The Things Which Are: Church History
Revelation 2 – 3
Revelation 2 – 3
- Ephesus: The Church in the Wake of the Apostles (67 A.D. – 167 A.D.)
- Smyrna: The Church under Persecution from Rome (167 A.D. – 313 A.D.)
- Pergamos: The Church Settles Down in the World (313 A.D. – 580 A.D.)
- Thyatira: The Church Rules the World – Dark Ages (580 A.D. – mid week)
- Sardis: Dead Protestantism (1529 A.D. – Appearing)
- Philadelphia: The Recovery of the Truth (1827 A.D. – Rapture)
- Laodicea: The Church in a Lukewarm State (1848 A.D. – Rapture)
A Progression. The following progression can be seen with the first three churches:
- Ephesus = Christianity
- Smyrna = Christianity + judaism
- Pergamos = Christianity + judaism + paganism = christendom
Ephesus → Laodicea. If Christ is not retained in the heart (Ephesus) it will be left outside the door (Laodicea).
Interesting Order. In the first three churches the call to hear preceeds the word to the overcomer, indicating that there is still hope for the whole.
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Historical Context: At this point all the apostles had passed off the scene and John alone was left to watch the decline. Earlier, Paul had said that all in Asia Minor had turned away from his doctrine (the heavenly character of the Church). John in writing to them tells them about the rewards to the overcomer but does not tell them how to overcome. For that we have to go to Paul’s Doctrine.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.1)
¶ To the angel of the assembly in Ephesus [‘desireable’] write: These things says he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lamps: v.1 the lord presented as the one who holds the angels responsible, but is also interested in the assemblies. the charateristics are most general because Ephesus is the church in its most comprehesize form at the start of the decline.
Commendation: The Lord Commends before He Reproves (vv.2-3)
¶ 2 I know thy works and thy labour, and thine endurance, and that thou canst not bear evil men; and thou hast tried them who say that themselves are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars; v.2 they were continuing in all the “right” christian activities, but the spirng was gone. Compare with I thess. 1:3. Even after we lose our first love, we want to maintian a clear conscience so we persist for a time in faithfulness to the lord’s HOLINESS, doing what is right. the apostles were passing off the scene and satan was raising up false apostolic successors. the force of it is that they were tested, branded “liars”, and overthrown. good job!
3 and endurest, and hast borne for my name’s sake, and hast not wearied: v.3 they showed no sign of givig up in the conflict with evil, yet there was a hollowness in their heart.
4 but I have against thee, that thou hast left thy first love. v.4 this is the only symptom, and it is in the heart. it is to let Christ slip in our heart from having the first/best place in our affection. he considers them a “fallen” church (v.5). This is the root of all failure. declension did not begin with a lessening in activity/service but of affection for Christ (Luke 10:42). “First” or ‘best’ as in the ‘best robe’. The first love is a place from which the Church has fallen, and to which she has never corporately recovered.
5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works: but if not, I am coming to thee, and I will remove thy lamp out of its place, except thou shalt repent. v.5 “from whence“… first love. “repent and do“… the first works: works that characterize one to whom christ is all.
Quickly – he does not come quickly to remove a candlestick – he suffers long. but he does come quickly to fight against corruption in the church (see v.16) or to take us home (rev. 22:7,12,20). Removal of a candlestick – the assembly forfeits its place as a public lightbearer. at such a time the lord would no longer be in the midst (v.1).
Second Commendation (v.6)
6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the works of the Nicolaitanes, which “I” also hate. v.6 Notice the progression. here they hated even the tiniest deed, in v.15 they have some in the church that hold the doctrines (see i cor. 15:33). nicolaitans – possibly a reference to the beginning of the clergy. w.kelly says it was evil teaching from within turning grace into LICENTIOUSNESS. see v.15.
A Message to the Overcomer (v.7)
¶ 7 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him that overcomes, I will give to him to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God. v.7 WHO are we to listen to? notice the following contradiction:
- papal system: what the church saith to the people… (they abuse matt. 18:17)
- word of god: what the spirit saith to the churches
compare the gospels (matt. 11:15) where it is “ears” with “an ear” in Rev. 2-3… only one ear is open now. “The tree of life which is in the paradise of God” – the enjoyment of Christ risen as the head of the new creation… a sphere of perfect holiness and joy. there is no tree of the knowledge of good and evil because the first man has no part in it.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.8)
¶ 8 And to the angel of the assembly in Smyrna [‘suffering’] write: These things says the first and the last, who became dead, and lived: v.8 to these suffering saints, christ is presented as:
- first and last – he is unchangeably the same, and
- the one who suffered ultimate defeat and rose triumphant.
¶ 9 I know thy tribulation and thy poverty; but thou art rich; and the railing of those who say that they themselves are Jews, and are not, but a synagogue of Satan. v.9 Satan unleashed a double attack: from without (persecution) and from within (judaizers). the external attack failed, the internal attack succeeded. “tribulation” – sent by the lord to bring them back to first love. “them” – the bane of Christianity. those who were not of Jewish descent mixing christianity and judaism (luke 5:36-39). the church fathers systematically judaized the church. these claim to be exclusively the people of god… the lord says “and are not”! “SYNAGOGUES” ARE CONNECTED WITH TEACHING IN SCRIPTURE (MATT. 4:23, ACTS 6:9).
10 Fear nothing of what thou art about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast of you into prison, that ye may be tried; a|b and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, b|c and I will give to thee the crown of life. v.10 “cast into prison” – satan would not do this personally. he would stir up the roman government to persecute the christians (compare rev. 12:3). “ten days” implies a brief and limitted time. gen. 24:55, Neh. 5:18, Jer. 42:7, dan 1:12, acts 25:6. the lord assures them the tribulation has a limitted duration. each day may represent on of the ten pagan persecutions: nero (54), domitian (81), trajan (98), adrian (117), septimus sevarus (193), maximin (235), decius (249), valerian (254), aurelian (270), and diocletian (284). “the crown of life” – this crown is for the martyr who makes the ultimate sacrifice, or for any believer who endures the trials of this life (james 1:12).
Message to the Overcomer (v.11)
¶ 11 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. He that overcomes shall in no wise be injured of the second death. v.11 the enjoyment of eternal security. they can kill your body, but they can never kill your soul. the second death is eternal separation from god (rev. 20:14).
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.12)
¶ 12 And to the angel of the assembly in Pergamos [‘marriage’] write: These things says he that has the sharp two-edged sword: v.12 the sword (heb. 4:12) is presented because all this “growth” was portentous and corrupt. the sword alone can discern where there is reality in the heart. In 324 a.d. Constantine forced Christianity on his empire. Roman persecution stopped, the ranks of Christians shot up, and empty pagan temples and feast days were offered to the church… which took the bait. The Edict of Milan (Feb. 313 A.D.) was the agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire.
¶ 13 I know where thou dwellest, where the throne of Satan is; and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, a|b even in the days in which Antipas [‘against all’] my faithful witness was, who was slain among you, where Satan dwells. v.13 “holdest fast my name” – although they were in a compromised position the Spirit saw to it that the doctrine of the Person of Christ and the Trinity were preserved (the Nicene creed) and that the word of God was canonized (see below). Satan’s throne is the world’s system… a precarious place for a Christian to dwell. In the Pergamos period, for the first time, history saw a union between Church and State. A “Faithful witness” – see. rev. 1:5. what Christ was to god and what the church should be. there was tremendous pressure to give up the fundamental tenets of Christian doctrine. Antipas was on an island… so faithful that he was murdered right under the nose of the angel of the church.
Arius and Athanasius. A storm was brewing in the Church. Two schools had emerged, one centering in Antioch with a strong Judaizing focus, and the other in Alexandria with a strong Hellenistic focus. A young man named Arius arose as an instrument of Satan from the Jewish corridor, and God raised up Athanasius of Alexandria, another young man, to counter this attack. Arius said, “If the Father begat the Son, he that was begotten had a beginning of existence: and from this it is evident, that there was a time when the Son was not. It therefore necessarily follows, that he had his substance from nothing”… thus denying the eternal existence of the Son of God, and the Trinity. Arianism spread quickly, and soon Christendom was divided. The Emperor Constantine called the first ecumenical council in Nicaea in A.D. 325 to sort the matter out. The Emperor personally subscribed to Arianism, but really wanted to see the empire united. Athanasius was seen running from room to room over the month-long council, defending the eternal deity of Christ. After much bickering, even one case of slapping, and long deliberations, the council produced the Nicene Creed which, for all its flaws, affirmed that Jesus Christ was homoousios (same substance) as the Father, and affirmed the Trinity. It also of anathematized Arius and his followers. Athanasius spent the rest of his life combating Arianism, and was exiled five times for his faithfulness.
Canonization of the New Testament. While the Old Testament was canonized in the first century before Christ, the New Testament was left to languish for many years. It was through the faithfulness of some in the Pergamos period (chiefly Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria) that the canon was formally received. In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius gave a list of exactly the same books that would formally become the New Testament canon. He even used the word “canonized” with regard to these books. However, it wasn’t until Pope Damasus commissioned the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible in A.D. 383 that the canon was really “fixed” in the West. The first ecumenical council that accepted the canon was the Synod of Hippo Regius in North Africa in A.D. 393, twenty years after Athanasius’ death.
14 But I have a few things against thee: that thou hast there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to cast a snare before the sons of Israel, to eat of idol sacrifices and commit fornication. v.14 there are two doctrines (Balaam’s and the Nicolaitanes’). evil doctrines are like bananas – they come in bunches. the doctrine of Balaam had two parts: (listed in reverse order from the story in Num. 25. here the more serious part is mentioned first.)
- part II: get the people identified with pagan idols through rituals
- part I: going after the pleasures of Satan’s world. see v.20.
15 So thou also hast those who hold the doctrine of Nicolaitanes in like manner. v.15 a second brand of evil doctrine. compare with v.6. In Ephesus, the assembly hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, but now it has been systematized into a doctrine held by some in Pergamos. Note that the angel didn’t hold it, but tolerated those who did. It may be the teaching that it is acceptable to sin (jude 4), according to W. Kelly. Another possibility is that the name (“nicol” – to conquer, “laity” – the people) indicates that this is the start of the clergy; those to set themselves above the people.
16 Repent therefore: but if not, I come to thee [the angel] quickly, and I will make war with them [the corrupters] with the sword of my mouth. v.16 not at the rapture or the appearing but an immediate dealing with the assembly by the lord.
Message to the Overcomer (v.17)
¶ 17 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him that overcomes, to him will I give of the hidden manna; and I will give to him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which no one knows but he that receives it. v.17 “the hidden manna” – a contrast with eating things offered to idols. see ex. 16:33. a future enjoyment of communion with christ (after the struggles are over) of his pathway down here. we will have a greater appreciation of his pathway in that day than we do now. the “white stone” (used in voting, etc.) with a secret name is the expression of christ’s personal approval of our walk as overcomers… privately between us and the lord.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.18)
¶ 18 And to the angel of the assembly in Thyatira [‘continual sacrifice’] write: These things says the Son of God, he that has his eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass: v.18 the “continual sacrifice” may refer to the catholic mass. “The son of god” – the true rock, matt. 16:16-17. A distinct title outside the vision (contrast Rev. 1:13). christ is retreating from the human side into the divine side because of the evil man has brough into association with his name. what his eyes discover his feet tread upon.
¶ 19 I know thy works, and love, and faith, and service, and thine endurance, and thy last works to be more than the first. v.19 this commendation has primarify to do with helping those in need… a charitable organization. “last works to be more than the first” – as the day gets darker, the last (more recent) works shine brighter.
20 But I have against thee that thou permittest the woman Jezebel, she who calls herself prophetess, and she teaches and leads astray my servants to commit fornication and eat of idol sacrifices. v.20 jezebel – A correupt ecclesiastical system that aligns the church with the world and promotes idolatrous practices. The catholic system. As Ahab allowed himself to be controlled by his wife, yet was responsible (I kings 21:25), so the angel of the church. “teacher” – A role she assumed for herself… the church doesn’t teach, it is taught. Kelly says there is sufficient evidence that it should read “thy wife Jezebel”. “commit fornication” and “eat of idol sacrifices” – These are the same two elements of the doctrine of Balaam (v.14). Held by some in Pergamos, now taught by the woman Jezebel in Thyatira. The order is reversed again (same as in num. 25) because it is in practice.
21 And I gave her time that she should repent, and she will not repent of her fornication. v.21 she has had 1400 years to repent. christ forsees beforehand that there is no repentence or reformation of this awful system so a remnant in v.24 comes into view. but first vv.22-23.
22 Behold, I cast her into a bed, and those that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, 23 and her children will I kill with death; vv-22-23a the full details of this judgment are given in rev. 17-18. Notice that Jezebel is pictured as a mother. Later we find she is called “the mother of harlots”. Let us remember that the ecumenical movement is nothing less that the mother of harlots calling her children home. Three classes are judged:
- jezebel – the false system (the organization)
- the businesses + organizations that profit from relations with her
- the souls that are ‘born’ of her false principles
note: (1) + (2) appear to be judged around the middle of the week while perhaps (3) may be judged at the appearing. “With death” – total apostasy, they will worship the beast. “WITH DEATH” – TOTAL APOSTASY, THEY WILL WORSHIP THE BEAST.
23b and all the assemblies shall know that “I” am he that searches the reins and the hearts; and I will give to you each according to your works. v.23B forseeing the judgment that will fall on jezebel and her relations in the great tribulation convinces all the churches that Christ searches (1) the reins – the controlling motives, and (2) the hearts – the affections and objects, and… “I will give to you each” – there is a coming day of examination and reward, be it good or evil.
24 But to you I say, the rest who are in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I do not cast upon you any other burden; v.24 his eye now turns to a remnant company. there were a few – perhaps the albigenses and waldenses – who stood aloof from the mother of harlots… and suffered for it. “this doctrine” – jezebel’s two-part doctrine (see v.20). “depths of satan” – the deepest, darkest evil that has ever existed iN christendom. “as they speak” – as jezebel had falsely accused the overcomers of heresy. “none other burden” – no fresh development of truth (like ephesus) is laid upon them. but in v.25, a holding fast of the fundamentals.
25 but what ye have hold fast till I shall come. v.25 the lord’s coming is presented to the last four churches because a representation of each will be on earth at the rapture. whole recovery is out of the question, but the rapture is not.
Message to the Overcomer (vv.26-29)
26 And he that overcomes, and he that keeps unto the end my works, to him will I give authority over the nations, v.26 “My works” – compare with “your works” in v.23. The reward is “power“. to the despised overcomer in the time when the false church rules the world is promised the future portion of reigning with Christ over the nations.
27 and he shall shepherd them with an iron rod; as vessels of pottery are they broken in pieces, as I also have received from my Father; v.27 This reward is given to the son (v.27, compare psa. 2:9) and then shared with us!
28 and I will give to him the morning star. v.28 an enjoyment of Christ in the hope of his coming for the church (see rev. 22:16). the morning star, VENUS (THE RAPTURE) precedes the RISING OF THE sun (THE appearing of Christ, mal. 4:2). It is more the person than the event. Those in this remnant of Thyatira that lived before the recovery of the truth did not have “the morning star” in its detail; but they knew that they would be vindicated in a future day (e.g. John Huss).
¶ 29 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. v.29 With the last four churches, THE CALL to hear comes after the message to the overcomer indicating that the mass won’t hear. the only listening ears are among the remnant – the overcomers.
The Reformation. In the dark ages two critical truths were lost that were recovered in the reformation: (1) the authority of the scriptures, and (2) salvation by simple faith. (not justification by faith, because the reformers really didn’t understand justification in its full sense: our position ‘in Christ’. Sardis is not the Reformation but what the Reformation deteriorated into when Protestant appealed to the national government for protection from Rome. It became dead FORMALISM. they had come out of Catholicism, but Catholicism has not come out of them. The reformation of a corrupt system is futile. A dead body with a face-lift. God starts fresh with Philadelphia.
The Reformers. There is an Old Testament type of the reformers in the person of Jehu, God used Jehu to break the power of Jezebel and her daughter. Jehu was raised up by God, as the Reformation began as a work of God. But Jehu used fleshly means to break that power, just as the Reformers later set up national churches to gain the protection of the secular powers from the persecution of Rome. This was the downfall of the Reformation, and it resulted in spiritual deadness.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.1a)
¶ 1 And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis [‘those escaping’] write: These things saith he that has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars: v.1A “seven spirits” – inward power… “Seven Stars” – outward authority. Compare with the presentation of Christ to ephesus. Here the emphasis is that Christ is the only one who holds the source of light and power for the souls (vs. national governments). They are at his disposal to bless.
¶ I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. v.1b They had a name (stood for reality, separation from corrupt rome) but inwardly they were just as dead.
2a Be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die, v.2a The things that are ready to die refers to the godly exercises of the reformers. They read the scriptures, accepted them as the inspired Word of God, and applied it to themselves. An attitude of living reality vs. dead formalism. Be watchful concerning the disease of spiritual deadness.
2b for I have not found thy works complete before my God. v.2b They failed to go all the way back to the apostles’ doctrine.
3a Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and keep it and repent. v.3a It was a question of walking in the truth they had already received. Walk in the light we have and God will show us more, E.G. Josiah II Kings 22 + 23.
3b If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know at what hour I shall come upon thee. v.3b for those who are not watching for his coming (for his saints), they will be surprised as a thief at the appearing (with his saints) – e same way he comes on the world, I Thess. 5:2-4.
Commendation of a Remnant (v.4)
4a But thou hast a few names in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, v.4a The defilement of garments here is not so much the defilement of the flesh (Jude 23) – although perhaps included – rather it is the defilement of death, an outward form with no inward reality.
4b and they shall walk with me in white, because they are worthy. v.4b A present walk with the Lord Jesus in separation from evil: a present privilege.
Message to the Overcomer (vv.5-6)
¶ 5 He that overcomes, “he” shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, and will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. v.5 The promised reward is three-fold (all to be received future):
- A public reward for walking down here separate from evil.
- Many of their names have been blotted out of church registers… Never out of God’s (mere professors will be.)
- A despised name before men (Luke 12:8) at the present time, an elevated name before God in that day.
The Lamb’s Book of Life has the elects’ names written from the founding of the world, Rev. 13:8. This book, another aspect of the same, has names written upon profession, then blotted if unreal when the door of mercy closes.
¶ 6 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
No call to repent for philadelphia. In Smyrna it was because the persecution was so intense. But in Philadelphia it was because they had already repented of proceeding evil: Sardis – repented from dead formalism – making the King the head of the Church, appealing to governments for protection. Thyatira – separated from the wickedness of the Catholic system. pergamos – separated from pagan practices that had the mixed in. Smyrna – separated from the Judaistic practices that had been mixed in. Ephesus – they emphasized communion.
The synagogue of Satan rejected the Lord to keep their place and nation (see John 11:48). The clergy rejected the Philadelphians for the same reasons.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.7)
¶ 7a And to the angel of the assembly in Philadelphia [‘brotherly love’] write: v.7a philadelphia is characterized by a practical expression of love and unity (see eph. 4:2-3).
7b These things saith (1) the holy, the true; (2) he that has the key of David, (3) he who opens and no one shall shut, and shuts and no one shall open: v.7b A moral progression is seen with this company:
- their heart engaged with Christ they got a sense of who he is as the Holy one and true. This led them to separate from anything inconsistent with himself (II tim 2:21). this was very painful, see reward, v.12
- He gave them to see that the government of the world will be given to Christ in the millennium (see eph. 1:10)
- Understanding this key, god threw open the door (v.8) of the treasure house of the Scriptures to enjoy and keep: first prophecy, then the identity and hopes of the Church, the Rapture, the activity of the Spirit, the individual standing of the believer, assembly order, etc.
Commendation and Encouragement (vv.8-10)
¶ 8a I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an opened door, which no one can shut, v.8a God’s sovereignty set before them an open door for worship in service – practice of recovered truth. But they were (and we are) responsible to go in that door.
8b because thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. v.8b Three characteristics:
- A little power – power comes from communion (John 15:4-5). Same word as “power” in Acts 4:33… same power, just a smaller scale (little vs. great). It is not God’s Way to produce great power in a time of general ruin (Ezra 4:11-13).
- Treasured His Word – hearers + doers (Jam. 1:22, John 14:21-23. See Luke 2:19
- Not denied his name – name has the thought of character. They practically reflected the character of Christ to the world. It means honoring his name: IN DOCTRINE, practice, gathering, discipline, etc.
There is a path without evil (Job 28:7)… and the philadelphians had found it.
9a Behold, I make them of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews, and are not, but lie; v.9A The same evil that was introduced in Smyrna (rev. 2:9) rears its head to try to ruin the recovery. “Synagogue” – a form of Judaism pressed on the church. “Of Satan” – he is behind it. “Say they are Jews” these claimed to be exclusively the people of God. The synagogue of Satan treated the Philadelphians as Nabal treated David, I Sam. 25:10.
9b behold, I will cause that they shall come and shall do homage before thy feet, and shall know that “I” have loved thee. v.9B Not that the saints of God will be worshiped, but that the Lord will compel recognition of his faithful witnesses perhaps rejected now. He loves all his people but has a special affections for these.
10 Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, “I” also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. V.10 living as waiting for his coming, we have fellowship with him in his patience – ii thess. 3:5. hour of trial – refers to the entire portfolio of judgement from the beginning of daniel’s 70th week through the indigna-tion. whole habitable world – there will be no escape. only way to be exempted is to be “kept out of” it, like enoch was kept out of the flood. earth dwellers – those who have rejected heaven’s offer in favor of earth. mentioned ten times in revelation (rev. 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 13:12, 13:14, 14:6, 17:2, 17:8). they have “re-ceived not the love of the truth, ii thess. 2:8. a special class.
11 I come quickly: hold fast what thou hast, that no one take thy crown. v.11 Points to the immanency of the Lord’s return. With joy, not a threat. The danger is to let slip on parts of the recovered truth. The crown is for those who carry the treasure safely across the wilderness – Ezra 8:24-34. There will be opposition? Or maybe if I am unfaithful the Lord will raise up another.
Message to the Overcomer (vv.12-13)
¶ 12a He that overcomes, him will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more at all out; v.12a Of all the rewards for overcomers, this is the highest! A “pillar” is a symbol of strength (I Kings 7:21 Jachin and boaz) in a future day, in contrast with “a little power” now. Also: “pillar” is the thought of testimony. “temple” – A place of the worship of God – contrast with a synagogue of Satan. “go no more out” – A fixed state – a contrast with the “going out” required in separation from evil.
12b and I will write upon him (1) the name of my God, and (2) the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven, from my God, and (3) my new name. v.12b Three inscriptions on the pillar:
- A special enjoyment of fellowship with God.
- a special enjoyment of being part of the Church of God as the Bride of Christ (rev. 21:9-10). the “latter glory of this house” – see hag. 2:9.
- A special enjoyment of relationship with Christ as a glorified man in the new creation, II Cor. 5:16-17.
¶ 13 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
laodiceanism is characterized by: substituted humanity for christ; denying the total depravity and ruin of man; denial of eternal punishment and the necessity of atonement; denial of the apostasy of the successive dispensations; etc. it is possible – perhaps common – to be in a philadelphia position but a laodicean condition. the colossian epistle is a good remedy for laodicea.
Greeting and Presentation of Christ (v.7)
¶ 14 And to the angel of the assembly in Laodicea [‘rights of the people’] write: v.14a Speaks of how democratic ideas have influenced the church. Laodicea seems to rise up out of contempt for Philadelphia.
14b These things says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God: v.14b Christ presents himself in three ways:
- The one who will fulfill all the promises (II cor. 1:20).
- In contrast to the church’s utter failure as a candlestick.
- Everything connected with the first man has failed, but Christ in resurrection began a new creation – it can never fail.
¶ 15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; a|b I would thou wert cold or hot. v.15 Lukewarmness is Neutrality – complete indifference to Christ. The Lord would prefer love, but even hatred over indifference.
16 Thus because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spue thee out of my mouth. v.16 Like eating a cherry and spewing out the pit, Laodicea will be formally disowned by Christ at the Rapture – left behind.
Two assessments… man’s and god’s (v.17)
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and am grown rich, and have need of nothing, v.17a The Church’s assessment: Note that while Philadelphia doesn’t say a word, Laodicea boasts. Only head-knowledge. “I am rich” – Spiritually rich. they thought they had a great deal of gift and truth. “Am grown rich” – Not only took credit for what they had but with how they got it. “Have need of nothing” – Completely self sufficient.
17b and knowest not that “thou” art (1) the wretched and (2) the miserable, and (3) poor, and (4) blind, and (5) naked; v.17b The Lord’s assessment: They were unaware of their true spiritual condition (Jud. 16:20, Matt. 25:3). A five-fold assessment: (1) wretched – at the end of oneself having utterly failed every attempt. (2) miserable or pitiable – such a bad condition it draws pity or mercy from others. (3) Poor – possessing nothing of spiritual value. (4) Blind – to their state and the Lord’s glory. (5) Naked – their condition exposed… destitute of divine and practical righteousness.
18 I counsel thee to buy of me (1) gold purified by fire, that thou mayest be rich; and (2) white garments, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness may not be made manifest; and (3) eye-salve to anoint thine eyes, that thou mayest see. v.18 Very tender. If they would take it, his counsel would meet their needs. “BUY”: a solemn transaction between the soul and god.
- divine righteousness in Christ – The purest kind, for their salvation.
- Practical righteousness displayed in the life (Rev. 19:8) produced by the Spirit (Gal. 5).
- Anointing of the Holy Ghost – to have discernment in spiritual things… To be able to perceive what it is that God values.
19 I rebuke and discipline as many as I love; be zealous therefore and repent. v.19 “as many as i love” – The angel and the mass are false professors… in this verse he speaks to those who are real but have a Laodicean spirit. The Lord’s love is always put into juxtaposition with his people in a day of ruin (Rev. 3:19, Jer. 31:3, Mal. 2:1, John 13:1) Why? See Rom. 2:4. “rebuke and chasten” – The motive for both is love. In this case he is doing it through this letter.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and am knocking; if any one hear my voice and open the door, I will come in unto him and sup with him, and he with me. v.20 He is outside the door of the assembly – they had shut out the head of the Church! How sweet… He does not walk away but begins to knock (continues to the rapture) and speaks softly. “any one” – it is Individual. There is no call for collective restoration. He will not force his way in. The thought of “sup” is fellowship. He awaits the response of the heart.
Message to the Overcomer (vv. 21-22)
¶ 21 He that overcomes, to him will I give to sit with me in my throne; as “I” also have overcome, and have sat down with my Father in his throne. v.21 The Laodiceans said dethroned Christ in their hearts. The overcomer (any saved person) will share Christ’s throne. However, this is perhaps the lowest of all the rewards, because everyone that has part of the first resurrection will reign with Christ (Rev. 20:4), even Old Testament saints. For those who are thinking “I don’t know if I can humble myself to do that”, JUST think about the Lord Jesus and what He had to do to overcome… Phil. 2:5-11.
¶ 22 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies.
Who at my door is standing, by Mary B. Slade
Who at my door is standing,
Patiently drawing near,
Entrance within demanding?
Whose is the voice I hear?
Sweetly the tones are falling;
Open the door for Me!
If thou wilt heed My calling,
I will abide with thee.
Lonely without He’s staying;
Lonely within am I;
While I am still delaying,
Will He not pass me by?
All through the dark hours dreary,
Knocking again is He;
Jesus, art Thou not weary,
Waiting so long for me?
Door of my heart, I hasten!
Thee will I open wide.
Though He rebuke and chasten,
He shall with me abide.