Revelation 3

Revelation 3

To the Church in Sardis

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

To the Church in Philadelphia

“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.

“‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

To the Church in Laodicea

“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.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 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. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 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. 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”


Revelation 3 Commentary

by Brad Boyles


I remember several years ago going to a music festival in Kentucky called Ichthus. It was basically a camping trip with live Christian music playing at all times across multiple stages. Now, I’m not talking about music you hear on Christian radio. There was that if that’s what you wanted. But there was also rap, metal, screamo, country, and everything in between.

Revelation 3

A typical daily schedule would involve waking up from your tent to the rising sun, listening to music until about 2 am the next day, and then getting a few hours of sleep so you could do it again in the morning. There wasn’t much time for showering. And even if you managed to make time, most likely the wait would be long and it was certain that your shower would be cold or lukewarm at best. And just like coffee, lukewarm doesn’t cut it. It’s ironic that from a physical standpoint, being really hot or really cold is considered uncomfortable but lukewarm falls right into our comfort zone. Spiritually-speaking, Jesus feels just the opposite.

The Church at Laodicea

Laodicea was known for its wealth and manufacturing. The city had a medical school, a textile industry, thriving banks, and featured specialized products such as eye salve and glossy black wool cloth. But it is famously known for being close to a hot water spring (Hieropolis) and pure, cold water (Colossae). This is exactly why Jesus addressed it in the way He did.

Jesus calls Himself the Amen (OT title for God) and the true and faithful witness (picture a witness in the courtroom ready to reveal the truth). Jesus wanted the church in Laodicea to pay close attention to His words.

‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  16  ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 

Revelation 3:15-16 NASB

Literally, the Greek word is vomit. The fruit, or lack thereof, in the Laodicean Church makes Christ want to vomit. Self-satisfaction has led to half-hearted disciples who are doing nothing. 

Jesus no doubt uses a metaphorical play on words here to drive home this message. The city of Laodicea was once the home of an elaborate fountain with a massive water tower supplied by an aqueduct of hot springs. Those springs came from Hierapolis while the fresher and colder water was found in Colossae. Those hot springs rolled down to Laodicea but by the time they reached the city, they were no longer hot, but lukewarm. The springs in Hierapolis provided natural healing. The cold, fresh water of Colossae offered refreshment. What was the water in Laodicea good for? Absolutely nothing. It was lukewarm. 

The readers of these three close cities would have understood exactly what Jesus meant when He used this metaphor. It wasn’t that the people in Laodicea weren’t zealous or excited about Jesus because lukewarm would be better than cold in that scenario. The problem was that they were not providing refreshment for the spiritually fatigued (cold water) nor restoration for the spiritually sick (hot water). Their ministry was totally useless and unproductive, and this is why it is so distasteful to Jesus. 

The bottom line: this is a selfish, fruitless congregation. 

  • They are like the believer who church-hops because nothing is ever done “the right way.” 
  • They are like the believer who wants to argue theology but will never lift a finger to serve the poor or the marginalized. 
  • They are like the believer that can tell you everything that’s wrong with everybody else but refuses to dig into their own dysfunction. 
  • They are like the believer who complains about not being “spiritually fed” instead of being concerned about what they can bring to the overall body of Christ. 
  • They are like the believer who is so incredibly content to be saved by the blood of Jesus but doesn’t want to do anything else that Jesus asks.

Cold water has a purpose in the body of Christ. Hot water has a purpose in the body of Christ. Lukewarm water is useless to Jesus. The church had everything they needed, or so it seemed. They had wealth, a booming economy, prestige, nice clothing, etc. What happens to us when we focus on our material pleasures and comforts over Christ? He tells us we become wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.

A hot water heater needs to have electricity or gas to keep the water hot. A car requires fuel to be able to keep moving. A fire needs wood to stay hot. The people of this church had forgotten their source. They were operating as a closed system and they believed they were sustainable. That’s the lie of comfort. It makes you believe you are in control with sufficient power. We say it all the time, but it’s true. Apart from Jesus, you can do nothing. Well, except become lukewarm, I guess.

But not all is lost. In His grace, Jesus offers them wisdom to correct the error of their ways!

I advise you, then, to buy gold from me, pure gold, in order to be rich. Buy also white clothing to dress yourself and cover up your shameful nakedness. Buy also some ointment to put on your eyes, so that you may see. 19 I rebuke and punish all whom I love. Be in earnest, then, and turn from your sins.

Revelation 3:18-19 GNB

Let’s not miss the emphasis here. Jesus says “from me.”  The people of Laodicea had to relearn their ways spiritually because they had become so self-sufficient they had forgotten that what was given to them had come from Jesus. This is a call to invigorate their personal relationship.

I Stand At The Door

Revelation 3

‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. 

Revelation 3:20 NASB

The assumption we can make from this verse is that Jesus Himself is not welcome inside these church gatherings. Just consider this truth! 

Whatever they are doing when they gather as a body does not involve Jesus. They have boasted that they need nothing, yet, their Savior who means everything is standing outside knocking. What does that look like today? Church programs are thriving. Church attendance is booming. Church finances are growing. But what is being demonstrated here by the church at Laodicea is that all that can be true, and you can still miss Jesus. 

Though this famous verse could potentially apply to the unbeliever, that is not the original context. This message is for the believer who has become so comfortable with the pleasures of the world that they have shut Jesus out of their life. Jesus has been kicked out of His own church! How could so many in Laodicea think they are right but actually be so wrong? 

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  22  “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  23  “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ 

Matthew 7:21-23 NASB

Jesus doesn’t know the Laodicean church and He makes it clear what it will take to change. “Only he who does the will of My Father.” This is probably one of the most asked questions of all time. How do I discover God’s will for my life? 

So let’s think about that… God’s will for Jesus was death and Jesus chose obedience. He went to the cross and took everything that was dished out to Him. God’s will for many of the early apostles was death. And it sounds like based on the verse prior to this God’s will for the Laodicean church involves suffering. So what we can conclude is that God’s will for our life is going to involve things we don’t necessarily want to do. 

The believers in Laodicea are enjoying their lives. They are comfortable and they have probably justified that comfort by assuming that God wants them to live a happy, blessed life. Now, I’m not saying God is against being happy, but in the case of Jesus, His early followers, and this church in Laodicea, God’s will is for suffering to produce endurance, endurance to produce character, and character to produce hope (Rom 5:3-4).

Following God’s will = obedience fueled by love. Period. 

Many people, just like the church at Laodicea, will say they have faith in Jesus. They will even attend church regularly. But Jesus is not interested in empty gestures. The true test of whether that faith is real isn’t found in what you are willing to do for Him, but what you are willing to give up. 

Would you give up your comfort? Would you give up your finances? Would you give up your life? 

One final encouragement. If you are suffering in some way right now, take heart! Jesus told the church at Laodicea exactly what they needed. Though their church board could have shown you all their ongoing programs with fancy bulletins, explosive worship services, and impressive statistics, Jesus wanted to vomit them out of His mouth.

Why does God allow bad things to happen? Well, sometimes for grace. Because wouldn’t it be better for something bad to snap you from your complacency than for Jesus to literally spit you out of His mouth?

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