The Seven Churches of Asia
"And unto the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God; I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches." — Rev. 3:14-22.
We now come to the last of the Seven Churches, and the worst; and I do not know what you feel, but I am sorry; because there is not any part in the Bible so instructive, so comforting to the children of God, and so fitted to awaken those who are not in Christ; therefore it is that I am sorry that we are now come to the last of the Seven Epistles to the Seven Churches of Asia. Laodicea is interesting, because Paul speaks of it; he says, in the second chapter of Colossians, at the first verse, "For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh." And again he speaks of them, in the fourth chapter, at the thirteenth verse, "For I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis." In the year of our Lord sixty-four, Laodicea was overthrown by an earthquake, but it was rebuilt again, and it was much finer than before; there were in it three theatres, and a circus, so large that it held at one time 30,000 people. It was in the year ninety-six that Christ sent this epistle to them; and in a few years after, Laodicea was overthrown by a second earthquake, buried under its own ruins, and never rose again; and it is now quite uninhabited, quite desolate. One of the last travelers that was there says that he found Laodicea "without any inhabitant, except wolves, and jackals, and foxes." See how true Christ has been to His words to all the Seven Churches.
Let us look, first, at the character Christ takes to Himself here. "These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God." The Amen! This was Christ’s favourite word. Verily, verily; it means in the Hebrew, to be true. Christ is true — to all He says; "All the promises of God in Him are yea, and in Him amen, unto the glory of God by us." There are some of you who wish you had the Spirit. Now Christ is true, and He has said, "I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth: whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." And again, "I will send Him unto you; for though He tarry, yet wait for Him, for He will come, and will not tarry." The promise may be long delayed, but never comes too late. Christ makes two kinds of promises, threatening ones and comforting ones. Now there are some of you whose only hope is that Christ will not prove true to His words. But He is the Amen. Do you think He will take away that word Amen, and put liar instead? Christ will be true to His threatening as well as to His comforting promises; He is a Destroyer as well as a Saviour — He is the Amen. It is written, that "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."
"The faithful and true Witness." This means, that Christ bears true testimony; He witnesses true of our condition; "These things are for your sakes, upon whom the ends of the world have come." Christ never flatters, He tells us our true state, He makes us no better than we are, and no worse. He is Nature’s sternest painter, but her best. If Christ were revealed to any of you tonight, you would go away, and say, "Come, see a man which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" And then Christ witnesses true of God; He witnesses of what He hath seen in the bosom of the Father — "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." "We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen."
Christ testifies what is in the heart of God towards sinners, how willing He is that they should be saved, because He knows it, and has seen it. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." There is no rest for the soul like being in the love of God — that is rest. Not until then can it say, "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee." And Christ witnesses about Himself; "Though I bear record of Myself, yet My record is true." He bears witness of His love; He bears witness of His dying; He bears witness of His steadfastness, setting His face like a flint; and He witnesses that He has got the tongue of the learned, that He should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary.
"The beginning of the creation of God." It should rather be rendered author or prince; "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." It was Christ that set the sun and the moon to run their golden race, and placed the stars with their lights of fire; it was Christ that gathered the earth together, and formed the rivers. It makes creation sweeter, it makes the trees sweeter, to know that all is the work of Christ; and it makes us more sure of the world on which we tread: we might be afraid that an earthquake would come, but we know that nothing shall happen but what is the will of Christ. He toucheth the hills and they smoke. Christ seems to have taken this character, "The beginning of the creation of God," to Laodicea: just as much as to say, I sent the first earthquake; and if you do not repent, I am able to send another.
Second, let us look at the character of the Church. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." The Church had two peculiarities; lukewarmness and self-righteousness. Christ has a word suited to every part of the character. Let us take the first of these, lukewarmness. There are three characters spoken of: first, the cold. Who are the cold? Those who are frozen, those who are icicles, those who give and who take no heat. A dead body is cold and motionless; the hands are clammy, and the cold dew of death is on the forehead.
And a cold dead soul is far worse. Gallio cared for none of these things. Are there not many Gallios among us; those who care for none of these things! No wonder that there is so much corruption, when there are so many dead souls. The wonder is, that the children of God are kept at all; if it were not for the Spirit, they would soon have no life. Second, the lukewarm. Who are the lukewarm? Those who have the form of godliness, but who deny the power thereof; those who are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; those who are faithful at ordinances, who come every Sabbath to church, who are faithful in the world, those who are almost persuaded to be Christians. Now, this is what Christ hates most of all — He would rather have you to be cold or hot, than to be lukewarm. Are there not some of you who mock at such a thing as warmth in religion, and call it enthusiasm; at having affection to Christ? Are there not some of you who do not love to hear that word asked, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" — who do not like to hear of a broken spirit, who do not like to hear of the forgiveness of sins? You are the lukewarm; turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die? "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes," etc. Those who almost got to the gate of heaven, but who have never come to Christ, will have a deeper place in hell than profligate sinners. Third, the hot. Who are the hot? The dear children of God, those whose hearts are burning with love to God, and with love to the brethren; they are like the Seraphim, always burning. Christ baptizes us with the Holy Ghost and with fire.
Let us see now the other Part of the character — self-righteousness. Lukewarmness and pride always go together. If there are any of you who have been offended at what I have said tonight, you are the very persons, the self-righteous, the moral people. There is one sweet thing here — Christ never threatens only; after the threatening comes a counsel, and after that a promise. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." Oh, the love that is in the heart of Christ! He says, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." You think you are rich, and increased in goods; and it is true that if to be rich is to have long prayers, then you are increased in goods. But see what God says in the first chapter of Isaiah, at the eleventh verse — "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting," etc. You do not know the misery of being out of Christ; you think you are rich, although you are poor; you are a beggar, all your righteousness are as filthy rags; and "all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." When you go home tonight, perhaps some of you will say, what could the minister mean by telling us that we are miserable, when we are quite happy? and what could he mean by telling us that we are poor, and that we are blind, when we see quite well? But this is just because you do not know; and Christ knew that, for He says, thou knowest not that thou art wretched, etc. And yet observe, that although you are so proud, Christ is meek and lowly: although you be so proud, He counsels you, He advises you, but then you do not want it. Now, whether are you or Christ to be the wiser! He advises you to buy of Him "gold tried in the fire." All Christ’s gold has been in the fire, all put into the fire of God’s anger, the fine gold of heaven. And He counsels you to buy of Him "white raiment" — raiment such as no fuller on earth can white them. Now may God put this within you, that, after all, Christ may be right! Does He offer anything else? Yes. I see everything in the Lord Jesus; this eye-salve is the oil of gladness, the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. Now, if Christ was to anoint you with this tonight, that would lighten your eyes; you would go away saying, "One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."
Now let us look at Jesus’ promise. Christ was like a merchant in the marketplace, advising you to buy of Him; and now you have gone home — it is suppertime — and He follows you, wishing still that you buy His wares; and He says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Or it should rather be, I have been standing at the door, and am standing still! There is not a more touching passage than this in the whole Bible. Jesus has been long standing at the door of your hearts, and He knocks at it in the Bible — every time you read it, that is Christ knocking; and He knocks at your door by godly friends, by godly parents; and He knocks by the words of ministers, the words that come into your mind of those ministers, who have now gone to their rest, and are now enjoying their crown: and Christ knocks by providences that have met you in your family; by lost friends; by the fairest flower of your flock being taken from you. And you thought it was a rude hand, but it was Christ’s; it was Christ, who wants to reveal Himself to you, who wants to be a Saviour to you; it was Christ, who wants to be revealed in you, and wants to manifest Himself unto you, in another way than He doth unto the world. And He has knocked at your hearts, in these Seven Epistles; the Lord has been in this place, although you knew it not; He has stood until His head is filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night He has pleaded by His blood and by His tears. Now, if you would hear Christ’s voice and open the door, what does the Lord Jesus say He would do? "I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me." Judas saith unto Him, Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him and make our abode with him." How happy to have Christ sit down with you at every meal! How happy to eat bread with Christ! And now we have come to the last of the Seven Churches of Asia, and we must leave them; and observe, I take you all to witness, that the last word of Christ to you was a word of kindness — a word of mercy: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me."