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Revelation 3:19  (King James Version)
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<< Revelation 3:18   Revelation 3:20 >>


Revelation 3:19

Note that each of these congregations—those in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea—was located in a Gentile city, and in all probability, each congregation's membership was primarily Gentile. It is quite likely that in each congregation the Jews were a minority.

Recall that the Romans ravaged Jerusalem in AD 70, and its Christians had to flee to Pella to save their lives. It is highly probable that none of these congregations had any communication with any survivor of the first congregation in Jerusalem. All of the apostles except John were dead, and he had been banished to Patmos. This circumstance was far different from the one in which the church was founded.

Were these Gentile congregations still part of the true church? Were they free of flaws and perfect in their character, attitudes, and doctrines? Would such a negative judgment eliminate them from being a true assembly?

Consider these further factors: Revelation 2:4 commends the congregation in Ephesus for doctrinal vigilance but castigates it for leaving its first love. Revelation 2:9-11 shows Christ commending Smyrna for being spiritually rich, but He also admonishes them to overcome. Despite His commendation, they are not a finished product.

Revelation 2:13-15 praises those in Pergamos for not denying their faith, but its members are doctrinally divided, and they permit heresy to continue. Revelation 2:19-20 presents Thyatira as growing in good works, but its members tolerate heresy and are guilty of sexual immorality.

Revelation 3:1, 4 exposes Sardis as spiritually dead, though it contains a few who remain undefiled, indicating that its members have virtually lost their faith and are capable only of dead works. Revelation 3:8, 11-12 reports that those in Philadelphia are faithfully enduring, but Christ admonishes them to hold fast and overcome. Finally, Revelation 3:15, 19 judges Laodicea as spiritually bankrupt and gives it no commendation at all. The congregation is strongly advised to be zealous and repent.

What does a composite picture of these congregations reveal?

1. All seven of them are admonished to repent, hold fast, or remain faithful.

2. Only two of them, Smyrna and Philadelphia, receive strong commendations and no listing of their sins and other shortcomings.

3. Two of them, Pergamos and Thyatira, receive a lesser commendation and fairly strong rebukes for sexual immorality and allowing deceivers into the congregation.

4. Two of them, Sardis and Laodicea, receive strong rebukes and no commendations.

In terms of a true church in a single corporate body, what do we see? Only sixty years or so following Christ's resurrection, we have a mixed bag as regards overall stability and righteousness.

Even so, is any one of them not a true congregation, an assembly of truly called-out ones? Does Christ in any way say that even one of them was no longer part of His church, His body of people? Not in the least. There are, however, warnings that, if they did not repent, some within their fellowship might not be within the Body of Christ in the future. Two things are sure:

1. Some of these congregations are clearly spiritually better than the others.

2. Some of them are decidedly awful, even though, using carnal judgment, they may outwardly appear good.

Since Revelation is an end-time book, the overview given in Revelation 2 and 3 is especially significant at this time. It is forecasting what things will be like just before Christ returns, and He uses these first-century congregations to illustrate His forecast for our time.

Remember that God is judging us individually within each group. An attitude that we should not allow to grow in us is to think that we are the only ones who retain a true-church identity. The other side of that same concept is that, even if we agree that others are still part of the true church, we are still better than they are—indeed, everybody else is Laodicean by comparison.

This unmistakably holier-than-you attitude is extremely destructive to true brotherhood and proper fellowship and unity. Luke 18:9-14 records this teaching of Christ concerning self-righteousness and its effects on these matters. Those who elevate themselves in their judgment of themselves as compared to their fellow members bring on themselves this condemnation. God does not justify them when they make this kind of judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is There a True Church?



Revelation 3:19

"Zealous" means "earnest, enthusiastic, to seek or desire earnestly, to have an ardent love," in contrast to their spiritual indifference. God desires them to have a burning desire for Him and His way of life. Instead, Revelation 3:14-21 paints a clear picture of people who are successful by the world's standards, yet spiritually deficient. They are devoid of spiritual judgment while rich with material substance. Their problem is an internal attitude: The mechanism that drives them is neither godly nor ardent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism



Revelation 3:19

Our salvation hinges on a lifetime of repentance from dead works and overcoming in faith. Thus, we are counseled before baptism to be sure we have counted the cost before we take on the awesome opportunity of eternal life. Once we take hold of the plow, we cannot turn back.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: Repentance



Revelation 3:18-20

Christians are the victims of an age that is apathetic to a true relationship with God. Would anybody in all honesty admit that he would not care to eat a meal with and fellowship with Jesus Christ? Yet, He is reporting that in His own church there are some who know that He is at the door, yet will not rouse themselves to answer it and fellowship with Him! They are refusing to fellowship with Him. They are so far from Him that they do not even see their need. If there is no awareness of need, there is no desire; no desire, no prayer; no prayer, no relationship, and back to no awareness of need. It runs in a vicious circle.

God is hoping that He can stir us up enough to repent and break out of the cycle—by rekindling an awareness of need. Awareness of need is in us because we are close enough to Him to see clearly how holy, gracious, kind, merciful, and good He is, and then we will want to be like He is. In other words, we so admire and respect Him and His qualities that we want to be near Him and will chase after Him, diligently seeking after Him like a lover seeking after his love. We will exalt Him and seek to honor Him by being like Him. This is what happens when two people are in love. That is why God uses the Bridegroom/Bride and wedding analogy. It is our responsibility to seek Him with all our might—with everything in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Fervency



Revelation 3:14-22

The seventh and last of the attitudes within the church, Laodiceanism is the attitude that dominates the era of the end time. It seems more natural to think that this attitude would be the least likely to dominate in such terrible times—that it ought to be obvious that the return of Christ is near. Though it seems contradictory for the church to become lukewarm during such a stimulating period, Christ prophesies that it will occur. It indicates the power of Babylon! Spiritually, she is so very alluring. To our eyes, the world may look ugly, but its spiritual charm distracts us from more important things. Why does Babylon dominate the church in the end time? It dominates the world, and the Christian permits it to dominate him!

In August 1987, a well-known evangelist in the church of God said, "You would be surprised how often the Work internally mirrors the world externally. I don't think we realize how often this is true." Why? Church members bring the world's ways into the body. Laodiceanism is so subtle that those who seemingly are best-equipped to detect it are blind to it! This is Christ's major concern for these people. It is not only that they are Laodicean, but also that they are blind to their own state!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism



Revelation 3:15-20

Laodicea is described as being materialistic, self-satisfied, no longer interested in doing God's work whether it is in their personal lives or as a public proclamation. Jesus Christ's rebuke here is the strongest in the Bible! When He says He will vomit them out of His mouth, it shows great distaste - His own people are not enthusiastic or zealous about doing a work!

Their estimation of themselves strongly implies spiritual self-satisfaction. They evaluate themselves on the basis of their material wealth, but when God looks, He judges them on the basis of their spirituality and find they lack a great deal. Being worth nothing, they had to be spit out.

Their spiritual condition is so bad that the Savior is on the outside looking in! He has to knock on the door, as it were, to be let into services or into their lives. It is no wonder that He says that He will vomit them out! So He says, "If any man hear my voice. . . ." If anyone is willing to repent, He will come in. He is appealing to anyone in that condition to change his or her attitude.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 10 and the Laodicean Church



Revelation 3:15-19

Obviously, these people are not meeting the conditions of their relationship with God even though they are His children. Their lackadaisical, wishy-washy, self-righteous attitudes and self-absorbed, self-satisfied lives are totally unacceptable to Him. He casts them from His presence and commands them to change their ways. There is no covering for the conduct of their lives here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Two): The Burnt Offering



Revelation 3:15-20

We are, to a great measure, victims of an age that is certainly not apathetic to seeking its own pleasure but is apathetic about having a true relationship with God. Would anybody in all honesty not care to eat or to have fellowship with Jesus Christ? Yet, verse 20 says He is standing at the door and knocking, and He will come in and dine with them if they just open the door.

Many would like to eat and fellowship with Christ just to say that they had that novel experience. But the irony here is that God is seeking His people, and they are too uncaring to even rouse themselves to answer the door! The message to this church shows that the problem is that they are so far from Him they are not even aware of their spiritual need and thus have no desire to be near Him. No desire, no prayer. No prayer, no relationship. No relationship, no awareness of spiritual need. It goes in a vicious cycle.

God is hoping that He can stir us up enough to repent and to break out of the cycle. He says, "Repent. Be zealous." Zeal indicates heat, passion, and feeling. He is hoping to break us out of this circle by rekindling an awareness of our spiritual need.

An awareness of need resides in us because we are close enough to Him to see how holy, gracious, kind, merciful, and good He is and desire to be like Him. In other words, we admire Him so much and respect His personality and character so much that we want to be near Him—right across the table from Him, as it were. We do not want to be near Him just to have a novel experience but to exalt Him and honor Him by being like Him. Is not imitation the most sincere form of praise?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God



Revelation 3:17-19

God is willing to go to great lengths to get our attention and get us to turn so that we will buy gold refined in the fire, get proper white garments, and anoint our eyes with eye salve. He is trying to get us to repent, which is what chastening is all about.

The Laodicean has the same problem. He is blind to God at work in his life and in the lives of others. Why? Because he is busy doing something else. The Laodicean is not lazy; he is instead distracted with busyness, with this world, with getting ahead in life, with everything else rather than what he should be involved in—the things of God.

God wants him to be zealous, but not at making money, not at building his house, not at flitting off to various vacations, not at filling his social calendar. No, God wants him to be zealous for Him!

However, a Laodicean pretends to be righteous. Like Balaam, he has built a façade. Externally, he looks like a good guy, and righteous too, but all the while, inside he is something else: He is totally hypocritical. This is one of the Laodicean's problems. He is so focused on other things—usually his own well-being—that he cannot see God. Since he has everything all figured out, and all his needs and many of his desires are met, he in his heart of hearts believes that he really does not need God!

Christ's advice to the Laodicean is to get eye salve so he can see. It is not so that he can see other people or other things, but so he can specifically see God! He also wants him to produce righteousness, so he can put on that white clothing representing pure character—so he can "purchase" the spiritual riches that actually mean something, the heavenly treasure Jesus speaks about in Matthew 6:20.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Balaam and the End-Time Church (Part 2)



Revelation 3:14-22

Laodiceanism is nothing more than a virulent form of worldliness in which devotion to Christ deteriorates, while attention to the world—its ways, attitudes, and conduct—intensifies. Perhaps we have been deceived into thinking that a Laodicean is lazy, or that a Laodicean is irreligious. But God never accuses them of being lazy.

Worldly people can be very religious. A Laodicean can appear to be very religious. The condition here is a matter of insipid devotion to the true God, His Christ, and His truth.

Christ reacts strongly to this because the indifference of Laodiceanism cannot be trusted. He does not know whether to believe their professions because He sees a great deal of insincerity and hypocrisy. He considers it essentially mean-spirited, as He is the object of their profession of faith, and what they claim is not backed by performance in their attitudes and works. The works are worldly even though they may appear religious.

Their high opinion of themselves—"I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing"—gives a good indication to whom they are really devoted, and so they profess to be what they are not. This, of course, is insincerity and hypocrisy, and it is a result of their indifference to Christ. They lack devotion to Him. So what Christ feels so strongly about is that honesty and a relationship with Him is weak or missing because their faith is so weak.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)



Revelation 3:1-22

Consider that this is Christ's message to His church just before the end, and this is what is most important for His people as we approach the end. Doctrine is mentioned seven times. Is that interesting in light of the times in which we live? We are seeing a major part of the church going haywire on doctrine! Is there something in the letter to Thyatira that mentions things that are happening in that group?

The letters contain at least eleven warnings to these seven churches but also at least twelve promises. Christ mentions faith, patience, conduct, and doctrine. But the two greatest, related concerns for His church at the end are works (Revelation 2:2,9,13,19; 3:1,8, 15) and overcoming (Revelation 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12,21).

Today, an awful lot of people are interested in church government at this time. It is not even mentioned by Christ! There are people who are interested in rituals, sacraments, and ceremonies, of which would be things like baptism or the Passover. But nothing in the seven letters alludes to these things. Nor is there anything in them about preaching the gospel around the world. These things have their place, but what we see is Christ's concern with doctrine, conduct, warnings to repent, and promises of reward.

Now these things that are not mentioned are less important than faith, repentance, and holiness, all of which directly impact on doctrine, conduct, and receiving the promises. All of these are bracketed between His statements about works and overcoming.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Revelation 2-3 and Works



Revelation 3:14-22

Laodicea is spiritually blind and filled with self-righteousness, things that are revealed primarily in their attitudes and actions. They say they "have need of nothing." The relationship, for all intent and purposes, seems to be forgotten. If any person has no need of God or Christ or of anything, it is because they really think highly of themselves.

They are not saying this verbally; Christ is reading their actions. Notice that He does not even tell them to "hold fast." Maybe there is nothing left to hold fast to. He simply exhorts them to repent because they have so little remaining of what they received and heard in the past. There is apparently virtually nothing to hold on to?almost nothing to be faithful to.

The name Laodicea means "people ruling." If we take this name to be indicative of their condition, then the name clearly indicates that God is no longer running their lives. They are simply doing their own thing while still professing to believe.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)



Revelation 3:17-19

The Laodicean's problem is that he does not even grasp that he is one, nor does he seriously consider the possibility. He really believes he is Philadelphian. He is blind to his nakedness and instructed to salve his eyes so he might see. This should cause anyone who considers himself a Philadelphian to take a long, hard look at himself in the light of Scripture. Could we be deceiving ourselves about our true state? Jesus Christ says so. It is somewhat paradoxical, but in this day of scattering and chastening, if we think we are of Philadelphia, we are probably Laodicean. If we think we are Laodicean, we may be waking up and beginning to see our faults. If we do something about them, we will be donning garments of true righteousness.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Laodicea



Revelation 3:17-19

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Revelation 3:19:

1 Kings 11:4-6
2 Kings 4:35
Amos 6:7
Amos 7:7-9
Amos 7:10-17
Haggai 2:11-14
Haggai 2:11-14
Matthew 25:2
Luke 21:29-35
Hebrews 2:3
Hebrews 6:4-6
1 John 1:3
Revelation 3:19
Revelation 12:7-17

 

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