In His most scathing assessment, Jesus writes to the church that will define the last days. The fact that we are living in the age of this church means we need to pay especially close attention to these serious warnings.
I read a fascinating news story this week about a man who mailed Google's billing department invoices from his fictional company to the tune of millions of dollars. The company wasn't real and neither were the services that he claimed to have provided. And here's the crazy part. Google paid him their billing department is so big and deals with so many invoices, they simply just pay them all as they're coming in. But after a few years, someone caught on to this and the man was arrested for fraud.
And fraud, of course, is the crime of making false claims, making claims that are not true, like the claim that the Book of Revelation is hard to understand. But lies, lies, terrible lies, say we. For you see, the word revelation means something has been revealed. And the first words of this book tell us exactly who it is that's being revealed. It's the revelation of Jesus Christ and God wanted us to read this book so much that he promised the man or woman who would take the time to read and respond to it a special blessing.
And that blessing is found in Revelation one three. Let's claim it together. Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep those things which are written in it for the time is near. But God knew they would still be. Those who would say revelation is hard to understand. So to make this book easy to understand, he also included an easy to follow outline.
And that's found in Revelation 119, where Jesus gives John these instructions.
Write the things which you have seen. That's the resurrected and resurrected and glorify Jesus in Chapter one. Then John is told to write the things which are that refers to the church age, which began in 32 A.D. and continues to the present day and is prophesied in chapters two and three were will be studying today. And then finally, John is told to write the things which will take place after this, things that will take place after the church age ends and those future events make up the third act of revelation, which begins in Revelation for one.
Let me read that verse to you. After these things, I looked and behold a door standing open in the heaven.
And the first voice which I heard that was the voice of Jesus in Chapter one was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here and I will show you things which must take place after this. And from that moment on, despite appearing over 20 times in the first three chapters of Revelation, what word will never again appear in the narrative after revelation? For one, it's the word church and we're going to learn. And that's because the church will no longer be on the earth after revelation.
For one, the church like John is going to go up. And when the church goes up, what comes down? The wrath of God. And we find that in Revelation 616, where the time period known as the Tribulation begins and we're told the response of those who are on the Earth at that time, we read, they said to the mountains and rocks fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne. That's God, the father.
And from the wrath of the lamb and the lamb, of course, is who it's Jesus will travel through 2000 years of church history and chapters two and three, the church will go up in four. Verse one, Rath will come down in chapter six, verse sixteen. There will be seven years of tribulation that will take us all the way up to Chapter nineteen, at which time Jesus will return to the Earth with his church in the second coming.
And there'll be even more revealed in those final few chapters of the book that will be mind blowing. But here's what you need to know. If you love Jesus, then your story ends with the words and they lived happily ever after.
Where in Revelation three today. And we'll be studying the last of seven letters written by Jesus to seven churches in the Roman province of Asia.
Each letter speaks to us on four different levels. Each letter was written to a literal church that existed around 96 A.D. when John recorded Revelation. But each letter speaks to all churches at all times, including yours and mine, and all believers at all times, including you and me.
But fourthly, each letter also speaks.
On a prophetic level, in other words, each church covers a portion of the last 2000 years of church history with precision and in chronological order, and regarding that prophetic application, we've studied Ephesus, the Apostolic Church, Smyrna, the suffering church, Pergamos, the compromising church, Thyatira, the Catholic Church, Sardis, the Reformation Church.
And last week we did Philadelphia, the missionary church that began around 1793 A.D. Today we're going to be studying, as we said, the final church, Laodicea. In our previous study, we studied the church every believer should want to be a part of - Philadelphia. They kept God's word and did not deny his name. They held fast to his word and our promise to be kept by Jesus from the tribulation, along with Smyrna, Philadelphia is the only church to receive no criticism and the promise of eternal rewards.
But in this study will be studying the church no believer should want to be a part of - Laodicea. It was founded in the third century B.C. by King Antiochus, the second theos of the lucid dynasty who name the city after his wife Laodice. It was located on an important trade route from the East and served as a crossroads to other major cities in the region. This privileged location caused the city to rapidly prosper into the wealthiest city in Asia Minor, around 96 A.D.
It was a center of commerce, banking, and even fashion. So prosperous and progressive was Laodicea that Rome granted it the rare status of a free city, allowing it to govern itself.
The city hosted a large textiles industry renowned for its unique production of glossy black wool. The locals mastered the art of raising entire herds of black sheep. That's how trendy and edgy this place was. Their sheep were black. They were also famed for their medical center, which boasted the world's leading specialists in ophthalmology, the branch of medicine dealing with eye disorders.
They produced an ointment which was famed for helping with all kinds of eye conditions, was exported all across the empire and was even used and written of by Aristotle in 60 A.D.. The city was devastated by an earthquake that ravaged the region, while other cities relied on financial relief from Caesar Nero in Rome. They ought to see a turn down the offer because they had enough resources and wealth to rebuild the city themselves. Unsurprisingly, the city became extremely prideful because they believe they were completely self-sufficient.
The city was located on a high platform between three rivers, but none of that water reached Theodosia, so they employed expensive, mindblowing technology to pump in the water they needed from several miles away. Most of their supply came from the best Beñat Spring in the city of Denisov, and the problem was that it was a hot spring. Now, hot water was actually prized and desired for its healing properties at the time.
But by the time the water arrived in Leotta, it was lukewarm and murky from the multi mile journey through the dirty aqueducts, Lukewarm also accurately describes the city's political climate and military policy. Their reliance on an external water supply meant their city was, for all intents and purposes, indefensible.
So the city and its people survived by learning to be flexible, both politically and culturally. They were always willing to change to fit in with the dominant regional power.
They wouldn't put up a fight or take any type of stand. They'd simply fall in line with the changing times.
They were pragmatists who focused on being relevant, relatable, and accepting of whatever the current cultural expectations were.
The approach worked well and allowed the Leotta scenes to live comfortable lives through multiple significant political changes in the region.
Today, the ruins of Laodicea reveal a city that was packed with theaters, gymnasiums, a 30,000-seat stadium, steam baths where people would hang out and socialize temples. Ebola, Terry. On, which is a Senate House and many, many shops. It was a wealthy, trendy city that loved luxury and entertainment. The city had a large Christian community, allegedly, but unfortunately, their church had become infected with the spirit of the place. Archivist's the bishop of Colossi oversaw the layout to see in church because it was close by and had to be specifically rebuked, which means verbally slapped upside the head by the apostle Paul, who told him, take heed to the ministry, which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.
In other words, Paul had to tell him, Do your job. You're a Christian, you're an elder in the church, act like it. Paul asked the church at Colonsay to forward that letter to the church at Laticia, and after studying this chapter, I encourage you to go and read Colossians Chapter one. You'll find that in it, Paul addresses all the same criticisms that Jesus has for Laodicea in this letter in Revelation three decades later.
And it'll be obvious that despite Paul's rebuke of archivist's things did not get better in Laodicea they ought to see as issues around 96 A.D. were, for all intents and purposes, identical to her issues. On the prophetic level, which will be the focus of this study.
Prophetically, Laodicea will be the last of the seven churches to emerge before Jesus comes for his church.
The lay ought to see in church began between 1850 and 1900 and continues to exist today. She is best described as the lukewarm church right that down the lukewarm church.
When I say these seven letters lay out 2000 years of church history, keep in mind that this prophetic pattern could not be identified in the Scriptures until most of it had already occurred. In other words, enough of the pattern had to manifest. It had to emerge in order for it to be observed and recognized as being a prophetic pattern.
Earlier, churches couldn't recognize the pattern and also in part because they didn't have access to anywhere near the information and archeology and historical resources that we've had access to over the past hundred or so years.
What I find especially compelling, though, is that some theologians recognize this prophetic pattern in the eighteen hundreds before it had all been fully revealed and come to pass. And using the prophetic pattern in chapters two and three, these scholars were able to predict with stunning accuracy what would happen next in church history.
In 1865, in the Philadelphia church age, a theologian named Joseph Sise published three volumes of lectures on the apocalypse.
In Vol. one, he writes about the layout in church as something he was beginning to see, but that was primarily yet to come.
After studying Revelation, the same text that you and I are studying right now, this is what Sise believed the coming Lay ought to see in church would look like.
It is Leotta seeing conformed in everything to the popular judgment and well, the extreme opposite of Nicolay Itan instead of a church of domineering clericals, it is the church of the domineering mob in which nothing may be safely preached except what the people are pleased to hear, in which the teachings of the pulpit are fashioned to the tastes of the pew and the feelings of the individual override the enactments of legitimate authority. In other words, the feelings of the individual become more important than the authority of scripture.
It is lukewarm. Nothing decided, partly hot and partly cold, divided between Christ in the world, not willing to give up pretension and claim to the heavenly and yet clinging, clinging close to the earthy, having too much conscience to cast off the name of Christ and too much love for the world to take a firm and honest stand entirely on his side.
Sise described a future where pastors wouldn't ask, what am I? People need to hear, but rather what am I? People want to hear a time when pastors would select their sermon content based upon the felt needs of the congregation and cultural approval would become the highest priority of the church service.
In the prophetic layer of the letter to lay out to see a SISE foresaw the seeker sensitive movement more than a century before it arrived. The Apostle Paul actually did even better, though, calling it more than eighteen hundred years beforehand and describing it like this in second.
Timothy, for two to four for a time is coming. When people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever they're itching ears want to hear.
They will reject the truth and chase after myths. Modern church growth theory says that if you want to grow a church, you shouldn't teach too much of the Bible because people don't want to hear that. Rather teach on something positive that everyone wants to hear about, like love or self-esteem or chasing your dreams and then throw in a few verses to vaguely tie it in. That's what people really want. The key is to figure out what people are interested in.
And then it's not rocket science. Just give them what they want. Do a three week series on sex. Six weeks would be better, though, or getting the life you deserve and watch your church grow. The secret is to let the desires of people drive the preaching, let the people drive the preaching. And you don't need to take my word that this is happening.
If you live in North America, then you probably live within an hour of one or more churches who fit the description I just shared. And they're probably packed. The way many evaluate the health of a church sounds something like this.
If the church is growing and the people are having a good time, then whatever that church is doing must be good. But imagine if I told you, you know, we've got six kids and and we were thinking the other day about how we could make our meal times better and then it hit me. Who better to come up with the menu for our family than the people who are going to be eating the food? And so we've started letting our kids decide what they want to eat.
We're on day five of pizza and ice cream. And I got to tell you, they are having a blast and you will not find a happier, more content group of children at anybody else's dinner table. I'll tell you that. Would you be impressed with me as a father?
Well, maybe a little, but only in the way that you're impressed that Joey Chestnut can eat 30 to 40 hot dogs in just a few minutes. It's kind of amazing, but also disturbing and clearly a bad idea, especially as regular behavior. So what would you think of a pastor who said, I'm not going to teach the deeper things of God's word. I'm not going to touch the difficult truths of scripture. I'm committed to sticking with whatever you want to talk about and whatever makes you feel good.
It's a father's job to be a father, and it's a shepherd's job to be a shepherd. But the layout of sea and church doesn't want to shepherd. They want a positive thinking life coach.
How did the church end up here in this latest carnage? Well, around 1920, which, as we said, is in the Philadelphia church age, which we still are today because they overlap, some within the church began to embrace what's called higher criticism.
Higher criticism is a school of thought that's been around for centuries but only began to enter mainstream Christianity in the late 19th, early 20th centuries.
It holds a very low view of scripture, which I'll explain in a moment and is generally not confessional. That means it's a school of thought that rejects both most Orthodox Christian beliefs, like the five fundamentals of the faith that we talked about last time berthed in Germany.
Higher criticism was the result of liberal scholars and theologians like Rudolf called Bultman, embracing the work of enlightenment and rationalist thinkers such as John Locke, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Gotthold, Lessing, Gotlieb, Fichter, GWC Hegel and the French rationalists. It promoted ideas like Norn Mosaic that means not written by Moses, a non mosaic authorship of the Torah multiple. Isiah's being responsible for the book that bears his name, a non literal interpretation of the Bible's miracles.
In other words, viewing them as being symbolic or metaphoric and many other unorthodox beliefs regarding the Scriptures. Higher criticism was basically secular humanist philosophy, infiltrating Christian institutions of thought.
Higher criticism quickly spread across Europe to England and then across the Atlantic to America and Canada.
And its modernism came to cultural prominence. In the 1930s, seminaries, Bible colleges and churches became caught up in this seemingly enlightened cultural movement. Modernism believed that there were better ways of doing practically everything, but they could only be discovered by challenging and shedding traditional paradigms, conventions and expectations that had been established in culture.
This shift is embodied in the differences we see between modern art and the works of the Renaissance artists.
Modern art was all about fleeing the literalism of the past and instead embracing the abstract and the unconventional modernist philosophy explained that well, because art and beauty are subjective and relative concepts, then then art can be whatever its creators consider it to be.
There's a whole new world of art to be discovered, but we have to do away with the old paradigms.
First, the modern, enlightened man or woman was to question everything and spur societal progress by helping to break down conventional ways of thinking about the arts, architecture, philosophy and, yes, even theology and religion. Modernism took hold in the 1940s, rose to popularity in the 50s and drove the countercultural movement in the 60s.
But while the broader culture was still in the throes of modernism, the philosophical world was in turmoil.
There had been a general expectation that the enlightened thinking of the 20th century would result in the dawning of a new age of peace and prosperity. It would be the century when mankind took a quantum leap in every meaningful way. If you knew your history and you know what followed. The bloodiest century in history. World War One was soon followed by World War Two and America, the world's new cultural epicenter, soon entered the Korean and Vietnam wars. Communism battled democracy and seemingly endless proxy wars.
And on and on and on, I could go about the devastation of the 20th century. Modernism completely failed. To deliver on its promise, as a result, contemporary philosophy became jilted, jaded and in a very real sense, hopeless, almost nihilistic.
And these changes led modernism to morph into postmodernism, a movement skeptical of any kind of truth claim. It finds the concept of truth to be outdated, instead embracing the view that truth is relative.
Unsurprisingly, postmodernism completely rejects any kind of rigid theology that is built upon the truth of Jesus Christ.
Postmodernism began to manifest in the arts and philosophy where it encouraged the world to reject any kinds of restrictions, embrace everything and everyone, because life shouldn't be taken too seriously while throwing out the rulebook.
Postmodernism was really writing a new one with commands to never judge anyone, be inclusive, applaud everyone's lifestyle decisions, not be so arrogant as to claim there is exclusive truth, et cetera, et cetera.
And this new rule book began to work its way into the culture where not only were exclusive truth claims rejected, but they were also quickly branded as narrow-minded and very quickly bigoted. As modernism and postmodernism crept into the church, the result was and is Lateesha, a church that seeks the approval of the culture above the approval of Jesus, a church that believes theology needs to evolve with society because nothing in the Bible is absolute, and a church that believes Jesus's greatest concern is our present happiness.
What is the name of the city? Tell us about the church, at least. It's a Greek compound word made up of the words "loas" and taiki loss means a people. And the root word behind Teekay refers to giving some sort of presentation, such as a teaching. And so, the gist of the compound word "Laodicea" is something along the lines of the people's teaching or the teaching of the people. Democracy as we know it is a relatively new political system, with the 20th century seeing waves of democratization across the globe and then waves of resistance seeking to reverse those changes back to things like communism or pure socialism.
Similarly, board-run or Congregation-run churches are a recent development within the church.
Only in the last couple of centuries have we seen churches ruled by the people who attend them. It's now very normal for congregations to hire the pastor they want and fire the pastor. They don't. And I'm very aware that what I'm getting at will offend some. But the obvious parallels must be pointed out. We have congregations who have the power to fire their pastor should he failed to meet their desires or expectations.
There's no way around the reality that in that church model, the pastor is an employee of the people, and they are the ones ruling the church. It's the rule of the laity, the Laodicean church. And here's what you need to know. There is no biblical precedent for this church model, none whatsoever in the Old Testament. Nothing good ever comes from God's people wanting to rule themselves. It's always disastrous. What you find God doing in Scripture is using specific people who are more concerned with being obedient to him than they are pleasing the people.
God uses those kinds of people to lead the church often against the protests of the people.
While I would love to get into a study on ecclesiastical polity, which is church governance structures, I'll limit myself to the statement.
I believe I think very logically that we should derive our models of church governance from the scriptures and the early church. How did they structure church leadership in Jerusalem, Antiochus emphasis, etc.. The short answer is that we find churches led by elders with elder being used as a synonym for pastor. The New Testament model has churches being led by a plurality of pastors. As I said, I'd love to talk more on that, but we we need to stay on track.
Unfortunately, we're seeing more and more churches advertising pastoral positions with job descriptions resembling Fortune 500 companies rather than the New Testament requirements for elders. Why? Because many churches are no longer looking to the scriptures for guidance. They're looking to the culture and the business world. I pray I never end up at a church where the pastor is more afraid of his people than his God, because that pastor will not tell me the truth. He'll do what he needs to do to keep his job and feed his family.
And that's not a recipe for a healthy church.
It's like seeing a doctor who only gets paid if he gives his patients good news so he doesn't end up helping anybody. Sadly, that was and is the situation in the church of the latest science.
Well, after that incredibly long intro, let's dove into the text, that revelation, three 14 and to the angel or to the pastor of the church of the lay out of science, underline that phrase of the lay out of science. Right.
If you look back at the other six churches, you'll notice that their letters are all addressed relative to their city. Each letter begins with to the angel of the church in blank or the angel of the church of blank, and then referencing the city they ought to see. It is the only letter that instead references the people, the church of the LEOTTA science. And that's because while Jesus is supposed to be the leader of this church, he's not the leader of this church.
In fact, we'll discover that Jesus is not even in this church. Jesus goes on and says these things, says the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God based on the title Jesus uses for himself. Here it appears there are three things the Layana scenes need to remember. Firstly, write this down.
Jesus is the Amen meaning he is truth incarnate. He is truth incarnate. Amen means firm, trustworthy. Surely, so be it.
Verily, when you're reading John's Gospel in Jesus prefaces a statement with the phrase Verily, verily, or most assuredly what he actually said was Amen Amen. He was saying, what I'm about to tell you is the truth.
This is the only place in scripture where Amen is used as a title.
Jesus is claiming to be the embodiment of absolute truth, meaning the assessment of this church he's about to share is truthful.
Prophetically, Leotta Seeya has forgotten even the concept of absolute truth when on the Earth. As a man, Jesus dismissed all notions of pluralism and relativism by claiming to be the exclusive path to God, saying I am the way, the truth and the life.
No one comes to the father except through me, referring to himself again as the truth. Jesus also said, You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Secondly, this church needs to be reminded that Jesus is the faithful and true witness. Write this down. He is the martyr. He is the martyr. The word witness is the Greek word Martis from which we derive our word martyr Leotta. Sia needs to remember that Jesus became a martyr for them when he gave up his blood and life on the cross to save them and bring them into the family of God in both 96 A.D. and prophetically in the present day, this church had and has departed from the belief that we need Jesus to save us from our sins.
And they've instead embraced ideas like pluralism, which rejects the truth of John fourteen six and teaches many different paths to God in the lay.
Honestly, in church of our time, I believe this refers to the church that doesn't want to talk about things like the cross, the blood of Jesus and the fact that Jesus died for us because the sacrifice of Jesus innately demands as the hymnals to Isaac Watts wrote My soul, my life, my all leotta seasons have no interest in a gospel that may have a personal cost. But Jesus was always very upfront about the cost of following him, openly teaching things like whoever desires to save his life will lose it.
But whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospels will save it.
We can only receive salvation because Jesus gave his life for us. And as we receive his gift of eternal life, we relinquish ownership of our lives.
Jesus comes into our lives as king. We get off the throne and ask him to take it because the Bible tells us we were bought at a price. And as Jesus directs our lives through his spirit, he leads us and calls us to live like he did, which sometimes leads us to be treated as he was. Unsurprisingly, not everyone wants to hear that kind of talk. That's why we don't see verse is like Second Timothy 312 on coffee mugs or bumper stickers.
It says All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
It's not a fun verse, but apparently the layout of seasons need to be reminded of all this, perhaps because subjects like martyrdom, suffering and sacrifice are are hard to fit in when all your preaching is earthly victory, prosperity, abundance and positivity. You can't talk about the cross without talking about sin and you can't talk about sin without talking about a standard of truth and righteousness which we fail to meet, and that can seem judgmental to some.
The conviction of the gospel can make people feel bad and realize they desperately need saving. So wouldn't it be better if we just talked about five reasons God loves you just the way you are? I can sense some of you yelling at me, Jeff, the horse is dead, you can stop beating it. Now, I'm belaboring this point because I do not want you to miss that right now. We are living in a time when many churches view things like the cross the death of Jesus in the blood of Jesus as barriers that need to be edited out of our message because they stop people from coming to church or feeling comfortable in church while still claiming to believe in such doctrines.
Far too many churches never speak of them from the pulpit and then justify their editorializing as an evangelism strategy. Our brother Paul described this as having a form of godliness, but denying its power and counseled us from such people turn away. I think Jesus is grieved as he sees churches sweeping his atoning work on the cross under the proverbial rug in the name of evangelism. Without the cross, there could be no evangelism because there would be no salvation. Quoting Paul again, but God forbid that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
Most pastors know that talking about sacrifice of any kind is a great way to shrink your church.
It's not uncommon for those who call their congregants to serve a church once or twice a month to be met with responses like, oh, you know, that's this is way too much commitment for me right now. Three hours on a Sunday when I'm already going to church once a month. It's too much commitment for me.
And yet when those same congregants hear their child sports coaches say games are on weekends, there will be two practices per week. And whatever else I feel is needed, they'll nod their head and respond, hey, listen, it makes sense. Seems reasonable. People got to understand there's a commitment involved here. In our First World churches, a regular church attender is defined as someone who attends once every six weeks.
When Christians learn about trusting the Lord with their finances, they're often shocked and and sometimes accuse the church of being out to steal their money.
And yet those same Christians can be found signing up for credit cards with an 18 percent interest rate or worse, because it seems like a good deal and that credit card will then be used to purchase things they can't really afford with no real plan of how they're going to pay it off. In many cities, Christians church shop, they look for a church that makes them feel good as a musical style, they like has a children's ministry with that wow factor the recreational programs they want and checks everything else on the wish list.
Many won't even consider questions like, does this church teach the Bible? Which church do you want me to join? Jesus. What needs could I help meet at this church to these LEOTTA scenes who aren't thinking service but rather serve us? Jesus says, remember, I didn't come to be served, I came to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many. But they ought to see it doesn't want to hear it. Thirdly, this church needs to be reminded that Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God, the origin of the creation of God.
Write this down. He's the creator. As I just said, that's the literal translation. He is the origin of the creation of God. Around 96 A.D., Laticia had likely bought into a heretical Gnostic teaching that Jesus was a created being, a teaching that thrives in many cults to this day.
Paul had to set the Colossians straight on this issue, too. And so he stated the truth as plainly as possible for by him, by Jesus, all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth visible and invisible, whether throne's or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through him and for him, and he is before all things. And in him all things consist. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, John felt this issue was so important that his gospel opens with these three verses, referring here to Jesus by the title of the word in the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him, nothing was made that was made. Prophetically, the latest in church doesn't seem to struggle with the heresy that Jesus is a created being, but they do seem to struggle with another heresy related to creation, the belief that Jesus created the universe from nothing, including the first fully formed man and woman for the first time in church history. The past several decades have seen many believers, churches and even denominations embrace teachings that seek to credit Jesus with the bare minimum.
Regarding creation bombarded by cultural pressures, many have embraced theistic evolution, the belief that God created the biological building blocks of humanity and then handed them over to natural processes which ran their course, bringing us to where we are today. There are many excellent books by Christian scientists and biologists that do a far better job explaining the problems with theistic and neo Darwinian evolution than I ever could. So I'm not going to even try and speak to those issues at length here and now.
But I will say this. While I believe the Bible to be scientifically accurate, the Lord did not set out to write a science textbook in Genesis one and two. He had a higher purpose in mind. And whatever your view on creation is, old earth, young earth, literal, allegorical, whatever, any honest interpretation of the text of Genesis one and two will conclude a few key truths. The Lord desired the reader to understand. God created everything that exists in the universe God created because he desired to.
And so he created with purpose, design and order. And then lastly, God created men and women as finished products, in other words, not needing to evolve, the creation account God placed in his word, cannot be reconciled with evolution, theistic or otherwise. The only way to even attempt to harmonize the two is by demanding that scripture bow to the theory of evolution.
And if you're willing to make that compromise solely because of cultural pressures, then why wouldn't you compromise the next time something challenging comes up in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible?
And if you can't really trust the tourist key statements, then how can you trust the rest of the Old Testament, which is built upon the Torah?
Suddenly you're left questioning whether you can trust anything in the Bible as absolute truth, including the resurrection and the gospel message.
Jesus believes that his church cannot be confused about who he is, as revealed in Genesis one and two. It's such a big deal to him that he takes time to specifically remind the church of the layout of sins that he is the creator. Now let's get into Lay Odysseas report card verse 15. He says, I know your works.
The lifestyle of the lay auditions expose their true spiritual condition as it does all of us.
As the epistle of James explains, we're not saved by our works. However, our works reveal if the Holy Spirit is present in our lives because the spirit naturally produces fruit in the form of good works. If there's no fruit, it means there's no Holy Spirit. If there's no Holy Spirit, it means there's no salvation. Jesus says, I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or hot. So then because you are lukewarm, underline, lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.
Do you notice something missing here? Once again, Jesus has no commendation for this church. Nothing good to say about them, to state the obvious. Whatever the problems are in this church, they're serious. Write this down. The commendation Jesus has is none. There's no commendation, none.
Scholars generally agree that in this context, the temperatures refer to differing spiritual conditions.
Cold refers to those who are not saved, while hot refers to those who are and are producing the fruit of good works as evidence of their conversion.
But Jesus doesn't call the layout of science hot or cold. He calls them lukewarm, a spiritual condition so repulsive it elicits the equivalent of an involuntary gag reflex. At this point, I feel a little more detail may be helpful.
The idea behind the word vomit, whatever words your Bible uses, is really to spew. As a father of six children. My wife and I are, quite frankly, experts on the nuances of vomiting.
For example, I can tell you that the difference between vomiting and spewing is distance. It's yardage. When one vomits, one is at risk of throwing up on oneself. When one spews, one is at risk of throwing up on other people. And I'm only sharing that level of detail to be faithful to the text. And possibly because six children have preserved my appreciation of juvenile humor.
If being cold equates to being unsaved and being hot refers to being saved, what spiritual condition does lukewarm refer to and why is it so disgusting to Jesus? The rest of the letter to the lay out of sins makes it clear that Jesus considers these lukewarm church attenders to be unsaved, unsaved, and not in the sense that their backslidden believers, rather, they've never been Safet. But think they are. Their spiritual condition disgusts Jesus, I believe, for two main reasons, firstly, he has been revealed to them.
And they're just not that interested. They attend church services semi regularly, never miss Easter and Christmas, though they own Bibles, their church may not preach the full gospel, but they're still close enough to it that if they wanted the truth. They just had to reach out and grab it. Instead, they're like the religious leaders of Jesus's day who were blessed with the ultimate revelation, Jesus in the flesh, standing right in front of them and they said, now we're good.
We're good. In Matthew, seven, twenty four through twenty seven, Jesus, put it like this, whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house and it did not fall for it was founded on the rock.
But everyone who hears these things of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain descended, the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house and it fell. And great was its fall. When Jesus judges, these unsaved men and woman, they'll have no excuse, they will not be able to say we didn't know. They received so much revelation, but they didn't want the true gospel.
Instead. They embrace what they wanted, a false gospel. I think the second reason Jesus is so disgusted by these lukewarm Leotta scenes is that their hypocrisy is bringing disrepute to the name of God, it's bringing disrepute to the name of God. Those who are spiritually cold do not claim to love Jesus, follow him or belong to him. And in that sense, they are not hypocrites. Neither are those who are hot and are faithfully following Jesus, these latest seasons, on the other hand, claimed to be Christians but do not care at all about how Jesus has asked his followers to live.
They're hypocrites, they're taking his name in vain, as we discussed in our previous study. Being spiritually lukewarm, please hear me on this. Is the most dangerous place you can be. Because you have deluded yourself into believing you are walking with Jesus when in reality you are walking what Jesus called the way that leads to destruction. A man will not take medicine if he does not believe he is sick, an addict will not overcome their addiction if they believe it's not a problem and a sinner will not be saved if they believe themselves to be already righteous.
Such was the disastrous spiritual condition of the religious leaders who rejected Jesus to grasp the seriousness of the lukewarm man or woman's condition.
We must understand that they are the ones Jesus is speaking of. When he prophesied regarding the day of judgment, many, many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name and then I will declare to them. I never knew you, I never knew you. Depart from me. The Corinthian church took a very modern approach to a lukewarm man in their congregation who was unrepentantly living in sin.
They showed him grace by letting his sins slide and congratulated one another for being such a gracious congregation when Paul heard about this. He sent these instructions in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. When you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ delivers such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. In other words, kick him out of the church because you are allowing him to believe that he is saved and write with God when there is no evidence of salvation in his life.
And before a man can be saved, he must be realized that he is lost. That's how serious the lukewarm condition is. It's life and death and allowing someone who is destined for hell to believe they are destined for heaven. It's not love, it's not grace. It's selfishness and deception. Paul confronted the Corinthians just as Jesus is confronting the lay out of science. In love, in love. Make a note of this, a lukewarm spiritual condition is disgusting to Jesus and deadly to the one who indulges it.
A lukewarm spiritual condition is disgusting to Jesus and deadly to the one who indulges it. We don't have time to study it today, but I encourage you to find some time this week to read Matthew. Twenty two verses, one through 14, where Jesus teaches the parable of the wedding feast. Find the lukewarm believer in that parable. Find the tribulation. Find the marriage supper of the lamb. There's much to be discovered there.
Just as the hot water pumped from Denny's, Lee became lukewarm as it traveled several miles through the aqueducts this church had taken on the spiritual temperature of the world around it. They had been so influenced by the culture that they were practically indistinguishable from the culture. They were a church that had compromised again and again in the name of survival and cultural relevance. They took their cues from society rather than the word of God. In this church, the greatest sin was not having the approval of the world.
And in their desperate efforts to gain and maintain that approval. They had lost the only thing of true worth. They had to offer the world. Jesus. In verse 17, Jesus, the one who is truth incarnate, lays bare the reality of the lukewarm.
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. This is a shock to the liberations because they thought they were all good. The truth was they had built a gospel and a church to themselves, not the Lord Jesus. In the original Greek, the word wretched appears only one other place in the New Testaments and Romans 724. Paul exclaims Oh, wretched man that I am.
Who will deliver me from this body of death? Jesus is writing this letter to elicit that same reaction from the latest science that he might offer them the same answer, he offered Paul salvation through his blood. Now, this might shock you, but I actually believe God does want you to be healthy, wealthy and happy because what's the alternative, believing in a God who wants us to be sick, poor and miserable?
That's not the father's heart. The issue is that our heavenly father has an even greater, even better goal for each of us than health, wealth and happiness. And that goal is making us more like his son, Jesus. I believe our father blesses us as much as he can until it gets in the way of us becoming more like Jesus.
I believe God would make us all billionaires if the truth wasn't that almost all of us would immediately stop depending on him and walking by faith if he did, because wealth tends to produce a delusional sense of self-sufficiency in our hearts, like the layout of science producing the exact opposite of the character God said would be blessed in the Sermon on the Mount, making us more like Jesus is the greatest blessing that God can work in our lives. And it's the one that will benefit us for all eternity.
But see was and is all about the here and now. And so they don't want to hear about those pesky teachings of Jesus or he promises that we'll have trouble in this life. The text makes it clear that this church was into wealth and they were a wealthy church like the Pharisees of Jesus Day. Their wealth was associated with God's approval.
In other words, they looked at each other and said, look at our all our needs are met. Look at how wealthy we are.
God must be blessing us. He must approve of us. And it gave them a false sense of spiritual security and righteousness that blinded them to their true condition.
We can easily deduce that on a prophetic level, the lay ought to see in church today must primarily exist in first world countries where a relatively high level of wealth is enjoyed.
You and I live in the wealthiest period of church history the world has ever known. If you live in a first world country, then you enjoy daily luxuries most of the rest of the world can't even fathom. If your household brought in thirty two thousand four hundred dollars American or more in the year 2019, you were in the top one percent of the world's earners, suffice it to say the least. To see in church isn't in Iran, Ethiopia or China.
It's in places like America, Canada and Europe. What a contrast this is to the suffering church at Smyrna. They viewed themselves as impoverished, but Jesus said, from my perspective, you're rich, that they ought to view themselves as rich. But Jesus said, from my perspective, you're impoverished. They ought to see a lost sight of the fact that the church exists first and foremost for Jesus.
Instead, they had begun to believe that Jesus and the church existed for them. The belief that God cares more about your comfort than your character fits under the umbrella of the term the Prosperity Gospel, perhaps you've seen its advocates on TV. They're usually preaching some form of a message in which God is a glorified genie who exists to fulfill your earthly dreams, passions and desires.
Name it and claim it, blab it and grab it, believe and receive. You'd think pastors who teach such things would not be mentioned in the scriptures, but they are. In fact, we just read about them. You say I am rich, have become wealthy and have need of nothing. Those who espouse the prosperity gospel tell their followers to literally confess such statements by faith as a means of manifesting wealth, but Jesus says to them, You do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked.
Now, for clarity's sake, let me say that I believe we are called by God's word to speak in faith, but here's the caveat. We are called to speak in faith by agreeing with God's word. We are not to simply speak our own fleshly desires into the ether and expect God to immediately go to work manifesting our desires. Jesus is so gracious, his words have the power to open our eyes even when we're blind. If you're reading this and you're thinking, Jeff, I'm wondering if I'm laodicean, what do I do?
Jesus gives us the solution and verse 8 I counsel you to buy from me gold refind 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 eyes self that you may see. First, Peter, one seven says your faith being much more precious than gold, that perishes, though it is tested by fire. If the Holy Spirit is revealing to you, even if you're saved, that you've become lukewarm in your faith.
Jesus has some heavy duty advice for you. But be warned, this is gutsy stuff. This is not for the faint of heart. Make a note of this. Jesus tells us to pray for trials if we find ourselves lukewarm in our faith. Pray for trials. Yes, really.
Because trials shake us out of our reliance on our health and wealth, and it forced us to depend on Jesus, and as we're driven back into intimate relationship with him, the world loosens its grip on us and we are reminded that what we really crave is fellowship with Jesus. The crisis of being lukewarm is more serious than any difficulty found in any trial.
Far better to be on fire for Jesus in a season of difficult than lukewarm about Jesus in a season of comfort. If your faith is lukewarm, I believe that Jesus would say to you, I counsel you to buy from me gold refind in the fire that you may be rich. James, one, two to four counsels us, count it all, Joy, when you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience, but let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
As we've gone through these seven letters, have we found persecution and difficulty to affect the church positively or negatively, has wealth and comfort been good or bad for the church? Unquestionably. We have found that persecution and trials make the church more like Jesus and bring the church closer to Jesus.
I pray that we would be men and woman. Who have the guts to pray when we find our zeal and passion waning, Lord, do whatever you need to do to make me more like your son, Jesus. Do whatever you need to do to stop me from drifting toward lukewarm this.
While they may have had trendy clothing in an outward appearance that impresses the culture. What the layout of scenes needed most was white garments, in contrast to the black wool garments, the city was famed for the white garments that only Jesus can provide. And the letter to Sardis, we learned that white garments are a reference to being forgiven and justified through Jesus and put in right relationship with God. Isaiah, 61 10 declares, I will greatly rejoice in the Lord.
My soul shall be joyful in my God.
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation. He has covered me with the robe of righteousness. In contrast, Isaiah 64:6 declares that our own works, apart from Christ, are like filthy rags, filthy rags, the believer's righteousness comes from Jesus.
It is literally his righteousness. It's a gift from him and we're saved by faith in what he has done in order to be able to offer it to us. The righteousness of God naturally produces good works in our lives, not so that we can be saved, but because we are saved when we reach Revelation nineteen eight will read and to her the church. It was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
The Church at Laodicea is not characterized by people who have been truly converted, made a new creation. For the most part, the people in this church haven't backslidden into a lukewarm faith. They've never been saved. Write this down. This is what Jesus says they need to do.
Be saved. Be saved. The Laodiceans believe their vision is perfect because, after all, they live in the world's ophthalmology capital, but Jesus tells them they can't see, they cannot perceive the only thing that truly matters. Who he is and who they are, they desperately need God's word and God's spirit to open their eyes, that they might see things clearly.
In other words, from God's perspective, I'd love to tell you that the point of these verses is not to scare us. But I think it is.
Because he loves us, the Lord wants us to evaluate whether we're truly saved, committed to serving and following him, whatever the cost. There was simply no issue in all of life of greater importance. And Verse 8, 19, Jesus says, guys, listen, as many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, therefore be zealous and repent. Jesus's motivation and saying all of this is his love for us, and he knows that if you or I are destined for hell because we've bought into a false gospel.
He wouldn't be a loving God if he didn't do everything in his power to reveal that to us, and so he does. Let this sink in. Jesus's letter to the church at Laodicea is a prophecy that's being fulfilled right now.
Right now. And I'm begging you. Do not be part of the fulfillment of this prophecy. Don't let it be you. Don't be the one on that day who finds themselves in church butt naked and blind. And spewed out of the mouth of Jesus. This is a picture of the last church, but it doesn't have to be a picture of you. Verse 8 20, Jesus says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock, would you underline that I stand at the door and knock if anyone who hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me in the last six letters, the first six letters.
Jesus is in the midst of each church. But not in Laodicea. Here we find him outside the church knocking on the door. Don't miss this. Jesus is not in the church of the Lazarus, since he's not among them. There is so much commentary I'm tempted to offer on this point, but I'm only going to say this, the latest scenes are doing church in such a way. That the Holy Spirit is not present, he's not present, and if that weren't disturbing enough, understand this.
They haven't even noticed. They haven't even noticed, apparently, they've developed a way of doing church that does not require the Holy Spirit. And as I examine the evangelical landscape, I believe the same is true of many churches today. Take another look at Verse 8 20 and notice the language. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and dine with him and he with me.
Jesus isn't appealing to the Church of the Leotta since he's reaching out. He's extending an invitation to the individuals within the church. And this verse is both sobering and hopeful, it's sobering because this church is not going to get better, there's not going to be a revival or reformation in this church as an organization. Jesus has written them off. But the good news is that Jesus has not given up on the individual people who make up the church, at Laodicea.
As always, God is a perfect gentleman. He'll never force his way into someone's life, including yours and mine, instead he knocks. Whether or not we open the door is up to us. Most in this church will not.
They'll reply through it. Thanks, but no thanks.
We're not interested in the Jesus who's the truth incarnate, the martyr, and the creator. But some will open the door and invite Jesus into their lives, and when they do, Jesus will come in and make himself at home. If you're realizing that you are Laodicea in terms of the church you're attending or your attitude toward Jesus, and you can sense the Lord calling you out of it, I believe Jesus would say, "Be zealous, repent and invite Me into your life."
Verse 8 21 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. I like Young's literal translation of this verse. He who is overcoming I will give to him to sit with me in my throne, as I also did overcome and did sit down with my father in his throne. In this context, the overcomer is the believer who doesn't give in to the self-serving gospel of comfort being preached by Theodosia.
Who cares more about the truth than finding a church that teaches what their flesh wants to hear and is truly given their life to Jesus. They understand that they are not their own and they're all in on following Jesus regardless of the cost. That's the overcomer, the church that Laticia is preaching a false gospel of prosperity that appeals to fleshly desires for comfort, status, wealth and power. It's not a coincidence. Jesus promises the overcomer, all of that.
But in eternity, where it actually matters and lasts forever. Read verse 21 again, slowly, what Jesus promises the over overcomer is unbelievable in the Yong's literal, he says he who is overcoming I will give to him to sit with me in my throne, as I also did overcome. I did sit down with my father in his throne. So write this down. Jesus promises, this type of overcomer, they will reign with him in the ages to come.
They will reign with him in the ages to come. It's a promise so incredible. It sounds almost blasphemous, but it's not. It's the heart of God for us as his people. The more accurate, present tense in Young's literal translation also tells us that some will be actively overcoming when Jesus comes for his church. Are we going to tie all that together in our next study? After reading all seven letters, we've heard Jesus give seven different promises to the overcomer, and if you're like me, you want to be an overcomer.
So let me encourage you with something John wrote about what it means to be an overcomer, about who the overcomer is. It's on your outline, John said, for whatever is born of God. In other words, whoever is born again overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world. Our faith, who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the son of God? If you're born again, if you've placed your faith in Jesus as Lord and savior, then you are and will be an overcomer.
Wherever life takes you, as with all the Christian life, being an overcomer isn't about anything we can do or anything we can stir up within ourselves. It's Jesus who in us and through us by his spirit, empowers us to live as overcomers, declares us to be more than conquerors through him.
We offer ourselves to Jesus completely and he makes us overcomers. So if you're a believer, you are an overcomer. Verse 8 22, he who has an ear. Let them hear what the spirit says to the churches. I'm going to close with these questions in reflexion. Does Jesus have to remind you that he is the creator? It's been well said that if you can believe Genesis one one, you'll have no problem with the rest of the Bible. And that opening verse declares, in the beginning, God created the heavens in the earth.
If you'd like to further your understanding of the intellectual evidence for Christianity, I recommend following the ministries of apologists like William Lane, Craig Frank Terrick and Jay Worner. Wallace, perhaps you've begun to doubt God's creator credentials because you don't want to sound like a simpleton in front of your friends, coworkers, family, et cetera, like you.
I like it when people consider me to be a reasonably intelligent individual.
When I get into gospel related conversations, I do my best to come across as thoughtful, but. If you're a Christian, sooner or later, you're going to discover that there's not always a perfect answer that lets you preserve your dignity and worldly reputation, but also be faithful to Jesus, you're going to run into people who will think you're a fool and or bigot for believing what the Bible teaches, regardless of how gracious or articulate your explanations are. When that happens, we're faced with the choice to either offend people or offend God.
Let me encourage you here and now that when faced with that decision. You should choose to offend people rather than your creator. Follow Jesus no matter the cost, big or small. Are you lukewarm? Are you drifting away from Jesus into complacency? Are you open to going through a trial if it brings you back into closeness with Jesus? Then make your prayer today. Make me more like you, Jesus, whatever it takes, do it, Lord.
Jesus lived under the specter of his looming crucifixion, and yet his word tells us that he was anointed with the oil of gladness more than all his fellows. We need God to work in us even more than we need him to work on our circumstances. Let me ask you if Jesus is your greatest passion, does anybody else know that because if he is, he'll show up in every area of your life, your relationships, family finances, work service, all of it.
Does that describe your life or would people be surprised if you told them Jesus is the center of your life, go all in on following Jesus, put him first and everything, don't block him out of certain areas of your life and in so doing, lay the groundwork for a slow and steady descent into a lukewarm faith. Take responsibility for your own spiritual growth.
Find a way to get in the word daily, get involved with your church in the life of the body. Don't be a once every six weeks church attender. Don't be somebody who blows the dust off your Bible on Sundays. Be zealous. Then lastly, I would be remiss if I did not ask anyone studying this text with us today. To stop and make sure absolutely sure that you really are saved, that you really are born again. I'm not asking if you're perfect.
I'm asking if there is evidence in your life, the fruit of the spirit in your life, that a change has taken place because of Jesus. The church of the latter seasons is full of people who think they're saved, but their lives prove nothing's really changed. They're still living for themselves and not for the Lord. I pray that none of us would so delude ourselves. I pray that we've all opened the door and let Jesus into our whole lives.
And if you haven't. Do it now. Remember these words of Jesus, if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him and he with me. Chapter four will begin with the words after these things. It might interest you to know that the Greek use there is the phrase Medda touted as Chapter three comes to an end, so does the church age, and something new is about to begin. We'll talk about that more in our study next time, which you absolutely do not want to miss.
Would you buy your head and close your eyes? Let's pray together. Jesus, we love you and we worship you. And we honor you as truth incarnate, Lord, as the beginning of the creation of God as the martyr, the one who died in our place. The only name. By which we can be saved. We love you, Lord and Jesus, we just ask that you would do whatever you need to do, whenever you need to do it, to stop us from wasting our lives and ever taking even a step toward being lukewarm in our relationship with you.
Lord, thank you that your heart for us is that we would not waste our lives. Thank you. That your heart for us is that we would have the best things that we would have you and that we would have pleasures and treasures in the only place where it really matters. Your presence in heaven for all eternity. So, Lord, deliver us from the Kingdom of Comfort. And Lord, keep us firmly in the kingdom of God and our mind set upon the kingdom of God.
We love you, Jesus, we bless you and we love what you do in us, in your name, we pray. Amen.