Text: Revelation 1-3
In recent years South Africa has followed in the footsteps of America by having a SONA (state of the nation) address where the president will outline the success stories of past year and challenges for the current year. In Revelation 2&3 we are privileged to eavesdrop on the Lord Jesus Christ as he delivers seven State of the Church addresses. Before we start with the state of the church address for Ephesus the scene is set for us in Revelation 1.
They had already endured great suffering during the reign of Nero but now Domitian was in charge and he took emperor worship seriously. When anyone addressed him, they had to do so with the words Dominus et Deus (our Lord and our God). Of course, Christians could not do this and were persecuted. John tells us that he was banished to the island of Patmos (vrs 9) for the sake of the gospel. Patmos was a little island, ten miles long and six miles wide about 40 miles off the coast of Turkey. It was a barren, volcanic island. John would have been about 90 years old and would have been subject to back breaking work and, meagre rations. In vrs 10 we are told that it was the Lord’s Day – Sunday. Perhaps John gazed out across the Adriatic Sea to mainland Asia. How were his fellow believers doing? Suddenly the earth seemed to sink away under his feet. His soul was liberated from the shackles of time and space. He is in the spirit. He sees things, but not necessarily with physical eyes and he hears things not necessarily always with physical ears. He is in the spirit. He is given a picture of the risen, ascended, glorified Christ. What precious truths will sustain us if we find ourselves persecuted for the gospel.
- THE RULE OF JESUS CHRIST
In times of dire spiritual distress, we need to grasp the rule of Jesus Christ. Look at vrs 4, 5. In these two verses we have a reference to our Triune God. Grace and peace to you from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits (sevenfold spirit) before his throne and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Notice from vrs 5 what is said about the second person of the Godhead. He is the ruler of the kings of the earth. The risen Christ is described in great detail in vrs 12-16. Notice the impact the vision has on John.
a) AWE – In vrs 17 we read, when I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Domitian may well have been a powerful emperor, but the Lord Jesus Christ is the all-powerful God before whom Domitian must bow!
b) ENCOURAGEMENT – The risen Christ places his hand on the prostrate figure of John and speaks such tender words of comfort. Do not be afraid. If Christ rules, we need not fear.
- THE RESCUE OF JESUS CHRIST
If we wish to be sustained in times of persecution, we must always remind ourselves about the rescue of Jesus Christ. Vrs 17 goes on to say, I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One: I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. If you have keys, you have authority. You are the one who can lock and unlock things. Those who blaspheme Christ by refusing to repent of their sin and trust in Him alone will be consigned to hell. Jesus Christ does not only hold the keys to hell in his hands, but he also holds the keys to heaven. Look back to vrs 5; to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
If we are to be sustained through suffering, like John we too must cling to this vision of the Christ that rules and rescues
Text: Revelation 2:1-7
In recent years it has become customary in South Africa to have a State of the Nation address. Indeed, this has been extended to more localised State of the Province addresses. Often-times this is nothing more than a talk shop. However, when the risen Lord Jesus Christ issues a state of the church address, we would do well to take notice. His assessment can be fully trusted. The first church to be audited is Ephesus.
TO THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS
Ephesus was the most important city in Asia Minor, and the Roman governor lived there. Its population was about 250 000. It was built on the Cayster river and was a harbour port in the first century. The river has long since silted up – the harbour today is about six miles down the river. The famous temple of Artemis (Diana) one of the seven wonders of the ancient world was in Ephesus. Paul planted a church here which was later pastored by Timothy and later in life John lived there.
- THE PRAISE HE OFFERS – in vrs 1-3, 6 Jesus praises the church at Ephesus. Firstly, he praises them for their tireless work. In vrs 2 he says, I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. You have all heard about the 80/20 rule in church life haven’t you? This rule says 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. A handful of people get all the back breaking work done. Not in Ephesus! Secondly, in vrs 2 he mentions their spiritual discernment. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. In vrs 6 these false teachers are identified as Nicolaitans. This was a group of 1st century heretics who taught that you could become a Christian and continue to live like the rest of the world. Make no mistake this was quite some church. If we read their church bulletin it would be packed with activities and ministries. These guys love God’s Word and they are not afraid to volunteer to work. But all was not quite what it appeared to be.
- THE PROBLEM HE CONFRONTS – In vrs 4, 5 we go on to read about the problem that Jesus confronts. There was one big cancerous problem that threatened to override all their other strengths. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. The church at Ephesus was once a loving community. What love had they forsaken? Was it their love for God or love for fellow believers? Perhaps both. In Mark 12:30, 31 in answering a question as to what the greatest commandment is Jesus said, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” The Lord Jesus Christ offers the church in Ephesus his prescription in vrs 5, remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
- THE PROSPECT THEY FACED. If the Ephesians did not heed the call to repent they faced a gloomy prospect. In vrs 5 Jesus warned them, If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. The early church thrived in Asia Minor. All these letters were written to churches in modern day Turkey. How many Christians are there in Turkey today? Has Christ removed his lampstand? Of course, he can replace it again and there are encouraging signs of that taking place as we speak. In vrs 7 Jesus ends on a positive note; he who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. I think we know what is meant here. When Adam sinned, he was barred from Eden and could not eat of the tree of life. This tree of life is gloriously depicted in the final chapter of Revelation where in the New Jerusalem a river is pictured as flowing down the main street. On each side of the river stood the trees of life, which bore twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year. What a wonderful picture of the delights of heaven. This is what Christ promises to his faithful followers. What more can he promise?
Text: Revelation 2:8-11
Each of these seven letters is addressed to the angel of. The Greek word can refer either to a literal angel or a messenger. In this context it surely means “messenger.” Angels are never leaders in the church. The letters are most likely addressed to key elders in these seven churches. Smyrna was about 60Km north of Ephesus. Like Ephesus it too was a port city but whereas Ephesus today is a heap of ruins, Smyrna is still populated. It is now called Izmir and is Turkey’s third largest city.
TO THE CHURCH IN SMYRNA
There are two churches in Revelation 2&3 about which Jesus has nothing bad to say. Those two are Smyrna and Philadelphia. If Ephesus was the loveless church, then Smyrna was the suffering church. Her most famous Christian was Polycarp who was martyred in 155AD. He refused to burn incense to Caesar. He addressed his persecutors with these famous words. Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King and my Saviour, who hath saved me?”
- CHRIST COMMENDS THE CHURCH – in vrs 9 Christ says, I know your afflictions and your poverty. These sufferings were not over. In vrs 10 he says, do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer . . . you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death. What was the reason for the suffering of believers in Smyrna? When Augustus died (AD 14) the Roman senate took a vote that he be deified. Many of the cities of Asia Minor competed with one another for the privilege of building the first temple to honour the new emperor Tiberius. Smyrna was the city that won the bid – even beating Ephesus to the prize. They took emperor worship very seriously. The Romans only made one exception – the Jews. They quickly discovered that Jews were fiercely monotheistic and would not budge. So long as Christians were viewed as being a sect of Judaism, they too were not required to burn incense to Caesar and declare “Caesar is Lord.” As Christians became more and more numerous the easiest way for Jews to oppose them was inform the Romans that they were not Jews. Apparently, the Jews in Smyrna did this. Christ has some harsh words for the synagogue in Smyrna. Firstly, he says that although they claimed to be Jews they were not. Secondly, he labels their assemblies as a synagogue of Satan. Strong words. According to the NT who are true Jews spiritually speaking? In Romans 2:28, 29 Paul says, a man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Spiritually speaking, true Jews are not those who can trace their family tree back to Abraham. They are those who possess Abraham’s faith. Is this not what Galatians 3:26 says? If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. The synagogue in Smyrna claimed to be an assembly of God but in rejecting Christ they were in actual fact a synagogue of Satan.
- CHRIST COMFORTS THE CHURCH – In vrs 10 Christ warns the church of future suffering, I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. In a book loaded with symbolic numbers we should perhaps view these ten days not as a literal ten days but a set period. An eleventh day would come when the suffering will end. Meanwhile they needed to be faithful, even to the point of death. Christ gives them two comforting promises. Firstly, faithfulness will be rewarded with a crown of life. Behind the harbour of Smyrna, Mount Pagus rose 500 feet above the skyline. The acropolis of Mount Pagus which was filled with pagan shrines was called “the crown of Smyrna.” The risen Christ is promising a far better crown for overcomers. Secondly, Christ promises overcomers that they will not be hurt at all by the second death. The first death of course is our physical death. Some Smyrnan believers would die martyrs deaths. But no Christian endures the second death. The Greek word for overcome (victorious) is nike. The Greek goddess nike was the goddess of victory. Many years ago, I came across a T-shirt with this slogan. “Born once die twice. Born twice die once.” Christians only need die once.
Text: Revelation 2:12-17
We have examined the loveless church (Ephesus) and the suffering church (Smyrna). Now we must consider what the risen Christ has to say to the compromising church. Pergamum was situated about 160Km north of Ephesus and about 25Km inland from the Mediterranean Sea. Ephesus and Smyrna may have been the commercial capitals of Asia Minor but Pergamum was the administrative capital. The Romans made Pergamum the capital of Asia. The Roman governor lived there.
TO THE CHURCH IN PERGAMUM
In vrs 13 Christ addresses His church in Pergamum, I know where you live – where Satan has his throne. Although the worship of Zeus, Dionysius and Asklepios was conducted on the acropolis in Pergamum it seems most likely that the Lord Jesus is referring to emperor worship in this phrase.
- CHRIST’S COMMENDATION (vrs 13) – Since the Roman governor lived in Pergamum, we can be sure that emperor worship was taken very seriously. One day a year people were compelled to approach a plinth carrying a bust of Caesar. A fire blazed in front and citizens were compelled to take a pinch of incense and throw it into the fire and utter the words Dominus et Deus (Lord and God). Faithful Christians refused and as a result they were arrested, thrown into prison and even killed. In vrs 13 we read, yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city – where Satan lives. A man called Antipas is mentioned. Church tradition says that he was the pastor of the church in Pergamum and that he was roasted alive in a bronze kettle. His faithfulness obviously encouraged the rest of the church because Christ commends them for remaining true to his name. The Roman proconsul who lived there had what was called the “ius gladii”, or right of sword. He could sentence people to death. How encouraging that the Lord Jesus Christ identified himself in vrs 12 as the one who has the sharp, double edged sword. It is almost as if Jesus is saying; “yes the proconsul has the right of sword, but there is a power greater than any earthly governor.” The power of Rome might be satanically great, but the power of the Christ is greater yet.
- CHRIST’S CRITICISM (vrs 14-16) – Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam . . . likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. What was the teaching of Balaam and who were the Nicolaitans? Balaam is mentioned in Numbers 22-25. When Israel came up out of Egypt, the Moabite king paid Balaam to curse Israel. The Lord would not permit this, but Balaam did manage to entice Israelite men (Numbers 31:16) into sexual unfaithfulness with Moabite women. Balaam’s satanic strategy was employed by the Nicolaitans. When a first century individual offered a private sacrifice at a pagan temple a token part was burned on the altar. The priest took a portion and another portion was given to the worshiper to throw a party for is friends at the temple. The temple was the restaurant of the day. Should a Christian accept an invitation to a meal in a pagan temple? Faithful Christians said NO! But false teachers called Nicolaitans encouraged full participation. “It can’t harm you. Go on enjoy yourself. What is wrong with eating this food?” After eating and drinking the evening would end with sexually immoral behaviour. Once again the Nicolaitans encouraged full participation. They ended up compromising. The church at Pergamum challenges our modern permissive sexual ethics.
- CHRIST’S COMFORT (vrs 17, 18) – First of all, Christ promises overcomers the hidden manna (Exodus 16, John 6:32, 33). Faithful believers will get to enjoy Christ in this life which is merely a foretaste of our eternal satisfaction. Secondly, Jesus promises overcomers I will also give him a white stone. White stones, or stones of friendship, called tesserae, were inscribed with certain words. If you were given such a stone by another family, you did not need a written invitation to attend any party at that house. Your tesserae gained you entrance. When a person became a Christian, the tesserae was removed. You became persona non grata. Jesus encourages faithful Christians by saying; “don’t worry. I will give you a white stone of friendship.” This is an invitation to the party of all parties – the marriage supper of the lamb.
Text: Revelation 2:18-29
We turn this morning to consider Thyatira, the overly tolerant church. It was situated about 60Km South East of Pergamum.
TO THE CHURCH IN THYATIRA
It was originally built as a military outpost. Its sole purpose was to delay the advance of an army approaching Pergamum long enough so that Pergamum could organize their defences. With the more peaceful conditions brought about through Rome, Thyatira started to flourish as a manufacturing and marketing centre. Archaeological digs have revealed a large number of trade guilds in the town.
- CHRIST’S COMMENDATION – In vrs 19 the risen Christ has the following encouraging words to write to the church at Thyatira. I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first. Christ is described as the one with eyes of blazing fire. These all-seeing eyes commends the church for doing more than they had done at first. They had not fallen into the trap of Ephesus and lost their first love. This was a church that was devoted serving Christ. Here was a church that had learned the lesson of the basin and towel that Jesus modelled at the Last Supper. After washing the disciples’ feet Christ said, go and do likewise. The church at Thyatira mastered this lesson.
- CHRIST’S CRITICISM (vrs 20-25) – One verse of commendation is followed by five verses of criticism. They were overly tolerant. Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. There was a woman in the church in Thyatira who called herself a prophetess and was in danger of leading the faithful astray. She is called Jezebel because of her similarity with the notorious Jezebel in the OT. What could Jezebel have been teaching in Thyatira? We have already seen that there were a large number of trade guilds in Thyatira. There were wool guilds, linen guilds, dying, tanners, bronze smiths and guilds for potters. Each of these guilds had their patron god. The problem believers faced was basically this. If they were to keep their jobs they had to belong to the guild. But if they belonged to the guild, they would have to attend festivals at the temple of the patron god of their guild which would have involved acknowledging the patron god. After the meal, the gross sexual antics started. What should Christians do? Walk out!! In so doing they would likely become the target of suspicion and most likely lose their jobs. The alternative was to cave in. Into this confusion strode Jezebel who basically encouraged believers to fully participate in the guild activities. It seems that some of the believers were being swept away by her false teaching. Christ accuses his church of tolerating this woman who was leading many astray. In verse 22 if the church failed to muzzle this woman the Lord threatened fearful things. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. Since Jezebel profaned the bed of true love she would be pinned to the bed of sickness.
- CHRIST’S COMFORT (vrs 26, 27) – The clouds of judgment are hovering and are about to break on their heads. But every cloud has a silver lining. Faithful overcomers will be rewarded. Firstly, in vrs 26 Christian overcomers are promised a share in Christ’s authority over the nations. It is almost as if Christ is saying. “At the moment, the trade guilds might be oppressing you and faithfulness to me, might cost you your job very soon the tables will be turned and the boot will be on the other foot.” Secondly, in vrs 27 faithful overcomers are promised the morning star. In Rev. 22:16 we read, I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. The promise that is offered to loyal Christians is Christ himself. This is the point behind Psalm 73:23-26, yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
Text: Revelation 3:1-6
This morning we are introduced to the church at Sardis. In vrs 1 Christ tells this church, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Jesus comes to the sleeping corpse of Sardis and takes their pulse and finds it to be very faint indeed. Imagine if sick churches could be admitted to hospital. Some of them, like Ephesus would be admitted to a general ward for treatment. Other churches, like Thyatira are in seriously bad shape and would be rushed to a high care facility. The church at Sardis however was in a critical condition. It was in grave danger of being wheeled out of ICU and into the hospital morgue.
TO THE CHURCH IN SARDIS
In Christ’s last four letters he has always started with some words of commendation and we expect him to follow the same pattern here. What is he going to commend Sardis for? Nothing!! He dispenses with the pleasantries and gets right down to business. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. This church had been bitten by Tsetse flies. They were in real danger. Spiritual sleeping sickness needs radical surgery.
- CHRIST’S REMEDY (vrs 2, 3) – The risen Christ gives this church their prescription. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. There are a few components to Christ’s prescription. Firstly, there is the urgent need to wake up! Historically Sardis was an exceedingly prosperous city. It was situated on top of Mt Tmolus which was 1500 feet high. Because it sat perched at the top of a mountain the citizens of Sardis could defend themselves quite easily against attack. This however made the people very complacent. In the 5th century the king of Sardis engaged Cyrus king of Persia in battle. He retreated into Sardis with its towering walls. The people thought that they could not be taken. One day a Persian soldier saw a Sardian soldier accidentally drop his helmet over the battlements and go to retrieve it. The Persian correctly concluded that there was a crack in the wall and that night he led a party of soldiers to climb the crack. The overconfident Sardians had not even bothered to post a guard. They were asleep and the town was lost. Now the Lord Jesus Christ says that the church has not learned this lesson from history. They too were complacent and sleeping. They needed to wake up otherwise it would not be the Persians or the Greeks who would catch them unawares. In vrs 3 Christ says, but if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Secondly, in vrs 3 they needed to repent and produce the fruit of repentance, remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. What had they received? The apostolic teaching on which every church is founded. The sleepy Sardian believers had forgotten the Scriptures. Their bibles had been placed in quarantine. They needed to be taken off bookshelves, dusted down and carefully studied.
- CHRIST’S REASSURANCE (vrs 4-6) – Evidently there were a few believers in Sardis who had not soiled their clothes. Christ promises these that they will walk with him in clothes of white. He repeats himself again in vrs 5 and extends the promise to all faithful overcomers. White robes are a symbol of Christ’s righteousness. But Christ has a second promise for these faithful overcomers. I will never blot out his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. In Philippians 4:3 Paul mentions those whose names are written in the book of life. This book has never been published by God and so the names are not divulged. Listen to what John Newton says, “when I get to heaven, I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be to see many there who I did not expect to see. The second wonder will be to miss many people who I did not expect to see. The third and greatest of all will be to find myself there.”
Text: Revelation 3:7-13
Out of the seven churches Jesus addresses there are only two that he only has good things to say about. The first of these was the suffering church, Smyrna and the second was Philadelphia – the faithful church. The city was founded in 190 BC by a man called Atallus who was king of Pergamum. He had an unusual love for his brother and called the new city Philadelphia.
TO THE CHURCH IN PHILADELPHIA
In vrs 8 Christ acknowledges I know that you have little strength. Discouraged people need lots of motivating. The risen Christ has four encouraging truths to share with them to persevere.
- MISSIONARY OPPORTUNITY (vrs 8). Philadelphia was originally founded as a centre to spread the Greek language and culture. When the emperor commissioned the town he said, “I set before you an open door to take the Greek language and culture to the uttermost parts.” They were quite successful in this regard so much so that by 19 AD the native language of Lydian had virtually disappeared, and the people spoke Greek. Now Christ in encouraging His small, harassed flock in Philadelphia exhorts them to be as missionary minded as their forbears. Of course, instead of propagating Greek culture they were to advance the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ is assuring his church of great success in their evangelism and gospel labour. An open door in the NT often refers to great opportunities for gospel labour (1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12, Colossians 4:3).
- ULTIMATE VINDICATION (vrs 9). Like Smyrna the Philadelphian church experienced the pain of being ostracised by the Jewish community. Now Jesus encourages his harassed church, I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.
- DIVINE PROTECTION (VRS 10). Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth. Jesus uses the same Greek words in his High Priestly prayer in John 17:15 my prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect (keep) them from the evil one. The Lord Jesus is promising his disciples divine protection in their upcoming trials.
- ULTIMATE SECURITY (VRS 12). Philadelphia was terribly affected by earthquakes – the Anatolian fault makes Turkey seismologically active to this day. A devastating earthquake in 17 AD levelled twelve Asian cities overnight. Sardis was destroyed and Philadelphia severely damaged. For some years following there were minor tremors which induced panic among the citizens and sent them scurrying from their homes. If you keep this in mind it will help you understand Christ’s encouraging words better. When Jesus promises faithful overcomers, I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it, this would be greatly encouraging. A pillar is something permanent. In addition to this, overcomers are promised the name of God, the name of the city of God and a new name. What does this mean? Following the earthquake of 17AD the Roman emperor exempted them from taxes for a period and also made a generous donation so that they could rebuild their town. In appreciation the citizens changed the name of the town to Neocaesarea (the new city of Caesar). In 70AD following the kindness of the Roman emperor Vespasian they renamed it Flavia which was Vespasian’s family name. Later it was renamed Philadelphia once more. The Lord Jesus Christ is promising the Philadelphians and all faithful Christian overcomers that they will inherit a city whose name would last forever.
Text: Revelation 3:14-22
Laodicea was about 160Km east of Ephesus. It was a leading banking and textile centre. It was a centre for the wool industry and was particularly famous for a soft, glossy, black wool. Laodicea also had a medical school and was particularly well known for a certain eye ointment known as Phrygian powder which brought comfort and healing to the eyes. All of these facts are used by the risen Christ as he addresses this church.
TO THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA
The Lord Jesus Christ has three things to say to His church in Laodicea.
- A SHATTERING VERDICT (vrs 15, 16). I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. In Hierapolis, six miles to the north of Laodicea, there was some famous hot springs. In Colossae, ten miles south east there was a cold stream. Both hot water and cold water have benefits. We all like a drink of cold water on a hot day and a hot bath to end a busy day. The Greek word used in vrs 16 for spitting out of the mouth is emetikos from which we get our English word emetic. An emetic is a substance that is used to induce vomiting. This is the effect that the church at Laodicea had on him. It was neither hot so as to provide healing for the spiritually sick nor was it cold so as to provide refreshment for the spiritually weary. It was, bland, tepid, lukewarm.
- A SHOCKING DIAGNOSIS (vrs 17). Secondly, in vrs 17 we see a shocking diagnosis. You say “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. What was their main problem? It is given away by the simple phrase “I do not need a thing.” Self-sufficiency lies at the very heart of lukewarmness. If the words of Christ are anything to go by the most shocking thing about self-sufficiency is that it leads to self-deception – “I do not need a thing.” Laodicea was the Zurich of Asia Minor (the banking capital). Their verdict was I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. Jesus says, you are wretched, pitiful, poor. Laodicea was the Groote Schuur of Asia, the medical centre of the day and famous for an eye ointment. Jesus looks at them and says – “you are blind.” Laodicea was the Milan of the ancient world (a textile centre) but Jesus tells them – “you are naked.”
- A STRIKING INVITATION (vrs 18-20). Jesus Christ has said some harsh things about this church. There is only one thing worse that could have happened to this church than receiving such a scathing letter and that would have been to have received no letter at all. As Jesus says in vrs 19, those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. It is infinitely preferable to be disciplined by God than to be dismissed by him. Christ offers this lukewarm church a striking invitation. In fact he gives them two pictures of encouragement. The first picture is the offer of a shopping spree. “You say you are rich but I have told you that you are poor. Buy from me gold refined in the fire. Come to me for true wealth – refined gold.” On this shopping spree they could purchase clothes to cover their wickedness and eye salve to help them to see. The second picture in this striking invitation is of a fellowship meal. Look at vrs 20. If there was a prize for the most consistently abused text of scripture it would be this verse. The idea conveyed is that Christ is knocking at the door of the heart of sinners and requesting an invitation to enter. This is not the primary meaning of the text. Who is Jesus speaking to? Believers or unbelievers? Christ is knocking on the door of his own church. The problem with Laodicean believers today is that they have shut the Lord out of their lives. They need to hear Christ’s invitation to renew communion with him. Perhaps Christ is knocking at the door of your life and saying, “it has been some time since we had genuine fellowship.”