The message to Laodicea: God’s rebuke and counsel 

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1. Introduction

As we see in the study: ‘The end time’ God has His faithful people in the end time.  However, amongst those who profess faith are some who are false professors because they have not forsaken the world and are backslidden.  

God's love for mankind is so powerful that He urges such to repent and return to the pure truth of Scripture. In Revelation chapter 3 the message to the Laodicean church addresses the problem.  It contains God’s rebuke, and also His counsel, His solution for the Laodicean condition. 

2. The setting

The message to Laodicea is the last of seven messages to the seven churches in Asia contained in Revelation 1:10-3:22The message to each of the seven churches can be related, in chronological order, to the conditions that prevailed in specific periods in the history of the church since the Cross. 

Revelation, in conjunction with the book of Daniel, is a prophetic book.  These two books are specifically for the time of the end, until which time they are sealed (Da 12:9).  Note, although Revelation has been understood in part throughout the Christian era, it was not until the book of Daniel was unsealed at the start of the end time that Revelation was understood in its full light (Daniel and Revelation are companion books).

Thus the messages to the seven churches must be understood in the context of the end time. Furthermore, the message to Laodicea is the final message of the seven, confirming it is for the end time period that began in 1844 (see study: ‘The 2300 days prophecy’).

The messages are written to ‘the angel’ of each church, not to the individual members of the churches alive at the time Revelation was written.  Thus the messages are meant for all to study, but specifically they are meant for those who are alive at the time of the end, for whom the book of Revelation is intended.

In the 1st Century Laodicea was a prosperous commercial city specializing in money transfers and banking, and in the trade of black wool.  Rome granted Laodicea the status of a free city.  Laodicea had a famous medical school where a specialist eye ointment was produced. Laodicea was thus a very wealthy city.

Laodicea’s water supply had to be brought six miles from hot springs, and by the time it reached Laodicea it was an unpalatable lukewarm.

Paul does not write directly to the church in Laodicea, but he instructs that his letter to the Colossians should be sent to Laodicea (Col 4:16). Thus Paul had the same concerns for the Laodiceans as he had for the Colossians.

In his letter to the Colossians (and thus to Laodicea), Paul emphasizes the preeminence of Christ (Col 1:15-19) as head of the Church.  He warns against false doctrine and worldliness (Col 2:8,16,17,20-22), exalting the Colossians to live in Christ (Col 2:6,7), setting their affections on Heavenly things (Col 3:1,2).

In Paul's day, the Laodiceans needed to reform, both in the spiritual and in the world-loving sense. This gives us an insight into Christ’s message to Laodicea - His end time church exhibits similar failings to those of the ancient Laodiceans, as indicated by Christ addressing His final message to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans.

3. Christ's message to the angel of the Laodicean church

Re 3:14-21  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; 

The rebuke:

15  I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 

16  So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 

17  Because thou sayest, I am rich, and {increased with goods} [Strong’s G4147, be wealthy] and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 

The counsel:

18  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. 

The plea:

19  As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

20  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 reward:

21  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.  

4. God’s rebuke

As we have noted, the Laodicean message is the last of the prophetic messages to the seven churches, and it thus applies to the current period of history, the end time. 

The thrust of the rebuke is that much of Christianity, now, in the end time, is complacent, professing faith but they are clinging to the world.  

Even worse, they do not know their true condition - they are blind to self, thinking they have need of nothing, but in reality they are both spiritually poor and spiritually naked, i.e. trusting in their own righteousness, rather than in the Righteousness of Christ.

The professed faith of the Laodicean is lukewarm, yet Laodiceans think they are right with God.  Thus Christ cannot work with them - they are deaf to the Holy Spirit who then cannot convict them of sin.  

Of course, Christ would prefer that they were ‘hot’ (zealous) in the faith, but Christ would prefer it even if they were ‘cold’ - they would then be open to the Holy Spirit’s conviction of sin. 

Lukewarmness is self-delusion. 

The Laodicean’s condition is typified by Christ in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the temple to pray (Lk 18:10-14).  

The smug self-satisfied Pharisee, while despising the publican (whose prayer for mercy was accepted), deluded himself that he was right with God.  In reality the Pharisee’s prayer was ‘with himself’, it did not ascend to God.  

Likewise, the Laodicean sees their worldly advantage as an indication of Gods approval.  This leads naturally to despising those who are not as advantaged because, as they see it, the less advantaged are not approved of God.  

Thus the Laodicean is smug and self-righteous - as such, Laodicean’s are unpalatable to Christ, who will ‘spue’ unrepentant Laodiceans out of His mouth (Re 3:16 above).

Like the Pharisees of old, the Laodicean’s faith is rooted in ‘churchianity’ rather than in true Godliness.  The Laodicean measures character by ‘church-likeness’ rather than by Christ-likeness. 

Wherever God's true people are found, there Laodiceans will be found also.

5. God’s counsel

The prosperous Laodiceans are accustomed to the concept of buying from the world whatever they want and what they think they need.  Thus God’s counsel, His cure for the Laodicean condition, is to ‘buy’ from Christ what is truly needed:

Gold, tried in the fire: representing pure faith based on sound doctrine, and tested in the fires of adversity;

White raiment: representing the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Is 61:10), instead of raiment made with Laodicea's black wool that represents the 'righteousness' of the world;

Eyesalve: to see one’s true condition before God - correct spiritual discernment.

The purchase price is the forsaking of all worldliness for the selfless purity of Christ’s religion, based on Scripture alone rather than on the commandments of men (Mt 15:9; Mk 7:7; Col 2:20-23; Tit 1:14).

True Godliness is typified by Christ in Lu 18:13,14The publican was aware of his true condition, confessed it, and cast himself upon God’s mercy.  As a result, he was ‘justified’,  i.e. forgiven and restored to God’s Kingdom.

The true Christian must be in the position whereby if the church ceased to exist as an organized body it would make no difference to his/her salvation. Salvation must be ‘registered’ in Heaven, not registered merely as an entry in the church membership roll.

God's rebuke is His means of trying to bring Laodiceans back into the fold.  He assures them that He loves them and wants none to be lost - He thus urges repentance. 

However, Christ can force no-one.  He can only knock upon the door of the heart (Re 3:20).  It is up to individuals to respond, and if they do they will be forgiven, and also be enabled to overcome, in Christ, all the faults of the sinful nature. 

The final reward for the repentant Laodicean is to ‘sit’ with Christ in His throne (Re 3:21) - the Lord’s throne is Heaven (Is 66:1; Ac 7:49), where the redeemed sit with Him - there is surely no greater reward.

6. Summary

The message to Laodiceans is of critical importance.  Those who heed it and repent will be forgiven.  Those who do not will perish.  

Worldly advantage is a trap into which many have fallen, but the message itself proves God’s great love for fallen mankind, and that there is yet time to repent and reform.  

Christ offers full forgiveness, but Laodiceans must respond of themselves, forsaking all unrighteousness for the pure religion of Christ.

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