Text: Rev. 3:7-22
Parallel Text: Col 4:2-4 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison-- that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.
Featured Verse: Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Main Idea: We connect with God's power through humility. The lowly church in Philadelphia has "little power" but they are commended for their faithfulness. The proud church in Laodicea boasts of their self-sufficiency, but the door to their connection with Jesus is closed and their spiritual condition is "pitiable."
When it comes to addressing the churches, John has saved the worst for last. The next-to-last, Philadelphia (like Smyrna before it) is a church that appears to be largely faithful. Jesus has no prophetic word of correction for either of these congregations, though they are warned of coming difficulties. By contrast, the final church - Laodicea - has no positives to speak of. They are "lukewarm" in their faith, "neither hot, nor cold" (v.3:15-16) so Jesus warns that he will spit this unappealing water out from his mouth! That is a pretty stark picture of heavenly rejection. The irony is that the Laodicean Christians seem to be thinking pretty well of themselves. They don't recognize the truly wretched state of their spirituality. Instead, they believe that they are "rich, prosperous, and in need of nothing" (v.3:17) Jesus calls them to repent and receive freely the righteousness that comes by faith (v.18-19.)
The key principle in both of these sections is humility. The Philadelphia Christians seem to have "little power", at least from a human perspective (v.3:8), but in their dependence upon God they are connected to his almighty power. One day this will be demonstrated before the watching world as their current enemies are caused to recognize their royal connection to Jesus. (v.3:9) By contrast, the Laodiceans regard themselves as "rich and prosperous", but in their pride their lukewarm spiritual condition is "pitiable." (v.3:16-17)
Conclusion and Application
An interesting feature of the two passage is that both have symbolic references to doors. Jesus has placed before the faithful Philadelphia Church - "a door that no one is able to shut." (v.3:8) When we consider other ways that this idea is referenced in the NT (see Col 4:2-4) it would appear that an open door is a reference to the ability of the church to witness faithfully to Jesus. That is, this church has power to be a faithful witness, even though they appear to be weak from a human perspective. By contrast, the Laodecians have closed the door to Jesus. Jesus continues to pursue them, he "stands at the door and knocks" (v.3:20) summoning them to open themselves up to his saving power. Even after their spiritual deadness he continues to "knock" and hold out the potential that they could repent, return and renew their fellowship with their savior.
In what ways to do you experience "little power" like the Philadelphians? How do the promises of Jesus challenge your perspective on that and bring encouragement?
In what ways do you find yourself self-satisfied, content and spiritually lukewarm like the Laodecians? How can you open the door to trust him (humility and repentance) and experience greater fellowship with him? (You can begin by praying.)