Jesus' words to the Church of Philadelphia: Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 3:10
The Book of Revelation describes a time in the future when the world will experience the ultimate Refiner’s Fire. Throughout history, God has used various forms of refining to get the attention of people, cultures and nations with particular attention to the nation of Israel. But nothing in the past will compare to the future seven year period of Tribulation that will be exacted upon the world.
In The Refiner’s Fire Part 1, the three primary aspects of the Tribulation were discussed. The detailed account of the seven years of wrath is described by the Apostle John in Chapters 4 through 19 of the Book of Revelation. The true Church of Christ, Jesus’ Bride, is conspicuously missing from the events of that period as described in those chapters. True believers as part of the Church are taken (raptured) to Heaven prior to the beginning of the wrath as promised by Jesus (See “The Rapture in View” for an overview of that event).
But first, Jesus has a message to His Church preparing them for His return and encouraging them to hold fast for His time is at hand. In the Book of Revelation chapter 2 and 3, Jesus addresses the Church as represented by the seven churches with some straight talk regarding His assessment of their faithfulness. This is very reminiscent of God’s various pronouncements to the Israelites in the Old Testament. But here, Jesus expounds on both the virtues and failures of each of the seven churches leaving no mis-understanding about His appraisal of their calling as His followers.
Each of the seven churches in Revelation represent characteristics of the Christ’s Church throughout the last 2,000 years. They were real local churches at the time of John’s writing the Book of Revelation but also represent seven types of churches that exist down through the church age and are still represented characteristically today. Moreover, a case can be made that each of the seven churches mark a specific period of church history since the time of Christ. It should be noted that each of the seven churches can perspectively have both believers and unbelievers in their midst.
As Jesus addresses each church, He details the commendations and condemnations with the church of Laodicea being the only one not to receive any commendation. The commentary the Lord Jesus Christ offers to Laodicea paints a picture of a church that knows Jesus in name only lacking a true depth of commitment except to their own indulgences. It is a church that is yet to be refined by fire as some of the other of the six churches have been.
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore 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 dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Revelation 3:14-21
Notice, these Laodicean believers are materially wealthy and self-satisfied yet it is because of these attributes they are indifferent towards their relationship with Jesus. They are so busy building their earthly treasuries they fail to construct anything of eternal value. Jesus exposes the nature of their true spiritual life as “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked”. The very riches and material blessings that they seek in their life now are in reality the source of spiritual cancer manifesting deep inside them.
In as much as Jesus exposes the true spirituality of the Laodiceans, He then graciously calls upon them to seek true eternal wealth that being gold that has been purged of dross and made pure by Him in the victory of His redemptive work. Jesus Christ has been through the refining fire for all of us with the purging of sin on the cross. With that, Jesus is calling them essentially to make a choice: the impure for the pure; the perishable for the imperishable. The admonition by Jesus to the church to buy a white garment reveals that they are predominantly an unsaved church.
The gold reflects the pure salvation from Christ they are missing in their life. I am inclined to believe Jesus uses the term “to buy” here as a reference to their material wealth since it is the concept this worldly church would easily relate to. It is only the salvation Christ offers that will rectify their spiritual poverty, open their eyes and and cover their nakedness. Salvation through Christ is the white garment of righteousness that covers the shame of the nakedness of sin. We see in Scripture, notably Revelation, white garments being worn by those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb signifying having the righteousness of Christ; those who are saved and belong to Christ by faith.
These words of Christ to the church of Laodicea are a rebuke of love and a calling of those who have lost their way to be zealous and repent before it is too late. Jesus is not resident within the church but He stands outside and knocks calling all who will hear His voice to open and invite Him in. This is the call to all in the church whose love has grown lukewarm; either receive the refined gold of truth and salvation from Christ now or be refined during the seven years of Tribulation. Unlike Jesus’ promise to the church of Philadelphia to spare them from the wrath to come upon the whole earth, the church of Laodecia receives not such a promise.
The Laodecian church is a representative picture of the End-Times church prior to the rapture of true believers in Christ. It is a church that has lost focus of what is truly valuable and no longer has a love of the truth.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
The falling away from the faith in the latter times is specifically related to a departure from Scriptural truth and the moral precepts defined by the Bible. There will be an abandonment of sound doctrine allowing the culture and society at large to infiltrate the church with their dross that contaminates / replaces that which is pure. Even those who are supposed to guard the truth of God’s Word will fail in their duty to protect what is pure. The end result is a weak, lukewarm, Laodecian church like today where Jesus stands outside knocking. Will we open the door?
But to all that hear Jesus’ voice He says ” If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit 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.”