JESUS’ LETTER TO LAODICEA

Oh, the grace of God, that His Son would come and speak to the church at Laodicea to admonish and correct, so they may become His witnesses!

[SW133] 03/21/2014 message notes by Rev. Susan J. Wynn ©2014
“Jesus’ Letter to Laodicea”

Text: Revelation 3:14-22

Background:

While the Apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos (to the east of Greece), Jesus Christ gives him a revelation — an unveiling — of Himself, and what is to come.

The unveiling of Himself:

When John sees Jesus Christ as He is now — Judge, Lord of lords, and King of kings — here’s what happens:

Revelation 1:17   When I saw Him, I  fell at His feet like a dead man. And He  placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid;  I am the first and the last, 18 and the  living One; and I   was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have  the keys of death and of Hades. 19 “Therefore  write  the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place  after these things.”

What is to come:

Before He unveils what is to come, the Lord Jesus speaks to seven churches through their messengers (pastors). He is the one that walks among (5281, in the middle of) the seven golden lamp stands that are like candelabra (the churches).

Why does He speak to them? To encourage them, to exhort them, to correct them, to convict them regarding sin and righteousness and judgment. He commands five of the seven churches to repent.

Background on Laodicea:

The city of Laodicea was known as an extremely wealthy city — so wealthy that even after an earthquake hit in A.D. 60, they rebuilt the city without financial assistance from Rome.

Its wealth came from the textile industry. But it was also known for its medical school, where a salve made of spice nard was developed for treatment of the eyes and ears.

Laodicea lacked a water supply. Its water source was six miles north, delivered to them through a series of stone pipes (another sign of Laodicea’s wealth). But because of the miles the water traveled, it was lukewarm by the time it reached Laodicea.

Jesus’ words to Laodicea

Jesus identifies Himself as:

— the Amen (281 truth, firm, trustworthy),

— the faithful and true Witness (4103/228 trustworthy, true as in true to His nature, and 3144 judicial witness in view here).

He also identifies Himself as being the Beginning (746 the Origin) of the creation of God. He was with God in the beginning, before anything was created, and it was by Him that it was created (see John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16ff, Hebrews 1:2, and elsewhere).

In that passage in Colossians 1, Paul goes on to say that Jesus is the Head of the church. But in the church at Laodicea, its wealth has gone to its head! Praise God that He comes to such a church with righteous correction!

Jesus Christ has no good things to say about this church. They do not possess His character, His nature, His attributes. Yet it is God’s will that we possess them, and He is ready and waiting for us to ask Him to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire (Luke 11:13)!

In Verse 15, Jesus gets right to the point. The Laodicean church is neither cold nor hot toward Him. They are lukewarm, like their water.

He wishes they were cold or hot:

— If they are cold, they do not claim His name. Because they do not claim to be His, their sins cannot harm or profane His name, His reputation.

— If they are hot, they are on fire for God, baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire, zealous to do God’s works, working out their salvation with fear and trembling, knowing it is God who is at work in them (Philippians 2:12-13).  Those who are hot adorn His reputation and live His gospel. They walk in the same manner as He walked (1John 2:6), and thus bring Him glory.

But the Laodiceans are lukewarm. They are casual, mediocre, with one foot in the worldly riches they enjoy and one foot in Christianity. They profane His name:

halal  (first letter a “het”); properly, to bore into so as to cause a wound, to break one’s word, to use a wedge to create an open wound, to defile, to pollute, to prostitute.

They are not faithful and true, but disobey Him by chasing after riches. He knows where their hearts are (Matthew 6:19-21):

Matthew 6:19   “ Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 “But store up for yourselves  treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for  where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Because they are lukewarm, He will vomit them out of His mouth (Verse 16), violently expelling them out of Himself so they are no longer in Him — unless they repent.

They do not trust in the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Origin of creation. What do they trust in? Verse 17 says it: their worldly wealth. They are rich, they have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.

But the faithful and true Witness tells them they are:

— Wretched (5005 as in bearing a weight, and they are being weighed in His balance), despite their lack of financial burdens. The handwriting is on the wall. They have been weighed in the balance, and have been found wanting (Daniel 5:27).

— Miserable (1652 pitiable, needing mercy), despite their self-assurance.

— Poor (4434 one who crouches and cowers one who is beggarly, understanding their lack), despite their material wealth.

— Blind (spiritually), for they do not see their spiritual poverty, despite their famous eye salve, AND

— Naked (not clothed with Christ nor with readiness, with their lamps lit by the oil of the Holy Spirit), despite their renowned textile industry.

What do they need? He advises them to seek His riches (see Malachi 3:2-3)

First, Gold refined by fire — the Refiner requires it! They must be purified, and then they will possess His riches, the Holy Spirit. Their monetary wealth simply masks their spiritual poverty.

Second, white garments so they may be clothed and the shame of their nakedness not be revealed — it is a picture of those whose sin has been washed away and whose hearts have been purified. The Launderer requires it! Their beautiful textiles cannot cover their shame. They must be clothed with Christ (Galatians 3:27), and clothed with power from on high:

Luke 24:49 “And behold,  I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but  you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Third, eye salve to anoint their eyes so they may see — Not the eye salve they manufacture, but the salve that Jesus Christ supplies, by the Holy Spirit, to give them a revelation of Him and to let them see with His eyes!

Those who He loves (5368 phileo has affection toward), He disciplines (Hebrews 12:4-6). He does not use agapao here — God’s actual love, the same love with which the Father loves the Son — as He did with the church at Philadelphia. It is a lesser love than agapao, but because He has affection toward them, He calls them to repent, saying,

“Therefore (because of your spiritual condition), be zealous (have ardoer, burn with holy passion) and repent (turn away from your riches and say, “Against You only, O God, have I sinned!” Turn away from your love of money, and love Him!

This church’s condition is perilous, because He has nothing good to say about them AND He is not IN the church at Laodicea. He is not present with them. He is outside, knocking. How ironic — the One who opens doors faces hearts shut to Him!

The painting, The Light of the World (1853–54) is an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on an overgrown and long-unopened door, illustrating Revelation 3:20 According to Hunt: “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject.” The door in the painting has no handle, and can therefore be opened only from the inside, representing “the obstinately shut mind”. Hunt, 50 years after painting it, felt he had to explain the symbolism. (Wikipedia)

He doesn’t expect the church to open its doors to Him, because He speaks to individuals — “if anyone hears My voice . . .” If anyone does, He will come into him. He will enter them, He will dwell in them. And they will have holy intimacy with Him— He will feed them with His Word and His presence, and they will feed Him with worship and ministry to Him, in an endless, joyous exchange!

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches!

For today’s church

The Lord’s words sting. But remember, He disciplines those whom He loves.

Many churches in developed countries, and particularly in the U.S., are materially wealthy. They are rich and have become wealthy, and are in need of nothing.

Many churches who preach hyper-grace* and prosperity are materially wealthy, tickling the ears of their attendees:

2Timothy 4:3 For  the time will come when they will not endure  sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  4 and  will turn away their ears from the truth and  will turn aside to myths.

Thus, many of these same churches are, like Laodicea, in a perilous condition. They are lukewarm. They remain slaves to sin. Thus, they profane the reputation of God the Father and God the Son by sinning against God, boring through Him so as to wound, driving a wedge into Him with a sledgehammer.

They are:

— Wretched (5005 as in bearing a weight, and they are being weighed in His balance), despite their lack of financial burdens. The handwriting is on the wall. They have been weighed in the balance, and have been found wanting (Daniel 5:27).

— Miserable (1652 pitiable, needing mercy), despite their self-assurance.

— Poor (4434 one who crouches and cowers one who is beggarly, understanding their lack), despite their material wealth.

— Blind (spiritually), for they do not see their spiritual poverty, despite their famous eye salve, AND

— Naked (not clothed with Christ nor with readiness, with their lamps lit by the oil of the Holy Spirit), despite their renowned textile industry.

Go quickly to the Refiner, O lukewarm ones! He will refine you, cleanse you, and you will discover HIS riches — true life in Him and freedom from slavery to sin! He will clothe you in white and purify your heart! His Spirit will give you a new heart, one that is on fire for Him!

Do you hear Him knocking? Open the door, repent, be baptized in the Holy Spirit, be zealous, full of ardor and holy passion for Him and for His reputation!

Then go forth, clothed with power from on high, as you ought to be, as it is necessary to be, as you must be, as you are responsible to be, as you are indebted to Christ to be, for you owe Him! You were bought with a price and are not your own (1Corinthians 6:19)!

* The term hyper-grace has been used to describe a new wave of teaching that emphasizes the grace of God to the exclusion of other vital teachings such as repentance and confession of sin. Hyper-grace teachers maintain that all sin, past, present, and future, has already been forgiven, so there is no need for a believer to ever confess it. The conclusion of hyper-grace teaching is that we are not bound by Jesus’ teaching, even as we are not under the Law; that believers are not responsible for their sin; and that anyone who disagrees is a pharisaical legalist. In short, hyper-grace teachers “pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality” (Jude 1:4).

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Author: Susan Wynn, servant of Jesus Christ

Healed by Jesus Christ of MS in 2001, in the middle of the night! Proclaiming His gospel, His healing, His heart. Author of From Death To Life--A True Story of Healing, Hope and Being Set Free. Our ministry: My Father's Place, a ministry without walls, proclaiming Jesus Christ to the world.

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