Friday

05 September 2014

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.” (v. 20)


Background

Christ's particular message to the church at Laodicea reflects the city itself - famed for its banks, its linen trade, and its medicines, particularly an eye-ointment made from a locally sourced powder. Read the passage with these things in mind and see how John uses these dimensions of city life to make his spiritual points.

Unlike most of this collection of letters in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Christ has nothing by way of commendation for Laodicea, and yet his love for them shines through. The criticism of the church mentions no specific evil-doing; their problem is one of indifference to the gospel. They are lukewarm, lacking enthusiasm or conviction for the gospel they claim to believe. The statement that Jesus would prefer them "cold" to tepid in verse 15, is particularly thought-provoking.

At nearby Hierapolis was a hot water spring which was lukewarm by the time its water flowed over a cliff near Laodicea, leaving a vivid white lime encrustation. The lukewarm water made people sick, and that is how Christ claims to feel about the church here. But he claims to 'rebuke and discipline' (verse 19) the ones he loves (compare Proverbs 3:12) and verses 18-21 are compelling words of love and promise.

For "open the door" compare the parable of Jesus in Luke 12:36. Eating with people was important for Jesus in the Gospels in affirming his welcome, and the Lord's Supper enshrines the promise that Jesus will drink with his faithful disciples in his Father's kingdom (Matthew 26:29). The further idea here of sharing his throne is also found elsewhere in the New Testament (Ephesians 2:6).


To Ponder

  • All these mini-letters in Revelation are actually addressed to the angel of the particular church, presumably a guardian angel. Do you believe people and churches have such angels, and if so what is their role?
  • This little letter has probably been read more often in churches in recent years than any of the six that precede it. Would you agree or disagree that being lukewarm is a major problem for local churches today? What leads you to your answer?
  • Read verse 18 again, where Christ's offer is shaped by the business life of Laodicea. How do you think Christ might encourage the indifferent using language drawn from the business or other special interests of your own town or community?


Bible notes author:  The Revd Dr Stephen Mosedale

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