What Happens Next? Revelation 3:14-22, to the church at Laodicea

A little background concerning the church at Laodicea

  • A self-sufficient and commercial center, thriving in the medical and textile industries.
  • Known for it’s production of wool cloth.
  • About 35 years before this letter was written, the town was destroyed by earthquake, but they had enough resources within themselves to quickly rebuild.

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

  • “the Amen” -literally, strong affirmation of what is declared; the truth. It seems Jesus is seeking to stress the honesty of his evaluation of the church at Laodicea. Here referring to himself as “the Amen” (or the Truth), and again describing himself as a “true witness”. Jesus is faithful to truth. It is outside of his divine character to be untrue. Isa. 65.16 describes God as “the God of the Amen”. Truth is found in and flows from Him. The phrase also highlights the sovereignty of God in our daily lives (“so be it”).
  • “faithful and true witness” -Rev. 1.5. Because Jesus is faithful and true, He is able to bring an honest look into the spiritual vitality of the church of Laodicea and ours as well.
  • “the beginning of God’s creation” – “the arche of creation” – this word can be understood either as first in time or first in rank. We shouldn’t understand it as in, “the first of God’s creation”, but that Jesus is the one who began creation (Col. 1:15-17). He is first in rank, not first in time, because He is eternal and therefore, timeless.

15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot!

  • Just like Sardis, this church does not receive a commendation.
  • “either cold or hot” – Many have often described “cold” as outright antagonism to the things of God and “hot” as intense spiritual fervor. This is not the case. Jesus is making a word play based off of the Laodiceans’ source of water.Two nearby cities contained valuable water:1) Hierapolis had hot springs, which, in the day, served medicinal purposes.2) Colossae had cold, pure water, which was refreshing in a hot climate.The nearby Lycus River contained muddy and undrinkable water. Thus the city of Laodicea was forced to bring water in by aquaduct from the hot springs of Hierapolis. By the time it reached Laodicea, (5 mi) it was “lukewarm” or “barren/worthless”. 
  • “lukewarm” – used only here in the New Testament. It can mean unusable or barren. If we described the “works” of this church, we might say that they were ‘good for nothing’.
  • ILL: Hot coffee is good. Cold ice tea is good. Neither are very good at room temperature.

16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

  • “spit you out of my mouth” – literally: vomit

17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

  • In the next two verses Jesus attacks the Laodiceans where they are most proud. In their wealth (self-sufficiency), their health, and their wardrobe.
  • “This verse clarifies that he will judge and reject them for their self-righteousness or self-sufficiency (rather than for their lack of spiritual fervor).” – Easley, 59.
  • If we learn but one lesson from the church at Laodicea, it would be that self righteousness and self sufficiency are dangerous to the soul.
  • Verse 17 supplies three conditions which promote spiritual complacency and barenness – riches, prosperity, and independence.
  • “rich” – The problem with riches isn’t the money, but it is the often accompanied thought that because one has plenty of material resources they do not seem to need Jesus’ spiritual resources.

 “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” – 1 Tim. 6.10

  • In Acts 8:9-25 (the story of Simon the Magician) we see that our money does not impress God and that it does not impart His favor upon us.

Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” – Mat. 6.24.

  • APP: May money never interfere or be more important than God, His will, and His work in the world.
  • “not realizing” – Isn’t it interesting that the people we often deceive the most is ourselves. Have you ever looked at yourself in a photograph, not realizing it’s you?
  • “poor” – Worth is not found in your wealth.
  • “blind” – Worth is not found in your health.
  • “naked” – Worth is not found in your wardrobe.

18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

  • “from me” – 1.Our worth is found only in Christ. Who needs money when He is the source of all spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3-14)? Why worry about physical health when you can be renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16, 1 Tim. 4:8)? Why worry about your clothing when Jesus will clothe you in righteousness (Isa. 61:10)?
  • 2. Jesus is worthy of our devotion and dependence. APP: Our worth is found not in stuff, but in the Savior.
  • “gold refined by fire” – instead of monetary riches, they were encouraged to make eternal investments.
  • “white garments” – instead of the fancy clothes they prized, would it not be better to wear “white garments” provided by Christ.
  • “shame of your nakedness” – See Genesis 3.8-11; 21. Was their clothing immodest? Possibly, but this is most likely a reference to feeling the shame of sin.
  • “that you may see” -Jesus invites us to take a long hard look in the mirror. If you were Jesus, looking into the cracks and crevasses of your life. What do you truly see?

19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,nor be weary when reproved by him.For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Heb. 12.5-11

  • God’s discipline (training and correction) has a specific purpose, that is holiness. thus our response should not be in resisting discipline, but changing our lives.

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

  • Is this verse a gospel invitation or an invitation for those who already believe to repent?
  • In context, it should be understood as an invitation to repent.
  • “knock” – insistent, ongoing knocking
  • A literal translation might say, “I have stood at the door, and I am continuously knocking” – meaning Christ has consistently urged repentance from the members of the church in Laodicea.
  • APP: A failure to repent can never be blamed on Christ.
  • “anyone…him…he” – repentance is an individual decision. Commitment to follow Christ, although done in community, cannot be forced and is based on the individual’s surrender.

21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

  • “grant him to sit with me” – another mention of a shared rule or designated authority from Christ. This phrase highlights that Christ shares His victory with His followers.

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