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08
Yuck: The Lukewarm Church. Revelation 3:14-22
April 8, 2018

George Barna makes a living through surveys. What makes him unique is that his surveys are on exclusively Christian topics. Although he does poll populations at large, he also does polling on those who profess to be Christian. For millennia, there have been standard benchmarks of orthodoxy. Yet, as George Barna has discovered, many in western culture have no problem identifying as Christians yet reject almost all the biblical markers that define what a Christian is.

 

Sadly, there are many people in churches, even entire congregations, who are lost. They may be sincere, zealous, and outwardly religious, but they reject the gospel truth. They have all the rich New Covenant teaching about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection contained in Bibles they neither believe nor obey. Paul described them as those “holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power,” and then wisely counseled believers to “avoid such people as these” (2 Tim. 3:5).

 

The church at Laodicea represents such apostate churches as have existed throughout history. It is the last and worst of the seven churches addressed by our Lord. (7 Churches slide)The downward spiral that began at Ephesus, and continued through Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis, reached the bottom at Laodicea. Even at Sardis there were some true believers left; as far as can be determined, the church at Laodicea was a totally unregenerate, false church. It has the grim distinction of being the only one of the seven for whom Christ has no positive word of commendation. Due to the drastic nature of the situation at Laodicea, this is also the most threatening of the seven letters. The state of the church in Laodicea was one of self-satisfaction and complacency. (Gregg, S. (1997). Revelation, four views: a parallel commentary (p. 78). Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers.)

 

Christ delivers a message to those who are Christian in name only. Being neither zealous for good works nor orthodox in their doctrine, they are lukewarm and sickening to Christ. Presenting these characteristics with the Church in Laodicea, we see Christ’s rejection to lukewarm professed Christianity. He presents this condemnation through 1) The Church, City & Correspondent (Revelation 3:14), 2) The Concern (Revelation 3:15–17), 3) The Command, & the Counsel (Revelation 3:18–22).

 

Christ presents a condemnation to lukewarm professed Christianity through:

1) The Church, City & Correspondent (Revelation 3:14)

Revelation 3:1414 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. (ESV)

 

Like the previous 6 letters, Jesus directs His message to the angel, or messenger to the Church in Laodicea. The New Testament does not record anything about the founding of the Church at Laodicea. Like most of the other six churches, it was likely established during Paul’s ministry at Ephesus (Acts 19:10). Paul did not found it, since when he wrote Colossians some years later he still had not visited Laodicea (Col. 2:1). Since Paul’s coworker Epaphras founded the church in nearby Colossae (Col. 1:6–7), he may well have founded the Laodicean church as well. Some have suggested that Archippus, Philemon’s son (Philem. 2), was its pastor (cf. Col. 4:17), since the fourth-century Apostolic Constitutions names Archippus as the bishop of Laodicea (vii, 46).

 

(City Slide): The City of Laodicea (modern Eski-hisar, “the old fortress”) was one of a triad of cities (with Colossae and Hierapolis) in the Lycus valley, about one hundred miles east of Ephesus, Laodicea was the southeasternmost of the seven cities, about forty miles from Philadelphia. Its sister cities were Colossae, about ten miles to the east, and Hierapolis, about six miles to the north. (Mountain slide) Located on a plateau several hundred feet high, Laodicea was geographically nearly impregnable (Aqueduct slide) but it had no water supply. They had to pipe in water from Denizli, six miles south, via an aqueduct that left the city vulnerable to weather and enemies. The aqueducts that could easily be blocked or diverted by besieging forces. Shown here are the remains of water pipes excavated at ancient Laodicea. With the coming of the Pax Romana (peace under Rome’s rule), Laodicea prospered. It was strategically located at the junction of two important roads: the east-west road leading from Ephesus into the interior, and the north-south road from Pergamum to the Mediterranean Sea. That location made it an important commercial city. That the first-century b.c. Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero cashed his letters of credit there reveals Laodicea to have been a strategic banking center. So wealthy did Laodicea become that it paid for its own reconstruction after a devastating earthquake in a. d. 60, rejecting offers of financial aid from Rome. The city was also famous for the soft, black wool it produced. The wool was made into clothes and woven into carpets, both much sought after. (Medical coin)Laodicea was also an important center of ancient medicine. The nearby temple of the Phrygian god Men Karou had an important medical school associated with it. That school was most famous for an eye salve that it had developed, which was exported all over the Greco-Roman world. As a sign that medicine was practiced in the city, two Asclepius Vipers were depicted. They are connected to the god Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. All three industries, finance, wool, and the production of eye salve, come into play in this letter to the Laodicean church. (Main Street Slide) Shown here is the main street of the city which was flanked on both sides by columns. Only a few of these have been restored (Duvall, J. S. (2014). Revelation. (M. L. Strauss & J. H. Walton, Eds.) (p. 78). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.).

 

As in the letter to the church at Philadelphia, Christ did not identify Himself using any of the phrases from the vision recorded in Rev. 1:12–17. Instead, as the Correspondent to the Church, He identified Himself using three divine titles. First, the Lord Jesus Christ described Himself as the Amen. That unique title, used only here in Scripture to describe Christ, is reminiscent of Isaiah 65:16, where God is twice called the “God of truth [Heb. amen].” Amen is a transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning “truth,” “affirmation,” or “certainty.” It refers to that which is firm, fixed, and unchangeable. Amen is often used in Scripture to affirm the truthfulness of a statement (e.g., Num. 5:22; Neh. 8:6; Matt. 6:13; Rom. 16:27; 1 Cor. 16:24; and also Matt. 5:18; 6:2; Mark 9:1; Luke 4:24; John 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11; 5:19; where the underlying Greek amen is rendered “verily” in the kjv and “truly” in the nasb). Whatever God says is true and certain; therefore, He is the God of truth.

 

Christ is certainly the Amen in the sense that He is the God of truth incarnate. But there is more in this rich title than just an affirmation of His deity. In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul writes concerning Jesus Christ, “For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.” It is through the person and work of Christ that all God’s promises and covenants are fulfilled and guaranteed. All the Old Testament promises of forgiveness, mercy, lovingkindness, grace, hope, and eternal life are bound up in Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. He is the Amen because He is the One who confirmed all of God’s promises.

 

Christ also identified Himself as the faithful and true Witness. That title further elucidates the thought expressed in the first title. Not only is Jesus the Amen because of His work, but also because everything He speaks is the truth. He is completely trustworthy, perfectly accurate, and His testimony is always reliable. Jesus Christ isthe way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6;). This was an appropriate way to begin the letter to the Laodiceans because it affirmed to them that Christ had accurately assessed their unredeemed condition. It also affirmed that His offer of fellowship and salvation in verse 20 was true, because God’s promises were confirmed through His work. These terms are in deliberate contrast with the lukewarm Laodiceans, who were neither faithful nor true to Christ and whose witness was virtually nonexistent (Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (p. 204). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

 

Finally, Christ referred to Himself as the Beginning of God’s creation. The English translation is somewhat ambiguous and misleading. As a result, false teachers seeking to deny Christ’s deity have attempted to use this verse to prove He is a created being. There is no ambiguity in the Greek text, however. Archē (Beginning) does not mean that Christ was the first person God created, but rather that Christ Himself is the source or origin of creation (cf. Rev. 22:13). Through His power everything was created (John 1:3; Heb. 1:2). The Arian meaning,the first thing created,” is at variance with the Colossian passage that declares that “by him and for him” all things were created (Col 1:16). This self-designation is the most explicit allusion in the Apocalypse to the preexistence of Christ (Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 109). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.).

 

Please turn to Colossians 1 (p.983)

 

This letter to the Laodiceans has much in common with Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Colossae was not far from Laodicea, so it is likely that the same heresy plaguing the Colossians had made its way to Laodicea (cf. Col. 4:16). That heresy, a form of incipient gnosticism (from the Greek word gnōsis, “knowledge”), taught that Christ was a created being, one of a series of emanations from God. Its proponents also claimed that they possessed a secret, higher spiritual knowledge above and beyond the simple words of Scripture.

 

Combating that heresy Paul wrote of Christ:

Colossians 1:15-19 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authoritiesall things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, (ESV)

  • Firstborn” (prōtotokos) is not limited to the first one born chronologically, but refers to the supreme or preeminent one, the one receiving the highest honor (cf. Ps. 89:27). Christ is thus the source (archē) of the creation, and the supreme person (prōtotokos) in it.

 

Quote: The damning heresy about the person of Christ was the reason the Laodicean church was spiritually dead. Their heretical Christology had produced an unregenerate church. False teaching about Christ, specifically the denial of His deity, is a hallmark of modern cults as well. This is the church in Laodicea. This is the church that Stanley High spoke of when he said: “The church has failed to tell me that I am a sinner. The church has failed to deal with me as a lost individual. The church has failed to offer me salvation in Jesus Christ alone. The church has failed to tell me of the horrible consequences of sin, the certainty of hell, and the fact that Jesus Christ alone can save. We need more of the last judgment and less of the Golden Rule, more of the living God and the living devil as well, more of a heaven to gain and a hell to shun. The church must bring me not a message of cultivation but of rebirth. I might fail that kind of church, but that kind of church will not fail me.” We are living in the Laodicean period today, and the church is failing to witness to the saving grace of God. (McGee, J. V. (1991). Thru the Bible Commentary: The Prophecy (Revelation 1-5) (electronic ed., Vol. 58, pp. 117–118). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)

 

Christ presents a condemnation to lukewarm professed Christianity through:

2) The Concern (Revelation 3:15–17)

Revelation 3:15–17 15 “ ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (ESV)

 

Since there was nothing for which to commend this unregenerate church, Christ launched directly into His concerns. Works/Deeds always reveal people’s true spiritual state, as indicated by the Lord’s words “you will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16; cf. Rom. 2:6–8). Though salvation is wholly by God’s grace through faith alone, works/deeds confirm or deny the presence of genuine salvation (James 2:14ff.). The omniscient Lord Jesus Christ knew the Laodiceans’ works/deeds and that they indicated an unregenerate church.

 

Christ rebuked them for being neither cold nor hot but lukewarm. His metaphorical language is drawn from Laodicea’s water supply. Because it traveled several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city, the water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid. It was not hot enough to relax and restore, like the hot springs at Hierapolis. Nor was it cold and refreshing, like the stream water at Colossae. Laodicea’s lukewarm water was in a useless condition.

 

Comparing its spiritual state to the city’s foul, tepid water, Christ gave the Laodicean church a powerful, shocking rebuke in verse 16: because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. His dealings towards them will depend on theirs towards Him.( Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 562). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.)

 

Some churches make the Lord weep, others make Him angry; the Laodicean church made Him sick. The contrast is between the hot medicinal waters of Hierapolis and the cold, pure waters of Colossae. Thus the church in Laodicea “was providing neither refreshment for the spiritually weary, nor healing for the spiritually sick. It was totally ineffective, and thus distasteful to its Lord.” The church is not being called to task for its spiritual temperature but for the barrenness of its works (which evidence its spiritual state) (Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 109–110). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

Please turn to 2 Timothy 3 (p.996)

           

The lukewarm fit into neither category. They are not genuinely saved, yet they do not openly reject the gospel. They attend church and claim to know the Lord. Like the Pharisees, they are content to practice a self-righteous religion; they are hypocrites playing games. Paul warned Timothy of these people. The outlined their methodology, how to detect themand what to do about them:

2 Timothy 3:1-9  But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.

  • These false teaches have the external appearance of godliness, they do not have its real essence. Notice one fruit of their teaching in what passes for their bible studies in v. 7:always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth”. You often will have a general allusion to scripture with the bulk of the time where people share whatever they think the text means without coming to “a knowledge of the truth”.  Off topic, even contradictory theological ideas will be affirmed. The measure of success is in affirming of individual preferences, over being held to account to the transcendent truth of scripture.

 

The Laodiceans’ lukewarmness was compounded by their self-deception. Christ rebuked them for their disastrously inaccurate self-assessment in verse 17: For/Because you say, “I am rich, I have prospered/become wealthy, and I need nothing,” Perhaps the saying was proverbial among the rich. But here the words come from the mouths of the Christians in Laodicea, who had adapted themselves completely to the citizenry. Thus, instead of the church influencing society, the reverse had taken place, with society leading the church.( Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Book of Revelation (Vol. 20, p. 171). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)

 

With this unholy compromise, Christ says to them that they are: “not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable/miserable,  poor, blind and naked”. Their deeds gave the lie to their empty words.Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven,” declared Jesus, “but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matt. 7:21). Like the rich young ruler (Matt. 19:16–22), they were deceived about their actual spiritual condition. The Laodiceans were immensely financially wealthy, and this led to self-sufficiency and complacency, a deadly combination for the Christian. The problem, however, was not wealth per se but the smug self-satisfaction it engendered… In a.d. 60 a devastating earthquake leveled their city, but they rebuilt it without help from Rome. Moreover, the buildings that resulted from the reconstruction were remarkable: a gymnasium, a stadium with a semicircular track nine hundred feet long, a triple gate and towers, and several beautiful buildings. In other words, the town was perhaps even more beautiful after the reconstruction. The church was like the city, believing that its material wealth connoted spiritual wealth. They were rich in spiritual pride but bankrupt in saving grace. Believing they were to be envied, they were in fact pitiable/miserable. Their incipient gnosticism, led them to believe they had attained an exalted level of knowledge. They no doubt looked down on the unsophisticated people who fully accepted and were satisfied with the biblical teaching on the person and work of Jesus Christ. But the reality was, as Jesus pointed out, that they were spiritually wretched, pitiable/miserable,  poor, blind and naked. The problem was, the city had no perceived need for help from Rome, and the church had no perceived need for help from God. (Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (pp. 206–207). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

 

Quote: The “lukewarm” religious pose a serious challenge to reach with the gospel. These smug, self-righteous hypocrites are far more difficult to reach with the gospel than cold-hearted rejecters. The latter may be shown that at least they are lost. But those who self-righteously think that they are saved are often protective of their religious feelings and unwilling to recognize their real condition. They are not cold enough to feel the bitter sting of their sin. Consequently, there is no one further from the truth than the one who makes an idle profession but never experiences genuine saving faith. No one is harder to reach for Christ than a false Christian. Jesus’ paralleling critique of the self-righteous, self-deceived Pharisees and Sadducees was that “the tax collectors and prostitutes [would] get into the kingdom of God before [them]” (Matt. 21:31). Unfortunately, such lukewarm churches are common today, making the letter to the Laodiceans especially relevant. As John R. W. Stott notes: “Perhaps none of the seven letters is more appropriate to the twentieth-century church than this. It describes vividly the respectable, sentimental, nominal, skin-deep religiosity which is so widespread among us today. Our Christianity is flabby and anaemic. We appear to have taken a lukewarm bath of religion”. (John R.W. Stott: What Christ Thinks of the Church [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980], 116)

 

Finally, Christ presents a condemnation to lukewarm professed Christianity through:

3) The Command & Counsel (Revelation 3:18–22)

Revelation 3:18–22 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ ” (ESV)

 

The Lord Jesus Christ could have instantly judged and destroyed this church filled with unredeemed hypocrites. Instead, He graciously offered them genuine salvation. Christ’s threefold appeal played on the three features the city of Laodicea was most noted for and proud of: its wealth, wool industry, and production of eye salve. Christ offered them spiritual gold, spiritual clothes, and spiritual sight.

Please turn to Isaiah 55 (p.615)

 

The Lord, of course, did not teach that salvation may be earned by good works; lost sinners have nothing with which to buy salvation (Isa. 64:5–6). The buying here is the same as that of the invitation to salvation in Isaiah 55:

Isaiah 55:1-7 Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.           Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. (ESV)

  • All sinners have to offer is their wretched, lost condition. In exchange for that, Christ offers His righteousness to those who truly repent. God’s offer of food is fulfilled in Christ, who is the food and drink of eternal life (John 6:52–58) The cost of enjoying God’s feast of covenant love (vv. 1–3) is forsaking oneself, but the gain is abundant pardon (Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1341). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.).

 

Christ advised the Laodiceans to buy from Him three things, all of which symbolize true redemption. First, they needed to purchase gold refined by fire so that they might become rich. They needed gold that was free of impurities, representing the priceless riches of true salvation. Peter wrote of a “faithmore precious than gold” (1 Pet. 1:7), while Paul defined saving faith as “rich in good works,” having the “treasure of a good foundation for the future” (1 Tim. 6:18–19). Christ offered the Laodiceans a pure, true salvation that would bring them into a real relationship with Him.

 

Second, Christ advised them to buy white garments so that they might clothe themselves, and the shame of their nakedness would not be seen/revealed. They were clothed in the finest earthly garb but were actually “revealed” or “exposed” as naked before God. Laodicea’s famed black wool symbolized the filthy, sinful garments with which the unregenerate are clothed (Isa. 64:6; Zech. 3:3–4).Here there is undoubtedly a reference to the Jewish (contra the Greek) view that nakedness was αἰσχύνη (aischynē, shameful). Also, in the OT nakedness is a symbol of judgment (Isa. 20:1–4; Ezek. 16:36; 23:10), and “shamemeans to be disgraced and liable to judgment. When God brings a person to shame in both OT and NT, judgment is the result… By contrast, to receive fine new clothing indicated honor, as with Joseph in Gen. 41:42 or Mordecai in Esth. 6:6–11 (Mounce 1998: 110). Throughout Revelation, “white” garments symbolize righteousness (3:4, 5; 6:11; 7:9; 19:14), being washed in the blood of the Lamb (7:13–14), and glory in God’s final kingdom (4:4; 19:14). This is obviously a call for repentance, for realizing the shame of their true spiritual nakedness and purchasing (at no cost!) the gift (Isa. 55:1) of righteousness in Christ (Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (pp. 209–210). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.).

 

Finally, Christ offered them salve to anoint their eyes so that they might see. Though they prided themselves on their allegedly superior spiritual knowledge, the Laodiceans were in fact spiritually stone blind. Blindness represents lack of understanding and knowledge of spiritual truth (cf. Matt. 15:14; 23:16–17, 19, 24, 26; Luke 6:39; John 9:40–41; 12:40; Rom. 2:19; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 2:11). Like all unregenerate people, the Laodiceans desperately needed Christ to “open their eyes so that they [might] turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in [Him]” (Acts 26:18; cf. 1 Pet. 2:9). As before, the meaning is that they must “see” their spiritual blindness, repent, and receive spiritual healing from Christ, who alone is the source of the healing. (Osborne, G. R. (2002). Revelation (p. 210). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.)

 

Based on what we can see from verses 18 and 20, Christ’s, direct appeal to the Laodiceans in verse 19,  as “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline” refer to their state as unregenerate, desperately in need of the gold of true spiritual riches, the garments of true righteousness, and the eye salve that brings true spiritual understanding (v. 18). Christ has a unique and special love for His elect. Yet, such passages as Mark 10:21 and John 3:16 reveal that He also general love for the unredeemed. Because the Laodiceans outwardly identified with Christ’s church and His kingdom, they were in the sphere of His concern. To reprove means to expose and convict. It is a general term for God’s dealings with sinners (cf. John 3:18–20; 16:8; 1 Cor. 14:24; Titus 1:9; Jude 15). Discipline refers to punishment (cf. Luke 23:16, 22) and is used of God’s convicting of unbelievers (2 Tim. 2:25). The Lord compassionately, tenderly called those in this unregenerate church to come to saving faith, lest He convict and judge them (cf. Ezek. 18:30–32; 33:11). The reason for the reproof and discipline was His love. If not for this, He would have forsaken her. The congregation as a whole will not heed these words, but individuals will (so the singular Gk verbs). His Grace is still open to individuals (Hindson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2667). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)

 

But in order for the Laodiceans to be saved, they would have to be zealous and repent. The word zealous means to be “boiling hot” (Greek, zeleuo). So Jesus wants his people to respond to his gifts by eagerly pursuing the gospel agenda of his kingdom.

  • What will that look like for you? Will it call you to a more devoted ministry of prayer? Will it call you to step out as a witness to others? Will it energize works of service in the church or call you to the mission field? Our gifts and callings will be different, but Jesus wants each of us, in our own way, to be red-hot for his saving work (Phillips, R. D. (2017). Revelation. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (p. 158). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.).

 

This is the basis of an exhortation to a continuing state of zeal (be earnest, zēleue, is present continuous) and a decisive act of repentance (repent is aorist of once-for-all repentance).( Morris, L. (1987). Revelation: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 20, p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.) While our whole lives should be one continuous repentance, and while the one who once truly repents will renew their repentance in the case of every future sin, (one who has truly repented will have a) decisive repentance which will once for all end all lukewarmness ….( Lenski, R. C. H. (1935). The interpretation of St. John’s Revelation (p. 161). Columbus, OH: Lutheran Book Concern.)

  • How then can you have large so-called churches that are unregenerate? Because you don’t hear of these things. Contrary to the plain teaching of scripture, the leaders of these churches tell people that they are basically good (Joel Osteen) that God loves them unconditionally (Armenian theology) and that there is no wrath or Hell (liberal theology).

 

The Lord Jesus Christ followed the call to repentance in verse 19 with a tender, gracious invitation in verse 20. The apostate Laodicean church could only have expected Christ to come in judgment. But the startling reality, introduced by the arresting word behold, was that Christ stood at the door of the Laodicean church and knocked; This is a PERFECT ACTIVE INDICATIVE,I stand and continue to stand at the door” followed by a PRESENT ACTIVE INDICATIVE “and continue to knock.”…The metaphor of “a doorwas used in the Gospels (cf. Mark 13:28–29; Luke 12:36) as a way of referring to the nearness of Christ’s coming.( Utley, R. J. (2001). Hope in Hard Times - The Final Curtain: Revelation (Vol. Volume 12, p. 46). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.)

 

If anyone in the church would hear His voice and open the door, they would come in to him and eat/dine with him, and he with Christ. Though this verse has been used in countless tracts and evangelistic messages to depict Christ’s knocking on the door of the sinner’s heart, it is broader than that. The door on which Christ is knocking is not the door to a single human heart, but to the Laodicean church. Christ was outside this apostate church and wanted to come insomething that could only happen if the people repented. In their blind self-sufficiency they had, as it were, excommunicated the risen Lord from their congregation. In an act of unbelievable condescension he requests permission to enter and reestablish fellowship.( Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (p. 113). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

The invitation is, first of all, a personal one, since salvation is individual. But He is knocking on the door of the church, calling the many to saving faith, so that He may enter the church. If one person (anyone) opened the door by repentance and faith, Christ would enter that church through that individual. The picture of Christ outside the Laodicean church seeking entrance strongly implies that, unlike Sardis, there were no believers there at all.

 

Christ’s offer to eat/dine with the repentant church speaks of fellowship, communion, and intimacy. Sharing a meal in ancient times symbolized the union of people in loving fellowship. Believers will eat/dine with Christ at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev. 19:9), in the consummation of His kingdom (Luke 22:16, 29–30). Eat/Dine is from deipneō, which refers to the evening meal, the last meal of the day (cf. Luke 17:8; 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25, where the underlying Greek is rendered “sup,” “supper,” and “supped,” respectively). The Lord Jesus Christ urged them to repent and have fellowship with Him before the night of judgment fell and it was too late forever.

 

The wonderful promise of Counsel in verse 21 to the one who conquers/overcomes (all believers; 2:7, 11, 26; 3:5, 12; 1 John 5:5) is that Christ will grant to him to sit down with Him on His throne, as He also conquered/overcame and sat down with the Father on His throne. To enjoy fellowship with Christ in the kingdom and throughout eternity is sufficient blessing beyond all comprehension. But Christ offers more, promising to seat believers on the throne He shares with the Father (cf. Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:29–30). That symbolizes the truth that we will reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; 20:6; cf. 1 Cor. 6:3).

 

As did the other six letters, the letter to the Laodiceans closes in verse 22 with Christ’s exhortation, He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The message to the apostate church is obvious: repent, and open up to Christ before the night of judgment falls. The implication for true believers is that, like Christ, we must compassionately call those in the apostate church to repent and receive salvation in Jesus Christ (cf. Jude 23). The messages to the seven historic churches in Asia are at the same time a composite word to the church universal throughout time. It is a “comprehensive warning” in which the dangers of losing our first love (Ephesus), fear of suffering (Smyrna), doctrinal compromise (Pergamum), moral compromise (Thyatira), spiritual deadness (Sardis), failure to hold on (Philadelphia), and lukewarmness (Laodicea) are brought home with amazing relevance for the contemporary church.( Mounce, R. H. (1997). The Book of Revelation (pp. 114–115). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

 

(Format note: Outline & some base commentary from MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (pp. 130–141). Chicago: Moody Press.)

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