The Poor Little Rich Church

Bible Book: Revelation  3 : 14-22
Subject: Church; Laodicea, Letter to; Cold Heartedness
Series: Revelation

My son Mark and his friend, Nancy, were going into a bank building where her sister worked when an arm suddenly appeared from behind a sign, and at the end of the arm a cigarette. The sign stated very clearly, SMOKE FREE AREA. They stopped to avoid running into the arm - just in time to hear this young woman call out to friends, "You don’t have to go out there to smoke, you can smoke free here!" For as long as I can remember I have been observing people who interpreted signs of the return of our Lord like that. One man deliberately set out to turn the church against me because I did not preach what he wanted to hear about the letters to the seven churches. He even brought a former pastor back to hear me preach. The man shouted "AMEN!" so often that I expected to hear him say "AMEN!" when I cleared my throat. They went to the church member’s home where, according to the man’s wife, the former pastor proceeded "to cut you to pieces, and she didn’t know what to think.

This man left the church when he could not turn the people against me, but a couple of years later he came back. After a few weeks I went to see him and after a nice visit, he said, "I had to change my mind about some of the things that were happening in Israel because some of the nations didn’t do what I expected them to do." He was neither the first nor the last to misread the signs of the times. I can assure you that I do not have all the answers, but I can also assure you that I know Who does have all the answers.

A visiting speaker, representing a nationwide Christian organization, spoke at the church I served many years ago. His message was on the letters to the seven churches. Each church represented a certain dispensation. He referred to the Ephesian Age, the Smyrna Era, and the Philadelphia Period. You knew where he was going with this: WE ARE LIVING IN THE LADOICEAN AGE - the last age before Jesus comes to rapture His church. I would imagine there were people in the Second Century who were convinced that they were living in the Laodicean age! If the world stands another thousand years, which I seriously doubt, some preacher will be declaring that they are living in the Laodicean Age.

I subscribe to a pre-millennial, pre-tribulation return of Christ, at which time He will rapture His church - the saints will be caught up to meet Him in the air. However, when it comes to the letters to the seven churches I am convinced that there is a message in each letter that finds application in some church today. There are Ephesian type churches, churches that are extremely orthodox in their doctrine, but they have left their first love. There are churches like the one at Thyatira, churches that still teach the truth, continue to serve the Lord and minister to others, yet they have compromised morally - or some of their members have. There are Sardis type churches, churches with a reputation for being alive when in reality they are dead. Then, there are the Laodicean churches - and I believe there are a lot of them in the world today. I think you will agree with me before we leave here today.

Now I would like for us to look at the city itself. Laodicea was easily one of the wealthiest cities in the ancient world. It enjoyed a strategic location one hundred miles east of Ephesus where it commanded much of the trade of Phyrigia. The great Roman roads that ran through the region brought merchandise to the city and enabled them to send their merchandise out to other parts of the world. The city was very important commercially and many of the citizens were very wealthy.

Laodicea was the major banking center of Asia and when Cicero, the Roman writer, visited the east in A. D. 51, it was at Laodicea that he cashed his credit notes. When the city had been destroyed by an earthquake in A.D. 17, it received help from the emperor in rebuilding, but when an earthquake destroyed the city again in A.D. 60 it refused help from the emperor because it had the resources to rebuild itself without help from anyone else. In fact, these people felt that they could buy anything they needed and that they did not need help from any man, or any god.

Laodicea was also famous for its black-wooled sheep. It is said that there was a sort of violet, glossy blackness about this wool that made it popular all over the world. It was especially valuable at a time when dye for clothing was very expensive. These black, or violet robes were sold all over the world at a great price. The people of Laodicea took special pride in their robes made from this wool. They were much more concerned with the adornment of the body than they were with the condition of the soul.

The city of Laodicea had yet another claim to fame. It was an eye salve that was supposed to have medicinal value. Actually, they produced both a salve and a powder which were supposed to be good for the eyes. Laodicea was as famous for its eye salve and powder as it was for the wool and their wealth. In the letter to the church at Laodicea, Jesus will play on the three claims to fame: their wealth, their black wool, and their eye salve.

The major weakness of the city was an inadequate water supply. It was located near Hieropolis which was famous for its hot springs, and Colossae which was known for its pure, cold water. A large aqueduct brought water from one Colossae, but by the time it reached Laodicea the cold water would be lukewarm.

There was a large Jewish settlement at Laodicea. In A. D. 62 there were more than seventy-five hundred male Jews, plus women and children in the city. These Jews were not only very wealthy, they were also very influential and where they found Christians at that period they pressured authorities to persecute them. Judaism was a legal religion, but, thanks to the influence of these prominent Jews, Christianity was declared an illegal religion. This led to persecution, torture, and death for many Christians.


"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Originator of God’s creation says..."

1) The letter is addressed to the angel of the church.

The word translated angel is the word for messenger. The pastor was the messenger who would read the letter before the church.

2) The Author is the Amen.

The word means, "so be it." Amen is often used to conclude a prayer, or to show approval or agreement. For example, in Rev. 19:4, we read, "And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, ‘Amen! Alleluia!" Here, Jesus is the Amen, the authentic One, the genuine Son of God, the Savior. Jesus is the great Amen.

2) He is the faithful and true witness.

Jesus is the "Way, the Truth, and the Light." He is absolutely true and He is absolutely trustworthy. He begins this letter by declaring that He is the Truth from God and that anyone who neglects the Truth does so at his own peril.

3) He is "the Originator of God’s creation."

The King James has, "the beginning of creation." The idea is that Jesus is the Source of creation, the Agent of creation, as we find in John 1:1-3:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made."

Creation is one of the great doctrines of the Bible, but it is a doctrine that has been seriously neglected for more than a century. Following the infamous Scopes trial in 1925, the media aided atheistic evolutionary humanism in their commitment to replace the truth about creation with a lie from hell. Evolutionists are telling students that God did not create man, man created god. Sadly, many preachers and professors in Christians schools have been intimidated to the point that they adopt all sorts of compromise views on Creation, like the gap theory or the day/age theory, neither of which is Scriptural or scientific. Evolutionists understand that if evolution does not work you are left with creation. That is the reason they attack creationists so vehemently. Sadly, many preachers and Christian teachers have chosen to compromise rather than refute them.

Let me tell you something right now - one day you are going to stand before the "Originator of God’s creation" and you are going to have an opportunity to explain to Him why you rejected His explanation of origins for a view that is constantly, shall we say - evolving! If you reject Genesis One why would you believe John One. If you reject Genesis Three why would you believe John Three?

Apparently the believers in Laodicea needed to be reminded of the fact that Jesus is the "Originator of God’s creation." I believe the church needs to be reminded of that fact today. Maybe it would do something to refute the idea that so many seem to have that they make the decisions about God and forget that He is the One who makes the ultimate decisions - about us.

What may we conclude from this point? Is the Lord, the Originator of all things, saying that no matter how proud they were of their wealth, He is not impressed. He made it all in the beginning! What do you think He would say to the person who is proud of his or her looks, his strength, her talent? He is the Originator of God’s creation, the source of all good things.


"I know your works, 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 am going to vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy, and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked..."

1) Jesus has perfect knowledge of every church (vs. 15).

As we have seen in the letters to the other churches in Revelation, Jesus has eyes like flames of fire, a vision that penetrates the depth of the heart and the mind. He has eyes like laser beams! He sees what is inside you. Apparently, He does not waste a lot of time with what He sees on the surface. Tell that to the entertainment industry! Let us be sure we understand this: (1) He has the power to see what is in each heart and each church, (2) He has the authority to do so, and (3) He is qualified to make the diagnosis, offer a prescription, and announce the prognosis.

2) He says they are neither cold not hot.

When the water for the city entered the aqueduct it was cold, but by the time it reached Laodicea it was warm. I grew up on a cotton farm, seven miles west of Sledge, Mississippi. That is in the Mississippi delta where it gets extremely hot in the summertime, hot and humid. By ten o’clock every morning in the summer the back of my shirt was white with salt. All my clothes were soaked with sweat. Town boys perspired, country boys sweated. Later, I worked for the Quitman County ASCS, measuring cotton and sometimes other crops. I know how important water is. I also know that while lukewarm water will sustain life, when you have a choice you will try to find cold water. I knew all the artesian wells in the northern part of the county and I always knew I could find a pump at any house. We had pumps on our place that, once you pumped the lukewarm or hot water from the pitcher and pipe, you would find the water so cold that you could not hold your hands under it very long without the bones in your hand hurting. That water was hard and filled with minerals so I would fill my water can with artesian water. I love cold water, winter of summer. No one wants to drink lukewarm water.

The word for hot is the word that denotes the boiling point. I do not drink coffee, but if I did I would want it very hot. I do not drink hot tea, but I can assure you that if I did I would want it very hot. It just seems that coffee should be hot. There was a time when people understood that - and MacDonald’s did not have to put a warning on their coffee cups to tell people that the coffee is hot.

3) He prefers the church to be either cold or hot.

Just as we like our beverages either hot or cold, Jesus would like to see some enthusiasm for His work. This does not denote the worship style a church adopts. Some Christians prefer a quiet dignity in a service. Others do not feel that they have been to church unless they have some kind of ecstatic experience. Most would fall somewhere in the middle.

Jesus prefers the church to be either hot of cold. Obviously, He would prefer the church to be on fire for Him, but He can do more to try to reach a cold church that one that is neither hot nor cold - one that is lukewarm. This may seem strange to us, but remember that He is not saying that He prefers lost people to saved people. What He is saying is that he prefers churches, and believers to be either hot or cold. He can use those who are on fire for Him and He can get the attention of those who are cold, but it is not easy to get the attention of those who neither hot nor cold, but think they are just right.

4) They are only lukewarm (vs. 16).

There is nothing pleasant about lukewarm coffee, lukewarm tea, lukewarm soup, or lukewarm Christians. These members in Laodicea were neither hot nor cold. They were lukewarm, like the water that flowed through their aqueduct. He does not call them silent believers. They were lackadaisical, apathetic, and indifferent This Scripture does not say that the average person today would be disturbed by a lukewarm church, or even that we would recognize it. Jesus knows, and He is concerned.

5) Because they are lukewarm He will vomit them out of His mouth.

I have found it interesting that over the last few decades we have seen a lot of labels applied to churches, denominations, and individuals. I remember when it seemed that the term Evangelical Christian said it all. Then we had to make a distinction between Conservatives and Liberals. Next, we began hearing the term Moderate. It is interesting to me that some liberals and moderates have been quick to label conservatives Right Wing Fundamentalists. They never see a wing on the left, only on the right. Somewhere along the way someone began using terms like Moderate Conservatives and Fundamentalist Conservatives. Some have sought to make the point that we do not desire moderation in coffee or tea. We do not want moderation in soup, or in most vegetables. We don’t want our beverages to be moderate, we want them either hot or cold. I drink diet cokes but I can tell you right now I do not want a diet coke unless it is ice cold.

I can recall many times when I had to drink lukewarm water when I was working in the cotton field. I hated it and tried to be sure that I had ice water with me when I was not close to an artesian well or a pump with cold water. Most of us have tried soup or vegetables that were lukewarm. We can understand why Jesus said, because you are neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, "I will spew you out of my mouth" (KJV).

6) They claim to be rich and in need of nothing (vs. 17).

They were very proud of their wealth. They boasted of it. They found security in their wealth. They loved their wealth and the more wealth they accumulated the more they desired.

7) He says they are "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked..."

Jesus was not impressed with their wealth, whether gold, silver, wool, buildings, land, or anything else. He is the Source of all things, and He knows that there is a day coming when all the elements will melt with fervent heat. Think of it: that in which they placed the most trust was destined to become kindling for a fire they could not comprehend.


"I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, and white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see."

1) He advises them "to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich."

They were proud of their wealth. They felt secure in their gold, their houses, their land, their jewelry, their commerce. Little did they realize how easily they could loose it all.

Barney owned farms all over the northern part of the Mississippi delta. He also owned some stores and he had built every house in a large section of a nearby town. I had the privilege of watching him try to sell my father a farm. My father had bought all his land from Barney over a period of years and Barney seemed convinced Daddy would buy this place.

It was the kind of buckshot land that would split into huge cracks during the summer and during the winter you couldn’t walk across it without the mud balling up on your boots. It was not the best cotton or soybean land but it would produce a decent crop. We did not buy the land but I will never forget the look on Mr. Barney’s face when he stooped down, scooped up a handful of the black dirt and let it sift through his fingers. "That land will grow anything" he said. I remember that, but what really leaped out at me was the look in his eyes as he looked up. I could only see the white of his eyes for a few seconds because the pupils had disappeared behind his eyelids. I still do not know whether it was the money or the sale that brought such ecstasy to Barney.

Several years later I heard that Barney was in a nearby nursing home. He had no family to visit him as far as I knew, but he spent most of his time trying to sell land and other things to the other patients and visitors. He would go through the sales pitch with anyone who would listen. Barney died and he was buried. No armored truck was seen following the funeral coach. He died and left it all behind him.

Almost everyone in the area had his favorite John B. story. All of the stories had to do with money. He loved money and he loved land. He couldn’t care less about his clothes, but he loved money. One day he told someone he had invested one hundred thousand dollars in some stock for his daughter. He kept his son in a small tenant house on his farm. I pre-measured his cotton land and checked his Conservation Reserve land and I knew he had one of the biggest farms around. He was afraid his son would waste his land and money if he gave him the opportunity. He died and the son inherited the farm.

Few things demonstrate how quickly wealth can be lost than the gambling industry. People lose their money, business, land, homes, and their cars - all for a chance to get something for nothing.

Jesus has some advice for each of us, and we do not have to wait until we accumulate the things of the world before we can purchase what He has for us. He counsels us to "buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich." What is that gold, and how do we receive it? Trust Him for salvation and then trust Him and obey Him. You will be wealthy beyond your wildest imagination. Read the works of Andrew Murray and you realize that you are reading the works of someone who had amassed a fortune that no one could ever take away from him. In Jesus we will receive gold that will stand the test of fire, as Paul stressed in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15:

"For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (NASB).

2) He will give them white robes of righteousness.

Laodicea, you will remember, was known for its expensive glossy black or violet robes. They took great pride in them. There are people today who wear expensive clothes, not just because of the quality, but to demonstrate their wealth. Friends of ours used to have clothes made in Hong Kong. The man was an engineer who wore suits to work every day and he could get a good quality for a reasonable price in Hong Kong. One day they bought some shirts and the man at the counter reached into a box and pulled out a handful of popular emblems and handed them to them. He told them they could sew them on when they got home.

Jesus offers His followers white robes of righteousness. When you stand before Him you will either be clothed in His righteousness, or you will stand before Him with less on that Adam and Eve had when they made the apron of fig leaves. How do I get this robe of righteousness? It is so simple, and yet so very hard to communicate. When you trust Jesus for salvation He imputes His righteousness unto you. As you walk in faith and obedience before Him, He clothes you in righteousness. The key is full obedience to Him. Let me ask you something. If the future of this church depended upon your dedication, your commitment, your support, and your attendance, just what kind of future do you think it would have? Some of you have gotten caught up in habits that weaken rather than strengthen His church. Do you think He will clothe you in righteousness when He sees that there are things that are more important to you than His church?

3) He will give them ointment for their eyes so they may see.

Once you have had any kind of problem with your eyes you appreciate the importance of giving the very best care possible. At the end of the first century, there was very little man could do about eye problems, but Laodicea took great pride in their eye salve. I do not know what medicinal value it had but it obviously offered some relief. They knew nothing of bi-focal s, tri-focals, or contacts. They would never have believed it if you had told them about laser surgery. They wouldn’t have believed that a century ago! Yet, the people of Laodicea placed a lot of confidence in their eye salve.

Jesus offers every believer - every believer - ointment for their eyes that will enable them to see what no lost person can possibly see. He offers spiritual vision, a vision that is not natural to fallen man, a vision that no one can attain, no one can inherit, no one can purchase. It is free to every believer who is faithful to Jesus Christ. The key is humility, faith, and obedience. The hymn has it right, "Trust and obey."

We live in an enlightened age. If you take all the information man had accumulated from Adam until 1940 and hold it before you, you might be surprised to learn that available knowledge doubled between 1940 and 1970. It doubled again in seven years. It doubled again in three and one-half years. Since that time there has been a knowledge explosion that defies the imagination. Computers are becoming more sophisticated every day. John, my older son, told me that he received a message over the Internet recently informing him that his computer was too slow to download a program. It was as though their computer was laughing at his computer! Of course, he has a new computer now. Who wants a computer that is the laughing stock of the entire Internet!?


"As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent."

1) Jesus says, "As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline."

There were serious problems in the church at Laodicea. When Jesus sees a lukewarm church we can expect Him to do something about it. Believe me, you and I may not know what to do, but He does. He is very clear about this: "As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline." He loved you enough to pour out his life’s blood on Calvary’s cross for you. Do you think He is going to let you drift away from Him without out doing something about it? A wise mother or father will discipline their own children. Failure to discipline does not prove love, discipline does. What parent has not agonized over disciplined at some time or another? If we discipline our children because of our love for them, can we not expect the Lord to discipline us? In Hebrews 12:6, we read, "FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES" (NASB).

Remember this: Jesus has the wisdom to rebuke and discipline; He has the power to do it; and He has the authority in Himself to do it. And He will do it. The sad fact is that many people are being rebuked and disciplined by Jesus today and they are too blind to see it. Haven’t we all failed at some point to see how He was disciplining us? Many Christians today are spiritual pigmies today when they might have been spiritual giants. They do not even know why. They are under the discipline of Jesus Christ but they are too blind to see it.

2) He warns them to "be committed and repent."

Jesus commands those who are poor, naked, and blind to "be committed and repent." If you are committed you will repent. Repentance is not an emotion. Conviction is emotional, repentance requires an action. Repentance is a change of mind that is shown in a change in one’s behavior. If the Lord is convicting you of the fact that His church would be in trouble if everyone served exactly as you do, you need to repent. You need to change your behavior and I wouldn’t wait around too long.


"Listen! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me."

1) Jesus says, "I stands at the door and knock."

You do not find Jesus by searching for Him - He came to seek and to save lost people. Christians do not have to beat down the door to find His will or to receive His blessings. He stands at the door and knocks. The question is, will you open the door to Him? He is knocking on the door of your heart right now. Yours. Now!

2) The invitation is for anyone who hears His voice.

The "whosoever wills" of the scripture are very clear. The invitation is clear to the lost person" "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37b).

3) He says, "I will come in to him and have dinner with him, and he with Me."

We say, "John is a friend of mine" if we stop for a brief visit at the mall. You may say, "Bill and Sue are our friends" because you sit with them at a ball game or you see them regularly at church. But the people you regularly invite to share a meal in your home are your special friends. When Jesus offers to come in and have dinner with you, He is offering Himself to you; He is offering you His friendship, His fellowship. He is not offering that fellowship to some super saint, He is offering it to you - right now.


"The victor: I will give him the right to sit with Me on My throne, just as I also won the victory and sat down with My Father on His throne."

1) The promise is to "the victor."

Who is the victor? The one who trusts Jesus, repents of sin, and commits himself or herself to a life of faith and obedience to Jesus. The Holman Christian Standard Bible uses the word "slave" where the KJV uses servant. When questioned about this, Dr. Ed Blum, the General Editor explains that the is the word in the original language. We do not know why the King James translators did not use the word slave, but for centuries have explained that a bond servant is one who serves another voluntarily. Let’s set the record straight this morning. If you are a Christian you are not your own, you have been bought with a price, the blood of Christ. You are not your own, you belong to God.

It is not your place to get up every morning and decide whether or not you are going to obey Jesus today. When you were saved you made that decision once for all time, whether you remember it or not.

There is something wrong with people who have to decide each week whether or not they are going to be in church on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. If you really belong to Jesus Christ that decision should have been made once for all time.

The victor is not one who is independent, he is one who acknowledges Jesus as Lord and Master. The victor is the one who is committed to Him. The victor is the one who has repented. The victor can be you - and it can be today!

2) They will have fellowship with Jesus.

Jesus freely offers His fellowship to all who will trust Him and obey Him. There is absolutely nothing in this world as precious as fellowship with Jesus, and He offers it freely to everyone who will repent and follow Him.

3) They will reign with Him.

Wow! It just gets better and better, doesn’t it? It is amazing that we would be given an opportunity for fellowship with Him. Now we learn that we will reign with Him. IN 2 Timothy 2:12-13, Paul wrote"

"If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself."


"Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."

Anyone. Any one. Every one! The blessings are there for any one who will trust Jesus and obey Him. The exhortation is for "Anyone who has an ear," and the warning is clear: anyone who has an ear "should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."

What does the Holy Spirit say to the churches? Repent. Commit. The hymn says it so well: TRUST AND OBEY. You will receive His riches, you will be clothed in righteousness, and you will receive His ointment for your eyes so that your spiritual vision will always be 20-20.