Revelation 3:14-22

Wednesday Night Bible Study

February 5, 1997


How do we interpret the letters?

1) Applied to specific churches.

They are written to real, historical churches that existed in AD 95.

2) Applied to the whole church.

Because there are seven letters, the number of "completion", the letters are applicable to the "complete" church. In a sense, there are the same seven churches in existence today, just as their have been throughout history.

3) Applied to each of us individually.

Each letter applies to each individual church today. Jesus says in each letter: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; - and in this sense, each letter also applies to each of us, as individuals.

4) Prophetic application.

The flow of the church through history is amazingly parallel to the flow of issues from church to church.

The church of Ephesus, being the church of the apostles, up until A.D. 100

The church at Smyrna being the persecuted church, from A.D. 100-300

The church at Pergamum, when the mixing of paganism into the church began, from A.D. 300 to 600, the birth of the Greek Orthodox church.

The church at Thyatira, spiritual immorality and paganism increase, A.D. 600 to 1500, the Roman Catholic church .

The church at Sardis, sounds alive, but really dead, the Reformation Churches, A.D. 1500 to present, started to reform from Catholicism, but didn't go far enough.

The church of Philadelphia, the outreach church, the church that held to the Word of God, was the one with the open door, taking the opportunities that the Lord put before it. I'd see this period starting around the 1850's with the modern missions movements.

Now on to Laodicea.

3:14-22 Letter to Laodicea

:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write;


Laodicea = "justice of the people"

A city in southwest Asia Minor, located on the banks of the Lycus River in the province of Phrygia.

It was located on an ancient highway running from Ephesus to Syria. Being situated on a major crossroads, the city enjoyed great prosperity.

It was originally called Diospolis and then Rhoas. When Antiochus II, king of Syria, rebuilt it around 150 B.C., he renamed it Laodicea, from Laodice, his wife.

The cities near it were Hierapolis, a Roman resort town, and Colosse (letter to Colossians).

Paul mentions the Laodicean church in his letter to the Colossians (Col 2:1; 4:13-16)

The city was eventually abandoned, its extensive ruins known in Turkish as Eski Hissar, or "old castle."

Three things the city was noted for:

1. They were a wealthy city, a city of bankers.

2. They raised a special kind of black sheep in the area, and the shiny raven black wool cloth they made was world famous.

3. They had a school of medicine in Laodicea that was famous for it's medicines.

They had developed a special treatment of spices for the ears, and also had developed a salve for the eyes called collyrium which Aristotle called "Phrygian powder".

:14 These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;

Here's the part of the letter where Jesus describes Himself to the church.

the Amen

amen - firm; verily; faithful; It came to mean "sure" or "truly", an expression of absolute trust and confidence.

It's kind of related to the next phrase -

the faithful and true witness

This comes from

(Rev 1:5 KJV) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness ...


To each of the churches, Jesus gives a kind of report card, an evaluation of their works from His perspective.

There is no church that has a worse report card than Laodicea.

Some may react to the things Jesus says of them by saying, "Well, He doesn't know what He's talking about" or "He's not being very fair ..."

To them, Jesus reassures them that He doesn't make mistakes, He doesn't make up stories.


For some people, the pain of self-realization is just too much to bear.

British painter and engraver William Hogarth was once commissioned to paint the portrait of an exceptionally ugly nobleman. As was his custom, he depicted the subject with the utmost frankness and realism. When the nobleman saw the portrait, he refused to pay for it, and a bitter discussion ensued. Eventually Hogarth, needing the money, sent a letter to his client, saying that a certain showman who specialized in exhibiting freaks and monstrosities was interested in the portrait. Unless Hogarth received payment within three days, he would embellish the picture with a tail and other appendages and sell it to the showman for exhibition. The nobleman paid up, then burned the portrait.

the beginning of the creation of God;

This is a phrase that the Jehovah's Witnesses like to pick up on, saying that Jesus was a created being.

beginning - arche - beginning, origin; that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause

As John wrote:

(John 1:1-3 KJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} The same was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus is the origin of God's creation.


Chuck Missler has suggested the one reason Jesus uses this title has to do with the prophetic outlook.

This is the church of the end-times.

The greatest prevailing lie that has infected the world is the lie of evolution, that there is no creation.

Jesus reminds the last days church that He is the Creator, the origin of creation.

:15 I know thy works

Jesus says this to every church.

He is reminding them that His evaluation of them is based on the fact that He knows their works.


Your faith is evaluated by your works.

"I thought we were saved by faith, not works"

Absolutely correct.

Some people get it backwards, thinking that it's our works that save us, or that it's our works that make us pleasing to God.

But it's our works that show whether or not we have a real faith.

Works are kind of like a thermometer, that simply tells us what the temperature is.

James wrote:

(James 2:18 TLB) But someone may well argue, "You say the way to God is by faith alone, plus nothing; well, I say that good works are important too, for without good works you can't prove whether you have faith or not; but anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act."

Jesus said:

(Mat 7:15-17 KJV) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. {16} Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? {17} Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

:15 that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.

There are several ways of looking at this:

1) Jesus means "cold" to be opposed to Him, and "hot" to be on fire for Him.

I have a problem with this, because I don't think that Jesus would want the church to be opposed to Him.

2) "Cold" and "hot" are both good.

"Cold" doesn't have to be bad.

In fact, the only other place in the New Testament where this Greek word for "cold" is used is found in:

Mt 10:42 And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.

It's definitely used in a good way here.

I think it helps to know the situation of the city.

Six miles to the north was the city of Hierapolis, which had become a kind of resort town by the Romans, because of it's natural hot springs.

The wealthy Laodiceans built an aqueduct to carry the hot water from Hierapolis, but by the time the water reached Laodicea, it was no longer hot, but lukewarm.

To the south, in Colosse, the water was cold.

And cold water is very refreshing.

To the north was Hierapolis, the resort city with a hot springs.

The hot water was therapeutic, good for what ails you.

But in Laodicea, the water was just lukewarm.

Not cold enough to be refreshing.

Not hot enough to be therapeutic.

Good for nothing.

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

spue - emeo - ("emetic") to vomit, vomit forth, throw up

For me, the picture is of Jesus taking a "sip" of the works of the Laodiceans, but rather than being refreshed with a cold drink, or warmed by a hot drink, it's just lukewarm, and He spits it out.

What does Jesus mean by calling them "lukewarm"?

He's going to define it for us.

:17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods

rich - plousios - wealthy, abounding in material resources

increased with goods - plouteo - to be rich, to have abundance

Both very similar words.

Keep in mind the historical background to Laodicea.

This was a city of wealthy people, not too unlike Orange County.

The ancient historian Tacitus records that when the city was hit by an earthquake in A.D. 60, they refused financial help from Rome to rebuild, because they were able to pay for it themselves.


Wealth is dangerous.

It's not impossible to walk with the Lord and have wealth, but it's extremely dangerous, and extremely rare.

Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy:

(1 Tim 6:9-10 KJV) But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. {10} For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

For those of you who have this constant thought, "If only I had a little more money, then I would stop worrying and relax ..."

It's not such a bad thing to be in a place where you're having to trust the Lord.


When Thomas Aquinas visited Rome, and was shown the gorgeousness of the papal palace, the pope, it is said, remarked to him, "Well, Thomas, the church in our day can not say, Silver and gold have I none. "

"No," replied Aquinas, "neither can she say, In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."

:17 have need of nothing

This is the definition of being "lukewarm".

There's a difference between spiritual hunger and "contentment" with outward circumstances:

We are to be content in our outward circumstances:

(Phil 4:11-13 NIV) I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. {12} I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. {13} I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Here Paul is talking about the incredible ability to have an inward peace no matter what the outward circumstances of his life are.

But in relation to spiritual matters, we need to have constant hunger, a constant need.

(Mat 5:6 KJV) Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

(Psa 42:1-2 KJV) As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. {2} My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

It seems the Laodiceans had confused their outward material circumstances with their inward spiritual place.

Somehow they felt that since they were so well off materially, that they were okay spiritually as well.


Hunger for more.

The key to spiritual growth is never allowing yourself to think that you've arrived.

Because in truth, you haven't.

There's always more to learn, there's always new ways God wants to stretch us, there's ALWAYS more people to reach with the gospel.

The danger is when we stop caring about our spiritual walk.


Among the great number of books authored by C.S. Lewis is the highly provocative The Screwtape Letters. In it the profound Englishman had the devil brief his nephew, Wormwood, on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. The goal, he counsels, is not wickedness but indifference. Satan cautions his nephew to keep the prospect, the patient, comfortable at all costs. If he should become concerned about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans; not to worry, it could induce indigestion. And then this definitive job description: "I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with the people who do not care."

:17 and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:

wretched - talaiporos - enduring toils and troubles; afflicted, wretched

miserable - eleeinos - to be pitied, miserable

poor - Their bank account in Laodicea had a hefty balance, but their account in heaven was overdrawn.

blind - What a thing to say to a city famous for it's eye medicines.

naked - An amazing thing to say to a group of people who were not only wealthy, but had some of the finest cloth and garments in the world, made of that wonderful black wool.

In reality, though they were wearing the best tunics and togas from Nordstrom, in Jesus' eyes, they were no better than "the emperor's clothes".

They were trusting in foolish things, shameful things.

Jesus isn't talking about outward things, He's talking about inward, spiritual qualities.

Outward prosperity can hide the inward poverty of a person.

:18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich

These people had been trusting in their own bank accounts and wealth.

Jesus asks them to buy true riches from Him.

It's when we're not grasping at material things, but hungering after spiritual things, that God can work.


One by one He took them from me

All the things I valued most;

'Til I was empty-handed,

Every glittering toy was lost.

And I walked earth's highways, grieving,

In my rags and poverty.

Until I heard His voice inviting,

"Lift those empty hands to Me!"

Then I turned my hands toward heaven,

And He filled them with a store

Of His own transcendent riches,

'Till they could contain no more.

And at last I comprehended

With my stupid mind, and dull,

That God cannot pour His riches

Into hands already full.

-- Unknown

What is this "gold tried in the fire"?

Peter writes:

(1 Pet 1:6-7 TLB) So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though the going is rough for a while down here. {7} These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it--and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the test tube of fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return.

A faith that can take you through the hardest times is more valuable than gold.

:18 white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear

These people were trusting in their own deeds, which were no more clothing them than the "emperor's clothes".


The great emperor one day wanted to have a new suit, the finest in the world.

A pair of con-artists told him they would make a suit out of a rare, invisible cloth. Only those lacking wisdom could not see the cloth.

When the emperor came to show off his clothes, only a small child was brave enough to remark, "He's naked!"

People trusting in the things that they do for God, are trusting in "invisible cloth".

Yet Jesus offers us a new wardrobe, when we trust in Him, when we let Him work through us.

Revelation 19:8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

:18 anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

This is the Holy Spirit, our "anointing"

(1 John 2:27 KJV) But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.


New priorities.

The whole point with each of these three things is that we are to reorder our priorities to be in line with God's priorities.

We need to have the same heart for things that God does.

:19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten:

chasten - paideuo - (from word "child") to train children; of a father punishing his son

He disciplines us because we are His children.

(Heb 12:8 NIV) If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons.

As hard as it is to hear these kinds of things from the Lord, it's only because He loves us that He says it.

Only those who really love us will tell us when we need to make a change.

(Prov 27:6 KJV) Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.


Conviction proves He loves you.

When you feel convicted over things you've done, it only shows that Jesus loves you.

If you never experience guilt, something is wrong.

Does this have any implications for us as parents?

If you love your kids, you'll step in every once in a while and correct them if necessary.

That's not a fun thing to do.

But if we don't, the results are disastrous.

:19 be zealous therefore, and repent.

zealous - zeloo - to burn with zeal

There's kind of a little play on words, Jesus having talked about a "lukewarm" church, now He exhorts them to "burn with zeal".

repent -

Five of the seven churches Jesus has told to repent. (all but Smyrna and Philadelphia)

If there's something wrong, change it.

:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock:

Isn't this kind of odd to see how Jesus uses this verse?

He's talking to a church!

Jesus is outside the church!

This church that Jesus spues out of His mouth, doesn't even have Him inside!

Lit. - "Behold, I have stood and am still standing here, right up on top of this door, and am continually knocking".

:20 if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him

These are the only two conditions for relationship to Jesus:

Hearing - Do you hear Jesus speaking to you?

Opening - He is a gentleman, He won't bust down the door if you won't open it.

What's the door?

1. Each individual's heart.

Jesus is speaking to an individual.

2. The door of the church.

Jesus is speaking to the pastor.

:20 and will sup with him, and he with me.

This speaks of the fellowship that Jesus wants with each of us.

He wants a living relationship with us, just like having Him over for dinner.

Note: It's significant that our picture of Jesus in Revelation 1 was that of a priests in the temple of tabernacle.

The Holy Place had the table of showbread.

It spoke of fellowship with God.

There will also be a great supper one day -

(Rev 19:9 KJV) And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

I also like the idea of eating.

Very much.

Let's join Calorie Chapel!

:21 To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.

We will rule and reign with Christ.

Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Revelation 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

:22 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

Could any of this apply to us?

It sure could.