“Christ’s Message to Laodicea Part 1”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Revelation 3.14-22 Part 1
Revelation 3. One day a dog was wandering around looking for food. He spied a butcher’s shop and went quickly in and stole a nice fat juicy bone from the shelf. Happily munching on the bone, he ran into the forest and he soon came across a bridge. As he crossed the bridge, he looked down into the river and lo and behold what did he see?
He saw another dog exactly like him holding a bone in his mouth. The greedy dog decided that he wanted that bone too. So he growled, hoping that the other dog in the river would drop the bone out of fear. He would then grab the other bone and run away with two bones. But as he gave out a loud snarl to scare off the other dog, the bone fell from his mouth into the river lost forever. The dog in his greed had mistaken his own reflection in the river for another dog carrying a bone. He realized his folly too late and walked away hungry and sad.
How accurately that modification of Aesop’s fable pictures the “church in Laodicea!” Not satisfied with Christ and His promises of eternal life, the church in this wealthy Roman city of Laodicea longed for earthly wealth. And so gradually, the church of Laodicea became wretched, poor, miserable, blind, and naked.
Let us read…
Revelation 3:14–22 14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. 21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. 22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
We have just spent time learning about the very best church of the seven churches, the one in Philadelphia, and now we are going to learn about the very worst of the seven churches in Laodicea. As someone put it, “It is almost like stepping from the top rung of a ladder to the bottom in just one step.”
The Laodicean church is an affluent, self-sufficient, ineffective, church filled with lost people, goats not sheep, hypocrites who only have a claim to godliness. Because they yet have their distasteful sin and shame, Christ desires literally to vomit them.
What Christ is saying to the Laodicean church, with disgust and compassion is this, “You make me sick. But open the door and I will dine with you.”
Prove Church is Primarily Lost >Tie in to Background?
Out of all of Christ letters to the seven churches, the background of this final one to the church at Laodicea seems to be particularly relevant. The Roman city of Laodicea in modern-day Turkey, had three major industries: banking, medicine, and wool.
Their major banking industry is reflected in the verse 17…
Revelation 3:17 17 Because thou sayest, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.”
However, v. 18, Jesus counsels them to buy from him gold, purified the fire.
They were also known for their glossy black wool from the sheep raised in the countryside. This is reflected in verse 18 where Jesus is counseling them to buy from him…
Revelation 3:18 18 …white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear…
Instead of the black wool, receive the white clothing of salvation.
And their medicine industry is reflected at the end of verse 18
Revelation 3:18 18 … anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Their eyesalve was known throughout the region to effectively treat common eye diseases. Jesus is counseling them to anoint their eyes with spiritual eyesalve.
What Jesus is doing is that he is using the major industries of the city as illustrations to prove that they are spiritually bankrupt.
They are entirely lost and apart from Christ! Jesus says that they do not know that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” Those are all words to describe lost people. And the fact that they do not know that they are this way further proves that they are entirely outside of Christ.
What we are going to come to find out is that we ourselves as American Christians, we find ourselves in a similar situation as the Laodicean Christians. Wealth, affluence, money at every turn… And it is so easy for the American church to become like the Laodicean church. And therein lies the danger for our church.
Christ begins as He does every one of these letters, with a description of Himself…
Christ’s Self Description (3:14)
Revelation 3:14 14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
There are three descriptions.
EXP: Christ begins His self description oddly. Look at the first one, He says that He is the “Amen.” The word “Amen” affirms the truthfulness of a statement and signifies that it is fixed and unchangeable. “Let it be!” we say at the conclusion of a prayer, “Amen!” Let it be true!
In relation to the church at Laodicea, Christ is the Amen, and they themselves are the false ones, false counterfeit Christians as we studied last week. Christ is the truth, unchangeable God and all His judgments are right. Christ is completely the opposite of lukewarmness; He is the Amen of God and all of His promises will most certainly come about.
2 Timothy 2:13 13 If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” And the Laodicean church believes not, but Christ remains faithful.
TRANS: Naturally following this is the description that Christ is also the faithful and true witness
Faithful and True Witness
EXP: Jesus is the faithful and true witness. To understand what Jesus means by the word “witness” we need to understand how he uses the words “faithful” and “true” in the rest of the book of Revelation. They occur in…
Revelation 21:5 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
Jesus is the witness that God’s revelation is true. “These words are true and faithful.” He is the witness to God’s revelation. That is similar to…
Revelation 22:6 6 And [Christ] said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Jesus is the faithful and true witness to the revelation of God. He is faithful and true. He doesn’t suppress God’s revelation; He doesn’t change it or twist it, he gives it straight. He is faithful and true.
So Jesus Christ is the Amen of God. He confirms everything that God the Father has promised, every covenant, every promise, every word.
He Himself has witnessed every revelation and confirms its truth. Jesus Christ is the way the truth, and the life!
Regarding the Laodicean church, because He is the Amen of God and is the faithful and true witness, He will, therefore, accurately access their spiritual condition … faithful, accurate, and true!
TRANS: Jesus Christ is the truth, He’s the arbiter of truth, and the key witness to every revelation of truth from God.
Beginning of the Creation of God
The third description that Jesus gives of Himself is that He is “the beginning of the creation of God.”
EXP/ILL: Now, this has caused some confusion, as you can imagine. Jehovah’s False Witnesses teach that since Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God, then He must be also part of that creation, the first creation. They believe that Jesus is actually an angel, Michael.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The word translated “beginning” is the word arche from which we get our word archangel or arch enemy. In that sense then, it not only can mean beginning, but also ruler.
The way it is used here is similar to the way it’s used in other parts of the book of Revelation
Revelation 21:5–7 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, [what did the one on the throne say? In part He said…] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
And in Rev. 22:13 He says…
Revelation 22:13 13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Jesus is not the beginning in the sense that He is the first in a series, as if He were the beginning of the creation, or the first to be created. No, He’s the originator, the beginner of creation. He is one who that Rev. 21:5 says “sits on the throne”… that alone is God Himself. Jesus is God, not an angel, He is the originator, the beginner of creation.
He is the first cause of all the universe; that’s the point.
John 1:3 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
As He said elsewhere in John. John 10:30 30 I and my Father are one.
And so the Jews wanted to stone Him because He made Himself out to be God.
Jesus has the final say in the truth, He is the truth, He only speaks the truth, and through Him all things came into being. …
Hebrews 1:2 2 [God] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
TRANS: The great, the awesome God, through whom the uttermost reaches of the universe have come into being, who is the truth and the witness to every revelation from God, who Himself is the very revelation of God… He it is who now rebukes the Laodicean church.
Revelation 3:15–17 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
Jesus righteously rebukes these He calls lukewarm. Now, we need to look at the passage with fresh eyes.
Lost Hypocrites (15-16)
What is going on in this passage is this…
Statement: Because of their affluence, the Laodicean church fell into a state of self-sufficiency. Subsequently, the church became filled with lost people and so the church lost their spiritual effectiveness. And now Christ is disgusted.
Background to water supply
Now, we have in vv. 15-16 an allusion to the water supply to Laodicea. Colossae was only about 10 miles to the southeast of Laodicea. Colossae was the only source for cool fresh water in the Lycus River Valley. Hierapolis, six miles to the north, had hot springs sought after for its healing properties. They piped in the water from both Colossae (for their cool water) and from Hierapolis (for their hot water)… they piped it in through aqueducts which you can still see today.
So Laodicea did not have a water supply of its own. They piped in the water and when the hot water arrived from Hierapolis it did not cool down all the way, but it arrived lukewarm, making the water undrinkable. Perhaps the mixture of temperature plus the mineral content distorted the flavor to the point that it was unpalatable.
Their Condition: Lost people
Now, how does this describe their spiritual condition?
EXP: First, what it does not mean. What we are tempted to do is spiritually interpret hot and cold to refer to spiritual warmth and spiritual coldness. But to do that is to put our spiritual meaning on the text. We do not want to take our Christianese, our Christian lingo, and put it into Bible verses.
Many Bible interpreters understand “hot” to refer to being on fire for the Lord and “cold” to someone who is unsaved or apathetic. That is not in the passage. That is inserted into the text.
And one way we know that is because Jesus actually desires that they would be cold. That’s what it says at the end of verse 17, “I would thou wert cold or hot.” He wants them to be one or the other, either cold or hot.
Obviously, he doesn’t want somebody to be unsaved or apathetic. And so the background is very important. When the hot water came in through the pipes or the cold water came in through the pipes … If it was hot or if it was cold, that was very useful and pleasant.
But if it is lukewarm, that is very unpleasant and distasteful. Hot water heals and cold water refreshes, but lukewarm water is useless.
And so the church at Laodicea is lukewarm. We already know that they are lost, poor, miserable, blind, and naked… We already understand that they are lost. This furthers our understanding to help us see that because they are lost and because they are churchgoers and profess Christ, they are hypocritical.
And they are hypocritical in the sense that they profess to know Christ but they do not have the reality which they profess.
They might say things like, “Me and Jesus are okay.” They are as Paul says in…
2 Timothy 3:5 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
TRANS: Now, how does Christ respond?
Christ’s response: vomit
Revelation 3:16 16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
EXP: the word spue is literally the word “vomit.”
ILL: This calls to mind when my youngest daughter Pazli would drink unimaginable things. For example, when we were up north, we’d gone to the lake and brought home some tadpoles in lake water. She swallowed that lake water. At one time, she also sucked on a mop.
Yuck, disgusting. It’s not good for her to have these kinds of things in her mouth. That’s the same kind of response Jesus has with this church in Laodicea. It is not good for Christ to have the church in Laodicea!
What does Christ actually mean when he says that he will vomit this church? It’s this: He is personally disgusted with them to the point of judgment.
We should recall the threats that Jesus made it to the other churches…
Revelation 2:5 5 repent or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.
Revelation 2:16 16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.
Revelation 2:22 22 Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds.
Revelation 3:3 3 Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
I believe that we can rightly conclude that Jesus is about to judge the Laodicean church.
TRANS: and that is because of how self sufficient this church has become. Verse 17…
Affluent and Self-sufficient (3:17)
Deceived “Christians”: “I’m rich, in need of nothing!”
Revelation 3:17 17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; …
They have need of nothing. They are self-sufficient. The church is made up of many self-made men. They are wealthy the standpoint of the world, but they are poor from the viewpoint that really matters: Christ’s viewpoint.
And so their riches and all their wealth, their banking industry, the sales of their glossy black wool, and eyesalve … their wealth has deceived them.
They think, “I’m rich, I don’t need Christ.” In their case the Proverb has come true…
Proverbs 30:8–9 8 Remove far from me vanity and lies: Give me neither poverty nor riches; …. 9 Lest I be full, and deny thee, And say, Who is the Lord?
Our response to wealth encourages us to deny the Lord. The Laodicean’s certainly have denied the Lord; they haven’t come to Him with their eternal need!
Their affluence and wealth deceived them. That’s the nature of our hearts toward wealth: deception. We are easily deceived.
Jesus in His parable of the soils says of the seed sown among the thorns…
Mark 4:19 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.
Lost, entirely lost, though they claimed to know Christ.
They thought they had it all, but in reality, have nothing.
1 Timothy 6:10 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
How many church goers are like that?
TRANS: the reality is that they are lost…
Reality is hellbound: Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked
Revelation 3:17 17 …and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
They are lost!
They Are Miserable
1 Corinthians 15:19 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
They have no saving power in their life, perhaps thinking that serving Christ for this life is sufficient.
They are Poor
Proverbs 10:21 21 The lips of the righteous feed many: But fools die for [lack] of wisdom.
They are rich fools with no wisdom; they shall die.
Amos 8:11 11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, That I will send a famine in the land, Not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord:
They are spiritually impoverished, though they are so materially wealthy.
And they do not know they are poor so they aren’t blessed. As Jesus said in…
Matthew 5:3 3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
That is not them, they have need of nothing. And they are blind…
They are Blind
As the man born blind said of Jesus….
John 9:25 25 … one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see.
And Jesus uses that miracle to teach about spiritual sight…
John 9:41 41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
The Laodicean church didn’t know they were blind! So, their sin remained.
ILL: A medical school was located in Laodicea at the temple of Asclepius, which offered a special salve called “Phrygian powder” to heal common eye troubles of the Middle East. What they needed was not this medicine but spiritual eyesalve to regain their sight.
And Jesus also describes them as…
Nakedness is often associated with spiritual shame.
Revelation 16:15 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
Revelation 17:16 16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
ILL: As I mentioned previously, Laodicea was known for black wool produced from the sheep from the countryside. It was highly sought after. Though there were competitors around apparently Laodicea’s wool was the most sought after.
In other words, as one commentator put it, it is possible to wear Armani suits and Dior dresses but to be “naked” in the eyes of God. Instead of the glossy black wool, they needed the pure white clothing that only Christ can provide.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Revelation 3.14-22 Part 1
How did this happen at Laodicea? Affluence, letting a wealthy mindset in the church, allowing the high rollers get the biggest say… spiritual decay and disgust can happen in a number of ways. And in our affluent, American society, we’re in danger too!
The average American earns an income that is 10 times the income received by the typical person in the world. We don’t even know how rich we really are. Studies show that we profoundly underestimate how rich we are compared to the rest of the world.
What would you say is the median individual annual income … Median is… if you put every annual income in a row and pick out the middle income, what would it be? Just answer in your head.
The average U.S. resident estimated that the global … worldwide, that the global median individual income is about $20,000 a year. In fact, the real answer is about a tenth of that figure: roughly $2,100 per year.
Further, if you possess just $4,210 to your name in money and assets, you’re still richer than half of the world’s residents.
A net worth … that’s money+[assets-debt] … a net worth of $93,170 is enough to make you richer than 90 percent of people around the world. You’d be in the top 10%.
APP: We are rich, affluent, wealthy. Now, how should the church respond to the affluent society we live in? Quickly, in rapid fire I have 5…
Response to Affluence
Thank God for providing for us beyond our wildest imaginations.
We need to safeguard the truth against the deceitfulness of riches. We need to encourage each other not to be preoccupied with wealth.
We need to be sure that more money doesn’t mean greater voting power in the church. That can lead to lost people gaining control in a church.
So we need to make sure we have a regenerated church membership. And so you need to understand what a Christian testimony sounds like.
We also need to be sure that we separate from worldliness. Don’t rise and fall with the culture; don’t be a thermometer church. The church needs to set the temperature. We need to be a thermostat church.
ANS: v. 18!!! Lift it up Isa. 55:1!!
But a church that is in the midst of the throes of the deceit of wealth needs Jesus’ counsel from…
Revelation 3:18 18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
Or as Isaiah puts it…
Isaiah 55:1 1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, And he that hath no money; Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Come to Christ for salvation, you who say you serve Christ but love the world and its wealth and pleasures. “Come ye, buy, and eat; Yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” If you come to Him in this way, you will be eternally rich indeed.
Michael P. Green, ed., Illustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively, Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989). ↑