Message to Laodicea

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. ‘Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; 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 will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down 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)

Laodicea sits on a long spur of a hill between narrow valleys. In the valleys the small rivers of the Asopus and Caprus flow to the waters of the Lycus. The town was originally named Diospolis, “City of Zeus” and then renamed Rhodas and then Laodicea. The name of Laodicea was in association to Antiochus II Theos in 261-253 BC in honor of his wife Laodice. Laodicea is about eleven miles west of Colossae and ninety nine miles east of Ephesus and sets on a major road.

In the beginning Laodicea was not a town of great importance but soon became prosperous in 220 BC while Achaeus was its king. in 188 BC the city passed to the kingdom of Pergamum. In 133 BC. Laodicea came under Roman rule in 133 BC. Towards the end of the Roan Republic Laodicea became one of the most important and flourishing cities of Asia Minor.

Laodicea received from Rome the title of free city and became the chief city of a Roman conventus, which was made up of twenty-four cities besides itself. Antiochus the Great transported 2,000 Jewish families to Phrygia from Babylonia. As a result many of the cities citizens were Jewish.

It was fortified by the emperor Manuel I Comnenus. In 1206–1230, it was ruled by Manuel Maurozomes. The city was destroyed during the invasions of the Turks and Mongols. (Wikipedia)

In Jesus’ introduction to the Church we read this, “The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” These titles that Jesus used were taken from Chapter 1. Jesus is the faithful and true witness to the Father in heaven and Jesus did only what the Father willed no matter what the consequences might have been. “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:29) Jesus as the faithful witness to the Father was a sharp contrast to the Laodiceans who were witnesses to their own works and not the Spirit through them.

Laodicea had the same problem as the Church of Sardis, they were complacent. They were satisfied with their own selves and spiritually arrogant. The Church at Laodicea was the only Church that Jesus did not give commendation to. The Church was a rich had no need of anything from Jesus. Many of the members may have been wealthy but the wealth they claimed for themselves was their spiritual pride. This is a Church that was filled with spiritual pride and complacency.

The members of this Church needed to buy the true riches in their life in which they felt that they were not lacking. Jesus explained their need in metaphorical terms as gold refined by fire. Jesus Himself is the refiner of the human soul, which He purifies as the refiner does gold. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.” (Malachi 3:3).Because of their self-sufficiency they needed to refine their faith that it would become a genuine faith. “So that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7)

Laodicea also needed cloths to cover their spiritual nakedness. White garments represent righteousness throughout the Book of Revelation. (Revelation 3:4, 5; Revelation 4:4; Revelation 6:11; Revelation 7:9, 13-14; Revelation 19:14) We also see white garments as the proper dress for special festivities. The Church is unable to acquire the white garments of righteousness by its own efforts. Only the righteousness of Jesus Christ can provide the garments.

These white garments of righteousness are given to the saints of Christ. “It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” (Revelation 19:8) The linen is made white by the justifying blood of the Lamb of God. “I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) The Church that does not have the white garments to wear is spiritually naked. Nakedness is a sign of spiritual shame and worthlessness. “For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked.” (2 Corinthians 5:3)

The Church of Laodicea was also spiritually bind. Its members in their arrogance thought that they could see, they thought they were rich and without any needs. Jesus told them they needed to apply a spiritual eye-save in order to see how far they had fallen. They needed to gain a diligence towards seeing the truth of their nakedness and repent.

The spiritual works of the Church were described as neither hot nor cold. This may have been a metaphor taken from their water supply that was available to Laodicea and Hierapolis and Colossae. At Hierapolis was the site of hot spa like waters and it was used for medical purposes. Colossae which was also nearby was known for its cold pure drinking water. Unfortunately Laodicea had an undrinkable water supply. As the water supply to the Church in Laodicea from the hot spring at Hierapolis was lukewarm from the distance of travel, it was useless for drinking because of the high mineral content made for bad taste. The water was neither hot for medical purposes nor cold for drinking and Jesus compared the faith of the Church in their service to the Lord and Jesus is about to spit it from His mouth.

The Church was not walking in the Spirit and therefore did not have the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The metaphor of the water is not so much that the Church was half-hearted but hat their works were barren of God’s power. The Church was not a reflection of Christ but of human ways and aspirations. The Church was far from the living water that comes only from Jesus. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)

Jesus closes with a promise to the Church of Laodicea with the use of another metaphor. Here we see Jesus standing at the door and knocking to enter into the hearts and minds of the Laodiceans. This is not a unique metaphor as Jesus used the door in the urgent context of their need to stay spiritually alert. “Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.” (Mark 13:29) James used Jesus as the judge standing at the door. “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.” (James 5:9) And Jesus spoke of His disciples as waiting for the master to open the door for him. “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:36)

This is a promise to the Church at Laodicea that Jesus is waiting at the door hoping that they will open it to His corrections and change their ways. If they do, then He will come in and share a meal with them. A meal of fellowship is an important symbol of being together with Jesus. “Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:9)

The final promise is a place on Christ’s throne. The throne is the symbol of Christ’s ruling authority. If the members of the Church of Laodicea would repent and seek the power of Jesus’ presence and counsel, then they could eat and drink at His table in the Kingdom of Heaven and sit on thrones of Judgement. “That you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Luke 22:30)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 21, 2016

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