At last we come to the church of Laodicea, the last of the seven churches in Revelation. Its message is also one of the most interesting and yet misunderstood of any Jesus wrote regarding the Revelation churches.
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!
16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:14-22
At the beginning of our study into the seven churches of Revelation we remarked that each church reveals a different emphasis regarding what characterizes a true and dynamic church. We have found that in the message to Ephesus, Christians are urged to return to their first love, Jesus.
In the message to Smyrna they are warned that if they do not compromise their faith they will suffer. The church in Pergamum is to stand tall for Jesus in face of error and false teachings in their midst. Thyatira is reminded that they are to pursue righteousness in the face of the evil that encompasses their culture and is leaking into the church. The message for Sardis is to have an inward relationship with God instead of outward show and pomp. While they come off as a church that has it all together they are rotting in the inside from hypocrisy and indifference towards the Gospel.
Philadelphia is the church of the open door of opportunity for the proclamation of the gospel. In order to have a ministry that makes a difference in the world they must leave their baggage and enter into relationship with Jesus through the narrow door of salvation.
This brings us to Laodicea. This is a church that is characterized by complacency indicative of our own culture. But, in Jesus’ message to this church is a loving call to repent and turn from that indifference and self-satisfaction and become His fully devoted followers.
For me the message to Laodicea speaks the loudest of all the letters because it speaks to the heart of our modern Christianity. If there ever was a time that the church was more indifferent to the ills of society and the suffering of our fellow travellers I am not sure when it would have been. There are exceptions of course, but on the whole the North American churches are entrenched neck deep in our pervading culture.
As church members we are enticed by the same consumerism as the non-Christian. We long for the rewards and privileges associated with our society. Pornography entraps Christian men at the same rate that it does non-believers. How true are the words, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” Revelation 3:17
No one knows who founded the church to Laodicea, but regardless of how it was founded it had fallen upon evil times. An interesting aside is that a number of New Testament scholars believe that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians was actually originally addressed to the Laodiceans. It seems that in some of the oldest manuscripts of the epistle the heading, “to the Ephesians” is missing. If it is true that the letter was first written to the Laodiceans then it probably was a circular letter sent to a number of churches in the same area that the seven messages of the Revelation churches cover.
A careful reading of the message to the church of Laodicea shows us that there is no mention of heretics, false teachings or persecution. The problem infecting Laodicea was that they were, “neither hot nor cold.” (v. 15) This church lacked commitment and wholeheartedness. They were simply lukewarm or indifferent to their faith.
As a boy growing up I watched my mother drink literally hundreds and hundreds of cups of hot water and milk. The problem, at least for me, was that after the concoction sat for a while it became lukewarm, at best, and almost impossible to drink with any joy or satisfaction. To this day I don’t know how she gagged down that insipid mixture. Whenever, I think of Laodicea I think of that drink and understand the point Jesus was making.
John Stott, whose book What Christ Thinks of the Church that I have been using to help outline this series on the church writes concerning Laodicea, “It described vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so widespread among us today. Our Christianity is flabby and anemic. We appear to have taken a lukewarm bath of religion,” pg. 116. Stott wrote these words in 1958 long before the rise of mega-churches, prosperity gospel, stay at home and watch it on TV ministries. How much more have these words of Jesus to the Laodiceans and of Stott’s commentary on them become reality in our own churches and Christian culture?
Jesus states, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (v. 15) The Greek word used here for cold means freezing cold and the word for hot means boiling. If we are on fire for Jesus that is good and if we are frozen then that is good because He can thaw us out through heat. But if we are just lukewarm then we are indifferent concerning our condition and our need. We think we are tasty and delicious but instead Jesus says, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (v. 16)
Praise God He has no intentions of leaving us in this condition. Next post we will pick up on some of the most encouraging and exciting words in Revelation, and that is saying a lot.
* Please remember to pray for the Christians who are suffering persecution for their faith in many countries around the world. These people hold fast even unto death. There is a great evil settling on this earth and we must be vigilant in our prayers and stay close to Christ. Our hope is in Christ and he is faithful to his people. Please take the time to read about what is taking place in the world around us at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…