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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 7, 2014

Revelation 3:14-22

  1. Verse 14a. This is the seventh letter to the seven churches. This letter is sent to the congregation located in Laodicea. The city of Laodicea was closely connected to two other cities Colossae and Hierapolis and was the southernmost of the seven cities who received letters. It lay about 40 miles southeast of Philadelphia and 90 miles east of Ephesus. Laodicea was the chief city of Phrygia in the Lycus valley, strategically located where three highways converged. It was thereby a highly commercial and wealthy city. It was a city of wealthy bankers and financiers. The many millionaires combined to build theaters, a huge stadium, lavish public baths, and fabulous shopping centers. The city was known as a strategic banking center. They used their own wealth to pay for the reconstruction of the city after a devastating earthquake in A.D. 60, rejecting offers of financial aid from Rome. The city was also famous for the soft, black wool it produced and its ancient medicine, particularly an eye salve/balm. All three industries – finance, wool, and eye salve – came into play in this letter. Laodicea’s water supply was also relevant to the message in this letter as the water had to travel several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city. Therefore, the water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid – lukewarm, just like the people in the church.

  2. Verse 14b. This is the only letter where the titles for Christ are not drawn from chapter 1. Christ identifies himself in three ways in this verse. (1) "the Amen", (2) faithful and true witness, (3) Beginning (Principle or Source) of God's creation.

    1. Let's look at the first title: "the Amen." The Hebrew word is an acrostic formed from the first letters of three Hebrew words: "El meleck Ne'eman" which means "God is a trustworthy king." (Source =The Jewish Talmud; Shabbat 1196). The word Amen is a reminder that God will do what he says. “The Amen” is from a root meaning “to be firm, stable, sure, established, and trustworthy.” It is used in Isaiah 65:16 of God as “the God of truth,” literally, “the God of Amen.” The word was used to acknowledge and emphasize what was valid, sure and true, or important and significant. It is used in the Old Testament as a liturgical formula in which a congregation or individual accepts both the validity of an oath or curse and its consequences (Num. 5:22; Deut. 27:15; Neh. 5:13; Jer. 11:5). Twenty five times, always in the gospel of John, John records the Lord’s use of this word, amhn, translated as, “truly truly, I say to you.” Here in Revelation 3:14, the “amen” is explained with the words, “the Faithful and True Witness.” “Amen” also connoted the idea of finality or the last word; is used of our Lord as the True One, the last word and final authority in each individual’s life as well as for the entire world. As used of Christ, it points to Him as the end, the finality and certainty of all things. With Him one needs no substitutes, no subtractions or additions. With Jesus Christ there is no further search needed for truth for in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).

    2. 2) "the faithful and true Witness": He is a faithful witness because He is an infallible, authoritative witness and we can eternally depend completely upon His word!

    3. "the Source of God's creation" (New American): The Greek uses the word 'arche' for 'source' which in Greek can mean origin as well as ruler or supreme authority. Christ is both the Origin and the Ruler of all creation (See Col. 1:15-18, John 1:13, Genesis 1:1-3, and John 1:1 "). Basically he has complete knowledge of all created things.

    4. The One who bears testimony against the church at Laodicea is the Trustworthy king, the guarantor of the covenant, the infallible, true witness who comes with all the authority promised by the Creator and King of the Universe. They will not need to get a second opinion about their spiritual condition.

  3. Verse 15-18. Like the church at Sardis, Laodicea was suffering from complacency. But this church was also spiritually arrogant in its worldly success. It was the only church Christ did not commend for anything. Laodicea’s spiritual works are described as neither cold nor hot (3:15-16). This may refer to the water supply available in Laodicea and two nearby cities, Hierapolis and Colossae. Hierapolis was the site of hot, spa-like waters, used for medicinal purposes. Nearby Colossae was known for its cold and pure drinking water. But the waters of Laodicea were considered nauseous and undrinkable, not useful for any meaningful purpose. Like the city’s water supply, the church is useless in its service to the Lord, and Christ is about to spit it from his mouth. The church does not show forth the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Cold running water is not a usual place for bacteria to grow, and hot water kills bacteria, but lukewarm water is just right for bacteria growth that causes people to be sick. The church was far from the living water it desperately needed from him (John 4:10-14; 7:38-39).

    1. The church thought of itself as rich and in need of nothing from Christ. Although many of the members may have been materially rich, the “wealth” that they needed would be spiritual. The members needed to buy true riches in the areas of life where they felt they had no lack. This is explained in metaphorical terms as gold refined in the fire (3:18). Christ is the refiner of the human soul, which he purifies as the refiner does gold (Malachi 3:3). What needed refining was Laodicea’s faith so that it would become genuine (1 Peter 1:7). They had gold in their city in large quantities, and they were aware that gold had to be refined before it was of any use. In the same way they had to be refined so that the impurities of their sinful soul could be purged out.

    2. Laodicea also needed white clothes to cover its spiritual nakedness (3:18). White garments are used as a symbol of righteousness throughout Revelation (3:4, 5; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 19:14). They also represent the proper apparel to wear at important festivities. The church cannot gain the righteousness of Christ through its own effort. The white garments are spoken of as given to the saints (6:11; 19:8). They are made white by being washed in the justifying blood of the Lamb (7:14). Without the white garments of righteousness, the church is spiritually naked. Nakedness is a symbol of spiritual shame and worthlessness (Ezekiel 16:35; 2 Corinthians 5:3). The city was known for its beautiful black wool, but that wool could only cover the outside. They needed something that could cover their sins on the inside.

    3. The Laodicean church was spiritually blind. Its members thought they could see – thought that they were rich and without any needs. But Christ counseled them to apply a spiritual eye-salve so that they could see how far they had fallen. The city was known for its eye remedies, but those remedies could only allow one to see the outside and physical not the inside and spiritual.

    4. The Lord basically tells them that they think they are rich, but they are poor spiritually. They think they are dressed well, but they are naked spiritually. They think they can see clearly, but they are blind spiritually. Their only solution is to come to him for true riches, true coverings, and true sight.

  4. Verses 19-20. Jesus shares his love, by stating that he only corrects those whom he loves. This church is rebuked because of the love of God and not his anger. Jesus tells the church that now is the time to repent. The image of Christ standing outside and knocking may also imply that the Laodiceans have locked him out of their church! But the metaphor is also a symbol of promise. Christ is waiting outside, hoping the Laodiceans will be open to his correction and change their ways. If they do, he will come in and share a meal with them. The fellowship meal figures prominently as a symbol of togetherness with Christ in the kingdom (19:9). This is a call to fellowship with the Savior. As an invitation to believers who have forgotten what the mission of the church is, it’s a call to repent, as commanded in verse 19. It is a call for confession of one’s sins with a renewal of mind and heart to continue to draw upon the glorious life of Christ daily through walking by the Spirit and living in the Word. It means abiding in Christ, the vine (John 15:1-7; 1 John 1:7-10; Eph. 4:20-24; 5:14-18; Rom. 8:1-16).

  5. Verse 21-22. The final promise for those who trust Christ – a place on Christ’s throne, the symbol of his ruling authority (3:21). If the members of the church repent, they can eat and drink at Christ’s table in his kingdom and sit on thrones of judgment (Luke 22:30).

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