Week - 9 What Sours the Stomach of The Savior? Revelation 3:14-22
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
Authored by Jerry Marshall
A national survey of American adults by the Barna Research Group, found that 8 out of 10 (84%), of those who profess to be born again believers, hold to non-biblical views on at least one of eight statements of biblical teaching tested in the survey.
For example: "By definition, all born again believers believe that they will go to heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior." However, 40% of those surveyed also maintain that "if a person is generally good or does enough good things for others during their lifetime, they will earn a place in heaven." 50% of those surveyed agree with the statement, 'The Devil, or Satan, is not a living being, but is a symbol of evil. 30% of those who profess to be born again claim, "Jesus Christ was a great teacher, but he did not come back to physical life after he was crucified." Another 29% believe that "When Jesus lived on earth, he was human and committed sins, like other people." The same percentage asserts that "There are some crimes, sins, or other things which people might do which cannot be forgiven by God. “And a large percentage of those surveyed do not believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth.
I think this speaks volumes about the condition of the church in America. It is clear to me that many churches in our country are churches in name only. The substance of what makes a church a true church as defined in the Scriptures is missing. And so, we have churches which are really not churches at all.
- Some have abandoned the belief that the Bible is the objective word of God.
- Some now believe that Jesus is a way to God but not the exclusive way.
- Some promote a works righteous formula of salvation.
- Some ignored the Biblical injunctions pertaining to scripturally qualified church leadership.
- Some are far more interested in building buildings then in building up the body of Christ.
If Jesus sent a letter to the churches in America, what would He say? Perhaps He would say what He said to the church that will be the focus of our attention today.
Throughout the history of the church, there have been many local congregations which have gladdened the heart of the Lord. Others have caused Him to weep and some have even angered the Lord. But the church that is addressed in the final letter to the churches recorded in the 3rd chapter of Revelation, made Him sick.
Nothing sours the stomach of the Lord like a “Pseudochurch” whose self-assessment of their spiritual condition is determined by worldly standards and values; a so-called church which is blind to the reality of their true spiritual condition. This in turn makes them useless to Christ, self-satisfied and indifferent to their real need of salvation and the spiritual riches that are a part of being rightly related to the Lord of the church.
The city in which this church existed was one of a triad of cities with Colossae and Hierapolis all located in the Lycus valley about 100 miles east of Ephesus. Laodicea was well known for three industries, finance, wool and the production of eye salve. The Lord uses these features of this city in a metaphorical way in His letter to the church of Laodicea.
The city of Laodicea was a very wealthy and prosperous city. As a matter of fact, this city was so wealthy that when it was once almost destroyed by an earthquake, the citizens completely rebuilt it without any help from Rome.
There was however one big short coming to this city, and that was its water. It had to pipe in its water from several miles away through aqueducts. By the time that water got to the city it was frequently filled with lime deposits from the stone aqueduct system and it was lukewarm. Not hot or cold but tepid. The Lord will use this particular short coming to describe the true condition of this church.
This final letter can be divided into five segments.
I. The Character of the Lord (3:14)
The Lord begins this letter in accordance with the custom of first century correspondence by identifying Himself using a threefold description. And similar to the letter addressed to the church in Philadelphia, the Lord’s self-description here is taken from outside the opening vision manifested to John in the first chapter of this book.
A. The Amen
This is a transliteration of a Hebrew word that basically conveys the idea of firmness, stability and credibility. When used at the beginning of a statement, this word is frequently translated “surely, or truly.” When used at the end of a statement in Scripture, the word conveys the idea of “so be it,” or “that’s the truth,” or “this is most certainly true.” But its use in this passage is unique. As a matter of fact, this is the only time in all of the Scriptures that the word is used as a personal name for Christ.
In this passage, Jesus describes himself as “The Amen” Because He is the personification of verity, authenticity and all that is true. What He promises is certain. What he affirms is true, firm and credible.
B. The Faithful and True Witness
This self-descriptive phrase affirms that Jesus is the thoroughly reliable one. What he says in true. His testimony is reliable and worthy of our trust.
C. The Source and Sovereign over creation
The NASB translates this part of the Lord’s self-description as, The Beginning of the Creation of God.” The word, Beginning is a translation of the Greek word arche, which means both beginning and source. The word Beginning is not to be interpreted as the first one created, such as has been done by those who deny the deity of Jesus. Jesus is the beginning of creation in that He is the source of all that is. He is the Creator, the Ruler, and the One who is sovereign over all that exists. He is the Source and Sovereign over all of creation (i.e., John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17).
This threefold self-description of the Lord simply affirms that the assessment of this church will be done by one who is the personification of all that is true and who speaks the truth. Therefore, its accuracy is impeccable. This is the Lord of the church who sees all that goes on in the church with penetrating accuracy. And His assessment of the church is consistently accurate and trustworthy.
II. The Condemnation of the Lord (3:15-17)
The Lord has nothing good to say to this church. No words of commendation for faithfulness, perseverance, or diligent effort in the name of the Lord.
The Lord of the church has only words of condemnation because of the true condition of this church and because of its self-deception which has led them to possess and unhealthy attitude of self-sufficiency.
A. Because of their lukewarm condition (verse 15-16)
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
The Lord’s omniscient insight of their deeds exposes a condition of this church which sours the stomach of the Lord. Many interpret the references to cold and hot as metaphors for two opposite spiritual conditions; cold being descriptive of the condition of the lost, indifferent to the things of the Lord or maybe even hostile. Without a value for the spiritual riches that are in Christ.
Hot, on the other hand is thought to be descriptive of a condition of spiritual fervency; someone who openly demonstrates a high degree of spiritual dedication to the things of the Lord or, someone who is excited, vibrant and alive spiritually. Lukewarm then, in keeping with the logic of this interpretation, would be somewhere in between cold indifference to Christ and hot fervent commitment to Christ.
The problem with this common understanding of this passage is that it seems to imply that the Lord wishes that some were lost, indifferent, unsaved and alienated from Him, rather than saved but lukewarm. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.
The key to understanding this contrast lies in comprehending some information about the geography of this particular area. Laodicea had two neighboring cities nearby; Hierapolis, which was famous for its hot springs and Colossae, which was known for its cold and pure water. The hot water of Hierapolis was healing to the weary and the cold water of Colossae was refreshing.
Because it traveled several miles through an underground aqueduct before reaching the city, the water arrived foul, dirty, and tepid. It was not hot enough to relax and restore, like the hot springs at Hierapolis. Nor was it cold and refreshing, like the stream water at Colossae. Laodicea’s lukewarm water was in a useless condition.
Laodicea’s water supply was lukewarm, polluted and useless. If you drank this water, it would certainly make you sick. This condition of the water supply of the city of Laodicea served as a metaphor for the true condition of this church. They were as useless to the Lord as the water supply of this city was useless to its citizens.
The NIVSB accurately captures this condition of the uselessness of this church in its footnote on this passage.
“The church in Laodicea supplied neither healing for the spiritually sick nor refreshment for the spiritually weary.”
Therefore, the Lord declares: I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
The phrase, “to spit you out” is a translation of the Greek word, emeo, which means to vomit - to throw up.
Origen, one of the early church fathers understood this condition of “Lukewarmness” as not referring to lapsed believers but rather to unregenerated persons who professed themselves to be believers; those who profess themselves to be Christians without knowing Christ. And because they lacked true spirituality, they were useless in terms of the purposes of the Lord.
The Expositors commentary states:
“Lukewarmness, then does not refer to laxity of Christians but the condition of not really knowing Christ as Savior and Lord and thus being useless to Him.”
Verse 16 should not be taken as indicating that the Lord prefers an atheist or a fanatical religious zealot to a tepid Christian. The issue is the possession of genuine life in Christ by those who profess the Christian faith, not the way they hold it.
B. Because of their self-deception (vs.17)
But this church’s self-perception had them in far better shape than the Lord’s assessment of their condition. And this distorted perception served as fuel for the Lord’s condemnation.
17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
This passage proves once again that economic prosperity does not serve well in measuring the true heart condition of a people. A church or a culture may be prosperous materially and dead morally and spiritually. There is the tendency to perceive that everything is fine because of their material prosperity.
1 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1999). Revelation 1–11 (p. 136). Chicago: Moody Press.
2Carson, D. A.: New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition. 4th ed. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA : Inter-Varsity Press, 1994, S. Re 3:14
What happened to this church is that the spirit and values of the surrounding culture had crept into the congregation making them useless and nauseating to the Lord. The people bore the label “Christian,” but were void of new life in Christ possessed by true Christians.
Yet they didn’t see that. Their material prosperity caused them to develop and attitude of self-sufficiency. They declared proudly....‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’
Perhaps they interpreted their material prosperity as a sure indicator of being in divine favor. This is additional proof that prosperity can be a very faulty barometer for measuring one’s true spiritual condition.
The Lord’s revelation of their true condition shatters their illusions that their material wealth mirrored their spiritual condition.
The Lord uses five adjectives to describe their true spiritual condition.
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
The word wretched in the original conveys the idea of having all you owned destroyed or plundered by war. Here it is used to describe the true condition of the church in Laodicea as being spiritually destroyed and bankrupt before the Lord.
Pitiful or miserable in the original speaks of someone who is an example of an object of extreme pity. Their true spiritual condition would prompt others to feel very sorry for them.
Poor in the original language is descriptive of someone who is so poor that they are reduced to begging. This is another way of describing their spiritual condition.
Blind as translated from the original language of the N.T., not only described someone who was physically blind, but also mentally blind. In the case of this church, they were blind to their true condition.
Naked (GK. Gymnos), conveys idea of being bare. In this case, this is just another way of speaking of their spiritually desperate condition. This description must have been especially shameful to this church which existed in a city that was famous for its black wool garments.
III. The Counsel of the Lord (3:18)
The counsel that the Lord provides corresponds with three features that the city of Laodicea was most noted for and a source of the cities pride. Their wealth, their wool industry and the production of eye salve. The Lord offers this church, which is really not a church, spiritual gold, spiritual clothes and spiritual sight.
18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
A. Spiritual Gold
Gold that is refined in fire is free from all impurities and is genuine gold as opposed to fool’s gold. This gold speaks of the riches that are in Christ that can only be appropriated by faith in Christ. It is the pure spiritual treasures possessed by Faith alone in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that makes someone rich toward God. It is bought not with currency and not by works - but by faith. This kind of invitation to salvation is reminiscent of the one recorded in Isaiah 55:1…
1 “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;
and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.
B. Spiritual Garments
White garments and robes are consistently used in this book to speak of the very righteousness of Christ which is imputed to those who trust totally in the redemptive work of Jesus for the salvation of the soul.
These white garments cover the shameful nakedness of our exposed sinfulness in the presence of a Holy God.
C. Spiritual Sight
The people of the city of Laodicea were proud of the eye salve that was produced by them because of its supposed ability to bring rapid healing to sore and swollen eyes. But the salve that the Lord was offering to this “pseudo church,” in the city of Laodicea, would open their eyes so they could see the reality of their true spiritual condition. This eye salve would bring true spiritual understanding.
They were not what they supposed. They supposed that they were not in need of anything - Yet they were without true spiritual riches and they couldn’t see that.
IV. The Call of the Lord (3:19-20)
A. For true repentance from them (vs.19)
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.
The word, “rebuke” means to bring correction with the truth. It is to expose that which is false by that which is true. The word, “discipline” means to train, to castigate with words for the purpose of bringing about correction, or to punish in order to alter attitude or behavior. There was a desperate need for corporate repentance regarding their true spiritual condition. Their corporate perspective was not in touch with reality.
B. For true fellowship with Him (vs.20)
20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
"The door on which Christ is knocking is not the door to a single human heart, but to the Laodicean church. Christ was outside this apostate church and wanted to come in, something that could only happen if the people repented." This is an invitation to intimate fellowship with the Lord.
Rather than allowing for the common interpretation of Christ’s knocking on a person’s heart, the context demands that Christ was seeking to enter this church that bore His name but lacked a single true believer. This poignant letter was His knocking. If one member would recognize his spiritual bankruptcy and respond in saving faith, He would enter the church.
V. The Commitment of the Lord (3:21-22)
21 To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame 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.”
The promise to the overcomers concerns the sharing in Christ's future reign in the eschatological kingdom: "I will give the right to sit with me on my throne." Such a joint reign with Christ has already been referred to earlier in the book (1:6, 9; 2:26-27) and appears later on (5:10; 20:4-6).
The kingdom reign is also a theme in other NT writings (Luke 22:28-30; Romans 8:17; 2Tim 2:12). As Christ overcame through His suffering and death (John 16:33) and entered into the highest honor God could bestow, that of being seated at His "right hand" of sovereignty (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:22 ff.; Revelation 22:1), so believers who suffer with Christ even to the point of death will share in the honor of Christ's exalted position.
“The distinction between the Father's throne and Christ's throne is no mere rhetoric. On the contrary, it differentiates aspects of God's program in history (1Cor 15:24-28). Christ is reigning now, for there is a sense in which the eschatological or messianic kingdom of God was inaugurated in Christ's earthly ministry, death, and resurrection. But the promise here, as elsewhere in the NT, foresees a final earthly consummation of the kingdom that awaits the return of Christ.” (Expositors Bible Commentary)
1. Material and economic prosperity does not serve well as an accurate barometer of the
3MacArthur, John Jr: The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed. Nashville : Word Pub., 1997, c1997, S. Re 3:20
4 The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984. true spiritual condition of a church, a family or the society at large.
2. Prosperity can blind you to reality and a false assurance of well-being.
3. What is true about a church can certainly be true for individuals.
4. A church that is useful to the Lord is one that is made up of those who are truly redeemed and who possess spiritual wealth by virtue of being in Christ. A church that is faithful to God, His Word and His will for the church.
5. What sours the stomach of the Lord is a church that is useless in serving the purposes that He has called them to do while in this world. And their uselessness is the product of an inaccurate assessment of their true spiritual condition, based upon the values of the world as their standard for their self-perception.