Revelation 3:14 (NIV)
“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God.
We have a timely word for us this morning, and I want us to really consider all that has been said in this prophetic message to the Church in Laodicea. Before we begin, I think it might be interesting to have some geographical and historical information on Laodicea:
Laodicea was an ancient city located on the Lychus River in the Hellenistic regions of Caria and Lydia in Asia Minor (now modern-day Turkey). It was one of three cities in the Lychus River Valley (the other cities were Colossae and Hierapolis); and we know that churches were founded in each of these three cities, probably by Paul’s convert named Epaphras (Cf. Colossians 1:17; 4:12-13). It was founded by the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus II, who named it after his wife, Laodice, in 250 BC. In 188 BC, the city passed to the Kingdom of Pergamon. After 133 BC, it fell under the Roman Empire and later became the Roman Province of Phrygia. It was located on a major east/west trade route and noted as a banking center. The surrounding area was a fertile agricultural and pastoral region, especially suited for raising a special black sheep for which it became famous worldwide. It was Antiochus III who transported 2,000 Jewish families to Phrygia from Babylonia, so Laodicea had a very large Jewish population. It, like Pergamum, was a center for the worship of the healing god Asclepios. The city was the site of a medical school which was noted for its ear and eye salve.
With its large Jewish community, very early Laodicea became a seat of Christianity and a bishopric The Epistle to the Colossians mentions Laodicea as one of the communities of concern for the Apostle Paul. It sends greetings from a certain Epaphras from Colossae, who worked hard for the Christians of the three Phrygian cities of Colossae, Laodicea, and Hieropolis. Asking for greetings to be sent to the Laodicean Christians, Paul requests that his letter be read publicly at Laodicea (Cf. Colossians 4:16) and that another letter addressed to the Laodiceans (a lost epistle of Paul) be given a public reading at Colossae. Some Greek manuscripts of the First Epistle to Timothy end with the words: “Written at Laodicea, metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana”. So the historical and scriptural manuscript records confirm the existence of Laodicea, the church that was founded there, and give us additional context for the prophetic message to this church community found in the Revelation 3.
I do not pretend to be an eschatologist or a trained scholar of church history; but what I do contend is that the words in this passage from Revelation 3 reveal truth for us to consider in the light and context it has been presented to us by the Apostle John. As he instructed in another epistle: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in Him.” (Cf. 1 John 2:26-27) And so I pray the anointing of the Holy Spirit will fill us with wisdom, discernment, truth, and understanding of what John has recorded in this revelation.
Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)
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.
We have already learned about the historical church founded in Laodicea. What I simply wish to draw our attention to is the author of this passage: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.”
These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS the “Amen.”
The word “Amen” is derived from the Hebrew word which means “certainty,” “truth,” and “verily”. “Amen” is often used at the end of a prayer to mean “so it is” or “so be it”. It is a declaration or affirmation of what has been spoken. So, I believe in this context the word can be understood as “truth”. These are the words of “The Truth”. Jesus claimed, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to Father except through me.” (Cf. John 14:6)
These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “The Faithful and True Witness”. This is understood and supported by the “testimony” Jesus gave of Himself:
John 5:36-38 (NIV)
36 “I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has Himself testified concerning me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, 38 nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one He sent.
John 8:12-19 (NIV)
12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 13 The Pharisees challenged Him, “Here you are, appearing as your own witness; your testimony is not valid.” 14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going. But you have no idea where I come from or where I am going. 15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. 16 But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me. 17 In your own Law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is true. 18 I am one who testifies for myself; my other witness is the Father, who sent me.” 19 Then they asked Him, “Where is your father”? “You do not know me or my Father,” Jesus replied. “If you knew me, you would know my Father also.”
John 10:35-37 (NIV)
35 If He called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the One whom the Father set apart (sanctified) as His very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.
John 12:48-50 (NIV)
48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day. 49 For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. 50 I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”
Hebrews 1:1-3 (NIV)
1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
These are the words of Christ Jesus who IS “the Ruler of God’s Creation”. The NKJV translates this sentence: “the Beginning of the Creation of God”.
Genesis 1:1 (NIV)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
John 1:1-3 (NIV)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.
So we find in this list of “attributes” a clear description of the Lord Jesus Christ as the author of the words and the message being communicated through the Apostle John to the Seven Churches – and specifically to the church at Laodicea. He is the Truth … He is the Faithful Witness … and He has power and authority over all creation. This means Jesus is sovereign over us! So now, let’s look deeper into the message:
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.
Here we understand the omniscience of Christ … “I know your deeds.” And Jesus describes their state of ministry as neither cold nor hot … but lukewarm. It is probable that there is no “love one another as I have loved you” going on with the people in this church. To me, it is clear that Jesus is referring to their works … their ministry; and His displeasure with them is quite evident from the tone. The language used is the Jesus would “vomit” them out of His mouth. The metaphor indicates that lukewarm, apathetic, indifferent followers make Jesus sick to His stomach. If you and I are not “on fire” for Christ and being witnesses of the Gospel in both word and deed, this warning of “rejection” should catch our attention for sure….
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.
As we discovered in our background above, this could be an allusion to Laodicea as a center of banking; a center for black wool; and a medical center for eye salve. The tragedy of their prosperity was that they thought they had so much when, in reality, they had so little in terms of the true riches of Christ (Cf. Ephesians 2:7; Ephesians 3:8; Philippians 4:19; Colossians 1:27; Colossians 2:2). The same judgment was made of the Church in Sardis when Jesus admonished: “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.” (Cf. Revelation 3:1-2) Again, the issue is dead or nonexistent works (deeds); works that are unfinished and should be fulfilled.
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.
This is an interesting statement: “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire….” The metaphor may be an allusion to Isaiah 55:1-3, and it brings to mind another passage as well:
Isaiah 55:1-3 (NIV)
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. 3 Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.
1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These (all kinds of trials) have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Perhaps, the gold refined in fire is FAITH…. And to possess faith in Jesus Christ is to possess the true riches. I am reminded of the counsel Jesus had already given through His teachings:
Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Matthew 13:22 (NIV) – From the Parable of the Sower
22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
Luke 16:10-12 (NIV)
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
James 2:5 (NIV)
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?
Jesus counseled them to “buy from me white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful wickedness”.
Revelation 19:6-8 (NIV)
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride (the Church) has made herself ready.8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Revelation 19:11-8 (NIV)
11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his Head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” (Cf. Psalm 2:9) He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Jesus counseled them to “buy from me salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”.
Psalm 146:6-8 (NIV)
6 He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them— He remains faithful forever. 7 He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous.
Isaiah 42:16 (NIV)
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.
Mark 10:51-52 (NIV)
51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Teacher, I want to see.” 52 “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.
John 9:24-25 (NIV)
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether He is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
John 9:39-41 (NIV)
39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” 40 Some Pharisees who were with Him heard Him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” 41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
Jesus counseled His Church to examine themselves and to consider their lack of fruitfulness. Though members of His Body, deception of their true spiritual condition had drawn them into idleness, indifference, and attachments of darkness. The shame of nakedness (the sinful human nature) refers to our spiritual poverty and defeat. But Jesus wants His people to be victorious over our sinful nature. He wants us to come and obtained from Him the true riches of faithfulness and steadfastness; perseverance in love and care for one another; and the joy of His salvation. There is no other source for what we truly need to live effective and productive lives in Him. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” (Cf. 2 Peter 1:3)
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. (Cf. Proverbs 3:12 and Hebrews 12:6)
Jesus declares His affection for the Church. He has rebuked them in righteousness and judgment. He has spiritually disciplined them. So He is expectant of prompt repentance from the people! The members of His Body there need to receive what Jesus revealed and give full consideration to what Jesus has exposed in the condition of their hearts. While this message was for the Church in Laodicea, I think it could be directed at the modern church of our generation … especially the Western Church … the American Church … which has said, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But we do not fully realize how this spiritual attitude has rendered us wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked…. Indeed, in this present hour, we are being called to humble ourselves and to repent … to turn from our wicked ways and to seek His face … and then Jesus would restore and heal us.
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.
Jesus said to the Church: “Here I am!” I am available to you … even standing at the door of your heart and knocking. The implication is potential but not certain action. The person or the church must respond! So, we need to hear His voice … as the voice of a Shepherd. We need to open our hearts to His rebuke and disciple. For Jesus does so because He loves us and wants us to stay the course of faith and to do the good works which God prepared for us in advance to do. (Cf. Ephesians 2:10) If we open our hearts to Him, He will enter and initiate fellowship with us. Eating a meal together has long been a sign of covenant, friendship, and fellowship. Yes, we will experience the intimate relationship with Jesus that He desires for us to have with Him but we must respond to His invitation….
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.
This concept of being victorious is repeated through the messages to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation.
Church in Ephesus:
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Cf. Revelation 2:7)
Church in Smyrna:
The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the Second Death.” (Cf. Revelation 2:11)
Church in Pergamum:
To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.” (Cf. Revelation 2:17)
Church in Thyatira:
To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nation – that one will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery” – just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star. (Cf. Revelation 2:26-28)
Church in Sardis:
The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the Book of Life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and His angels. (Cf. Revelation 3:5)
Church in Philadelphia:
The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. (Cf. Revelation 3:12)
Church in Laodicea:
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. (Cf. Revelation 3:31)
When I look at this list, those who are victorious are those who have kept their first love; those who have endured hardships; those who have overcome afflictions and poverty; those who have persevered in suffering and persecution; those who have not denounced the faith or followed false apostles; those who have served God and others. These will receive the rewards Jesus has promised to them in these messages to the churches, and there is great reward in faithfulness with God, and Jesus wants us to know so….
1 Corinthians 15:56-57 (NIV)
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 John 5:3-5 (NIV)
3 In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, 4 for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5 Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.
22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
This phrase is repeated within the message delivered to each church as well. It is an invitation to take note and to heed the rebukes and disciplines administered. It is a call for repentance and the renewal of faith … even in 2020 as we observe the signs of the times. He knows our deeds … our works … any many of us are found “deficient” because faith without works is dead faith. It is through our deeds that we profess and live out our faith in Jesus. There are warnings against idolatry and sexual immorality … to which we will be held accountable. So Jesus wants us to wake up … pay attention … and listen to the Spirit of Truth. He is our Advocate:
John 16:13-15 (NIV)
13 But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that He will receive what He will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what He will make known to you.”
Well, I know this has been quite lengthy, but I just felt led to expound on this message … to this particular church. I believe in some ways the lukewarm church in Laodicea reflects the modern church of our generation. We need to heed the rebukes Jesus spoke to this church and to repent if we individually and communally want to be effective witnesses in these latter days. I hope this study will prompt us to dive deeper into the Word of God and allow it to penetrate even to the dividing of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and to judge the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. (Cf. Hebrews 4:12) We should not be deceived, but be reminded that God will not be mocked. A person will reap what they sow. (Cf. Galatians 6:7) Because as we have seen, there is nothing in all creation hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Cf. Hebrews 4:13) And as Paul wrote: “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (Cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5)
So let us be earnest and repent! Let us get on fire and make a difference in these days that God has granted us to live! Let us each complete the works God prepared in advance for us to do! Let us be faithful and true witnesses ourselves! Let us open the doors of our hearts and invite Him into the intimate place of our souls. Let us persevere and be victorious in our confession and practice of faith! And let us hear what the Spirit says to the churches! In Jesus Name I pray, Amen!