Click on this link to read the verses. I will quotes the verses as I explain them.
We must not have a false concept of where we are spiritually.
vs. 17 For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
There was a terrible gap between what what they thought they were and what they actually were. Perhaps they thought that their riches were a sign of God’s blessing. In this case they were “health and wealth” Christians in the first century.
They were satisfied with material wealth and had not paid attention to spiritual wealth as the church at Smyrna had (cf. Rev. 2:9).
All of the following five adjectives are tied together with one definite article:
Wretched — in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) in Psalm 137:8, the Greek word is used to describe one’s life when everything one owned has been plundered by war. Here it refers to the true spiritual condition of the Laodiceans.
Pitiable = “miserable, deserving of nothing but pity.”
Poor, blind, and naked — These words strike at the heart of their problem. They had great riches materially, they had eye salve from their medical schools, and they had clothing made from their famous black wool. Spiritually, they had nothing. They were destitute spiritually.
vs. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.
Note that the true riches, spiritual clothing and medicine for the soul, is from God.
vs. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
His call is not to the unsaved here. It is for Christians who have lost their way and are in danger of blending into their culture and civilization.
vs. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
“Christ’s words here are probably based on the words spoken to the bride in Song of Solomon 5:2, “A voice! My beloved was knocking: ‘Open to me …'” (see Beale, pg. 93, below). These are words spoken to believers who have grown far away from their Lord and need to return.
vs. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Believers will be seated as royalty in the consummation of the Kingdom.
vs. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
I remind us that the challenge is for us to read other people’s mail in this case. John says, “Let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches (plural).” Churches today that are in danger of blending into the surrounding pagan culture should pay heed! They will not escape the judgment that befell the Laodicean Church of old. All that is left is the ruins.
See previous explanation for this verse in the Rev. 2:7 post.
Beale, G. K. (2015). Revelation: a Shorter Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.
Bible Background. (1967). Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Dictionary, 1 Vol. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing.
Josephus, F. (AD 94) Antiquities of the Jews XII. Loeb Classical Library. https://archive.org/details/L365JosephusJewishAntiquitiesIX1213/page/n87
Laodicea. (1854). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, illustrated by numerous engravings on wood. ed. William Smith, LLD. Boston, MA: Little, Brown & Co.
Laodicea becoming the New Ephesus. (2011). Accessed May 1, 2019 from http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/laodicea-becoming-new-ephesus-8656
Ramsay, W. (1904). The Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia and their Place in the Plan of the Apocalypse. London, UK: Hodder and Stoughton. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.
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