Relevant Biblical Passages: Revelation 3:14-22
Too Rich to Hope. In their early experience, Adventists believed that they were the pure Philadelphian church while the other “nominal” Christians were the lukewarm Laodiceans. It came as a bolt out of the blue when James White announced in the 1856 in the pages of the Review that Adventists were none other than the Laodicean church. Curiously, however, the description of the Laodicean church indicates quite clearly that these are not the kind of people who will be in God’s kingdom. Indeed, God will spew such lukewarm people out of his mouth. So the paradox remains vivid: God’s remnant, but a remnant not worthy of the kingdom. Our study this week focuses on the Laodicean message in Revelation 3:14-22.
- Lukewarm. Christians are often admonished in Scripture and elsewhere to be disciplined and balanced, to avoid extremes. But here God is telling His people that He wants them at the extremes: either hot or cold, not lukewarm. What would be the advantage of being cold? Isn’t lukewarm at least a little closer to the kingdom than cold?
- Rich, yet poor. As in Jesus’ response in the Sermon on the Mount to those who claimed to have done many mighty miracles in his name (Matt. 7:21-23), there can be a terrible mismatch between God’s perspective and the human perspective. Jeremiah had the same problem in his day when the people were cheerfully worshiping in the temple but living in scandalous ways (Jer. 7:1-15). How is it that what appears good to sinful human beings appears so shabby to God? Is it possible that those who are thus described actually do have twinges of conscience? Or have they fully deluded themselves?
- Buy that which is free. The Laodiceans are to buy refined gold, good clothes, and eye-salve – these are the remedies for their illness. What is involved with the paradox: buying that which cannot be bought? In today’s world it is almost axiomatic that wealth tends to undermine true religion. Has that always been the case? What is the essence of true “wealth,” the gold tried in the fire?
- God comes seeking us. In those communities which emphasize the freedom of the human will, it is often said that we must seek God, choose God. And those admonitions are found throughout Scripture. But here we have the reverse: God comes seeking, comes knocking. How does one explain such a paradox?
- The Lord’s discipline. How does one know whether any particular event or series of events is the discipline of the Lord or the curse of the devil? Is reproof more highly valued than affirmation? Was there nothing worth affirming in the Laodiceans?
- The practical question: It is one thing to recognize one’s own Laodicean condition. But how does one address a community without becoming cantankerous? Whose responsibility is it to preach the Laodicean message?