This is the eighth and final part in the Bible study series: The Churches of Revelation. Christ’s message to His Church at Laodicea was direct and unyielding. “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten,” He thundered, “Therefore be zealous and repent.” Does Christ aim this message directly to the Church in our time–the most critical moment in world history? What is that message and how can it impact your spiritual life? This final Bible study in the series will explore the message to the “lukewarm church”.
[Darris McNeely] The message to the church at Laodicea, it is one of the most sobering that the Church could hear today. The message that Christ gives to the church at Laodicea is important to every one of us. Every one of us turning and reading that message can learn something from this particular message. Literally, it is Christ knocking at the door of our lives and saying, “Let Me come in and dine with you, and live in you, and let Me do My work in you.” That in a nutshell is the message that Christ points to the church at Laodicea. He is wanting to prepare His Church as a bride, and this particular message seems to be aimed directly at that thought, and for the Church, for all of us, at this time and in this age.
So, let’s go ahead and turn in our Bibles to the book of Revelation chapter 3. We’ve come to that point in the story now, we have gone through an introduction and six of the church messages here in Revelation 2 and 3. It’s been a very interesting study, it always is, to go in to this topic and look at what the Scriptures tell us and to apply it to us today, to take the message from each of those…of Christ giving to each of those churches, take what we need for us in our lives today, recognizing that at this point in time, we are a part of the Church. We are part of the Body of Jesus Christ. We are the Church of God, these messages apply to us. And regardless of what the message has meant to the churches in that 1st century or the church at any time between the 1st century and today, the 21st century as indeed the Church has always existed. Christ said that He would build His Church. The gates of the grave would not prevail against it. He would be with the Church even unto the end of the age.
The Church has never ceased to exist, and the messages from those seven churches, here in Revelation, have always applied to every one of those churches, no matter when they existed. And now, we today read those messages and they are important to us. Every one of them offers a lesson for us to be instructed by, to take personally if necessary, and to apply to our lives, and to help us to understand many aspects of the direction and the flow of the Church, church history. How the Church operates in terms of the inner workings of what just goes on within the Church. That there can be zealous people alongside people who may not be quite so zealous. There can be people holding doctrinal truths exact as the Scripture teaches as Christ gave to the faith, setting alongside some who may hold opposing teachings and yet have the name of Christian or a member of the Church, and yet as Jesus shows us from the other stories, they are not quite right, and there is this tension that we’ve already gone through in some of these others.
Now, we come to Laodicea. This church, the seventh one on the circuit and began with Ephesus, wound its way through this section of Asian Minor. And as we look at Chapter 3, beginning in verse 14, we can begin to find out exactly what it said. Let’s go ahead and we’ll read through the passage here from verse 14 through verse 22 to get the full message, and then we’ll come back and we’ll talk a bit about the history, and then go back through each of the verses and look again at what we can gain from our knowledge of the city, the time and most importantly what is given to us today. So, in verse 14 of Revelation 3 (Revelation 3:14 Revelation 3:14And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things said the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
American King James Version×), “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.’”
Now, that pretty well sums up Jesus Christ, the Amen. If there is an Amen, the Amen is what is…we say that at the end of our prayers. It has a meaning of finality, a closure, of approval, nothing more need be said. This is it. At that moment, directed toward God in a prayer. In this case, these are teachings from God and He says, “I am the Amen. I am it.” Sometimes I’ve heard people refer to other people who have a high opinion of themselves as thinking that they were the great amen, and it’s one of those phrases that you might point at somebody to maybe help them see that they think their estimation of themselves is a little bit too much.
It’s not too high of an estimation however, for Jesus, who was the Faithful and the True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God. “I know your works,” He says to the church, “that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Very, very strong. “Because you say, ‘I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing’ – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel, therefore, you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; with white garments that you may be clothed, and the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent. 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. 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. He, who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” And so, again the familiar phrase to…if you are listening carefully, then listen to what the Spirit says to the churches, God’s Holy Spirit.
It’s a very strong message. It is a message of rebuke. Of all the church messages, Laodicea’s is the harshest. There is no commendation to them. Even while the other six churches had their problems, except for Philadelphia; there was nothing bad that is mentioned about Philadelphia. The other five did. They had both good and bad. Laodicea has nothing good said about it, no commendation, which is very, very shocking, but also very sad, also very sad. It’s a good thing Jesus is saying this because He has a perfect judgment. He knows the hearts, and He alone could say something like that to a part of His body. Now keep in mind that the church at Laodicea, as we look it all seven of these congregations as they existed in the first century, they were a part of the Body of Christ.
To the church at Ephesus in the Epistle of Ephesians, Paul writes that the Church is a spiritual organism. Christ is the head of that Church, and there are individual members, but they are part of Jesus’ spiritual body that He is putting together, and yet Jesus has the, as I said, the perfect judgment and the ability where no one else can, and has the authority to say to that part of His Body, words like this that are pretty strong. I think at very beginning, as we start to talk about Laodicea, with all that churches historically have said about Laodicea, where they write commentaries or write about Laodicea, you can read all kinds of works and material on Laodicea as it has been studied along with the other churches in the whole subject of the Church through history, the spiritual condition of the Church. Sometimes people I think cross a line when they talk about Laodicea and it becomes a pejorative term that labels an individual or labels a whole group of people, may be a whole fellowship of people, a whole church organization as people do often get within religion, they can be kind of catty with each other back and forth, judgmental. And so, therefore, Laodicea becomes kind of pejorative, and a tag that isn’t always that savory.
And I think we need to be careful about that because in the letter here, Jesus is the One who is doing this. And for us to do that, I think, can cross a line, when we really do get to a spirit of judgment and perhaps even condemnation by the use of a part of the Church, the Body of Christ in such of a fashion. So I caution us on that here at the beginning as we look at this. Let’s just leave the judging, labeling, condemnation to Jesus because He is the one who is the Amen, Faithful and True. He is the ruler of our lives and He is the head of His Church. He can do that, and we should leave it there, and as we’ll see, learn something perhaps more important that He does intend for us to have.
Let’s take a moment and look at the history of the city as we see it here in the historical context of the churches at Asia Minor. I had mentioned when I began my part of these, I think during the time of Ephesus that these seven churches were probably begun or started during or in the aftermath of the apostle Paul’s time up to three years in the city of Ephesus and the work that was done there that the book of Acts tells us. There were likely many other churches there, but these are the seven that we find coming down to us in the story of the biblical history. Laodicea was about 45 miles southeast of the city of Philadelphia that we just talked about and is about 100 miles east of Philadelphia. And so, that positions it out there as a very important city in the 1st century, late 1st century when the book of Revelation was written. It was a center for trade and for commerce. A lot of financial matters were centered in Laodicea. In fact, it was known as kind of an area where for its banking industry. It did have large amounts of gold stored there, and much of that came from, not only trade, but also their own dealing in a very famous high quality, glossy black wool from sheep that was quite lucrative, sought after plus the other ventures that they had. It made it a very wealthy city.
There was an earthquake that struck the area in the year 17AD and destroyed considerably much of Laodicea. At that time, the entire region was a part of the province of Rome, the great Roman Empire, but Laodicea did not need to accept any FEMA aid. All right. They didn’t pull their…FEMA didn’t pull their trailers up and set up a headquarters to give them government assistance. They didn’t need it. They had enough money, and they rebuilt on their own nickel, which again, gets to the point that Jesus makes when He says, “You’re rich and increased in goods. You don’t need anything.” They had that much money that they didn’t need government assistance to rebuild their city after a devastating earthquake. So, that is quite a bit of money. It’s also quite a statement. I don’t know of any, even the wealthiest cities, that don’t take FEMA aid today. Even New York City hit by a major hurricane about, was it three years ago? Hurricane Sandy – was that the name of it that went up the East coast? I think that they took their ample amount and that’s the richest city or the richest cities, if not the richest in the world. But Laodicea decided to do it themselves.
Historically and from the records we have, there were no interesting features about the city. Remember Pergamum, they had a huge mountain on which the city was built in the ancient world. Ephesus is down here, a great harbor city, like Smyrna. There was nothing significant about Laodicea. Laodicea was kind of like an Indianapolis. I can say that since I lived there for 22 or more years. Indianapolis is a nice city but it’s all interstates. It’s just a flat plain right there. The river they have is nothing near like the Ohio River here in Cincinnati. Indianapolis is a trade and commercial area, and it’s just a flat area. There are no distinguishing physical characteristics of that city. There were none for Laodicea. They did have a famous school of medicine. They had a special ointment there that was known as the “Phrygian Powder” that was famous for its curative abilities for eye defects, which is again, why Jesus says, “I encourage you to buy some eye salve to remove your blindness,” as He spoke spiritually. They would have understood that allusion because of the Phrygian Powder that they had there. I’ll put that up here on the board here just you know what I’m talking about. It’s a specially mined and processed powder that was used as an eye ointment or salve.
They had one lone aqueduct that brought its supply of water in from both the south, down near Colossae, and also from the north. And one basic source of water. The Romans engineered aqueducts in wherever they went, and there are still aqueducts standing still transporting water, especially in Italy today. But they had one in Laodicea, and we know from again, history, that by the time the water got there, either from the hot springs that were up around Hierapolis or the cold water from down here, by the time it got to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. It was tepid. Now, you and I both know how much we really like lukewarm beverages in most cases. My tea right here is probably getting lukewarm as we speak. I like my coffee hot. I do not like lukewarm coffee. I like cold water and a cold beverage, and when something gets to lukewarm room temperature, I can’t think of…I like cold milk. I don’t want warm…I never did like warm milk, even when my mom would try to give it to me.
So, the feature here is brought into the story in terms of the water supply. The city was well off financially. The members who would have made up the church no doubt benefited from the wealth of the city in whatever they did. And again, they would have reflected the climate of the city and brought certain qualities because of who they were into the church and this is why Laodicea is singled out. One thing about a business center, a city that relies on good relationships with other cities around along the trade routes is, as Laodicea had roads coming in from all over the region here. And you deal with other people’s money and goods, and you either hold it for them, or your trade is based on a relationship. It’s the same today.
You run a business, you’ve got to provide a good product, serve your customer, take care of them, develop a relationship of trust as you meet their needs, and consistently do that in order to prosper. That’s the nature of business. And as you do that, you have to go along in just in the term of business as it is done in the world today. You have to overlook certain things that perhaps might not be…you might not approve of in order to maintain the business, as long as it’s not illegal or whatever or unethical, but you’ve got to have a level of relationship that allows the freedoms of whatever and makes accommodation. That is just the nature of business and a financial a center and a system, and because of that, Laodicea became everything to everyone. And again, it was neither hot nor cold but it prospered, and they thought they were okay as result of that. It just set up a view of themselves.
What Jesus is telling the church living in the city, “Repent of your apathy. Do the works of the Spirit. Get fired up, fulfill your calling. Do what you’re supposed to do.” So, a few takeaways at this point, Laodicea is a church of God, all right. It is a church of God, and so never speak disparagingly of that in the sense of…by comparison with the others, and it’s easy for us to do that, but recognize that the end of the discussion, Laodicea is still a church or they wouldn’t be on the list. And Jesus is dealing with them, and He says…really, if there’s one positive thing that you can squeeze out of the message it’s in verse 21, “To him who overcomes.” That’s positive. It’s an offer of hope. “If you overcome,” He says, “I will grant you to sit with Me on my throne.” That’s a pretty close relationship.
So, there is the hope that He does hold out to the members who display this attitude. That if you overcome, if you listen to the message, then you will sit on My throne. So, keep in mind that Laodicea is a church of God regardless of all that is said. And while there is no outstanding spiritual qualities mentioned in the letter, they at least have the name, even though there is no distinction. They are the Church. They are the church at Laodicea, Church of God at Laodicea. Even to the Sardis church He said, “You have a name but you’re dead.” He didn’t say that to the Laodiceans.
There’s an interesting story from…I ran across this years ago in studying about the doctrine of the Millennium, the 1,000 year reign of Christ. After the time of John into the second, third century, heresy swept over these churches. We find the Easter controversy being centered at Smyrna under Polycarp and Polycrates in the late second century, mid to late second century, and eventually the heresy that the church at Rome eventually forced upon all the churches swept over here. These other churches, the Sabbath, the Holy Days, the Passover, Days of Unleavened Bread were replaced with false teaching as well as many other matters. But you find…there was a reference I found mentioning in Laodicea as late as the fourth century, the 300s, late 300s that there was still some there who held the teaching of Revelation 20, that there would be 1,000 year reign of Christ when others had abandoned that idea.
The last reference from that period of the ancient world of the doctrine or the teaching of the Millennium is found at Laodicea. I found that to be interesting a few years ago when I was doing some study into church history. And so again, I say never write anything off. Never write anything off, and yet there is still a very strong message here. So, they have a name. Third takeaway, they are rich in money and they are rich in goods.
Now, at the beginning of the series, in the introductory Bible study, we read a section from our booklet on the book of Revelation wherein we quoted a work by a man named John Walvoord. In his book, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” on pages 51 and 52, and we have this in our “Revelation Unveiled” booklet. He had a very, I think, a very good summary of what all of these messages, and I’m not going to read the entire passage here, but to the churches, they were given exhortations he says, that were personal in character. They involved instruction and warning to the individual Christian. Each of the messages given to the churches ends with a personal exhortation beginning with the phrase, “he that has an ear, let him hear.” We just read that in verse 22 here.
Last paragraph of that passage from John Walvoord, he says, “Many expositors believe that in addition to the obvious implications of these messages, the seven churches represent the chronological development of church history viewed spiritually. They note that Ephesus seems to be characteristic of the Apostolic Period in general, and that the progression of evil, climaxing in Laodicea seems to indicate the final state of apostasy of the Church. The order of the messages to the churches seems to be divinely selected to give prophetically the main movement of Church history.” Again, “the order of” the Church, “the messages seems to be divinely selected to give prophetically the main movement of Church history,” being from the time of the apostles to the end of the age, all right? This is what we chose to put into our Revelation booklet to be kind of a summary of the seven messages here, and it’s a very interesting statement. You can read the rest of it if you choose by looking at the booklet.
When you look at Laodicea, and take in to effect what Walvoord says here about the progression of evil climaxing in Laodicea. At the end of the age, the Church is always going to exist, and the Church lives at the end of the age, if that’s what is being described here, and I think that it is. Described physically and spiritually by these qualities that impact the Church in the message to Laodicea, that the Church here at that time seems to then be reflecting the world at that moment and at that time. If the church at Ephesus had to deal with apostles who claimed that they were apostles, there is a bit of sense there that helps us at least to understand this. And I think that that is very helpful to realize, even though you will find all the characteristics of all the churches extant that any time during this 2,000 year history of the Church, as we look at where we are today, if we were to describe our time period in history, what is described here of the church at Laodicea again, reflecting the time and the setting of its city within the larger setting of the Roman Empire. There is a very important lesson for us.
Keep in mind each of these churches existed during the time of the Roman Empire at its peak. Now the Roman Empire is the fourth beast of Daniel 7. It is a very, very key feature of Daniel’s prophecy, and of the book of Revelation, and of the prophetic understanding of Scripture. But just looking at it historically, these churches existed at its height, the late 1st century. The empire had come on. There was a piece that ruled the world, the Augustan piece that allowed for the gospel to spread, not only through Asia Minor, but all the way to Rome, as the apostles we able to travel and communicate the message of the gospel. It was a unique period in the ancient world, almost the apex of development culturally, socially, politically, economically and this is when these churches exist. And the Roman is a fascinating period to study. After we made our trip there this few months ago on a study tour, it just reignited for me a desire to just pull out all my books, and since then I’ve probably bought another half dozen or more books on the subject just to learn more about it because of what it says, what it means to history, what it means to prophecy and understanding at least as the setting for these churches and particularly Laodicea.
They seem to epitomize more than the others the influence of that world upon them. And the takeaway for us today is how much of that has seeped into us as we might reflect the world of the 21st century. How much has seeped in to us? I think that is the question for us to examine in light of this message to Laodicea. They existed at the height of the empire, and these cities had to accommodate themselves to Rome and the order that it brought. These people, our own members, our fellow members were coming out of pagan cultures and societies here, and it was a tough road. It was a very, very a hard world in which to live, and we’ve had many hard things to deal with even in our day as well. Not just the daily struggles of life, but the cultural wars that go on around us and impact us as well.
The impact on Laodicea seems to be different. The impact of its world, the Roman world, seems to have encased the Laodicean congregation into an impenetrable fabric of self-deception, and that is what Christ is pointing out as is very dangerous. They don’t know that they’re naked before God, and that is the danger. They are members of the Church, they bear that name, they have a place to fellowship each week, very likely in a member’s home, may be two or three church homes in that city. We don’t know, but that was a case in that time. But they had a place to go and fellowship on the Sabbath. They would move with the church. Whatever the church was doing in Laodicea, they were a part of it. They would appear to be in tune with it, but Christ saw something that they didn’t see. He saw through their clothing, their finery, their bank accounts, their fine chrome-plated chariots parked outside the home that they met with. He saw through the lifestyle that they had for what it was and what it was doing to them, and He called it out for what it was.
These people attended all the functions of the church. They all went to all the special weekends. They went to the men’s weekends. They went to the women’s weekends. They went to the best Feast of Tabernacle sites of the day, and yet Christ saw something that they themselves not even could see. That is danger. That is the danger. He says that they were miserable, poor, blind, and naked. If you go back and we look at verse 15, He says, “I know your works, that you’re neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.” He wanted them to be one way or the other, not lukewarm, neither cold nor hot. Didn’t want them to fall away, but He wanted them to be authentic. If there is one thing you can say, Jesus said, He is saying, “Be authentic.” Now, He wanted them to be hot in terms of zealous, on fire in their faith, overcoming, loving kind members. That’s what He wanted, but He didn’t want them to be lukewarm and in a sense be hypocritical, even if they knew they were hypocritical or they didn’t know they were hypocritical.
You see, you can be lukewarm and not know you’re lukewarm. This is what He’s telling them, and they think they’re fine. They show up every week. Their names are on the list and yet He’s saying, “You’re not getting it.” He wants them to be authentic. I’ve told people through the years and sometimes in counseling sessions, “Look, get in or out.” I told myself that at age 18. I gave my icebreaker to the ABC students yesterday, and I was telling them that finally at age 18, after about six years in the Church, I decided to get all in. Not one foot in, not one foot out, lukewarm. And I’ve told people through the years I’d rather you be an honest hypocrite. Be an authentic hypocrite, but don’t be a phony hypocrite because I’ve been there done that. Is that a double meaning, phony hypocrite? I guess it is, but sometimes it takes that to fully explain something. I have far more regard for somebody, at least, if they know it’s not for them, go join the Army, go make your million dollars, go do whatever, and if and when you finally wake up and whatever, the door will be open for you. Don’t try to change the Church. Don’t try to bring that culture into us, and make us accept what you feel about this or that or whatever. Don’t do that. Be authentic.
This is what Jesus is saying here to them. It’s because Christ knows what’s going on that He gives us unqualified condemnation. And He is the only one that can do it. Again, He is the only one that can do it, and His verdict is the exact opposite of their own self-evaluation because they don’t know that they are that way. Now again, He wanted them to be useful, and He wanted to do His work within them as He does to us today, which again is the whole point of the encouragement there. As they were, they were useless to Christ because of their complacency. They were self-satisfied, indifferent to the real issues of faith in Him and being a disciple of Jesus. Therefore, He could not work within them. That’s His point. That’s why at the end of the message, He says, “I’m standing at the door knocking. Let Me in and dine with you.” Because they wouldn’t let Him in, and if He could come in, He could not do His work within them.
Galatians 2:20 Galatians 2:20I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
American King James Version×, Paul said, “The life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God in me.” He couldn’t go in to them. Verse 17, He said, “Because you say ‘I am rich and become wealthy, I have need of nothing’ and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.” The real problem was their ignorance of their condition, and they say, “I’m rich that I have acquired wealth and I don’t need anything.” If there is not a description of our age today, I don’t know what is what is. At the most affluent period of human history we live, and we live in a world where people don’t need the Kingdom of God. They literally don’t. They do not need the message of the Kingdom of God. Many people have their own “kingdom of god.” They have enough money. They can do whatever, they can buy whatever they want, build whatever they want, go wherever they want, and it’s pocket change. We’re at in an interesting period in history.
The middle class in America is being squeezed out of existence, and that’s part of the debate that you hear every four years on the campaign circuit, about jobs and about income, equality. We’ve had seven plus years of the administration trying to redistribute the wealth of this country, and they’ve made some significant strides in transforming America. But the rich have gotten richer, and the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class, taking everything into consideration, have not kept up. All the boats are not floating with everybody else today. It’s just the way it is, with all things given into consideration, and yet we still live at a high relatively high level, and yet the tensions continue to build, and that part of what we see in the rhetoric around us today, but so many people just are not able to see that. And because again, even a fixation on the wealth, if you don’t have it, it keeps people blinded from even seeing and hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, and there is a real ignorance.
The message here to the Church is showing that the spirit of that surrounding culture can creep into the congregation. It can creep into the Church, and paralyze the spiritual life. And that is something for all of use to think about and to consider as we look at this message. How much of today’s world has crept into us? Into our culture, in the Church of God, in the United Church of God today, and how much does it cause us to be blind, even somewhat miserable, poor, and naked in a spiritual sense before God? That’s the question that we should ask and talk about. It is one of the hardest lessons and statements that Jesus Christ makes to His Church, and what He tells the Church to buy.
If you look again at verse 18, He says, He counsels them to buy three things, in verse 18. “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire that you may be rich.” That’s the first thing He tells them to buy. As a wealthy city, they had big deposits of gold. He says, “You buy gold refined in the fire.” And talking about a purified spiritual gold, a life of character, a life of change and overcoming that represents a purified golden character that can only come because of what we have built as result of dealing with life and what it throws at us and overcoming, enduring, staying faithful learning the lessons. Even when we suffer, even when we have to bind up our wounds, go off for a while and learn the lesson, it may be being humbled or having gone through a terrible period of fiery trial. If we learn the lesson, if we don’t deny God, we don’t reject the faith, when we come back, our character and our quality can be finer than the finest gold. This is what He says to buy. Look for that.
He says also in verse 18, “And white garments. Buy some white garments.” So, second thing they are told to buy. “Buy white garments that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed.” The clothes that we are to put on, Revelation shows us are the white garments are symbols of righteousness, character. It’s a spiritual clothing, hard earned, hard worn righteousness. Lessons learned. God’s way is the best way. Not fudging on the Sabbath pays dividends. Turning the other cheek when that is the action to do, and it goes against your grain, is the thing to do, and it causes you to learn something. Keeping your tongue when you want to go marching in and tell somebody off. When you want to set something right, dabble with something that you see is that may be wrong but may not be yours to right, and letting God work it out in His time and way. It helps us put on a garment of trust, garment of faith or of patience. Those are the things we have to buy through hard earned, hard won effort living a righteous life in the world today. He’s telling them, “Put that on in your clothing.”
And finally, the third thing is to anoint your eyes. All right. Buy a salve that really works, not this Phrygian salve. “Anoint your eyes with eye salve that you may see.” And these are the very things that they were deceived over. Gold, the clothing, the wool that was a part of their trade culture, and the Phrygian salve, He uses these three things to point out their spiritual needs right there, in terms of their condition. And all of these point to the need for the Laodiceans to live an authentic life with the blinders having come off. Seeing the rich possibilities of life lived completely to surrender to God and involved in the will of God, His work and His plan. Understanding that, seeing the plan of God being engraved on their lives and their hearts, and having a life of grace, of joy and of purpose. This is what He is telling them.
We can look to false hopes, we can look to false heroes in our world to gain our identity, to gain our sense of worth and fulfillment. Ultimately we have to get to the point where we look to Christ for that. This is what He is wanting those who are caught up in this Laodicean spirit to do, to look to Him and not to the fabricated idols of a society. How do you get out of all of this? How do you get out of all of this? Well, He says in verse 19, “If the shoe of Laodicea fits us, then at least we should admit that it does.” But then what do we do? If and when we see that as part of our life. “As many as I love,” verse 19, “I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent.” The only way out of the spirit of Laodicea is repentance. Honest acknowledgement, “Hey, I’m like that. I’ve been like that. I can easily be swayed by these physical ornaments and bobbles and status, and all of that that we might crave as part of our life that weaken us to the point where, yeah, we still have the name. We still show up, but Christ isn’t working within us and He is not working to bring about His purpose within our lives. As Christ asks, we should ask ourselves. “Are you hot or cold?” Does the zeal for God for His truth burn within you? What are your works? What’s your tolerance level for the popular culture and its subsequent impact? Because make no mistake, it does impact us. We are the only one that can answer that, as we stare in to the words of Jesus here and ask that question.
We have reached a point in today’s culture in the 21st century in today’s world where it is…it has crept in to the Church, and we should acknowledge that. It is crept into the Church at times and in certain corners and in certain ways to a high level. Sometimes it’s dangerously high level. America is heading headlong, moving headlong toward its Roman roots. One of the things that it taught me, this trip taught us, is that our roots are in Rome, no question about it, in so many ways. But the morality of our current world, a world that has rejected God and does not want to keep God in its knowledge is here. It’s arrived. It’s been here for more than five decades literally in front of the…through the headlines.
When you read Romans 1 where Paul says to the Romans that they lived in a world that had rejected God, did not want God in their knowledge, and God gave them over to reprobate mind. He was describing in the 1st century. Unfortunately, it is a description of our world today. We are moving rapidly in that direction and we are being…if we are not careful, any of us can be sucked along in that vortex, in that whirlpool that can drag us along with it, it’s there. We have experienced a removal of God from a public debate. When I was barely a teenager, that took place in the early 1960s. When I was a young man, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was legal, and since then, over 55 million legal abortions have been done, and an entire generation taken from American life. And the latest intrusion with the same sex ruling a few months ago by the Supreme Court is just one more example of a culture that does not want to keep God and His knowledge at its highest levels. And it is working in our world today.
I was editing an article this week that will be in the next issue of the Good News magazine, the last issue of the Good News in November and December, and I had to have a discussion because as it was describing in this case specifically the latest Iranian nuclear treaty that our country and other countries have negotiated with the state of Iran. It just dawned on me that we’re writing about this wrong. You can quote Wall Street journal, you can quote Fox News, you can quote World Net Daily. You can quote whatever you want in terms of a bad deal, problems, this and that. But the article didn’t really get to the root of the problem, and I said, “The root of the problem is that our leaders in America, the high from the top, all the way through Congress, and other world leaders, especially on this one issue, they are drunk. They are spiritually drunk.”
As the Scriptures show, you can turn to the prophets. Hosea is one example. Where Hosea says that, as he describes the nation at that time of Judah, “They are spiritually drunk,” he says, “because of idolatry.” A rejection of God and it causes them to lose the sense of balance, and they remove the landmarks, the landmarks that tell people what this is and how to walk, that mark the road. Those landmarks have been removed. Our people, our country today is walking blindly along the road along our culture and our land because the leadership has removed the landmarks because of idolatry and all the other reasons and it has crept to such a degree that they are willing to make arrangements with nations that hate us, and openly want to destroy us, and say that it is a good thing. My point was we don’t need to quote anybody but the book of Hosea. We don’t need to quote anybody but Isaiah to get to the real reason. I think that’s what God wants us to write about. That’s about what God wants us to say.
I don’t even want to watch Fox News anymore. They’ve tipped over. Don’t tell me what Greta’s saying. They have. Our culture and our society are drunk spiritually because of idolatry and the breaking of God’s commandments and God’s law. And the Scriptures show that that creates a blindness and an inability to truly lead and to stand for righteousness. It gets to the point where good is called evil and evil is called good. This is where we are today, and I think it is very clear. Look, sometimes we can’t even have a…a woman down in Kentucky makes a decision to not issue a marriage license to a same sex couple for marriage, and how we look at that…even religious leaders don’t even know how to look at it. And they can’t put together 15 sentences to explain the real issue here because of political correctness, because of mistaken theology, because of an inability to understand what the Scriptures say.
This is our world today. How much of it crept into us? This is what the message to Laodicea really does mean for us today in the 21st century. Christ is saying to His Church, to any who will listen and to hear, who have ears to hear, “Don’t be blind and naked and poor and miserable.” Repent. Recognize if that’s where you are and if the spiritual perception and acumen is not there to truly understand our time and our age and to act and speak accordingly, then perhaps a bit more of Laodicea is there that we might want to admit, and that can be anywhere. But those are the words that Jesus gives to us, and it is a very important message. The message of Laodicea, it is a clarion call to all of us to look and examine ourselves by. Christ is pointing the finger to us. That’s why I say let’s not fall in to the trap of pointing the finger at somebody and saying, “They are Laodicean,” or “This group is Laodicean.” Like some churches do and say, “Well, this group is Laodicean.” Let’s not do that.
Let’s take Christ’s message and let’s recognize it for what it is as pointing at us, and we have to answer the question. And if it fits us, we have the opportunity to repent and to allow Christ to come into our lives, to open the door and let Him come in and dine and live in us through the Holy Spirit and do His work within us. If we don’t do that and recognize the need for that, then we are just like the church here at Laodicea. And so, He stands at the door of the Church, He’s looking and He’s knocking. The question is, will we open it and let Him come in and heed this message to the Laodicean church.
It’s a very sobering message to end on with all the other six that we’ve discussed in this series, and yet it opens up fascinating areas for us to really think about, and to consider, and to listen as Christ is really speaking to the Church. I’m looking at my red letter Bible and chapters 2 and 3 are all red in my Bible, which tells me that these are the words of Christ to each of us, to take and to consider and to be instructed by, and hopefully have ears to hear, eyes to see, and the heart open to receive Christ and let Him live in us and do His work and finish His work of preparing the bride.