To Laodicea: Be Zealous & Repent | Revelation 3:14-22

Seven Letters Week 8

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I know your works: you are night cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:15-16)

I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (Revelation 3:17)

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jesus’ letters to the seven churches of Revelation were essentially report cards on the health of each church. Ephesus had great works and doctrine but had forgotten their first love. Pergamum was conforming to the society around them, while Thyatira allowed false doctrine into the church. Sardis was a church that appeared to be healthy but was actually dead. Smyrna and Philadelphia were beacons of good news in the midst of the rebukes. Jesus urged Smyrna to remain faithful until death and Philadelphia to patiently endure by holding fast to Him.

We conclude the series this week with the final church: Laodicea. Similar to the church of Sardis, Jesus has only rebukes for the Laodicea church. Located near the Colossians, Laodicea was a prosperous city with little need for aid from the Roman Empire or its neighboring cities. Apparently, the church developed a similar mentality.

Laodicea did not suffer from the kind of poverty or persecution that other churches were facing; instead, they were wealthy and prosperous. Yet because they only considered themselves to be materially rich, Jesus concludes that they are actually poor. Due to their prosperity, they thought they were in need of nothing, yet they were lacking Jesus. Therefore, Christ urges Laodicea to buy gold from Him in order to be truly rich and to open the door at which He is knocking. As Laodicea was essentially a church without Jesus, we must strive to not follow in their footsteps.

Read verses 14-16 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus opens His letter to Laodicea by stating that they are neither cold nor hot, and because they are lukewarm, He will spit them out of His mouth. What does Jesus mean by calling them lukewarm?
  2. Why does He threaten such a negative reaction as spitting them out of His mouth?

Read verses 17-18 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Christ lists how the church of Laodicea saw itself (rich, prosperous, and in need of nothing), but then He offers His view of them (wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked). What problem caused the church to see itself differently than how Jesus saw them?

Read verses 19-22 and discuss the following.

  1. What actions does Jesus command the church to take in response to the rebukes given?
  2. What promises does Christ give to those who repent?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Living in a prosperous society always leads to the possibility of developing the same sinful independence as the church in Laodicea. After all, it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God precisely because materially wealth often masks spiritual need. Therefore, consider whether you are rich with gold that comes from Christ.
  • Prayerfully reflect upon the message to Laodicea, considering any areas of your life where repentance is needed.
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To Smyrna: Be Faithful Unto Death | Revelation 2:8-11

Seven Letters Week 3

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. (James 1:12)

OPENING THOUGHT

Our study of Jesus’ seven letters in Revelation truly began with the message to the church of Ephesus. Therein, Christ set the pattern for the six to follow: He gives a report to them of how they are doing as a church and then proceeds to give them commands to follow. The church of Ephesus was essentially a mixed bag. They were doing things right, but they lost the love behind their actions. Jesus, therefore, gave them a strong warning to repent or else they would cease to function as His church.

This week’s letter, addressed to Smyrna, is quite different than the Ephesian message. Only the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia receive no criticism from Jesus, only encouragement. Living in a city of strong devotion to the Roman Emperor, the Christians of Smyrna knew well what it meant to suffer for the name of Christ. The officials of the city were constantly against the Christians (who refused to worship Caesar as lord), and the Jews in Smyrna antagonized the Christian/government conflict in order to keep focus off of themselves.

Even though persecution was both regular and severe in Smyrna, Jesus encourages them to remain faithful until the end. By remaining faithful to Jesus even in death, the church of Smyrna would conquer and receive the crown of life. History lends further encouragement to this message because there is still a Christian presence in Smyrna (now called Izmir) to this day. The church in Smyrna is an excellent example of the gates of hell not prevailing against Jesus’ followers.

Read verses 8-9 and discuss the following.

  1. Jesus states that He knows the church’s poverty, but then He claims that they are rich. How can the God’s followers be rich even in the midst of material poverty? How does this message compare to the message to the church of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22)?

Read verse 10 and discuss the following.

  1. The message continues with Jesus urging the Christians of Smyrna not to fear the suffering that they will encounter. As followers of Christ, how are we expected to stand firm in the midst of trials and suffering? What other passages of Scripture are encouragements in times of trouble?
  2. Jesus declares that the devil will put some of the Christians into prison and that the Jews of the city were acting as a synagogue of Satan. These clearly emphasize the underlining spiritual battles behind physical events. What does the Bible say about how Christians should engage in spiritual warfare?

Read verse 11 and discuss the following.

  1. The closing promise of this message is that the one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. What is the second death? What is the significance of this promise?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Though we may not relate much to Smyrna’s persecution presently, Christians around the world (Izmir, present-day Smyrna, included) are under near constant suffering for their faith in Jesus. Take time this week to pray specifically for these brothers and sisters around the world, that they would be faithful to Christ, even in death.