THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST

Previous: Revelation 3:15-17 - Continued 6

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'" - Revelation 3:18-22

Counsel

Returning to the last few verses of Jesus' message to the Laodiceans, we are reminded that all is not lost for this halfhearted church. There is a path out of their complacency. And perhaps, most encouraging to us, these improvements may be applied to our own generation. They may, in fact, be put to use in our own churches, and in our own lives!

Jesus told them, "I counsel you . . ." Even though advice is given to each of the seven churches , and we have called those segments "counsel," this is the only place where the actual Greek word symbouleuo or "counsel" is used in the book. Its literal meaning in Greek is "to make a resolute plan together." This is the sort of thing one does when seeking the advice of a business consultant or a financial planner. It is a picture of the Lord Jesus-the Son of God, taking the time to sit down with a struggling family member to map out a plan of success.

Here is Jesus' advice to them. First since they were spiritually poor, they should "buy from Me."

This is encouraging because it shows that their condition is not incurable. They may be lukewarm now, but there are steps they can take to be restored to the normal "hot" condition of spiritual fervor.

Furthermore, the things they need are readily available, but only from Jesus (eternal life-John 10:10, purpose-Matthew 4:19, truth-John 14:6; and everything else they might need-Philippians 4:19), and through the Holy Spirit (indwelling and assistance--John 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:5-15; power--Acts 1:8; spiritual gifts--1 Corinthians chapters 12-14; filling/control--Ephesians 5:18-21; freedom and victory--Galatians 5:16-18; spiritual fruit--Galatians 5:22-26).

Three commodities are recommended by Jesus to the Laodiceans. As mentioned at the beginning of the notes about this letter, the city was famous for its banking, its garment industry, and its production of a healing balm for the eyes. As He did so often when He taught his disciples in Galilee and Jerusalem, Jesus used objects and situations that were well-known to illustrate spiritual truth.

The first thing they (and we) should obtain from Jesus is "gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich." Gold is the nearly universal standard of wealth. In our own American history, our currency, the dollar, was based on gold. Its value was equal to a fixed quantity of gold. This gold was kept in fortified vaults like the one at Fort Knox, Tennessee. For that reason the dollar was considered the most stable currency worldwide. Now, of course, since the establishment of the Federal Reserve System, there is no direct relationship between gold reserves and the dollar, so it is subject to fluctuation and inflation.

Gold is symbolic of deity in the Bible. In the Tabernacle (Exodus 38:24), and the later Temple (2 Chronicles chapters 3 and 4), God prescribed the use of large amounts of gold because, being the most valuable material available, it symbolized His own presence there. Similarly, when the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, the Gold was an indication that they understood His deity (Mathew 2:11).

The Apostle Peter used the imagery of gold refined in the fire as an illustration of mature faith (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Jesus also offered to provide "white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed." Our sin leaves us spiritually naked and soiled. When Adam and eve first sinned, their new knowledge of evil destroyed their innocence and caused them to realize that they would need some sort of covering because their thoughts were no longer pure. They fabricated coverings from leaves, but God made them a more durable garment of animal skins (Genesis 3). This appears to be the first time an animal had to be slain. It was a foreshadowing of the sacrificial system that would be instituted until Jesus would come as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). Only His sacrifice will suffice to pay for sin.

"Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD,
"Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool". - Isaiah 1:18

Near the beginning of this Book of Revelation we saw that one of the descriptions of Jesus was "Him who loved and washed us from our sins in His own blood." (See chapter 1, verse 5.)

White garments were given to those who believe in Jesus in chapter 3, verse 5, and we will learn more about this in our future study of chapter 4, verse 4; chapter 7, verses 9 through 14; and chapter 19, verse 14. White garments symbolize the gift of cleansing from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Next Jesus prescribes this: "and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."

People do not always realize when their vision is impaired. Dim and distorted perception may seem normal to those who have always had limited vision, or who have gradually lost their sight.

I once suffered a painful but temporary eye injury. While working my way through college, I had a job in a machine shop. One day, while using a wire buffer on a piece of metal, and since I did not wear protective glasses, a tiny piece of metal from the wire wheel flew into my left eye. It was immediately painful, but it was so small that we could not actually see it. I did finally have to go to an eye doctor who found it and removed it surgically. For days I had a bandage on my eye, and every time I moved my eyes it felt like the accident was happening again. Thankfully, I healed quickly, and the whole episode was past history.

Today, I have a different problem, brought on very slowly by the process of aging. There was no sudden pain or even noticeable change from year to year, but I can no longer read the fine print, and it seems every electronic gadget has words and labels that I can't distinguish from Egyptian hieroglyphics. When I compare this progressive loss of sight with the painful but temporary problem of the past, I think that this gradual loss may even be worse than the earlier eye injury unless I do something about it.

Jesus healed several blind folks, and He did it a different way every time (Matthew 20:29-34; Mark 8:22-26; Luke 18:35-43). He claimed Isaiah's description of Messiah (Isaiah 61:1-2) for Himself, and added that He would give sight to the blind (Luke 4:18). He not only restored physical vision, but He gave spiritual sight to those who believed in Him (Mark 4:11-13; John 9:38-40). Spiritual sight transforms everything in our lives. It reminds us constantly that an all-powerful and loving God is at work in the world around us. We perceive the glories of Creation, the beauty of our relationship with the Lord, and the wonders of His provision.

The Savior had criticized the Laodiceans severely, but it was not done to harm them. He said, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." Who can deny the love of the One who died to pay for their sins? He had told His disciples:

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. . . As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. . . Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." - John 10:11-18

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. - John 15:13

Parents instinctively know that if they love their children they must discipline them. Proper correction will literally save their children's lives.

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives." - Hebrews 12:5b-6

Jesus, who had already told the Laodiceans what they had done wrong in the past, now instructed them what they could do to change their future: "Therefore be zealous." This is the only occurrence in Revelation of the Greek word zeloo, meaning "to be envious" or "to be eager." Our English words "jealous" and "zealous" both come from this word and are nearly identical. They have very different meanings depending on the context. The noun form of this verb is zelos, which means "eagerness, zeal, or rivalry." It is an omamatopoeic term that was created to mimic the sound of boiling water. Furthermore, is comes the root word ze that means "hot enough to boil." This is a most-interesting expression to find in this letter to the lukewarm Laodiceans. The Lord had wished that they were hot-or even cold, so that they would realize they were not hot. Now he tells them they can have this burning emotion of enthusiasm for spiritual things.

However, if they would like to be zealous, they would need to "repent." Repentance is a change of thinking about one's behavior. (See the notes on this in chapter 2, verse 5.) It is a prerequisite to revival. Every real revival has begun with some form of heart-felt sorrow for spiritual failure. Only then, when the evil thoughts and habits are recognized as the poison that they are, and are honestly expelled, will the life-giving Spirit of God take fresh control of the sinner's thoughts.

Will some people ever be able to say that they deserve salvation because they sought so diligently for the truth and finally found the right way to God? The Apostle Paul said the answer is "No!"

As it is written:
"There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one." - Romans 3:10-12 (Psalm 14:1-3)

In every case, it is God who takes the initiative-designing and offering a plan of salvation, though it cost Him the sacrifice of His Only-begotten Son (John 3:16). And once Jesus was here on Earth, the Gospels tell us that He went looking for followers, and called them one by one! Now that He has ascended back to Heaven, He still extends the invitation: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

During all the years of my ministry, this has been my favorite verse for encouraging seekers to accept Christ. On several occasions I have been questioned by well-meaning Christians about the use of this passage because it was addressed to members of a church. It was easy enough to support my position though. I would just say, "Yes, but it was a church full of unsaved people!" Some of them were undoubtedly true believers, but many obviously were not. The majority might have assumed that they would be all right because they were as good as most of their friends.

I had been just like that at one time. I attended church as a pre-teen and teenager, and actually liked it, but if anyone had ever said to me, 'Are you sure you are going to Heaven when you die?" I would have just said, "I hope so. I hope I have been good enough." Actually, no one ever asked me, but one day someone did share with me the plan of salvation, and soon after that I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.

What happens when one hears Jesus knocking and asks Him into his or her life? Jesus explained: "If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." There is no requirement to be good enough. Jesus called people just where they were. Some were fishing on the Sea of Galilee, some were tax collectors or obvious sinners. Some were diseased or demon possessed. But all of them symbolically opened the door of their lives to Him.

Not only would Jesus sit and eat with those who invited Him in, but He would take up residence with them. Because He is God the Son, and therefore omnipresent, He can say to each of us,

"I am with you always, even to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:20

And,

"I will never leave you nor forsake you." - Hebrews 13:5

And wonder of wonders, Jesus not only dwells with us, but He will allow us to live and reign with Him! "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne."

This is a faithful saying:
For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him. - 2 Timothy 2:11-12

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years. - Revelation 20:6

In spite of its problems, the Laodicean Church did have many "overcomers." There is always a remnant in every age. (See the notes about this expression in the introduction to chapter 2.)

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (See the notes about this expression in chapter 2, verse 7.)

Final Thoughts about an End Time Revival

If you have read this far, you probably have the same earnest longing that I do for a great revival in our days. Is such a desire realistic? Yes, because God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9). In the book of Jonah we learn that even in such an evil place as Nineveh, the capital of Israel's enemy, the Assyrians, God wanted those who had never heard the truth to have the opportunity to believe and be saved. The prophet Jonah did not want the Assyrians to have that privilege, so he fled from God. After he had been caught, and then released from the great fish, the Lord sent him to Nineveh, and he did warn the people there to repent and turn to God. To his amazement, a great revival broke out, and huge numbers believed in the Lord. Nineveh was still eventually destroyed for its evil history, but at least those who would believe in God were given the opportunity to believe.

Earlier, in Noah's time, God not only told him to build an ark, but also to preach righteousness to the people. In their case, the Bible says, their thoughts were "only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). None of them repented and believed except for Noah's own family.

Our generation is complex. There are places like parts of Central and South America, Korea, and parts of Africa where there are revivals going on now with amazing numbers of believers winning others to Christ. In China the underground church has grown exponentially and is spiritually strong in spite of persecution. Europe and North America, the bastions of the truth during the Missionary Age, have slowly grown apathetic. It is worse in Europe, where many of the churches have become taverns or mosques, but it seems that the United States is following in their footsteps.

How does God see our present world? We can be sure He still loves all of His creatures. Through His Son He has already provided salvation for all who will receive it.

Like the Laodicean Church, there is still an opportunity for lukewarm Christians to be revived. But will we? Our young people desperately need to know the truth about Jesus, and a great many of them do not understand the Gospel.

We cannot schedule a revival, nor do anything great to make it happen. But we can repent of our worldliness and pray.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Critics may point out the fact that this verse was given in Solomon's days to the Chosen People. But can anyone doubt that God would treat His adopted children in the Church (John 1:12; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5) the same way? Writing to the Corinthians, Paul made it clear that the things that happened to Israel are examples to us (1 Corinthians 10:6-11).

To put it another way, if we care about the souls of people-including our own relatives and friends, how can we not earnestly desire for them to come to know the Lord? How could we not pray for the right circumstances in their lives to point them to Christ? Why would we not pray for another mighty revival for their sake?

In conclusion, here are some of the promising developments of this present time that could lead to a world-wide revival, or to many smaller renewals. In future years, if we are still here, we will look back and notice whether or not they produced the desired result. If not, we will compose a new list and publish an updated commentary.

Missionary activity - (See the extensive notes about the Missionary work of the Church in chapter 3, verse 8). Even though missionary work has declined, there are tens of thousands of highly-trained, incredibly-devoted missionaries still taking the Gospel to the masses using all the methods that have been produced in the past, and utilizing advanced technology to finish the task of providing Scriptures to people everywhere. Most of the best results in our generation are the work of indigenous leaders in nearly every country of the world. Who knows when something very powerful may begin in some inconspicuous place that would lead to a wild-fire of revival and evangelism!

Heroes of the Faith - People love heroes, especially in sports and entertainment. There are many dedicated, courageous Christians in government, the media, education, science, and other fields. Some of them may have the platform to influence great numbers of young people for Christ. Time will tell.

Prayer movements - There are many prayer movements today. Some of them are led by young people. This is especially significant since bright young people and young adults have been leaders in past revivals, and it is primarily for their sake that we desire to experience such a renewal. Historically, major revivals have often come from college youth movements.

Christian music - Just as most the great hymns of yesteryear were the product of revival movements, so inspiring new music, performed by exceptional young artists, are making an incredible impact on people today.

Christian movies and videos - The Jesus Film Project (mentioned in chapter 3, verse 8), which has been seen by more than 6 billion viewers, is still being shown to approximately 3.8 million people per year in more than a thousand languages.

Actually the highest-grossing movies on the big screen are usually Bible epics or faith-based stories. In 2004 Mel Gibson shocked the movie industry by making the blockbuster "The Passion of the Christ." It became the highest grossing R-rated film (because of the violence Our Lord suffered) in the United States. The most popular 2013 TV series was "The Bible," with more than a million viewers. Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the producers of that series have now released the biblically-accurate and moving "Son of God." And they are planning on a follow-up series in 2015 on NBC called "A.D.: After the Bible." Several other Bible or faith-based movies are in process, and the trend is seen as a surprise movement from Hollywood.

Television and Radio keep improving with new applications and technological advancements. TBN, CBN, Sky Angel, Daystar and other TV satellite networks reach most of the planet with Christian programming.

Trans World Radio (TWR) is the largest media ministry in the world, and is still expanding. They believe that by 2015 they will be able to deliver Christian content to nearly 60 percent of the people in the world in their own language.

Salem Broadcasting is another extensive provider of Christian content, but there are hundreds of smaller networks and Christian stations that also feed the mind and spirit of Christians. Some of these programs are Christian talk radio. These informative broadcasts help inform Christians of important events that could lead to revival, and mobilize the Christian community for action when necessary.

As mentioned above, The Internet has become the preferred source of information for many people. Web based videos now rival television's viewing audience. An almost unfathomable number of videos are now available via YouTube and other providers using smart phone service and the Internet. Some of these "go viral" and can suddenly and unexpectedly be seen by millions of viewers. Many of these spontaneous successes have been Christian stories or messages.

Books- Solomon said "Of making many books there is no end" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Printed books are less popular at the moment, but Amazon.com had started a new free book publishing service to stimulate the production of new literature. This upsurge will not just appear on paper, but will be electronically transmitted instantly and inexpensively to computers and smart phones all over the world.

A new thing--something we have not yet considered--might be the most likely form that the Lord, the ultimate creative genius of the Universe, will use to launch an end times revival. The Bible story is a continuous progression of new things from God's own hand. The Creation, the Flood, the call of Abraham, the birth of Isaac when Abraham was 100, Joseph's rise to power in Egypt, the burning bush, the Exodus, manna in the wilderness, supernatural conquests, the prophets dreams and visions, the star that led the Magi, the human birth of the Son of God, Jesus miracles, the Apostle's miraculous ability to speak in other languages on the Day of Pentecost, and so many other innovations demonstrate the endless variety of God's dealing with mankind.

The whole chapter of Isaiah 43 reminds believers of God's creativiity. Here are just two verses from that chapter:

"Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert. - Isaiah 43:18-19

What will the Lord do in our times to bring about a revival? Will we be part of it? Please join me in asking the Lord to allow us to be involved in whatever He is going to do!



Next: Revelation 4:1



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