My Notes on Revelation 3:14-22, Letter to Laodicea
Worship at the Throne of God
Revelation 3:14, The Amen
In this article, we shall explore the letter to the seventh church in the book of Revelation, the church of Laodicea.
The letter is addressed to the angel of the church, the messenger in the church. Far from being an angelic being, this angel is a human leader in the church who read the Scriptures for the congregation.
Of course, the message is not only for the angel, but for all believers in Laodicea. To them, Jesus identifies himself as the amen, the witness, the faithful, and the true; the beginning of God's creation.
The word amen expresses confidence and certainty, and it can also mean certainly or truly. In the Gospels, the Lord often uses it to declare that what he is about to say was absolutely certain and true. For example, in Matthew 5:18, he says "For amen (truly) I say to you all..."; in Mark 9:1, he says "Amen I say to you all..."; in Luke 4:24, he says again "Amen I say to you all..."; and in John 3:3, he says "Amen, amen I tell you...". The Lord's use of the word amen in the New Testament is very particular to him, especially since it is common in all four gospels. It makes sense that in Revelation he identifies himself as the Amen.
The Lord not only identifies himself as the amen, but he also identifies himself as the witness, the faithful, and the true. These other titles elaborate on amen means. Jesus is giving us a faithful and certain testimony of God's word.
Moreover, the Lord also identifies himself as the beginning of God's creation. Since in John 1:3, John teaches that all thing were made by Jesus, we must understand that Jesus is the beginning of God's creation in the sense that he created all of God's creation: he is the source of the existence of God's creation.
Revelation 3:15-16, A Lukewarm Church
Jesus, the one whose word is truly reliable, tells this church that he knows their works; and because he knows their works, he knows that they are lukewarm.
The Lord also tells them he wishes they were either cold or hot, but because they are lukewarm, he will spit them out of his mouth.
Obviously, the Lord is comparing them to something he would put in his mouth: a drink. A cold beverage refreshes on a hot day, and hot beverage warms up in cold day. Cold and hot are attributes that the Lord would accept. However, this church is neither cold nor hot: it is lukewarm. It neither refreshes, nor does it warm up. It is unpleasant. Consequently, the Lord will spit them out of his mouth: he refuses to drink this beverage.
Through this simple and direct analogy, the Lord is telling the church of Laodicea that he is not pleased with them, and he rejects what they are producing. In the verses that follow, the Lord will explain in more detail what the problem with this church is.
Revelation 3:17, A Self-Deceived Church
The problem with the church of Laodicea is that they saw themselves as being wealthy, having many goods, and having need of nothing. Through trade, the city had become financially successful, and the church became satisfied with its comforts and wealth. They became materialistic instead of spiritual.
Nevertheless, the Lord confronts them with their true spiritual state: they are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Spiritually speaking, they were the opposite of what they thought themselves to be.
While their wretchedness, pitifulness, and poverty stand in direct contrast to their self-image of having wealth, abundance of goods, and absence of needs, their blindness speaks of their inability to see what is spiritually true, and their nakedness seems to refer to their shameful condition before the Lord (they did not have his respect).
Revelation 3:18, True Riches
The Lord advises this church to buy two things from him: gold tried with fire, and white raiment. He also advises the church put salve on their eyes.
These are the solutions to the church's problems. The gold tried with fire is gold that has been refined and made pure, gold that is of great value. Such gold will make the church truly rich. Likewise, the white raiment serves the purpose of clothing the believers so that the shame of their nakedness can be covered. Such raiment will make them presentable, respectable, before the Lord. The salve is obviously an ointment for healing the eyes. Such salve will make them able to see spiritual truth.
What does the Lord mean?
By telling the church to buy from him, the Lord is telling the church to trade with him instead of trading with the merchants of this world. What they truly need is not sold by the merchants that came to Laodicea, but by the Lord himself.
Moreover, if one is familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures, one will most likely recognize that an allusion is being made to Isaiah 55:1-7, where God the Father (Hashem, Jehovah) tells his people to buy from him without price and without money. In Isaiah 55:1-7, buying from God means repenting, praying in repentance, and turning to the Lord. This is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ has told the other churches: repent (Revelation 2:5, 2:16, 2:22, and 3:3). Buying from Christ simply means to repent: repentance is the price for the pure gold, the white raiment, and the salve for the eyes.
Thus, what the Lord is saying to the church is that if they repent, He will provide what they truly need: spiritual wealth and spiritual health.
Revelation 3:19, Jesus Loves His Children
The Lord's words against the church in Laodicea have been harsh, therefore he reminds them that he rebukes and chastens everyone whom he loves.
Once again, we can see that the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly being presented as being one with God the Father, for this is a reference to Proverbs 3:11-12, where Solomon admonishes us to accept being disciplined by Hashem (Jehovah) because He disciplines everyone He loves, just as a father disciplines his son. The same idea is also repeated in Hebrews 12:5-7.
Thus, by rebuking and disciplining the church, the Lord is demonstrating His love for the church. At no point should we think that the Lord is threatening to take away salvation from this church, but instead he is assuring them that he loves them and that he will discipline them, spit them out of his mouth, if necessary.
In this same verse, the Lord instructs the church to be zealous and to repent. While the idea of repentance has already been discussed in the previous verse, we need to understand what it means to be zealous.
Biblically speaking, being zealous means to show resolve in a course of action. In Numbers 25:11, Phinehas showed zeal for the Lord by thrusting the man and the woman who transgressed; and in 2 Corinthians 7:11, the church demonstrated zeal by taking a resolute course of action after they repented. Zeal is simply a resolute course of action.
[I do wish to clarify to the reader that the Bible does not teach Christians to harm others. Ancient Israel lived under the Law, which penalizes certain sins with death; but the church lives by grace, which does not grant the church any authority to put anyone to death. Christians, therefore, separate themselves from sin until the sinner repents, and Christians ought to show a great regard for life.]
Revelation 3:20, Jesus Is at The Door
The Lord directs the church's attention to the fact that he is standing at the door and knocking. He states that if anyone opens for him, the Lord will come in and have dinner with that person. What does he mean?
The Lord is comparing himself to a traveler who is knocking at the door and waiting for someone to open and offer him hospitality. Anyone who welcomes him will be able to enjoy a meal with him, which in the Bible is a sign of fellowship.
Abraham, for example, welcomed God and the two angels that came to him (Genesis 18:1-8). He set a meal for them, enjoyed their company, and then God told him Sarah would bear him a child the following year (wonderful things happen to those who welcome God!).
Similarly, when the Lord sent his disciples to preach in various cities, he instructed them to rely on the hospitality that was extended to them (Matthew 10:6-13, Luke 10:4-9).
Here in Revelation, the Lord portrays himself as someone who is seeking the hospitality of the church and their fellowship. By standing at the door and knocking, the Lord is taking the first step to make this happen; it is now up to the church to respond.
Thus, the standing and knocking at the door symbolize the Lord speaking to the church by means of this letter in which he rebukes them and asks them to repent; opening the door then symbolizes the church attending the Lord's message and repenting.
Revelation 3:21-22, Sitting on Christ's Throne
Jesus finally makes a promise to all those who overcome. Those who overcome are not those who overcome the church's problems with materialism, but those who believe in Jesus Christ and have been born of God (1 John 5:4-5). Jesus is not saying that he will reward those in the church who repent (though doubtless, he will); instead, he is reminding them why they should repent: they should repent because they are children of God who will spend eternity with God.
Those who overcome, those who believe in Jesus and God's children, will have the opportunity to sit on Christ's throne just as Jesus has sat on God's throne. In other words, just as Jesus rules over God's kingdom (Daniel 7:14), those of us who believe in Jesus and are God's children will rule in Christ's kingdom under Jesus's authority (a likely reference to Daniel 7:18 and Revelation 20:4).
The letter ends by Christ calling on everyone who has ears to pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the churches: in other words, the message is for everyone in Laodicea and everyone in all the churches.
Questions for Reflection
- Why do God's children become materialistic when they live in a place or age of economic prosperity?
- How does materialism contradict the spiritual kind of life God wants us to live?
- Do we live in a materialistic nation and age?
- Have we/you become lukewarm, conditioned to the ideals of our/you culture?
- How is the Lord standing at our door and knocking?
- How can we respond to the Lord? How do we repent?
- How can we show zeal in pursing fellowship with the Lord?
- Are you experiencing fellowship with the Lord at this point in your life?
Lord, forgive me that I have counted myself rich because of the things I have, or poor because the things I do not have. Forgive me that I have not pursued a relationship with you as much as I have pursued these wealth, pleasure, and popularity.
I recognize you are my true wealth, my true joy, and the only one whom I need to please. Help me to be zealous and pursue a greater relationship with you by praying, meditating on your word, attending church, telling others about you, and doing those things you consider to be right. Amen.
Invitation to the Reader
I would like to invite you to share your thoughts, questions, and insights in the comments section below; and to read the other devotionals I have published on the book of Revelation by clicking on the links below.
© 2019 Marcelo Carcach