Steven P. Wickstrom
all Scriptures quoted from the NASB except where noted
(14) “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this:
(15) ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.
(16) So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.
(17) 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,
(18) 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.
(19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.
(20) 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.
(21) 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.
(22) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
Laodicea was a town in the Lycus River valley in present-day Turkey. It was about 100 miles east of the port city of Ephesus. Uniquely situated on a large flat-topped hill, the town was protected from the flooding in the spring when the snow melted off the nearby mountains. The fertile valley contained pastures with large flocks of sheep. “The city was at the crossroads of north-south traffic between Sardis and Perga and east-west from the Euphrates to Ephesus. Laodicea quickly became a rich city, rich enough to be able to rebuild itself without outside help after the destructive earthquake of 60 A.D. The city's reputation was for its money transactions and the good quality of raven-black wool grown in the area.”1 The black wool, spun into dark yarn, was added to yarn dyed in other colors and made some very intricately patterned colored clothing, which sold for a high price in Rome. Tunics manufactured in Laodicea, called trimata, were so well-known that the city had the nickname of Trimataria.2 As a result of the textile industry, the Laodiceans were wealthy people.
Laodicea also had a medical school for training people to become doctors. Two of the doctors from Laodicea were so famous that their names appear on the coins of the city (Zeuxis and Alexander Philalethes). Even Aristotle spoke of the medicines from Laodicea that supposedly helped with eyesight and hearing. People came from all over the empire to purchase this medicine. Production of the famous "Phrygian powder" was also performed in Laodicea. It was a medicine used for treating eye diseases. Local resources of zinc and alum became the basis for the production of eye ointments, known as kollyria, also sold by merchants from Laodicea.3 The powder would be mixed with water to give it a paste-like consistency and then applied to the eyes.
Six miles to the north, the town of Hierapolis sat on the top of the cliffs overlooking the valley. Hierapolis achieved great renown for its hot springs and day spas. The town was built, perhaps unwisely, on a geological fault from which noxious vapors and hot mineral water escaped. The therapeutic virtues of the waters became the calling card of the town. People went to Hieropolis from all over the empire to sit the large public baths, filled with hot mineral water. Various thermal installations, which included immense hot basins and pools for swimming, were built to take advantage of the natural resource. Hydrotherapy for the sick became accompanied by religious practices in the local temples. The city was also famous for its red dye, made from the juice of the madder root, and the leaves for medicinal purposes. The red dye was added to white wool and then spun into a brilliant red colored yarn.
Nine miles to the east of Laodicea lay the town of Colossae. At the foot of Mount Cadmus, it benefited from an endless supply of cold, freshwater coming down from the snow caps. These rivers provided the water the crops and flocks needed in the Lycos valley. Colossae had been a major trade center on the trade route from Sardis to Konya and was famous for the dark red wool cloth that carried that its name, colossinum (also derived from the madder root). The fertile fields below the city were excellent for growing crops, and the foothills had good pastureland. While Colossae was neither as prominent or wealthy as Hierapolis or Laodicea, its location at the end of the valley made it easy to defend from enemies. Unfortunately, Colossae did not have the wealth that Hierapolis or Laodicea possessed, and the city did not completely rebound from the earthquake in 60 A.D. as well as they did. Many portions of the city remained unusable afterward. Colossae quickly decreased in importance.
More than likely, the members of the church in Laodicea were carnal Christians. They have a lot in common with the church in Corinth. Both churches were in a downward spiral of carnality. The Corinthian believers were engaged in some seriously messed up things. From sexual promiscuity to getting drunk while meeting together to quarreling amongst themselves, these people were far from the ideal loving and thriving church body. The Laodiceans were rich and self-sufficient, with no need for God to supply their needs. Both churches needed a severe rebuke. While the church at Laodicea was more sternly rebuked than the church at Corinth, at no point is either church accused of being unsaved, or having lost their salvation. Keep in mind as you read about the Laodiceans that they are a church filled with Christians. They may have lost their focus and strayed in their Christianity, but they are still a body of believers that Christ wanted to straighten out. There was still hope for the church at Laodicea.
14a To the angel of the church in Laodicea. Following the pattern of the other letters, this one was also to the angel of the church. What, or rather, who, are these angels? Theologians have struggled for two thousand years, trying to determine who exactly they are. The Greek word άγγελος (aggelos) is typically translated as an angel or a messenger. There are several thoughts on who they are: (1) actual angels, (2) a human representative of them, i.e., the bishop of the church, (3) they are a personification of the church.
In the first theory, if the angel is an actual angel, then we can infer that each church has its own “guardian” angel. There is a major problem associated with άγγελος being an “angelic” angel. The problem lies in that it seems improbable that Christ would use a human to write a physical letter to an angel, rebuking it for falling short in its duties as a Christ-follower.4 If the angel is an actual angelic representative of the local church, and answerable for its failure, then the seven angels in chapters 1 through 3 failed miserably. Is that type of failure even possible for an angel? I don’t think so.
The second theory is that the Greek word άγγελος is a human messenger, instead of an angel. This theory deems the letter addressed to a human messenger rather than an angelic one. The main problem with this theory is that άγγελος is always translated as an angel in Revelation and always used in that context.5 This does not mean that άγγελος cannot refer to a human being as a messenger; it is simply not typical in the book of Revelation. There is also a problem with assigning the pastor or bishop to the role of the messenger because they are not referred to as messengers anywhere in the New Testament. If it were a common practice to refer to the chief person in the church as a messenger, this would be evident in the other letters contained in the New Testament, especially in Paul's. John did not use the appropriate word if he was addressing an elder, deacon, or pastor. It is possible the word άγγελος meant the messenger or the actual person who delivered the letter, but that would require seven different messengers, one from each of the churches to have traveled to Patmos to get the letter to deliver it. While this is not impossible, as John could have summoned a messenger from each of the churches to receive the appropriate correspondence, it is not probable.
The third theory (I tend to side with this one) is that the “angel” is simply a personification of the church itself.6 A personification is an imaginary person or creature conceived to represent something. In this case, the angel represents the church. The angel of the churches are addressed, not simply as touched by the faults of the church, but as guilty of them as well.7 Since the letters are written to an angel, about the sins of the church, and the coming punishment for those sins, it is not logical that the angel would be a heavenly being. The letter starts as if being written to an angel, but there is no doubt that it is the congregation itself who is the focus of the letter. It is my opinion, therefore, that the “angel” is a symbol, or personification, of the church, rather than one of the heavenly angelic hosts.
14b…the Amen. Amen is not an actual Greek word. There was no corresponding word in the Greek language to match the Hebrew word amen. The Greek word amen (Άμήν) was transliterated from the Hebrew word for amen (אמן). There is a difference between transliteration and translation. Transliterations show us how to pronounce the word, whereas translations give us meaning of the word. Transliteration changes the Hebrew letters (Hebrew is read from right to left but my chart below has it from left to right to make it easy to understand.) into Greek letters, and then into English letters. Hebrew writing has no vowels, so the Greek leter for "e" was added by the translaters to make the word easier to read and speak.
|Transliteration of Amen From Hebrew to Greek to English|
|א alef||מ mem||no vowel||ס nun||Hebrew|
|α alpha||μ mu||ή eta||ν nu||Greek|
If there had been a corresponding word in the Greek language, then amen could have been translated. To fully understand what amen means, you must turn to the Old Testament. The word amen is used thirty times in the Old Testament. The major idea behind this word is constancy and reliability.8 Isaiah referred to God as the God of amen, due to his truthfulness and trustworthiness (Isaiah 65:16). The word “amen” conveys the idea of something faithful, reliable, and believable, and is typically used this way in the Old Testament. Jesus himself used the word amen in this context many times. He often started a statement with “Amen, amen, I say to you.” (Many verses in the Gospels such as John 5:24 translate amen as truly, or verily.) What he was telling his listeners was that what they were about to hear from him was faithful, reliable, true, and believable.
14b…the faithful and true Witness. The Greek word for faithful, (πιστός - pistos) means “true, sure, trustworthy, believable, worthy of credit.”9 The Greek for true, (άληθινός - alethinos) means “loving truth, veracious and hence worthy of credit.”10 (According to dictionary.com, the word "veracious" means habitually speaking the truth; truthful; honest.) The Greek word for "witness" (μάρτυς - martus) means "one who can or does aver what he has seen or heard or knows."11 (According to dictionary.com, the word "aver" means to declare positively, or state something as a fact.) Just in case you're beginning to get the point that the person referred to here is truthful, honest, believable, and worthy of credit (trustworthy); that is exactly the idea that John is pointing out.
14c…the Beginning of the creation of God. The word “beginning” άρχή (archē) could be translated as “that by which anything begins to be, the origin, active cause.”12 The New Testament scriptures are very clear about Christ's role in creation. John 1:3 (HSCB) says, “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created.” John 1:10 (HSCB) says, “He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 (HSCB) says, “yet for us, there is one God, the Father. All things are from Him, and we exist for Him. And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through Him, and we exist through Him.“ Colossians 1:16 (HSCB) says, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven, and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Hebrews 1:2 (HSCB) says, “In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him.” Also, read Proverbs chapter eight. Jesus is the power and authority that God utilized in creating the universe. It is very important to understand that this verse is NOT saying that Jesus was the first thing created; rather, it is stating that Jesus was the source of creation. He was the beginning of all things. It is showing that all things were created through Him.
Verse 14 leaves no doubt the Jesus Christ is the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God. We know from this introduction that what follows is being said by Jesus. He is the one who addressed the church at Laodicea. John is only the recorder of the words, faithfully writing down what Jesus is saying. Jesus leaves no doubt that what is about to follow is true and should be taken very seriously because they are his words. Jesus starts by calling himself the Amen, a term reserved for God himself in the Old Testament. Jesus is reminding us that he is God, and as such, cannot lie. As the faithful and true witness, Jesus is relaying to us what he heard from God the Father. Be referring to himself as the beginning of the creation of God; he once again ascertains his deity. When Jesus speaks, the church needs to listen.
15a I know your deeds. It’s critical to keep in mind that Laodicea, who Jesus speaks to, is a “church,” a congregation of believers in Jesus Christ (Christians). These Christians believe they are “rich” by believing in Christ and have “abundance” by their good works. They think they have “need of nothing” because they are saved and on their way to heaven. They probably think they are just like any other church. It is interesting to note that verse 15 starts with Jesus telling the church that he knows their deeds. The Greek word for deeds (έργν - ergon) means means “denotes comprehensively what a man is and how he acts.”13 Typically translated as “works” or “deeds,” these words do not accurately convey the richness of the Greek word. It is the motive behind the action, or works, that is important. Why you are doing something is just as important, if not more so, than the works or deeds. Jesus is telling the church that He doesn’t simply know their deeds; He knows the motives in their hearts. Actions, behaviors, motives, and the heart are all intertwined; they cannot be separated. Works, or deeds, are more than simply what we do; they are how we live. Jesus doesn’t just look at the actions we perform; he focuses on the heart. If we’re not doing things for the glory of God, then we are doing them for the wrong reason.
God’s problem with this church was not that it was an inactive body of believers. The church at Laodicea was very active. They were doing a lot of things (works and deeds). The problem seems to be in their motives. What they were doing wasn’t being done for the glory of God. They weren’t serving God the way he wanted them to be serving. We can get so busy doing things for God that at some point, we stop doing them Him and begin doing them for ourselves. If we’re doing something for recognition, then we’re not doing it for God. If we’re doing something hoping that it will bring ourselves glory or accolades or pats on the back, then we’re not doing for God. Whatever we’re doing, or however we’re serving, we need to examine our hearts and our motives and see if we’re doing it for the right reason.
15b…you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. There are a couple of points that I need to make here that you might not have seen before.
1. Jesus wants you to be cold.
2. Jesus wants you to be hot.
3. It doesn’t matter which one you are, as long as you are one or the other.
Please understand that this verse does NOT say that hot is good and cold is bad; they are both good. For example, let’s say that I issued instructions for you to sit either on the left or the right side of the room but not in the center. Does it matter which side of the room you sit in? No, it does not; just don’t sit in the center. The same logic applies to hot or cold. It doesn’t matter if you sit on the “hot” side of the room, or the “cold” side of the room, don’t sit in the lukewarm center. The hot/cold issue begs the question: What exactly is God talking about? What does it mean to be cold? What does it mean to be hot? To answer these questions, we need to look at Laodicea from the eyes of the Laodiceans. What did they think it meant to be cold? What did they think it meant to be hot? When they heard this letter for the first time, what did they hear? What images came into their minds?
The first thing we need to look at is what it means to be cold. The word cold is the Greek word φυχρός (psuchros) and means “cool, fresh, or cold.”14 It should be obvious that being cold must be a good thing, or Christ would not have recommended it. To look at being cold in context, we need to look at it from the Laodicean perspective. Laodicea built an aqueduct that ran from the mountains above Colossae to the city center. The residents would go there daily to fill their jars with the cold refreshing water from Colossae. It was uncontaminated water straight from the mountains. It was the perfect water for drinking, cooking, or even bathing. If this is what Christ had in mind, then being a “cold” Christian would be like giving someone a cool refreshing drink on a hot summer day. To be a “cold” Christian is to take care of needs, provide moral support, and genuinely care about people. A “cold” Christian visits the shut-ins, the hospitalized, and in prison. In short, to be a “cold,” Christian is to serve as Jesus served.
The second thing we need to look at is what it means to be hot. The word hot is the Greek word ζεστός (zestos) and means “hot or boil.”15 Quite possibly, the Laodiceans may have associated the word “hot” with the hot waters of Hierapolis. The hot mineral water was brought down from Hierapolis and used by the textile industry. The mineral water was used to clean the wool and set, or lock, the color of the dyes (this ensures the wool holds its color when washed). The residents of Laodicea would have also traveled up to Hierapolis to sit in the hot mineral baths. But hot water also had another use. The ancient Greeks liked to drink hot water. The also liked to add a little hot water to their wine. The ancient Greeks thought that only a barbarian would drink undiluted wine. The wine was almost always served either hot or warm, as the ancient Greeks had no efficient way to chill the wine. Setting wine flasks in hot water allowed the wine to heat to the desired temperature. To be a “hot” Christian could have several different meanings (or a combination of them) to the Laodiceans. In terms of textiles, a “hot” Christian is “clean,” lives a pure life abstaining from sin, and the “colorfastness” of the Holy Spirit ensures the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) doesn’t fade. In terms of healing, the “hot” Christian will be bringing souls to Christ, healing them of their sinful condition. Praying for the sick should also be the norm for a “hot” Christian. The “hot” Christian should also be like hot wine; the pleasant taste and aroma of a Christ-like life should cause people to want Christ’s salvation as well.
16 So because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. The ancient Greeks liked their wine hot or cold. Serving wine lukewarm would be considered an insult. Hot water is only effective while it is hot. As the water cooled down, it lost its effectiveness. Since Christ is referring to spitting something out of his mouth, the image of lukewarm wine comes to mind. Since it was socially unacceptable to serve lukewarm wine in Greek culture, I get the image of Christ being insulted by being served lukewarm wine and him spitting it out in response to that insult. It’s as if he was served something to drink that was inadequate, subpar, or even bad tasting. The Laodicean church is not hot. They are not getting people saved or healing the sick, or leading lives that are a pleasant taste and aroma to Christ. The Laodicean church is not cold. They are not taking care of needs, providing moral support, or genuinely caring about people. They are not visiting the shut-ins, the hospitalized prisoners, or serving as Jesus served. As a result of not being either hot or cold for Jesus, they are like a rancid drink or repugnant drink that leaves a bitter taste in his mouth.
What did Christ mean when He said He would spit them out of His mouth if they did not change? We need to look at this verse in context with the entire passage. The focus of this verse is on deed or works. The Greek used here, έμέω – emesai, means to vomit. That’s pretty strong language. What did Christ mean? The whole point of this verse is that lukewarm has no use. The verse is not talking about salvation; it is talking about usefulness or purpose. Coffee, for example, can be served either hot or iced (cold). You don’t expect (or want) to have lukewarm coffee served to you. You would probably spit it out at the first sip. If you are living a self-reliant, self-sufficient life; relying on your strength rather than Christ’s, then you are lukewarm. In this situation, you are not standing for Christ; you are standing for yourself. Previously I mentioned that if we’re doing something hoping that it will bring ourselves glory or accolades or pats on the back, then we’re not doing it for God. In God’s eyes, anything not done for Him, has no value, no use, no purpose. It’s like lukewarm coffee. Jesus is telling the church to have a purpose, to have a focus, and to make sure that Jesus is the reason for their deeds and works.
17 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. Laodicea was a city that was so rich; it minted coins that bore the images of Apollo, Asclepius, and Zeus.16 The reproach in verse 17 assumes that the Christians in Laodicea were also rich, as the passage would have no meaning to poor people. The Lord rebukes the wealthy Christians, not because of their wealth, but rather because their money has substituted God. Their wealth has become their savior who supplies their every need. Their money has become their idol, and they worship it rather than worshiping God. Instead of looking to God to supply their every need, they look to their wealth instead. They may have been well off economically, but they were poor in their relationship with God. They were storing up treasure on earth, but not in heaven. God cares more about the condition of our hearts than the condition of wallets. What’s valuable both now and in eternity is what God cares about: treating people right, forgiveness, and loyalty (Matthew 23:23, Micah 6:8).We’re meant to use possessions and love people, not love possessions and use people. Our eternal perspective affects our earthly priorities. In God’s eyes, the Laodiceans are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. God’s perspective of their condition was a stark contrast as to how they saw themselves.
18a I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich. Laodicea was a city full of merchants. Here we see Christ speaking as a merchant, advising the church to buy his merchandise. Jesus just informed the wealthy Laodiceans that they were quite poor, and now he’s telling them to purchase gold from him. What does it mean to buy gold from Jesus? How do you buy gold when you’re poor? The Laodiceans needed to turn away from putting their trust in their earthly gold and instead put their trust in Jesus Christ, and that would involve repentance. Physical money cannot purchase the merchandise Christ has for sale; it takes something else. 1 Peter 1:5-9 compares faith with refined gold. “You, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:5-9 NASB)
It is possible that faith was the refined gold that Christians were told to purchase from Jesus. It looks like Laodicea had put their faith in the gold that perishes. 1 Peter 1:7 states that spiritual gold is your faith in Christ, and every true believer’s faith in Jesus will go through a fiery trial during which all that is dross is to be done away with (burned away) to bring forth a finished product of pure, refined gold. God’s word says that this spiritual gold tried in the fire is more precious than natural gold that perishes.
Gold mined from rock always has impurities. Removing those impurities, such as trace metals and ores, requires the gold to go through a process called smelting. The first part of this process is accomplished by pulverizing or crushing the gold ore and then placing it in a furnace. The furnace must reach temperatures over 1064 degrees Celsius, to elevate the gold above its melting point. While many impurities are burned off in the furnace, other metals remain. Gold ore extracted from mines in the earth contains a significant amount of impurities, including traces of other metals. Chemicals such as cyanide solution or mercury are introduced to the gold to separate the gold from other metals. This process causes the gold to coagulate and form nuggets and clumps of gold. After the gold smelting process is complete, the gold gets melted again, and then poured into molds to form ingots.17
According to Romans 12:3, God has given everyone a measure of faith (gold) with which we receive salvation and use our varying gifts. It is the ordinary daily trust of the Son of God (Galatians 2:20) by which we live and minister to others. Nevertheless, the sin nature, also known as the natural man, is the impurity that interferes with a soul’s faith coming forth as pure gold just as impurities in nature prevent pure gold from being found. Natural fire burns away natural impurities. Spiritual fire burns away spiritual impurities. Please understand that Christ is not referring to “saving” faith in this passage. That would not be logical since the church at Laodicea has already accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, according to the faithful mercies shown to David. Isaiah 55:1-3 (NASB)
We now come back to the question of how do you buy from Jesus' refined gold? What does it mean to purchase something? To purchase something requires an exchange. If I go to the store to purchase something, I exchange my money for the goods I wish to purchase. For us to purchase something from Christ, something is required. What did we read in Isaiah 55:1-3? Isaiah 55:1-3 speaks of buying from God without money “things” that don’t have a price. Verse three follows with, “Incline your ear and come unto Me. Listen that you may live, and I will make an everlasting covenant with you....” Buying gold tried in the fire from God requires several things from us:
1. Incline your ear to his voice.
2. Hear God.
3. Go to God.
4. Making an everlasting covenant with God (salvation is only the starting point).
To purchase from God gold tried in the fire is not only inclining your ear to the Lord, hearing him, going to him and making an everlasting covenant with him, but also loving, believing, and rejoicing as per 1 Peter 1:5-9, (quoted earlier).
18b…and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed. The black wool of Laodicea produced some stunning dark-colored garments. The mineral water from Hieroplis helped to lock in the color dyes so that the color did not fade after being washed multiple times. But in this verse, Jesus is telling the church that they are naked and in need of white garments that only he can provide. White is the most frequently mentioned color in the Bible. It almost always represents purity, righteousness, or wisdom. Isaiah 1:18, Acts 3:19, and Revelation 7:17 state that the blood of Jesus washes our sin-stained garments that they would become white as snow. The letter to Laodicea was written to Christians who already had the white garments of salvation, so we are led to wonder why they needed to purchase more white garments and how to purchase them.
The first question we’ll delve into is why they needed to purchase white garments. If you think back to the Garden of Eden, clothing was the first thing which Adam felt the need of, after he had sinned. After he sinned, he felt his nakedness and shame. After letting him ineffectively try to cover himself, God provided clothing for him. He took the skins of the sacrifices and clothed him. This act concealed the shame of his nakedness. The church at Laodicea stands accused of being shamefully naked. They had somehow taken off the white clothing they received during salvation and stood naked before God. The lack of white clothing does not mean they removed their salvation; it simply means the clothing that symbolized their purity and righteousness was gone. All of their success and self-righteousness was nakedness in God’s sight.
We now come back to the question of how to purchase white garments from Christ, but before we do that, there a couple of terms that I need to define. Those terms are imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness. Imputed righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, credited to a person enabling him/her to be justified in the eyes of God. When we say that God imputes Christ's righteousness to us, it means that God thinks of Christ's righteousness as belonging to us, or regards it as belonging to us. He reckons it to our account.18 The process of reckoning is what we call salvation. Imparted righteousness is the righteousness of sanctification, wherein God causes the Christian to become more and more Christlike. It is a process where God makes us holy. God the Father sanctifies (1 Corinthians 1:30) by the Spirit (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) and in the name of Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and like Christ in our actual lives.19 Imparted righteousness is applied imputed righteousness, or to put in simpler terms; sanctification is applied justification. Justification by its very nature does not have a progressive character. Justification is God's declaration of righteousness (it is imputed). The focus of justification is the removal of the guilt of sin. The focus of sanctification is the healing of the dysfunctionality of sin (it is imparted). While God sanctifies by grace, Christians are responsible to appropriate God's grace by faith. Faith is the means (produces the results) of sanctifying grace
Now to the business of how to purchase white garments from Christ. It has everything to do with imparted righteousness. The white clothing we need to purchase from Christ is imparted righteousness. But just as any purchase requires something for something, Christ is expecting something from the Christian. We are to present ourselves as “living sacrifices” (Romans 12:1). In the Old Testament, the sacrifice could not be slain until it had been presented to the priest. In the New Testament, a believer dies with Christ to live a new holy life in the power of Christ's resurrection and identification with Christ's suffering (Romans 6:1-11, Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:8-10). Good deeds (Ephesians 2:10), godliness (1 Peter 1:15), Christ-likeness (1 Peter 2:21), and fulfilling the demands of the Law (Rom 8:4) are all part of the cost in purchasing white garments from Christ.)
18c…and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Christ told the church (in verse 17) that they were blind, and in verse 18, they are instructed to purchase eye salve. Although Laodicea produced the best eye-salve in the ancient world, the Laodicean Christians were blind when looking at their spiritual state. In the New Testament, eyes tend to represent spiritual discernment (Matthew 13:10-17, 1 John 2:11). Spiritual discernment is the ability to tell the difference between truth and error. It is the foundation of wisdom. It can only come by the revelation of Jesus Christ to the believer, and then must be developed by way of training in righteousness (Hebrews 5:14) and prayer (Ephesians 6:18). Therefore, the Lord Jesus tells them to buy eye salve from Him to see their spiritual state. Hebrews 5:11-14 shows how the eye salve to fix spiritual discernment is utilized. The writer speaks to those who had become “dull of hearing,” meaning they had little to no spiritual discernment. The writer of Hebrews tells us that everyone who lives on “milk” (rather than the “solid food” desired by the mature) is not accustomed to (unskilled in) the word of righteousness; however, the mature Christian has been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. The keys, according to this passage, are becoming skilled in the Word of God (by which we define righteousness) and “practice” (through which we gain experience).
The eye salve must be purchased, and it is expensive. So what does it cost to purchase eye salve from Christ? Time. You’re going to have to give him your time. You’re going to have to spend time reading the Bible to learn the truth, and by meditating on the Word, reinforce the truth. You’re going to have to spend time reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, meditating on the Word, and obeying the Word. Your time in the Word should be, at a minimum, four times a week.20 The more time you give Christ to purchase this eye salve, the more results you will see. Giving time to Christ is what Christians must do to develop spiritual discernment. You must know the truth so well that, when the lies of the enemy appear, you can recognize them. By knowing and obeying the Word of God, you will be trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. You will know God’s character and will, and that is the heart of spiritual discernment – being able to distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the world. It is to have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Spiritual discernment fends off temptation and allows us to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
The eye salve must be purchased, and it is expensive. So what does it cost to purchase eye salve from Christ? Time. You’re going to have to give him your time. You’re going to have to spend time in the reading the Bible to learn the truth and by meditating on the Word, reinforce the truth. You’re going to have to spend time reading the Word, studying the Word, memorizing the Word, meditating on the Word, and obeying the Word. Your time in the Word should be at a minimum, four times a week. The time you give Christ to purchase this eye salve, the more results you will see. Giving time to Christ is what Christians must do to develop spiritual discernment. You must know the truth so well that, when the lies of the enemy appear, you can recognize it. By knowing and obeying the Word of God, you will be trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. You will know God’s character and will, and that is the heart of spiritual discernment – being able to distinguish the voice of God from the voice of the world. It is to have a sense of what is right and what is wrong. Spiritual discernment fends off temptation and allows us to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
19a Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline. Jesus loves this church, or he would not have rebuked them. The word for love used in this verse is not agape but phileo. φιλέω Phileo is the Greek word for friend or friendship. Jesus' friendship with this church is so deep that he is willing to point out their problems. It takes a true friend to point out negative things in your life, and then be willing to be part of the solution. Fortunately for us, Jesus is that friend. It is important to understand that Jesus does not call just anyone his friend. He was very careful about whom he called “friend.” Jesus never referred to anyone who was not his disciple as a friend. Even though Jesus spent time with sinners, he never called them friends. In John 14:14, Jesus said: “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Had this church been filled with non-Christians, Jesus would not have called them friends. The fact that he does call them friends shows that he expects them to get the spiritual priorities straightened out, and back on the right path.
The word rebuke is the Greek word έλέγχω (elegchō) and means “to convict, to prove one in the wrong.”21 Jesus is doing more than just telling the Laodiceans their faults; he is convicting them of their sin. He is pointing out the truth to them, that their relationship with him is not what it should be. The word discipline is the Greek word παιδεύω (paideuō) and means “to correct, to chastise.”22 The basic idea behind this word is correction or guidance. The discipline of Christ stated in Hebrews 12:5-11, explains that God's discipline proceeds from his love and seeks to develop righteousness in his people. God's discipline may be gentle persuasion to return to right behavior, or he may use punitive action if persuasion fails.
19b…therefore be zealous and repent. The word zealous is the Greek word ζέλευε (zeleue) and means “to be eager, earnest.”23 The church is commanded to be earnest or zealous, which means a passionate eagerness to do God's will. But this can only happen when we are in the right relationship with him. The only way to be in a right relationship with God is through forgiveness. What exactly is forgiveness? First of all, it begins with recognizing with a heart-rending awareness that we have defied God when we sin. Repentance comes from the heart and involves confessing from the heart. We cannot deny our sin or find excuses to justify it. Confession by itself is not repentance. Confession is the mind moving the lips; repentance moves the heart. A change of heart will follow honest confession.
Repentance is more than a feeling. A change in behavior will follow true repentance. There are two terms that I would like to point out, and those are “attrition” and “contrition.” Attrition is regret for sin prompted by fear for oneself: “Oh, no. I got caught. What will happen to me?” Contrition, on the other hand, is regret for the sin committed against God’s love and regret for having grieved the Holy Spirit. The fruit of godly repentance is unmistakable: earnestness (zeal) to do what is right in the eyes of God. The essential element in real repentance is that we must come to God in humbleness to request his forgiveness. We must ask God for forgiveness and for strength to avoid sinning. Then we must take active, practical steps to avoid falling into sin. We must be determined to pursue purity and to do what pleases God (1 Thessalonians 1:9). For the Laodiceans, this meant forsaking whatever might perpetuate the lack of spirituality and unwarranted self-sufficiency in which they languished.
20a Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him. Have you ever been locked out of your own house? If you have, you can probably imagine what Jesus is experiencing. He's locked out of his own house. In the context of Revelation 3, then, Christ was standing at the door of the Laodicean church, eager to re-enter the congregation through the genuine repentance of its members. One of the most common errors associated with this verse is the notion that the “door” is the door to a sinner’s heart. Verse 20 is not a salvation message for non-Christians; it is a warning to Christians. Jesus is standing at the door, expecting his servants to open it. Why does the church not hear his voice? Why does the church not hear his knock? Are they so focused and preoccupied with prosperity that they cannot hear Christ's voice or hear his knock? Are so busy doing "things" for Christ that they're too busy to open the door? It would appear so. The depressing part of this verse if the word if. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door…. What happens if the church does not hear his voice and does not open the door? The possibility exists that no one will hear his voice, and no one will open the door. The positive aspect is that if someone does hear his voice, and does open the door, Jesus will come in.
20b…and will dine with him, and he with Me. If anyone in the church hears Christ's voice and opens the door, he will come and dine with them. The word for dine is the Greek word δειπήσώ (deipnēsō), which means “to eat at a banquet.”24 This word for “dine” is very similar to the Greek word for dinner “deipnon,” the evening meal. In ancient Greek culture, the evening meal was a social event. It was important for ancient Greeks to eat with company. Dinner was a time for everyone to catch up on the daily activities of the rest of the family, and whatever friends were in attendance. Jesus desires to come in, sit down at the table, and enjoy the food and company. He wants to be the friend that we invite over to dinner. He wants to be a friend with whom we enjoy spending time. He wants to hear about how our day went and share in our victories and sorrows. But we have to invite Him inside.
The image is of a Savior who expects that His church will be looking for Him, awaiting His arrival. There should be no hesitation in rushing to the door and flinging it open. Christ is at the door! We have been warned and cautioned to be ready for His arrival. That, I believe, is the point. And it fits not only with the larger context of Jesus' teaching; it fits perfectly with the flow of this passage. This letter was not written by a weary shepherd, hoping to be let in for some comfort and a bite to eat. Rather this is the Creator of the Universe, adjuring those He loves to recognize and admit their spiritual emptiness and turn to Him for complete healing and righteousness. His motivation is His Sovereign rule over the Church He built and bought, as well as by His unfailing fierce love for those He has redeemed and called. So, as a faithful shepherd, He commands the church to repent immediately. There’s no time to waste. After all, He's knocking at the door.
21a He who overcomes. The word for overcomes is the Greek word νιχέω (nikaō), which means “to be victorious.”25 What does it mean to overcome, to to be victorious? What are we supposed to overcome? What was it the Laodiceans were supposed to be victorious over? It is important to keep this verse in context with the rest of the passage. Laodicea was a church that had not overcome sin but rather been overcome by sin. Instead of being victorious over temptation, temptation had been victorious over them. The church at Laodicea was not victorious, but Christ had not yet given up on them. He encourages them to overcome just as He did. So how did Jesus overcome?
1. Jesus' life was controlled by God's will: “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”
When Jesus came into the world, He declared, “God, You have given Me a body, and I have come to do Your will.” (Hebrews 10:5-7) Similarly, when He was facing enormous trials at the end of His life, He said, “… not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). Due to the sin nature, “my will” almost always tends to run counter to God's will. It covers a myriad of areas, including pride, impatience, selfishness, unrighteousness, irritation, laziness, vanity, complaining, sexual impurity, unbelief, discouragement, envy, greed, ingratitude, etc. As a man, Jesus also had this self-will and was tempted, but His firm resolve from the very start was, “Not My will, but Yours!” For us to overcome as He overcame, we need to make that same decision and faithfully stick to it, no matter what happens or how we feel.
2. Jesus lived a life of humility.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, … being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8. Jesus was in heaven with God, but voluntarily became a man for our sakes. You would have thought that this was the ultimate act of humility. But it's written that it was as a man that He humbled Himself, and was obedient. His obedience was because, as a man, He had self-will that was in agreement with the Father's. In the situations of daily life, when tempted by impatience, irritation, envy, discouragement, etc. He humbled Himself to the Father's will. He had to take up a battle against the sin, and carry out His pledge: “Not My will, but Yours, be done!”
3. Jesus knew how to use God's grace.
Jesus knows what it is like to be human. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15 NASB. Before He left the earth, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send them the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who would guide them to the truth (John 14:16-17, 26; John 15:26). “Let us, therefore, come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16. What is the time of need? The time of need is when temptation comes when we see and feel the sin in our flesh when we struggle to keep ourselves from sinning. If we pray for help as Jesus did, with humility and desperation to gain victory, then we will get help. The Holy Spirit will come and show us the way out. If we are humble and willing to obey, He will give us the strength and resolve we need to endure in the battle. He has given us God’s Word as a guide, help, and a weapon.
4. Jesus used scripture as a weapon.
God’s Word is a sword. (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12) It is the absolute truth and a powerful weapon against temptation and sin. In Matthew 4:1-11, during Jesus' temptations, His reply always started with, “it is written….” But Jesus didn’t only quote the Word; He had authority when He used God’s Word because He also lived by it. In John 1:14, we read the astonishing words that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus could be described as the Word personified. His entire life was a fulfillment of God's Word, and thereby, God’s will. The Bible is the weapon God has given us; words to use against Satan's deceit like Jesus did, words that show us what to do, words of comfort. The Bible exposes Satan's lies and deceit and is the tool to overcome all the sinful tendencies in our flesh.
5. Suffer in the flesh, cease from sin.
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2. This suffering was not the physical suffering on the cross of Calvary. It was the suffering of the cross He used daily, when He said “No” to His own will, the sin in His flesh, even when it bombarded Him incessantly with its demands and deceitful attraction. The sin in His nature had received its death sentence when He said, “Your will be done, God.” As disciples who follow Jesus, we must learn to hate the sin in our own life, deny ourselves, and take up our cross. (Luke 9:23, Luke 14:26) It costs us something. It costs our will. It costs our life. We must pray and cry out to God, and our lust for sin has to feel the pain of being denied. On the “cross daily,” they suffer and die. While we may never be free from temptation and sin in this lifetime, we can still be victorious and overcome.
21b…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. The promise in this verse is that the church will reign with Christ if they overcome. That the Christians will co-reign with Christ (sitting with Him on His throne) is stated in the New Testament on numerous occasions (Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; 1 Corinthians 6:1-3, 2 Timothy 2:12). The reward here seems to be one of sharing royal honor, victory, and authority with Christ in His future kingdom. Jesus was obedient and faithful, even to the point of death (John 12:27,28). He was diligent and committed to the will of God the Father (John 4:34). He humbled Himself so that He could achieve His purpose in God's plan by putting God's will before His own. Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him his own thrown (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ calls out to us, letting us know that because He overcame, we can also overcome. It is a message of hope and victory. It is through our relationship and identification with Christ and His work, and our faithfulness in the conflict with sin as we draw upon Christ, that we get to share in His reign as a reward for faithful service. This promise is amazing because, whenever we do overcome in the battles of life, it is always through Him.
22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The phrase “ears to hear” is used throughout the Bible, starting with Deuteronomy 29:4. Moses was rebuking the rebellious Israelites by saying, “But to this day, the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or eyes to see or ears to hear.” He was not referring to physical hearing, but to those who may hear the commands of the Lord but who lacked comprehension and desire to act upon those words (Jeremiah 5:21; Ezekiel 12:2). Those who do not have "ears to hear" are spiritually dead and cannot obey God until they respond to His work in their hearts (John 6:65; Romans 11:8). The act of hearing implied obedience. To hear is to obey.
The phrase “he who has an ear” qualifies everyone who will listen and obey. It is an often-used phrase that Jesus utilized when speaking in parables. Whenever Christ says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” He is calling for people to pay careful heed. It’s another way of saying, “Listen up! Pay close attention! What I said was important!” Those who have “ears to hear” allow the Word to bear fruit to the glory of God. It is up to the hearer to decide whether to take the Word seriously and try to understand it, and obey it. The church is being called on to pay close attention and seek God’s wisdom concerning the written Word. Only a few are willing; the rest have ears, but they do not have “ears to hear” (Matthew 7:13–14, 24–27). How is your hearing?
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 Everett C. Blake and Edmonds Anna G., Biblical Sites in Turkey (Turkey: Redhouse, 1994), 139-40.
 Izabela Miszczak, “Laodicea On the Lycus,” Turkish Archaeological News, October 28, 2018, https://turkisharchaeonews.net/site/laodicea-lycus.
 Everett Ferguson, “Angels in the Churches of Revelation 1-3: Status Queastionis and Another Proposal,”Bulletin for Biblical Research 21, no. 3 (Jan 2011): 371-86.
 Colin J. Hemer, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia in Their Local Setting, The Biblical Resource Series (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2001), 33.
 William Mitchell Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches, updated ed., ed. Mark W. Wilson (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, ©1994), 50.
 Warren Baker and Eugene E. Carpenter, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament, Word Study Series (Chattanooga, Tenn.: AMG Publishers, 2003), 540.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 1164.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 112
 W E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index (Nashville: T. Nelson, ©1996), 680.
 J. H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm's Wilke's Clavis Novi Testamenti. Hendrickson Pub., 1999.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 651.
 W E. Vine, Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words: With Topical Index (Nashville: T. Nelson, 1996), 108.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 699.
 Izabela Miszczak, “Laodicea On the Lycus,” Turkish Archaeological News, October 28, 2018, https://turkisharchaeonews.net/site/laodicea-lycus.
 Vee Enne, “Gold Smelting Process,” Sciencing, April 24, 2017, https://sciencing.com/gold-smelting-process-5453916.html.
 Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 726.
 Ibid., pg. 746
 Dr. Arnie Cole and Dr. Oamela Ovwigho, “The Power of 4 Effect,” Back to the Bible, https://www.backtothebible.org/research.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 562.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 1088.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 699.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 402.
 Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, ©1992), 1011.
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