With all the churches spoken of in Revelation, Jesus designs a specific and symbolic message that the church of that day would understand. In the case of Laodicea we find that it was an extremely wealthy city and that they were positioned above natural hot springs that they ‘piped’ to surrounding areas. The only problem is that by the time the water got to where it was going, the water was always ‘lukewarm’.
The city was also known for two desirable exports: ointment for the eyes, which was believed to cure several eye ailments, and black wool, from which they manufactured fine black garments. The downside of the city is that it was constructed in such a way, that it was vulnerable to attack; therefore they championed a spirit of compromise in order to preserve joy and peace. These attributes would be woven into Jesus’ letter.
A Perverse Church
Jesus does not have anything good to say about this church, so much so that He essentially declares it is not His church at all, but that it is the church of the Laodiceans—Jesus does not do that with any of the other churches. In the Greek the word Laodicea would correctly translate to the ‘people rule’ or the ‘people decide’. This is a church not governed by Jesus, but by people who have perverted that which Jesus truly is and stands for.
A Popular Church
It is for that reason this was a very popular church And you know what…It still is today. Show me a church that routinely compromises the Word of God; that is compassionate towards alternate lifestyles, teachings, and mandates contradictive to His Word, and I will show you the modern-day church of the Laodiceans. These churches rarely mention sin and/or repentance and focus on positive messages so its members might sustain their sightless bliss.
Jesus Our Councilor
This is a wonderful place for all of us to remember that while Jesus does not like what the church preaches, He still loves its people, so much so that he reminds us in verse 19, ‘As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.’
Jesus would never condone their actions, but He wants them back. This requires repentance (not just a turning away from sin, but a purposeful turning towards Him), that leads to zealousness for Him. Jesus tells us how by the end of today’s passage. He councils this wealthy city to:
Get Into the Fire
‘Buy your gold (get your wealth) from Me…gold that is refined by fire, ’Jesus says.
…Your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ…1 Peter 1:17
Get Properly Dressed
‘Get your white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness, ’Jesus says.
…For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness… Isaiah 61:10
Get the Mud Out of Your Eyes
‘And anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.’
…He spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva; and He anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And He said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam“…So he went and washed, and came back seeing. John 9:6-7
These, the Words of our Lord, are not condemning, but convicting and they serve to restore and not destroy. It is by that same truth, and hopefully with a similar love, that I share them here today.