Revelation 3:19

‘“As many as I love, I reprove and chasten.
Be zealous therefore, and repent.”’
(Revelation 3:19)

The ‘“book”’(Revelation 1:11&22:18ff.) or ‘prophecy’(Revelation 1:3&22:18ff.) of Revelation was received by the apostle ‘John’(Revelation 1:9) whilst he was ‘in the Spirit on the Lord’s day’(Revelation 1:10, cf. 3:22 etc.). Its second and third chapters read like a series of dictated letters or reports from the risen Lord ‘Jesus Christ’(Revelation 1:1, cf. v10ff.) Himself, for the attention of ‘seven’(Revelation 1:4&11) churches in what’s now western Turkey. This verse comes from a section addressed to the first century church ‘“in Laodicea”’(Revelation 3:14). However, as with all ‘scripture’(2 Timothy 3:16), its truths are preserved for our contemplation too.

Such truths can sometimes be hard hitting, even cutting, like a ‘sword’(Hebrews 4:12, cf. Revelation 1:16,2:12&16), which was certainly the case for the Laodiceans. Two of the seven churches received only commendations, four mixed reports. Only Laodicea received nothing but rebuke! It’s important to note, however, that such rebukes are offered in ‘“love”’. In fact they’re a sign of God’s love: ‘“As many as I love, I reprove and chasten”. So we should take heart when God cuts us ‘to the heart’(Acts 2:37), even shocks us, looking to the healing that can flow from such lovingly inflicted wounds.

No doubt the believers in at least five of these churches would have felt wounded by some of the remarks they received. Beyond that, the rest of the book can appear rather troubling too, yet truly awesome and glorious as well. John’s extraordinary prophesy reveals something of God’s ‘“glory… honour, and… power”’(Revelation 4:11) in the heavenly realms. Rather than becoming unduly troubled, we should be heartened by the power and glory behind God’s love, who necessarily ‘disciplines, and chastises’(Hebrews 12:6ff., cf. Proverbs 3:12) His children, like any good father those he loves.

One aspect of this love is that it shines a ‘light’(Ephesians 5:13) onto our spiritual darkness (which is revealing, but healing and transformative too – enlightening). Often we mistakenly think we’re okay, like the Laodiceans, who thought they were fine, in ‘“‘need of nothing’”’(Revelation 3:17), until enlightened with the news that they were ‘“lukewarm… wretched… miserable, poor, blind, and naked”’(Revelation 3:16-17) spiritually! Perhaps their consciences had already been pricked (or lanced/incised) by hearing about some of the other churches, like Smyrna, described as materially poor and oppressed yet spiritually ‘“rich”’(Revelation 2:9) – apparently the converse of Laodicea. Seeing such spiritual health, displayed in God’s word/others, is often the first step to understanding our spiritual pathology.

Nevertheless, after the diagnosis comes the cure, followed by ‘exercise’(1 Timothy 4:8), through which we’re ‘trained’(Hebrews 12:11) into spiritual fitness. So Jesus offered the Laodiceans spiritual ‘eye salve’(Revelation 3:18), so that they could look to ‘Him’(Hebrews 12:2), before resuming their ‘race’(Hebrews 12:1) with appropriate vision and vigour.

And so to the zeal: ‘“Be zealous therefore, and repent”’, the appropriate response to this reproving and chastisement (not sullen resentment), then vigorous running in the right direction, ‘fervent in spirit; serving the Lord’(Romans 12:11), rather than languishing in lukewarm lethargy.

We should note that such repentance isn’t simply part of our initial conversion experience. That’s an important time for repentance, like when Peter preached to the crowds and ‘they were cut to the heart, and said… “what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent…”’(Acts 2:37-38). However, repentance is to be an ongoing part of our Christian lives too, as these letters make clear. Ongoing repentance is necessary for spiritual growth, a bit like weeding our spiritual garden. In the Lord’s prayer we’re ‘“‘daily’”’(Matthew 6:11) to request forgiveness of ‘“‘our sins’”’(Luke 11:4) and deliverance from evil. Another prayer that can helpfully be used in a similar way is David’s ‘Search me, God, and know my heart. Try me, and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way’(Psalm 139:23-24).

Finally, we should note the role of groupthink in this tendency to error and sin. It’s noticeable that each church, on the whole, was characterised by collective failings and commendations, at least significant factions within each congregation, although sometimes ‘“a few”’(Revelation 3:4) weren’t swept along. So maybe we should pray David’s prayer corporately, replacing the ‘me’ with ‘us’ and ‘my’ with ‘our’?

However, ultimately what counts is each individual’s response to the Lord’s knocking on the door of their own heart. Interestingly, Jesus’ famous statement ‘“I stand at the door and knock”’(Revelation 3:20) was about Laodicea’s church door, but it’s of note that He continues by addressing the individuals within, ‘“If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me’(Revelation 3:20).

Please feel free to share this via social media etc.

(or anywhere else)

by copying/pasting its URL link:

if you’re on Xtwitter,
please do let me know @etheldredanet

(This website currently does not have social media share buttons, to avoid using cookies – see Privacy Policy.)