A Christian congregation drifted into spiritual complacency. God sent it a key wakeup call. Is He sending one to you?
[Darris McNeely] Laodicea didn't recognize their Lord and their master because they were rich and increased with goods. They were lulled to sleep by their wealthy, distracted life. They were in danger of amusing themselves right out of the body of Christ in a torrent of vomit. Are you like those disciples at Laodicea? If any part of this message applies to us, we are in spiritual danger.
We live at a moment when truth is under fire. Those of us who follow Jesus Christ are engaged today in a spiritual battle against the forces of evil and we need to understand the rules of engagement in that battle because we don't want to go into that battle unarmed. We have come to this last message given by Christ to faithful disciples, known by many as the famous seven churches of Revelation. As we've gone through these messages, we have seen that they illustrate the social, the political, as well as the religious condition of the world of the late first century AD, the time when the church began. Each of the seven messages that Christ gave to those churches is tailored specifically to that distinct congregation. We began with Ephesus and now we are at that last one, the 7th, which is Laodicea. In this study, we've also seen that the spiritual issues that those congregations, that those people encountered are those that are common to the church that any time in history and they certainly apply today. One lesson that we should take is that today we can learn from any one of the seven messages that Christ gave to those congregations in Asia Minor. Every one of those messages ends with the same personal call from Christ, a call to His own church, His body, His spiritual body to them. He said, "He that has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches."
So what we are seeing or that those messages are for those congregations not only at that time but for our day as well. Christ is speaking to His church, both in the 1st century and in today's 21st century. Let me give you a quote from a well known commentator, a Bible commentator who studied this subject for a long time who wrote about these seven messages in their context of the 1st century and as given in the Book of Revelation. He said, "Many expositors believe that in addition to the obvious implication of these messages, the seven churches represent the seven chronological developments 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.
It's an interesting quote and it has interesting ramifications for us today. The church has always existed in a world where spiritual wickedness works against the purpose of God and against mankind that is made in the image of God. And these seven messages to these churches in Revelation, they show the continuing battle, the dark forces of evil working against God's people. As we consider our time, we are living in a moment where belief in God and the Bible continues to decline. Surveys continue to show the decline in people's real understanding about what the Bible really means, or what the true message from the Bible to salvation is. People have mixed up so many different ideas today that even those who are of faith have to really examine whether they indeed have that faith. We are creeping closer to a time that is described by Jesus when He said, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" Recent polls also show that a growing number of Americans no longer look to a personal God. They believe in horoscopes. They consult those on a regular basis. Even more people deny God as the Creator, believing that life and the universe exist by evolutionary chance, and even people who profess belief in God or in the Bible as a book from God, believe that.
When you consider so many other factors that are working today in our world like the new sexual revolution which demands when you really understand it, that you deny reality and pretend that biological sex is transferable, that men can get pregnant, you can practically watch as the underpinnings of society erode before our eyes. Every norm that we have taken for granted in our lifetimes is under attack. There's no other way to describe this feature of modern culture other than demonic. Think about that. We are witnessing a demonic spiritual onslaught against not just the family but against the human person. The natural order is being defied as a result a generation of youth even, is being altered.
In America and in the other Western democracies of Canada and Australia, we're rushing headlong toward a condition that is described in the scripture by the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Everyone knows the story of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sins and that's where we are heading. We're actually living at a time of world upheaval, defining a new age in history. We have heard talk, I've written articles about this for our "Beyond Today" magazine about what is called "a great reset of the world order." In recent times, we have also seen war break out in Europe and those who study Bible prophecy, the students of the Bible, understand this one truth that I think is very sure, that we are watching major prophetic foundations right now being laid down, and in time, these will emerge into key events that are prophesied by Jesus Christ to be in this world at the time, at the end of this age before His second coming.
Not only are we living at a most critical moment of the world history, but it's also the richest period of all time. The affluence that we all enjoy is the most, also the most dangerous condition that we could face. You know we have it pretty good. All of us do. Even the poorest among us have it pretty good compared to the rest of the world. The question for a Christian, that one who claims to be a disciple of Jesus is, are we using it to God's glory? Or do we let it lull us into complacency? And we misunderstand how they can influence any one of us. I can be influenced just as well as you, anyone who's living in this culture. We have a culture that is created by our world that can influence us just as it did these seven congregations and the members they're in, bringing Christ to give them messages of warning, those warnings apply to us. These messages to the seven churches and Laodicea in particular, have something to say to us today. This last message to Laodicea, really when it's understood, is going to give us something to consider and I think that anyone who really studies the message to Laodicea and what that means for us today, will get a wake up call, a wake up call to history.
So let's examine the message to the church at Laodicea. It begins in the third chapter of Revelation, verse 14. Here's how it begins. "These things says the Amen, the Faithful and the True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God." Now Jesus introduces each of these seven messages and this one has a unique message. He calls Himself "the Amen," which means that He is true. The word amen as we say it at the end of a prayer and so often use it, really means let it be so. But we're saying that what is said before, and we are a saying amen too, is that it's true. And here Christ as this name now applied to Him is telling us, He's guaranteeing the truth of His message that He can be relied on, and what He is about to say speaks to the essence of a message which we should heed. Also in this title emphasizes His role as the creator of all things which adds a critical amount of weight and importance to what He says. Because scripture teaches us that all things were made through Christ, as the one member of the God family, who carried out the great purpose of creation. We're being told there's a special relationship with those who heed that message.
Now the message goes on. We come to a most unusual statement, what most people remember about the message to Laodicea. Christ says in verse 15, "I know your works, that you're neither cold nor hot. I could wish that you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot," Christ says, "I will vomit you out of my mouth." Cold and hot, vomiting. Here's a contrast and most who have studied this verse understand it to be connected to something that we have to understand from the setting of the 1st century. The water supply of not only Laodicea but also two other nearby cities to Laodicea. This contrast would've been understood by the members listening to the letter being read to them in the city of Laodicea, when this letter within the book of Revelation came to them. And that's an important part about Bible understanding. What did the original people hearing the message, what did they understand? Now they would've been cut to the heart by what they considered to be a spiritual teaching that was coming from Christ because the reference there to their lack of spiritual effectiveness is really what's being addressed. Their works were not bearing spiritual fruit and Christ was about to vomit them out of His mouth. It was a very strong visual.
So what does it mean? Well, it means that they were not effective. It can mean that they were like salt that lost its savor as they interacted with others in their community in Laodicea, these who claimed to be disciples of Jesus. There probably wasn't much distinction as some people could tell at various times, nothing very obvious about their lives, their lives that made them stand out and to be different as a Christian. In Laodicea, people could not distinguish the Christians from their lifestyle. They may have called themselves Christian, believers, like a lot of people do today. But they didn't always live it out in their daily life and they weren't effective.
Laodicea was located a few miles to the south of the city of Heirapolis. The city of Heirapolis had a set of hot springs known for their medicinal value and the water left a large amount of calcified deposits which can be seen today in what is the modern city of Pamukkale. They're still there to this very day. To the south of Laodicea, it was another city named Colossae. This is the same Colossae of the book of Colossians from the New Testament. This city Colossae was supplied by an abundant cold water runoff from a nearby mountain range. It was known that Laodicea actually took their water from yet a another source about five miles away, another hot spring that was filled with mineral deposits, by the time the water from that spring got to Laodicea via an aqueduct, it was warm water. Luke warm water is much less desirable than either cold or hot. In some cases, lukewarm water causes people to vomit. It works as what is called an emetic. It's less desirable and less effective than hot or cold water. That's what Christ is saying to the Laodiceans. He says, "You're not effective in your work." It's not that they may have lacked a certain zeal or an enthusiasm and a name, as the followers of Christ, but what they had was that but likely to a small degree. And it's not that their work for Him was not effective like it was cold or hot water. It was less so. They were in danger of being vomited out of His mouth. Again, this is a vivid word picture.
Next Christ deals with the reason for their effectiveness. He says, "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." Laodicea was known for its wealth. It sat on a major trade route, benefited from commerce. It was a financial center for the region. They minted their own coins there. They had black sheep in the nearby farms that produced a luxurious, rich, black wool that commanded high market prices. Brought a lot of money in. The city contained many who would be billionaires by today's standards and these people were extravagant benefactors. They built public facilities like a stadium for games and amphitheaters.
In the year 60 AD, an earthquake rocked the region. It caused a great deal of destruction, causing buildings to fall down. Laodicea refused financial relief from Rome. Imagine that. A town, a region that wouldn't take money coming in from the government to help to rebuild. They were that wealthy. When you visit Laodicea today, you see something unique to this city. Most Roman cities of its size had one theater. Laodicea didn't have just one theater, they had two theaters right next to each other. It's what we might call today a cineplex, a multiple theater building. Residents could be entertained throughout the day by different forms of entertainment in these theaters. Their wealth created a culture of distraction and ease. They were self-sufficient. They had the money, the time to engage in the arts, in sports, in spectacles, and entertainment. In short, there were distractions. They were self-sufficient. They thought it would go on forever.
How about us today? We're far more self-sufficient. We live in history's most prosperous period. In the West we have the highest standard of living that enables us all to be comfortable and have a very nice life. And for the present we have affordable reliable energy that heats us, cools us, feeds and sustains us. The danger of all of this is that we can become rich and forget the source of our blessing. This is what has happened in America and in the post-Christian world. We have forgotten God. Look at what Christ says. "Wretched, poor, blind, miserable and naked." This is the harshest of anything said to the other churches. This would be devastating to those hearers. It should make us think. They were deluded by thinking that they were safe and secure both physically and spiritually and they were neither. All of us could hear that message and apply it to one degree or another to ourselves.
A Christian disciple is not immune to spiritual weakness. Each of us must consider this message as a strong wake up call. We must take it personally. It's not just a historic message to people nearly 2000 years ago. Christ goes on next to say, He says, "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." Here's another local illusion to Laodicea. They produced literally an eye salve that would help with eye disease, could heal. Christ said that they were blind though. They were needing to take corrective action so that they could see. That wasn't their only problem. They needed to see Him for their help. He tells them they also needed new clothing. He's really talking about white clothing which is a symbol of righteousness and revelation, to cover their nakedness. He said they must "also buy refined gold to eliminate a spiritual poverty."
Now how would they do any of these? How would they do any of these three things? It wouldn't be easy. There was no one touch shopping method at that time. These matters are brought out through what the Bible calls repentance. That's what Jesus is saying, a heartfelt turnaround of their lives. It would be a difficult road. Christ is telling a rich and prosperous people that what they needed could not be bought with money. Their combined wealth was not enough to buy from Him. The essentials they needed to be effective in His hands as the creator of life to make this change. The members in Laodicea were at a critical point. Their spiritual standing with Christ, the head of the church, was on the verge of ending and He's giving them a final chance to change and it's an appeal from the heart of Christ to His people to listen, to turn to Him. In a rich, visually clear picture Christ lays out their status and their future, and He says if they will listen to what He says there's hope.
Now many read this message to Laodicea and they conclude that it is the problem child of all the seven churches, the worst of the lot. Well it's a pretty bad stark message. Laodicea sometimes becomes a term describing a very bad group. There's no doubt they needed some attention, but what Christ says next should tell us something about how Christ felt about them from the depth of His heart. He goes on to say, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore,"He says, "be zealous," listen here, "repent." He loves those in Laodicea who will take the correction and work hard to overcome their ineffectiveness. Christ loves those who desire to be strong tools and His hands to preach the gospel and to be a light to the world. He loves those disciples who are zealous to the work of God on earth today. Christ loves those who desire a deep relationship of the heart, so much so that they will accept an invitation to come and to have dinner with Him. An invitation from Christ is never anything to take lightly. That's what He says in this next verse. He says, "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."
Here's another reason for their lack of effectiveness, the relationship with Christ was not what it should be. They professed to believe in Christ, but the relationship was lacking. They kept Him waiting outside the door. Imagine that today. Think about that in our own life. Laodicea could not hear nor see Christ at their door. They were keeping Him at arm’s length. It was a moment of crisis. The problem was they thought they knew Christ but they did not know Christ. They thought their salvation was secure and they could not see. They were dangerously close to losing out. Laodicea didn't recognize their Lord and their master. They couldn't hear the knock on the door, the invitation. Why? Because they were rich and increased with goods. They were lulled to sleep by their wealthy, distracted life. They were in danger of amusing themselves right out of the body of Christ in a torrent of vomit.
Are you like those disciples at Laodicea? If any part of this message applies to us, we are in spiritual danger. We need to listen to what the Spirit says. The message to Laodicea, yes, even to all of the messages, to all these churches speaks to the condition of our present world. We live in a time when truth is under fire. The forces of darkness are waging a spiritual war. The dark demonic world is breaking into this present world. What we see with war, global pestilence, sexual revolution attacking the natural order of human life, they're all signs of this growing darkness. Today we are seeing spiritual wickedness seize the high powers of this age. Look around, look around and begin to see with the eyesight that God can give.
Governments around the world create policy seeking to change the world we know into this vision of a utopia, a world order that they think will bring justice, peace, and equity through control of every part of modern life, technology, finance, commerce. A new system will emerge that will promise peace and order, but in the end will consume the bodies and souls of humans. That's what scripture says. Through education systems and media culture, we are watching our minds and the minds of our youth be conditioned to accept philosophies, lifestyles, world views that are immoral, ungodly, and anti-biblical. Wherever we turn, we are being persuaded against the belief in God, the Bible, and the existence of an alterable, immutable truth. Leaders, celebrities, the media culture, global businesses, they're all spokespersons for these false world views.
We can't be naive to what's happening. We're engaged in a spiritual battle for their mind and the heart and we're seeing massive deception occur. And mark this, this deception includes the messaging of religion, churches, and other spiritual teachings. What has taught as Christian today does not always stand up against what the Bible teaches. The true gospel Jesus Christ preached and passed on to His disciples has been changed and watered down. That's why Jesus stands at the door knocking, waiting to come in and dine.
Don't take for granted that your church teaches biblical truth. The setting for the messages and all these churches is revelation, the time of the Roman Empire of the 1st century, a period when human government and all the powers it commanded, waged a battle against truth and especially those who followed Christ. At the same time, there was massive deception. Not only was the pagan world enticing them to sin, but false teaching was rising from within a church to cause compromise from the surrounding culture and to deny Christ. Taken together these seven messages to the churches offer encouragement from Christ that they could meet those challenges to their faith and He showed them they could overcome, be victorious, they could be winners in faith.
And so with the study of the message of the church at Laodicea, we conclude the series on the seven churches. If you've not seen the previous programs in this series, you're going to want to. You can find them on our "Beyond Today" channel on YouTube and on our website at beyondtoday.tv, and I encourage you to view each of these programs and study your Bible with the free study guides that are offered on each one of these.
For this program about Laodicea, we offer a study guide entitled, "The Tools for Spiritual Growth." This guide takes you through important steps you must take to have a closer relationship with God. If you take these tools such as prayer, study, fasting, repentance, and you practice them, you will be armed in the spiritual battle. You can obtain a free copy by calling the number on your screen or going to beyondtoday.tv.
So here's hope for today. Christ wants us to prevail. He gives us instruction, correction to understand. We can have tools of spiritual warfare to overcome. Christ ends this message to Laodicea with this message of encouragement and hope. He says, "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."
[Narrator] Please call for the booklet offered on today's program, "Tools for Spiritual Growth." This free study aid will provide you with vital information on how you can actively grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It will help you learn how to pray meaningful prayers to God, how to meditate effectively, how to use tools like fasting and fellowship and your personal Bible study to actively discern God's will for you. Order now. Call toll free 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. When you order this study aid, you'll learn what the scriptures reveal about how you can grow in spiritual strength, and build a personal relationship with your creator. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary, one year subscription to our "Beyond Today Magazine." Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in light of bible prophecy as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family. Call today to receive your free booklet, "Tools for Spiritual Growth" and your free, one year subscription to "Beyond Today Magazine." 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.
[Gary Petty]Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches, you found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.