Revelation – Spit You Out – 10

Revelation 3:14-22 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. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

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I love to walk past groups of people and catch just part of their conversation. It can be hilarious. Once, I heard “And that’s why you don’t take an introvert to prom.” I have no clue what they were talking about, but just hearing that one line was hilarious. One of my friends did the same thing one time and heard, “I woke up, and there were Cheetos all in the bed.” And that’s all you hear of the conversation. I’m sure it makes sense in context, but when you take it out of context, it just sounds funny.

There are several parts of this letter that are often quoted, but they are almost entirely taken out of context. I have even taken them out of context on numerous occasions. To rightly understand the intent of a passage, context is important. There is much meaning that is drawn from this letter that requires context from Laodicea. Here is some of their background.

The city was a wealthy commercial center, the richest in Phrygia.[1] It was known for banking, the manufacturing of clothing (especially black wool), and a famous medical school with ointments for the ears and eyes. It was so wealthy that when it was destroyed in an earthquake in AD 60, it was able to completely rebuild itself without any funds from Rome.[2] The Roman historian Tacitus said of the city, “Laodicea arose from the ruins by the strength of her own resources, and with no help from us.”[3]

So, this city had great wealth and was able to achieve anything they wanted on their own. They were self-reliant, and that same mindset existed for the church there. But here’s something they needed and we need to remember:

We need Jesus. (vs 14-15)

Jesus is before all, created all, and sustains all. There is no part of our life where we don’t need Jesus. When it says in verse 14 that he is the “beginning” of God’s creation, it doesn’t mean that he had a beginning. The word literally means “origin.” It is the Greek word “archē.”[4] It’s where we get our word archetype, which means “an original that has been imitated.” Jesus has not been created as some cults and other religions have claimed. He his eternal. He has always existed. And all that exists does so because of him. Hear what John 1 says about him, using the same Greek word every time you hear “beginning.”

 John 1:1-3 – “1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Now, we see why we need Jesus based on who he is, but here’s where the need for context comes in for us to understand this passage accurately. The church at Laodicea, and often us as well, lived in such a way as if they didn’t need God. And they weren’t being useful to God.

If you do everything in your own power, you won’t do much of lasting significance. If you let God use you, he does extraordinary things through you. Many people don’t live out their faith because they are not living by faith. Here’s how we see they weren’t being useful for Christ.

The city was wealthy and could provide everything on its own, except it had one major weakness: it didn’t have an adequate or convenient source for good drinking water.[5] It was located near Hierapolis, where there were famous hot springs, and Colossae, known for its pure, cold water.[6] They had to have aqueducts to pipe in water from these places. “Both the cold water from Colossae and the hot water from Hierapolis would be lukewarm by the time it was piped to Laodicea.”[7] “The water was so distasteful that visitors, not prepared for its tepid flavor, would often vomit after drinking it.”[8]

(Coffee story) Have you ever gone to drink something that you think is hot but is actually lukewarm? That happened to me with a cup of coffee, and it ended in me vomiting all over my parents’ bathroom.

“Hot, medicinal waters bubbled up at nearby Hierapolis, while cold, pure waters flowed from Colossae. Our Lord’s point to them is something like this: ‘You are providing neither healing for the spiritually sick nor refreshment for the spiritually thirsty. You are spiritually lukewarm, and I will not tolerate you. If you do not repent (vs. 19), I will vomit you out of my mouth.’”[9]

We need to ask two questions here: 1) What is the state of your soul? 2) What is the state of your life? Are you passionately in love with Jesus and passionately living for Jesus? If you cannot answer either of these questions with a “yes,” you are like the church in Laodicea.

This church was relying on itself. It had no need for Jesus. It wasn’t being useful to the community around it. It wasn’t refreshing souls with the Living Water. It was lukewarm. They were relying on themselves and only caring about themselves, and they were blind to the true state of their hearts and lives (vs 17).

The city was also known for its eye ointment. And Jesus is saying to them, “You can’t see yourself clearly. You are far worse off than you ever thought.” And it’s the same for us. And that’s why this next point is so important.

We need Jesus’ righteousness. (vs 18)

The moment I most vividly realized this, not just with my head, but with my heart, was while listening to a rap song for kids. It was by the Christian rapper Shai Linne and is called “Penelope Judd.” It tells the story of a little girl who grew up in a town called Mud. Everybody played in the dirt all day, and she didn’t even realize she was dirty. She received an invitation one day to a party at the castle with the prince. After he long journey there, with people mocking her, she arrived at the castle door with the invitation. She knocked, and the door opened. A huge angel told her she couldn’t come in because she was too dirty. She looked down and for the first time realized how dirty she was. But then, the prince walked up and said, “There’s room for one more.” He touched her and immediately she was clothed with the whitest robe she had ever seen. And it wasn’t her own. It belonged to the prince.[10]

This is called the imputed righteousness of Christ. When we are saved, we’re not only forgiven for our unrighteousness, but we are given the righteousness of Christ himself.

2 Corinthians 5:21 – For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

“Only Jesus can cover our shame and nakedness.”[11]

“In contrast to the beautiful glossy black wool the Laodiceans were so proud of, Jesus offers a garment of white that will cover the shame of their nakedness. White clothes symbolize the imputed righteousness of the Savior and the righteous acts of the saints.”[12]

Laodicean Christians walk about spiritually naked, completely unaware of their humiliation and need for the pure white righteousness that is available only in Jesus.[13]

“We dare not stand in the filthy rags of our own righteousness and good deeds. We desperately need the righteousness of Jesus.”[14]

But, even though we are filthy and faithless, God is faithful and full of love.

Our sin does not quench God’s love for us. (vs 19)

You’re not too far gone. Don’t believe the lies of Satan. Adam and Eve believed it in the garden and it led to their sin and shame over their sin. And it wasn’t Satan that walked with them in their shame. It was God who sought them out amidst their shame. And it was God that covered their shame.

God doesn’t leave us in our helpless state. He loves us too much to leave us as we are.

He disciplines us because he loves us.

This isn’t one we like. Think about times you got in trouble by your parents. Most of the time, why did you get in trouble? Looking back now, it’s because you did something you weren’t supposed to, and you weren’t supposed to do that thing because it was bad for you. So, if your parents let you do that thing that would end up hurting you, would that be loving of them?

Proverbs 3:11-1211 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Hebrews 12:5-11And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

We see our need for Jesus and our need to live for him. We see that he loves us even amidst our sin, and he covers our shame. We see that he loves us too much to not leave us as we are, but to discipline us, to shape and mold us in his image. We see that he constant to pursue us. He is constantly knocking.

We need to let Jesus in. (vs 20-22)

This verse is often taken out of context and used towards non-Christians, saying, “God is knocking on the door of your heart. You need to let him in.” Though this is true, this isn’t what this verse is saying. Remember the context of this passage. It is written to a church, not unbelievers. Just like the lukewarm passage, cultural context of the time is important in understanding this passage correctly.

“The residents of Laodicea were forced to allow Roman soldiers to stay in their homes. And the Laodiceans were forced to feed and provide for those Roman soldiers. There is a stark contrast, then, between Jesus standing at the door and knocking and the Roman soldiers forcing the Laodiceans to house and feed them. The Romans force their way in and take food from the people. Jesus knocks, waits to be invited in, and then provides the meal.”[15]

It is hard to imagine any follower of the Lamb rejecting this magnificent invitation to dine at the table of the King.[16]

We see Jesus dine with many throughout his ministry, and in this book of Revelation we see the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev 19:6-10). His desire is for us to invite him in. Invite him into our hearts. Invite him into our lives. Invite him into our dreams and aspirations. Invite him into the deep, dark places we hide. Invite him into our shame. Invite him into our disbelief.

When we open the door, Jesus comes in and saves and redeems and cleanses and empowers.

And he’s calling for you to let him in. For you to love him, live for him, and be used by him. To stop living for your desires and doing everything in your own strength. For you to open your eyes to the true state of your heart and life and allow him to cleanse and heal it. He’s calling you to repent.

[1] Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997), 107.

[2] Alan F. Johnson, “Revelation,” in Hebrews-Revelation, ed. Tremper Longman and David E. Garland, Rev. ed., Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 634-35.

[3] Annals XIV 27

[4] https://biblehub.com/interlinear/revelation/3-14.htm

[5] Daniel L. Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2016), 101.

[6] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: New Testament (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007), 1046.

[7] Wiersbe, 1047.

[8] Alan F. Johnson, Revelation, Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 62; Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Revelation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 78.

[9] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 103-4.

[10] https://vimeo.com/79809535

[11] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 123.

[12] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 106. See Revelation 3:4-5, 18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9, 13-14; 19:8, 14).

[13] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 111.

[14] Akin, Exalting Jesus in Revelation, 106.

[15] James M. Hamilton, Jr., Revelation, 125.

[16] Mounce, The Book of Revelation, 113-14.


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