Greetings, friends! We’re back with the last post in our four-part series on our study of Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. In this post, we will look at Jesus’ message to the last church listed which was located in the city of Laodicea. Keep reading.
REVELATION 2 AND 3
THE MESSAGES TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
Fourth in a Four-Part Series
by Karen Thompson
7) The Church of Laodicea
The city of Laodicea was established by King Antiochus II of the Seleucid Empire who named the city after his wife, Laodice. It was a wealthy city filled with wealthy people. After 190 BC, it became a wealthy center of industry. Many of its citizens were the “millionaires” of its day. The city had the typical luxurious amenities that come with wealth—theaters, stadium, gym with baths. It was so wealthy that after an earthquake in 60 AD, they refused Rome’s offer of assistance and rebuilt the city using their own wealth.
As a note of interest, the events between King Antiochus and Laodice are included in the historical events written in Daniel chapter 11. In a political move, Antiochus divorced Laodice and married the daughter of the Ptolemaic king to the south. This meant that Laodice’s son would be disinherited and was no longer in line to inherit the throne, making Laodice a very angry woman. In retribution, Laodice waited for an opportunity to murder Antiochus, his new wife, and their son to ensure her son’s place on the throne. What is that saying? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!
Rev. 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; these things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God.
To the saints in the church of Laodicea, Jesus let them know this message was coming from the One who is “the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (v. 14). The prophet Isaiah prophesied of a coming witness: “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people” (Isa. 55:4). As the faithful witness, Jesus came and bore witness of the Father God. He said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. … He that hath seen me has seen the Father” (John 12:44–45; 14:9 NKJV).
Jesus said He was the beginning of the creation of God. Colossians 1:18 confirms this by saying, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Rev. 3:15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
The believers in this church were deceived about their spirituality. They assessed themselves as being rich, lacking nothing, and doing just fine. But God’s assessment of them was the exact opposite. That’s what prompted such a strong rebuke from Him saying, “thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth” (vv. 15–16).
Because they were lukewarm, He wanted to spew them out of His mouth. Everyone can immediately identify with this lukewarm metaphor. If you go to a restaurant and look at its beverage menu, every drink is either icy cold or piping hot. You will never find a lukewarm drink on any restaurant’s menu! In fact, if someone’s drink becomes lukewarm, what does the diner do? He asks the waiter to take it away and bring another icy cold or piping hot drink.
What is interesting to note is that God’s assessment of the church in Smyrna was the exact opposite of His assessment of the church in Laodicea. The church at Smyrna suffered poverty but the Lord called them rich: “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)… (Rev. 2:9). But to the church at Laodicea, even though they said they were rich and had need of nothing, He said they were not only poor, but “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (v. 17).
These two assessments were exactly the opposite of each other because the Laodicean Christians were judging their lives from the natural standpoint, whereas God was judging their lives from the spiritual standpoint. The Laodicean church was rich naturally but poor spiritually. But the church at Smyrna was poor naturally yet rich spiritually.
Jesus described the Laodicean church as wretched, miserable, and poor. The Greek word for miserable is eleeinos and it means “to be pitied.” Clearly, He didn’t see them as they saw themselves. He looked past their riches and saw them as they were spiritually. They were wretched and to be pitied. They were poor in Christian virtue and the kind of riches that are eternal. Jesus told us what the true riches were: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matt. 6:19–20).
Jesus described them as blind. When He said they were blind, He was talking about their spiritual eyes, not their natural eyes. Jesus also called the Pharisees blind: “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14). He called the Pharisees blind because they had no discernment for spiritual things. The Son of God was in their midst, and they didn’t recognize Him. Like the Pharisees, the believers at Laodicea were spiritually blind.
The Shame of Their Nakedness
Jesus described the Laodicean believers as naked. He told them to buy clothing so that others would not see “the shame of thy nakedness.” Obviously, He didn’t mean they were walking around without any clothing. You can tell by the context of this passage of scripture that He was referring to their spiritual condition. He was using nakedness and shame as a metaphor to describe their spiritually backslidden condition.
Metaphor of Gold Tried in the Fire
The Laodicean believers said they were rich, increased with goods, and needed nothing. But God said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. He said they were so backslidden that people could see the shame of their nakedness, meaning they were spiritually carnal and backslidden. His advice for them was to “buy of me gold tried in the fire” that they would be rich.
Gold “tried in the fire” is another metaphor found in both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Peter in 1st Peter chapter one explains what this metaphor means: “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).
They were in a situation where their faith was being tested. The testing of their faith is being compared to gold when it is put through fire for the purpose of refinement. Gold ore is refined when it is put through the fire and melted down to liquid form. In the refining process, whatever is not gold will float to the top and is then scooped off. What is left is pure, refined gold. Gold refined in the fire is a metaphor for Christians being made pure through the testing of their faith.
The Overcomer’s Reward
Rev. 3:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: 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. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
The Laodicean believers received a very strong rebuke. But here the Lord reassured them saying, “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten…” (v.19). Though they received a harsh rebuke, they can comfort themselves by knowing He rebuked them because He loves them.
Verse 20 is one of the most often quoted verses of scripture in the Bible: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: 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.” Obviously these believers were sorely lacking in their relationship with the Lord. He was inviting them to a deeper relationship with Him.
Verse 21 says, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” This is another way of saying that the overcomers will rule and reign with Him.
Finally, in verse 22 He says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” This is the final and seventh time we hear this exhortation. Each one of the churches were exhorted to “hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (See also, 2:7, 2:11, 2:17, 2:29, 3:6, 3:13, 3:22.)
In the next chapter in Revelation, we learn how John was invited up into the throne room of God. It’s at this point that the Lord begins to show John what will happen in the future… in the end times. You won’t want to miss it!
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