The Call to Repentance: The Toxic Truth About Today's Church | Revelation 3:14-22
Updated: Feb 22
One of the topics I have been asked about the most in ministry is understanding the book of Revelation. Year after year, authors continue to publish how they perceive the book. And, year after year, people continue to buy these books because they are curious about what to expect in the future. The passage we will look at today is often thought to be a passage that pertains to the modern church.
Many scholars believe that the seven churches John wrote about in Revelation 2-3 were periods the church would go through before Jesus returned. Many believe that the church's current state was written about to the church in Laodicea. This passage of Scripture outlines three essential truths about the state of the modern church.
1. Jesus proclaims that this church is rancid and gets regurgitated (v. 14-16).
The landscape around the church paints the illustration that Jesus uses for this passage. Two streams of water flowed into Laodicea. One was a cold spring that flowed from Colossae. The other was a hot spring that flowed in from Hierapolis. Separately these two springs possessed many positives. Together, however, there was a much bigger problem.
See, what made the water from Hierapolis hot was that it was a sulfur spring. Therefore, a toxic combination was created when the fresh water from Colossae mixed with the sulfur in the hot water. When ingested, this mixture would cause a person to regurgitate. This passage describes this situation as the current state of the church. The church desires to be both of the world and of Jesus.
In other words, when the church is told they are neither hot nor cold but lukewarm, Jesus declares that the church wants its cake and to eat it too. They want all the best things in this world and the assurance that they will all be gathered in heaven one day. They want to promote all the world's sins and tell people they love Jesus too. However, in reality, they are rancid, and when Jesus brings them into Him, He regurgitates them because they are not of Him.
This church is in desperate need of having its eyes opened.
2. Jesus proclaims that this church needs a reality check (v. 17-18).
The people of Laodicea proclaim they have become rich and need nothing. In these words, the church claims its physical wealth and reveals its spiritual bankruptcy. They value what brings them temporary comfort while completely denying their desperate need for God’s saving grace.
Look at Jesus' response to the church. He declares them wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. Jesus is alluding to the positions of their hearts. While they seem to believe that they are prospering and excelling in their lives, they are lost with no sense of direction and unable to comprehend their dire condition.
I don’t know about you, but it scares me that people within the church could be lost entirely. They believe that God has blessed them because they see favorable worldly circumstances. However, it is all in vain because they are still distant from Jesus in their heart. Worldly speaking, they couldn’t ask for anything more, but spiritually speaking, they have nothing and can’t even comprehend it.
Look at how Jesus ends the passage. He doesn’t want them to remain in this condition.
3. Jesus proclaims that this church needs repentance and restoration (v. 19-22).
Jesus tells the church they need three things from Him; gold refined in the fire, white clothes, and ointment for their eyes. It was the earthly things they boasted about that Jesus called them to receive from Him spiritually.
Rather than boasting about earthly wealth, they need the wealth that comes from being refined by fire. Rather than bragging about their world-famous black wool clothing, they needed to go to Jesus and receive pure white garments. Rather than boasting about their eye ointment that people would travel to purchase, they should have been going to Jesus to have Him open their eyes.
Jesus pleaded with the church to hear His knocking on the door and let Him in. He wanted to work in the church, but their earthly circumstances blocked them from recognizing the Savior's voice. This passage speaks to the reality that no matter how much Jesus desires someone, he patiently waits for them to invite Him in. Faith is always a free choice.
That is the good news of this passage. Jesus tells us that the ones who invite Him in, He gives them the right to sit at his right hand and be conquerors like Him. Those who recognize their need for Him, and accept Him as their Lord and Savior, will one day reign with Him.
If you feel convicted by this text, Jesus is knocking at your door. Are you going to answer it?
Is there any doubt this passage summarizes today’s church?
Look around; you will see churches willing to sacrifice anything to watch their church grow. You will see churches pandering to folks so they don’t leave the church or withhold their giving. You see churches moving away from preaching God’s word, avoiding texts, or trying delicately to explain them because the messages are offensive. We live in an age that has convinced churches online services are as valuable as in-person services. Although I could continue on and on, I will sum it up this way; there is very little conviction left in Christianity today.
I guarantee that there are some who, as I proclaimed those words, think they are an exaggeration. I almost hear a rebuttal of, “things aren’t that bad.” And all it does is affirm to me that we live in the era of the church of Laodicea.
Church, we need to repent. We must admit that Jesus has been knocking at the door, and we have the TV up too loud to hear him. We must recognize that we are caught between our desires for physical success and our desperate need for Jesus to overtake our lives. We need to call on Him as we have never before.
The church today is lukewarm. It is rancid and will be regurgitated by Jesus. The church is in desperate need of a reality check. But, more than anything, the church needs to repent and be restored to God, so it will one day walk with Jesus.
Each of us has a role in this. Have each of us done our part?