Laodicea: Religion that Nauseates
I. A True Witness– vv. 14-15
- The ‘Amen’
- Amen is originally a Hebrew word that is used to affirm the truth of what is being stated
- The word ‘Amen’ is used as a divine title in Isaiah 65:16 (ie. ‘the God of truth’)
- Underscores the character of God – He is by His very nature unable to lie or deceive (cf. Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18)
- By calling Jesus the ‘Amen’, John is underscoring the deity of Christ
- The ‘Faithful and True Witness’
- John defines for Greek readers what is meant by calling Jesus the ‘Amen’
- This is the second time in Revelation that Jesus has been called the ‘faithful witness’ (cf. 1:5) – everything written here to the Church of Laodicea is true!
- While some Christians are referred to as a ‘faithful witness’ (cf. 2:13), the title here is intended to contrast the true witness of Jesus with the false witness of the Laodicean church.
- ‘The beginning of God’s creation’
- Arians (ie. Jehovah’s Witnesses) have used this phrase to argue that Jesus Himself is a created being who is subordinate to God the Father
- The true intention of the phrase is seen in its parallel passage – Colossians 1:15
- Since Colosse is located near Laodicea, it is almost certain that the Laodiceans were familiar with this earlier letter from the Apostle Paul
- The Phrase is meant to underscore the pre-eminence of Christ, and does not suggest that He Himself is a created or subordinate creature
- In Colossians, the phrase first-born is also linked to the resurrection – Christ was the first man to be resurrected and glorified by the Father, and we too will one day receive new and glorified bodies
II. A True Evaluation – v. 15-17
- Neither Hot nor Cold
- Laodicea was strategically founded at the intersection of three major highways, but the city did not have its own source of water
- Hot water piped in from the hot springs near Hierapolis was lukewarm by the time it travelled the six miles to Laodicea. In addition there were dissolved minerals that gave the water a bad taste
- Cold water piped in from Colosse was no longer cold and refreshing by the time it travelled the 10 miles to Laodicea
- The water supply in Laodicea was almost undrinkable, and this is used by Christ as a metaphor for the quality of their Christian works:
- No healing qualities like the hot water that originated in Hierapolis. The works of a Christian which come about through gospel transformation should exert a healing and restorative influence.
- No refreshment like the cold water that originated in Colosse. The works of a Christian should be a source of spiritual refreshment.
- In Laodicea, the works of the Christians were neither healing nor refreshing. Like the dirty and lukewarm water in the city, their tepid and superficial religion was nauseating to the Lord!
- A False Sense of Security
- “I am rich, I have prospered”
- Because of its strategic location, Laodicea was an affluent city that was filled with wealth. It was a centre for banking, a centre for medical care, and was famous for producing black woolen garments.
- Many of the Christians in this city were materially wealthy in contrast to Christians elsewhere who were immensely poor (ie. Smyrna)
- “I need nothing”
- When destroyed by an earthquake around AD. 60, the citizens of Laodicea were able to rebuild without assistance from the Roman Government
- While self-sufficiency can be commendable in some situations, it is not commendable to be spiritually self-sufficient, and forget that we are unable to save ourselves through our own religious efforts
- “I am rich, I have prospered”
- “Wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked”
- Because of their material and financial prosperity, the Christians in Laodicea felt that they were doing well spiritually.
- Materialism blinded this Church to the real depth of their spiritual need:
- They were seen as being greatly blessed by the Lord, but in reality, they were spiritually wretched
- They were envied by other Christians who struggled financially, but they were to be pitied.
- They had a successfully banking industry, but they were spiritually impoverished
- They produced an eye ointment that was world famous, but they were spiritually blind
- They produced woolen garments that were desired all over the Empire, but they were naked
Application: The situation in ancient Laodicea reflects, in some ways, the immense material and financial prosperity that we also enjoy here in North America. There is a great danger in finding our security in wealth and possessions, instead of finding our security in Jesus Christ and the gospel. Materialism and financial prosperity can easily blind and deceive us today just as it sometimes did in the Early Church. Material prosperity should never be mistaken for spiritual prosperity!
III. A True Solution– v. 18
- “Buy from me”
- Jesus identifies Himself as the source for everything these materialistic Christians really need
- Ironically, the all the things they need to “buy” in order to correct their spiritual destitution are available for free! (cf. Isaiah 55:1-2)
- Gold refined by Fire
- There was no shortage of gold in the banks of Laodicea, but the ‘gold’ that they really needed was only available from Christ – cf. 1 Peter 1:7
- The imagery of refinement/ purity indicates suffering; God often often accomplishes his refining work through adversity and trial
- White Garments
- Far more desirable than the black woolen clothing of Laodicea are the white garments of God’s salvation!
- White garments were promised earlier in the chapter to the spiritual victors (cf. 3:4 – “Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.”
- Salve to Anoint your Eyes
- Laodicea was home to a renowned medical school that produced a famous eye salve that was used to treat various disorders
- No amount of Laodicean salve, however effective in curing physical disorder can cure spiritual blindness
Application: ‘What Money Cannot Buy’:
Money can buy a house, but not a home.
Money can buy a bed, but not sleep.
Money can buy a clock, but not time.
Money can buy a book, but not wisdom.
Money can buy food, but not an appetite.
Money can buy friends but not love.
Money can buy position, but not respect.
Money can buy insurance, but not security.
Money can buy a Bible, but not peace with God.
Money can buy religion, but not salvation.
IV. A True Invitation– vv. 19-20
- Invited to Repent
- Although Christ’s harsh word of rebuke must have been difficult for the wealthy and self-sufficient Laodiceans to receive, this stern letter is actually a sign of God’s love and concern for them – cf. Proverbs 3:11-12
- God’s discipline aims at a response: repentance!
- The ‘zeal’ that God commends here is the opposite of ‘lukewarm’ – godly zeal is pleasing to God and useful for His Kingdom purpose
- Invited to Reform
- Although Revelation 3:20 is commonly used as an evangelistic appeal to the unconverted, in context it is a call for reformation in the Church!
- Christ is not knocking on the ‘door’ of the unconverted sinner’s heart – he is knocking on the door of His lukewarm, self-satisfied, materialistic Church
- The imagery of dining with Christ indicates close and intimate fellowship with the Lord. True Christianity is not just a nominal religion, it is a real and meaningful relationship with the Saviour who gave His life for our salvation!
V. A True Reward – vv. 21-22
- Sharing Christ’s ‘Throne’
- The citizens of Laodicea were sitting on their own earthly ‘thrones’ that were destined to pass away and to be destroyed
- Christ promises something better – an eternal place in His Kingdom, and an inheritance that can never be lost or destroyed
- The Throne room – the mention of Christ’s throne here in the final letter of chapter 3 helps to set the scene for what is yet to come in Revelation 4 as the curtain is drawn back, and we get to peek into the throne room of God Himself!