INTRODUCTION:  The book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John in 95 AD, on the Island of Patmos, a bare rocky Greek island in the Aegean Sea, located off the western coast of Turkey.   

All the seven churches addressed in Revelation 2-3 were all located in Asia Minor, Modern day Turkey.  The Apostle was banished to the Island because of his Christian faith. There the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision and dictated to him the seven letters to the seven churches.  These were not John’s letters but Christ’s letters to His churches. 

The Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, which he purchased by His precious blood walks in and among His churches (Rev. 2:1).  He knows their works, love, faith, labour, troubles, heart etc.  These letters to the seven churches are just as relevant to each individual Christian, each local assembly, and all church ages, since the Lord Himself says repeatedly: “He who has an   ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”  And  “To him who overcomes.”  May all followers of Christ and all local assemblies heed His word, more so, as His coming is at the very door.

The Lukewarm Church – Rev. 3:7 – 13.

Laodicea at the time the letter was written.

Laodicea was located about 40 miles south east of Philadelphia, in the Lycus River valley in modern day Turkey.  It was named Laodicea by the Greek ruler Antiochus II around 260 BC in honor of his wife Laodice.  Laodicea means: People’s Rights.     

Situated at the crossroads of two major trade routes, Laodicea was one of the most important and wealthy city in Asia Minor. 

Laodicea had three chief industries:    

The city was known for the unique, glossy wool that was produced by a particular breed of black-wooled sheep abundant in the area. The wool was used to produce different garments and carpets that were exported far and near.

The city was also famous for its medical school which specialized in ear ointment and eye salve – a special ointment known as the ‘Phrygian powder’ or “collyrium,” used to cure eye diseases.

It was also a major banking center for Asia Minor. Roman officials and people of repute transacted their banking businesses in Laodicea.  Even Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 B.C), the famous Roman statesman, philosopher, scholar and orator banked in the city of Laodicea.

The city was so wealthy that in AD 60, when the city and several other cities in the region were destroyed by an earthquake, the other cities of the region had to beg for assistance from Rome, but the people of Laodicea refused any help offered by the Roman Empire and rebuilt the city themselves with their own resources.  Referring to this, the Roman historian and politician Publius CorneliusTacitus (AD 56 -120), writes: “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources and with no help from us.”

This wealthy city, however, was also famous for one other thing – it had no water supply of its own.  Its local streams and rivers were undrinkable because they were always dirty and muddy and most of them dried up in summer. 

 The city’s water was transported from springs that were some miles away through aqueducts – huge stone pipes. Laodicea was situated between the two cities of Hierapolis and Colossae which were mentioned in Apostle Paul’s letters (Colossians 1:2; 2:1; 4:13-16). These two cities had access to good water and they were the closest.

Hierapolis which was six miles to the north – had hot thermal springs, which people used for healing and medicinal purposes.  Colossae which was 10 miles to the east had cold, pure springs which were very refreshing for drinking.  But by the time these waters reached Laodicea after several miles traveling in stone pipes, they had become tepid or lukewarm and were filled with various sediments. This made the water undesirable.

Laodicea like the other six cities in John’s letters was a pagan city and a center for the worship of the Roman Emperors.  The chief deities were Asclepius, Zeus and Apollo.

Laodicea was a beautiful city, where very wealthy and notable people lived.  It had two theatres, beautiful monuments, stadium, gymnasium baths, temples, senate house etc.  Till date the city’s theaters are well preserved. 

 “And 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: – vs. 14.

Jesus introduces Himself to this church as: the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of creation.

Amen is another name or title of Jesus. In Hebrew it means “so be it.”   He is the: so be it, the One whose word is the final authority.

Jesus is the faithful and true witness- the One who alone is completely and perfectly trustworthy.

The word beginning is the Greek word arche, which means “the source” or “the origin.”  Jesus is the source or origin of creation.  By calling Himself the Beginning of the creation of God, Jesus claims and also reminds these Laodecean believers that He is before all creation, He is the Creator and Ruler of the universe.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”  John 1: 1-4.

“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”– Col.1: 16-17.

 “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. Vs. 15-16.

The Lord knows everything about their indifferent attitude towards Him.  In Sardis – the dead church-He could still find a few He commended, but not even one in Laodicea! Their satisfaction came not from the Lord, but from their material wealth, yet they still called Him their Lord and Saviour.

There were no deeds to commend this church for, nothing worthy of commendation – absolutely nothing!  So the Lord went straight to the point.  To say they were a disappointment to Him was being lenient and an understatement.  Like their water they were useless.  He wished they were either hot like the hot springs of Hierapolis or cold like the cold springs of Colossae; being either of these would make them useful.

Hot water is good for its therapeutic and healing benefits; cold water is refreshing and reviving to a thirsty soul. Their Lukewarm water filled with mineral sediments picked along the journey through the stone pipes was nauseating and unhealthy.  People threw up when they drank it.  These Christians were just so sickening like their water and He is about to vomit them out of His mouth unless they repent. 

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. Vs.17.

We live in a world where the obsession with money and materialism is so great. And the church is not left out. The church today is full with Laodeceans believers – lovers of money, pleasures and the cozy, easy life.  Many are so engrossed about obtaining or acquiring wealth.  If we look at the two churches the Lord had no word of reproof for – Smyrna and Philadelphia – they were poor as far as the things of this world were concerned, but in God’s eyes they possessed the true riches.

 I am not saying that it’s sinful for a Christian to be wealthy, not at all.  I am only pointing out the fact that the Bible warns us of the potential danger of been deceived by riches, and the potential danger of falling away from God in the pursuit of material wealth.  Material wealth can make Christians complacent and lose focus of spiritual things if care is not taken (Luke 12:15, Matt. 13:22, 1Tim.6:9-10, Mark 4:19).  And this was what happened to the Laodecean church.  It showed in their speech, attitude, outlook to life, demeanor, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.”

In their pursuit of material things, ease and comfort these Christians had forgotten their Lord’s injunction to lay treasure in heaven and not on the earth.  They had taken their eyes off of Jesus.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matt.6:19 -21.

“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God who gives us richly all things to enjoy.  Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.” 1Timothy 6:17-19.

In order to help this church, since they were so blind and couldn’t see their true state, the Lord first points out to them the cause of their lukewarmness or problem. 

Self-sufficiency and pride which stemmed from their financial prosperity was at the very root of their lukewarmness.  Just like their city rebuffed Rome’s offer of assistance to rebuild their city, at least twice, when earthquakes occurred, this church too had become so self-sufficient and proud and was no longer dependent upon the Lord.  They had everything they needed, they were doing well, there was no problem, no persecution, and so what else did they need to wait upon the Lord for?  They didn’t need to seek His wisdom, guidance or counsel for anything. This church just did her own things apart from the Lord.

Isn’t this just like many of our local churches and many believers today?  The celebrity gospel preached by many today is nothing but the display of our arrogant self-sufficiency; we think we’ve got it all together and do not need the Lord anymore.  We see ourselves as wise, intelligent and prosperous, so we re-invent and redefine the church.  We introduce man made doctrines and ideas into the church.  We deceive ourselves by the big edifices we build and call churches. 

We need to fall down on our faces in contrite hearts and call upon the name of the Lord for mercy, repenting of our arrogance and self-dependence.  Some even dare command the Lord, dictating to Him.  Saying the Bible says “command ye Me the work of My hands.”  What ignorance! What arrogance!  What impudence!

The Lord called this wealthy, self-sufficient Laodicean church:

Wretched, meaning they were in a very unfortunate state.

Miserable, meaning they were most pitiful and pathetic.

Poor, meaning they were extremely poverty stricken, destituted and needed help as beggars.

Blind, meaning they were undiscerning, without understanding, and uncomprehending.

Naked, meaning they were shameful and a disgrace to His name.

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. Vs 18.

The Lord tells them to buy from Him three things:

Gold refined in the fire:  1 Peter 1:7 compares our faith to gold refined in the fire. “That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The faith of these people needed to pass through the fire of testing (Job.23:10).  For the kind of faith they profess and hold on to was fake, untested, a compromising and adulterated faith.  This is the kind of faith spoken about in James 2:1-4, 14-17 – a talking faith and not a walking faith; a dead faith and not a living faith; a false faith and not the true faith. 

Gold do not burn down like wood when it passes through the fire.  Just like wood doesn’t survive in the fire their faith has failed the test before the all-knowing and all-seeing Christ, the One whose eyes are like fiery flames.  They needed to buy the real thing from Him – the genuine faith.

White garments represent two things in Scripture: first – the righteousness of Christ imputed into believers at salvation (Rom. 3:22, 4:5, 5:9, 17, 19; Phil. 3:9; Isa. 61:10).  “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” – (Isaiah 61:10). It also represents the righteous acts of the saints. “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.”(Revelation 19:8). 

These believers were naked, unclothed.   They had nothing – acts that can be counted as righteous acts of the saints – before Christ to cover their nakedness.  This church had no Christ-likeness in them at all.  No wonder He used such strong words to describe their true and tragic state:  wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.  They were nothing like their Lord, whose name they bear – Christians!

Are you daily becoming like Christ, dear Christian? That is the goal of being a Christian.  If this is not your goal as a believer, then you‘ve missed it.  You are like the Laodecean Christians. 

“Oh! To be more like Thee, dearest Lord, to be more like Thee.  This is my heart greatest desire. This is my prayer.” 

“Behold, I am coming as a thief.  Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”- Rev. 16:15.

Eye salve: They were blind, meaning they lacked spiritual discernment and comprehension.  So, living in a city which was famous for its medical school that specialized in ear ointment and eye salve for the cure of eye diseases, He tells them to buy eye salve from Him to anoint their eyes so that they can be healed of their spiritual blindness.

Many in the church today, (including preachers) do not know God, even though they think they do.  This was the situation of this church as well.  They were self-deceived.  They thought they were rich spiritually, not knowing they were the poorest of the poor!  They were headed in the wrong direction and were thinking they were on the right road.  There is no greater spiritual blindness than this. 

How can these three things be bought from Christ?

They cannot be bought by money or sacrifice (works) – Ephesians 2:8.

“Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat.  Yes, come buy wine and milk without money and without price.”  Isaiah 55:1.

Come to the waters: These can only be gotten first and foremost by coming to the Lord Jesus Christ – the source of living waters (John 7:38)- in repentance, humility and surrender.  Secondly, we must learn to cultivate and develop a daily walk of intimacy with Jesus, this we do by studying His word, seeking His face, communing with Him and walking in obedience.  As we do this we realize that we know Him more, have His mind and that we are being daily transformed into His likeness by His Spirit.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Vs.19.

The Lord still loves this church, this is the main reason He rebukes them, showing them how He really   sees them.  They had a view of themselves which was untrue.  He shows them their true pathetic condition.  This was an act of deep love and affection.  His rebuke offers them the hope of renewed and restored fellowship with Him.  The fact that He chose to write a letter to them shows He loved them deeply and still wants fellowship with them. 

This brings to mind the verse in Proverbs which says, “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Prov.27:5 – 6.  He is their Saviour, Lord and Friend.  His words may have been piercing to their very souls, but it was born out of love.  These words were meant to produce repentance, restoration and healing. True repentance, leading to renewed fellowship and good will come out of these hard truths and rebuke. 

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. – Vs. 20.

What a sobering thought.  Can you imagine the Lord of the church which He purchased with His own blood been locked outside of His church by His own?  This was the situation in the Laodecean church.  They were so content to have church services without the presence of He whom they served or worshipped.  They so lacked discernment that they didn’t even noticed His absence in their midst!  They were so sure of themselves and of their false rich spirituality.  Isn’t that like many of our churches and many believers lives today? 

As one who professes to be a Christian: is the Lord still walking with you?  Do you still know His presence in your life? 

Here, the Lord calls them to a renewed and intimate relationship with Him. However, the ball was in their courts. They must open the door and invite Him in, for the latch is on the inside. 

Dining with the Lord refers to the everyday evening meal in the Middle East – the meal that people lingered over, and talked for hours into the night.  Here the Lord is talking about intimacy and friendship with the one who opens up to Him.

Do you want this type of intimacy with the Lord?  The ball is in your court.  Open the door to Him.  Too busy you say – to meet with Him in the secret place and in His word?  How can you be a Christian and have no time for Him?  You must create the time for Him intentionally.

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. Vs.21.

To the one who repents and amends his or her ways He will make co-regent with Him, just as He overcame and reigns with His Father on His throne.  This is a promise to all faithful believers.

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Vs.22.

The Lord hates complacency, apathy and lukewarmness.  He wants us to be fervent Christians who love Him wholeheartedly and devotedly.  He wants us not only to put Him first, but also make Him the centre of our entire lives. 

Are you a lukewarm Christian?  Are you more concerned about the things of this world?  Like the Laodecean believers, are the things of this world blocking your view or chocking out things of eternal value (Mark 4:19)?  Do you seek God’s face in all you do or do you rely on your smartness or intelligence?

Let us all examine ourselves in the light of this letter and repent of our self-sufficiency, lukewarmness towards our Lord.  Better to heed His warnings.

”Do not be lagging behind in zeal, but be fervent in spirit as you continue to serve the Lord.” Romans 12:11 (ESV).

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *