Revelation 2-3

2v1-3v22 Letters to the churches

The seven letters are specifically addressed to geographical churches. So we must reject a blank universalism that says they represented ages if the churches decline throughout history. Any progression, and progression is not obvious,  may simply be a result of their ordering to show the dangers of compromise. Nevertheless, their conclusions which call any with "ears to hear" to listen acknoedges they are intended as examples with universal applicabilit. And their message is that, whatever trials the Christian faces - whether persecution or poverty, false teaching or temptation, if they conquer by remaining faithful to Christ in terms of belief and behaviour, they will receive their eternal reward.

Excursus: On Church Polity
 What is noteworthy immediately and throughout the letters is that they are addressed to the angels, and through them the entire church not simply its leaders. It affirms a certain congregationalism. Jesus holds the entire fellowship accountable for the faithfulness of any given church and calls all to be active in seeking its reform. Such things cannot simply be left to the leaders.
        But we should also note that although this responsibility may extend to all churches that are linked together and comprise "the church" in any city or area, there is no mention of individual fellowships being responsible for the faithfulness of churches elsewhere in the world. Yet as the letter was written to seven, they were clearly aware of one-another. This is not to say they cannot care for or influence other churches (Rom 15v26), but they are not responsible for their faithfulness. Any wider responsibility on such matters fell to the apostles, as with John writing this letter - and perhaps by this time to regional Bishops (Tit 1v5).
        Ironically, it is therefore the localised or congregational nature of responsibility so affirmed by independent churches that shows the need of some form of episcopacy - and the responsibility that lies upon those who take up that role! Yet that episcopacy is not one that undermines the responsibility and authority of the congregation, but one that urges them to exercise it rightly with warnings of what might come if they don't. Indeed, though a Bishop may veto a bad appointment of an elder by refusing to commission them (Acts 6v6), I am unpersuaded that they have authority to prevent an appointment nor remove or discipline an elder that is in post, or a fellowship that is compromised. Rather, although they should be ready to publicly rebuke elders that sin before their congregation (1 Tim 5v19-20), they are to exhort the congregation to repent of any compromises they are party to and take responsibility for the situation. If the Bishop himself is seriously compromised, one presumes it is other Bishops that should discipline him. Yet where the Bishop remains compromised, congregations are called to refuse his ministry (2 John 10). These would be great letters for a Bishop to expound!
        Before considering the church in Ephesians itself we might also mention the roles of synods. Again, it would seem they have no authority to decide doctrine or practice, nor require changes or discipline. At most, they might discuss and decide matters they encourage fellowships to take note of and out into practice. The letter of Acts 15 comes from apostles amongst others so is more directive. Yet it still notes believers "would do well" to abide by what was commended (Acts 15v29).
        The point throughout is that the authority of the local congregation is to be protected, and that it is undermined when directive authority is placed over it other than in the ministry of Christ's word. The role of Bishops (and synods) is therefore to encourage, strengthen, advise - and urge fellowships to exercise the responsibility Christ has given them for their life together. Only with the consent of congregations then, may the Bishop lead it in certain matters like the collection of money for poorer churches etc. He cannot require it.
        All this makes Independency very much the most biblical polity, but that (1) shares a concern for all churches in its area with a history of basic gospel conviction, whatever their current compromises, and seeks to influence them for good where that is possible, (2) rejects a denominational focus on shared polity or top down decisions to promote practical partnership with any church if that doesn't undermine the gospel or impose things upon congregations without their consent, (3) recognises the need of regional overseers to conduct a regional role of strengthening, encouraging, advising and exhorting,  (4) ensures a high degree of gifting and commitment to a biblical and so evangelical doctrine and lifestyle in those who take on that role, (5) is ready through those overseers to serve all churches with a history of basic gospel conviction, whatever their current compromises, so long as they maintain a readiness to accept that oversight by considering the evangelical input of the overseer, (6) ensures its overseers do not act in a way that undermines local autonomy in doctrine and practice, or disregards any church that still contains believers that choose to welcome his oversight.
        The FIEC and GPs still have a place in developing practical gospel partnership. But what would be needed in addition is a distinct organisation or arm of one of those organisations that develops a network of regional overseers that churches could look to or even affiliate to. An interim might be in gospel partnerships agreeing that churches who cannot yet join the partnership can formally subscribe to the oversight of their directors - or better for keeping it manageable, their cluster chairs. The GPs are best set for this in already spanning denominations and by necessity therefore respecting the autonomy of the local church out of a desire not to conflict with denominational authority.

2v1-7 The church in Ephesus: We’ve discussed the nature of the angels and choice of churches (cf. 1v16. Ephesus may be first because the most important city. Populated by around a quarter of a million people, it was a commercial and cultural center in which false religion and immorality was rife.
        We’re immediately reminded that what follows are the words of the one who controls the destiny of the churches. Christ "holds" the angels in the sense that they do his bidding, and "walks" among the churches, seeing what they do. He therefore knows the Ephesians church's deeds, which he qualifies are reflecting “hard work” and “perseverance.” What is meant by these things follows. It is the hard work of maintaining the purity of the church. Challenging the moral and epistemological relativism of their day, the congregation have not tolerated the wicked – perhaps excluding them from fellowship. And they have tested those claiming to be apostles, finding their claim to be false - perhaps using the doctrinal and lifestyle tests affirmed in the NT (1 Cor 14v29, Mt 7v20, cf. Acts 20v29). Moreover, without getting weary, they have persevered in faith although it meant enduring the hardship of persecution for the sake of Christ. These are things Jesus looks for in every church – a readiness to deal with sin and error, and to remain fresh in faith however hard things get. And on our day too false believers are ready to appoint themselves leaders.
            However, Jesus is not wholly happy. The idea of “holding against” implies impending punishment. They have “forsaken” the love they had at first. The previous verses suggest this cannot mean the unfaithfulness of one who turns to false religion, nor a simple tiring in faith. It must therefore refer to either a fading of one’s zeal for the Lord – the degree to which he is valued, and the Christian is ready to give all in his service; or to a fading care of one-another, which certainly fits the focus of Paul’s letter (Eph 3v14-21). Jesus’ earlier commendation of their work and perseverance, suggests he doesn’t have service in mind. Furthermore, his immediate commendation of hating the acts of certain church members, makes mutual love most likely. Jesus is qualifying his desire for them to love other believers. And their decline in love is serious. There has been a substantial fall. The Ephesians are therefore to “do the things” they first did, implying that love for one-another is critical to a commendable church, as well as moral discernment and perseverance in faith. This is of course the great emphasis of John’s first letter (1 John). And without such love, Jesus warns that he may remove the church from existence all together. In other words, it ceases to be a true church! This is a stark challenge to sound but harsh churches.
But Jesus again commends the Ephesians – for “hating” the practices of the Nicolatians. Talking of hatred here seems to be a way of clarifying that they should not extend their love to an acceptance of those in their midst who follow heresy. Early church history suggests these “practices” may have been moral compromises encouraged by a deacon called Nicolaus, and that may have been widespread, infecting Thyatira and Pergamum too (2v14, 20-21). Whatever the case, once more out of step with modern sensibilities, Christians are commended for sharing God’s hatred of sin. They are not to be complacent, or as many do today, refuse to judge out of a concern to be loving. They are to dislike and oppose sin in the extreme.
            Each letter begins with an introduction stating something of the one speaking. This is followed by what he knows of each church, commending any good and rebuking any bad, with warning. The letter is then concluded with a promise to those who overcome. As in verse 7, this is a call to “whoever has ears” – perhaps, those who are spiritually alive and so listening to Christ. They are to hear “what the Spirit says to the churches.” This looks beyond the original recipients, affirming the book is for all Christians to listen to and learn from. The language also affirms the nature of the Trinity. What the Son says the Spirit says to his people by revealing it. So John has this vision of Christ whilst “in the Spirit” (1v10). For Ephesus, the promise is to the one who is “victorious.” In context this must be victorious in the battle with sin and error within the church, as well as in their own tendency to give up on perseverance or love. The victorious will be given the right to “eat of tree of life in the paradise of God.” So those who lose their lives will gain them, living forever in a new creation patterned in Eden (22v2) - the restoration of perfect fellowship with their creator. It’s certainly a motivating promise in our dark and difficult world. Then we will enjoy rest from this present toil.

2v8-11 The church in Smyrna: Again, Jesus identifies himself as the God of history who died and rose as a man. Reading on, this is probably to stress his supremacy and claim on allegiance in contrast with the devil, and his example of suffering to death, confident of resurrection.
            The “afflictions” the church suffers are from Jewish opposition that involves “slander” and will soon involve “imprisonment.” Their “poverty” no doubt accompanies it – perhaps the theft of property or lack of job opportunity as Christians. Yet Christ affirms the truth – they are “rich” because of the “crown of life” he promises them. Strictly speaking, the “crown” is the crown of the victor who overcomes, but in being a crown of “life” it may also denote the Christians reigning eternally over the new creation with all its resources. They are also to be comforted in hearing that Christ “knows” how they’ve been slandered. He is aware of whatever we face for his sake. These things are to be meditated on whenever discipleship entails loss.
             Perhaps to counter the temptation to return to Judaism, Jesus clarifies that the persecutors are not true Jews, no doubt because they have rejected their Messiah and are doing evil. Indeed, they are “a synagogue of Satan,” probably in the sense that they are deceived and seeking to harm the Christians (as Jn 8v42-47) – and so doing the devil’s will. Jesus wants them to know this will intensify as the devil causes some of them to be imprisoned during a ten day pogrom. This may be a literal period or symbolic of prolonged but defined period. What is clear is that it is not beyond the control of Christ. He is permitting it to “test” them, and so urges them to “be faithful” even if it means death, in the certainty of gaining their crown of life. We too, should see all hardship as a test (1 Pet 1v6-7) and so never give up under it.
            Once more the letter ends appealing to those ready to listen to these words from Christ via the Spirit. Any who overcome as he is urging Smyrna to, will not be hurt by the second death. This is the book’s way of describing the final punishment of hell. It is to be cast into a lake of sulphur – an image of judgment taken from the raining down of sulphur in the destruction of Sodom. It is the fate of all whose names are not in the book of life and who have not therefore lived a life of faith and godliness (20v6, 14, 21v8). The letter therefore reminds the reader that whether they receive eternal life or eternal death depends on their persevering despite acute suffering. It also reminds us that all without Christ face a terrible destiny.

2v12-17 The church in Pergamum: Here Jesus stresses how his words judge (v12, 16). But first encouragement. He knows the context in which these believers are having to work out their faith - an encouragement for every one of us when our circumstances are difficult. And the language is extreme. Jesus seems to imply Pergamum is a centre for Satan's rule just as Jerusalem was for the Lord's. At the very least, it is where he is especially present (v13), and therefore a place of great evil. This certain implies that he is very much active and not at this point "bound" (20v2).
     Yet still, these Christians remain faithful to Christ's name by not renouncing it and so refusing to renounce their allegiance to him - and even when Antipas was martyred. One can only imagine the pressure then to buckle, worrying about what death would mean for ones family etc. Difficult circumstances are never an excuse for compromise. By the Spirit Jesus can still be honoured.
     Interesting for the wider book is the term "faithful witness." Used elsewhere only of Jesus (1v5) it is a noble title, referring to a readiness to remain faithful in speaking the truth even to death. It therefore reminds us that he calls us not just to be ready to die for him but to speak for him whatever the cost. To be given this commendation from Christ himself would surely have become an ambition for John's persecuted hearers as it should for us.
     Jesus turns now to the negative. "have against" implies these are charges that stand against the church in Christ's court. The fault is that they are doing nothing about false beliefs - and no doubt the sin that flows from it. Some follow the teaching of Balaam. The reference to Numbers 25 may be to stress its seriousness. But it's possible the false teachers were boldly commending Balaam's teaching. It involved eating food as part of pagan worship and promiscuity. (Simply eating food that has been used in pagan worship is not forbidden in the NT, cf. 1 Cor 8). Numbers does not tell us Balaam encouraged Balak to encourage these things to cause Israel to stumble, but by mentioning it the Lord teaches that this is at the least a Satanic strategy to make these Christians stumble. See 2v6 on the teaching of the Nicolatians, which clearly needed no explanation but in context may have included false beliefs and immorality too.
     The point is that such things are not to be tolerate,  because they displease Christ and cause believers to stumble in salvation. It's a needy word for our tolerant age. If false ideas are being embraced in our fellowship, we are to seek to turn those who embrace them from their sin (Gal 6), and if there is no repentance, exercise thoughtful church discipline (1 Cor 5).
     Perhaps it is a failure in this responsibility that moves Jesus to call the whole church to repent despite the sin being of only "some." If there is no repentance than Jesus will "come" and "war" against that group with "the sword of my mouth." It's extreme. Jesus isn't just disappointed with such things in his church, let alone open and understanding towards them, tolerating diversity. Their advocates are his enemies, and his words that they deny and despise are the means of their destruction. It's not clear how Jesus will come in this way, only that it will be "soon." In context that seems to be literal rather than a prophetic "soon" referring to Christ's return. In the wider NT this could take the form of illness leading to death (v22-23, cf. 1 Cor 11).
     As previously its those God has given a readiness to hear to - throughout history, who Jesus calls to hear what the Spirit is saying to these churches. And to them he adds the promise that if they conquer - no doubt by resting such false teaching and sinful practice, he will give two things: The hidden manna may refer to his sustaining presence - hidden because in being from the Spirit it is unseen. It's unclear what the white stone refers to. Most probably it is the stone awarded to the victor in athletic games that was a pass to a special awards banquet. Here it is awarded for "conquering." The new name known only to those who receives it may be our renewed self that will inhabit the new creation. Whatever the case it motivates us to run our race in faithfulness to the end.

2v18-29 The church at Thyatira: The description Christ gives himself is that of the Son of Man from Daniel 7 who is given all authority. Yet, picking up 1v13-14, the detail is that of the ancient of days. It stresses the burning holiness of his judgement and the strength and purity from which that judgment comes. This is the true Jesus who assesses our deeds.
     And he immediately declares "I know your works." But fear is alleviated with an an initial commendation. The faithful in this church are proving even more faithful than they were initially. "Love" may well be towards God as faith and service are directed to him. This church truly cherishes, trusts and pours themselves out for the Lord. "But..." 
     Jesus holds the toleration of a false teacher and the compromises she encourages against these faithful believers. Again "against you" means these things stand against them in the heavenly court. "Jezebel" may be a pseudonym taken from the notorious wife of Ahab. Like some even today she has simply asserted she is a prophetess and so speaks God's words. The sins she teaches are those of v14 (see notes there) so may reflect the same teachings, showing they are prevalent in the churches. The culture was one of immorality and paganism, and so these teachings may be a cultural accommodation - a clothing of Christianity in the trappings of Greco-Roman practices rather than it being set-up apart from them. The word "seducing" may refer to how "Jezebel's" teaching draws Christ's servants into spiritual unfaithfulness. But it is possible she is literally seducing them to commit immorality with her, v21-22. Either way it is extremely serious to cause the servants of the ascended and awesome Christ to stumble.
     This letter is a particular word for our day as some within the church urge it to bow at the altar of secular liberalism, holding inter-faith services and accepting homosexuality and transgenderism in order to reach popular culture. There is no question, God's people are not just culpable if they affirm that, but also if they tolerate it by standing by and doing nothing.
     However, Christ's judgement is against the false teacher and those who follow her, not the faithful who have not taken action. He has been patient in giving her time to repent - an explanation perhaps for why he allows compromised churches or false teachers within them to persist for so long. Nevertheless, repentance - turning from sin and to Christ is what's expected. But Jezebel has refused to.
     Here we can speculate that the faithful might have pointed out her sin to her, making her aware of Christ's call to repentance. He could simply be taking issue with the fact that the faithful then tolerated her stubbornness rather than exercising discipline (cf.  1 Cor 5). Again, there are many parallels in the contemporary church.
     Christ's warning is that he will make Jezebel sick and cause those sinning with her to suffer "tribulation" - a reference to wider suffering or persecution leading to death (v23) - unless they repent of the things she encourages them in.
     This is the Christ churchgoers toy with when they persist in sin. He is prepared to judge in the present when warranted. And he has wider purpose in it. By this "all the churches" will know (1) that Jesus is the one who searches even our thoughts and motives - ie. that he is God himself, our judge, who sees all; (2) that he gives to each according to works as he will on the last day (Rom 2v6). As the church in Thyatira is singular, "the churches" probably doesn't refer to house churches in the city, but to the seven mentioned in these chapters or those throughout the world first reading this book and hearing perhaps how Christ's word came to pass. And so we should take heed and not let another day pass if continuing in conscious sin without repenting, and seeking help if we need it.
     But what a tender word of grace to the genuine believer, even though they have not dealt with these people rightly. "Now" marks a change in tone. "The rest" are those who don't hold to Jezebel's teaching, which seems to include some gnostic "deep secrets" that she or Jesus label as Satanic. So often false teaching claims a higher knowledge than that found in the scriptures.
    "Any other burden" may imply Jesus has given these viewers one burden in calling them to stop tolerating what is going on. Beyond that Jesus desires nothing more than continuing to hold on to their salvation as outlined in v26-29 through faith. "Until I come" marks the timing. The believers great ambition is simply to persevere in faith and faithfulness until Jesus brings the end. Whatever our struggles this his words should strengthen our resolve: "Hold on until I come."
     v26: To do so is to be victorious because it is to overcome sin and the struggles of this present time by remaining obedient to Christ. His promise to such people is "authority over the nations" - a particular encouragement to any being persecuted by them. The quote from Psalm 2 implies this will be to share in the rule of the messianic king in bringing firm and destructive justice for what the nations have done, not an era in which God's people somehow reign over unbelievers. Just as the authority to judge has been given to the Son by his Father, so he shares it with his adoptive brothers and sisters (cf. 1 Cor 6v2-3). This could mean simply a assenting to Christ's judgment, or somehow weighing the sin of people (and angels) too. We don't know. But it will give believers a chance to bring justice on their oppressors, enabling them to respond to them with patience and love now. Here,  believers are promised "the morning star" - perhaps a reference to Christ himself as the herald of the new dawn. The promise is therefore an encouragement to persevere because that the end is on the way. 
     The letter ends as the others, with a call to those with ears through the churches to hear.

3v1-6 The church in Sardis: See notes on 1v4 as to why the seven spirits should be seen as the Holy Spirit. The seven stars are the seven churches' angelic representatives who seem tasked to work out Christ's will in the churches (cf. notes on 1v16, 20). Putting the two together implies the Spirit is described as sevenfold to stress his presence in each of the churches the book is written to - and because they are representative, in every church. It reminds us that although the Spirit resides in every believer he is especially present with each church family in a way that is attentive and focused upon them. The point of v1 is therefore that Jesus holds the life and destiny of the Sardinian church in his hand. It's both encouraging and daunting.
     But here for the first time there is no encouragement. Again, Jesus affirms his knowledge of their works. They are known for being alive - perhaps large, active, even vibrant. But Jesus sees the heart and so the reality. They are essentially dead. Which in context must mean they lack a sincere love, faith, service and endurance toward the Lord (as 2v19), which is showing itself in some of them sinning, v4.  This is not to say they are not a church of believers. These things are there as a dying ember, v2. And the believers are asleep to that. They may see themselves as doing well, but their works are lacking in God's "sight." So they must wake up, recognise their predicament and fan the ember into flame. The call to "strengthen" may imply their giving up in a weariness of spirit brought on not by persecution, as the other letters imply that would be mentioned, but by the general call of discipleship.
     This is a rebuke to all churches that are busy on church activity and even serving their community,  but where this flows not from love of God but self satisfaction or a desire to be praised and respected. Such churches can be filled with people who reject orthodox belief and affirm immorality yet talk of Christians things as if they are alive to God. Yet genuine believers can be effectively asleep to the seriousness of that.
     The way forward is to "remember" what received and heard - which must be a reference to the gospel passed onto them. They must do as it says and repent of their sin, submitting wholeheartedly to God's ways. If they don't wake up to their predicament Christ will catch them imprepared, and steal away their souls like a thief. This is most likely a reference to his return rather than temporal judgments as the language is elsewhere. As such it keeps every church since on their toes.
     Jesus acknowledges some there have not "soiled their garments" - perhaps referring to turning to sin from a state of apparent purity through faith (v4-5, cf. 7v9). As encouragement to all to remain pure, Jesus promises them to "walk with him in white." The "walk" implies the full glorification and intimacy with Christ in the new creation as Adam and Eve walking with God in Eden. The "white" looks us to 7v14, referring to guilt atoned for by Christ's blood, making the worshipper pure, clean and acceptable for God's presence. The garments are therefore given by God. The people are likewise "worthy" not in the sense of meriting this salvation, but showing God has made them worthy according to its terms - ie. they have "conquered" by persevering in faith and godliness when so many others didn't (v5, cf. 2v26). The promise to be hearer is that if they do the same they will join the faithful Sardinians.
     We are assured this salvation is forever too. Jesus will never remove such peoples names from the book of life, but personally confess their names like a bouncer on a door to the father and the angels who may have some responsibility for access. Again, we should hear.
     Here we come across "the book of life" for the first time. Psalm 69v24-28 gives background. It is the list of "the righteous" or faithful, who are saved from God's wrath (Rev 20v11-15). In context, the fact that some have "soiled" their garments implies their names may have been blotted out (Ps 69v28), which may be why Christ's guarantee here is future. Elsewhere we learn this cannot happen according to God's election (13v8, 17v8). But it can happen according to what is apparent in the churches - some who are outwardly set apart by their confession of faith as clean and holy may turn away (1 Cor 7v14, Rom 11v22, Heb 10v29). The book of life appearing at the end of the Revelation should therefore be seen as the list of those who overcome by perseverence and are therefore saved, proving their election. The rhetorical (rather than theological) point here is to persevere to the end so that on that day our names will be in the book and Christ will ensure they are never removed.

3v7-13 The church in Philadelphia: Now there is no word of rebuke. Jesus reassures in his introduction that he is "holy" meaning that as his followers the church are rightly set apart, and "true" and so their faith is well place. He also has the keys to the davidic Kingdom, opening and closing in a way none can thwart. So his hearers can be sure when he promises an open door to them because of their work, having seen how they have kept hold of the gospel and not denied him despite being relatively weak - perhaps lacking influence or status. It's a reminder that what the Lord esteems however we are seen in the eyes of the world is unflinching faithfulness to him.
     The language is intentionally Jewish because these believers are being opposed by a synagogue. It's quite possible they are converts from Judaism. The synagogue is of "Satan" in carrying out his work, and it's members are not truly Jews because of that - else they would embrace Christ. Jesus' promise is that these persecutors will one day bow before these powerless believers - most likely a reference to the judgment when they will see the Christians were in the right and loved by the Jewish messiah (cf. 2v26). This truth enables all believers to be patient in their trials knowing they will be vindicated.
     v10 is intriguing. It could refer to a tribulation the believers are protected from in history, but in context probably refers to the final judgment too. Throughout it is this that those who keep Christ's word and endure are saved from. The point is that they are experiencing hardship others aren't, but one day things will be reversed. The language of testing probably refers to how this "hour" (awaited time that then arrive, 14v7) will reveal the true nature of things - ie. that these believers are true to God and their opponents of Satan.
     In the light of that the Christians are to "hold fast" to what they have, ie. to the gospel and so to Christ and his kingdom. And the reason is so that their crown is not seized - this could encompass both the idea of royalty in reigning with Christ (2v27) and athletics in finishing the race (v10). The seizing may refer to how the persecutors might snatch the crown away by causing these believers to stumble.
     v12: This time the one who conquers is promised the dignity of being a pillar in God's temple - the place of his presence. The sense of the image is that it will be impossible for them to be removed (as pillars are essential to the structure. They will be the Lord's, having his name on them and the name of his city - the new Jerusalem which will come from God out of heaven (21v2). It is new in being different to the earthly Jerusalem, comprising believers from all nations and all the qualities of chapter 21 (see there). The conquerors will also be inscribed with Christ's "new name." We're not told what that is. But that's the point. They are reassured that if they endure they will be party to the revelation of that mystery - belonging to the new order of things for which that new name will be given. Indeed, all the language of v12 would have given reassurance after reassurance that these Jewish Christians are the true people of God, and so belong to him.
     Once more, all with ears to hear down the ages are called to hear. These are reassurances for us too.

3v14-22 The church on Laodicea: Christ begins stressing his truthfulness. He is the "Amen" which is the stamp of agreement on all that is said. Again his testimony comes from the one who is faithful and true. As the beginning of all creation perhaps we are also seeing him as the firstborn with authority over all.
     Once more there is only rebuke. The Laodiceans are neither hot nor cold - zealous or hostile to the Lord (v19). And Jesus implies anything would be better than a tepidness that implies half-heartedness yet an awareness things should be better. The imagery is vivid. Because they are distasteful to him like warm water he will spit them out which is to reject them - perhaps cease sustaining their church.
     v17: Their sin shows itself in complacency and false assurance. Like so many congregations in the west, they are wealthy. And so they assume they need nothing. They would be the church today with a large staff team, great music and AV - all bought in. They would be viable and attractive. But in reality they are wretched in their spirituality, pitiable because of it, poor in lacking the riches of gospel blessing, blind to their real situation and naked in lacking the garments of righteousness Christ gives (v18, cf. 3v4). It's a warning to every church that appears successful because of its wealth. The things Christ esteems can be found in the poorest and most insignificant of fellowships.
     v18: Jesus' remedy is quite simply for the church to see their need of him. He counsels them to "buy" from him refined gold - perhaps an a image of genuine faith (cf. 1 Pet 1v7). The image is designed to show that this is "riches"  to take confidence in. Looking to Jesus he also promises  "garments" to clothe their nakedness and so shame (cf. Gen 3v7,21). Again, receiving these from Christ implies the washing away of guilt by blood (7v14) rather than to receive a whitening renewal by his Spirit. The covering of their shame would then be their shame before God on the last day for their lukewarmness. Christ's blood removes the shame of all our sins! The "salve" for their eyes echos Jesus healing of the blind man with mud. Again, it implies Jesus enabling them to see spiritually.
      What is fascinating however is that Jesus describes these as those he "loves" and so reproves and disciplines. It may be they are genuine but compromised believers. And so Jesus calls them to repent if their half-heartedness and be zealous - passionate about him and his purposes. On his words it's as if he is at the door knocking for them to let him in by seeking him. And to those who do by repenting, he promises the table fellowship that marks friendship and acceptance. They will be forgiven and know his presence with them. More than that, he promises those who conquer this lukewarmness will sit with Christ on his throne, just as he did with his Father. It's an astonishing picture of gospel privilege - to be to the Son as he is to the Father, and so to be to the Father as he is too. It's a reminder what God has for us is always more than the world does. We are tempted to esteem worldly wealth, but he makes us Kings over the new creation!

     Once more those given ears to hear are to hear what Christ says by his Spirit. It is relevant for all.