The last of the 7, lukewarm Laodicea makes Jesus want to spit them out of His mouth.
I’ve told this story before but will tell it again because it seems relevant to Laodicea. A mainline church in my area announced in the paper that they were having a community “Hymn Sing.” I was truly excited because someone I love dearly was a member there, but I knew she thought Jesus was just a good teacher. I told her I’d like to go with her to their “Hymn Sing.”
The church was packed. There were beautiful stained glass windows with scenes from Jesus’ life. There was a large wooden cross on the wall. Everyone had a hymnal with the great old hymns packed with sound theology. Had I been wrong? I also knew personally one man whom I thought was a believer who attended there. Maybe this church had life after all!
Then the minister stood up and said:
We cherish these hymns. They are part of our heritage. But I don’t want anyone to be concerned. We do not believe the words.
I nearly asked him to repeat it, I could hardly believe my ears.
Jesus says to Laodicea:
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.
Matthew Henry describes this as endeavoring to stay neutral, not be against Him or for Him, just in the middle. Or, in his own 19th century language: “An open enemy shall have a fairer quarter than a perfidious neuter; and there is more hope for a heathen than of such.”
By endeavoring to stay neutral, this church was like the lukewarm water that was such a problem in Laodicea, having traveled such a long way from the hot springs. They were perhaps preaching short homilies about how to be nice to one another, reading short Scripture passages aloud, singing hymns… so naive members could be lulled into complacency, unaware that their “plane” was in a fatal dive?
Was the church at Laodicea dead? Beyond hope? I believe they were on life support, but there must have been a few there that weren’t dead, but “asleep,” as in the parallel passage of the Song of Songs. Remember how the best interpreter of Scripture is Scripture? When we compare this Revelation passage to its almost identical one in the Song of Songs, I believe we are given the light we need to interpret and also to respond well to this passage. In both, Jesus is knocking and knocking, waiting, and if his bride opens, Her Bridegroom will come in and have intimate fellowship with her. We also learn, from the Song of Songs passage, how to stir our hearts from lukewarmness to passion. (This is really helpful!) If you have always been taught that the Song of Songs is only or primarily about marriage, please watch this trailer to my book He Calls You Beautiful.
Dr. Michael Reeves sheds light on the passage Revelation 3:20 alludes to in The Song of Songs in this 13 minute message you will watch at the end of the week.
Also, Colin Smith has a one-page article on “Three Ways Christ Can Be Outside Your Church.” This too can apply to both a whole church and to us as individuals. Please read and respond today.
What does it look like to be hot instead of lukewarm? I see it in the Benton brothers who spoke at last year’s Wilberforce Weekend. (This is optional but both inspiring and entertaining!)
WORD DOCUMENT QUESTIONS:
Sunday: Getting Started
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- What are three ways Colin Smith said that Christ could be “outside our church?” Is there any application to you as an individual that you can see? To your church?
- If you watched the Benton brothers, how did it impact you?
4. Read Revelation 3:14-22 aloud. Does anything jump out at you? If so, why?
5. The Pattern:
A. To whom is the letter addressed?
B. How is Jesus described? How might this be relevant to Laodicea?
C. Are they commended for anything?
D. For what are they rebuked? What do you think it means to be neither hot nor cold?
E. How are they to respond to this rebuke?
F. Find both the warning and the promise.
I have wondered if Progressive Christianity fits into the category of being lukewarm. My thought is that they do not, for they are not asleep, they are dead. When a journalist asked atheist Christopher Hitchens if his opposition to Christianity was mainly with “fundamentalists,” he replied: “I would say that if you don’t believe Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and the Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice we are forgiven, you’re not really in any meaningful sense a Christian.”
6, What are your thoughts on the above?
7. Read Dr. Campbell’s opening paragraph under “The Church at Laodicea.”
A. What does Amen mean in Hebrew?
B. Isaiah uses the same words to describe God in Isaiah 65:16 (the ESV says “God of truth) and then, in Isaiah 65:17 continues by describing a creation. What creation is Isaiah talking about?
C. Why, according to Dr. Campbell, do the Laodiceans needs this hope?
D. How does the picture painted of the new heaven and new earth in Isaiah 65:17-25 give you hope and awaken you?
Tuesday: A Rich City with Water Problems
8. Read paragraph 2 of Dr. Campbell and describe how the city’s water problems paralleled their spiritual condition.
9. Meditate on Revelation 3:17 and read Campbell’s 3rd paragraph:
A. What three businesses were Laodicea known for?
B. What irony do you see therefore in Jesus’ rebuke that aligns with the businesses?
C. Pray here for our poor, blind, and naked Western world and church, and for your own heart.
10. Meditate on Revelation 3:18 and Cambell’s 4th paragraph and explain how each of these is a solution to their need (or to your need.
A. Gold refined by fire
B. White clothes
C. Salve for your eyes
11. Read Dr. Campbell’s closing paragraphs under Laodicea and share his main points and any comments.
12. Why is God going over this with you today, do you think?
Wednesday: I Stand At The Door And Knock
There are those who reject seeing Christ in the Song of Songs because it deals with sexual intimacy in the marriage bed. Our world has gone so mad, covering God’s marriage bed with garbage, so that it no longer is seen as holy, though God says His plan is. (Hebrews 13:4) He invented it, and He does indeed, use it as a parallel to our relationship with Him and to the spiritual passion that is meant to penetrate our hearts if only we have ears to hear.
Today we’ll look at Revelation 3:20 side by side with Song of Songs 5. I’m excited to do this together with you, for together we see more. And Mike Reeves will help you see so much more on Friday!
13. Read Revelation 3:19-20.
A. From what you’ve learned about Laodicea, what was her spiritual state and what did this “bride” need?
B. What do you learn about Christ’s feelings for them in verse 19?
C. What two things do they need to do?
D. What does it mean to be earnest if you have been lukewarm?
E. What does it mean to repent of lukewarmness?
F. What is His promise if they do, and what does that really mean?
For context, this passage in Song of Songs occurs after the wedding (ch. 3) and after the honeymoon is over. (ch. 4:1-5:1).
14. Read Song of Songs 5:2-3
A. What do you see immediately that is similar to Jesus at the door of His Bride, Laodicea?
B. What do you think it means to say “I slept but my heart was awake?”
C. What does He call her, and how would you describe His attitude toward her? Toward you?
D. With Laodicea He describes Himself (in contrast to her, perhaps) as faithful and true. How do you see Him like that here? How can you see He has been knocking for a long time?
E. What are her excuses for not coming to let him in? Thoughts? Applications?
Keyholes in biblical days were so big you could put your hand through them.
15. Read Song of Songs 5:4-9
A. What does she see him do in verse 4, and what impact does it have on her?
B. When she opens the door, what of him does she find on her hands?
C. How does she feel and what does she do?
D. What do the watchmen do?
The watchmen could have mistaken her for an immoral woman, out in the night in her robe, or they may represent false shepherds who try to silence passionate believers.
E. What does she ask of the daughters of Jerusalem and with what question do they respond?
Thursday: He’s The Fairest of Ten Thousand
In another message by Dr. Mike Reeves on The Song, he makes the very good point that too often when we share Christ with an unbeliever, we jump to the plan of salvation instead of telling them how wonderful He is. It is as if we are saying, “This is WHAT you get,” instead of “This is WHO you get, the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.” Here she paints “a living statue” for the daughters of Jerusalem, and I cannot help but contrast this statue not just to the one in Daniel representing different kingdoms with “feet of clay,” but to some of the fierce portraits of Jesus in Revelation where He is so angry with the enemies of His Bride that he is a Warrior, with eyes that blaze and a sharp sword coming out of His mouth. (Rev. 19:12 & 15) Here, with the Shulammite, His eyes are like doves and His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh. (Song of Songs 5:12-13) I asked Dr. Campbell about this in case I was going too far, and he wrote:
Of course, we have to take the whole picture of Scripture on every topic. Revelation presents Christ as holy judge and conquering King, the Gospels present him as the greatest manifestation of love and mercy (but also in the temple with a whip!). So taking Rev. 1 and the Song of Songs passage together brings that same kind of full Biblical picture. Another way of approaching it is to contrast Christ in chapter 1 with Christ as the slain Lamb of chapter 5, and that brings us back to the One introduced as a Lion but then revealed on closer sight as a Lamb, as your daughter’s painting reveals.
16. Read Song of Songs 5:10-16 aloud to yourself and let it lead you into worship.
17. If someone were to ask you, “How is your beloved better than others?” (Better than Allah, Buddah, or any human lover) what would you tell them?
Friday: Mike Reeves
18. Listen to the above message where he compares these two passages and share your notes and comments.
19. What is your take-a-way and why?