Church of Laodicea

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. Revelation 3:14-22 (KJV)

In closing the letters to the seven churches we come to the final church of Laodicea. This was a wealthy city, and thus, believed themselves to be in need of nothing. This attitude had gotten into the church, thus the need for the letter. In this letter we will see the sovereignty of Jesus Christ and His power in working with spiritual fervor, or the lack of it, and His immediate position to those who say they have no need.

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God;”

Jesus reveals Himself as “The Amen”, which means “So be it”. What ever Jesus has said, or is about to say will definitely come to pass. He is the God of truth. He is truth, fixed and sure.

Jesus is the One who has, possesses and owns everything. “The earth is the LORD’S and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1).

Again Jesus is presenting a characteristic of Himself which the church needs. As Sovereign He owns and possesses all things.

He reveals Himself as the very source of all creation. “…The Beginning of the creation of God…” declares in fact that He is the Creator, not a created being (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). He is the source of the needs the Laodicean people did not realize they had. Paul was familiar with Laodicea. The epistle of Colossians was sent to Laodicea for them to hear and read concerning the deity of Jesus, and other matters.

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth.”

In these verses we see what Jesus has to say to the congregation of Laodicea. It is not pleasant or good. He mentions no good works, no good doctrine, there is absolutely no commendation, but condemnation, with a call to “Repent” and “…Open the door…” as the only hope.

This is a church which only acted as a thermometer. It only registered the temperature around it. It was no more than a stagnant water or a dead body. Its environment was all it registered. A thermostat is used for raising or lowering the temperature. Every child of God should be like a thermostat.

When we look through Scripture we find that there are three spiritual temperatures;
1. The burning heart. This heart yearns for the Word of God and loves to hear the exposition of God’s Word. You find an example of this heart in Luke 24:32.
2. The cold heart. This heart is just not interested in spiritual things. It finds greater pleasure in the world than in God’s words. An example of this heart is found in Matthew 24:12.
3. The lukewarm heart. This is the heart who is comfortable and complacent. It is the worst condition of the three. This individual or church will not be committed to do anything much. May or may not be a regular worshipper. We find this example in our text (v. 15). You never know where this type of people or church stands on any issue or debate.

The John MacArthur Study Bible note on verse 16 states,

“Nearby Hierapolis was famous for its hot springs, and Colosse for its cold, refreshing mountain stream. But Laodicea had dirty, tepid water that flowed for miles through an underground aqueduct. Visitors, unaccustomed to it, immediately spat it out. The church at Laodicea was neither cold, openly rejecting Christ, nor hot, filled with spiritual zeal. Instead, its members were lukewarm, hypocrites professing to know Christ, but not truly belonging to Him (cf. Matt.7:21ff).”

Jesus says of this church, “You make me sick”. They are willing to sacrifice truth for peace.

If they would have been hot Jesus would have commended them. If they would have been cold, He would have rebuked them and heated them up. As they were lukewarm, they did not even realize they had a need. Everything was going their way. They had money, notoriety, rich jewels. They had everything other people in the city had – including the presence of the absence of Jesus. They did not even know Jesus was not there.

When things are going good, and we get comfortable, let us make certain Jesus is present no matter what the cost may be. If we are comfortable we must be careful not to grow complacent to the needs we may have as well as the needs of those around us. The greatest need the world around us has is that they see Jesus Christ in those who are His – for the church to be the Church – and not living as the world.

“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

The church needed to be made aware of their comfortable complacency. Because of the material riches they had been blessed with they had drifted into lukewarmness and had become a negative testimony for Christ.

Lukewarmness happens when blessings are many and the worship of Jesus slacks off. Pride and self-satisfaction is the ruin of many individuals and churches.

The city was one of vast wealth and the church has been a recipient as well. They had “Need of nothing” and were blind to their real need. They were able to handle things themselves. Their blindness kept them from seeing their nakedness, and poverty. Spiritual blindness leads to spiritual bankruptcy.

These people were clothed in the richest of garments materially, yet without the righteous garment of Jesus, they had nothing of God. They were clothed in “Fig leaves” before the eyes of God.

Blindness is sometimes caused by poor diet – malnutrition. Warren Wiersbe said,

“Diet has bearing on the condition of one’s eyes, in a spiritual sense as well as a physical one.”

They had feasted heavily on material things and were fat and lazy. They had neglected the Word and worship of God in Christ and were blind as a bat without sonar, in Spirit. Poor, miserable, blind and naked.

They needed cleansing. They needed to stand for Jesus to show the world the difference one’s life has in Christ. This would lead to persecution, for the Scripture says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

They needed to be clothed in the white and righteous garments of Jesus. In Jesus they would have true riches; “Gold tried in the fire” or persecution and trials of faith in Him. God, raiment, and sight that is for eternity, rather than that which the moth and rust eat away, corupts and fails.

Laodicea was known for an eye ointment for helping sight problems. This ointment could not help them see Jesus, their true need, however. Jesus offers the ointment of the Holy Spirit who gives sight to the spiritually blind.

Jesus’s words in verse 19 are directed to a small remnant within this church who are in Christ. They have sadly backsliden, yet Jesus warns them to repent. His chastening hand brings His children out of the lie of self-satisfaction into a satisfying fellowship with Himself.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.”

The saddest statement of these letters, and possibly in all of scripture is the proximity of Jesus in relation to this church.

1. He is near, but not in;
2. He is knocking at the door; the one’s inside unaware of His absence;
3. He is asking to come in.

This was more a social club than a church. If the One who instituted the Church is not in the church, then, it is not the Church. It does not matter how loud a group yells they are a church. What does matter is, where Jesus is in relation to them. Likewise, it matters not how loud the individual declares He is a christian, it does, however, matter the proximity of Jesus in relation to that individual.

For those who will open the door and let Him in there is great fellowship and feasting in His presence and glory.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”

The promise to the “Overcomer” is an eternal one. To sit with Jesus on His throne (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6). He has called us to be overcomers, placed in us His Spirit who seals us to that great day. Why do we want to persist in our own way, knowing that the riches of Jesus are ours through overcoming faith in Him?

Now is the time to hear. Hear the Spirit as He directs you to Jesus. Hear Him as He rebukes you of your sin and your backsliden condition.

Many individuals and churches are in the Laodicean condition. We need not stay there. If the Laodicean church did not repent they were judged. If the Church today does not repent of its comfortable complacency judgment will come on all who do not overcome.

In conclusion, this is the only church that had no commendation said of it. It was soundly rebuked for its lukewarmness. It was a “church” which made Jesus sick. Jesus was not even present in the church. He was outside, asking to come in, but they were not listening.

Let none of us who are in the Body of Christ get to the place where we do not even notice the absence of Jesus. What do we have if Jesus is not present in our gatherings as a local congregation? We have a social gathering, and some Christians who need repentance. What do we have if an individual does not have the presence of Jesus? A lost individual, or a backsliden Christian. Jesus is Lord. He establishes His Church. It is Jesus who decides who will sit with Him on His throne. He is THE SOVEREIGN KING.

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The One Who is Alive Forevermore

“And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; he that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Revelation 2:8-11 (KJV)

Facing sorrows through trials of our faith we find assurance, in this letter to the church in Smyrna, of the eternalness of Jesus, and His promise of eternal riches to those who are overcomers. The “Crown of Life” is promised to those who are “Faithful unto death”.

The church at Smyrna was a suffering church. They had nothing of the world’s goods or praise. They did have the praise of Jesus. That means more than anything.

Polycarp was the bishop of the church and he was put to death for his faith. In John Walvoord’s “THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST” he writes, speaking of Polycarp,

“When asked by his heathen judges to recant his Christian faith, he replied, ‘Four score and six years have I served the Lord, and He never wronged me: How then can I blaspheme my King and Savior?”.

Polycarp seems to characterize the whole church at Smyrna.

The city of Smyrna is still in existence today, known as Izmir, unlike Ephesus which is in ruins. When Christians are willing to stand no matter what, it has redeeming qualities for all of society. There is also a Christian church in the city. How? By overcoming.

The church of Smyrna needed to hear from the One who is the “First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive”. Smyrna is located approximately 35 – 50 miles north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus, it too is a port city. The two cities probably struggled over which was the chief city of the region.

The word ‘Smyrna’ means “Myrrh”. Myrrh was used for embalming the dead. It was also used in Tabernacle worship, and as a perfume. The significance of this is the way in which Jesus identifies Himself to the church at Smyrna. “I Am the eternal One [the First and the Last], which became dead [myrrh was used for His burial], and I Am alive forevermore”.

These are certainly encouraging words. Our Savior who was humiliated and put to open shame upon the cross, and put to death is encouraging the church to stay on course, because they too will live eternally. They too, may die; you may someday get to die for your faith in Jesus, but that is not the end. You have eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

His “I know” of verse 9 is somewhat different from His “I know” for the church of Ephesus.

The church is suffering fiery persecution. “Poor” means they were poor in this world’s material things. This partially due to them, as followers of Jesus, having no rights to worship. Their lands and houses could be taken freely, because they had no legal protection, no constitutional protections as we have.

Their persecution came by means of the unregenerate people of Smyrna. Both the Gentiles and Jews persecuted the Christians.

“…Jews, and are not” implies a racial identity without a Christ’s identity. In Pauls letter to the Romans he wrote,

“…He is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29).

If these “Jews” had been anywhere near obedience to their faith they would have remembered God’s law which says,

“…the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

Therefore, Jesus says that they “…Are the synagogue of satan” – lost, no relation with God, condemned, and needing salvation.

They are known by those who persecute them as being “Poor”. They are known by Jesus as being “Rich”. How are you known by people? More importantly, how are you known by Jesus? It is much better to be poor to the world and rich with Christ, than to be rich to the world and poor with Jesus.

Jesus is so very gracious. He speaks quite often in the gospels, “Fear not”, or “Be not afraid”. Here in verse 10 He speaks the words again. “Fear none of those things…”.
“If they come and take away your houses or land, do not be afraid. If they come to take you away for torture, pain and death, do not fear. If they come to take your family, do not be afraid. If they come to ridicule you, do not fear. If they bring false charges against you, do not fear. If they come to take your life, do not be afraid. It is not over. Your life is still in My hands”, Jesus says. My paraphrase.

Tribulation and suffering should not be strange for the follower of Jesus. He told us, “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world”. (John 16:33).

Trials and testings come into every believer’s life. Sometimes we suffer because of our faith in Jesus. Sometimes it is because of sin left unconfessed and an unrepentant heart, or paying the consequences of sin forgiven. Sometimes it is to keep us from something for our own benefit and His glory.

“Tribulation ten days” is probably a reference to a short period of time. All the troubles we encounter as Christians are of only short duration compared to eternity. Many Christians suffer bad health for years, not because of sin, but for their good, and the glory of Jesus. It is only a short time compared to the glory and splendor of God’s eternal home.

The “Ten days” have also been compared to a period of time from Nero in 64-68 AD., through Diocletian of 303-313 AD.. Nero 64-68 AD., Domitian95-96 AD., Trajan 104-117 AD., Marcus Aurelius 161-180 AD. (According to some this is when Polycarp was martyred), Severus 200-211 AD., Maximinius 235-237 AD., Decius 250-253 AD., Valerian 257-260 AD., Aurelian 270-275 AD., and Diocletian 303-313 AD.. This would have represented the ten days as being periods of persecution under these leaders.

How faithful would you be to public worship and faith in Jesus Christ if our government suddenly declared worshiping God in Jesus to be illegal? Would you be in Bible study and worship next Sunday? The worship of the church of Smyrna was illegal, yet they worshiped and lived their faith. They suffered. Jesus words were, “Be faithful unto death”. “Don’t be afraid, be faithful”. Even if it means your life, be faithful. Jesus was. He gave His life as not only as an act of love for you and me, but also an act of faithfulness to the Father. The reward? He will give a “Crown of life”; “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” (James 1:12). This crown is often equated with being the “Martyrs crown”, but probably received by all who are faithful in life without fear for their lives.

Finally, Jesus says to the church of Smyrna, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (v. 11). Those who are followers of Jesus Christ will hear His voice.

The Spirit gives understanding. He is our ears to the words of the Lord Jesus. The message is now to the individual – “Hear”.

“The second death” is total and eternal separation from God. The word ‘death’, in essence means separation. Physical death is the separation of the body from life. Spiritual death is the condition all people are born into, separated from God. The “Second death” being different only in that it is eternal separation from God. There is an eternal place where the eternal wrath of God is suffered.

All who overcome are “Born of God”. “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (1 John 5:4). All who are “Born of God” [born again] overcome. The “second death” has no hurt to the born again (Revelation 20:6). The second death is reserved for those not found in the book of life (20:14), ‘the fearful and unbelieving…the abominable, …shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death” (21:8).

The only way to miss the “Second death” is to be born twice. The second time through faith in Jesus Christ. Someone once said, “If you were born once, you will die twice. If you were born twice, you will die once.”

Troubles, inevitably will come, at least while we live on earth. Some people will ridicule our faith and faithful practices. Sickness comes occasionally or regularly for some. Nevertheless, we are called on to be faithful.

If we keep in mind the humiliation of Jesus and His suffering, even though He was sinless, and the glory that is His after His resurrection, we can overcome every trouble and trial of suffering that comes our way. No material possession can keep us from the “Second death” only Jesus can. After all He is THE RESURRECTED ONE.