Laodicea, The Materially Rich But Spiritually Poor Church!

(All Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version).

The seven churches in Asia Minor that the Lord Jesus Christ chose to write special letters to had some interesting features, which together, reflect the spectrum of characteristics to be displayed by individual Christians and churches throughout the church age. The seventh church, in chronological order, that was addressed by the Lord was Laodicea. We shall briefly review Christ’s message to the Laodicean church, so as to draw out the unique features and experiences of that church, as well as lessons to be learned from them.

Revelation 3:14-22
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

So, that’s the full letter from the Lord Jesus to the church in Laodicea. Out of all the seven churches the Lord addressed personally in the book of Revelation, Laodicea was the only one that had nothing good to be commended for, before being rebuked for their shortcoming. There was absolutely nothing good in this church that the Lord commended! But that didn’t mean the church didn’t consider itself commendable, or that it didn’t judge itself as doing well. Actually, the Laodicean church didn’t see anything wrong with itself. The church believed it was doing exceptionally well! It was rich, it had an abundance of material wealth and it actually believed it didn’t need or lack anything! Now, whose report are we going to believe about the Laodicean church? That of Christ or of the Laodicean church? But what does the Scripture say? Let God be true and every man a liar! Therefore, the Laodicean church’s assessment of itself has to be false then as it contradicts Christ’s assessment of the church! The Lord should be commending us, not we commending ourselves, for he’s the ultimate judge and rewarder, not any man or group of men!

Romans 3:4 By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.

2 Corinthians 3:1 Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you?

1 Corinthians 4:1-5
This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

So this church was described by the Lord as lukewarm; it was neither hot nor cold. It wasn’t a church on fire, spiritually speaking, but neither was it dead cold. It was a church sitting on the fence, being neither here nor there. And the Lord hated this position the church had adopted! He would rather have a fiery church to commend fully, or a dead cold one to bury right away. It’s better we’re completely heavenly or completely worldly. To mix heavenliness with worldliness produces a church that nauseates Christ and makes him want to spit it out!

Revelation 3:15-16
I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

Now, why was the Laodicean church such a lukewarm assembly? Why had their spiritual temperature dropped from about 100°C to say, 20°C? The answer may be found in what the church was placing emphasis on, and where their treasure was. What was the focus of the Laodicean church? What was their vision? What were they dissipating all their energies upon? The church in Laodicea had a different yardstick for measuring spiritual success. Though the Lord considered the church to be poor, blind, naked, wretched and miserable, the Laodiceans considered themselves to be rich and prosperous and in need of nothing! This was a church absolutely focused on material prosperity. It measured its spiritual success by the abundance of gold in its coffers! To this church, great material gain meant great godliness! It was a church that saw earthly prosperity as the evidence of occupying the earth for Christ. But, the problem was that this church had gathered so much gold that its focus had shifted from God to gold. Because its treasure was on earth, the heart of this church was right here on earth too, where its treasure was. No wonder the Laodicean church was lukewarm towards heavenly things. No wonder they were spiritually poor, blind, naked, wretched and miserable. The church loved gold more than God, and the love of money had dampened its enthusiasm for God and diluted its zeal and spiritual fervency.

Matthew 6:19-34
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or What shall we wear? For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

1 Timothy 6:6-12
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

If the picture of the Laodicean church isn’t a reflection of this end-time church, then nothing is. Like the Laodiceans, majority of churches today are, at best, lukewarm in their zeal and spiritual fervency. Like the Laodicean church, the end-time church is extremely rich and prosperous, and believes it’s doing well spiritually and has need of nothing. But like the Laodiceans, we’re spiritually poor, blind, naked, wretched and miserable, and we’re not even aware of it! Because we measure ourselves by ourselves, we’re deluded into believing we’re in great spiritual shape. But, compared with the original apostolic standard of holiness, godliness, love, faith, power and zeal for God, we’re a million miles away from the apostolic mark. And it’s by that original apostolic standard that the Lord judges every church during the church age, for the original apostolic faith is the only authentic version of Christianity, and the gold standard by which everyone is going to be judged.

Galatians 1:6-9
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Jude 1:3-4
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Revelation 2:4-5
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

It’s obvious then that crass materialism quenches the fire of righteousness and spiritual zeal like nothing else. An inordinate desire for wealth resets a church’s focus from heaven to earth. Laying up treasures on earth simply keeps the believer’s heart glued to the earth. The worship of gold cannot coexist with the worship of God, for no one can serve two masters at a time. We cannot serve God and mammon! For as long as the church is obsessed with the prosperity gospel, its zeal for spiritual things will keep waning, and it will keep getting more and more spiritually blind, naked, poor, wretched and miserable. The more the church pursues after gold, the less of God it will have, and it will end up nauseating God so much that it risks being spat out of the Lord’s mouth.

Is there any hope for this modern-day Laodicean church of ours? Is there any way of avoiding the danger of being spat out of Christ’s mouth because of our lukewarmness? By his grace, the Lord has provided a way of escape for us, like he did for the Laodicean church. To escape the catastrophic judgement of God hanging upon our materialistic churches, we must be zealous and repent. We must come to the Lord in humility to buy from him, without price and without money, the true spiritual gold of the undiluted original apostolic gospel, that we may be truly rich. We must return to the original apostolic faith and contend earnestly for it. For our spiritual eyes that have been blinded by the gold of this world to be opened, we must receive and apply to it the spiritual salve from the Lord. We must pray for the eyes of our spiritual understanding to be enlightened by the spirit of wisdom and revelation. To be clothed from our spiritual nakedness, we must seek the white garment of true righteousness from the Lord, in exchange for our filthy garments of boastful self-righteousness, for the white garment is the righteousness of the saints. We must repent from our worldly ways and our love of money, and turn back to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, that every other thing might be added unto us. We must flee from covetousness and greed and lay hold firmly on eternal life and pursue after righteousness and godliness. That’s the only way to conquer and reign with Christ in the hereafter.

Revelation 3:18-21
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so 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 eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Revelation 19:7-8
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

1 Timothy 6:11-12
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

In conclusion, the Laodicean church in the book of Revelation was a very prosperous church that gloried in its abundance of wealth and judged itself to be doing well spiritually, supposing that material gain was equal to godliness. However, the Lord Jesus described the church as spiritually poor, blind, naked, wretched and miserable. Laodicea’s material prosperity led to a dampening of its enthusiasm for God, making it a rather tepid and lukewarm church that was in danger of being spat out from the Lord’s mouth. Laodicea has much in common with the modern-day church that’s driven by the prosperity gospel. Like Laodicea, the contemporary church is materially rich but spiritually poor, blind, naked, wretched and miserable, and doesn’t even know it! Like Laodicea, the end-time church is tepid and lukewarm in his zeal and fervency for God and for heavenly things, having become settled in the world where its treasure is. The only way to avoid the judgement Laodicea was threatened with is for the church to repent and be zealous, and to readjust its values and goals, and place the pursuit of God above that of gold. Only by denouncing the love of money and seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness shall we regain right standing with God and our moral authority in the world.

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Published by Dr. Ndubuisi E. Ojo

Dr Ojo is a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, and a student of the Word of God, who believes firmly in the original apostolic faith as the only authentic version of Christianity, and the only legitimate basis for Christian conduct, order and doctrine.

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