By Diane Caston
All of these seven churches mentioned in our study were in the same geographical area. There were other churches at this time, but Jesus only mentioned these seven. I think maybe they were a microcosm of the church in general, in their day, and in our day. It is no coincidence that these messages to the churches are right before the announcing of the most cataclysmic judgement on the earth since the flood. These warnings are to all of the churches in every age to be prepared for the great and awesome Day of the Lord. Our church this morning, Laodicea was failing miserably!
The church of the Laodiceans : Laodicea was an important, wealthy city, with a significant Jewish population. Like other cities in the region, it was a center for Caesar worship and the worship of the healing god Asklepios. There was a famous temple of Asklepios in Laodicea, with a more famous medical school connected with the temple.
As we heard from the same event that affected the other churches, an earthquake devastated the region in A.D. 60. Afterwards, Laodicea refused Imperial help to rebuild 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” (Rome). (Barclay)
Laodicea was also a noted commercial center, and some of its goods were exported all over the world. “It is frequently noted that Laodicea prided itself on three things: financial wealth, an extensive textile industry, and a popular eye-salve which was exported around the world.” (Mounce)
One of the problems they did have was a poor water supply that 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.
Their main water supply came on a six-mile aqueduct from the hot springs of Hierapolis. Because the water came from hot springs, it arrived unappetizingly lukewarm.
The church at Laodicea is mentioned by Paul – in a somewhat unfavorable light – in Colossians 2:1 and 4:16. The name Laodicea means “rule of the people.” This church well represents a church run by majority rule instead of God. “Its name designates it as the Church of mob rule, the democratic Church, in which everything is swayed and decided by popular opinion, clamor and voting.” (Seiss)
This is reflected in Jesus’ address to the church: the church of the Laodiceans ( Revelation 3:14 ). For the other churches, it was the church of Ephesus ( Revelation 2:1 ) or the church in Smyrna ( Revelation 2:8 ) or the church in Sardis ( Revelation 3:1 ). But here, this church is the church of the Laodiceans.
(READ) Rev. 3:14 And to the Angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God:”
*Question: What do you think is significant about the way Jesus describes Himself?
These things says the Amen : Jesus is the Amen, the “so be it,” the “it is done. He has the last word.
The Faithful and True Witness : This is Jesus, and this was a contrast to the Laodiceans, who will be shown to be neither faithful nor true.
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,” It does not mean that He was the first one created. It has the idea of first in prominence more than first in sequence.
(READ) Rev. 3:15-16 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.
*Question: Why do you think Jesus would wish them to be one or the other?
These Jesus saw this church and their works – the wheat and the tares. They were neither cool and refreshing or warm and comforting. They were just disgusting.
The Laodiceans could immediately identify with this imagery, because of the lukewarm water they drank every day. In this spiritual sense, lukewarmness is a picture of indifference and compromise. It tries to play the middle, In trying to be both things, they end up being nothing – except to hear the words, “ I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Nancy De Moss: “His rebuke is graphic. The reference to God vomiting should grab our attention! Perhaps He begins His address to them with such a shocking statement to shatter their complacency!”
*Share what you think a lukewarm believer looks like.
I could wish that you were cold or hot also points to another aspect of lukewarmness, as a picture of uselessness. Deep down, there is no one more miserable than the lukewarm Christian is. They have too much of the world to be happy in Jesus, but too much of Jesus to be happy in the world.
They have prayer-meetings, but there are few present, for they like quiet evenings home
- When more attend the meetings they are still very dull, for they do their praying very deliberately and are afraid of being too excited
- They are content to have all things done decently and in order, but vigor and zeal are considered to be vulgar
- They may have schools, Bible-classes, preaching rooms, and all sorts of agencies; but they might as well be without them, for no energy is displayed and no good comes of them
- Everything is done in a half-hearted, listless, dead-and-alive way, as if it did not matter much whether it was done or not
- Things are respectably done, the rich families are not offended, the skeptical party is conciliated, and the good people are not quite alienated: things are made pleasant all around
- The right things are done, but as to doing them with all your might, and soul, and strength, a Laodicean church has no notion of what that means
- They are not so cold as to abandon their work, or to give up their meetings for prayer, or to reject the gospel
*Question - And what was the result of their lukewarmness?
What a terrible thing to be expelled from the mouth of Jesus!
Rev. 3:17 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 of the Laodiceans was the most powerful and affluent of the seven churches.
*With this in mind comment on the attitude of the Laodicean church. What did Jesus say was their true condition?
*These believers were self-sufficient. How did their self-sufficiency actually impoverish them?
From where should we seek our sufficiency?
2 Cor. 3:5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
2 Cor. 12:9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
* How would you help one of these Laodicians?
They were the opposite of blessed are the poor in spirit Jesus spoke of in Matthew 5:3 .
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” James 4:6
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, ‘For God resist the proud, but gives grace to the humble’.” 1 Peter 5:5
“The loss of a sense of need, as the drowsiness that besets a freezing man, is fatal.” (Newell)
“The cause of Christ has been hurt more by Sunday-morning bench-warmers who pretend to love Christ, who call Him Lord but do not 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 just spiritually poor – they were, but sadly, 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.
The contrasts are shocking:
- The contrast between what they think they are and what they really are
- The contrast between what they see and what Jesus sees
- The contrast between the wealth and affluence of their city and their selves and their own spiritual bankruptcy
“The Laodiceans are typical of the modern world, which revels in that which the natural eye can see but is untouched by the gospel and does not see beyond the veil of the material to the unseen and real eternal spiritual riches.” (Walvoord)
*Why do you think Jesus rebuked these believers?
Heb. 12:5-6 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
He wants them and us to be right with Him. Whenever the Lord rebukes us, He gives us a remedy. He told the church of Laodicea just what to do:
Rev. 3:18-20 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.
There is a very real possibility that many of these church goers weren’t really saved. They needed to spend their riches on what really matters. They needed to buy from Him. The terms used in this exhortation pertain to salvation – refined as gold, clothed in white garments, naked, blind. Could it be that they had even fooled themselves about their own salvation? Jesus is standing outside of this church and knocking to come in! What a contrast to the church of Philadelphia who had an open door! He is asking them to repent and open the door to Him. The result of humility and opening the door to the Lord is sweet fellowship with Him!
“Christ stands – waits long, at the door of the sinner’s heart; he knocks – uses judgments, mercies, reproofs, exhortations, to induce sinners to repent and turn to him; he lifts up his voice – calls loudly by his word, His ministers, and His Spirit.” (Clarke)
He does not force His way in. He relies on persuasion and a love beyond comprehension. He wants us to willing open to Him.
*Is there anyone here honest and humble enough to share a time when they thought they were doing alright with the Lord to discover that was not really true? And what was your solution?
Rev. 3:21 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.
The promise of reward To him who overcomes: Jesus’ promise to the overcomer, even at Laodicea, showed that we don’t have to be Christians who are compromising and lukewarm. If we are, we can change and become one of Jesus’ overcomers. Jesus wants us to come to Him.
John 17: 24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
Rev. 3:22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
A final general exhortation to all who would hear in all of the churches.
He who has an ear, let him hear : Few want to identify themselves with the church of Laodicea. We would much rather identify ourselves with the church at Philadelphia. We want to gloss over the warnings and let ourselves off the hook. We think we aren’t all that bad! But the truth is ladies, that we are! Maybe not in deed, but in thought we often fail and fall short!Let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: Wemust hear what the Holy Spirit says here, because He speaks to the churches – including us. May God deliver us from the self-reliant, compromising lukewarmness that marked the church of the Laodiceans! And let us learn from the exhortations to each of the churches. Jesus is always standing at the door of our hearts, longing to come in! Let us daily, hourly come to Him and truly hear what He has to say to us, so that we will be those overcomers who get to sit with Him on His throne!
Ps. 138: 24-25 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.