The fifth letter, to Sardis, is the most negative of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor. The church in Sardis appears to be even further down the road of compromise than those at Pergamum and Thyatira. There is no mention of any persecution – or threat of persecution. And this leads most commentators to think that complacency is the issue. They’re so similar to the surrounding culture; they have compromised so much – that there is no difference between the church and the world. It’s a dead church, that needs to wake up before it’s too late.
We’re up to letter six today, written to the church at Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13). It’s most similar to the letter to Smyrna: the church is small, yet faithful, despite Jewish opposition. They’ve already suffered for their faith. Let’s take a look at the letter now.3:7 To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.
Jesus is described as the one who “holds the key of David.” Meanwhile, David is frantically checking his pockets, thinking “I was sure I had them…”
Last Friday we began reading the letter to Philadelphia in Revelation chapter 3. We saw that they’d been faithful, despite persecution from the local Jewish community which had rejected Jesus as Messiah. Although they were shut out of the synagogue, the door to God’s kingdom was open to them, courtesy of the new palace keyholder, Jesus. And ultimately, those who oppressed them would have to bow down and acknowledge they were right all along.
Now that’s all well and good for the future. But what’s going to happen in the meantime?
The letter to Laodicea is, I think, the most famous of the seven. Probably because of its vivid imagery (Jesus spewing lukewarm water out of his mouth) and the famous verse “Behold, I stand at the door and knock!” But I also think it’s the most misunderstood. Particularly when it comes to this idea of being “lukewarm.” Let’s read the first part:3:14-16 To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
We’re looking at the last of the seven letters in Revelation 3 – the one to Laodicea. Yesterday, we saw that Jesus called them “lukewarm.” This wasn’t a measure of spiritual temperature, meaning they were half-hearted (although they may well have been). Being “lukewarm” meant they were useless. Hot is good (as in, hot coffee, or hot mineral springs for bathing), and cold is also good (ice-cold Coke, or the refreshing mountain springs of Colossae). But lukewarm is good-for-nothing. And that’s what Jesus calls the Laodicean church. Why? Let’s read on.
We’re about to conclude our look at the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, as we finish thinking about the letter to Laodicea. Over the past two days, we saw how the Laodicean church was useless because they were self-reliant. In applying this, the focus yesterday was on self-reliance in ministry. Today, we begin with self-reliance in life.