Thursday, May 29, 2003

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Laodicea

For those who would like to start at the very beginning of this series on the book of Revelation, click here.

Review: A comparison of the letters to Ephesus and Thyatira is instructive concerning the balance between upholding high standards of righteousness and doctrine (Ephesus) and demonstrating God's love and mercy (Thyatira). A comparison of the letters to Smyrna and Philadelphia demonstrates God's sovereignty over the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Pergamum and Sardis show weakened and near dead churches.

Today I give attention to the last church: the church in Laodicea. Rather that pairing it with another church, I will be comparing it with all the others.

There is good reason for doing so. Laodicea is the lukewarm church. It is neither hot nor cold. Now consider the other six churches. Thyatira, Smyrna, and Philadelphia would be hot churches. They are growing and remaining distinctly faithful. Ephesus, Pergamum, and Sardis would be cold. All six fair more favorably with the Lord than does Laodicea:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following: “This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation: ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot! So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! Because you say, “I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing,” but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, take my advice and buy gold from me refined by fire so you can become rich! Buy from me white clothing so you can be clothed and your shameful nakedness will not be exposed, and buy eye salve to put on your eyes so you can see! All those I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent! Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. I will grant the one who conquers permission to sit with me on my throne, just as I too conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” (Revelation 3:14-22)

Other Churches

Laodicea

  • Ephesus and Pergamum: Good and Bad Deeds
  • Smyrna: Poor but really rich
  • Sardis: Soiled clothes
  • Philadelphia: An open door
  • Thyatira: Overcomers will rule with Messiah
  • Luke warm mediocrity: neither good not bad
  • Rich but really poor
  • Naked
  • A closed door
  • Overcomers will rule with Messiah

Consider Ephesus, Sardis, and Pergamum. In each case, Jesus was about to come and do something to correct the situation--even if it was to remove the candle. Thyatira and Philadelphia also have Jesus coming and proactively engaging in their situations. Smyrna is commended and asked to hold firm. Jesus is able to deal with the hot and cold churches, because in both cases, the churches are able to recognize their needs and respond.

The church at Laodicea is self-sufficient and needs nothing. Jesus is neatly kept outside. And so He stands and knocks. And so Laodicea has to open the door and she has to buy the things that she needs from Jesus. They must start by buying gold refined in fire. This is an allusion, I believe to tested faith. The church at Laodicea needs a period of fiery persecution in order for their faith to awaken, and then they can be dressed and healed of their blindness. They need to mature as believers:

For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)

On Monday, I will look at each of the seven churches one more time to look at their overcomer rewards. In the meantime, I would like to reflect and meditate on these churches. What church comes closest to describing your life? I believe that the right answer could be any, a combination, or none at all. I am not endeavoring to create a guilty conscience. On the other hand, such self-examination on a personal and church level can be very useful.

Monday: The Rewards for Overcoming

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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