27 July 2012

Revelation 3:14-22

"I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent." (v. 19)


This is the last of the seven heavenly words to the churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), and this time is addressed to Laodicea, a small town on the river Lycus. The message comes again from Jesus, who here is described as the "Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation" (v. 14). Jesus is both first and last, and the one who shows us who God is like. Jesus can be trusted.

The words themselves, like most of the messages to the churches, contain a warning and an admonition. The disciples are "lukewarm" (v. 16), suggesting their participation in other cultic practices. They are also a materially wealthy church, reflecting the wealth of their context. Spiritually, however, they are "wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (v. 17).

Jesus' counsel, then, is to "buy from me gold... and white robes... and salve..." (v. 18). The images here denote a restoration to holiness and healing. They also represent a reversal of the state of the church at Laodicea - poor, they need gold; naked, they need clothes; blind, they need healing (verse 17). If the church recognises its need, Jesus would love to clothe them, restore them, and grant them true sight.

Jesus calls the church to repent and return to the calling that they first received. The famous image here is of Jesus standing knocking at the door. Jesus will not knock the door down, nor trample over the threshold of churches, but gently makes his presence known, asking to enter. If Jesus enters the church again, the result will be fellowship around the table. Can there be anything greater than sharing such fellowship with Jesus? Those who conquer will also 'share their father's throne' (verse 21), a radical invitation into the presence of God.

Like all the messages to the churches, this one ends with the encouragement for the church to "listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (v. 22). It is possible to hear without listening, whereas true listening opens us up to transformation.

To Ponder

  • What do you think the Spirit would say to your church today?
  • How can we cultivate spiritual humility in our churches?

Bible notes author

Ed Mackenzie

Dr Ed Mackenzie is the discipleship development officer for the Methodist Church, a role that involves developing and promoting a range of resources to help Christians grow as followers of Jesus. His previous experience includes working as evangelism, spirituality and discipleship officer at Methodist Church House, lecturing in New Testament Studies at Birmingham Christian College, and working as associate leader of B1, a 'fresh expression' of church in Birmingham.