“Accept My discipline,” Jesus counsels

The first entry in this series can be found here.
The previous entry can be found here.

If Jesus was to look at your life, what would He say to you?
If Jesus was to look at your life, what would you hope He would say to you?
If Jesus was to look at your life, what would you hope He wouldn’t say to you?

In a way, this has been the question we have been seeing answered over the previous six posts in Revelation. In this post, we will look at a seventh answer to this question. And in the next one, we will tie it all together in the book of Revelation as a whole, before we move into chapter 4.

But i ask again, what would you want Jesus to say to you?

For me, i would like Him to say, “You faithfully handled the Scriptures, and you genuinely loved other people, even when they didn’t accept it.”
I would not be surprised if He said, “You’ve got some personal things you need to work on, but you are improving, and I am proud of you for making progress; don’t quit!”
I would not want to hear, “Your faith is a shambles, and I don’t know you.”

What would your answers be?

Now, i will admit at the outset that Jesus’ message to the church at Laodicea is closest to what i would not want to hear, but i don’t believe Jesus would ever actually say that to anyone before the Day of Judgment. Today’s text—Revelation 3:14-22—proves this.

We are still within the first main section of Revelation. The letters to the churches. While all seven letters are addressed to literal, first-century churches, we must not miss that there are seven of them. It was said above that Jesus walks amongst the seven churches. Jesus did not only walk among these seven churches. Instead, He walks amongst THE church. These seven churches represent the seven primary places in which the church as a whole, or any given local church, might find itself during its history.

With that, we turn to Revelation 3:14-22.

Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says:  “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.  Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.  The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.  Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.”

The Author and the Addressee

Write to the angel of the church in Laodicea: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says:

Laodicea was named after the wife of Antiochus II (Laodice), whom he divorced in 253 BC. Laodicea was historically an affluent city. So prosperous, in fact, that when an earthquake devastated the area in AD 60, the city refused the aid that was offered it. It was a banking center, exported black wool, and had a prestigious medical school specializing in ophthalmology (eye medicine) as well. The city was not entirely self-sustaining though. They had no water. So, they constructed an aqueduct that piped in hot water from nearby Hierapolis (6 miles north) and cold water from nearby Colossae (11 miles southeast). This will all play a huge role in understanding the message of Jesus to the church at Laodicea.
(Paige Patterson, New American Commentary – Volume 39: Revelation, (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2012), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 135-139.)

Jesus identifies Himself in two primary ways in this letter, though for one of those primary ways, He uses three different words to flesh it out. Again, these self-identifications do not flow from Jesus’ revelation to John in 1:10-20.

The Amen, the faithful and true Witness

All of these statements refer to Jesus being truthful. Jesus wants the church at Laodicea to know the message He has for them is accurate. By saying faithful, Jesus is explaining that He doesn’t change. He is true. At the end of the day, He must stay true to Himself. He can’t make exceptions for people who don’t treat Him as holy. But at the same time, He will always prove faithful to those who are faithful to Him (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:3). And when He says He is the true Witness, it brings to mind a courtroom. Jesus has a case to deliver against the church at Laodicea, and everything He says is true. He won’t bend the truth to suit His opinion.

The Originator of God’s creation

This means Jesus is Creator. As Creator, He holds all in His hand. He can do what He wants with His creation. He can give things to whom He will; He can throw away things that are useless to Him. But, as the previous paragraph proved, He must act according to His true nature. He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13); He will protect those who belong to Him, and He will condemn those who do not.

The Announcement

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.  Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.  As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.  Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.  

There are three parts to the body of this letter. First, Jesus discusses the temperature of the church; second, He addresses the temperament of the church; and finally, He explains the therapy they need.

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth.  

The first thing Jesus has to say to Laodicea goes back to their water supply. By the time the hot water arrived from Hierapolis, it was no longer hot. By the time the cold water arrived from Colossae, it was no longer cold. Laodicea had a reputation for tepid, lukewarm water.

Now before we butcher what Jesus is trying to say to this church, it is essential to know what the water was used for back then. It’s not a question of whether the people were on fire for Jesus or cold toward Him. Hot water was used in medicine for healing; cold water was used for refreshment.

Jesus is essentially saying, “You’re useless to Me. You’re not helping people to heal, and you’re not refreshing the saints either. I’ll spit you out because you disgust Me.”

And if we remember Jesus is the Creator, and He is in total control of His creations, then we can’t claim that Jesus is harsh for this statement. However, we should keep reading because Jesus isn’t done talking.

Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,  I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.  

Laodicea was a prideful city. They were rich, and even in the wake of an earthquake, they trusted their exports to keep them afloat. Jesus plays on this and essentially tells the church, “You’ve got nothing. In fact, you’ve got so little, you can’t even see that you don’t have anything.”

This is not a good thing to hear from Jesus. But this is where pride leads. When we take our eyes off Christ—as a church—and place them on ourselves, this is the inevitable result. We become “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.”

Jesus doesn’t want to leave them in their despicable state though. He wants them to notice their plight, find their hope in Him, and ultimately become useful to Him again.

The city had refused financial help from Rome; Jesus tells the church to get gold and riches from Him to reverse their poverty.
The city boasted its export of black wool; Jesus tells the church to buy white clothes from Him (a common theme in Revelation) to cover their nakedness.
The city was famous for its eye medicine; Jesus tells the church to come to Him for healing for their spiritual blindness.

Apart from Jesus, there is no hope. And He keeps giving them therapy:

As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.  Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me.

In Revelation 2, Jesus refers to both Ephesus and Thyatira as either currently having or previously having love. In Revelation 3, Jesus tells Philadelphia that the Jews will know that Jesus loves the church at Philadelphia (a church that had nothing negative to be said against it).

Here—in a church that Jesus has not one good thing to say about it—Jesus intimates that He loves the church at Laodicea. The woman who lent her name to this city was divorced by her husband; Jesus is true. He will never stop loving His people.

But, Jesus expects repentance. If the people refuse to repent, then they don’t truly believe, and they are not truly His. He rebukes and disciplines the ones He loves. Those who respond to Jesus’ discipline belong to Him; those who ignore His discipline are not children of God (cf. Hebrews 12:6-8).

This church is so far gone that Jesus basically has to ask permission to return into their fellowship. Admittedly, in reality, He is sovereign and powerful enough to crash through the door, but since Jesus hates pride (cf. Proverbs 8:13), He expects the church to humble itself and ask Jesus to come back. They can do this by 1) asking Him for gold, 2) buying white clothes from Him, and 3) ask Him to let them see again.

And Jesus doesn’t expect every church member at Laodicea to respond savingly; He expects those who belong to Him to obey Him. If only one person asks for Him to come in, He will come in, fellowship and commune with that one person, and that person will be loved by Jesus.

The Assurance

The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne.  Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.

So this church is in a dangerous place, but there is still hope. Jesus doesn’t turn His back on His people. Jesus promises the one who heeds His pleas that he/she will sit on His throne with Him. In essence, it doesn’t matter how far gone your life is, Jesus holds out eternal life to you.

How badly have you ruined your life? Jesus offers you riches, clothing, and medicine that can never be harmed. It is spiritual riches, spiritual clothing, and spiritual medicine. If you’re concerned about the physical, look to Jesus.

He is better.
He will heal you!
He will restore you!
And eternal life can be yours if you believe in Him today!

Have you trusted in Jesus?
Is He disciplining you to return to Him?
If so, please heed His discipline. I pray that you prove to be His on the last day!

In this with you.

Soli Deo Gloria
Solus Christus
Pro Ecclesia

Thanks for reading.

The next entry can be found here.

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