CHURCH OF LAODICEA
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:
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. 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—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. 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. He who has an ear, let him
hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Revelation 3:14–22).
come now to the last of the letters to the seven church of Asia. Of all the
letters to the seven churches, this letter is probably the most well-known
because of its lukewarm condition. Laodicea is located on the Lycus River almost
due south of Philadelphia. It was built by the Selucid king Antiochus II in
about 260 b.c. It was 11 miles west of Colossae and 99 miles east of Ephesus,
both cities having churches to which the Apostle Paul wrote letters that are in
the New Testament. It was originally called Diospolis (City of Zeus) and later
called Rhodas. Antiochus eventually renamed the city Laodicea in honor of his
wife, Loadice. The people of
Laodicea enjoyed great wealth and that wealth was partly responsible for Rome
giving it the title of free city—a self-governing city.
of the Letter
14, the Glorified Christ reveals Himself as the Amen, the Faithful and True
Witness and the Beginning of the Creation of God.
Verses 15 and 16 Christ reveals their true spiritual condition, which is
lukewarmness that is famously preached upon.
17–20 Christ offers the church the solution to its problem.
21–22 is the gift Christ offers to overcomers.
The Glorified Christ
Glorified Christ reveals Himself as “the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness,
the Beginning of the creation of God”. As with His address to the church at
Philadelphia, Christ does not use any of the descriptors mentioned in chapter
one, but He is called “the faithful witness” in chapter 1:5 and He calls
Himself “the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending” in verse 8.
was sent by the Father to be His witness and He was faithful to carry out that
witness. In John 5:31–32 Jesus said, “If I bear witness of Myself, My
witness is not true. There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that
the witness which He witnesses of Me is true”. The Jewish leaders were
accusing Jesus of making Himself equal with God. He is saying to them, “You do
not have to take My word for it; Someone else witnesses to that truth, and this
Witness cannot be wrong”. Who is this witness?
I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given
Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father
has sent Me. And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have
neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form. (Verses 36–37).
the Father is His witness and He has shown His approval of Jesus through the
work He has done. Christ returned to heaven but He did not leave Himself without
a witness. In Acts 1:8 he tells His disciples, “But you shall receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in
Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”.
He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End certainly speaks of His eternal
divinity, however this is said in connection with His being a witness. Christ
began the church on the Day of Pentecost through the divine act of sending the
Holy Spirit to baptize the believers, giving them power to be His witnesses. So,
He is the beginning, but He also ordains that the church be empowered by the
Holy Spirit to witness until the very end of time—the Ending.
said to this church, “I know your works”. This is a church that failed to be
a faithful witness. Since the church is empowered by the Holy Spirit to be
Christ’s witness, something came up in the life of this church that voided
that power and they ceased to be a faithful witness.
makes the accusation in verse 15, “you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish
you were cold or hot”. Philip Mauro in his book Of Things Which Soon Must
Come to Pass remarks:
words strikingly describe a condition of indifference. The Laodiceans were not
warm in affection for Christ, they were not burning with zeal in His cause; nor
yet were they cold and altogether heartless.
indifference certainly flows from their lack of consecration to the very source
of the witnessing empowerment, the Holy Spirit Himself. It is the office of the
Holy Spirit to lead as Jesus taught us in John 16:13, “When He, the Spirit of
truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak of His
own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak”. In John 15:26–27 Jesus
says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you
also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning”. It
is the office of the Holy Spirit to testify of Christ in our lives and thereby
cause us, the church, to bear witness of Christ to the world.
church had become so complacent with salvation they refused to move on in the
will of God. They were neither hot nor cold. Christ wants for His church to have
some zeal. Not noise, not activities, but a zeal for both the word of God and
the work of God. But this requires consecration. Here is a church that lacked
consecration and had become distasteful to such a degree that Christ was about
to spit them out of His mouth. Albert Barnes in his Commentary on the New
Testament makes an insightful comment on this:
image is intensely strong, and denotes deep disgust and loathing at the
indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea. The idea is, that they
would be utterly rejected and cast off as a church: a threatening of which there
has been an abundant fulfilment in subsequent times. It may be remarked, also,
that what was threatened to that church may be expected to occur to all
churches, if they are in the same condition; and that all professing Christians,
and Christian churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the
indignation of the Saviour.
church is so deceived that cannot see its true condition. They look at certain
of their accomplishments as proof to themselves that they are right with God.
Adam Clarke puts their words into words easily understood:
supposest thyself to be in a safe state, perfectly sure of final salvation,
because thou hast begun well, and laid the right foundation. It was this most
deceitful conviction that cut the nerves of their spiritual diligence; they
rested in what they had already received, and seemed to think that once in grace
must be still in grace.
Glorified Christ tells them they are wretched. They think they are clothed in
the richest of spiritual garments that God should admire; instead, their
clothing is less than rags. Clarke tells us about the word wretched:
wretched. The word signifies being worn out and fatigued with grievous labors,
as they who labor in a stone quarry, or are condemned to the mines. So, instead
of being children of God, as they supposed, and infallible heirs of the kingdom,
they were, in the sight of God, in the condition of the most abject slaves.
are miserable, most deplorable and to be pitied by all men.
are poor, having no spiritual riches, no holiness of heart.
are blind, the eyes of their understanding have become darkened so that they
cannot see their real spiritual condition.
are naked. Clarke says they are “without the image of God, not clothed with
holiness and purity. A more deplorable state in spiritual things can scarcely be
imagined than that of this Church”.
adds a comment that is true, not just in the time he lived, but maybe even more
in our time, “It is the true picture of many Churches, and of innumerable
is a horrible thing for churches to be in this condition, but it is worse for an
individual. Christ offers you a full salvation and a life of the greatest
spiritual prosperity. Jesus requires only two things: First, repent, give up you
sins, and second, let the Holy Spirit guide you in all things.
many follow their own will and call it the will of God; how many follow the
leading of their feelings and call it the leadership of the Holy Spirit? How
many are absorbed in self-love and call it consecration to the will of God?
has some counsel for you. I trust that you are not so self-absorbed that you
cannot hear what He says.
buy from Christ gold that has been refined in the fire.
3:2–3, “He is like a refiner's fire and like launderer's soap. He will sit
as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi, and
purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the LORD An offering in
righteousness.” This refining is the cleansing from sin through the indwelling
presence of the Holy Spirit. It is absolutely necessary to be what God intends
for saved people to be. Their lives must be clean from sin. It is only from a
pure heart that we can properly live for God and serve Him.
1:22, 25 (NLT), “Once like pure silver, you have become like worthless slag.
Once so pure, you are now like watered-down wine. . . . I will raise my fist
against you. I will melt you down and skim off your slag. I will remove all your
impurities.” This describes Laodiceans: worthless slag. They are of no use to
God. In fact, in order for His church to effectively do the work of the kingdom,
God must remove the slag, all the impurities. Do not be one God has to remove!
12:6, “The words of the LORD are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of
earth, Purified seven times.” Here we see the agency of God’s refining: the
Word of God. None of God’s promises can fail; the salvation and holiness God
promises are real and they are yours if you submit to His word.
13:9, “I . . . Will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is
tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, this is
My people; and each one will say, The LORD is my God.” This is God’s
promise. Since this is necessary in salvation, God will see that it is done if
you will but submit and consecrate yourself and your will to Him.
you have been refined, then Christ says to buy white garments.
19:8, “And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and
bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Living Bible
Translation): “She is permitted to wear the cleanest and whitest and finest of
linens. (Fine linen represents the good deeds done by the people of God.)”
Simply stated, the refined life produces works of righteousness. There is no
defilement of sin or self-seeking in the lives of God’s people. They seek and
fulfill God’s will for their lives.
Corinthians 5:3, “having been clothed, we shall not be found naked.” What
more can I say?
been refined and clothed in righteousness, anoint your eyes with eye salve so
that you can see.
1:17–18, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may
give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the
eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope
of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the
been purified and actively living a holy life, one receives God’s wisdom which
he will apply to every circumstance of life he encounters. As you live the
consecrated life, that hope of what God has for you becomes clearer and clearer
so that the issues of the world and self become totally insignificant.
Command to the Laodiceans
command for modern Laodiceans is to be zealous and repent. This definitely means
to have a change of mind but with a real zeal, not just a perfunctory and empty
offer is made out of true, deep divine love: “as many as I love, I rebuke and
chasten”. Christ genuinely cares for His church and He wants everyone that
professes to follow Him to really experience salvation and commitment that
identifies them as His people.
20 has been the topic of countless sermons throughout the church age. “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.” Christ faithfully
follows after the Laodicean professing Christian telling him he must repent. He
stands at the door of their hearts, knocking, trying to get their attention.
However, all too many that fall into this complacency are just too lazy to get
up and answer the door.
is sad to say that the vast majority of Laodiceans nowadays cannot even hear
Christ calling to them.
are content with their perceived spirituality; they have convinced themselves
that they have need of nothing.
they find themselves in a church where Christ is able to knock on the door and
call out to them, they will probably leave and find another church, or tune in
to some television preacher.
is a true gentleman in that He will not barge in; He knocks and He calls their
is up to you to open the door.
are given a splendid promise in verse 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”. This is an entitlement to reign with Christ over sin in this
world and then to share eternity forever with Him in the presence of God. Christ
offers hope to people in all seven of the churches of Asia and the specific
problems they encounter. Adam Clarke offers a hopeful ending to the letters to
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.
do you stand? Can you hear Christ knocking on the door of your heart; can you
hear Him gently calling you to be zealous and repent?