E W Rogers, Oxford
This is the last of the letters to the seven churches. Many more churches existed than these seven in John's day, but the Spirit selected these seven as representing seven conditions which may be found at all times. But they are dealt with in the order of Ephesus first and Laodicea last, the others coming in true sequence between, because they indicate the seven stages of the history of Christendom. Laodicea is its last stage before being spued out of the Lord's mouth. That spueing will be when the Lord raptures the true saints and leaves behind, abandoned, the false and merely nominal thing. There is no mention in this letter of there being one genuine person in the church at Laodicea.
The letter is directed to a self-righteous and self-satisfied church, for so the name Laodicea apparently means. To that church the general Epistle to the Ephesians had presumably also circulated, and to them also had been read a special letter by Paul who reminded them that "Christ is all, and in all" and that in Him "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge", Col. 2. 3; 3. 11; 4. 16. How far they had strayed from these truths this letter reveals.
The Lord is presented as "the faithful and true witness", Rev. 3. 14. If He has to inflict wounds, they are those of a friend. As a competent physician He will diagnose their trouble; He will hide nothing. He will be candid and true. He is also presented as the "beginning of the creation of God", not that He was Himself a created Being for by Him all things were made, but He is the Source, the Beginning, the Originator of God's creation. He is also "the Amen", the verifier of all the promises of God.
A grave warning is given, that unless the malady is cured there will be nothing but utter ruin. They will be spued out of His mouth, much as one who is thirsty rejects water that is only tepid, neither cold nor hot. For the malady at Laodicea was not simple, it was compound. There was indecision, independence and ignorance.
There was indecision, for there was not found with them the utter coldness of absolute indifference to all things Christian, nor the keen and zealous propagation of true Christianity; they were neither one nor the other, but there was the intermediate lifeless formal shell, 3. 15. Much of this is evident today.
Then there was independence. "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing" nor of anyone. To the true riches in Christ they were strangers, but material wealth was theirs and on it their heart was set, 3. 17.
There was also ignorance. For they knew not that they were "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and bund, and naked", 3.17. These words cannot be said of any true believer, however cold in heart he may have become. They are true only of a Christless, formal, so-called Christian church, inside which Christ has no place. It is the last stage of Christendom before its final rejection.
The end of the book of Judges gives the record of blind Samson. The end of the kingdom of Judah was blind Zedekiah. The end of Judaism was the blind man of John 9 reminding the Pharisees of their blindness. The end of Christendom is blind Laodicea.
The Lord offers some plain advice, "I counsel thee to buy", 3. 18. Now this word "buy" seems strange though it has been used in Isaiah 55. 1; it implies that one gives up something in exchange for something else. This is so here. The Laodiceans are called upon to give up their indecision, independence and ignorance and to accept from the Lord something else. So "buy of me" and abandon that indecision which kept them from Him. So "buy of me" and abandon that independence that said, I have need of nothing or anyone. Yes, "buy of me" those things which are real wealth, which they lacked; by so doing they would abandon their ignorance and acknowledge their true poverty-stricken condition.
We repeat that it seems utterly impossible to apply these words to real believers however cold in heart they may have become. But they are applicable to false religionists, who are without Christ. They need the refined gold of the divine nature; they need the white raiment of divine righteousness; they need the eye salve of the Holy Spirit who will give inward sight, 3. 18. The cost involved is reasonable, logical and inevitable, for until the counsel is accepted and acted on, the condition cannot be put right, but let the church show a readiness to acknowledge its utter badness and that its only hope is in Christ, then things can be adjusted.
The Lord then makes a pathetic appeal in 3. 20, a verse which has furnished many a preacher with a message to sinners. Go on, my brother, preach it yet again; it is most applicable. But never forget it really speaks of Christ outside the professing church, for long having knocked and still knocking at the door of this church. He expects a response, not from all but only from the individual. This shows how things have declined. This decline began with "some" in the church, the church being as a whole fairly sound, 2.15 r.v. Then there was a remnant in the midst of a corrupt church, "the rest", 2. 24. Then there were but a "few names" in Sardis, 3. 4, that had not defiled their garments. Here Christ is altogether outside and He appeals for a response from someone. When He comes will He find faith on the earth?
We do not find here the logical working out of doctrinal arguments but the heartfelt utterances of One who is grieved. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten; be zealous therefore and repent", 3. 19. This He says from outside, thus assuring any inside that they may count on His love and His faithfulness. For true love never glosses over sin, no more than a competent physician blinds himself to the grievous malady of his patient and the remedial course necessary.
Despite all, the Lord will respond to the one who responds to Him. There will be mutuality; He will sup with them and they with Him, 3. 20; John 14. 23 compared with Luke 24. 29, 30 exemplify this. And this is where we are today. Christ is outside the professing religious system of Christianity, inside which all the fundamentals of the faith are denied despite the solemn oath given to defend and propagate them. Stipends are received despite the fact that the agreed services are not rendered. Such a breach of trust is almost incredible. But the Lord appeals to the individual - the mass is hopeless.
The overcomer is promised a place with Christ in His throne as also He Himself overcame and had sat down with His Father in His throne, Rev. 3. 21. Thus the Lord is at the right hand of God in heaven now, but later He will have His own throne on earth, and the overcomer will reign with Him, 2 Tim. 2. i2.
Conclusion. As he has penned these papers on the seven letters, the writer has felt how many by-paths there are which should have been explored profitably; yet to have done so would have protracted them too much. The reader is, however, urged to do this for himself. There are also not a few things difficult to be understood. We should wait upon the Lord for further light, not being negligent to examine the Word diligently so that we may discover those things which have escaped us. The cross-references to Old Testament history and prophecies will yield much instruction if patiently traced out. May the Lord graciously grant that the few hints given in these papers may serve to stimulate further enquiry into these historic, prophetic and practical letters.