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The Church of the People

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Revelation 3:14-22
Before we dig into these verses, I would like to remind you that these letters to the churches can be viewed from three perspectives.
1.) Practically – These are real letters to real churches with real problems.
2.) Prophetically – These letters portray the church at various stages of church history. The Laodicean church pictures the state of the church from about 1900 AD to the Rapture. It is largely the church as we see it in the world today. It is the apostate church.
3.) Personally – These letters speak to every Christian and to every church that reads them. They have a word for you as an individual and they have a word for us as a congregation.
If we are going to understand our Lord’s words to this church a little background on the city of Laodicea is in order.
The Lord Jesus came to this rich, powerful church and He said to them “Laodicea, You Make Me Sick!” Let’s take that statement as our title today and find our why He said that to these people. Let’s also see if there is a word here for our church and for us as individuals.


vv. 14-17
(Ill. Jesus comes to this church without a single word of commendation. As He considers their works and their way, He has nothing good to say to them at all. He simply comes to them and lays out the problems as He sees them.)

A. The Problem Of Ownership

Verse 14 – Notice the words “the church OF the Laodiceans”. If you will take a moment to look at each of the other letters in Revelation 2 and 3, you will see the words, “the church OF or IN…”, and then the name of the city. In the other cities, it was the Lord’s church in that city. In Laodicea, it was their church, and not the Lord’s! He identifies a problem of possession. It was their church and they did as they pleased, not considering the will of the Lord.
Laodicea itself means “rule by the people”. Weirsbe says this suggests “a democratic church that no longer follows spiritual leaders or the authority of the Word of God.”
Note: We must never forget why the church exists. It is not a platform that allows us to become well known in our world. It is not a forum for us to advance our agendas or our ideas. It is not a place we can “run” or “dominate”. This church is not “our church”; it is His church!
What a contrast in the ownership here as opposed to the titles of Christ used here. This is the only one of the 7 churches where the titles of Christ don’t come from Chapter 1. He is the Amen - we use this to mean ‘let it be true, or let it be so’, thus He is the God of truth, reinforced by ‘the faithful and true witness’ - showing the reliability of Him in contrast to the unfaithful Christians in Laodicea. The beginning of the creation of God - He is the first cause; the supreme authority; this phrase reminds us of Col 1:15-18 in the epistle where the Laodiceans are mentioned.
This is not your church! This is not my church! It is His church! He possesses it and He is to control it. We need no other Lord but Jesus. No man, no group of men and no congregation is qualified to take His place.
Probably no worse title could be had of the church than its a church of the people. The design is seen here in Revelation where the head of the church (Jesus), speaks through the angel of the church (the pastor/elder). But if anything is indicative of our churches today, it is rebellion against God’s leadership and God-ordained leadership. They want to do what is right in their own eyes.

B. The Problem Of Their Works

(So first we see the problem of ownership; and now the problem of their works)
Another unique characteristic is that there is nothing good said about this church! Let me say that works are important, not in earning salvation which is impossible, but in serving our Lord, and we will be judged according to our works at the Judgment Seat of Christ!
Verse 15a – Jesus tells them that like the water in their city, they have become lukewarm. This is quite an interesting illustration! But poor understanding of this metaphor has led to a bad interpretation.
You see, water came to Laodicea from TWO SOURCES. In nearby Hierapolis there were hot mineral springs but by the time the water got to Laodicea via aqueducts, like these, it was no longer hot. It was luke-warm. Plus it was brackish and tasted like minerals. Cold water was piped in from Colossae but it too would be tepid by the time it got there…so this was NOT a town where you could find a cold, refreshing drink of water. Instead of SATISFYING your thirst, the water you got in this town would tend to make you as QUEASY especially that lukewarm mineral water from Hierapolis.
The church had also become lukewarm. This means that they had lost their purpose and passion for the things of the Lord. They had become indifferent and apathetic. They had reached a place where they were going through the motions, but they were unmoved by the things of the Lord. Apparently, they were indifferent toward the cross of Jesus; the Word of God; and the condition of the lost people around them. Their condition makes Jesus sick!
Church people in our day are no longer moved by the cross! They read about the crucifixion, they hear about it, and they sit unmoved! Church people in our day are unmoved by the plight of the lost! They know people are lost and they know that lost people are going to Hell; but they really don’t care. They say, “That’s terrible, I wish they would get saved.” But, they don’t pray or witness; they don’t care!
The average church in our day is a study in apathy! They are not exactly dead because they are praying, preaching, singing, etc. But, they are not exactly on fire either. There is no excitement and no passion about Who they serve, what they hear, and what they are doing. They are somewhere in the middle of the road. That is where the modern church is!
There are some major problems with a church that reaches this point.
1) It is the hardest kind of church to Pastor. The people believe right; they come in and out of the buildings; but they are indifferent. They’ve heard it all and are totally unmoved by it. This kind of indifference is hard to take.
2) It is the hardest kind of church to move for the Lord. They just don’t care! If folks are saved, fine. If they aren’t, that’s fine too. If the preaching is good, great! If not, well, that’s OK too. That’s a tough attitude to handle!
3) This kind of church misrepresents the Lord. Jesus was a Man of passion! He was on fire an it showed in His life and ministry. His disciples were passionate men and they lived lives burning with passion for the Lord Jesus. When we are indifferent and unmoved and unconcerned, it gives a false impression of Jesus and what He is all about!)

C. The Problem Of Their Self-Perception

Verse 17 – When the people in Laodicea looked at themselves, they saw the complete church. They were wealthy, powerful and they felt they had all they needed. They looked at their position, their possessions and their power and they said, “We have arrived!” There they sat, indifferent, apathetic, and unmoved and they thought they were in good shape.
“I am rich”—they had an over abundance of material blessings, but by this statement, it shows they were proud and trusting in that richness as though wealth had the power to give them security and happiness.
“… and increased with goods”—they continued to add to their wealth. Not only was wealth a sign of security, happiness, and success, but the truth is, it never really satisfies and people want more. I can’t remember who it was that said this, though I know he was a very famous wealthy man, but when asked how much is enough, the millionaire replied with one word, “more.”
“… and have need of nothing”—They were so well off they thought they needed help from neither man nor God. They had bought into the satanic delusion that money can buy anything. They didn’t need to trust God. They could simply go out and buy whatever they needed or desired. There was no need to wait on the Lord, no need to put Him first.
You see, Laodicea was an incredibly rich banking, trade, and industrial center—and to show you just HOW wealthy this town was: In 60 AD an earthquake leveled Laodicea. When the dust settled the Roman government offered to send money to pay for the rebuilding—but the residents of Laodicea declined….and paid for the restoration out of their own VERY deep pockets. The Roman historian Tacitus writes about this and says, “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources and with no help from us.” So the city of Laodicea had money to burn.
(Note: Sadly, many churches are right here today, especially American churches. There is a sense that they have arrived. If you walk into the average church today and told them that they needed a revival, they would be offended. If you encouraged them to get on fire for God, they would say, “Look at us and all we have! We are doing fine and we need nothing!”
I will tell you what we need more than money; more than crowds; more than buildings; more than recognition in the community; more than many of the things we place such great value in: we need Jesus and we need what He can do for us! I would rather have Him, His presence and His power than anything material you can name! We need Him! We must seek Him! We must welcome Him! We must worship Him!
The Sickness In Laodicea - problem of ownership, with their works, and their self-perception


** vv. 14-19
** (Ill. This church is in trouble, but not all hope is lost. There is hope! Jesus comes to give them His cure for their ailment.) His cure comes in the form of…

A. The Lord’s Intent For The Church

Using the metaphor of their water situation, Jesus tells them that he wants them to be hot or cold but they are lukewarm.
This assessment of Christ’s intent for the church has often been misapplied by us using it in our context and not theirs. People will interpret hot as being ‘on fire for God’ and to some degree that works. But they then interpret cold as being not motivated to serve God at all, maybe even equating it to the unsaved.
Then they’ll say something like God would rather have you doing nothing, dead and cold inside, rather than lukewarm. Not only is that contextually incorrect, but it doesn’t fit the rest of Scripture anywhere.
Rather Jesus tells His church that He wants them to be either “hot or cold”. He wants His church to be a place people can relax and find healing, like a trip to a hot spring. He wants His church to be a place people where can be refreshed by His worship and His presence. The church should be a healing place and it should be a place of refreshment.
See both hot and cold water serve purposes, but lukewarm is useless.

B. The Lord’s Disgust With The Church

After assessing their fulfilling of his intent for the church, Jesus now gives us His reaction.
Verse 16 – Because of their condition, the Lord tells them that He will “spue them out of His mouth”. The word “spue” (or spit) is a strong word. It means “to vomit, to throw up”. The Greek word is “emeo”. We get our English word “emetic” from it. An “emetic” is something that makes you want to throw up. For instance, ipecac is a drug often used to induce vomiting in cases of poison, etc. (Ill. Lukewarm sulphur water.) This was actually done by Romans when indulging in their gluttonous behavior. They would drink a lukewarm emitic to cause vomiting and thus continue eating.
Jesus tells this church that, like a drink of lukewarm water, they make Him want to vomit them out of His mouth. What He means is this: He cannot and will tolerate their indifference and apathy! I do not want to be a part of any church that brings disgust to our Lord!

C. The Lord’s Description Of This Church

According to verse 17, they thought they had it all. He looks at them and tells them they have nothing!
They were proud of their achievements. Jesus calls them “wretched”, which means “troubled”; and “miserable”, which means “to be pitied”.
They were proud of their wealth. Jesus tells them they are actually “poor”. This word means, “destitute and reduced to begging.”
This is really interesting because of what we saw earlier about their wealth a bit in regarding their rebuilding without any help from the Roman government. But their wealth was widely known in the ancient world. Laodicea minted its coins that bore the images of Zeus, Asclepius, Apollo, and later - the Roman emperors, from the 2nd century BCE. In the Roman period, the city was famous for its bankers. Even the famous Roman orator and statesman, Cicero, used their services.
In their perception they were rich and increased with goods, or prosperous but Jesus says they are poor.
They were proud of their vision of themselves. Jesus tells them that they are “blind”.
This brings up another cultural context. There was a famous school of medicine in Laodicea—a school that produced not just doctors, but popular medicines for the ears and eyes. Its most famous graduate was Demosthenes Philalethes, the author of the most influential work in the field of ophthalmology of the ancient period. His work, Ophthalmicus, which discussed the diseases of the eyes, was even used in the Middle Ages.
Laodicea produced an eye-salve called “Phrygian Powder.” Their eye salve was exported in tablet form, then ground into paste. It was pretty much the only medicine used to treat eye problems in that day and age….which meant even MORE money for this city and its residents.
What a contrast in their ability in the area of ophthalmology vs Christ’s assessment of their sight. They cannot see themselves for who they really are. Its been said, “There is no one so blind as he who will not see.”
They were proud of their fashions and fine clothing.
Again another cultural context. The countryside that surrounded Laodicea was renowned for a certain breed of black-wooled sheep. There was a kind of glossy darkness about this particular wool that made it popular. In fact, Laodicean factories made at least four different kinds of outer garments from this wool, garments that were exported to “stores” all over the world. This export is part of what helped keep the Laodicean coffers full to overflowing.
Jesus tells them that they are “naked”. They are totally exposed and revealed for what they really are. (Ill. To be naked in that society was the ultimate humiliation. Now, it is a badge of honor!)
So in His evaluation here, Jesus says, you’re lukewarm (useless), you make me sick, and you are in a most miserable state! Jesus’s evaluation is quite different from how they saw themselves.


A. A Correction is Needed

In verse 18, Jesus say I’m going to give you some advice, counsel.
Regarding their wealth - If they will come to Him, put Him first and live out the Word of God, they will know true riches. This is pure faith in God, pure service to him with all the impurties smelted away in a hot furnace - it’s all the virtues added to faith, godliness with contentment the fruit of the Spirit. Buy or seek, acquire this spiritual wealth. They might see their wealth disappear down here, but they will be laying us treasures over there.
Regarding their clothing - Come For Spiritual Clothing – He invites them to adorn themselves in spiritual garments. (Note the contrast to the black wool). They are naked and lost in their sins. If they will come to Him, He will cloth them in robes of righteousness and they will be no longer naked an exposed in the sight of God, Isa. 61:10; Rev. 19:8.
Regarding their sight - He invited them to come to Him so that He can restore their spiritual vision. When that spiritual vision is restored, they will be able to see themselves as they are and they will be able to see Him as He is. This will lead the repentance, obedience and humble service. We need that spiritual vision!

B. Their Relationship is Confirmed

So he says, you need to reassess your life but I want you know something else:
He loves them still in v. 19! They may be apathetic and lukewarm to Him, but He loves them with an everlasting love! Jesus doesn’t write us off as quickly as we seem to be done with others.
He says I rebuke and chasten whom I love. He loves them too much to leave them lukewarm.
He gives them a chance to repent - be zealous - get hold/cold again! Change your mind about how you see yourself and see yourself how Christ sees you. Look at his assessment, agree with it, and continue on a different path.

C. A Promise is Given

VV. 20-21 - (Ill. Our Lord closes this letter with some truly blessed promises. The sad truth is that Laodicea has evicted Jesus Christ from their church. He is on the outside trying to gain admission.) I think so often we are trying to make the world too comfortable in our churches, and we seem to have very little concern about whether Jesus would be welcome in our service! We seems overly concerned if someone in the world would be offended by our church and not if Jesus is disgusted by our church.
Verse 20a - He says “I stand at the door and knock” – In His effort to get back into this church, Jesus stands there and knocks. These verbs are in the Present Tense. It could be stated this way, “Behold, I am continually standing at the door, and I am continually knocking on the door…” He never gives up in His efforts to enter the lives of those He loves. (Ill. I am glad that He never gave up on me!)
NOTE - this is primarily NOT about Jesus standing at the door of your heart before salvation. While that picture is ok when it comes to salvation (salvation is a heart issue). Jesus at the door of the lukewarm church, not at the door of the individual’s heart here.
“if any man hear my voice, and open the door…” – Jesus does not need for the whole church to get on fire so that He can come in; He merely needs just one person to hear him and to open the door. Maybe you’re the one that could be use to bring revival in your church..
“Sup with him…and he with me” Jesus says, “If you will just open the door, I will come in an have fellowship with you!” In addition, through Christ overcoming, those who are ‘in Christ’ will share in his reign.
This verse is a promise that all the benefits of salvation will be given to the person who overcomes. The converted person will become identified with Jesus; His heavenly Father and His heavenly Home. Those who come to Jesus are promised that they will reign with Him and rejoice with Him in His heaven some day. That is a powerful promise!
The challenge then remains - we must hear.
The Sickness In Laodicea - problem of ownership, with their works, and their self-perception
So in His evaluation here, Jesus says, you’re lukewarm (useless), you make me sick, and you are in a most miserable state! Jesus’s evaluation is quite different from how they saw themselves.
His Advice to Laodicea - take His correction in terms of wealth, clothing, and sight; be confirmed in your relationship, and take a hold of His promise.
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