The Book of Revelation Part 9: Laodicea and the Lukewarm Pastor

Temple ruins at Laodicea.
14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation.
15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.-Revelation 3:14-21
Commentary
Verse 14: Laodicea was an important city of Phrygia about 50 miles southeast of Philadelphia on the river Lycus. It was originally called Diospolis-the City of Zeus. Antiochus II colonized it about 250 B.C. and gave it the name of his wife, Laodice. Laodicea was a center of industries and commerce and especially famous for its black wool and sandals. It was also the seat of a medical school. We find here the usual suspects with regard to the Pagan gods. Worship of Zeus, Apollo, and Asclepius are all evidenced here.

Paul was apparently actively involved in guiding the church here, and the Epistle to the Colossians confirms that. It sends greetings from Epaphras, Paul's disciple who preached the gospel in Laodicea, and who was involved in the founding and teaching of the churches in Colossae and Hierapolis. Paul also requests that his letter be read to the Christians at Laodicea (Colossians 4:16). The house of Nymphas was used as a place of worship for the small Christian community there. The Apostolic Constitutions mentions Nymphas as the first presbyter of Laodicea, with Archippus (Colossians 4:17), and a very bad presbyter named Diotrephes (3 John 1:9). Paul also wrote a letter to the Christians of Laodicea which has been lost.

Jesus Christ is the Amen, the unchangeable and eternal. By Him were all things created.

Verses 15-17: The presbyter of Laodicea is lukewarm and indifferent. Therefore our Lord is about to reject him. He withdraws the graces that have been neglected. Christ would prefer to find the presbyter entirely cold, because there would be more hope for him. He would more easily realize his condition and repent. Lukewarm souls easily deceive themselves, believing they are rich in God's grace when in reality they are in a miserable state, stripped of God's grace and blinded to their true condition. The reference to riches may also imply that the presbyter of Laodicea had given himself too much to the acquisition of worldly goods. He thus became the very opposite of Polycarp who was poor in material goods, but rich in the grace and love of God.

Verse 18: The presbyter is commanded to arouse himself from this spiritual lethargy. Instead of the gold of earthly riches, he must obtain the pure gold of zeal for Christ, a gold purified in the fire of trials and temptations. Thus he will clothe himself with the white garments of grace. Then his eyes will be opened to a proper knowledge of the things of God. 

Verses 19-20: Trials are proof of God's mercy and love. They arouse the soul to greater fervor. Christ is ever patient and loving. He stands at the door of our soul ready to bestow His graces and blessings, but the soul must cooperate; it must open the door to Him. 

Verse 21: A share in the glories of Christ is promised to those who cooperate with His will and persevere to the end. These warnings to the churches show Christ's deep and abiding concern for our salvation. They also prove His deep concern for those charged with the care of souls.

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