Letters To The Seven Churches (continued)

3:14-22 LAODICEA

A wealthy and influential church in a great banking center, Laodicea was famous for the beautiful and costly garments of glossy black wool they manufactured, and for their medicines, particularly an eye-salve. They took great pride in their wealth, and were highly indifferent to their Christian beliefs, thinking their wealth was sufficient, and that they had need of nothing. They were so indifferent to Christianity, in fact, that they continued to prosper under Diocletian, who persecuted Christians unrelentlessly.

  • JESUS: "The AMEN, the faithful and true witness; the beginning of the creation of God." Amen = "Let it be so" , the final word; indicating Jesus as the one with the power and authority to command and make it so; He will have the last word. The true and faithful witness, a strong contrast to this church, so uncaring of it's Christian witness. The beginning of God's creation, and the reason for the very existence of the church.
  • PRAISE: None. This church was in immediate danger; Christ said He would spew them out of His mouth.
  • CHARGES: "I know your works--- you are neither hot nor cold. I wish you were one or the other. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spew you out of my mouth." The word 'spew' refers to vomiting; a common occurrence when something has made one sick; probably a reference to the emetic quality of waters from the nearby hot springs which were used medically to induce vomiting.

    It would seem that this church made Jesus ill with their apalling disinterest. In any case, a strong expression of disapproval for their indifference. This seems to indicate that outright opposition would be better than apathy--- after all, it is possible to win an opponent over to your point of view, but impossible to win someone who simply doesn't care one way or the other.

    "You say, 'I am rich, and have many material goods, and I have need of nothing.'; and you don't even realize that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked!" Jesus expresses contempt of the riches they place so much faith in, specifically mentioning the three things they take the most pride in: their wealth, the eye-salve they are famous for, and the beautiful garments they make of fine black wool.

  • EXHORTATIONS: "I advise you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you may be rich, and white clothing, so that you will be clothed and the shame of your nakedness would not be seen. Annoint your own eyes with medicine, so that you can see clearly." Instead of being proud of their earthly riches, Jesus advises them to seek spiritual riches from Him---gold refined in the fire, i.e.---that has already stood the test, and will last forever; white garments of righteousness, and an eye medicine to heal their spiritual blindness.
  • WARNINGS: "Those whom I love, I rebuke and chasten, so be zealous and repent." Jesus warns them not to let their pride blind them of their need to repent; just as a loving parent with a child, He corrects and disciplines those He loves. And He obviously still loves this church, or He would not be rebuking them here. He tells them to turn from their apathy, and get zealous, or excited, and repent.
  • PROMISES: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will eat with him, and he with me." Jesus is depicted as standing outside of this church, knocking to gain admittance, proof that merely being called Christian does not indicate the presence of Jesus in a church or an individual. Any person who will listen to Him, and open the door to Him, will have fellowship with Jesus Christ himself; however, Jesus will not force his way inside, He has to be invited.

    "To him who overcomes, I will allow to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father in His throne." A final promise of the spiritual inheritance of true believers--- a throne depicts the wealth and power of a king, true riches as opposed to the earthly wealth this church took such great pride in. And as believers will share the throne of Jesus, and His is the throne of God, what an awesome promise--- those who overcome will share the throne of the Almighty God with Jesus Christ himself !

    It is important to note here that although this was the worst of all the churches, they were given the greatest of all the promises. In our human wisdom, that doesn't seem quite fair, that the rewards promised to this uncaring, disinterested church would be greater than the rewards promised to other, more faithful churches. However, there is a powerful message here--- that even the worst of all sinners will be given the fullest extent of God's love and pardon when they are truly repentent, and open the doors of their hearts to Christ Jesus.

There is also a general parallel between those seven churches and world history, with each church symbolizing a different state of religion during the various periods of history since the Church was created.

EPHESUS- Age of the Apostles---(to about 100 A.D.), symbolic of the Apostolic period, beginning with Pentecost, when the church was being built by the apostles of Jesus. This was the spreading of the gospel by the men most intimately involved with Jesus during His earthly ministry.

SMYRNA- Age of Persecution---(about 100-313 A.D.), symbolic of the wide-spread persecution of the church under the Roman emperors. Emperor worship was required, and Christians were persecuted by all, including Nero , who burned Rome in 64 A.D. and blamed it on the Christians. Ten emperors in particular were extremely vicious in their persecution of Christians. They were: Domitian,( under whom John was exiled to the isle of Patmos), Trajan, Hadrian, Antonius Pius, Marcus Aurelius, Septimius Severus, Maximin, Decius, Valerian, and Diocletian. The persecutions continued until the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity himself., and declared Christianity to be the official state 313 A.D.

PERGAMOS- Dark Ages---(about 313-1272 A.D.), symbolic of worldliness; the mixing of Christianity and paganism; the rise of the papacy and their ever- worsening corruption, greed, and persecution; and the near extinction of the church. This period included all the Crusades, or Holy Wars, (1095-1272 A.D.), which were efforts to regain the Holy Land from Mohammadans, and the beginnings of the Inquisition, when the Catholic church tortured and murdered more then all the Roman emperors combined.

THYATIRA- Age of Idolatry---(about 1272-1500 A.D.), symbolizes the peak of the papal rule, and the peak of the corruption, avarice, and lasciviousness of the papacy, when they indulged themselves and persecuted any and all who opposed them.

SARDIS- Age of Reformation---(about 1500-1700 A.D.), a dead church with only a remnant of the faithful remaining, symbolic of the reformation movement led by Martin Luther. He challenged the prevailing teachings and instead held that salvation was a gift from God and was only possible through Jesus Christ, not by adhering to Church customs and rituals, or by church penances and atonements.

PHILADELPHIA- Missionary Age--- A church in revival, symbolic of the missionary fervor of the 1800's and early 1900's, when the "Great Commission" (see Matt:28: 19,20), or converting the world to Christianity was a priority in all Protestant churches, and missionaries were sent to every part of the world in Christ's name.

LAODICEA- Age of Apostacy--- symbolizes the period of apathy, godlessness and apostacy beginning about the mid-1900's and continuing to the present day. This age will continue until the triumphant return of Jesus Christ.

References used in this study:

  • NIV Study Bible; Zondervan Press
  • The Revelation of John, volume 2; Wm. Barclay
  • Halley's Bible Handbook; H.H. Halley
  • Clarke's Commentary On The Bible; abridged by Ralph Earle

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