In the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation God has revealed to us, through His message to the seven churches, a picture of the true condition of the church of God from its foundation to the end of time. However, of all these messages, the message to the Laodicean church is the most significant of all to us, for it has a bearing on the Church today. The message depicts the exact condition of the Church and serves as a challenge to every minister of the Advent Movement.
In Revelation 3:14-21, through the revelation of God, the apostle John writes to the twentieth century church a message of warning, of censure, of exhortation, and of love. You will notice that the message to the Laodicean church, as recorded in verse 14, begins with the identification of the author—"the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." It is of interest to note the coupling of the word "Amen" with the title "the faithful and true witness." And as we read of "the faithful witness" in Revelation 1:5 and study the idea of the "beginning of the creation of God" in such passages as John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:2; and Colossians 1:13-16, we believe that "Amen" clearly refers to Christ.
Verses 15 and 16 give us an insight into the spiritual condition of Laodicea: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." The members are lukewarm. They profess to love the truth, but they are deficient in Christian fervor and devotion. In 1876 Ellen G. White wrote this regarding conditions in Battle Creek:
The Laodicean message applies to the people of God who profess to believe present truth. The greater part are lukewarm professors, having a name but no zeal. God signified that He wanted men at the great heart of the work to correct the state of things existing there and to stand like faithful sentinels at their post of duty. He has given them light at every point, to instruct, encourage, and confirm them, as the case required. But notwithstanding all this, those who should be faithful and true, fervent in Christian zeal, of gracious temper, knowing and loving Jesus earnestly, are found aiding the enemy to weaken and discourage those whom God is using to build up the work. The term "lukewarm" is applicable to this class. They profess to love the truth, yet are deficient in Christian fervor and devotion. They dare not give up wholly and run the risk of the unbeliever, yet they are unwilling to die to self and follow out closely the principles of their faith.—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 87.
Writing on the statement "I will spue thee out," Mrs. White explains:
The figure of spewing out of His mouth means that He cannot offer up your prayers or your expressions of love to God. He cannot endorse your teaching of His word or your spiritual work in anywise. He cannot present your religious exercises with the request that grace be given you.—Ibid., vol. 6, p. 408.
In verse 17 the description of the Laodicean church continues: "Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." The Laodiceans flatter themselves that they are good Christians, but in reality they are remiss in their relation to truth. Because of their vast material possessions, their high educational attainments, and their rise to important positions through their own works, they think that they have need of nothing and that their salvation is assured. Regarding this matter, the messenger of the Lord made this remark:
It is difficult for those who feel secure in their attainments, and who believe themselves to be rich in spiritual knowledge, to receive the message which declares that they are deceived and in need of every spiritual grace. The unsanctified heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." I was shown that many are flattering themselves that they are good Christians, who have not a ray Of light from Jesus. They have not a living experience for themselves in the divine life. They need a deep and thorough work of self-abasement before God before they will feel their true need of earnest, persevering effort to secure the precious graces of the Spirit.—/bid., vol. 3, p. 253.
The Laodiceans are ignorant of their true poverty-stricken condition. Actually, they are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." A church in that state is really living like a pauper.
After pointing out the true condition of the Laodiceans, God counsels them: "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see" (verse 18). 'We are told that "the gold tried in the fire is faith that works by love. Only this can bring us into harmony with God. We may be active, we may do much work; but without love, such love as dwelt in the heart of Christ, we can never be numbered with the family of heaven."—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 158. It is the faith that has been tried in the fire of affliction (see James 1:2-5; cf. Job 23:10). Yes, the greatest need of the church today is "faith which worketh by love." Why is it that problems of the church are multiplying from day to day? It is because of the lack of faith in God and love to God and to our fellow men.
The Laodicean church, symbolic of the church today, is in need of white raiment —the righteousness of Christ.
Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God's presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul. . . . This robe, woven in the loom of heaven, has in it not one thread of human devising. Christ in His humanity wrought out a perfect character, and this character He offers to impart to us. . . . When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. —Ibid., pp. 311, 312.
The third need of the church is "eyesalve"—the grace of God that gives clear discernment of spiritual things. On this particular need Ellen G. White wrote in 1873:
In my last vision, I was shown that even this decided message of the True Witness had not accomplished the design of God. The people slumber on in their sins. They continue to declare themselves rich and having need of nothing. Many inquire: Why are all these reproofs given? Why do the Testimonies continually charge us with backsliding and with grievous sins? We love the truth; we are prospering; we are in no need of these testimonies of warning and reproof. But let these murmurers see their hearts and compare their lives with the practical teachings of the Bible, let them humble their souls before God, let the grace of God illuminate the darkness, and the scales will fall from their eyes, and they will realize their true spiritual poverty and wretchedness. They will feel the necessity of buying gold, which is pure faith and love; white raiment, which is a spotless character made pure in the blood of their dear Redeemer; and eyesalve, which is the grace of God and which will give clear discernment of spiritual things and detect sin.—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 254. (Italics supplied.)
Then, in verse 19, God makes it clear that those whom He loves, He rebukes and chastens. This is an assurance that the Laodiceans are not without hope. When God rebukes it is because He desires to bring conviction to the erring one and to encourage him to take a new course of action. But when God's rebuke is disregarded, then the chastening comes. Nevertheless, this chastening is not an expression of anger, but of love, with the primary aim of bringing the sinner to repentance.
After the exhortation, God makes the appeal to the Laodiceans. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (verse 20). Despite the miserable condition of Laodiceans in the church, God seeks entrance into their hearts that He may be able to give them the faith and love that they need, to impute to them His own righteousness, and to anoint them with the grace of God.
We as ministers may have contributed to the prevailing Laodicean conditions, for so often we have not really fed our flock and given them the proper spiritual nourishment that would inspire them to aspire to possess and own the faith, the love, the righteousness, and the grace of God. I believe that the message to the Laodicean church is not only intended for the church members but also for the ministers. We must awake to a further realization of the personal quality of the message and of the tremendous responsibility that we have to our own flock. The Laodicean message is a significant message, for it calls our attention to, and reminds us of, our great need as we come closer to the end of time.
To all, the following statement is pertinent: "Every warning, reproof, and entreaty in the word of God or through His messengers is a knock at the door of the heart. It is the voice of Jesus asking for entrance. With every knock unheeded, the disposition to open becomes weaker. The impressions of the Holy Spirit if disregarded today, will not be as strong tomorrow. The heart becomes less impressible, and lapses into a perilous unconsciousness of the shortness of life, and of the great eternity beyond. Our condemnation in the judgment will not result from the fact that we have been in error, but from the fact that we have neglected heaven-sent opportunities for learning what is truth."—The Desire of Ages, pp. 489, 490.