We studied the things that John saw in his vision on the isle of Patmos in chapter one of Revelation. These are the things “which were.” This week we are going to look at “the things which are.” Fruchtenbaum says, “Revelation chapters two and three comprise the second major division of the book. This division is the things which are; the seven churches. It is a description of the Church Age contained in seven short letters to the seven churches” (Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 47).
The seven stars are most likely referring to the seven “pastors” of these churches. Walvoord says, “The Greek word for aggelos [angelos], which has been transliterated in the English word angel, is frequently used in the Bible of angels, and this seems to be its principal use… However, it is often used also of men in Greek literature as a whole, and in several instances this word referred to human messengers in the Bible” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 53).
The seven lampstands are referring to the seven churches. They are “significant symbols of churches in their principal function of giving forth light” (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 43). In Revelation 2, we see Jesus as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks amongst the lampstands (Rev. 2:1).
These seven churches were not only actual churches at the time of the Revelation, but they also had unique characteristics that are representative of the Church Age. Even the meanings of the names of the towns of the respective churches had relevance to the local church and their struggles. Jesus, the Great I AM, introduces Himself to each church in very specific ways that speak to their individual needs. The letters to the seven churches contain a tapestry of truth masterfully woven throughout the pages of history bringing us to where we find ourselves today.
This post is devoted specifically to the church of Laodicea. The Laodicean Church represents “The Apostate Church (AD 1900 – Present Day)” (Fruchtenbaum, The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 66). Laodicea means “people ruling.” Fruchtenbaum says, “This is set in contrast to God’s ruling in the church. It is a church entirely ruled by men, for the Holy Spirit is not present and doing His ministry of guiding” (The Footsteps of the Messiah, p. 66). Laodicea was a picture of self-sufficiency. Walvoord says, “when destroyed by an earthquake about AD 60, it was able to rebuild without any outside help. Its economic sufficiency tended to lull the church to sleep spiritually; and though there is mention of the church as late as the 14th century, the city as well as the church now is in complete ruins” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 89).
The Church of Laodicea’s problem was that they were lukewarm. They were living in a false reality! They said they were rich and in need of nothing, but Jesus said they were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). Christ advised them to buy from Him “gold refined by fire” that they may become rich, and “white garments” to clothe themselves. He tells them to buy “eye salve to anoint” their eyes so they may see. Walvoord quotes one commentator who observed that “the city of Laodicea was famous for two kinds of medicine, namely, an ointment for sore ears and an eye powder for sore eyes” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 95). People would come from all around to get this medicine. He goes on to say, “the merchants of Laodicea were famous for their manufacture of a certain black garment which was widely sold. They grew their own glossy black wool used in making this garment. There may be a reference to the contrast between that which the merchants could provide, a black garment, and a white garment which God alone could supply” (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 95).
The Laodiceans would never have to worry about “being blind” because they had invented this sought-after medication for the eyes! They would never have to worry about being naked because they specialized in black garments. But Jesus, who knew their hearts, knew that their temporal provision had “lulled them to sleep spiritually” (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 89). Jesus, the One who walks amongst the lampstands, knew this about the Laodicean Church then, and He knows it now.
What have we falsely put our hope in? Have we been lulled to sleep by the ease of life? Have we fooled ourselves into thinking that we are serving God when we are serving ourselves? Jesus offers a promise and a cure in Revelation 3:19-22. First, He promises to discipline those whom He loves. When I think about how close we are to the end of the Church Age, I am reminded about His desire for the Church, His bride, to be presented before Him spotless and blameless! Ephesians 5:27 says, “so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (ESV).
Even for the Apostate Church of this age, there is an invitation and a promise. Revelation 3:20-22 says, “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. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (NASB1995).
“The word used for ‘sup’ indicates that it is the main meal of the day, the one to which an honored guest would be invited. The significant thing is that the one who invites Him in will sit down at the same table with Him and partake of the same food” (Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p. 98). Only when we repent and realize our spiritual poverty will we be able to be rich in Christ! Only when we admit our blindness will our spiritual eyes be opened, and only when we lay aside the old garment of our flesh will we be able to be clothed in His righteousness!
Week Three: Homework Reflections
This week, read Revelation chapters 2 and 3 and each day (listed below), record your observations to the following questions in your journal.
- How does Jesus introduce Himself to each church?
- What does Jesus say He knows?
- If Jesus commends the church, what is it that He appreciates about them?
- What, if anything does He have against them?
- What exhortation does He give? (what does He want them to do?)
- What promise does He give and who is it for?
Day One: Ephesus & Smyrna (Revelation 2:1-11)
Day Two: Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17)
Day Three: Thyatira & Sardis (Revelation 2:18 – 3:6)
Day Four: Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13)
Day Five: Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22)
Do you see any similarities between the churches? How do you see the Laodicean Church in today’s society? Take a moment and note how God has spoken to your heart this week.