Reading between the lines of Jesus’ love letter to a bland church

The book of Revelation is cryptic throughout – even Jesus’ letters to seven churches are in code. Read carefully Revelation 3:14-22, his message to the church in Laodicea, and let’s savour the pairs of buzz words [bold/italic//underlined] that disclose his deep feelings for them.

[1] He would really like to come to supper with them:

[a] ‘eat’ (Revelation 3:20) is ‘sup’ in King James Version = to eat supper, the main meal of the day when he could open his heart to them as he did at ‘the last supper’ (the noun form of this verb in John 13:2; 1 Corinthians 11:25; compare ‘the Lord’s supper’, 1 Corinthians 11:20).

[b] However, he has felt sickened (‘spit’, Revelation 3:16 = ‘spew’). He felt like vomiting church members out from their intimacy with himself (Greek emeo gives us our word emetic, a drink to make a patient vomit!). Why? Proverbs 23:6-8 explains Jesus’ feelings perfectly: ‘Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words.These smug ‘diners’ were burdened, bland, bankrupt, blind and bare (Revelation 3:16).

[2] [a] They are not boiling hot: (‘hot’ Revelation 3:15-16 = zestos; they thought of themselves as ‘balanced’, but he wants his church to be extreme in all aspects of their lives. He bids them to be ‘zealous’ [zeleuo, be boiling hot 3:17]. They were merely ‘lukewarm’.

[b] Neither were they ‘cool’ (in our colloquial sense – ‘cold’ Revelation 3:15-16). The Lord does not want his people to be tensed up in their passion for him and his kingdom!

[3] [a] Jesus is tenderly fond of them – (‘love’ Revelation 3:19); he uses the word phileo here = affectionate love, rather than agapeo = the practical love of 1 Corinthians 13:0

[b] probably with silent tears phileo is the beautiful verb the Jews used at Lazarus’s graveside when they remarked to one another, ‘Look how fond he was of him’, on seeing  Jesus shed tears (John11:35-36; these were silent tears – the verb dakruo is unique to this one verse and contrasts with the common word klaio for wailing-out-loud weeping).

[4] [a] Therefore he tells them off (Revelation 3:19, ‘rebuke’ is his word in John 16:8 for the Holy Spirit’s convicting of sin),

[b] and ‘disciplines’ them (Revelation 3:19, he ‘administers child training’, the word Paul uses for the Lord’s chastising of those who were eating the Lord’s supper with sinful attitudes towards him and their fellow members, 1 Corinthians 11:32).

[5] He is willing to start the church’s recovery with just one zealot (Revelation 3:21-22) who:

[a] will hear him knock (Revelation 3:20) and

[b] pay attention to what he has to say (Revelation 3:20). He wants to enter church by the main front door. Just like a tuning fork’s vibrations will set off any stringed instrument  in the room that is tuned to that same note, an ‘overcomer’ (‘the one who conquers’ Revelation 3:21) –  anyone who has a sharp appetite for genuine heart to heart fellowship with Jesus – will vibrantly pulsate with responsive affection on perceiving the tone of his ‘voice’.

* So, let your soul sink into the warmth of his love, then open your heart to truly dine with him and fellow believers.

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