The Book of REVELATION
James J. Barker
THE CHURCH AT LAODICEA
- We see in these
seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor, problems common to all
- For example,
every church is in danger of losing their first love like the church in Ephesus
(Rev. 2:4). Many churches right here in the NYC/LI area are like the church in Sardis – they have a big
name, an illustrious history, but now they are dead (Rev. 3:1).
- Nearly all
modern day expositors identify the church of Laodicea with modern day
- I certainly can
see why. However, we should not see
this as a sign that the latter day churches cannot see revival. Rather, it is a warning that
lukewarm churches need to repent (3:19).
- Repentance can bring revival.
- "If my people, which are called by my
name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will
I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land" (II Chron. 7:14).
- There is no
word of commendation for the lukewarm, wishy-washy church of Laodicea – only
- THIS CHURCH WAS LUKEWARM
- THIS CHURCH WAS RICH FINANCIALLY, BUT POOR SPIRITUALLY
- THIS CHURCH HAD NO SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT
THIS CHURCH WAS LUKEWARM (3:14-16).
- Our Lord refers
to Himself as “the Amen” – “so be it” or “verily, verily” (3:14). This indicates our Lord’s sovereignty as
well as the certainty of His message.
- Our Lord is
also called “the faithful and true witness” (3:14; cf. 1:5). Romans 3:4 says, “yea, let God be true,
but every man a liar.”
- Our Lord said,
“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father,
but by me” (John 14:6).
- Christ is “the
beginning of the creation of God” (3:14b). This means Christ is the
Beginner. Three times in the
book of Revelation, the Lord Jesus Christ is identified as the “Alpha and Omega,
the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev. 1:8; 21:6;
- The cults teach
that Christ is part of God’s creation, but the Bible teaches that Christ is
the Creator. “All things
were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made”
- After these
introductory remarks, our Lord rebukes the church at Laodicea. As I said earlier, there is no word of
commendation for this lukewarm, wishy-washy church – only
condemnation. This church
makes our Lord sick (3:15, 16).
- It is better to
be hot or cold, than to be lukewarm (3:15). As a pastor, I obviously prefer red-hot
Christians. A hot Christian
demonstrates genuine spiritual fervor.
- It is better to
be cold than lukewarm, because a cold, worldly, unsaved man may recognize his
need; but a wishy-washy, lukewarm Christian does not recognize his spiritual
- The lukewarm
believer thinks he is okay. But God
finds him nauseating (3:15, 16).
- We have a sickening, nauseating lukewarmness in many
churches today. They are not hot or
cold; they are not quite liberal, but they are not fundamental either. They are
not pagan; but they are not Biblical. They are just a wishy-washy,
- The other day I received an email from some group called
"Positive Media." I have no idea who they are or how they got my email address.
The email was promoting some foolish play entitled, "Saving Aimee" that opened
in Seattle, Washington on October 20th.
- Did these "Positive Media" people think I would travel
all the way out to Seattle to see this stupid play? I would not cross the street to see
it. I would not pay five cents to see it. I would not see it if they gave me $100 to see it.
- This play was written by Kathie Lee Gifford, which some
of you may remember from her television show, the worldly and witless "Live with
Regis and Kathie Lee."
- The email explained the play is about the life of Aimee
- First of all, I Timothy 2:12 says, "But I suffer not a woman to teach,
nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
- Therefore, Aimee Semple McPherson had no business
preaching or pastoring a church.
- Furthermore, the email does not mention that Mrs.
McPherson was an adulterer who was married and divorced several
- The email does not mention that she faked her own kidnapping in order
to carry on an adulterous affair in 1926.
- The email does not mention that she died of a barbiturate overdose in
1944. But to today's lukewarm
Christians, none of this is a problem!
- Our Lord looks at all of this and He says, "I will spue
thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:16).
- Today the churches are tolerating everything – one can
live like a devil and still be a member in good standing in most
- On our flight to Fort Worth, a woman wearing pants with
a ton of make-up was drinking alcohol. She told my wife and me that she was a Christian (Southern
- Years ago, evangelist Vance Havner said,
“The New Testament Church was an intolerant
church. At once we throw ourselves open to a broadside of protest.
‘Intolerant’ is a scandalous word to use these days, for if there is anything
that is in style among our ‘progressive’ churches it is that word ‘tolerance.’
You would think that intolerance was the unpardonable sin. We are majoring as
never in all church history on being broad-minded. That we have become so broad
we have become also pitifully shallow never seems to disturb us. We must
‘broaden or bust.’ Of course, some experts in tolerance can be amazingly
intolerant of those who do not share their broad-mindedness, but that does not
disturb them either…The New Testament Church was intolerant of sin in its midst.
When serious trouble first showed up in Ananias and Sapphira it was dealt with
in sudden and certain terms. When immorality cropped out in Corinth Paul
delivered the offender to the devil for the destruction of his flesh. It was in
line with our Lord's teaching on discipline in the eighteenth chapter of
Matthew. To be sure, it was to be done in love and tenderness, and the brother
overtaken in a fault was to be restored by the spiritual ones, and Paul was
quick to recommend the restoration of the Corinthian brother. But, still, sin
was not to be glossed over and excused as we condone it today in our
churches until liars, gamblers, drunkards, and divorcees fill prominent
places in Sunday schools and on boards and have never as much as heard
that we must be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord.
We have let the camel get his foot in the door and then his head, until now the whole camel is inside
and along with him other animals far more unsavory. Peter added even hogs and
dogs to our spiritual zoology, and the lambs today are so mixed with every other
species that what was once a sheepfold has become a zoo. Our Lord warned
us that the shepherd who did not stand his ground when the wolves appeared was
only a hireling. We are bidden to feed His sheep but not to feed wolves. I grant
you that it is often a complicated problem and can be handled only on one's
knees. But we are paying an awful price today for our sweet tolerance of sin
within the Church. If the church of the Acts had overlooked iniquity and
by-passed evil and smilingly looked the other way while the devil sneaked into
every phase of her life as we have done today, Christianity would have died in
- Vance Havner was right. These days, “Anything goes,” and if a
preacher tries to draw the line, and if he practices church discipline, or if he
preaches hard against sin, many of the worldly church members will raise a
fuss. They will either try and run
him off, or they themselves will run off.
- G. Campbell Morgan, wrote: “Lukewarmness is the worse
form of blasphemy…If there is anything abhorrent to the heart of Christ it is a
tepid church…(But) this condition of being tepid is utterly repugnant to
Him. No emotion, no enthusiasm, no
urgency, no compassion.”
- Do you know what turned William Booth into such a
red-hot preacher? He was listening to an infidel give a lecture. The
infidel said, “If I believed what some of you Christians say you believe about
eternal hellfire and the judgment of God, I would not rest day or night warning
people about it. I would crawl on my hands and knees on broken glass all across London to warn people if I
believed what you Christians say you believe about the fires of hell.”
- That motivated William Booth – by his own admission, he
went from lukewarm to boiling hot, and then he started the Salvation Army. Of course, the Salvation Army has
changed direction since then and are now preaching the social gospel but they
were much different back then.
- When General Booth was an old man past the age of 80,
the great evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman, asked him the secret of his
success. General Booth started crying and replied, “God has had all there was of me.” Beloved, does God have all there is of you?
- We sometimes hear some folks say that we need more of
the Holy Spirit. If you are saved than you have all the Holy Spirit there is – the problem is that oftentimes the
Holy Spirit doesn’t have all of you.
- Spurgeon said, “Thousands try to hold with the hare and
run with the hounds, they are for God and Mammon, Christ and Belial, truth and
error, and so are ‘neither hot nor cold’…Many a church has fallen into a
condition of indifference, and when it does so it generally becomes the haunt of
worldly professors, a refuge for people who want an easy religion, which enables
them to enjoy the pleasures of sin and the honours of piety at the same time;
where things are free and easy, where you are not expected to do much, or give
much, or pray much, or to be very religious; where the minister is not so
precise as the old school divines, a more liberal people, of broad views,
free-thinking and free-acting, where there is full tolerance for sin, and no
demand for vital godliness.”
- I do not know how a true child of God can be content
with such a weak, anemic, watered-down, corrupt form of
- And I cannot understand why certain Christians want to
make our Lord sick (3:16)? Why does
lukewarm Christianity makes our Lord sick?
- Skipping church services and goofing off. The Bible says, “Not forsaking the
assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one
another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews
- Gossiping and running down
the pastor. “Obey them that have
the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they
that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for
that is unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).
- Listening to rock
music. Ephesians 5:19 says,
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing
and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Rock music is from the devil. Every couple of years I hear reports
that the teenagers in our church are listening to this garbage, and then I have
to preach against it again.
- You wouldn’t believe the
junk I get in the mail – strange advertisements for so-called “Christian rock
concerts” featuring creepy looking
rock groups and liberal preachers.
- The apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:21, “For all
seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.” Doesn’t that sound like most
people today – even most church people?
- Philippians 3:19 says, "Whose end is destruction, whose God
is their belly, and whose glory is in
their shame, who mind earthly
- Lukewarm church members are not interested in missions.
They do not contribute to missions.
They are so stingy they could not care if the whole world went to
- Our annual missions conference is coming soon, but some
members couldn't care less. Some people just are not interested. They would rather stay home than hear
THE CHURCH WAS
RICH FINANCIALLY, BUT POOR SPIRITUALLY (3:17).
- Materialism and
covetousness and affluence and consumerism are choking the churches of
America. It is a fact that
Christianity is growing in poor third-world countries in Africa and Asia, but it
is on the decline in America and Europe.
Ravenhill said, “Instead of the Church penetrating the provinces of materialism,
materialism has punctured the power of the Church.”
- Here in
America, church attendance is way down, but shopping malls and amusement parks
and football stadiums are always packed out. People will gladly spend $1,000 on a
fancy TV set but they will only give nickels and dimes to
- God says this makes Him sick (3:16, 17).
- “I have need of
nothing…” (3:17). Their great wealth has blinded the Laodicean church to her
dire need of spiritual riches.
These lukewarm churches are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and
blind, and naked” (3:17).
THE CHURCH HAD NO
SPIRITUAL DISCERNMENT (3:17-22).
- There is a terrible lack of spiritual discernment in our
churches today. I could give many
examples: worldliness, rock music, perverted translations of the Bible, lady
preachers, mixing psychology with the Gospel, immorality, ecumenicalism,
charismatic and Pentecostalism confusion, and all sorts of false doctrine, are
sweeping into the churches.
- There is a sharp contrast in our Lord’s rebuke to the
church of Laodicea – their exaltation of wealth revealed their lack of spiritual
- Our Lord uses irony here. Laodicea was known primarily for three
- Banking – “buy of me gold” (3:18), signifying genuine
faith, not some cheap counterfeit.
- Wool cloth – “white raiment” (3:18), signifying
- Medicines, especially eye salve (3:18), signifying enlightenment and
- “I have
observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians. The great deficiency
to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among
the leaders” -- AW Tozer.
- Consider some
of the so-called Christian leaders in America today:
- John Hagee – he teaches:
“Jesus did not come to Earth to be the Messiah. Jesus refused by word and
deed to be the Messiah. Therefore,
the Jews cannot be blamed for not accepting what was never offered.” The woman at the well said to
Jesus, “I know that Messiah cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things”
(John 4:25). “Jesus saith unto her,
I that speak unto thee am he” (John
- Pat Robertson (700 Club) –
has endorsed Rudy Giuliani (pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, etc.) for
president. He recently said if a
wife has Alzheimer’s disease, the husband should divorce her and go out and get
a new wife.
- Robert Schuller, Jr. (son
of famous heretic and positive thinker) – He said, “I don't think God wants us to focus on the suffering of Jesus
Christ.” His church is now in
- Joel Osteen – He told Larry
King he does not really know who is going to heaven and who is going to
- Harold Camping – he
revised his prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011 to Oct. 21,
2011. Wrong again!
- Many other examples could
be given. Most of the teaching on
the so-called Christian radio stations is unscriptural. Most of the books in so-called Christian
bookstores are heretical.
- The so-called Christian
rock (CCM) business is a big money-making racket (a half billion dollar a year
industry) but it is worldly and devilish.
If you listen to the wrong kind of music, you will become the wrong kind
- To develop spiritual discernment, we must carefully
study the Word of God (cf. Hebrews 5:11-14).
- I began this series by giving the outline for the book
of Revelation (1:19).
- The Lord’s letter to the church of Laodicea ends the
second division in the book of Revelation – “the things which are.”
- Next comes, “the things which shall be hereafter” (1:19;
cf. 4:1). Then in Revelation 4 & 5, the whole situation is different. It is no longer the Lord in the midst of
the seven candlesticks (churches), but the Lord seated upon His throne in
- In other words, soon the present church age will
end. Soon the Lord will
return. And soon we will all have
to stand before the Lord and give an account.
- Are you ready?