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Laodicea: The Lukewarm Church

Rev. 3:14-22 According to the tale composed by Hans Christian Anderson, there once lived an emperor who was very fond of new clothing. One day two swindlers came to his city and persuaded the emperor they were weavers of the highest caliber. Using the finest cloth with brilliant colors and patterns, their clothing was advertized as exceptionally beautiful. Yet their exquisite clothing line had the unique quality of being invisible to any person who was unfit for his office or unpardonably stupid. The emperor commissioned the weavers to make him a new suit. A short time passed and the emperor sent an old minister to check on the progress. Not wanting to appear unfit or stupid, the minister pretended to see and admire the clothing which wasn't there. Later, a courtier agreed the clothing was the finest they'd ever seen. At last the emperor wished to see it for himself. Unwilling to be unfit for office or stupid, he praised the work of the weavers. Finally the day for the procession arrived. Everyone in town talked about the precious cloth. As the emperor undressed, the swindlers pretended to put the new suit on him. The emperor admired his image in a full length mirror. He said, "How well they look! How well they fit! What a beautiful pattern! What fine colors! This is a magnificent suit of clothes!" As the emperor marched in the procession under a beautiful canopy, all who saw him in the street and out of windows exclaimed, "Indeed, the emperor's new clothes are incomparable! Nobody wished to let others know he saw nothing. "But he has nothing on at all, said a little child, at last." Though it seemed the child was right, the emperor determined to bear up to the end. And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried the train which did not exist. Isn't that your worst nightmare come true? Few things are more humiliating than to be improperly dressed. Yet this final letter was written to a church that was lukewarm / selfdeceived / and naked in the sight of God. Using a variety of images drawn from their setting, Jesus exposed what was true about the actual condition of the church at Laodicea. The COMMISSION - vs. 14a - "To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The city of Laodicea was founded between 261 and 246 B.C. by the Seleucid king Antiochus II of Syria. He named the city after his wife, Laodice whom he later divorced. The divorce settlement must not have set well with her because she poisoned him a short time later. As the first century rolled around, the city was very cosmopolitan in that it's population was made up of Greeks / Greek cultured Syrians and Romans / and a sizeable settlement of Jews. From Col. 4:12-13, it seems possible that Epaphras may have founded the church there. Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. From Col. 2:1 it seems that Paul was especially burdened for this church. To the neighboring church of Colossae he wrote, I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.

These executives used their wealth to build theaters / a huge stadium / lavish public baths / and fabulous shopping centers. the Laodiceans were all wrapped up with the things which belong to a world that's passing away and tagged for destruction. No episode of His life was inconsistent / out of character / or in need of airbrushing. it was home to a number of wealthy bankers and financiers. Ruler comes from the word arche which can either mean source and origin or ruler. it means He is the end / the finality / and the certainty of all things. Like many people today. so be it. This echoes John 1:2-4 which says.Laodicea was a very wealthy city located at the intersection of three major trade routes. Due to its strategic trade-route location. they are "Yes" in Christ. That home-town-pride showed itself when Laodicea was leveled by an earthquake in AD 60. In Him was life. Laodicea became a bustling center for commercial activities. The word Amen comes from a Greek root meaning to be firm / stable / sure / and trustworthy. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. Through Him all things were made. It was very "Laodicean" to take pride in one's wealth and self-sufficiency.vs. Everything about Him was open and above board. 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made. the city fathers rebuilt their city using funds from their own coffers.. and that life was the light of men. It also contains the idea of the final truth or the last word. Valuing freedom and self-determination.. This name is applied twice to God in Isa. A clue to the Laodicean condition is contained in this description of our Savior.Whoever invokes a blessing in the land will do so by the God of truth. the ruler of God's creation. without Him nothing was made that has been made. they wanted no part of the strings so often attached to federal money. Amen emphasizes something that is valid / sure / and true. he who takes an oath in the land will swear by the God of truth. Like the mirrors in a funhouse. The CHARACTER . 65:16 . As the faithful and true witness. . Jesus was faithful and true in everything He thought / said / and did. Jesus represented God and the truth in a way that was precise and completely reliable. 14b . Every promise He made is true and every woe He pronounced will come to pass. II Cor. and Jesus is His faithful witness. the image of God they reflected. the Lord is called the God of Amen. They loved and trusted perishable things instead of the eternal . Acts 10:38 simply says.He went around doing good.These are the words of the Amen. Here Jesus affirms that He existed before God's creation and is in fact the creator and sovereign ruler over it. First. Rather than accept loans from the Roman Government. Jesus identified Himself as the Amen. was distorted. Jesus identified Himself as ruler of God's creation. Why did Jesus do that? Because God is good. This defines what Amen means. When trans-lated literally from Hebrew.. Like New York City or Chicago. When used of Christ. the Laodiceans were not. Amen means.. Their lives did not represent or reflect the truth about God. The city was known for the glossy black wool cloth and eye salve it manufactured. There are no substitutes / deletions / amendments / or additions with Jesus.. He was with God in the beginning. Third. While Jesus was God's faithful and true witness. the faithful and true witness. Second. Jesus identifies Himself as the faithful and true witness..

God who made and sustains everything. we've become a society where morality is subjective and every person feels at liberty to do what is right in his own eyes. Even cherry Cool Aide couldn't overpower the minerals. It was tepid and laced with minerals from calcium carbonate formations that covered the cliffs it flowed over. cold water that bubbled up from artesian springs. it was widely known that the water at Laodicea was lukewarm / laced with minerals / and suitable only as an emetic or means to induce vomiting.. It means to be excited and passionate about His kingdom.. Like the other letters. But as this cold water was piped the ten miles to Laodicea. Ten miles to the east. I Jn. the market for Aquafina was enormous! vs. The CONDEMNATION .water that smelled like rotten eggs. a word which means boiling hot. Back in the days when our family did camping. Campground brochures never seem to mention that detail.. Jesus revealed Himself as the firm and final word / the reliable witness / and the ruler of God's creation. 2:15.I know your deeds. This hot water spilled over a mile long cliff that dropped 300 feet to the level of Laodicea..vs.Never be lacking in zeal. hot refers to spiritual fervor. the character of Christ should remind us of who Jesus is and who it is we trust / love / and serve.The world and its desires pass away. serving the Lord. 12:11 . I always seemed to pick a campground with bad water. The character of this period in history may suggest another reason why Jesus identified Himself as ruler of God's creation. Like those campgrounds. Laodicea represents the church on earth from about 1900 through the time of the Tribulation. . By the time the water got to Laodicea. Colossae enjoyed the refreshment of pure. What it had was an overabundance of lukewarm water borrowed from neighboring cities. Earlier in his first letter John warned his readers about the danger of misplaced love.Do not love the world or anything in the world. zest. According to the prophetic significance of these seven letters. On the bright side. So. it was warmed beneath the scorching sun. that you are neither cold nor hot. but the man who does the will of God lives forever. it wasn't hot anymore. or zealousness for the things of Christ. Laodicea had a major weakness. the city of Hierapolis enjoyed the therapeutic effect of hot springs like those at Yellowstone National Park.17 . In our godless arrogance we even think we can control the climate! But these letters say the Creator is coming! So in the opening verse. Wasn't it precisely during this period that God was pronounced "dead" and evolutionary theory was foisted on society? With God removed and the processes of evolution enthroned. hot is zestos. It had no fresh water supply. but keep your spiritual fervor. I wish you were either one or the other! In the original language. Our understanding of what hot means is aided by the fact that zestos appears twice in Rom. 15 . Six miles to the north. 15-17 Despite all the home-town pride because of its prosperity and self-sufficiency.

. Over the centuries.whether it's hot water that has cooled off or cold water that has heated up. with hot springs at Hierapolis and refreshing cold springs at Colossae..those in this lukewarm condition were completely repulsive to Jesus. people with no religion are often more receptive to the Gospel than people deceived by their religious heritage. In his book entitled. Are you with me? (In favor of the traditional interpretation. but. G. I Cor.he wrote. 16 So. Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith. myself included. If the horrible thing had horns and hoofs. respectable ways. Notice that Jesus said. Paul encouraged his readers to do this on a regular basis. that it chloroforms its victim and kills him without a scream of terror. Soul Food. What is negative and useless is water in the middle temperature range. but spit isn't strong enough to describe the verb. lukewarm water has no value. But there may be a better option. The point is. We like our coffee hot or we like it iced and cold. nice respectable lukewarmness slays in tens of thousands. lukewarmness of spirit is so decent and well behaved. . But like information available at webMD and numbers on a thermometer. the symptoms of lukewarmness are no secret if we want to know the truth about our spiritual condition. If cold represents the opposite of hot or spiritual indifference. hot represents a positive spiritual condition and cold represents a negative condition. D. Again in II Cor." G. Lukewarmness happens by degrees that often go unnoticed. I wish you were either one or the other seems to make more sense if both conditions are taken as positive and beneficial. 13:5 . Like it or not. it's difficult to understand how Jesus would prefer someone to be spiritually cold. the Holy Spirit will help us measure and manage our own spiritual temperature. Cold water was refreshing. Watson.If we follow the traditional interpretation of this verse. Soul Food Like the slowly rising temperatures that eventually boil the frog in the kettle. But notice what Jesus said next in vs.A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. This is what makes it so awfully fatal.) Given the geographical setting. "One of the worst features about lukewarmness is that it steals on the soul in such quiet. it would alarm the soul. The NIV has softened it for the squeemish. The word translated spit you out is emeo from which we get the English word emetic or a liquid used to induce vomiting. and a smack of criminality in it. spiritual apathy and indifference doesn't happen overnight. little has changed with regard to the temperature of our beverages. Perhaps two ministries are in view. If we honestly compare our lives with the teachings of God's Word. as a rule. The waitstaff serving lukewarm coffee gets lots of complaints but not too many tips. So the fact that Jesus said. I wish you were either one or the other. 11:28 . D. While water in both conditions is useful. While open sin slays in hundreds. emeo means to vomit. Watson writes.. it's possible that both hot and cold are meant to represent positive conditions! Hot water was healing and therapeutic. But this explanation is less than satisfying to some. test yourselves.. because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

this is not necessarily a grievous sin. it's not hard to identify or put a face on an entity that fits this description. they saw the issues of life and faith. He said. In Christ's sight they were not what they thought they were. • The irony of it all is that Laodicea was wealthy / they manufactured and wore expensive clothing / they produced eye salve. blind and naked. "In your case. But if your eyes are bad. 6:10 says. Blind means lacking spiritual insight or discernment. If then the light within you is darkness. I Tim.including God. your whole body will be full of darkness. blind and naked. how great is that darkness! Naked meant to be totally without clothes or poorly dressed in rags. Pitiful describes a person who exists in such a miserable condition that he becomes an object of public sympathy. 17 . They couldn't feel their condition or the danger. the church benefited greatly from the prosperity of their surroundings. the church members felt smug and completely self-sufficient. How can I be rid of this prideful sin?" The pastor thought for a moment and then responded. 6:23 where He said. I'm having a terrible time paying attention to your sermons and engaging in worship as I should. the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Like churches we've visited in wealthy parts of our country. 'I am rich.' But you do not realize that you are wretched. Yet the Laodiceans were deceived and snared by their own prosperity and the Lord could only describe them in miserable terms. The real pity was that the Laodiceans were like a drunk in the cold. "Pastor. vs. poor. A story is told about a young woman who came to see her pastor.You say. my dear. but it seems to mean that they were calloused and hardened to the truth. only as they preferred to see them. Let's unpack the meaning of these five descriptive terms: • • • • The meaning of the word wretched is not entirely clear. According to the prophetic significance of the Laodicean church. Like the emperor's new suit. Poor means beggarly. Their spiritual sight was so bad. the World . their whole body was full of darkness. She confessed to him. Jesus spoke of this condition in Matt.. From the moment I enter church to the moment I leave. but a terrible miscalculation!" Like that young woman.Not only was the church at Laodicea lukewarm. pitiful. Since its founding in 1948. The One whose name is Amen couldn't say Amen! Like the attitude of many in Laodicea. I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. my mind is occupied by the thought that I am surely the prettiest girl in this church.. The test comes in what you love and what you do with it. but they were tragically self-deceived. I can't think of anything else. pitiful. But when the Great Physician examined them. you do not realize that you are wretched. poor. There's nothing wrong with wealth if that's how God has blessed you. the Laodiceans were self-deceived. They had so much in terms of wealth and material things. The word was used to describe the man who begged crumbs to fill his hunger or craving. they felt they didn't need anything.

It may seem strange that Jesus would . Without the power of the Gospel. the Tribulation. you need to know a few things about them. First.. I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire.) Because of their liberal leanings.12b) Because they are unsaved. But let's be careful not to pass the buck to a big organization and miss the personal application. and hope? Do I bring healing by challenging the careless. the Lord wants us to be beneficial to His purposes. Whether hot or cold. the NCC has been knick-named. They deny the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible / special creation / the virgin birth / the need for personal salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone / and the literal bodily resurrection of Christ. The WCC proudly believes they have programs which can bring peace and utopian conditions to earth. They favor peace at any cost / they are: anti-Israel / pro-choice / affirm the gay lifestyle and same sex marriage / are purveyors of Liberation Theology. and rousing the indifferent? Remember. They have a much stronger interest in addressing social and political issues their positions on these issues. The COUNSEL .Council of Churches has grown to include 349 Christian churches or denominations in more than 110 countries with nearly 600 million members. 17 that reaches its zenith in the Tribulation." Since the member churches can't sustain their spending. we can't help anybody if we're lukewarm. There's little doubt in my mind that many in the WCC member churches are unsaved and unlikely to hear the true Gospel.vs.. In recent years. autumn trees. or any other church body Christian unity and common witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ do not appear to be among their principal aims. (By the way. joy. the WCC and the NCC have sponsored joint conferences with Islamic groups in the interest of finding common ground. pitiful. the Institute on Religion and Democracy reports.lean overwhelmingly to the left. correcting the erring. He says. Jude describes this crowd and their empty programs as clouds without rain. You and I need to ask questions like: Do I provide spiritual refreshment to believers and unbelievers? Am I known for bringing others encouragement. they turned away from Christian teachings long ago. blind and naked and desperately need to repent. Jesus said they are wretched. so you can become rich. "The Church of Latter Day Leftists. without fruit and uprooted--twice dead. that's the false gospel Jeremiah Wright preaches. The Geneva based WWC is the parent organization for the National Council of Churches founded in 1950 and headquartered in New York City. "Most of the secular groups that currently support the NCC share several characteristics: • • • • they are not affiliated with an NCC member communion. the WCC informed its constituency that there is no such thing as the rapture. poor. 18.19 In these verses Jesus offers Himself as the solution to those in the Laodicean condition. While these ecumenical organizations still claim to be Christian. In a 1991 document and subsequent statements. blown along by the wind. or the Millennium. This organization may well be the forerunner to the Apostate World Church of Rev. Without going into detail. the second coming of Christ. (vs.

The Laodiceans offered a natural remedy for eye problems.. all you who are thirsty. 1:7 we learn that refined gold is a metaphor for faith that has been tested and proven.. From I Pet.don't allow yourself to be lukewarm! As we've said previously. which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise. The verb is an aorist imperative which means don't delay. Heb.. Yet throughout the Bible. People came from miles away to obtain it. Peter wrote. Jesus counseled them to obtain salve to put on your eyes. When heat is applied to gold. There the Lord said. The wool cloth produced in Laodicea came from black sheep. who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.. The first item the Laodiceans needed to obtain is gold refined in the fire. To His disciples who believed Him. God's remedy for spiritual blindness is a ministry of His Spirit working through Christ's healing touch.the Lord disciplines those he loves. the meaning becomes apparent. Jesus said. Jesus is the same yesterday. come to the waters. so you can see.. they were naked and shameful in the Lord's sight. So even though the Laodiceans were all decked out in the finest wool suits money could buy. vs.Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth. Second. buy wine and milk without money and without cost. 12:6 ..say buy from me. buy and eat! Come. 6:17 . Third. trusted their own sufficiency instead of trusting God. Be earnest is a present imperative which refers to a continual state of being.. stay earnest. In this context as well as in Rev. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.. So be earnest. come. Matt. Do it now! So.white clothes to wear so you can cover your shameful nakedness. But here Jesus was talking about a supernatural salve. Whenever someone opens their heart to trust Christ. blessed are your eyes because they see. Paul addressed this temptation in I Tim. Yet here Jesus warns that discipline will come to every Christian who slides into a lukewarm state. and He punishes everyone he accepts as a son.19 is directed to those who were saved but misguided and far off base. the impurities rise to the surface and the refiner then skims them off. and repent. Jesus said. 20:34 says. "Come.18 is directed toward the unsaved in this church. These (fiery trials) have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold. untested bunch who because of peace and affluence. glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. which is so uncertain. He instructed them to repent of their sins and be clothed in His holiness. Perhaps you remember the occasion when two blind men called out to Jesus asking for mercy. Jesus counseled them to obtain from Him.. to buy means to obtain. Immediately they received their sight and followed Him. While vs. here Jesus urges these wayward believers to be earnest and repent in order to stop the discipline before it begins. Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes." .. The Laodiceans were a faithless. and you who have no money. 3:18. but to put their hope in God. their blindness is healed and God's Spirit opens their eyes to the truth. today and forever. 55:1. money can't buy! But if we compare Christ's counsel with Isa..What the Laodiceans needed. righteousness is symbolized by white clothing..stay fired up. And friends. to repent means to change your mind and behavior.

5:4 . This verse has often been used in connection with a salvation invitation and I think it's OK to use it that way."He who has an ear. this promise belongs to all who are born again. That's the connection with vs. His desire is to fellowship with His people. As we've seen in the previous letters.The CHALLENGE . As we finish this part of our Revelation study.vs.for everyone born of God overcomes the world. just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.that's who overcomers are.To him who overcomes. The guy who led Pastor Jerry to Christ used Rev. let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The bottom line is repeated again in vs. 20-22 . Don't allow yourself to be deceived or to slouch into a spiritual condition where you are useless and distasteful to Christ and His purposes. Jesus is outside the doors of this Laodicean church. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door.. It's not the words that save us.Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. But technically.. 3:20.. Matt. I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. I will come in and eat with Him. The latch is on the inside. we're saved by trusting that His death was sufficient to pay the penalty for our sins..it's the faith. Yet there's a forward and literal meaning because we someday we will dine with Jesus in the New Jerusalem. In the context.21 ... I've produced a summary of Christ's letters to the churches on the back of the sermon notes.. the Lord Jesus Christ. 6:33 . 22 .. we're not saved by asking Jesus to come into our life. the Heavenly city.it's the heart attitude that God recognizes. We obtain them. and all these things will be given to you as well. He's knocking in hopes that this church which thinks they need nothing will awaken to their true condition and invite Him in. as we put our faith in Him.But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness." Do you have ears to hear? .they come from the One who is ruler of God's creation. I Jn. Keep yourself aligned with the teachings of His Word.. and he with Me. True wealth and the utopia the world dreams of come from only one source. and I'm reasonably sure it worked...