Friday, March 23, 2012

Exegesis of Revelation3:14-22 Part 4


The letter to the church at Laodicea is the final letter of seven written to the churches of the Roman province of Asia. Within the preceding six letters, Jesus had something which He commended in each church. This was not the case for the Laodicean church. On the contrary, Jesus opens this letter by first stating His qualifications for the indictment to come. Christ is about to level accusations against the Laodiceans that are in conflict with the way in which they see themselves. The situation the Laodicean church is not unlike that which modern Christians in America today. Often we rely on our wealth and own ingenuity rather than upon the guidance of God. Also like the Laodiceans, Christians in America seem to forget from where our blessings come. Jesus is the ultimate authority as He points out to the church at Laodicea.

Jesus completes His description of Himself and moves directly to the stinging indictment of the Laodiceans (v. 15-17). He has seen their works and is clearly not impressed! Christ accuses them of being neither cold nor hot. Being either may be a good thing. Cold water on a hot day is refreshing while hot water is beneficial when the weather is cold. The Laodiceans were lukewarm or indifferent which Jesus found very distasteful. He stated he would spit them from His mouth. This is better translated vomit and certainly gives a fuller image of how disgusted Jesus was with the indifference of the Laodicean church.

Unlike Colossae which had a gorgeous stream of fresh water from which to drink and Hierapolis which had its own hot spring, Laodicea had to have water brought by aqueduct some six miles. The water supply could be easily cut off which would leave the city vulnerable and helpless. With this vulnerability in mind, Laodicea became a city accustomed to compromise. Consider modern day Switzerland; they have perfected the art of being neutral! By the time the water arrived at in the city it was lukewarm and actually provoked nausea! The works of the Laodicean church were just as worthless as the city’s lukewarm water. The description in this passage is not referring to a backslidden condition either. This was an illustration of their lack of genuine faith.

Just like their city, the Laodicean church was too far from the source of spiritual refreshment for the weary and spiritual healing for the sick. This ineffective church literally made the Lord sick leaving Him ready to spit them out! They were religious but essentially useless as a tool for Jesus Christ. The Laodiceans thought they were wealthy yet failed to realize just how poor and naked they truly were!

Next Jesus provides the Laodiceans with the description of what they must do in order to avoid being spit out. Using irony, Jesus tells them they must purchase from Him gold refined by fire, white garments to clothe themselves, and salve to anoint their eyes so they may once again truly see. Of course, these are things the Laodiceans cannot buy yet God offers them freely. We can see in Isaiah 55:1 – 4 that God has offered us the opportunity buy milk and wine without money. These are spiritual in nature and yet the Laodiceans fail to realize this.

The gold refined in fire is a genuinely righteous character that has been tested and proven through Christ. Aside from the savior this is not possible. The white garments are obtained through the provision of Christ as a means to cover their nakedness which is their lack of righteousness in the sight of God.[1] The salve reminds the readers of the miracle where Jesus healed the man blind from birth by taking His saliva, mixing it with dirt and applying it to the man’s eyes. Laodicea was well known for the salve they manufactured for use in healing. Their salve could no more heal them spiritually than the water from their aqueduct could quench thirst! The Laodicean church claimed to have spiritual insight yet they failed to see their blindness and nakedness and true need for Jesus. The Savior loves these people but this love is balanced with a strong expectation that they will be disciplined.

In our own area are churches that are referred to as being mega-churches in our modern vernacular. They have grown so large that there seems to be a sense of their own accomplishment and their own ability to get things done. It remains to be seen how well these churches will fare once their charismatic leaders either retire or simply move on. In our own lives, Christ has high expectations of us and how we live for Him. When those expectations are not met we can expect to be rebuked and disciplined. Jesus stand at the door knocking, ready to come have intimate fellowship with those who hear His knock and open the door!

Having identified the problems and what should be done to correct them; Jesus describes the rewards that await those who overcome the sins which Christ has previously described (v. 21 – 22). Having already mentioned that intimate fellowship awaits those who make the necessary changes, Jesus now tells us that what awaits us is nothing short of sitting with Him on the throne with God the Father! This symbolism should not be taken to mean a throne so large that untold millions of people will be able to sit on it. Rather, the picture being painted for the followers of Christ is one of sharing in the rule and reign of Jesus over all of creation. This notion is found elsewhere in Scripture in passages such as Luke 19:17; 1 Cor. 6:3; and 2 Tim. 2:12 as well as elsewhere in Revelation in 20:4 and 22:6.

[1] Easley, Kendall H. Holman New Testament Commentary: Revelation. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 60.

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