In a previous post titled, “Fire And Brimstone”, I discussed the church movement that has taken place over the last half-century to attempt to play-down the role of our sinfulness in the application of the Gospel. However, because our understanding of sin is utterly integral to the Gospel message of Christ, any attempt to separate sin from the cross results in preaching another gospel. It is this preaching of another gospel over the last half-century that has ushered us into the lukewarm Laodicean Church age.
Jesus’ Letters to the Churches in the Book of Revelation are to seven literal churches that existed at the time Revelation was written. However, a very common understanding of those Letters is that they also spoke to seven different “types” of churches that would exist from that time and throughout, until Christ’s return. And it is with that perspective that we see that the Laodicean Church would be the last church “age” before Christ’s return. Each church age would correspond to a definitive time period, yet some of each type would exist simultaneously. Meaning, although we may be in the Laodicean age, there are other church types that still exist during this age.
So, let’s open up our Bibles to Revelation Chapter 3, verses 14-22 and see what Christ has to say to us during this Laodicean age of the Church.
The first thing He says is, “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.” (v. 15). The first thing Christ says to this church is that their faith is mediocre and they have no real passion. No passion about their salvation, nor for His word. They may have come to the cross, but they are still living in the world and are blinded by the things of the world. These are “middle-of-the-road” Christians.
Then He tell them, “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” (v. 16). Because of this church’s complacency in regard to their “works”— standing up for truth, seeking God through prayer, reading His word and living their lives according to that word– Jesus said that He would reject them. These words of our Savior should make every true believer sit up and take notice. Every human being who is saved in Christ should be deeply affected by these words. Jesus is not playing “church”, and neither should we.
Next, Jesus tells them, “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,” (v. 17). The most heartbreaking thing about this whole situation, is that this group of believers think they are in right standing with God with their mediocre faith. The real passion in this church is for their own way of living, their culture and their own selfish desires and pursuits. For us today, that would be movies, television, music, fashion, holidays, our houses, cars, education– all the worldly things we are passionate about that bring us circumstantial satisfaction and temporal enjoyment.
But Jesus tells them that all of the things that have their attention most of the time, are an utter waste of time, and are worthless in comparison to the eternal things of God, “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.” (v. 18).
When He tells them to “buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich,” He is speaking of the refining “fires” of sanctification that all Christians must go through. We are saved by faith, but our souls are refined through the fires of obedience to God’s word (Eph 5:26; James 1:21; 2 Thess 2:13) and death to self. That is what Jesus meant when He said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16:24,25).
One of the trademarks of this Laodicean church, is that an entire group of believers have come to the cross for forgiveness, without ever having truly repented. Or, perhaps they repented initially, but failed to understand that repentance, or “turning away”, is something we must do daily, throughout our entire lifetime. Without perpetual repentance, without daily “turning away” from sin and the things of this world, no real change happened on the inside of them. Or, what change that did occur, became stunted. In either regard, Jesus is telling them that they still need to undergo sanctification through the “fires” of refinement.
And it is that sanctification through the “fire” of refinement that will purify them in order that their garments may become “white”. Jesus is telling them that the way they are living their lives is making a mockery of His blood that was shed to deliver them from sin. He is also telling them that their utter lack of effort or cooperation toward any spiritual maturity is shameful and has left them spiritually naked, “…the shame of your nakedness..” and He advises them to buy “eye salve” so that they may see their actual spiritual condition, verses the image of the one they have comforted themselves with in their own mind.
No doubt these words of our Lord and Savior are harsh and even offensive to those who may be in this particular spiritual condition, however Jesus doesn’t apologize for His severe tone. Instead, He justifies His instructions to them by saying, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” (v. 19). In essence, Jesus is telling them, “I love you enough to tell you the truth, even and especially when you don’t want to hear it, even though it hurts, even though it may seem harsh and cruel. But it is my genuine love for you that makes this revelation to you necessary.”
And because Jesus is a perfect Savior, He does not simply rebuke them and then leave them to wallow in discouragement. He tells them what they need to do to fix their situation: “be zealous and repent.” He gives them instructions that are simple and reasonable. He tells them to be more consumed with the things of His kingdom, rather than the things of this world. He tells them to be more passionate about His kingdom, His ways and His word, rather than their own kingdom, their own ways and the words of men. And He tells them to repent, to confess that they have sought the wrong things, been passionate about the wrong things, been distracted by the wrong things and to turn away from them. He is telling them to confess and admit that they have failed at making a genuine, consistent, faithful effort towards spiritual growth and to make the changes in their life that are necessary to put their spiritual growth on the top of their list of priorities, “be zealous”.
Then, because He loves them, He makes them a promise, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (v. 20). He tells them if they will heed and obey His word, then He will help them make the changes they need to make in themselves and in their lives. Indeed, it is the Holy Spirit that does the sanctifying work in us to help us more reflect the image of our Savior, but we must cooperate. God will not change a person against their will, and when we are distracted by the things of this world and by our emotions and our circumstances, very little cooperation takes place. And when we spend little to no time in prayer and fellowship with God and in His word, any cooperation on our part grinds to a standstill.
Lastly, Jesus makes them another promise, one that is filled with hope and a future, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (v. 21,22).