In this next series of articles, I’d like to look at the questions the Lord asked Job in the Book of Job. We should prepare ourselves for a humbling, challenging ride. It will not be long before we will be forced to admit with Job that we are foolish when think we have the right to judge the Lord God of the universe and question His workings and His ways.

Before I begin, I admit that I’m often unsure of what do to with the bulk of this book, knowing that most of it is the counsel of Job’s friends, men whom the Lord rebukes. Job’s counselors thought the Lord was angry with Job, but He was actually angry with them: “After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).1 Nevertheless, their words are Scripture, and we must deal with them. One of the initial things I’m wondering is if we can discover that although words spoken by a Christian or some religious person may seem right, what’s going on behind those words is wrong and troubling.

However, let’s return to God’s astonishing questions to Job.

God’s first question was, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2).

Think with me here for a moment. This is the Lord God Almighty speaking. He told Job that he had darkened counsel. I think if the Lord had asked this question of me, that alone would cause me to throw myself on the ground and cover my head in humbling fear. It would be one thing to hear this from a person but quite another from God Himself. Counsel is meant to bring light, not darkness. This man, who claimed to be an elder, had not brought light, but darkness. This is not a good thing to hear from God.

However, not only had Job darkened counsel, God said, he had spoken without knowledge. Job thought he knew things. Well, he did. He knew he had lost everything—his children, his house, his livestock—everything except his wife and his land. The external, circumstantial evidence of Job’s trial could not be disputed. However, he also thought he knew God, and His heart and intent. He did not. God is sovereign over all things. However, He is also good, and He is the God love. Perfect love, eternally.

Next begins a barrage of questions that rendered Job speechless. Job does not speak for four chapters. You and I would be speechless, too, I would think. This is the first question at which we would obviously just close our eyes and shake our heads in humility:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding” (Job 38:4).

We don’t have an answer to this question. God is speaking from a place where we simply did not and cannot stand. We were not there when the Lord created all things. And we, the scientists, and all the accumulated knowledge of the world cannot explain how He did it. It is a scientific fact that nothing comes from nothing. Yet, that is precisely what happened when the Lord created the universe, our solar system, our earth, and all that lives upon it. Nothing existed before He caused it to exist.

The Lord continues to ask questions about the nature of the universe, the earth, the stars, and the sea, none of which Job could answer. Here is a wonderful example: “Have you commanded the morning since your days began…” (Job 38:12).

No, Job had never commanded the morning to do anything, and neither will we. Give it a try sometime if you wish.

Although we are stupefied by God’s questions, some fascinating questions appear in this wondrous assault, ones that should cause us to confess how little we grasp about the knowledge of things:

“Have the gates of death been revealed to you or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?”

What are the gates of deep darkness? We have no idea, much less having seen them.

And this:

“Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” (Job 38:19–21).

I’m not sure what this means, because the Lord often speaks metaphorically in these questions. I don’t know if the Lord is saying that light really dwells somewhere, or if He is asking Job if he knows how He created light. I wonder if this is the case because the Lord says, “You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!” I think the Lord is again challenging Job about his absence at the creation.

So, how did the Lord God create light? We just do not know.

This is the last question we’ll look at for this first post:

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, which I have reserved for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war?” (Job 38:22–23).

The Lord reserves snow and hail for the time of trouble, battle, and war? How does He do that?

What kind of amazing God is this?

He is sovereign God of all that exists. He is sovereign in creation. There is no other Creator. None existed before Him, none is beside Him, and none will come after Him.

He is the sovereign God.

And He is sovereign over you, all your work, all your circumstances; all your life, forever.

1All scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001).). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


We have come to the last two verses of Jesus’ letter to the church at Laodicea: “The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” Revelation 3:21-22).1

Before we dive in, it should be clear that Jesus is not talking about one’s salvation in this passage. We know that Christians are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, through Christ alone, not by their works. However, these verses should give us pause. This conquering, this sitting with Jesus on His throne, is significant. Why? The Lord doesn’t speak just to hear Himself talk. If this conquering and sitting with Him on His throne had no substance, He wouldn’t have brought it up in the first place. Jesus brings up conquering to each of the churches in His seven letters. It must be important. And remember that in Laodicea, He is actually standing outside the church. Jesus was not part of what they were doing. This was a frightening situation. It would be impossible to conquer in Christ if He weren’t even involved.

But what does this conquering mean? Well, it’s safe to assume that unless the believers there did the things He outlined in His letter, they would not conquer. Jesus wouldn’t tell this church about conquering, out of the blue, without telling them how to do that. So, according to what He has just taught, how will these believers conquer? First, by buying from Him gold tried with fire: prayerfully and purposefully giving up earthly wealth, power, and security. Conquering kings of this world don’t do this. The conquering Jesus speaks of has no resemblance whatsoever to what conquering in the world means. A powerless and poor king is an anomaly, and such a monarch would not be a conqueror and would not rule for long. Not so in Jesus’ kingdom.

Second, the Laodiceans must be sure, in that process of self-denial, about the source of their salvation: the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ for their sins. The Lord gave us a definition of conquering in Romans 8:35–39: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is vitally important that we know that we conquer through Him who loved us, not by attainment of a list of laws. Doing the things that Jesus told the Laodiceans would be difficult and sacrificially self-denying. If they weren’t careful, they would fall in to destructive legalism. However, Jesus told them that He loved them. That’s why He was exposing their sin and disciplining them. They would need to hang onto this rock-solid truth about His love as they walked through this difficult process of prayerfully buying from Him gold tried with fire and living as soldiers and not be entangled with the things of the world.

Finally, the Laodiceans would conquer by asking the Lord to help them see with “good eyes,” so that their greed may be exposed and that they would therefore zealously repent. They would need help to see Him, and the truth about Him and themselves in His Word. They were blind without Him.

The reward for this humbling conquering would be sitting with Jesus on His throne with the Father. What does that mean? I must confess ignorance here. I have very little idea, except it must and will be glorious. Again, this must be important. We should acknowledge, however, that we in the Church today have not considered it be of much consequence at all. How much time do we spend talking about these heavenly things?

If you are part of a wealthy church—which you probably are if you live in the West—please join me in praying that all of us will obey Jesus’ admonitions in His letter to the Laodiceans, so that we may reign with Him in His kingdom for eternity. What are the practical, eternally negative consequences of not reigning with Him? Scripture is unclear, but they are negative. We have been warned, more than once, and we are to believe these biblical truths in faith. The days are short and getting shorter. You are now ten minutes or so closer to His return than you were when you started reading. When He returns, there will be no opportunity to turn back and make things right.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


In Jesus’ letter to the Laodicean church, He told them, first, that the answer to their miserable spiritual condition was to buy of Him gold tried with fire. This wealthy church’s initial step was to move toward a life of sacrificial discipleship. This truth is not new in the teaching of Jesus. He told us in Luke 14 that we could not be His disciples unless we gave up everything, including our own lives. As these well-to-do Laodicean Christians moved in this direction, they would do so prayerfully, while obeying Jesus’s second command in this letter: buy of Him white garments. Understanding the true nature of their righteousness—that they had the righteousness of Jesus, through grace and faith, since they had none of our own—would keep them from becoming self-righteously legalistic in living lives of sacrifice and self-denial.

So, now we come to Jesus’s third command: The Laodiceans should buy eye salve from Jesus so that they could see.

Wasn’t embarking upon a life of sacrifice and understanding one’s need for the righteousness of Jesus seeing clearly enough?

Apparently not.

First of all, this statement to buy eye salve told the Laodiceans—again—that they were really quite blind even though they thought they saw. They were plugging along in their wealthy, loving-the-world way, quite self-satisfied, thank you very much. So it would be difficult to be told that you can’t even see when you think you see very clearly. After all, they were wealthy. Isn’t wealth an indication of God’s blessing? No, absolutely not. However, there’s more going on here than this humbling truth. Let’s look at this very interesting teaching from Jesus:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Matthew 6:19–25).

This passage is dynamically challenging because it is so counterintuitive. A book could be written about this, but let’s focus on the word “bad” in the context of this passage. Clearly, the point that Jesus is making here is that we cannot serve God and money and that it’s much wiser for us to store up treasure in heaven than here on earth. So, why would Jesus bring up this thing about healthy eyes and bad eyes? The word “bad” often means exactly that. It is often translated evil in the New Testament. However, it is also translated “envy” and “envious.”

“Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:15 NASB).

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” (Mark 7:21–22).

It is my opinion that “bad” in the passage from Matthew 6 could be translated “envious,” but I’m no Greek scholar. Regardless of how this word is translated, I am taken aback by this teaching, because Jesus says that if our eye is “bad” or “envious” concerning money, our whole body will be full of darkness. Let’s think about this for a moment, again, in context. Jesus has told us here that we should not store up treasure on earth but in heaven. He immediately proceeds to teaching about good and bad eyes. Why? Could it really be true that if I think earthly wealth is more important than heavenly wealth that my eye is bad and that my whole body is full of darkness, that everything I look at, everything I think I understand or “see,” I don’t really understand at all? Help! Help, because this non-Greek scholar didn’t need to search very far to find that the word “darkness” is exactly what it means—an absence of light. And light is what we need in order to see clearly in a spiritual way. Jesus, after all, is the light of the world.

This should help us understand why Jesus told the Laodiceans to buy eye salve from Him so that they would be able to see. Their bodies were full of darkness because of their view of wealth. They had not taken an eternal perspective. They had been duped into thinking that riches here on the earth were more important than riches in heaven. Because their “eyes” were bad, it had darkened their entire understanding of the truth of God.

And this is true of me, as well. I am greatly influenced by the things of this world.

The answer? I must ask our gracious heavenly Father to cause me to see. I must ask Him how to do this very counterintuitive thing, in a practical sense. No one on earth can lay out that path for me. I must know Him, seek Him, and study His Word to discover how this will play out in my life. How do I know this? I know this because Jesus said that He was the life, the truth, and the way. He is the way. It’s not only that He will teach and show me the way—He is the way. Therefore, the only way for me to know that way is to know Him.2

1Except where noted, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2This is an edited version of a previous post, Jesus Speaks to the Church in Laodicea, Part Four


In the last post, we looked at how Jesus gave the Christians at Laodicea the first remedy for their blind, miserable, and pitiable condition: Buy of Him gold tried by fire. It seems to be apparent that the way we do that is by prayerfully pursuing a life of sacrifice, living as soldiers, as Paul wrote to Timothy. After entering into that pursuit, Jesus next tells the Laodiceans to buy “white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen” (Revelation 3:18).1

This statement shouldn’t surprise us, since He has already told these believers that they’re naked—they just don’t know it. They should be ashamed of that nakedness, but they’re oblivious to it. Before we discuss how we Christians could be so clueless, let’s talk briefly about white clothing.

There are two events in the gospels where someone was clothed in white. The first occurrence is when we see Jesus clothed this way on the Mount of Transfiguration. The second time is at the tomb, after His resurrection. There we also see angels in white, as well as after Jesus’s ascension, when they ask the disciples the well-known question, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

However, the clearest connection to believers being clothed in white clothing is in the book of Revelation, and the clearest one of all is after John sees this scene in heaven: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9–10). The elder standing next to John tells him who they are. “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).

The idea of being made clean or white by the blood of Jesus is further clarified in this passage from First John: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:7–9).

This doctrine of being cleansed and having our sins washed away is central to the Christian faith. Christianity is the only religion that speaks of a God who loves and forgives regardless of one’s merit. Every other religion requires some kind of work that one must do in order to find acceptance with its God. Christianity requires none. Christians are saved by grace alone, by faith alone, and that faith is itself a gift from God. So, Jesus is telling the Laodiceans that this must be done: They must make sure what the source of their salvation is. I’ve found in my life that this is a necessary daily process. I’m not trying to lay down some legal code here, but we are so apt to jump into legalistic, self-righteous goofiness that it behooves us to prayerfully approach the Father daily to reinforce the truth that our fallen condition has changed only because of His grace.

Which leads us to this question: Why would these rich and self-satisfied Laodicean Christians in particular have a problem with knowing the true source of their salvation? We’re not told, but here are some things to consider, and it does have to do with being self-satisfied with one’s spiritual condition as the Laodiceans were. When rich Christians lapse into passivity, as these believers had, their wealth is a powerful anesthetic to their desperate condition. We have need of nothing, we senselessly think, which is exactly what Jesus told them they were saying. So, why should we pray? Why should we seek Him? We have all we need. This is why, I believe, Jesus told them to pursue sacrificial living first. Let’s think about this. Why didn’t Jesus bring up being able to see—buying eye salve for blindness—first? Why didn’t He bring up making sure the Laodiceans understood the source of their righteousness first? I believe it is because the admonition to purposefully and prayerfully pursue a life of self-denying sacrifice will eventually move us in those directions. When the Lord begins, by His Spirit, to show us ways we can sell all we possess in order to buy the Pearl of great value, we begin to see how attached to this world we are. When the Lord, by His grace, begins to show us how we can sell all we possess in order to purchase the Treasure hidden in the field, we see how greedy and self-centered we are. His revealing of these things to us will cause us to understand our true spiritual condition. In addition, being needy may very well put us into some “interesting” predicaments that we would not face if we were wealthy.

One more thing, and we’ll finish. When the Lord shows us how much we’ve become attached to the world and we respond by making certain sacrificial changes, there is a tendency for us to draw up legalistic guidelines for what this true following-Jesus discipleship is. How much should one spend on a cup of coffee? How much for a computer? A car? That’s when Christians need to back up and make certain what the source of their righteousness is. It isn’t how self-sacrificial one is—it’s by faith in Jesus, by grace alone.

Would you please join me, if you’re a Christian, in prayerfully pursuing how to buy of Jesus gold tried by fire? How to live like a soldier and not be entangled with the affairs of the world? Would you join me in praying earnestly that we will understand the true nature of our spiritual condition? It will be difficult.

And it will be lovely.2

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2This article is an edited version of a previously published post entitled, Jesus Speaks to the Church in Laodicea.


In the last post, we looked at Revelation 3:14-22 and how Jesus was not satisfied with the ministry that He was receiving from the people in the church at Laodicea. When He took a drink of them, they were neither refreshingly hot nor cold, so He spit them out. Why? The Laodiceans were very satisfied with their wealth. Those riches had made them complacent. They didn’t think they needed anything. However, Jesus told them that in reality they were “wretched, poor, pitiable, blind and naked.”1

If I may paraphrase, the Lord was saying, “You think you’re rich, but you’re not. You’re not rich at all, at least not in a way that has any real value. You’re like blind people, living in the muck, in tumbledown houses, who don’t even have clothing to cover themselves. You’re worthy of pity, not praise. Somehow, even though you are like this, you think you’re living like kings. You should take this to heart, because the One who is saying this is God. You’re thinking of yourselves one way, but I, the One who knows the truth, am telling you that your way of thinking about yourselves is totally, completely, tragically wrong. It’s so wrong, in fact, that the way you perceive yourselves is 180 degrees from the way that I perceive you.”

This is a reality check from Jesus.

This admonition is a bit startling, isn’t it? It’s startling because just when you’re doing well with the regular paycheck that enables you to buy that new car, new tech, and new house, you’re being told by the Lord that you’re in danger of thinking everything is hokey dokey when it’s not. This scares me, because I live in a wealthy nation. It scares me to think that, while I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, that the Lord may view me as someone who is really living in the worst of favelas.

The remedy for their predicament, Jesus tells them, is to “…buy from me gold refined by fire.” What does that mean? Being refined by fire doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? This should give us a clue that what Jesus is telling them to do won’t be easy. When the Lord was getting after Israel through the prophet Zechariah, He said, “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God’” (Zechariah 13:9). Fire, to state the obvious, is hot. However, according to this passage, the refining that fire brings will cause God’s people to call upon His name. Testing and trial, as difficult as they may be at the time, end up strengthening us, if we stay with Jesus through them, or come back to Him when and if we eventually come to our spiritual senses. We will become closer to Him, because trials drive us to Him. Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son?

As difficult as it may be, refining is the antidote to feeling self-satisfyingly prosperous or status-quo passive, according to Jesus. As artist David Wilcox sang, “All the roots grow deeper when it’s dry.” However, being tested by the Lord is different from us willingly “buying of Him gold refined by fire.” It seems that the Lord is telling the Laodiceans that this is something they must purposefully enter into. So, back to the question: How does a Christian buy from Jesus gold refined by fire?

I can see only one answer. These Laodiceans would have to prayerfully start making decisions that were sacrificial. These verses come to mind: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him” (2 Timothy 2:3–4). Living as a soldier is a little different from living in the high rent district, if you know what I mean. Living as a soldier, according to Paul, means that Christians don’t become entangled—like a sheep whose wool is caught in thorns, according to the BDAG Greek-English lexicon—in those things that will not please the one who enlisted him. Do you want some practical applications about how to live as a spiritual soldier? I cannot offer that. Jesus didn’t do it, and neither will I, past saying that it surely must have something to do with possessions, since soldiers travel relatively light. How light that is, is something that each one of us must work out before the Lord. There are no legalistic guidelines. Please know that this releasing of all we possess doesn’t happen just once. One could release all that he possesses and then, ten years on, be distressingly and harmfully attached to an accumulation of things. This is an ongoing, releasing-from-the-heart process. All this buying-from-Him-gold-refined-by-fire finds its genesis in loving Him more than this world, not in making a list of things one can possess and cannot.

Here’s another passage we should look at as we consider how we can buy of Him gold refined by fire.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46). So, a question. Were the Laodiceans willing to sell all that they possessed and “buy” Jesus? Are we? We must be willing. He really is the most valuable possession possible. He is the Lord and Creator of all that exists, and He wanted the Laodiceans and wants us to be with Him for eternity. He is steadfast in His love. He is merciful and forgiving. He is kind. Humble and lowly in heart. Perfectly just. Perfectly pure. Perfectly holy—all attributes we will never be able to wrap our minds around until we see Him. He is all of these things, and He wanted the Laodiceans to wake up to the fact that their wealth was causing them to become complacent in their lives with the great, almighty, loving God. He was not at all satisfied with their ministry to Him.2

Tragic. And I see myself right there in church with them.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2This article is an edited version of a previously published post entitled, Jesus Speaks to the Church in Laodicea.


If you’ve been a Christian for a while, it’s quite possible that you’ve heard a message from this passage of Scripture:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither 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. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 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. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent (Revelation 3:14–19).1

The common take on this is that we in the Church are “lukewarm,” that we should “catch fire” or “get rid of worldliness in the Church.” Why? Because, if we don’t, Jesus will spit, spew, vomit us out of His mouth. We make Him sick!

There is some truth here, but it’s inadequate and perhaps even misleading. I think we’ve got the understanding of this passage wrong. Let’s start with the very first thing that Jesus says to the Laodiceans: “I know your works.” The people in the church in that city were working. That’s not the problem. So, right off the bat, if we’re using this as an admonition to do more works, as noble as they may be, we’re already missing something. Jesus’s problem with the Laodiceans wasn’t that they weren’t working—it’s that they were lukewarm as they were involved in whatever works they were doing. But what does it mean to be lukewarm? A little background.

A few years ago, this question popped into my mind concerning these verses. If Jesus is spitting these people out of His mouth, how did they get there in the first place? Here’s my answer, and I think it might just open up our understanding of the passage and contradict the “We’re lukewarm, so we gotta get hot” mantra—which never made much sense in the first place, because Jesus said that He’d rather that we were cold or hot. Jesus would prefer that we be cold? How can that be? However, it all begins to make sense if we answer the question about how the Laodiceans got into Jesus’s mouth in the first place. Clearly, He was “taking a drink” from them. Now, when you’re hot, nothing is more refreshing that a cold drink. Conversely, when we’re cold, nothing is better than a hot drink. But what isn’t refreshing? You guessed it—a lukewarm drink on a hot or cold day. No one would choose a lukewarm drink over a hot or cold one. So, if we have a choice, we may actually spit out such a drink, as Jesus said He would do here.

But why the Laodiceans were in Jesus’s mouth in the first place? Well, if you’re a servant and your Master is thirsty, what should you do? Exactly. These church people were not “refreshing” to Jesus in their service to Him. Why? Well, again, it wasn’t because they weren’t working. Something else is going on here, and the beginning of our answer lies in verse 17, where Jesus tells them why they are not refreshing to Him: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Apparently, these Christians were doing quite well. They had prospered. They had experienced God’s blessing. Now, whether they had experienced that prosperity in their own individual lives or in their ministries, we’re not told. Curious, isn’t it, when the thing that all of us want—prosperity in our finances and our ministries—can actually be dangerous to us. Jesus tells the Laodiceans that, even though they had prospered, they were really quite poor. Well, it’s more than that. They are “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

Sounds like trouble to me. Whatever was going on was not refreshing to Jesus. He didn’t consider it an adequate ministry to Him.

So, what would our great God say to a church that had prospered but wasn’t refreshing? Work harder? Turn up the passion?

No. Here’s the first thing Jesus told them to do: “…buy from me gold refined by fire.” What does that mean? Well, being refined by fire doesn’t sound very pleasant, does it? When the Lord was getting after Israel through the prophet Zechariah, He said, “And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God’” (Zechariah 13:9).

Refining is difficult. Refining means the Lord will test us. As Jeremiah wrote, “Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people?’” (Jeremiah 9:7). As difficult as refining and testing may be, however, it is the antidote to feeling self-satisfyingly prosperous, according to Jesus.

But how does one buy gold refined by fire from Jesus? We’ll look at that next time.2

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2This article is from a previously published post entitled, Jesus Speaks to the Church in Laodicea.


In the last post, we learned that Jesus commanded the Philadelphian church to hold fast to what they had; otherwise, they might lose their crowns. However, He did not stop with that warning. He encouraged them by promising what would receive if instead, they conquered. This promise is contained in the one verse we will study:

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Revelation 3:12).1

First, He told the one who would conquer, “I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.”

What does that mean?

It’s a little unclear, because in the New Jerusalem there will be no need for a temple: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb (Revelation 21:22). So, the best answer to this question is that being a pillar is probably a metaphor about stability and permanence in God. The conquering one will never “go out” of that temple, Jesus said. The believer has a permanent place in God’s final kingdom, a secure, eternal place. It is difficult for us to imagine the concept of eternalness, because all that we know here on earth is impermanency. Cars, appliances, and devices all fail or become obsolete. All animals, plants, and people die. However, God will not die—He is alive forevermore—and He doesn’t change. There will be no alteration whatsoever of His character. There will be no new administration, government, or policy. Christians share in the eternal life He has provided. He lives forever. So will we.

Is there additional meaning to being a pillar in God’s temple? We can only speculate.

Second, Jesus told the Philadelphians that He will write on those who conquer “the name of my God” (verse 12).

What does that mean?

After the New Jerusalem descends from heaven, believers will, “…see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Having Jesus’ name on us speaks of being His people. In the Old Testament, the Lord promised Israel that He would put His name on them. He told Aaron and his sons to say to Israel: “‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.’ So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:24–27, italics added).

In a similar but much more glorious way, Christians are co-heirs in Christ, if they share in Jesus’ sufferings: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:16–17, italics added).

What does it mean to be a fellow heir with Jesus? Well, to help us understand, Christians are heirs with Abraham: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29). This is significant. Abraham is heir of the world: “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith” (Romans 4:13).

However, what does it mean, in fullness, to be an heir of the world? Again, we can only speculate, but it must be wonderful, glorious, and good.

Third, Jesus told the believers at Philadelphia that He would write on those who conquer “my own new name.”

What does that mean? (I know, I know. I’ve asked this question a lot.)

We do not know. He does not tell us. I suppose we could joke about getting a new name, but I’d rather not. This is holy, glorious business.

Our understanding about the kingdom of God to come is limited by the information the Lord gave us in Scripture. He has purposed it to be this way. We are to trust Him and the future He has in store for us. We are to look forward to that kingdom to come, to that new city, a city made without hands. Remember that the Lord told His people Israel that He was going to take them to the land He promised them. What was that land like? He encouraged them several times that it was a land “flowing with milk and honey,” a good, abundant place: “So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land he has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:6–10).

However, there would be adversaries there:

“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’” (Deuteronomy 9:1–2).

Past that, not a lot of detail is provided. However, the Lord expected His people to believe that He was going to give them what He promised, if they would only obey Him.

What we see of the heavenly kingdom seems similar to the earthly Promised Land but eternal, heavenly, and much more glorious. It is difficult to imagine what it will be like. A river of life will be there. A tree for the healing of the nations. The Lord Himself will be its light, and there will be no need for the sun or moon. What does that river of life look like? How big will it be? How can one tree heal so many people? Why will healing be necessary? Again, what does it mean that we will inherit the earth? What does it mean that we will be part of a kingdom?

We do not know in detail. However, like Israel, the Lord expects us to believe that He will keep His promise, in spite of the scarcity of details.

Before we finish, let’s be reminded that it is the last days and has been since Jesus ascended. He told us more than once that He will come quickly and soon.

Let’s pray that we will conquer before His return and receive all that the Lord has for us in that eternal kingdom.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


In this post, we will continue our look at Jesus’ letter to the church at Philadelphia. I have found this letter interesting and very deep.

I shouldn’t be surprised, should I? Oh Lord, that we may slow down and study Your Word. My goodness, how I fail to pay attention!

Jesus told the believers at Philadelphia, “I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name” (Revelation 3:8b). What kind of power was Jesus referring to? Spiritual power? Influence in the city? I am going to take the position that Jesus meant earthly power and influence, because these Philadelphians did possess spiritual power, as the last half of the sentence indicates: “…and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” Let’s think about this for a moment. It’s one thing not to deny the name of Jesus when you possess earthly power but quite another when you don’t. Let’s look at a man who is currently running for the office of president in the United States. This is not a political statement, nor is it an ad hominem attack. I’m just using this person as an example of earthly power. This man is a billionaire. He doesn’t much care what people think about what he says. What can they do to him? Fire him? Criticize him? He won’t lose his job. And even if people stop doing business with him, he can retire and live on his great wealth. In contrast, however, one who has little earthly power may find that he may be tempted to compromise in order to avoid offending or angering people and thus perhaps lose his friends, family, and job—without a billion dollars to fall back on. The Christians at Philadelphia apparently were not intimated by such earthly powerlessness but were strong indeed. They were willing to pay the price; thus, they won Jesus’ approbation.

Because the Philadelphians had not denied Jesus’ name, He told then that He would make those of the synagogue of Satan—the Judaizers—come and bow before their feet (Revelation 3:9). We are not told when this was to happen. Did it occur in the life of the church at that time? Or was Jesus announcing that would occur when all are brought to be judged on that Day? We are not told. However, those of the synagogue of Satan also will also “learn that I have loved you” (verse 9). The Judaizers were convinced that those who were truly godly would follow religious law and thus earn the favor and love of God. Perhaps they told the Philadelphian believers that the reason they had “little power” was because the Lord was angry with them or had abandoned them for their “disobedience” or “lack of spirituality.”

Jesus then wrote, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10). Again, a puzzling statement. What hour of trial is this? How would Jesus keep them from that trying time? We are not told. However, it is significant for us that Jesus promised this because they had kept His word about patient endurance. I assume that He is referring back to the Philadelphian believers not denying His name in spite of their diminished status. What can we learn here? To Jesus, not denying His name and enduring is hugely significant.

Next, Jesus told them, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11). This verse stunned me. And I’m not happy to tell you that it had never stunned me before. What is stunning? That someone may seize a Christian’s crown.

Concerning crowns that will be given to Christians, the crown of life is mentioned three times in the New Testament. A crown of glory is present once, and a crown of righteousness once. All of these crowns must be attributed to the salvific work of Jesus. Only He has glory. Only He has life. Only He is righteous. Therefore, I am sure that all Christians will cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet one day.

How can a Christian’s crown be seized from them? Great question. What did the Philadelphian believers possess? We can assume they had the knowledge of salvation, but that knowledge was all tied into the endurance they displayed when they wouldn’t deny Jesus’ name and give in to death-dealing legalism when they were religiously, culturally, and hierarchically disempowered. We may be Christians, but it is possible for our crown may be seized if we don’t “hold fast” to what we have. What kind of crown may we lose? We are not told, but all of them are given by Jesus. It is an interesting thought that we could lose it.

Christians, find you strength in God, not in money, culture, church, or pastor. Do not compromise when you are threatened. Do not deny His name. Do not lose your crown.

All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


In this post about Jesus’ seven letters in the Book of Revelation, we will look at what He wrote to the Philadelphian church. This fellowship of believers is the church that many Christians think they are or would surely like to be. We believe this for two reasons. First, Jesus has no harsh words for these saints. Christians tend to ignore negative truths in Scripture and suppose they are addressed to others. The other reason is that Jesus told the Philadelphians, “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 3:10).1 Many Christians believe that the Philadelphian church is the believing Church of the Last Days and have confidence it will be caught up with the Lord in the air and escape the hour of trial, the Great Tribulation.

This post will not deal with the eschatological doctrine of what is popularly called the Rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Regardless of one’s position on this topic, I do not think it is wise to ignore troubling biblical passages in these last days. After all, the New Testament writers thought the Lord would come in their lifetimes, and they were disturbed about many things that were to come upon the Church. Indeed, Jesus Himself was concerned about His people at the end of the age. After He foretold the destruction of the temple, His disciples came to Him asking, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matthew 24:3). The first thing Jesus said in response to this question was, “See that no one leads you astray” (Matthew 24:4b). His first concern was not earthquakes, catastrophes, or wars; it was that believers would not be deceived and led astray.

And the following warning should extinguish any Pollyannaish ideas about the condition of the Church at the time of His coming: “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8b).

We should heed this wise counsel from Paul: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Therefore, let’s not ignore the negative things the Bible says, thinking they must refer to someone else. We should allow the Word of God look us directly in the face.

Now, let’s return to Jesus’ letter to the Philadelphians.

The positive things Jesus said to the Christians in that city are wonderful, but the meaning is unclear. He told them:

“Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” (Revelation 3:8a). What kind of door is that? We can only speculate. However, such is often the way with our great God. He often announces or performs things about which we have little understanding. This passage John wrote about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem may help explain our puzzlement: “His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him” (John 12:16). His truth is unfolded to us over time.

A few times in my life, the Lord has spoken to me in ways that were unclear. Please allow me to state strongly that we must be careful about experiences. They must line up with Scripture. However, it is obvious in Scripture that the Lord speaks to His people. In my walk with Jesus, this is not a regular occurrence. In fact, it is more the exception than the rule. Here is what happened. In 2008, I was downstairs in our granny flat, watching the election returns. The networks were announcing that Barack Obama was the predicted winner of the presidential election. I have voted in several elections. I have never heard the Lord say anything about any of them; in fact, He has not said anything to me about politics whatsoever. However, as I watched, a word from the Lord was spiritually impressed upon me—just one word: Bad. Looking back, one could say that the Lord told me that because of the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s foreign policy, or any number of things one might disagree with. However, I am certain that the Lord God of the universe cares very little about health insurance and many political issues in the United States. So, what did the Lord mean? Why did He say that? I confess to you that I do not know for certain. It may have to do with his relationship with Israel. What should I do about my uncertainty? I am asking.

Jesus told the church at Philadelphia that He had opened a door that no one could shut. Whatever that door was, the Christians in that city would be able, without question and with God-glorifying certainty, to walk through it—and did. I do not yet fully know why the election of Barack Obama was bad according to God’s great wisdom. However, it is bad and will somehow revealed to be bad, eternally. Jesus doesn’t speak just to hear Himself talk.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


The reason for this post—and all the posts on this site, I hope—is to challenge Christians to give their lives fully to the loving Lord God of the universe; to be willing to give up their own lives for the One who sacrificed His, our Savior, Jesus. With that in mind, we have been looking at the letters that Jesus wrote to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. In this post, we will be looking at Jesus’ letter to the Christians at Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6.

At Sardis, Jesus said that the church had a reputation of being alive, but somehow they were actually dead. Like the churches at Ephesus and Thyatira, they were working: Jesus said, “I know your works.” However, their “works were not complete.” So, He commanded them to wake up. But He is not specific in His warning to them. What were they not doing?

How does a church have a reputation of being alive? Great question. Perhaps asking another question will help us. Is there a church in your town that you would consider alive? If so, why does it have that reputation?

It seems like the only way a person would think a church was alive would be through what they are doing. Clearly, these actions would be positive and seemingly life giving. Lots of activity. Lots of good-sounding spiritual talk. However, how would one know if that church was truly alive or not? The only evidence for such life is external. Unless a person had some inside knowledge about the lives of individual members, he just wouldn’t know.

But Jesus would. So, it is necessary for a Christian to listen to Jesus’ warnings and take his spiritual pulse to discover if he is just doing “Christian works” or if he is alive in Him.

There is a difference.

I am currently reading a book about the survivors of a suicidal cult, the Peoples Temple. Back in the 1970’s, over 900 of them killed themselves in Guyana by drinking cyanide-infused Kool-Aid. Some of them were injected with cyanide, including children. Before that horrendous event, they shot and killed a Congressman from California, who came to check them out. Before the group moved to South America, every weekend people would get on buses and travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco to attend the meetings. What they were doing was that compelling. I was amazed to discover that Jim Jones, who by his own admission did not believe in the Bible or in God, was performing miracles. People were healed through his “ministry.” However, his “church” was not a church at all—it was a political and social movement. It sounded good. Jones was always “preaching” about the downtrodden and the oppressed in the United States. People loved him for standing with poor blacks and Hispanics. The Peoples Temple stood against drugs and punished people who used—they beat them with a hose—but a subculture of drug use existed in that community. Jim Jones himself took illegal drugs. They stood against adultery and punished those who committed it, but Jim Jones himself was a blatant adulterer.

Admittedly, this is an extreme example of what might be defined as a “church”—but that’s what it was considered to be at the time. The point I’m trying to make is that this “church” was overflowing with good words and good works. In addition, Jim Jones was an attractive person, who drew people to himself via his beliefs, speaking ability, and “charisma.” In no way am I saying that churches in the United States bear any resemblance to the People’s Temple, but I regret to tell you that very many large churches in the United States are led by men who have strong personalities, and the reason people attend their churches is primarily the strength of those personalities. In addition, these churches are involved in good works, particularly helping the poor.

Attractive leaders. Good words. Good works.

However, do any of these attributes indicate that the people in such churches are alive? Is it possible to be in a church that looks like it’s alive with good words and works but is really dead or asleep? Apparently so. The church at Sardis was. They had a reputation for being alive.

Jesus does not deal in detail with what the Christians there were doing or not doing. He simply tells them to wake up and to strengthen what remains. He tells them to remember what they have received and heard, keep it, and repent. He then warns them that if they do not repent He will come like a thief and “come against” them.

I’m not sure what that means, but no Christian should desire the opposition of the Lord God Almighty.

Then Jesus gives us more information about the problem in Sardis. The people who were pleasing to Him had not soiled their garments.

How had the Sardinians soiled their garments?

This is an interesting question. It goes beyond committing sin, but it is about sinfulness. It goes beyond understanding that our righteousness is only in Christ, but it is about understanding the true nature of righteousness. Please allow me to explain.

It is a very simple step to move from finding one’s righteousness in Jesus alone—to being someone who is right in God’s sight—to doing things to maintain that position based upon one’s works. The true, righteous position is only maintained by faith and actively confessing to the Father that your own righteousness is—well, non-existent. When we become knowledgeable about Christianity, it doesn’t take long to figure out what is required in our churches—a few months. It doesn’t take long to “get on the bandwagon.” We’re active. We know the right words, the right attitudes, the right beliefs. We’re in. We’re good. We’re active. We’re serving. We’re “changing the world.” We’re helping the poor. However, if we’re not careful, we’re so right, so good, and so active that we leave the author of our righteousness and thus the basis for our relationship with God. Therefore, our garments become soiled. Our righteousness is not in Jesus alone. The most telling condemnation of this condition is in Matthew 7:21–23:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”1

What should we do in response to Jesus’ rebuke to the church at Sardis? They had good works and good talk, but they were dead, asleep. The answer is to ask the Lord to search your heart. Ask Him if you’re asleep, even though you’re certain you are awake. Ask Him if you need to repent. Stay active in faith, not simply in works. Make certain that you know Him, not just the right things to do, and the right way to talk. If you don’t, Jesus says He will come against you.

And, just so you know, I’m pausing here and praying these things right now.

1The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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