And He Healed them all: The Link between Holiness and Healing VIII.mp3
To the church at Laodicea…
“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; I know thy works, that 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. 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: 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. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 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. 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. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Rev 3:14-22
The city of Laodicea
For the other churches, it was the church of Ephesus (Rev_2:1) or the church in Smyrna (Rev_2:8) or the church in Sardis (Rev_3:1). But here, it is the church of the Laodiceans. This was Paul’s wording as well in his mention of them in the letter to the Colossians which we will see later.
Laodicea was an important city, located at the intersection of three major roads resulting in the city growing into a highly successful commercial and financial center. Laodicea was a noted commercial center, and some of its goods which were exported all over the known world included fine linen and wool for cloths and carpets made from the black wool of sheep raised in the area, a very popular eye-ointment (salve) and it was the banking capital of that region.
In addition to exports, the city boasted theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths and fabulous shopping centers. Laodicea also had a significant Jewish population.
Like other cities in the region, it was a center for Caesar worship and the worship of the healing god Ask-lep-ios. In fact, there was a famous temple of Ask-lep-ios in Laodicea, with a more famous medical school connected with the temple.
Laodicea was also a prideful city…After an earthquake devastated the region in 60 a.d. Laodicea refused Imperial help in rebuilding the city, successfully relying on their own resources. They didn’t need outside help, they didn’t ask for it, and they didn’t want it.
“Laodicea was too rich to accept help from anyone. Tacitus, the Roman historian, tells us: ‘Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us.'” (Barclay)
One of this city’s problems was a poor water supply which made Laodicea vulnerable to attack through siege. If an enemy army surrounded the city, they had insufficient water supplies in the city, and the supplies coming into the city could be easily cut off. Therefore, the leaders of Laodicea were always accommodating to any potential enemy, and always wanted to negotiate and compromise instead of fight.
The church at Laodicea is mentioned by Paul – in a somewhat unfavorable light – ….
“For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ;” ~ Col_2:1,2
“And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. And say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it.” ~ Col 4:16-17.
Jesus describes Himself to the church at Laodicea
These things says the Amen:
Jesus is the Amen, the “so be it,” the “it is done.”
As 2Cor. 1:20 says,
“For all the promises of God in Him are “Yes,” and in Him “Amen.”
Say’s Barclay, “Jesus is “the personification and the affirmation of the truth of God.”
The Faithful and True Witness, this is a contrast to the Laodiceans, who will be shown to be neither faithful nor true.
the beginning of the creation of God. The idea behind the word for beginning [the ancient Greek word arche is that of a “ruler, source, or origin”.
This verse does not teach that Jesus was the first being created, but that He is the ruler, source, and origin of all creation. It has the idea of first in prominence more than first in sequence. This is not special pleading or a private definition for this ancient Greek word but is the well documented meaning it had while in popular usage 2000 years ago.
Jesus confronts the church of Laodicea
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
You are neither cold nor hot: This picture of lukewarmness would immediately strike the Christians of Laodicea.
Having no water supply within the city theirs came to them on a six-mile aqueduct from the hot springs of Hiera-polis. Because of this the water arrived unappetizingly lukewarm.
Jesus says “Just as the water you drink is disgustingly lukewarm, you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot.
In this spiritual sense, lukewarmness is a picture of indifference and compromise. It tries to play the middle, too hot to be cold and too cold to be hot.
But in trying to be both things, it ends up being nothing – except to hear the words, “I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
It is most likely that these Christians were essentially hot by nature, but were cooled by their apathy and self-reliance.
Has there been a greater curse upon the earth than empty religion? Is there any soul harder to reach than the one who has just enough of Jesus to think they have enough? The church of Laodicea exemplifies empty religion, and tax collectors and harlots were more open to Jesus than the scribes and Pharisees.
I could wish that you were cold or hot: What Jesus wants to change in us as much as anything is the deceptive playing of the middle, trying to please both the world and Jesus.
Morris points out that, “Hot water heals, cold water refreshes, but lukewarm water is useless for either purpose.”
It’s as if Jesus says, “If you were hot or cold I could do something with you. But because you are neither, I will do nothing.”
The lukewarm Christian has enough of Jesus to satisfy a craving for religion, but not enough for eternal life.
Jesus’ siblings were cold to Him so far as we know in that they do not seem to have listened nor followed Him at all during His earthly ministry.
The Apostle John was hot towards Jesus and enjoyed an intimate relationship of love.
But Judas was lukewarm, following Jesus enough to be considered a disciple, but not giving his heart over to Jesus in fullness.
Deep down, there is no one more miserable than the lukewarm Christian. They have too much of the world to be happy in Jesus, but too much of Jesus to be happy in the world.
But how could Jesus say, I could wish that you were cold? We know His deepest desire is that they be hot, with an on-fire love for Him (Rev_3:19, where the word zealous is associated with this same word hot). Yet if they would not be hot, Jesus prefers cold rather than lukewarm.
Barnhouse sees it this way,
“So the Lord is saying, ‘If instead of being lukewarm, you were so cold that should feel that coldness, then the very feeling of your need might drive you to the true warmth taht is intimacy with Me, but now in your lukewarmness, you have just enough heat to protect yourselves against the feeling of any need so you do not come to Me'” (Barnhouse)
While I agree with Barnhouse I believe we must exercise caution in attributing anything to the Divine mind “purposes” which are entirely outside of Himself.
I believe it is most likely that Christ’s desire to have them on either extreme rather than casually vacillating in the middle has to due with His nature within the trinity. Perichoresis is a term which expresses the nature of the inter-relationships within the Godhead as we limitedly understand it. The term Perichoresis strickly means, “perimeter dance” but that is simply a word picture illustrating the nature of their unity. In the Godhead there is a perfect co-submission, co-deference, co-servitude throughout. Each member chiefly desires to benefit the others through acts of service and lavish demonstrations of devotion to the realizing of the others desires. Words fail to capture the intensity and absolute necessity of this union…this perimeter dance within the Godhead, but its existence is impossible to avoid knowing those attributes of God which He has chosen to reveal to us through Christ and His Word.
So how does this effect the desire for humanity to remain polarized in their devotion to God and not in the middle in lukewarm indifference? Because the love that Christ has for the Father compels Him to plead with this church in order that the desire of the Others may be realized in the whole-hearted devotion of the saved, but the honor and deference Christ has for the Father & Spirit will not allow Them to endure the insult of a believers belligerent, self-absorbed apathy towards Them. So He would have it that those who hate God do so with all their might and those who love Him to do so with fervent zeal, but to remain under His gracious influence with a casual disinterest in Them is an insult greater than out right rejection, and if sustained without repentance will result in them being expelled from His confessions over them as intercessor and Lord.
Spurgeon says Lukewarm lives turn people away from Jesus.
“Now, lukewarm professor, what do worldlings see in you? They see a man, who says he is going to heaven, but who is only travelling at a snail’s pace. He professes to believe that there is a hell, yet he has tearless eyes, and never seeks to snatch souls from going down into the pit. They see before them one who has to deal with eternal realities, yet he is but half awake; one who professes to have passed through a transformation so mysterious and wonderful that there must be, if it is true, a vast change in the outward life as the result of it; yet they see him as much like themselves as can be. He may be morally consistent in his general behavior, but they see no energy in his religious character.”
I will vomit you out of My mouth: How are churches in the mouth of Jesus?
- They are in His mouth because as He speaks His Word to them they are to release themselves unto it and spread its message to others.
- They are in His mouth because He prays for them constantly.
- They are in His mouth because He confesses them before His Father and His holy angels.
What a terrible thing therefore – in any of these ways – to be expelled from the mouth of Jesus!
What Jesus has against the church of Laodicea
Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked;
The church at Laodicea lacked a sense spiritual poverty.
- They looked at their spiritual condition and said “rich.”
- They looked again and said “wealthy.”
- They looked a third time and said, “We have need of nothing.”
Which makes them the opposite of “…blessed are the poor in spirit” which Jesus spoke of in Matt. 5:3, whose promise was that they would inherit the Kingdom of heaven.
The Laodiceans put their trust in material prosperity, in outward luxury, and in physical health. They felt like they didn’t need anything
“The cause of Christ has been hurt more by Sunday-morning bench-warmers who pretend to love Christ, who call Him Lord but dont obey His commands, than by all the publicans and sinners.” ~ Havner
And do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked: It wasn’t that the church at Laodicea wasn’t spiritually poor – they were, they were simply blind to it.
- Jesus looked at their spiritual condition and said, “wretched.”
- He looked again and said “miserable.”
- A third time Jesus looked and said “poor.” He looked again and said “blind.”
- A final time Jesus looked, and He saw that they were spiritually naked.
Laodicea was famous for its healing eye salve, but the Christians of the city were spiritually blind. Laodicea was famous for its fine clothing, but the Christians of the city were spiritually naked.
The contrasts are shocking:
- Between what they think they are and what they really are.
- Between what they see and what Jesus sees.
- Between the wealth and affluence of their city and their own spiritual bankruptcy.
We might say that it all began with their spiritual blindness. If you are blind, you can’t look at yourself and see that you are wretched, miserable, poor . . . and naked. Mental darkness is worse than a loss of sight; but a loss of spiritual vision is even worse.
2Peter 2:1-15 talks about the fruitful attributes of a believer who is devoted to Christ and the condition of those who have lost their ardor…
“For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
See also that those who are not blind not only bear fruit, but theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
What Jesus wants the church of Laodicea to do?
“I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”
Jesus addresses the Laodacian’s three “answers” for which they had traded the true value of Christ.
1. Their financial security in being the regions Banking Capital
2. Their glossy black fine garments
3. Their eye-salve
Concerning their money He says…
I counsel you to buy from Me: This seems like a vague reference to the words of Isaiah 55.
“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, Come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk Without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you— The sure mercies of David.” ~ Isa. 55:1-3
Buy from Me gold refined in the fire: If they will receive from Jesus His riches, His gold – beautifully refined in the fire – then they may be rich. Gold often is used as a symbol for godliness throughout scripture even as corruptible brass often represented sin.
Concerning their textile industry He says…
White garments, that you may be clothed: Both literally and figuratively the product of their own hands was black. The merchants of Laodicea were famous for a glossy black wool they used to make beautiful garments and carpets. But Christ counsels them to receive from Him the pure, righteous covering He gives so that they may be clothed in white, and no longer shamed with nakedness.
Concerning their eye-salve He says…
Anoint your eyes with eye salve: If they will receive from Jesus the healing of their spiritual sight, they will then be able to see.
The usage of the words “buy from Me” subtly addressed their empty pride in their wealth by offering goods for which they had no heavenly currency to obtain.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten
The word for love in as many as I love is not agape, but phileo. Jesus’ heart to this church is, “Even though I rebuke you and chasten you, I am still your friend. I love you deeply as My friend.”
Rebuke can also demonstrate pastorial love. “How many preachers love their saints enough to risk their resentment by obeying the command of 2Tim. 4:2…
“proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.”
Therefore be zealous and repent: He commands them to make a decision to repent, and to continue in zeal.
The ancient Greek word zealous comes from the same word as hot in Rev_3:16. Though Jesus detests their lukewarmness, He would really have them be hot with zeal rather than cold and He who turned their ice to fire initially can kindle the flame again!
Behold, I stand at the door and knock: Jesus gives to this lukewarm church The Great Invitation. He knocks at the door, asking entry to come and dine with us, in the sense of sharing warm, intimate time. It only happens as we respond to His knock, but the promise is made to all: If anyone hears my voice.
The idea of Jesus at the door applies to the sinner and to the saint just the same. Jesus wants to come in to us, and dine with us, in the sense of having a deep, intimate relationship.
I stand at the door: Sadly, Jesus stands on the outside, knocking to get in. If the church at Philadelphia was “The Church of the Open Door,” then the church at Laodicea is “The Church of the Shut door.”
If anyone: Notice that Jesus gives the call to individuals. He didn’t say, “If any church,” but if anyone. ”
and opens the door:
- Why does Jesus stand outside the door?
- Why does He knock?
- Why does He wait until someone opens the door?
Jesus comes to the door as the lover in the Song of Solomon. This is similar to – or perhaps a quotation of – Song of Son_5:2: “It is the voice of my beloved! He knocks, saying, ‘open for me, my sister, my love.”
Hear my voice
The key to opening the door is to first hear His voice. When we give attention to what Jesus says, then we can be rescued from our own lukewarmness and enter into a “zealous” relationship with Him.
I will come into him: What a glorious promise! If we open the door, He will come in.
When Jesus says dine with him, He speaks of a specific meal known as the deip-non. “The deipnon was the main meal of the day and was a leisurely affair, not a hurried snack.”
This was the meal at which men sat and talked for hours, for now there was time, for work was ended . . . it is not a mere courtesy visit, paid in the passing, which Jesus Christ offers here. He desires to come in and to sit long with us, to commune with us and us with Him.
Everything He said to the Laodicean church up to this point must be seen in light of this loving desire for fellowship.
“Rebuke and chastisement are no signs of rejection from Christ, but of His abiding and pleading love, even to the lukewarm and careless.” ~ Alford
A promise of reward.
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
Those who overcome the battle against indifference, compromise, and self-reliance, receive a special reward. They enjoy a place with the enthroned Jesus (as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne).
Clarke notes that,
“This is the worst of the seven Churches, and yet the most eminent of all the promises are made to it, showing that the worst may repent, finally conquer, and attain even to the highest state of glory.”
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
For much more depth concerning this teaching please listen to the recording.