And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: This is what the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and pitiable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:14-17)
And now we come to Laodicea. This is a completely unsaved church. This is a church of nonbelievers.
Laodicea has the grim distinction of being the only church to which Christ says nothing good about anybody — they receive unsparing condemnation. This is the most threatening, rebuking letter yet. And the amazing thing is Laodicea was a proud church — proud and unconverted.
Laodicea is a church that is not a church. It is the first church of the tares; there’s no wheat.
Jesus says, “I know all your deeds — universally, collectively — that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”
That is the most strong statement the Lord has made yet to a church. “You make me vomit. I know you. I know what you are. You make me sick. You are lukewarm.”
Some churches make the Lord sick. He was angry with those that compromised. He was disappointed with those that left their first love. But this church made Him sick.
Through church history, and down to today, there have been churches full of people who have a wrong view of Christ, and therefore are unconverted and unsaved. These churches are obnoxious to heaven. They make the Lord sick; they nauseate Christ.
You know, in some ways, there’s always hope for a church that has some believers in it. But there’s nothing here. There is nothing to appeal to. Christ isn’t even in this church. This is the worst of all possible representations of a church.
This is sickening. Jesus says, “You have no purpose. You just make Me sick.”
Verse 17 adds, “Not only are you sickening hypocrites, but you are deceived, as all sickening hypocrites are. You say one thing and you don’t know your true condition. You say, ‘I am rich and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
One thing about nonbelievers who have come together in a “church” is that they’re in no position to assess their spiritual condition. They cannot know reality.
Laodicea was a wealthy city. It was famous for its banking and its riches. And the church’s opinion of its own identity was a baseless fiction that somehow they possessed not only material wealth, but even spiritual wealth.
That is the worst state a person can be in. It would be better to be an atheist. It would be better to be completely ignorant of the church and the gospel. Anything would be better than this.
This is the ultimate apostate hypocrisy. You know about Christ and you’ve created a false Christ, you know about God and you’ve created a false god, and you’re smugly self-confident in that.
This characterizes entire denominations across the world. This characterizes many “Christian” universities and seminaries. They think they’re rich materially, they think they’re rich in spiritual knowledge, but they don’t know their condition.
They’re actually wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. This is the sickening condition of thinking you’re spiritually rich, when you’re bankrupt; of thinking you’re beautiful, when you’re wretched; of imagining that you’re to be envied, when you’re to be pitied; of believing you see everything clearly, when you see nothing and are stone blind; feeling you are clothed in spiritual finery, when you’re naked.
That is the condition of a church of nonbelievers. In reality, those kinds of churches, even today, are the proudest of churches. They have no idea of their condition.
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2015, titled “The Lord’s Word to His Church: Laodicea.” In addition to serving as the pastor of Grace Community Church and the voice of Grace to You, Dr. MacArthur is the chancellor of The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, Calif. You can learn more about TMU at masters.edu.
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