Lesson 9 - The Church at Laodicea

Lesson 9 - The Church at Laodicea

(Revelation 3:14-22)

The seventh and final church to which Jesus sends a message was located in the city of Laodicea.  Laodicea was the wealthiest of all the cities to which Jesus sent a message.  This city was the seat of government in the region and had a famous medical school, a banking center, a lumber industry and a wool industry.  Laodicea also had a temple to the pagan god Men Karou. 

Jesus described Himself by the titles of “the Amen,” “the faithful and true Witness,” and “the beginning of the creation of God.”  The word amen is a transliterated word from Hebrew meaning firm, fixed, true or unchangeable.  Amen in Hebrew is meant to convey the idea of truthfulness.  This title for Jesus Christ attested to the fact that He is absolute truth, cannot change, His witness regarding God is reliable and trustworthy.  (John 14:6)

The true and faithful Witness means that Jesus Christ was the One Who revealed God to mankind.  Everything we know about God is present in the Person of Jesus Christ.  The witness of Jesus Christ regarding God is trustworthy, can be relied on to be the absolute truth and He cannot lie.  Jesus was faithful in His assigned mission to reveal God and His plan of salvation to the human race.  (John 1:18, 6:46; I Timothy 6:16)

The next title, “the beginning of the creation of God” is a poor translation in the King James Bible of the Greek word.  The Greek word for beginning is “arche,” which was used in an active sense to indicate that Jesus Christ was “the beginner (originator, initiator, source) of creation,” not a “creation” of God.  (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17)

Jesus knew the works of this church.  They were lukewarm in their relationship with God.  Jesus said they were not hot or cold.  The analogy is like a beverage that is supposed to be drunk hot or cold.  If the beverage is supposed to hot and is cold when you drink it, it tastes bad.  On the other hand, if the beverage is supposed to be cold and is hot when you drink it, it tastes bad.  The “taste” of the out-of-fellowship believer who continues into reversionism (a state of continuous carnality) is not pleasant to God.  Therefore, God simply wants to spit this kind of believer out of His mouth.  Obviously, this is an illustration showing how distasteful it is to God for one of His children to continually disobey Him and remain in a state of carnality (being controlled by the sin nature).  (Matthew 6:24)

Reversionism is the condition of a believer that is negative toward Bible doctrine and as a result has stopped growing spiritually.  It is failure to follow God’s plan of executing the Christian Way of Life.  The reversionist is a believer in perpetual carnality, out of fellowship with God and controlled by his sin nature.  (If you are not advancing toward spiritual maturity as a Christian, you are retreating into reversionism).  Some believers start their Christian lives very well, under sound, accurate doctrinal teaching from their pastor-teacher.  Others wander off immediately after salvation, and remain in a state of carnality until they die.  Then we have the reversionist that begins well but finishes poorly. (Philippians 3:18-19; II John 8-10)

The church at Laodicea being wealthy could certainly have played a part in the indifference to their spiritual lives.  It is not uncommon for a believer to forget the source of his wealth, if he is not properly grounded in Bible doctrine from the Word of God.  Learning, believing and applying Bible doctrine should be the number one priority for every believer.  This is the only means in this age to grow spiritually, which results in pleasing God, being in His will and glorifying Jesus Christ.  (Romans 12:1-2; II Timothy 2:15)

These believers believed they had all they needed because they were materially wealthy.  Jesus points out that even though they had material wealth, they lacked spiritual wealth.  Wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked all refer to their spiritual status.  All these words describe a believer who is out of fellowship with God and quenching the Holy Spirit in his life.  As the reversionist moves further away from God, his conscience becomes more and more seared, his norms and standards revert to human viewpoint and the “scar tissue” of the soul begins to build.  Capacity for life is replaced with the temporary happiness of the World: money, power, social status and material possessions.  What a person thought was going to bring them lasting happiness only brings delusion.  Delusion leads to frustration, discouragement and even depression. (I Timothy 4:1-2)

The solution to their problem of carnality is found in verse 18: 1) buy gold from God 2) buy white clothes from God and 3) anoint your eyes with salve. 

The gold they were to buy was not just any gold; it was gold that had been refined by fire in order to remove the impurities.  The gold of which Jesus spoke was the spiritual wealth that comes as a result of spiritual growth.  God has given all believers a command to grow spiritually and He never gives us a command without giving us the means necessary to obey it.  God, therefore, has provided His written instruction book (the Bible) and the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit.  Both are grace functions for every believer in this age, regardless of education or I.Q.  Any believer with a positive attitude towards Bible doctrine can learn, believe and apply it accurately.

Spiritual maturity does not happen overnight.  It takes a lifetime of persistent and consistent study to learn Bible doctrine.  God’s Word likens spiritual growth to building a house.  Often expressed as edification, the concept in Greek is to build or to build up.  For the Christian, this occurs in his soul as he exposes himself to accurate Bible teaching and applies the truth that he learns.  As with any building, we must be careful to first “lay” the right foundation before we build on it.  The Scripture is clear that the only foundation for the believer is Jesus Christ Himself.  We know that the Word of God is the mind of Christ. Therefore, the foundation is the written Word (Christ is the living Word).  The written Word of God is meant to be understood and utilized as a blueprint for building your spiritual building (the Christian Way of Life). 

The white clothes that Jesus told these believers in Laodicea to buy was an encouragement to practice righteousness.  Jesus addressed believers in this city, who already possessed the righteousness of God.  However, they were not practicing righteousness in their daily lives and had become indifferent to the things of God.  White is normally associated with purity in the Scriptures and implies that their works were not motivated by their love for God nor were they filled with the Holy Spirit.  These believers were “naked,” spiritually speaking.(II Corinthians 5:14)

The third solution to carnality was described as putting salve on the eyes so they could see.  The believer in a state of carnality is spiritually blind.  The Greek word for blind is “porosis” meaning a covering with a callus.  The believer has eternal life and is a child of God, but being out of fellowship causes him spiritual blindness.  The recovery from this condition is confession of sin and the resumption of his spiritual life through the study and application of Bible doctrine.  (I John 1:7-10; Ephesians 4:17-24) 

Deliberate rejection of the study or rejection of application of Bible doctrine on a consistent basis leads the believer directly into evil.  Evil is not always what people think of as evil.  Evil can be succumbing to satanic doctrine, which enters the soul through the vacuum created by negative volition over a prolonged period of time.  The vacuum is an emptiness or a void in the mind that is going to filled with something.  For the believer it is going to be either Divine Viewpoint Thinking or Human Viewpoint Thinking.  Since thinking has become totally distorted, the believer blames all his problems on God, on others or on circumstances, failing to take responsibility for his own bad decisions, bad choices and bad behavior. (Ephesians 5:11; 6:12)

The carnal believer who stays out of fellowship for a prolonged period of time begins to build scar tissue on the soul, becoming callous to everything that has to do with God and His Word.  This was the spiritual status of the believers in Laodicea.  The build up of scar tissue is synonymous with the term “hardening of the heart” (sometimes referring to the unbeliever and sometimes to the believer). Scar tissue prevents Bible doctrine from circulating in the soul, cutting off the ability to recall and use doctrinal information that has previously been stored there.  (John 12:40; Romans 2:5; II Corinthians 4:3-4)

Jesus tells this complacent church to change their minds (obviously about their lack of spirituality).  If they would not, Jesus reminded them that as believers they would be disciplined.  God is a good Father and disciplines the believer when necessary like a good father would.  Never make the mistake of thinking that you are getting away with a certain sin because God loves you.  It is because He loves you that He disciplines you, not wanting you to get off track in your spiritual life.  Actually, receiving divine discipline proves that you are a child of God and that God loves you.  (Hebrews 12:6-11)

Revelation 3:20 is often quoted as a verse referring to salvation.  We know this is not the case since Jesus is addressing believers.  The idea Jesus was presenting was that He was waiting for these believers to change their minds about their spiritual condition (carnality), confess their sins and return to fellowship with God.  Notice that Christ does not enter the door without an invitation from the hearer on the other side.  It was customary in biblical times for a person to knock at a door and then identify oneself.  This is a picture of the free will of man.  The idea of “supping” (dining) pictures communion or fellowship, not salvation.  This group of believers did not need to hear a salvation message, they needed to get back in fellowship with God. 

Finally, Jesus told them that the overcomers (believers) would sit with Jesus on His throne.  Positionally, the believer is seated at the right hand of the Father being fully in union with Jesus Christ.  The throne speaks of rulership.  In the future, believers will rule and reign with Christ during His millennial reign on earth.  Rulership over cities by believers is spoken of in Luke 19:17; II Timothy 2:12; Revelation 5:10.

In Revelation 3:22 Jesus gives an imperative command for the churches to ear what was being said by the Holy Spirit.  This was not a contradiction.  It is the Holy Spirit Who teaches and enlightens the believer to the truth of God’s Word.  The term “he that has an ear let him hear,” means more than merely hearing something audibly.  The Greek word for hear is “aukuo” and has various meanings, including to hear with the ear.  It can also mean to heed, to give audience or to understand.  The phrase “to all the churches” told them that these messages were meant to be circulated among all the churches in Asia.