repent.
Jesus reproves and disciplines those He loves. How does He discipline us? Often He reproves us through His messengers, our ministers and teachers. Obviously, this letter to Laodicea is a reproof. He disciplines us often by allowing us to reap the fruit of our sinful deeds. Sin leads to ruin. Sometimes we have to experience that to learn it.
Why does Jesus discipline us? He wants us to have fellowship with Him and live life fully.
What do the believers need to do? Be zealous and repent. The Lord is saying, “Get excited about Me! No more of this wishy-washy stuff!”
What kind of a relationship does Christ want to have with us? He wants to be welcomed in our lives, to be a friend to us, like someone we’d invite for dinner.
The Lord of the church is pictured in verse 20 as standing at the door of the church, knocking and seeking entrance. This is not an evangelistic appeal to the unsaved. Here is the Lord of the church pleading with this particular church not to close the door of the church to Him.
Whenever we refuse to let Jesus take His rightful place as Lord of the church, we, too, in essence close the church door in His face, leaving Him on the outside. The gracious invitation is extended, however, that if one opens the door, Christ will come in and fellowship (sup or dine) with the one who permits Him to enter.
Someone's knockin' at the door Somebody ringin' the bell Someone's knockin' at the door Somebody's ringin' the bell Do me a favor Open the door, let 'em in, yeah, let 'em in
Sister Suzy, Brother John Martin Luther, Phil and Don Brother Michael, Antie Gin Open the door, let 'em in, oh yeah
LET ‘EM IN – Paul McCartney
Jesus is saying to us, “Let me be in your life! I want to be a part of what you do each day.” Is He saying that to you right now?
Now we can dine with the Lord in this age though worship and prayer. We dine with Him in that limited sense, which is awesome. It is glorious in this age, but compared to where it is going it is only a token in this age. So we dine with Him now figuratively, but in the age to come we are literally going to eat meals in the presence of Jesus and talk to Him. I mean face to face.
That is actually real because Jesus is now forever a man in a glorified human body. He is omnipresent in the spirit and He will be spiritually present no matter where we are in the city, but we will actually be able to see Him in His physical body. He will be in one place at one time, like He was in His earthly ministry. He will not be walking with you in the park and walking with me in the park at the same moment in the body. He will only be walking with one of us in the park, at that moment. There are going to be several billion people who want to talk to Jesus. Think of the 12, the 70, and the 120; well, make it several billion in the resurrection. Jesus will have a human body, really sitting on a throne and we will be called to talk to Him. He will summon us to His throne. We will dine with Him.
What are some of the great obstacles to fellowship with Christ and spiritual growth today?
Money ranks high on the list. We love it. We worship it. We change our lives to get more of it. We can be in its power. Of all the gods of our age – Sex, Mammon, Fame – Mammon worms its way most deeply into our lives and loves.
Wealth is not evil, but it is dangerous. People tend to trust their “stuff” more than God.
Answer these questions as honestly as you can. They are designed to challenge you, perhaps to change you.
Which do you spend more time doing? Worrying about money or reading the Bible. If someone offered you an amount equal to your yearly income to stay away from church for a year, would you do it? Would you consider it? If you won a million dollars, how would that change your life? How would it affect your spiritual life? If you lost a great deal of money and had to simplify your life drastically, how would that affect your spiritual life? If you got paid to read the Bible and pray, would you do more of it? If your income were cut by 25%, how would you cut your expenses? Would you be able to do that if you had to? Would you ever consider cutting your expenses so as to give more to the work of God?
The intent of these questions is not to make you feel guilty, nor to make you give more to the church. It is merely to help you gauge your relationship with God in comparison with your relationship with money. God will let you know how He wants you to use whatever wealth you have. Are you ready to heed Him?
Promise to Overcomers: Sit with Christ on the throne.
“To him who overcomes I will grant him to sit with Me on My throne.” That is incredible that we would sit with Jesus on His throne.
Now not everybody will sit on the throne. Among the many believers of the ages, only overcomers will be granted that honor. Not everyone will have a crown and throne.
Every believer will have the righteousness of Christ. We will all have a glorified body. We will all be citizens of the kingdom but after that — I am sure there are a few other things which we will all have in common — but after that, for most of the things which we have, there will be great differences in the measure of the glory and of our capacity and how we interact with the Lord.
Our relationship with the Lord will be different for everyone. There are those who will have a physical proximity to the King of kings, Jesus of Nazareth, fully God, fully man. They will have access to His immediate physical presence in a way that others will not. It will not be based on how famous you were on the earth or how big your ministry was. It will be based on your faithfulness and love for Him.
The overcomer rewards involve the location and design of our dwelling place, our garments, the food we enjoy, the intimacy we experience with Christ, the position, status and authority we have, the name or title given to us, the jewels and crowns we wear. We must not think that these privileges are solely for our benefit. We have been created to glorify God by loving and serving others. These privileges will enable overcomers to do just that. Thus everyone benefits and the Lord Himself will be pleased.
If the Lord wants you to have these privileges of a lifetime well spent, then it is a false spirituality that says, “Oh, I don’t want any special privileges.” You will, if you want for yourself what the Lord obviously desires for you. Gain your rewards. Be an overcomer. Live today in light of tomorrow.
General Admonition: He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
WWJS to the materialistic church: “Let me in!” Jesus stands at the door and knocks. He calls, “Let Me in. I want to dine with you.
The messages to the seven churches of Asia constitute a comprehensive warning from Christ to every church. There is warning to the churches of today to “hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” The messages are amazingly relevant to the churches of today.
The church at Ephesus represents the danger of losing our first love (2:4), that fresh ardor and devotion to Christ which characterized the early church.
The church at Smyrna represents the fear of suffering and was exhorted, “Fear none of the things which you will suffer” (2:10). In a modern day when persecution of Christians has been revived, the church can heed the exhortation, “Don’t fear.”
The church at Pergamum illustrates the constant danger of doctrinal compromise (2:14-15). Would that the modern church which has forsaken so many fundamentals of biblical faith heed that warning!
The church at Thyatira is a monument to the danger of doctrinal compromise (2:20). The church today may well pay attention to the departure from moral standards which has invaded the church itself.
The church at Sardis is a warning against the danger of spiritual deadness (3:1-2), of spiritual sleep.
The church at Philadelphia commended by our Lord is still warned against the danger of not holding fast (3:11), and exhorted to maintain the “little strength” that they did have and to watch for the coming of the Lord.
The final message to the church at Laodicea is the crowning indictment, a warning against the danger of lukewarmness (3:15-16), of self-sufficiency, of being unconscious of desperate need.
The church is at the center of our Lord’s concern throughout the book of Revelation. He appears in chapter 1 as the glorious Lord of the church, walking among the seven lampstands. He expresses His love for the church by asking John to write the seven letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor (chapter 2-3). He takes the church to be with Him while He pours out His wrath on the unbelieving world (chapters 4-19). Finally, He returns with the church triumphantly at His side (19:11-16), defeats the satanic opposition, establishes His kingdom on earth, judges lost people of all ages, brings about a new heaven and a new earth with the church forever dwelling with Him in the New Jerusalem (chapters 19-22).