Understanding The Apocalypse

Revelation 3:14-22
Chapter 8

A young man and his wife, both active in their church, moved to a small town in the Southern United States. It was a typical small town, in that everyone knew his neighbor, as well as his neighbors' business and practically everyone in the town was registered in one political party.

There was only one church in town and the young couple, eager to serve the Lord, began attending the first Sunday following their move. After a few weeks they decided to join the church and called the pastor to tell him of their decision, in anticipation of becoming part of the church family.

The pastor only asked them one question, "Are you Democrats or Republicans?" When they responded, you could have heard a pin drop. The pastor then told them he was sorry but they could not join the church because they were in the wrong political party.

Hurt and confused, they called the pastor of the church they had moved from, to ask his advice. "Go to the Lord in prayer and ask Him how to respond," was the advice the former pastor gave them.

Several weeks passed and the former pastor called to check on the young couple. "Oh I went to the Lord, just as you suggested," the young man said. "That very night I had a dream wherein He advised me on the matter." "What did He tell you," the curious pastor asked. The Lord said, "Don't worry about it, I've been trying to get in that church for forty years and they won't let Me in either."

If ever a church had its priorities confused this church did and so did the Church of the Laodiceans. The reason for this confusion is because,

I. This is Not the Lord's Church.

Normally, when we see the word "church" used in the Scriptures, we think of the Body of Christ, a congregation of Believers. Christians coming together to worship and praise the Lord and build each other in the faith.

However, this is not always the meaning of the word when used in Scripture. The word "church" comes from the Greek word, "ekklesia" and simply means an assembly called together in some public place.

In Acts 19:39-41 we read,

"But if you have any other inquiry to make, it shall be determined in the lawful assembly. For we are in danger of being called in question for today's uproar, there being no reason which we may give to account for this disorderly gathering. And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly."
The word translated "assembly" in this passage is the word "ekklesia." Certainly this assembly in Ephesus was not a church in the sense we usually understand the word. It was a town meeting called by idolaters, to accuse Paul and his friends. The text says this meeting was an "uproar" and a "disorderly gathering." This "ekklesia" was not part of the called out Body of Christ.

Simply, because the word "ekklesia" is translated "church" in Revelation 3:14, it does not necessarily refer to the Body and Bride of Christ. On the contrary, notice the text plainly says, "...the church of the Laodiceans."

This is different from the introductions to the other letters in Revelation 2 & 3. They are written to the Church "in" Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and so forth. Notice, this letter is addressed to "the church of the Laodiceans" not to the church "in" Laodicea. This is the Laodiceans' church, not the Body and Bride of Christ.

Now, I realize some versions other than the King James Version say "To the church in Laodicea." This occurs because some Greek manuscripts do read this way, and so, it is left to the translators, to determine which reading they wish to include in their respective translations. I think the King James reading is correct. Not because of someone's work in textual criticism, but because of what the letter itself says about the Church of the Laodiceans.

II. The Condition of the Laodiceans.

(1) Indifferent

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So, then, because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16.

I remember as a child playing games like hide and seek. The person who was "It" was given clues to location, in terms of hot or cold. If the person was close he was said to be hot, if he was far away he was said to be cold.

As I grew older, I came to understand that a person who is said to run hot and cold is a person who changes his mind or position concerning some issue. One day he is for something, the next day he is against it.

In these illustrations, it is easy to see the references to hot and cold have to do with proximity to something, or agreement with something. The same thing is true in Revelation 3:15. A person who is hot will be near to the Lord and therefore, in agreement with Him. A person who is cold will be distant and not agree. In either case, the person will have some concern, some care, that will indicate a workableness.

However, a person who is lukewarm just does not care. No matter what happens that person is not going to be involved, simply because it makes him no difference. In other words, he has no concern, no care. He is indifferent.

Also, the text does not stop there. It goes on to describe the result of indifference in Revelation 3:16.

One unpleasantness in life is to lift a cup of coffee, tea, or chocolate, expecting the hot contents to warm the innards, only to find the liquid is lukewarm. Another, is to reach for some ice cold liquid to quench the thirst and cool the burning throat, only to find the refreshment tepid or lukewarm. In each case the first impulse is simply to spit, to get the offensive thing out of the mouth, out of sight, out of one's life.

That is exactly what Christ will do to those who are indifferent to Him as "the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God." One cannot be indifferent to Christ and hope to stand in His presence.

Some believe "spew out" refers to chastening because of the statement in Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." However, to be spewed out is not a rebuke, to be spewed out is not chastening, to be spewed out is to be separated.

God will separate from Himself those who are indifferent because indifference results in unbelief and unbelief results in condemnation. John 3:18 says, "He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

Not only were the Laodiceans indifferent to the person and work of Christ, they were also,

(2) Self-sufficient

"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" (Revelation 3:17).

It is interesting, the Laodiceans did not receive a commendation of any kind in this letter. In fact, they are the only church in this series of letters, that did not receive a good mark for something. This is more evidence they were apostates, for it is impossible for those outside Christ to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Also, this lack of commendation points to their pride, for pride is always self-serving and is in reality what self-sufficiency is.

No doubt, the prosperity of the region contributed to their pride. Laodicea was a wealthy banking and textile center and the home of a medical school. Anything in the world they wanted was available to them and because they were wealthy they felt if they wanted something they could buy it.

They had no unmet needs, no struggles, no cares. They could take care of themselves. They were rich, they had everything the world had to offer, and they had need for nothing, or so they thought. Surely, they did not realize their need for "the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the beginning of the creation of God."

(3) Lost

"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" (Revelation 3:17).

The Laodiceans were like the frog riding on a log, being carried down a raging, flood swollen river. Because he was on top of the log he thought he was in control of his situation, he had no idea he was being swept away.

Notice, the true condition of the Laodiceans in Revelation 3:17. They were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. If ever there was a description of lost people, this is it.

"Wretched" comes from a word that has to do with weights and conveys the idea of being overly burdened. Most likely, the Laodiceans thought they were burden free, but in reality, they were burdened with the weight of sin.

Misery was surely a foreign concept to these people. To suffer because of poverty, sickness or for any other reason was out of the question to this wealthy group. However, to be "miserable" is also to be unfit, inadequate, or inferior and the Laodiceans certainly fit this description, spiritually.

To someone walking down the road, "poor" is one of the last things that person would have called the Laodiceans. The text says plainly they were rich, increased in goods and had need for nothing. It is not their worldly possessions in focus when the text also says they are poor. Rather, their spirituality is the subject.

Jesus said, "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul" (Mark 8:36)? In other words, all the money in the world cannot buy redemption from sins. If the Laodiceans could not redeem themselves, regardless of their wealth, they were poor.

Throughout the Gospels, blindness is symbolic of being lost, unable to see the way of salvation. In addition, 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, says,

"If our gospel be hidden, it is hidden to them that are lost. In whom the god of this age, has blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
The Laodiceans were "blind," not physically, but spiritually. They were unable to see through the darkness of sin.

Finally, the text says they were "naked." If you will, think back to the Garden of Eden, to the time shortly after Adam sinned and hid himself from God.

Genesis 3:8-9 says,

"And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And He said, Who told thee that thou was naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?"
Notice, the Lord immediately equates their nakedness with sin. Adam was stripped of his righteousness by sinning and as a result was naked before God until God covered him with the skins of animals. Until blood was shed for their sins, Adam and Eve had no righteousness and no standing or position with God. Likewise, the Laodiceans are said to be naked, indicating their lack of righteous covering and standing before God.
If, in spite of what is said concerning their spiritual condition, one still believes the Laodiceans were not lost, that one should pay attention to,

III. The Remedies.

"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 salve, that thou mayest see" (Revelation 3:18).

(1) "Buy from Me Gold."

Gold in the scriptures is symbolic of the Divine Righteousness. Pure Gold like God's righteousness is without blemish, is incorruptible and is the true standard of wealth. Since the Bible tells us plainly that our righteousness has the same worth as a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6), it follows that we must have His righteousness to have standing before Him and nothing less than God's pure righteousness is acceptable to Him. Therefore, God made His righteousness available through our Lord Jesus Christ and we are instructed to acquire that righteousness through faith in Him. This brings us to:

(2) The "White Raiment."

When we put our faith in Christ by believing He died for our sins and rose from the dead, our sins are imputed to Christ. At the same time, His righteousness is imputed to us. The Bible uses the symbolism of a white garment to express how this righteousness of Christ covers the Believer and gives him standing before God. No longer is a Believer stripped of righteousness, ashamed of his sins and naked before God as Adam was. Because Christ covers him with His own white raiment, the Believer's sins will never appear in the sight of God.

(3) "Anoint thine eyes with salve."

As mentioned earlier, there was a medical school at Laodicea. This school was famous throughout the region for its work in treating eye diseases and they had developed a salve used to treat many common eye problems. Perhaps, they had the cure for physical blindness, but now they needed to apply the cure for spiritual blindness. The cure is faith. They needed to believe that Jesus is "the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Ruler of God's Creation" and only then would the Church of the Laodiceans become the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ in Laodicea.

IV. The Promises
(1) "To Him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne" (Revelation 3:21).

Again, be reminded, 1 John 5:5, says those who overcome are those who put their faith in Christ. To all Believers Christ gives the promise we will reign with Him. That is, we will share His throne when He establishes His Kingdom on the earth. Next, He also promises discipline.

(2) "As many as I love, I rebuke and Chasten" (Revelation 3:19).

Just as a loving father on earth will not allow his children to grow without discipline, our Lord promises to discipline us when needed. Hebrews 12:6-8, tells us the Lord disciplines every one of His children and if a person is not disciplined by the Lord, that person is not a child of God. This alone should have told the Laodiceans where they stood when God said He would spew them out, rather than discipline them. We must say to anyone who cares to listen, if the Lord has never disciplined you, you may want to reassess your position with Him.

(3) He promises fellowship to anyone who will open the door to Him.

"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" (Revelation 3:20).

The Laodiceans shut the Lord out of their church through their unbelief. Without realizing their own condition they had become self-sufficient, blinded to their own need for salvation and the resulting fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, being the gracious, loving, long-suffering God He is, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9), He knocks at the door, promising if any man or woman will open the door, He will come in.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."

From "Understanding The Apocalypse"
A book of sermons by Pastor Jim McColloch, Th.M., Th.D.
© Copyright 1994, 1999, 2006