Rev 3:14-22 – To the Church in Laodicea

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Rev 3:14

  1. The name “Laodicea” is composed of two Greek words meaning “people” and “govern” or “judge”. The name Laodicea can therefore be translated into English as “people’s rule”.
    1. Laodicea, today’s Pamukkale in western Turkey, was a very rich city on the road to Colosse. The city was destroyed in an earthquake in 60 AD, about 35 years before the Book of Revelation, but its inhabitants refused to accept help from Rome, because they were so rich that they didn’t want help from outsiders and instead rebuilt the city themselves.
    2. Laodicea was known for its banks and economic success, its textile production (especially black wool fabrics) and its special eye ointment. Products from Laodicea were exported all over the then known world. The city also had a school for training doctors and a temple dedicated to the god of medicine, Asclepius.
    3. The city’s weak point was its poor access to water. The water came from the hot springs of the city of Hierapolis via a 10 km long aqueduct. Once in Laodicea, the hot water had become lukewarm and unappetizing.
      1. Because of Laodicea’s lack of water, the city’s leadership was inclined to compromise with potential enemies because they could easily demolish the aqueduct in the event of a siege of the city, which would quickly cause the city to run out of water. This willingness to compromise meant that the city could be easily defeated if the enemy so wished.
    4. Paul mentions the church in Laodicea in Colossians (Col 2:1), and wrote a letter of his own to them, but it has been lost (Col 4:16).
  2. The word “amen” means “true”, “reliable”, “trustworthy”, “let it be” and is often used in an affirmative way after someone has said something, similar to someone agreeing with “so be it” after a sentence.
    1. When, after someone has prayed a prayer or preached a sermon, one agrees to say “amen”, it means that one agrees with the content of the prayer or sermon, affirms its truth and wishes it to be so.
    1. That Jesus is “Amen” means that all the promises God has made about Jesus are true and trustworthy, and will come to pass (2 Corinthians 1:20).
  3. The fact that Jesus calls himself trustworthy and truthful contrasts with the city of Laodicea, which had a tendency to compromise with the enemy.

Rev 3:15-16

  1. Due to the difficult access to water in the city of Laodicea, a 10 km long aqueduct was used to transport water from the hot springs of Hierapolis. Once in Laodicea, the hot water had cooled slightly, but not enough to be cold water. The people of Laodicea were thus well aware of how disgusting lukewarm water is to drink, a knowledge that Jesus uses to explain to the church in Laodicea that they too are spiritually lukewarm.
    1. Cold water is good to drink on a hot sunny day, and hot tea is good to drink on a cool evening. But lukewarm water is never good to drink, and anyone who assumed that cold water or hot tea would be served would be so surprised by the lukewarm water that they would spontaneously spit it out.
  2. Either this parable can be seen as saying that it would be positive if the church in Laodicea were either hot or cold, or it can be seen as saying that if they are hot they belong to the kingdom of God and if they are cold they belong to the kingdom of the World. Since the city had a tendency to be compromising with the enemy, the latter interpretation of the parable is quite apt.
    1. The church gave the appearance of being rich and successful, but was judged by Jesus to be poor and naked. Another way of understanding the parable is that it is perfectly okay for a Christian to be rich because then they can be generous with their resources, and it is also okay for a Christian to be poor because then they become more dependent on God. Just as both hot and cold water have a purpose, God can use both the poor and the rich for his purposes. But it is difficult for God to use the one who pretends to be rich but never wants to share his wealth or the one who is poor but never asks God for help. It is better to be either hot or cold, than to be lukewarm.
  3. Some examples of how to become a lukewarm Christian:
    1. You don’t really have a true faith in your heart, but you go to church or perform certain religious ceremonies for show. Then you are cold, but warmed up to a lukewarm unappetizing level.
    2. You have a burning faith in your heart, but only complain about others without faith being expressed in loving actions. Then you are warm, but cool down and end up using the fire only to warm the pews in the church hall.
    3. They call themselves Pentecostal, Spirit-baptised and revivalist, but they never read their Bible, never pray private prayers and never testify to their faith. Then you give the appearance of being passionate about Jesus, but when it comes down to it, you are lukewarm.
  4. To avoid getting lukewarm, you have to stop trying to please both Jesus and the world at the same time. Following Jesus sometimes means sacrifice, suffering and persecution, and anyone who constantly tries to avoid sacrifice will eventually compromise his faith, and thus become lukewarm.
  5. A good example of a lukewarm person is Judas. He followed Jesus closely while keeping his distance in his heart.
  6. He who is lukewarm is in danger of becoming useless to Jesus. As in the image of cold and hot water, both serve their purpose, but lukewarm water is undrinkable and a lukewarm Christian is useless.
  7. In today’s free church world, it is impossible not to reflect on the Swedish name of the city of Laodicea, “folkstyre”, and its connection to lukewarmness. Is there a danger that our association-led parishes lead to lukewarmness? Is there a risk, when all members are democratically allowed to decide the welfare of the congregation, that we are tempted to listen to current social opinion rather than the word of God, thereby taking the edge off the gospel and trying to please both Jesus and the world at the same time?

Rev 3:17

  1. When the Christians of Laodicea looked at themselves, they saw only success and prosperity, just as the city in general was rich and prosperous. They did not realize that the more they focused on their own excellence, the less they saw of the glory of Jesus.
    1. The church in Laodicea stands in stark contrast to the church in Smyrna, which saw itself as poor, but according to Jesus was rich (Rev 2:9).
      1. It is not always how we see ourselves that is most correct, but how God sees us.
      2. Those who pray receive answers, but those who already have everything they need rarely pray and thus do not receive many answers. So the one who is worldly rich prays less and thus sees less of God’s blessings in his life. In this way, the worldly rich are often spiritually poor.
    2. Today’s theology of success has some similarities with the church of Laodicea, where financial wealth is seen as a divine blessing and wealth thus becomes a sign of being close to God. This kind of Christianity easily becomes person- and celebrity-centred and exalts people more than God. It is also easy to become lukewarm as one compromises between precious wealth and pious spirituality.
      1. If, when reading Jesus’ criticism of the church in Laodicea, you recognize yourself and realize that you are influenced by success theology, you should listen to Jesus’ words and repent.
    3. It would have been better if the Christians of Laodicea had realized, like John the Baptist, that they themselves must become smaller and Jesus greater (John 3:30). The Christian life is not about glorifying oneself and promoting oneself as a superstar or successful super-Christian. The Christian life is about humbling oneself and instead glorifying and exalting Jesus with one’s life. As a Christian, when you put the spotlight on yourself and your own excellence, you only expose your own aggrandizement.
    4. In contrast to the Christians of Laodicea who saw themselves as “rich”, Jesus says: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).
      1. It is not necessarily wrong to be rich or to have what you need, but it is wrong to put so much faith in valuable things that you feel you don’t need Jesus.
      2. We humans are not always self-sufficient, as the people of Laodicea should have understood, given all the earthquakes in the area. Even if the people of Laodicea had built the city with their own resources without outside help, they should understand that it will not always be possible. As it happens, the city is collapsing so completely that all the rich assets are destroyed.
      3. For the Christian, it is important not to base his life on worldly perishable things, but on the Rock, Jesus.
        1. So if you are a Christian and rich, thank God and be generous with your resources, but put your trust only in Jesus because precious wealth can quickly perish.
        2. Whoever seeks the kingdom of God first will receive all the rest as well (Matthew 6:33).
  2. Not only was the church in Laodicea spiritually poor, but they were “blind” to their own spiritual poverty.
    1. In boasting of their own wealth, the church of Laodicea trumpeted their own sin. It is not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to claim that you no longer need anything.
    2. As a Christian leader with a successful ministry, it can certainly be easy to be tempted to interpret your own success as a blessing from God. But one’s success, if any, must always be compared to God’s Word, not to what one humanly and worldly believes to be success.
  3. There is a strong similarity between the church in Laodicea and the majority population in Sweden. Both say of themselves that they are rich and therefore do not need God but are self-sufficient.
    1. Such thinking can change at any second if disaster strikes. Only when people no longer have their wealth or good health is it common to seek God. Therefore, it is better to start seeking God here and now, then you may even avoid ending up in a possible disaster.

Rev 3:18

  1. Laodicea, as mentioned earlier, was famous for its economic success, its textile production and its special eye ointment. Jesus now uses all three of these things, of which the people of Laodicea were so proud, to show that they should put their trust in Jesus instead of their worldly successes.
    1. The economic success of banking in Laodicea did not lead to spiritual wealth, rather the opposite. But for those who want to be “rich” in the real sense, seen through God’s eyes, they can turn to Jesus at any time and receive God’s gifts.
    2. Laodicea was known for its black woollen cloths, but Jesus offers instead “white clothes”, symbolising purity and God’s forgiveness.
    3. In order to receive Jesus’ “eye salve”, the church in Laodicea must first realize that they cannot see. Only those who humble themselves can receive what Jesus offers.

Rev 3:19

  1. Jesus totally dissents from the church in Laodicea, and it could easily be that many in the church probably felt completely rejected, so Jesus adds that he rebukes them because he actually loves them. The worst thing for the church would have been if Jesus had remained silent and left them to their own devices.
  2. Jesus invites the church to turn away from its self-sufficiency and turn towards Jesus.

Rev 3:20

  1. Jesus made the great and wonderful offer of salvation to the church at Laodicea. Jesus stands outside the door and knocks. And Jesus makes this offer to all people when he says “if anyone hears my voice”, if anyone opens the door, he or she will be saved.
  2. In the Middle East, eating together was a strong sign of community and togetherness.
  3. Jesus does not address this offer specifically to the church, but to individuals. It is important to understand that as an individual you need to open the door to Jesus. Jesus does not force his way in, but waits patiently for us to accept his offer and open the door.
    1. But it is not very likely that you will open the door if you have not first heard Jesus knock or call. In the same way, it is not very likely that you will accept Jesus as your Saviour if you have not first heard the word of God proclaimed.

Rev 3:21

  1. The one who repents, puts his trust in Jesus, and thus “wins” over a weak and compromising faith that puts its trust in itself instead of Jesus, will sit with Jesus on his throne.

Rev 3:22

  1. The message of this letter was primarily addressed to the church in Laodicea, but at the same time it was a general message to all Christians who are in similar situations.
  2. Few Christians want to identify themselves with the church of Laodicea, but if you who read this feel in your heart that the Spirit is speaking to you, then you should listen to the words of Jesus and take heed of the criticism and repent. There are great blessings in store for those who do so.
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