11 - Laodicea
(The People Rule)
Rev 3:14-22 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; (15) I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. (16) So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (17) Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (18) I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. (19) As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. (20) Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (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. (22) He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
1 The Commission - Rev 3:14 -
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write – The city was noted for four things.
3. Inland City – Aqueducts
4. Eye Salve
2. The Character of Christ
1. These things saith the Amen –
a. Referring, as is the case in every epistle, to some attribute of the speaker adapted to impress their minds, or to give special force to what he was about to say to that particular church.
b. Laodicea was characterized by lukewarmness, and the reference to the fact that he who was about to address them was the “Amen” - that is, was characterized by the simple earnestness and sincerity denoted by that word - was eminently suited to make an impression on the minds of such a people.
c. The word “Amen” means “true,” “certain,” “faithful”; and, as used here, it means that he to whom it is applied is eminently true and faithful. What he affirms is true; what he promises or threatens is certain.
2. The faithful and true witness - This is presenting the idea implied in the word “Amen” in a more complete form, but substantially the same thing is referred to. He is a witness for God and his truth, and he can approve of nothing which the God of truth would not approve.
3. The beginning of the creation of God - This expression is a very important one in regard to the rank and dignity of the Saviour, and, like all similar expressions respecting him, its meaning has been much controverted. The phrase used here is susceptible, properly, of only one of the following significations, namely, either:
a. That he was the beginning of the creation in the sense that he caused the universe to begin to exist - that is, that he was the author of all things; or.
b. that he was the first created being; or.
c. that he holds the primacy over all, and is at the head of the universe.
d. As to the three significations suggested above, it may be observed, that the first one - that he is the author of the creation, and in that sense the beginning.
e. The word properly refers to the “commencement” of a thing, not its “authorship,” and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist.
2. The Commendation – No Commendation
3. The Complaint - Rev 3:15 - I know thy works –
a. That thou art neither cold nor hot –
i. The word “cold” here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold toward another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc.
ii. The word “hot” would denote, of course, the opposite - warm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subject - such words as ardent (that is, hot or burning); fervid (that is, very hot, burning, boiling) - show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is.
iii. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but he found nothing but indifference.
b. I would thou wert cold or hot - That is, I would prefer either of those states to what now exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled. Why he would prefer that they should be “hot” is clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldness - a state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the following answers may be given:
i. Such a state of open and professed coldness or indifference is more honest. There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state “may be found”; we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are never to be realized - to a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.
ii. such a state is more honorable. It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character.
1. Of a man who is false to his engagements, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing.
2. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity.
3. In the character of Saul of Tarsus there were always the elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot there were never. The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitor - a man of essential meanness.
iii. there is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a case. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when “breathing out threatening and slaughter”; of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence of personal piety; who are content with a name to live.
c. Rev 3:16 – So then because thou art lukewarm ... I will spue thee out of my mouth –
i. Referring, perhaps, to the well-known fact that tepid water tends to produce sickness at the stomach, and an inclination to vomit.
ii. The image is intensely strong, and denotes deep disgust and loathing at the indifference which prevailed in the church at Laodicea.
iii. The idea is, that they would be utterly rejected and cast off as a church - a threatening of which there has been an abundant fulfillment in subsequent times. It may be remarked, also, that what was threatened to that church may be expected to occur to all churches, if they are in the same condition; and that all professing Christians, and Christian churches, that are lukewarm, have special reason to dread the indignation of the Saviour.
d. Rev 3:17 - Because thou sayest, I am rich –
i. So far as the language here is concerned, this may refer either to riches literally, or to spiritual riches; that is, to a boast of having religion enough
ii. There is no doubt that there was much wealth in Laodicea, and that, as a people, they prided themselves on their riches.
iii. It is not easy to determine which is the true sense; but may it not have been that there was an allusion to both, and that, in every respect, they boasted that they had enough?
iv. May it not have been so much the characteristic of that people to boast of their wealth, that they carried the spirit into everything, and manifested it even in regard to religion?
v. Is it not true that they who have much of this world’s goods, when they make a profession of religion, are very apt to suppose that they are well off in everything, and to feel self-complacent and happy?
vi. And is not the possession of much wealth by an individual Christian, or a Christian church, likely to produce just the lukewarmness which it is said existed in the church at Laodicea?
vii. If we thus understand it, there will be an accordance with the well-known fact that Laodicea was distinguished for its riches, and, at the same time, with another fact, so common as to be almost universal, that the possession of great wealth tends to make a professed Christian self-complacent and satisfied in every respect; to make him feel that, although he may not have much religion, yet he is on the whole well off; and to produce, in religion, a state of just such lukewarmness as the Saviour here says was loathsome and odious.
e. And increased with goods - πεπλουτηκα peploutēka - “am enriched.” This is only a more emphatic and intensive way of saying the same thing. It has no reference to the kind of riches referred to, but merely denotes the confident manner in which they affirmed that they were rich.
f. And have need of nothing - Still an emphatic and intensive way of saying that they were rich.
i. In all respects their needs were satisfied; they had enough of everything.
ii. They felt, therefore, no stimulus to effort; they sat down in contentment, self-complacency, and indifference.
iii. It is almost unavoidable that those who are rich in this world’s goods should feel that they have need of nothing.
iv. There is no more common illusion among people than the feeling that if one has wealth he has everything; that there is no want of his nature which cannot be satisfied with that; and that he may now sit down in contentment and ease.
v. Hence, the almost universal desire to be rich; hence the common feeling among those who are rich that there is no occasion for solicitude or care for anything else. Compare Luk_12:19.
g. And knowest not - There is no just impression in regard to the real poverty and wretchedness of your condition.
h. That thou art wretched - The word “wretched” we now use to denote the actual consciousness of being miserable, as applicable to one who is sunk into deep distress or affliction. The word here, however, refers rather, to the condition itself than to the consciousness of that condition, for it is said that they did not know it. Their state was, in fact, a miserable state, and was suited to produce actual distress if they had had any just sense of it, though they thought that it was otherwise.
i. And miserable - This word has, with us now, a similar signification; but the term used here - ἐληινὸς elēinos - rather means a pitiable state than one actually felt to be so. The meaning is, that their condition was one that was suited to excite pity or compassion; not that they were actually miserable. Compare the notes on 1Co_15:19.
j. And poor - Notwithstanding all their boast of having enough. They really had not what was necessary to meet the actual needs of their nature, and, therefore, they were poor. Their worldly property could not meet the needs of their souls; and, with all their pretensions to piety, they had not religion enough to meet the necessities of their nature when calamities should come, or when death should approach; and they were, therefore, in the strictest sense of the term, poor.
k. And blind - That is, in a spiritual respect. They did not see the reality of their condition; they had no just views of themselves, of the character of God, of the way of salvation. This seems to be said in connection with the boast which they made in their own minds - that they had everything; that they wanted nothing. One of the great blessings of life is clearness of vision, and their boast that they had everything must have included that; but the speaker here says that they lacked that indispensable thing to completeness of character and to full enjoyment. With all their boasting, they were actually blind - and how could one who was in that state say that he “had need of nothing?”
l. And naked - Of course, spiritually. Salvation is often represented as a garment Mat_22:11-12; Rev_6:11; Rev_7:9, Rev_7:13-14; and the declaration here is equivalent to saying that they had no religion. They had nothing to cover the nakedness of the soul, and in respect to the real needs of their nature they were like one who had no clothing in reference to cold, and heat, and storms, and to the shame of nakedness. How could such an one be regarded as rich? We may learn from this instructive verse:
4. The Counsel - Rev 3:18 –
a. I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire - Pure gold; such as has been subjected to the action of heat to purify it from dross. See the notes on 1Pe_1:7. Gold here is emblematic of religion - as being the most precious of the metals, and the most valued by human beings. They professed to be rich, but were not; and he counsels them to obtain from him what would make them truly rich.
b. That thou mayest be rich - In the true and proper sense of the word. With true religion; with the favor and friendship of the Redeemer, they would have all that they really needed, and would never be in want.
c. And white raiment - The emblem of purity and salvation. See the notes on Rev_3:4. This is said in reference to the fact Rev_3:17 that they were then naked.
d. That thou mayest be clothed - With the garments of salvation. This refers, also, to true religion, meaning that what the Redeemer furnishes will answer the same purpose in respect to the soul which clothing does in reference to the body. Of course it cannot be understood literally, nor should the language be pressed too closely, as if there was too strict a resemblance.
e. And that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear - We clothe the body as well for decency as for protection against cold, and storm, and heat. The soul is to be clothed that the “shame” of its sinfulness may not be exhibited, and that it may not be offensive and repellent in the sight.
f. And anoint thine eyes with eye-salve - In allusion to the fact that they were blind, Rev_3:17. The word “eye-salve” - κολλούριον kollourion - occurs no where else in the New Testament. It is a diminutive from κολλύρα kollura - collyra - a coarse bread or cake, and means properly a small cake or cracknel. It is applied to eye-salve as resembling such a cake, and refers to a medicament prepared for sore or weak eyes. It was compounded of various substances supposed to have a healing quality. The reference here is to a spiritual healing - meaning that, ill respect to their spiritual vision, what he would furnish would produce the same effect as the collyrium or eye-salve would in diseased eyes. The idea is, that the grace of the gospel enables people who were before blind to see clearly the character of God, the beauty of the way of salvation, the loveliness of the person and work of Christ, etc. See the notes on Eph_1:18.
g. Rev 3:19 - As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten - Of course, only on the supposition that they deserve it. The meaning is, that it is a proof of love on his part, if his professed friends go astray, to recall them by admonitions and by trials. So a father calls back his children who are disobedient; and there is no higher proof of his love than when, with great pain to himself, he administers such chastisement as shall save his child.
h. Be zealous therefore, and repent - Be earnest, strenuous, ardent in your purpose to exercise true repentance, and to turn from the error of your ways. Lose no time; spare no labor, that you may obtain such a state of mind that it shall not be necessary to bring upon you the severe discipline which always comes on those who continue lukewarm in religion. The truth taught here is, that when the professed followers of Christ have become lukewarm in his service, they should lose no time in returning to him, anti seeking his favor again. As sure as he has any true love for them, if this is not done he will bring upon them some heavy calamity, alike to rebuke them for their errors, and to recover them to himself.
5. The Challenge - Rev 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door, and knock
a. Intimating that, though they had erred, the way of repentance and hope was not closed against them.
b. He was still willing to be gracious, though their conduct had been such as to be loathsome, Rev_3:16. To see the real force of this language, we must remember how disgusting and offensive their conduct had been to him.
c. And yet he was willing, notwithstanding this, to receive them to his favor; nay more, he stood and pled with them that he might be received with the hospitality that would be shown to a friend or stranger.
d. The language here is so plain that it scarcely needs explanation. It is taken from an act when we approach a dwelling, and, by a well-understood sign - knocking - announce our presence, and ask for admission. The act of knocking implies two things:
i. That we desire admittance; and,
ii. that we recognize the right of him who dwells in the house to open the door to us or not, as he shall please.
e. The language used here, also, may be understood as applicable to all persons, and to all the methods by which the Saviour seeks to come into the heart of a sinner.
i. It would properly refer to anything which would announce his presence: his word; his Spirit; the solemn events of his providence; the invitations of his gospel.
1. In these and in other methods he comes to man; and the manner in which these invitations ought to be estimated would be seen by supposing that he came to us personally and solicited our friendship, and proposed to be our Redeemer.
2. It may be added here, that this expression proves that the attempt at reconciliation begins with the Saviour.
3. It is not that the sinner goes out to meet him, or to seek for him; it is that the Saviour presents himself at the door of the heart, as if he were desirous to enjoy the friendship of man.
4. This is in accordance with the uniform language of the New Testament, that “God so loved the world as to give his only-begotten Son”; that “Christ came to seek and to save the lost”; that the Saviour says, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” etc. Salvation, in the Scriptures, is never represented as originated by man.
ii. If any man hear my voice - Perhaps referring to a custom then prevailing, that he who knocked spake, in order to let it be known who it was.
1. This might be demanded in the night Luk_11:5, or when there was apprehension of danger, and it may have been the custom when John wrote.
2. The language here, in accordance with the uniform usage in the Scriptures (compare Isa_55:1; Joh_7:37; Rev_22:17), is universal, and proves that the invitations of the gospel are made, and are to be made, not to a part only, but fully and freely to all people; for, although this originally had reference to the members of the church in Laodicea, yet the language chosen seems to have been of design so universal
iii. And open the door - As one would when a stranger or friend stood and knocked. The meaning here is simply, if anyone will admit me; that is, receive me as a friend. The act of receiving him is as voluntary on our part as it is when we rise and open the door to one who knocks. It may be added:
1. that this is an easy thing. Nothing is more easy than to open the door when one knocks; and so everywhere in the Scriptures it is represented as an easy thing, if the heart is willing, to secure the salvation of the soul.
2. this is a reasonable thing. - We invite him who knocks at the door to come in.
a. We always assume, unless there is reason to suspect the contrary, that he applies for peaceful and friendly purposes.
b. We deem it the height of rudeness to let one stand and knock long; or to let him go away with no friendly invitation to enter our dwelling.
c. Yet how different does the sinner treat the Saviour! How long does he suffer him to knock at the door of his heart, with no invitation to enter - no act of common civility such as that with which he would greet even a stranger!
d. And with how much coolness and indifference does he see him turn away - perhaps to come back no more, and with no desire that he ever should return!
iv. I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me –
1. This is an image denoting intimacy and friendship. Supper, with the ancients, was the principal social meal; and the idea here is, that between the Saviour and those who would receive him there would be the intimacy which subsists between those who sit down to a friendly meal together.
2. In all countries and times, to eat together, to break bread together, has been the symbol of friendship, and this the Saviour promises here. The truths, then, which are taught in this verse, are:
(1) that the invitation of the gospel is made to all - “if any man hear my voice”;
(2) that the movement toward reconciliation and friendship is originated by the Saviour - “behold, I stand at the door and knock”;
(3) that there is a recognition of our own free agency in religion - “if any man will hear my voice, and open the door”;
(4) the ease of the terms of salvation, represented by “hearing his voice,” and “opening the door”; and,
(5) the blessedness of thus admitting him, arising from his friendship - “I will sup with him, and he with me.” What friend can man have who would confer so many benefits on him as the Lord Jesus Christ? Who is there that he should so gladly welcome to his bosom?